Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:10 am
This Dan Johnson character ... c'mon.
He's not real, is he?
He can't be. Because what he did on Thursday night ... again ... was beyond fiction. He stepped to the plate batting .108, with Tampa Bay's season down to its final strike ... and he did it again?
He sliced a low liner of a gloriously colorful Tampa Bay rainbow that rifled into the seats just inside the right-field foul line to push the game into the 10th.
Then Mr. Triple Play, Evan Longoria, took it from there in the 12th, smashing a game-winning homer against Yankees reliever Scott Proctor within 10 minutes of Boston blowing one, final game in Baltimore.
And just like that, Tampa Bay's in.
Just moments after St. Louis staged the greatest comeback ever when Atlanta lost, the Rays topped them.
Tampa Bay's in.
It was unreal, unbelievable and for so long for the Rays, unattainable. They trailed 7-0 by the fifth. They were still trailing 7-0 in the eighth. Then they scored six runs, then came Johnson in the ninth and. ...
Dan Johnson? The guy is like the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus. Daniel Ryan Johnson. In his fourth season, 31 years old. He shows up once or twice a year and ... wham!
When the Rays were staging their miracle World Series run in 2008, he clobbered a huge, late-season home run against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in Fenway Park at a time when the young Rays were trying to believe in themselves. The homer sent the game into extra innings.
He belted a game-winning home run against Boston's Scott Atchison at Tropicana Field last August that helped the Rays' playoff bid.
He crushed two go-ahead home runs against Phil Hughes and the Yankees last September that helped pave the Rays' way to last October even more.
That should have been enough, right? I mean, who does this kind of thing? Who does he think he is, Gates Brown?
On one of the most exhilarating nights of baseball in memory, the playoff field is set.
Detroit at the Yankees and, incredibly, Tampa Bay at Texas.
And Arizona at Milwaukee and, yes, incredibly, St. Louis at Philadelphia.
Posted on: September 13, 2011 11:32 pm
Edited on: September 14, 2011 2:22 am
MILWAUKEE -- He's done his job. He's been a good soldier.
But if you think Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez is fine with pitching exclusively as a set-up man for first-place Milwaukee, you'd be wrong.
"I'm not fine," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "They told me I'd have the opportunity to close some games, and we've had 20-some save opportunities since then and I haven't even had one."
John Axford has earned 19 of his 42 saves since K-Rod's arrival. In 24 appearances, Rodriguez has worked only one ninth inning, in what was a 5-1 cruise over St. Louis on Aug. 10.
"I'm a little disappointed in that," said Rodriguez, who is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA for the Brewers. "But that's something that's out of my hands."
Rodriguez will be a free agent this winter and figures he will return to closing in 2012.
"Suck it up, pretty much," he said.
He apparently has not expressed these feelings of betrayal much to his teammates. No wonder, either, with Axford having converted a club-record 39 consecutive saves.
"He's been great," Axford says. "Coming to a new team, it takes a couple of days to adjust, but he jumped in pretty quickly.
"He's similar in attitude to the rest of us in the pen. It's a goofy group. Guys like to have fun. But we get serious at game time. That's the way he is, too. By the sixth or seventh inning, he's all business."
Initially, when the Brewers acquired Rodriguez, even Axford wasn't sure of what the roles would be -- his own, or K-Rod's.
"The biggest thing was, when I found out, I felt I did everything I could to that point to be the closer," Axford said. "But I wasn't going to argue if my role changed.
"We got Francisco to help the team. The important part wasn't was I going to close or was he?"
For his part, though he's unhappy he's not getting any save opportunities, Rodriguez has enjoyed his teammates and is looking forward to October.
"We've still got a couple of series to win to wrap up the division," he says.
Ironically, K-Rod could be in line for his first save opportunity Wednesday against Colorado. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters after Tuesday's 2-1, 11-inning win over the Rockies that, because he used Axford for two innings on Tuesday, Rodriguez will be his closer on Wednesday if a save situation arises.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 6:14 pm
I met this Tony Plush dude in another life.
And I'm here to give the Brewers plenty of advance warning: If he's not fenced in, and soon, this is a guy who will sabotage all the great things happening in Milwaukee this summer.
Know where I got that idea?
From Tony Plush himself.
Yeah, I met Nyjer Morgan's alter ego, sort of, this spring when he was with the Washington Nationals. Back then, Morgan was going to be an important piece of the puzzle for the Nationals. Then-manager Jim Riggleman even said Morgan had been "outstanding" so far in the spring after a disappointing and controversial 2010.
Now, here's what Morgan told me in early March:
"I want to prove to myself and to the organization that the player in '09 is who they're going to get in '11, instead of the immature player from '10. I left Tony Plush behind."
That was my introduction to T-Plush.
"Tony Plush," Morgan told me, grinning. "That's from back in the day. Me and my friend. It's like Jekyll and Hyde.
"It got to the point where it was time to grow up. It's time to turn into a true professional. It's time to kick some ass."
And in Milwaukee, he has been kicking butt. He's hitting .313 with a .360 on-base percentage. He's stolen 12 bags in 15 attempts. He's sparked the Brewers.
But as we saw Wednesday night in St. Louis, Morgan has regressed badly in the professionalism department.
The uncalled for showdown with Chris Carpenter was bad enough. But referring to Albert Pujols as "Alberta" on Twitter later that night? Come on.
Clearly, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin does not plan to tolerate the antics. He said as much during a radio interview Thursday, noting that manager Ron Roenicke would talk with Morgan.
That conversation apparently has happened: MLB.com's Adam McCalvy spoke with Morgan on Thursday afternoon and tweeted that Morgan told him, "I'm Tony Hush today."
The guy is smart and clever (Morgan, not McCalvy, though Adam has his moments, too). He's a wonderful talent and great fun to watch.
But by his own admission to me in March, he needed to mature and he vowed he had "left Tony Plush behind."
Next thing we know, Tony Plush is back, and raging.
Both the Brewers and Morgan need to figure this out and get a handle on it pronto. Because this could be the most special season in Brewers' history.
Or, the man Melvin smartly acquired in late March -- just 3 1/2 weeks after Morgan promised me it was time to grow up -- could torch it all by himself.
Or, all by himselves.
Likes: Stephen Strasburg back in action. ... Texas-Angels, still close (hey, we've got to have at least one good race, don't we?). ... Ian Kennedy flourishing in Arizona. ... The way Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have continued to pitch lights out and not uttered a word about the criminal lack of run support they've received in San Francisco this year. ... Always look forward to Michigan-Notre Dame. ... Looking for my guys at Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central to earn another W this Friday night, over Grosse Ile, and run that record to 2-1. ... Bob Seger back out on the road this fall.
Dislikes: Tim Wakefield's got to get his 200th win one of these starts, doesn't he? Poor guy is 0 for 7 in trying to get No. 200. ... Eddie Murphy hosting the Oscars. What's next, the Yankees starting a game at 11 p.m.? ... Finally catching up to this season's Entourage, which I thought jumped the shark last summer. Through the first couple of shows and it's lackluster enough I may not even finish this season.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"It seems that all my bridges have been burned
"But you say, 'That's exactly how this grace thing works'
"It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
"But the welcome I receive with every start"
-- Mumford & Sons, Roll Away Your Stone
Posted on: August 31, 2011 8:35 pm
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?
Posted on: July 30, 2011 12:00 pm
Pushing hard to win a first division title since 1982, the Brewers are collecting infielders like some collect baseball cards in the wake of Rickie Weeks' sprained ankle.
They added Jerry Hairston Jr. on Saturday, according to CBSSports.com sources, acquiring him from the Nationals for Erik Komatsu, a Double-A, 23-year-old outfielder.
The move came two days after the Brewers acquired infielder Felipe Lopez from Tampa Bay. Milwaukee also placed Weeks, their second baseman, on the disabled list on Thursday. Weeks could be sidelined for up to a month or six weeks.
Hairston Jr. is a versatile utilityman who can play both middle infield positions, third base and all three outfield positions. He was hitting .268 with four homers and 24 RBI in 75 games for the Nationals this season, and he was a key member of San Diego's surprising 90-win team in 2010.
Komatsu, a center fielder, was hitting .294 with a .393 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage for Double-A Huntsville.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 12:03 am
You bet the rumors swirling around his Tampa Bay batting helmet have gotten B.J. Upton's attention.
"Thanks for all the support on twitter - I appreciate it," he tweeted from his @BJUPTON2 account Tuesday -- presumably as Atlanta, or Cincinnati, or San Francisco phoned Rays general manager Andrew Friedman yet again.
"Now I know how my brother felt this offseason," came another tweet from Upton. "Anyone hear any good trade rumors this week? Still here!"
Matter of fact, the buzz grew louder Tuesday surrounding Upton. Several industry sources believe that the Rays, at 9 1/2 games out in the AL East, will dump Upton by Sunday's non-waiver trading deadline the same way they dumped Matt Garza and bade farewell to free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Grant Balfour last winter.
Money -- the lack of it, thanks in no small part to horrible attendance in Tropicana Field -- remains a significant problem for the Rays. And it's not getting any better.
Several clubs are looking for the kind of spark that Upton (.229, 15 homers, 53 RBIs, 23 steals, terrific defense) can provide. He would fit perfectly in San Francisco, especially if the Giants fall short in their quest to obtain the Mets' Carlos Beltran. The Giants, according to sources, have interest. So, too, do the Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals and, possibly, the Phillies writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
And B.J. is right -- brother Justin, Arizona's right-fielder -- went through a similar stretch last winter.
"I've talked to him, and we laugh about it," Justin told me Tuesday afternoon. "When it comes down to it, like last winter with me, it's out of your control. You just have to do your thing, see what happens and let it be."
Difference is, Arizona is committed to Justin Upton, 23. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers made that clear last winter when he traded third baseman Mark Reynolds to Baltimore.
The Rays? Not so much with B.J., 26 -- much to Upton's chagrin.
"Obviously, he's played his whole career there and he lives there," says Justin, who said the brothers probably talk four or five times a week. "He wants to stay. It's always tough in a situation like that."
Ubaldo Jimenez to Yankees?
The Yankees appear to be in the best shape to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez if the Rockies decide to deal him, as colleague Danny Knobler writes. Here are takes from two scouts who have watched Jimenez pitch in recent days:
Scout one: "Quite frankly, he's not the same guy as he was last year. Before, when he needed to go get it, he'd hit 100 m.p.h. When I saw him in Denver, he'd reach back to muscle up and it was 95. [Atlanta's] Scott Proctor threw harder. If Ubaldo at sea level is 91, 92, 93, he's not the same guy."
Scout two: "I can't imagine Jimenez going anywhere. If he's on a real frickin' contender, he's a No. 3 right now. Something's missing."
Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:
--Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he thinks Friday and Saturday will be the key days when the trade market loosens up and the action begins. "There are a lot of clubs out there with scouts looking at minor league clubs right now," Towers says.
-- While you might think they're looking to replace injured shortstop Stephen Drew, Towers says he is looking for pitching, pitching and pitching. Starting and/or relief.
-- The Giants, Rangers and Phillies have scouts in Cincinnati this week watching Mets' outfielder Carlos Beltran as New York GM Sandy Alderson enters the crucial final days before making one of the more significant decisions in recent Mets history. "Beltran looks real good right now," another scout who has been watching in Cincinnati this week says. "He's looking healthy."
-- One club that has spoken with Washington say closer Drew Storen can be obtained in the right deal.
-- Rival clubs say the Angels are diving into the trade market after owner Arte Moreno, hesitant at first, now has approved additional payroll for midseason help. While the Angels are looking for a third baseman, they would send shortstop Erick Aybar to the Mets for Jose Reyes straight up and take the rest of Reyes' $9 million 2011 salary if New York would bite (the Mets won't, they're keeping Reyes). "I'd do that if I'm the Mets," one NL executive says. "They're not going to be able to re-sign him. How can you give Reyes 10 years at $20 million [each] when he's hurt all the time?
-- Minnesota doggedly has insisted it can win a weak AL Central for the past month, and Tuesday night's comeback win in Texas was a big one. If the Twins do decide to become sellers, don't be surprised if they make outfielder Delmon Young available.
-- Well, in a weak market for starting pitchers, look who's coming off of the disabled list to start Friday for Seattle: Erik Bedard. He'll start against Tampa Bay unless something happens between now and Friday, and you can bet the scouts will swarm Safeco Field. Bedard has not thrown more than 100 innings in a season since 2007. He's at 90 now, so look out.
-- Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey continues to draw interest and Minnesota is expected to deal him.
-- The Marlins are looking to add, not subtract, and do not intend to deal closer Leo Nunez unless blown away with an offer. Florida is moving into a new stadium next season and has not gained near the momentum they had hoped this summer.
-- About that odd timing of Milwaukee acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez and announcing it just after the All-Star Game ended? Rodriguez's former agent Paul Kinzer had failed to submit proper paperwork for K-Rod's 10-team no-trade list -- Milwaukee was on it -- and with K-Rod having hired Scott Boras recently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was afraid Boras would correct the oversight. That's why, once the Mets and Brewers agreed to the deal, Alderson wanted it finalized as soon as possible, afraid that if they waited even one more day, Boras would get the list in and K-Rod would have power to scotch the deal.
-- Wonder what's taking so long for the trades to happen this week? Wonder why you read some rumors that turn out to be badly off the trail? Some insight from legendary executive Pat Gillick's Hall of Fame speech on Sunday: "As a young scout I, remember hiding up in trees with binoculars so no other scout would know I was interested in a prospect. I remember the assumed names or clever tactics we all used to get an edge and throw others off the scent."
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, B.J. Upton, Carlos Beltran, Drew Storen, Erik Bedard, Florida Marlins, Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Upton, Kevin Slowey, Kevin Towers, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Pat Gillick, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals
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: July 6, 2011 6:45 pm
Hall of Famer Paul Molitor ranks ninth on baseball's all-time hit list at 3,319, just after Honus Wagner (3,415) and just in front of Eddie Collins (3,315).
Not only will he be watching as Derek Jeter becomes the 28th player to join the group, he's one of just a handful of players in baseball history who actually can relate to what the Yankees shortstop is going through now that he's just four knocks away from the milestone hit.
"You hope that as you approach it, you're swinging well and it doesn't become too much about sliding into it vs. marching into it," Molitor says. "You always separate individual goals and team wins as you approach, and you hope it's something where the experience allows you to feel pleasure in those things instead of the pressure."
With Robin Yount as a teammate in Milwaukee before Molitor punched out No. 3,000 while playing for Minnesota in 1996, a then-unknowing Molitor -- dubbed "The Ignitor" with the Brewers -- got a sneak peek of what was to come for him back in 1992.
"I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to watch Robin do it a few years before myself," Molitor said of Yount, whose 3,000th came on Sept. 9, 1992, a single against Cleveland's Jose Mesa in Milwaukee's County Stadium. "I got a glimpse into the way you go about your business with that while trying to help the team win."
Jeter will become the first player ever to hit 3,000 as a Yankee, which puts him into his own unique and extraordinary category. But given what the Yankees represent and Jeter's consistent attitude throughout his career, the whole individual goals vs. team goals thing is extremely relevant. Jeter already has expressed some awkwardness about all eyes being on him.
On the other hand, as we've seen over the years, outside of a contentious contract negotiation, there is little that ruffles Jeter.
"Derek has never been one to be phased by too many outside influences," Molitor says. "He's always had an amazing ability to take the emotion out of at-bats, whether it's in October or during regular season at-bats.
"He's had a remarkable career. It's going to be a pretty special accomplishment."
Likes: Molitor remains the only one of the 27 members of the 3,000-hit club to triple for his historic hit. He did it against the Royals' Jose Rosado on Sept. 16, 1996. How'd he do that at 39? "You have to pay the outfielders off on the high fly balls into the gap," he joked.
Dislikes: Quick thumbs from umpires Joe West and Angel Hernandez. Those two are brutal.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Hot town, summer in the city
-- Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City