Category:MLB
Posted on: July 15, 2008 3:48 pm
 

Earl does the Bronx -- twice

My CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller wrote yesterday about some of the wilder moments in Yankee Stadium history. Here's another, courtesy of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.

"I got thrown out of both games of a doubleheader," said Weaver, the ex-Orioles skipper who is attending this All-Star Game along with a huge group of Hall of Famers. "I argued a call in the first game, and it finally got to the point that they threw me out. Well, normally once you get thrown out, it's forgotten and over with. You don't mention it anymore.

"Well, it was still bothering me when it got time to play the second game, and when I took the lineup card out, I said one more thing. And they got me again. The guys on the bench had been saying, 'Earl, don't go out there,' but I did."

For the record, Weaver's memory is perfect. The doubleheader was on Sept. 29, 1985. The Orioles got swept by the Yankees that day, and Weaver was tossed in the third inning of the first game and again during the exchange of lineups before the second game. He was mad because he believed that Yankee catcher Butch Wynegar had dropped a third strike and then never tagged Floyd Rayford.

Hearing the story, Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer said it had to have happened in 1985, and not with Weaver's earlier Orioles teams.

"As good as those (other) teams were, you didn't want to miss both games," Palmer said. "But our team was going to win whether he was there or not. I remember one time, Mike Flanagan told (umpire) Steve Palermo to throw Weaver out so we could enjoy the game. He just said what all of us were thinking."

*****

One more Hall of Fame memory from this morning:

Hank Aaron said he felt a need to be at Yankee Stadium for the final All-Star Game here. Asked then how he had felt about the closing of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where he starred with the Braves, Aaron told a story.

"You know where I was when they blew up that ballpark? I was in Alaska fishing," he said. "When it was blown up, I saw it on TV."

Posted on: July 14, 2008 5:29 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2008 7:26 pm
 

The NL's other problem: Tired pitchers

The National League is always up against it in the All-Star Game, anyway. The simple problem, as became clear in the interleague matchups, is that the American League has better players.

The NL needs every edge it can get. Instead, NL manager Clint Hurdle heads into Tuesday night's game at Yankee Stadium with a staff full of tired pitchers.

Arizona's Brandon Webb, who leads the league with 13 wins, threw 108 pitches on Sunday. He said today that he has "a zero percent chance" of pitching in the All-Star game.

"I don't think I'm even available," Webb said.

Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum are first and second in the NL in ERA. Volquez threw 112 pitches Saturday, and Lincecum threw 116 on Sunday. Both said they're available for an inning, but neither could have been considered to start the game.

"It's my regular bullpen day, and I pitched in similar situations in college," Lincecum said. "I always go after my bullpens with the same tenacity I do a game, so it shouldn't be a problem."

The Cubs' Ryan Dempster, who threw 118 pitches Sunday, also said he's available for an inning. Then, thinking about the NL Central race, Dempster had a joking suggestion for Hurdle.

"We'll just get (Milwaukee's Ben) Sheets to throw seven innings," Dempster said.

One other NL pitching issue: When Kerry Wood had to pull out of the game with an injury, Hurdle picked Cubs teammate Carlos Marmol to replace him. But it turns out that the Cubs would rather that Marmol, who pitched in 49 games in the first half, doesn't pitch on Tuesday night.

As for the American League, the only starters who worked Sunday were Justin Duchscherer and Scott Kazmir. Duchscherer is feeling a little sick, but said he could pitch.

A couple of other things to think about on All-Star Monday:

-- Twins catcher Joe Mauer was talking about Johan Santana today, and he reminded everyone how good Santana has usually been after the All-Star break. It wasn't true last year, when he was 5-7 with a 4.04 ERA, but from 2003-06, Santana went a combined 40-4 with a 2.07 ERA in the second half.

"He really gets going in the second half," Mauer said.

-- In talking about the weak trade market for starting pitchers, one scout pointed to the number of pitchers with great stuff who are being made into relievers. He mentioned All-Stars Jonathan Papelbon and Joakim Soria, both of whom could start and have started at some point in their careers.

Incidentally, Papelbon has no interest at all in becoming a starter.

"I think that was settled a long time ago," he said.

A long time ago? Only if spring training 2007 qualifies as long ago.

Posted on: July 8, 2008 7:58 pm
 

To buy or to sell? A's always seem to have answer

You're not supposed to be able to play for today AND tomorrow. It doesn't work that way.

You're supposed to have to pick. Go for it now, as the Brewers are doing. Pack it in and play for the future, a la the Indians.

But what about the A's? They just traded Rich Harden to the Cubs, but history (and the American League standings) tell us that they're not the Indians.

So does that mean they're nuts, dealing away a sometimes dominating pitcher (2.02 ERA over his last 10 starts) at a point where they're six games out in the American League West and 3 1/2 games back in the AL wild-card race?

No more so than when they dealt away Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder 3 1/2 years ago. No more so than when they traded away Dan Haren and Nick Swisher last winter.

At first glance, the A's take for Harden doesn't seem that great. Sean Gallagher, the guy they're calling the key to the deal, was ranked by Baseball America as the Cubs' fifth-best prospect entering the season. His numbers so far don't suggest that he's Harden.

But the A's were supposed to be taking a step down (at least for today) when they traded Haren last winter for a group that included Dana Eveland and Greg Smith (both already doing well in the Oakland rotation). They were supposed to be taking a step back when they traded Mulder for Haren back in December 2004.

They keep trading guys away (and perhaps Bobby Crosby will be next, once he gets healthy). They stay competitive.

They play for the future, as general manager Billy Beane says they're doing with today's deal. They do it without giving up on the present.

You're not supposed to be able to do it this way. But maybe the A's can.

They've done it before.

Posted on: July 6, 2008 2:05 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2008 3:35 pm
 

C.C. could go today, maybe to Brewers

The Indians were telling teams today that it's "highly improbable" that C.C. Sabathia will make his next scheduled start for them. While Sabathia is still listed as the Indians' starting pitcher for their Tuesday night game in Detroit, it appears almost certain that he'll be traded before then.

The destination could well be Milwaukee. The Dodgers had been involved as recently as Sunday morning, but as of Sunday afternoon a baseball source familiar with the talks said that the Dodgers are out of it. While there was talk in the baseball world that the Phillies could make a late push, it seems likely that their offer will fall short.

The Brewers' offer is centered around Matt LaPorta, a 23-year-old outfielder who was Milwaukee's first-round draft pick a year ago. LaPorta has 20 home runs and 66 RBIs in 84 games at Double-A Huntsville. The Brewers reportedly told the Indians that they could have only two of their top five prospects, and that they couldn't have both LaPorta and Huntsville shortstop Alcides Escobar.

The Dodgers had been interested in Sabathia, but they have instead focused their efforts on a shortstop to replace the injured Rafael Furcal.

Even after they trade Sabathia, the Indians won't be done dealing. The Tribe plans to shop other players this month, with struggling reliever Rafael Betancourt's name mentioned.

*****

There are more teams in search of shortstops than there are available shortstops, which is why the Dodgers asked the Astros about Miguel Tejada (who Houston isn't interested in trading).

"There's a dearth of shortstops," one baseball official said.

The Dodgers, Blue Jays and Orioles have been the teams most active in looking. The Jays have been offering starter A.J. Burnett, and a source said they had talked to the Brewers about Burnett, hoping to get either Escobar or J.J. Hardy.

 

Posted on: July 6, 2008 1:50 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2008 3:53 pm
 

Phils could trade Myers

At first glance, the Phillies' decision to sign Brad Lidge to a three-year, $37.5 million contract extension wouldn't seem to have any effect on Brett Myers, now that Myers is a starting pitcher (and a struggling starter who was recently sent to the minor leagues, at that).

But two sources familiar with the situation said today that Myers would much prefer to be a closer, something that's no longer even a long-term possibility in Philadelphia. The sources also said that the Phillies are open to trading Myers, who would still seem to have value despite his struggles this season.

While there has been talk in baseball that the Phillies have floated Myers name in their talks with Cleveland regarding C.C. Sabathia, an official familiar with those talks said Myers hadn't been offered because the Indians are interested in younger, cheaper players.

Myers became the Phillies closer when Tom Gordon was hurt last year, and he converted 21 of 24 save opportunities. The Phillies moved him back to the rotation after trading for Lidge, and he became their opening day starter. Myers began the year 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA and a National League-leading 24 home runs allowed, and he agreed to a temporary assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

It's possible that Myers could benefit from a move back to the bullpen, because as a starter his velocity has been down.

For now, Myers is still starting in Triple-A, trying to get himself straightened out. He's scheduled to make his second start for the Iron Pigs Monday night.

Myers makes $8.5 million this year, and he's signed for $12 million for 2009.

Posted on: July 3, 2008 12:49 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2008 1:00 pm
 

Yanks or Red Sox? They'll take the Rays

David Ortiz says in this morning's Boston Herald that he still thinks the Red Sox and Yankees are the two best teams in baseball.

Two scouts who watched the Red Sox get swept at Tropicana Field don't agree.

"If you look at the two clubs out there last night, there's no comparison," the first scout said. "And I'm serious. Tampa Bay has a better ballclub."

"It's not even close," the other scout agreed. "In every facet but the closer."

There are still questions about the Rays, particularly about whether their bullpen can hold up (especially if Troy Percival can't stay healthy). And there are those who wonder whether a young team that hasn't been through a pennant race before can survive through August and September.

"The second half is tougher," the scout admitted. "And they have a younger club. But they've got some talented guys, and talent overrides that."

The Rays are in the market for another bat in the outfield, with Xavier Nady the name most mentioned. They're also in on the C.C. Sabathia sweepstakes, even though their rotation is already the best in the division.

Another weakness is at first base, where one scout said that Carlos Pena "looks just like he did when he was playing for Detroit."

As for the Red Sox, they have to be looking for bullpen help.

"If the guys they have don't get any more consistent, I can't see them winning," the scout said. "Other than (Jonathan) Papelbon, there's no one there to rely on, that I can see."

*****

Could the Braves actually be sellers in this month's trade market?

It's almost hard to imagine, because the Braves of recent years have always been a team that goes for it. And despite being five games under .500, the Braves are only six games behind the first-place Phillies.

But one club that has spoken with the Braves said that Atlanta officials intend to meet in the near future and decide whether or not they have a realistic chance of winning. If not, they'll sell, with Mark Teixeira the biggest and most interesting name available.

The Braves don't believe they have any chance of signing Teixeira long-term, and he's a free agent at the end of this season. Teixeira told reporters in Atlanta that he hopes the Braves don't trade him, but with no chance of keeping him past this year.

*****

One scout's handicap on the C.C. sweepstakes has the Brewers leading, followed by the Rays, Dodgers, Phillies and Cubs. The Indians seem prepared to move fast.

"It could happen tomorrow, or it might not happen until the 31st," said one person who speaks regularly with GM Mark Shapiro.

*****

The Royals have told teams that they would at least listen on Zack Greinke, because he's one of the few players they have who could bring a big return. "It's going to take three good pieces to get him, but (GM Dayton Moore) will listen," one official said. . . . The Reds have told teams that only five players are off-limits in trade talks. The five? Edinson Volquez, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto and Edwin Encarnacion.

 

Posted on: June 27, 2008 6:51 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2008 7:25 pm
 

Watch out for the Lions? Hurdle has hope

The Detroit Lions have one playoff win in the last 51 years. There's no reason to think they're headed for the Super Bowl.

No reason but this one: Clint Hurdle says the Lions of 2007 were a lot like his Rockies of 2006. And the 2007 Rockies, as you may remember, made it to the World Series.

Hurdle was born in Michigan, and he remains a big fan of the state's teams. With the Rockies in Detroit this weekend, Hurdle had a chance to speak with long-time Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell -- and also with Lions coach Rod Marinelli.

"I felt the same way about the Rockies as I feel about the Lions, that they'd have their day, and then they'd be off and running," Hurdle said. "Rod and I talked about the common fabric of their '07 season and our '06 season. Because in '06, we were on top of the division after the All-Star break, and within a three-week period we had fallen to the bottom of the division."

The Lions started last season 6-2, then lost six straight games before finishing 7-9.

"I told him we'd get together and share some of the lessons I think I learned from that ('06) season," Hurdle said. "You never know how close you really are."

*****

The Cardinals lost two of three this week in Detroit, but they left an impression.

"The Cardinals are a much better team than I thought," Tiger manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they're really good. I was really impressed. They run the bases better than anyone we've played. They compete as good as anyone we've played."

Leyland was especially impressed that Albert Pujols was able to go 4-for-4 in his first game off the disabled list.

"That's the worst thing that could have happened to general managers," he said. "Now nobody will want to go on a rehab assignment."

*****

One thing to think about as baseball discusses the future of maple bats: Some players could have trouble making an adjustment.

One hitting coach said that maple distorts hitting almost the way that aluminum bats do, because maple is a harder wood than ash. Some hitters have been using 31-ounce maple bats, and because the wood is so hard they can still make solid contact when they get jammed.

"With ash at 31 ounces, you've got nothing," the coach said.

*****

Trot Nixon is just 5-for-32 in his first nine games for the Mets, so it's hard to say he's made much of an impact. But there are those in Cleveland who think the Indians miss his presence, if not his .251 batting average.

"We've struggled to get an identity this year," third baseman Casey Blake said. "I think last year Trot Nixon really helped us."

 *****

Last August, the Tigers' Carlos Guillen hit a 3:30 a.m. walkoff home run to win a rain-delayed game against the Yankees. Wednesday night against the Cardinals, Guillen went 4-for-5 in a game that included a 2 1/2-hour rain delay.

Is there a connection?

"Someone told me a long time ago that a lot of guys waste time during rain delays," Guillen said. "A lot of guys just play cards. I try to stay loose. I ride the (stationary) bike. I stay focused. In this game, you've got to take advantage of anything you can."

Posted on: June 26, 2008 2:56 pm
 

Will someone take Chacon? Probably so

The Atlanta Braves have a saying that applies to players like Shawn Chacon, who admitted to grabbing Astros general manager Ed Wade by the neck and is now on the way out in Houston:

"Not a Braves-type player."

I heard exactly that a couple of weeks back, when I asked a Braves person about Sidney Ponson. I knew the answer, but I asked, anyway. After all, the Braves were looking everywhere for starting pitching help.

"Not a Braves-type player."

When Ponson had his trouble with the Rangers, causing disturbances and causing Texas to designate him for assignment, officials from several organizations predicted that he wouldn't get another job. Of course, he did, and now he's scheduled to start for the Yankees Friday night against the Mets.

I wouldn't have done it. They did. And when a team like the Yankees is willing to sign a player with as bad a track record as Ponson, you start to figure that almost anyone can get another chance these days.

Anyone but Barry Bonds.

*****

Yes, the Cubs winning this year would be a great story, now that it's been 100 years since they last won. Just don't expect the Cardinals to buy in.

"I feel like our story's just as good as theirs," Cards outfielder Ryan Ludwick said. "There were people picking us to finish fifth. We saw one magazine that said we'd only win 56 games. That'll get your blood boiling."

The Cards survived their two weeks without Albert Pujols, who returned today (a week earlier than expected).

*****

Did you notice that Tigers manager Jim Leyland batted Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria and Pudge Rodriguez in the 7th, 8th and 9th spots in his batting order for two days this week?

That's three guys who each have 2,000-plus career hits (and two who have 2,500-plus). That's 897 combined home runs, 3,591 combined RBIs.

Sheffield hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1989, according to research through baseball-reference.com. Before this year, Renteria hadn't hit lower than seventh since 1996. And before this year, Rodriguez hadn't hit lower than sixth since 1995, and hadn't hit ninth since 1992.

In case you're wondering, it's not unheard of for a future Hall of Famer to bat near the bottom of the order, even in the middle of his career. Johnny Bench actually hit eighth for Cincinnati two times in the 1979 season.

 
 
 
 
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