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Tag:Yankees
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 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.

Posted on: June 20, 2008 7:56 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2008 9:12 pm
 

Gillick on Cito, and other happenings

Pat Gillick, who won two World Series in Toronto with Cito Gaston as his manager, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Gaston succeed in his second go-round with the Blue Jays.

"I think he can," said Gillick, now the Phillies general manager. "But it depends on what kind of players he's got."

Gillick said he agrees with the idea that Cito was the right manager for the players Toronto had in the early 1990s.

"Absolutely," he said. "Cito did a great job. He had a tremendous rapport with the players. He's certainly a players' manager. People think it's pretty easy, but sometimes it's easier to screw up a good club than to keep them where they should be."

*****

Of the three teams that fired managers this week, you might have noticed that the Mariners were the only one that also fired their general manager.

There are those in baseball who believe that Bill Bavasi lost his job as Seattle GM because he wouldn't fire John McLaren himself. And there are just as many who believe that J.P. Ricciardi in Toronto and Omar Minaya with the Mets are in serious danger, if not now than at least at the end of the season.

Asked how Ricciardi could fire John Gibbons, his longtime friend, one veteran baseball man responded: "You don't worry about friends when your own job's on the line."

*****

That's three managerial firings in four days, with Willie Randolph early Tuesday morning, McLaren on Thursday and Gibbons today.

Tough time to be a manager?

"It's the nature of the game for anyone in this position," said the Angels' Mike Scioscia. "The only job security is performance."

Scioscia's job security, of course, ranks near the top of the list. But then, so does his performance.

"Those guys (who got fired) are terrific baseball men," Scioscia said. "But everybody's going to look at your report card and ask, are you getting the most out of your players?"

*****

Kudos to classy Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, who accepted full responsibility today when reporters asked him about his baserunning blunder Wednesday night. Hunter lost track of how many outs there were, and started jogging back to the dugout thinking the inning was over.

"It was the worst feeling in baseball," he said. "I've talked trash and pulled young guys over when they've done something like that. I was like an ostrich, with my head in the sand. It won't happen again. Trust me. You won't have to write that story again."

Incidentally, Hunter said getting away from the Metrodome's artificial turf has made a huge difference in how he feels this year.

"God knew what he was doing when he made grass -- it's healthier," Hunter said. "It's like organic food vs. antibiotic food. Organic's good for you."

*****

The Yankees are understandably happy with how Joba Chamberlain's move to the starting rotation has worked out, but it remains to be seen whether Chamberlain will be efficient enough with his pitches to work deep into the game against the better lineups in the American League. He needed 100 pitches to finish 5 2/3 innings Thursday against the weak-hitting Padres, and he's averaging nearly 18 pitches an inning in his four starts.

"Some days, 100 pitches might get you eight innings," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said hopefully. "Some days it might get you six or five. The key is that you shut down the other team."

That's true enough, but some are calling Joba the ace the Yankees need in Chien-Ming Wang's absence. You'd like an ace to get you into the late innings regularly, and it could be tough for Joba to do that right now (especially since the Yankees will be understandably cautious with his pitch counts).

Posted on: June 17, 2008 8:29 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2008 9:32 am
 

Hamels: 'I don't agree with the AL'

Another American League pitcher fell victim to National League rules today, when the Red Sox put Bartolo Colon on the disabled list with a back injury suffered while swinging and missing on Monday night. At least Colon isn't as important to the Sox as Chien-Ming Wang is to the Yankees. In fact, the Red Sox were simply able to put Daisuke Matsuzaka into Colon's spot in the rotation.

But there's another side to this whole DH/no DH question, and Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels expressed it.

"I don't agree with the American League," he said. "I don't want to be in the American League. I don't want to face a No. 9 hitter making $8 million."

When Hamels beat the Red Sox Monday, he twice escaped trouble by striking out Colon with two on and two out.

It doesn't hurt that Hamels is a good hitter himself, with a .316 average this season (although he's a more pitcher-like .176 for his career).

A few other Tuesday thoughts:

Did you notice that the Tigers' Marcus Thames has homered in five straight games, with six home runs total in that span? Well, Red Sox first baseman Sean Casey noticed. "I think if you give that guy 500-some at-bats, he'd have a shot to hit 40," said Casey, Thames' ex-teammate with the Tigers. "He's in the top five as far as the longest balls hit by guys I've played with. I'm a big fan of his."

The Mariners have a lot of work to do in the next month, but scouts from opposing teams say they should be able to start the rebuilding process by trading away pitchers Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard. The pitching market should be interesting to watch in July, with quite a few teams looking but also quite a few decents arms available (C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Paul Byrd, among others).

While several other American League teams bemoan their lack of speed (White Sox, Indians, Tigers, to name three), the Red Sox are seeing the impact of AL steals leader Jacoby Ellsbury. "He's brought a brand of baseball that we're not accustomed to," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We talk about preparing for the Angels, Tampa Bay and Minnesota, teams that run and put pressure on you. Now other teams are having to prepare that way for us. We've always been good, but we've been big and slow. We went through periods where we didn't hit, and we looked big and slow."

 

Posted on: June 13, 2008 9:21 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2008 9:23 pm
 

Russell Martin: 'I still miss the infield'

Everyone in baseball talks about the game's catching shortage. Teams are always looking for players who might be converted to catcher. So why would the Dodgers think about moving Russell Martin to another spot?

The answer is they're not -- not yet. But Dodger people will tell you that it's entirely possible that Martin could become their second baseman or third baseman in two or three years, particularly if catching prospect Lucas May (now at Double-A Jacksonville) develops into a big-league player.

Martin is so good behind the plate that he won the National League's gold glove in 2007 (and the silver slugger, too). But he was a third baseman in junior college, and when he was growing up in Montreal, he was a shortstop.

"You've got to realize, I idolized Ozzie Smith," Martin said. "If I saw something he did, I'd go out the next day and try to do it myself. I had to learn to love to catch. I enjoy everything about it now, but I still miss the infield."

Martin has started four games at third base this year, as Joe Torre has tried to get his bat in the lineup on days when he doesn't catch. Torre said he thinks Martin is quick enough (and hits enough) to play in the middle of the infield.

Martin says he'll do whatever the organization asks. But when I asked him what he'd say if they suggested a permanent move to the infield, his eyes lit up.

"I'd change in a heartbeat," he said. "I'd jump at it, for sure."

*****

The Indians have known for a while that Victor Martinez was playing with a bad elbow, which is why they weren't alarmed by his complete loss of power (no home runs in 198 at-bats). But when Martinez joined Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona on Cleveland's disabled list this week, it almost ensured that C.C. Sabathia will be traded next month.

Indians officials would love to see a bidding war for Sabathia between the Yankees and Red Sox, but one other team they're keeping their eye on is Philadelphia.

*****

With their sweep of the White Sox this week, the Tigers aren't in sell mode yet. But if they ever get there, it'll be interesting to see what happens with Kenny Rogers.

Rogers has a 1.24 ERA in his last four starts, and he would be one of the most marketable Tigers. He's also on record as saying he wants to end his career as a Tiger, a sentiment he repeated today.

"I don't want to pitch anywhere but here," Rogers said.

Rogers has partial no-trade protection in his contract, but as a 43-year-old who strongly considered retirement last fall, he has the ultimate no-trade clause: he could tell teams he would retire rather than accept a deal.

"I don't envision it being a possibility, because I expect we're going to be in this (race) for the long haul," Rogers said.

 

 
 
 
 
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