Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:47 pm

Reds look at Figgins, Crisp, Wandy, Ubaldo

The Reds, four games behind in the crowded National League Central, continue to push to upgrade their starting pitching.

But that's not all.

Even as they've strongly pursued Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez and have looked into Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, the Reds have expanded their search for a new leadoff hitter, as well.

The two names that currently interest them, according to sources: Seattle's Chone Figgins and Oakland's Coco Crisp.

Figgins has been a serious underachiever in his two years with the Mariners, and Seattle still owes him more than $20 million on a contract that is guaranteed through 2013. But the Mariners would likely eat much of that money in order to part with Figgins, and some people believe that he'll be a better player once he returns to the leadoff role he filled with the Angels.

Crisp has just a .312 on-base percentage in his second year with the A's, but he also has 27 stolen bases. Crisp is on the final year of his contract, and will be a free-agent at the end of 2011.

As for Jimenez, sources categorized the Reds' interest as "strong." Cincinnati could put together an attractive package, most likely built around Yonder Alonso, the first baseman whose path to the big leagues is blocked by Joey Votto's presence. The Rockies would like to find a first baseman to eventually replace Todd Helton.

It's not yet as clear how interested the Reds are in Rodriguez, whose contract is somewhat prohibitive. The Astros have told teams that they'll listen on any of their players, but an official of another team that talked to Houston said there was a fear that general manager Ed Wade is trying to make a "job-saving deal." Most people in baseball believe that Wade won't survive, once new owner Jim Crane takes over from Drayton McLane.

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 2:42 pm

3 to Watch: The Bud Selig edition

No matter what you think of Bud Selig as a commissioner, there's never been any doubt about Bud Selig as a fan.

He loves baseball. He loves watching baseball.

He switches from game to game on television every night when he's home. And when Selig met with the Baseball Writers Association of America this week, he said that his favorite games this summer have involved the Pirates and the Indians.

"I go first to the Pittsburgh game, and then Cleveland," Selig said. "I'm enjoying those two situations very much."

It's easy to see why. Not only are the Pirates and Indians great stories, but Selig sees them both as great examples of how his financial (revenue-sharing) plan is working.

He's right. They're great stories.

As to whether they're proof that the system works, that's a lot more complicated. Selig would also argue that the Rays have proved the system works, because they've finished first two of the last three years in baseball's toughest (and most expensive) division.

Rays executives would dispute that. They say there's no way they can compete long-term against the financial resources of the Yankees and Red Sox, and they beg regularly for a realignment plan that would get them out of the American League East (not going to happen).

Indians people wonder whether they can sustain long-term success. Even with Cleveland's success on the field this year (the Indians spent much of the first half in first place), attendance at Progressive Field has been mostly disappointing.

The Indians could win again, but they could also eventually find themselves back where they were in 2008-09, where they felt forced to trade Cy Young winners in back-to-back years, because they couldn't afford to keep them.

The Rays, despite another competitive team, had the second lowest average attendance in baseball (19,115, ahead of only the Marlins) in the first half. The Indians, at 21,106, ranked 26th among the 30 teams. The Pirates, at 23,577, were 21st.

Does the system really work?

Ask again in a few years.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Indians fell out of first place on Sunday, and they'll begin the second half with two starters (Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot on the disabled list). But they also begin the second half with four games against a Baltimore team that might have been the worst in baseball at the end of the first half. And they start with the outstanding Justin Masterson on the mound, in Indians at Orioles, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. Jeremy Guthrie, who will no doubt be the subject of trade talks later this month, starts for the Orioles.

2. Selig is a traditionalist in many ways, but he's also a businessman. So when someone asked Tuesday whether he sees a chance of more scheduled doubleheaders, he quickly said no. He's right, there's no way most teams would give up a home date (and a potential big gate), for doubleheaders that most fans wouldn't attend, anyway. The A's are different, because they have trouble selling tickets. So they did schedule a doubleheader, in Angels at A's, Saturday (4:05 ET) at the Coliseum. American League All-Star starter Jered Weaver is scheduled to start one of the games for the Angels.

3. Did the Pirates play the Astros every day during the first half, and is that why they had a decent record? It's not true. The Astros and Pirates played only nine times in the first half (with the Pirates winning seven), which means they play nine times in the second half, too. Three of those come this weekend, including Pirates at Astros, Sunday (2:05 ET) at Minute Maid Park, with All-Star Kevin Correia on the mound.

Posted on: June 22, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 4:04 pm

The people love realignment (talk)

Years ago, when an otherwise-empty stadium would fill up on a fireworks night, a friend of mine would invariably say, "Give the people what they want."

And the CBSSports.com readers have spoken.

Check out the two most popular columns on our entire site (all sports). They both deal with realignment.

Give the people what they want. So here it is, more realignment talk, courtesy of the kind people who took the time to email me with their thoughts on my proposed plan, and with ideas of their own.

A few of the ideas:

From Noah: "Why is it easier to move Houston? There is no logic in the rationale of which team. Why isn't it easy to move Milwaukee, or the Cubs?"

From Corrie: "Why not Colorado?"

Heard from a few (I'm guessing) Astros fans. Here's the reason I chose them (and why baseball would likely prefer moving them): The current imbalance is six teams in the NL Central, four teams in the AL West. Only one team can move directly from the NL Central to the AL West, and that's the Astros. If any other team switches leagues, you need to move other teams from one division to another to make it work. Not impossible, just more complicated. It is easiest to move Houston.

From David: "There is one problem with your plan -- the interleague rivalry series. No home-and-home series."

From Phil: "First of all, the DH is not the best thing since sliced bread. Ditch the DH, in college as well. I propose the following: six games against each team in one division of the opposite league. Rotate the divisions every year. The rivalry games would be played every three years. Absence makes the heart grow fonder . . . like the Ryder Cup."

One guy wants more rivalry series, one guy doesn't care at all about preserving the rivalry (Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs, etc.) series every year.

From Paresh: "Two leagues, two divisions per league, 2 wild cards per division -- the solution to MLB realignment! Eliminate automatic rivalry games."

And put Paresh on Phil's side.

From Jim: "I sent a letter to commish years ago -- two 15-team leagues, interleague series only against corresponding division in the other league."

That works, but it doesn't (over several years) send every team to every park, which I always thought was one of the goals of interleague play.

From Tim: "Love the idea, and hopefully they'll ditch the DH."

From Robbie: "Your realignment idea is very good, except for one thing. The DH has to be expanded to both leagues."

From Jack: "Selig needs to mandate that the DH be used in all interleague games."

From Don: "How about a combination of the DH and the pitcher hits? It would mean 10 players bat, allow the DH, and keep the strategy for double switches."

From Wayne: "Great solution. A minor solution to the DH dilemma: On the second day of each three-game series, use the visitor's rules."

So the people want the DH . . . or they don't . . . or they want it some of the time. It's the same problem when baseball people get together, which is exactly why we have one league with and one league without . . . and probably will, for quite a few more years. I love Wayne's idea, but also like the old idea of using NL rules in AL parks, and vice versa.

From Jeff: "Hey, that's my realignment plan, except I prefer a three-game play-in"

From John: "So Danny, did you get the idea from me?"

John's plan was similar to mine, except that he has 66 games vs. each division opponent (I had 72), and he had even more interleague games than I did (36, while I had 30). I still like my plan better, but I like both our plans better than the present set-up.

From Joe: "Your plan makes me ill. National League and American League teams should only play in the World Series."

From Andrew: "This is brilliant . . . which is why it will probably never happen. You must go forth and urge whoever needs urging."

From Ron: "Interesting article, but while we're at it, can't we go all the way and model this after European soccer? Do away with all leagues and divisions."

I love European soccer. I hate the idea for MLB. Division titles are important. But maybe we could talk about a relegation system?

From Robert: "Let's have four leagues: Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern."

From Bruce: "Let's look at five six-team divisions."

Let's not. That means eliminating the leagues, and while the leagues don't mean what they once did, they still mean something.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 15, 2011 9:15 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 11:00 pm

Gordon? Gordon! Awesome!

NEW YORK -- Jackie Moore remembers the day Brian Gordon told him he wanted to pitch.

"He came to me and said he felt his career had stalemated," Moore said Wednesday. "I agreed to give him a shot on the mound.

"And now he's going to be pitching in Yankee Stadium."

He's going to start for the Yankees on Thursday afternoon against the Rangers, making his first big-league start at age 32, five years after he told his Triple-A manager he wanted to give up playing the outfield.

And Moore, Gordon's manager at Triple-A Round Rock in 2006 (as an outfielder) and 2007 (as a pitcher), will be in the other dugout as the Rangers' bench coach.

"I hope we win 1-0," Moore said.

Gordon, signed by the Yankees just this week, has played 1,206 games in the minor leagues, 168 as a pitcher and the rest as an outfielder. He has pitched in three major-league games, all as a reliever, all as a September call-up with the Rangers.

C.J. Wilson remembers him.

Wilson, the Rangers' starter Thursday, was a 15-game winner and an American League champion last year. He's 7-3, and on the way to becoming perhaps the most sought-after free-agent pitcher this coming winter.

But he shared a bullpen with Gordon for a few weeks three years back, and Gordon made an impression. Tuesday night, Wilson looked up and saw the news that Brian Gordon had signed with the Yankees.

"I said, 'Gordon? Gordon! Awesome!,'" Wilson said Wednesday. "[He's] a really hard worker. I remember being a fan of his. He's a good dude."

A good dude with a great story.

Gordon pitched and played the outfield in high school in Texas, but the Diamondbacks made him a seventh-round draft pick as an outfielder in 1997. He wasn't a terrible hitter (.275 in 10 seasons), but he went through three organizations and couldn't get past Triple-A.

So in 2007, he went to Moore, his manager at Round Rock (in the Astros organization), and asked for a chance to pitch.

He went to the Rangers, and then to the Phillies. He was in his second season with Philadelphia's Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate when he opted out of his contract this week to sign with the Yankees.

And now he's starting, in the spot left vacant when Bartolo Colon went on the disabled list. Moore, that manager he approached and asked for a chance to pitch, will be watching.

"It's a feel-good story for baseball," Moore said. "Stay with it, get a break, and all of a sudden you're pitching at Yankee Stadium."

Posted on: June 14, 2011 7:05 pm

Astros, Orioles have new pitching coaches

Last week, it was hitting coaches, and then a manager.

Tuesday, two teams changed pitching coaches.

The circumstances were different. The Astros, who have the second-worst team ERA in the majors, fired Brad Arnsberg and replaced him with Doug Brocail. The Orioles announced that Mark Connor has resigned, and that Rick Adair would take over for him.

The Orioles said that Connor resigned for personal reasons, and MASN sports reported that the 61-year-old Connor "was dealing with physical issues that he couldn't overcome."
Adair, a former big-league pitching coach in Detroit and Seattle, had been the Orioles' bullpen coach, so the transition should be smooth. Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail told MASN that he had considered Adair and Connor to be "dual pitching coaches."

Brocail has never coached before. He joined the Astros front office last year, when he retired after a 15-year big-league career.
Posted on: June 14, 2011 12:16 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 12:33 pm

Astros fire pitching coach

Last week it was hitting coaches, and then a manager.

Now, the Astros have fired pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.

The team announced Tuesday that Doug Brocail will replace Arnsberg, on an interim basis.

Arnsberg, formerly the pitching coach with the Expos, Marlins and Blue Jays, joined the Astros last year, along with manager Brad Mills. But the Astros are 25-42, the worst record in baseball, and their team ERA is 4.69, 29th in baseball (the Cubs are 30th).

Brocail joined the Astros front office after retiring at the end of the 2009 season.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 16, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 1:15 pm

Astros to announce sale to Jim Crane

This time, it seems, Drayton McLane is really going through with it.

The Astros have called a 3 p.m. ET press conference to officially announce that McLane is selling the team to local businessman Jim Crane. McLane nearly sold the team to Crane in 2008, only to back out after Crane thought he had agreed to a deal

McLane has owned the Astros for 18 years, a span that included the team's only trip to the World Series, in 2005.

The deal is still subject to approval by Major League Baseball, but it's very unlikely that it would be turned down.

While McLane has led the Astros to their greatest success, he has also delayed much-needed rebuilding. The Astros' current National League-worst 15-25 record is in part a result of McLane's refusal to rebuild several years back.

It's hard to know what kind of owner Crane will be. People who know him describe him as highly competitive, but also suggest he could become just as meddling an owner as McLane was.

"He'll be a Jerry Jones owner," high school teammate Bill LaMothe told the Houston Chronicle.

Crane, who is 57, played Division II baseball at the University of Central Missouri. He's a good enough athlete that Golf Digest ranked him as the top golfer among CEOs.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:21 pm

Berkman: Drayton is the 'last of a dying breed'

CHICAGO -- Drayton McLane has owned the Astros for more than 18 years. Lance Berkman played for the Astros for 12 of those seasons.

Now Berkman is an ex-Astro, and it appears that soon McLane will be an ex-Astro owner.

"It's kind of sad to see," said Berkman, now an outfielder with the Cardinals. "The individual owner of a baseball team is kind of going the way of the dodo. Drayton was kind of the last of a dying breed."

The Houston Chronicle reported this week that McLane's sale of the Astros to local businessman Jim Crane could be completed as soon as next week. But Berkman said even when the Cardinals were in Houston two weeks back, he felt like things had already changed.

Now, he just hopes Astros fans will appreciate McLane as he does.

"He's not a perfect owner, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an owner who wanted to win more," Berkman said. "He catches a lot of flak, I know."

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com