Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:00 pm

3 to Watch: The White Sox (or white flag) edition

The White Sox are having the most disappointing season in baseball. The White Sox could still win the American League Central.

The White Sox could be 1 1/2 games out of first place by Wednesday. Or the White Sox could be sellers by Wednesday.

It's a time of year where things change quickly, with teams assessing their needs and chances daily.

Even by that standard, the White Sox are a team to watch this week.

They begin the week two games under .500, and 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers. The Tigers are in Chicago for three games starting Monday night.

By the time the series ends Wednesday, the White Sox could be a true contender. Or they could be so far out of it that they go into full sell mode, looking to deal a pitcher like Edwin Jackson and perhaps outfielder Carlos Quentin.

Or maybe they're still left guessing whether they're in it or not. Maybe all they can do is to contemplate possible deals like the one the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Sunday, where they would trade a major leaguer for another major leaguer (in this case, a pitcher like Jackson for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus).

There are other teams to watch this week, notably the Rays, who have fallen 6 1/2 games out in the wild-card race after losing two of three in Kansas City.

But no team has been as disappointing this year as the White Sox, and no team will be as interesting to follow over the next few days.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Partly because of the trade deadline, and partly because Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee won't start in the series, the Giants' visit to Philadelphia doesn't feel as big as it probably should. It's still worth watching, and it's worth noting that the Phillies allowed fewer runs over the first 100 games of the season (332) than any team since the 1989 Dodgers. Vance Worley is one of the surprising reasons for that, and Worley faces Tim Lincecum in Giants at Phillies, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. The White Sox began the second half by beating Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on back-to-back days in Detroit, then missed a chance to sweep the series when they lost to Brad Penny. They get Verlander and Scherzer again in this series, with Verlander facing Mark Buehrle in Tigers at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field. Also worth watching: Jake Peavy's velocity when he faces the Tigers on Wednesday. In Peavy's last start, in Kansas City, his average fastball was below 90 mph.

3. The Mariners are also a team to watch this week, and not just because they've lost a club-record 15 straight. On a market short of starting pitcher, the M's have made Jason Vargas and Doug Fister available, and those two start Monday and Tuesday against the Yankees. They have not made Felix Hernandez available, and they're hoping that Felix won't be trying to break a 17-game losing streak when he faces Phil Hughes in Mariners at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will be hoping that Hughes looks a lot better than he did in his last start, last Friday against the A's. The M's have won each of Hernandez's last five starts against the Yankees.

Posted on: July 24, 2011 6:18 pm

Putting 15 straight losses in perspective

The Yankees have been around for 111 years, and they've never lost 15 games in a row.

Neither have Cubs or the White Sox, or the Indians or the Giants (New York or San Francisco).

It's not unheard of for a team to lose 15 in a row, but it's not exactly common. And it's not good.

When the Mariners lost their 15th straight Sunday in Boston, they became just the 12th team in the last 50 years with a losing streak that long. Ten of the previous 11 went on to lose 100 games, while the 11th (the 1982 Mets) lost 97.

What kind of team loses 15 straight? Teams like the infamous 1962 Mets, who went on to lose 120. Teams like the 1988 Orioles, who lost 21 straight to start the season.

The Mariners' streak is the longest in the big leagues since the 2005 Royals lost 19 straight, and ties the third longest in the last 30 years. If they lose Monday in New York, the Mariners will become just the fifth team in the last 40 years to lose at least 16 straight.

It's already a club record -- and it would already be a club record for 13 of the other 29 big-league teams.

The Yankees club record is 13, set in 1913. They haven't even lost 10 in a row since then.

The White Sox club record is 13, set in 1924. The Giants' is also 13, set in 1902 and tied in 1944. The Indians set a record with 12 straight losses in 1931.

The Mariners have only been around since 1978.

Oh, and those other teams that have never had a 15-game losing streak? Here's the list:

Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Padres and Rockies.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 22, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 7:55 pm

Add Fister, Vargas to Tigers' long list

The Tigers have looked at every starting pitcher who is available, and some who may not be available.

It's a long list, and it extends from Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields to Jeremy Guthrie and Aaron Harang and Hiroki Kuroda. And also to Doug Fister and Jason Vargas.

According to sources, the Tigers had a scout in Toronto this week to watch Fister and Vargas pitch for the Mariners. The Mariners also had two scouts in Detroit. That doesn't mean the two teams are close to a deal, because the Tigers have had scouts watching all of the above pitchers and more.

The Mariners are believed to have made Fister and Vargas available, while telling teams that Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda will not be moved.

For more trade deadline news from CBSSports.com, click here.

Posted on: July 22, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 1:03 pm

3 to Watch: The legit Pirates edition

The Cardinals are a game out of first-place in the National League Central, and one out of every five games left on their schedule is against the Pirates.

Is that good or bad?

Isn't it great that we're even asking that question?

We are asking it, because even here in late July, we're still asking whether the Pirates -- the first-place Pirates -- are for real. We're still asking if they're just a great story, or if they're more than that.

"They're legit," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

They're 51-45, six games over .500. Or as the skeptics like to point out, six wins over Houston over .500, because if you take out their 12 games against the awful Astros, the Pirates are right at .500 against the rest of the league.

They're 51-45, and if they were in the National League East, that would leave them 10 1/2 games out, and we'd consider them sellers. They'd be 4 1/2 behind the Giants in the National League West, without any real chance of winning.

But they're not in the East and they're not in the West. They're percentage points up on the Brewers and a game up on the Cardinals, who come to Pittsburgh this weekend for a series like none that PNC Park has ever seen.

The games Friday and Saturday are already sold out. The game Sunday is close to selling out.

People are excited, as they should be. The Cardinals are impressed, as they should be.

"Maybe if this were May or June, you might discount teams," Matt Holliday said. "But this is late July."

The Cardinals and Pirates haven't played since the first week of the season, when the Pirates won two of three in St. Louis. The Cardinals scored just seven runs in the entire series.

"I said it then," Lance Berkman said. "If they get pitching like that all year, they'll be tough."

They haven't gotten pitching like that all year, not yet. But they've got pitching like that through 96 games, and they are tough.

"Their young players are into their second or third year, and they have a better idea," La Russa said. "And they've pitched well. It's a very familiar formula.

"And it works."

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Chris Carpenter took the loss in one of those three April games against the Pirates, even though he allowed just one earned run in six innings. It was his first loss to the Pirates in seven years, a span in which he had gone 10-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Carpenter faces Paul Maholm in Cardinals at Pirates, Friday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park. Carpenter will be followed by Jaime Garcia on Saturday, and Kyle Lohse on Sunday, assuming Lohse's right middle finger cooperates. He was examined by a doctor in St. Louis, and cleared to pitch. For the Pirates, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton will follow Maholm in the rotation.

2. When the Mariners played so well in the first half, general manager Jack Zduriencik's job looked safe. Now the Mariners have lost 12 in a row, and people are asking again whether Zduriencik will survive. The more immediate question is when the Mariners will win a game, now that they're within two of tying the record for the longest losing streak in club history. The best chance might come in Mariners at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, when Felix Hernandez pitches against John Lackey. According to the Mariners, Hernandez has the lowest career ERA at Fenway (1.49) of any pitcher with five or more starts there. On Saturday, in the game that could tie the record, it's Blake Beavan against Josh Beckett.

3. The Twins are going for it in the American League Central, although if they collapse this weekend against the Tigers, maybe they'll change their minds. They lost Thursday night to Justin Verlander, dropping to 0-6 against Detroit this season. The most interesting matchup of the weekend may come in Tigers at Twins, Sunday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Target Field, when Francisco Liriano faces Rick Porcello.

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 18, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 7:04 pm

M's may talk pitching (but not that pitcher)

In 12 days, the Mariners went from 2 1/2 games out to 11 1/2 games out. Not easy to do, especially when three of those days were the All-Star break.

In 12 days, the Mariners went from possible buyers to possible sellers. The Mariners have suggested to teams in the last several days that they would be willing to discuss trading some of their starting pitching in exchange for some much-needed hitting.

But not that pitcher. And not that one, either.

The names that have been floated, according to sources, are Jason Vargas and Doug Fister -- and not Felix Hernandez or Michael Pineda.

It's not certain how anxious the Mariners are to make a deal. One source described it more as "throwing bait out there, to see what interest there is." One issue is how much the Mariners value second-half wins that would make their final record look respectable, even if catching the first-place Rangers has already become a huge longshot.

In a market where multiple teams are searching for starting pitching, there could be significant interest. Fister is 3-11, but has a 3.18 ERA and good secondary numbers. Vargas has a 3.68 ERA and is tied for the league lead with three shutouts.

As to what the Mariners would be looking for in return, that's fairly obvious. In their current nine-game losing streak, the M's have scored just 11 runs.

The Tigers, Reds and Indians are all among the teams searching for rotation help. The Indians have continued to prioritize starting pitching, even as their shaky offense suffered another blow when Grady Sizemore went on the disabled list Monday.

Posted on: July 10, 2011 8:13 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 9:55 pm

Marlins could be an interesting July seller

The Marlins could be one of the most interesting "selling" teams as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, with a closer/setup man (Leo Nunez) and a starter (Ricky Nolasco) both potentially available.

That's assuming that the Marlins decide to sell.

First, team officials seem content to give their team (43-48 at the break) a chance to get back to .500 in the first week to 10 days after the break. With a post-break schedule that sees the Marlins playing the Cubs and Padres, that's not impossible.

The Marlins took a five-game winning streak into the break, but that still left them 14 games behind the division-leading Phillies and 10 1/2 games behind the wild-card leading Braves. Even a run to .500 wouldn't get them back in the race, but sources said that if they do get to .500, the Marlins likely wouldn't pull the plug on their season.

Even if the Marlins decide to sell, it won't be another fire sale. With a new stadium opening next year, the Marlins would be looking for deals that would set them up for 2012.

That means that even though they'd be willing to listen on Nolasco, they'd almost certainly need to get a major-league ready (or nearly ready) starting pitcher in return.

Nunez, who is eligible for free agency after 2012, would be easier to move. The same goes for Omar Infante (free agent after this year), left-hander Randy Choate (signed through 2012) and utility man/pinch hitter Greg Dobbs (free agent after this year).

While the Marlins have played better in July, they understand that they'd need a spectacular run to have any chance at catching the Phillies or Braves. They also understand that with ace Josh Johnson out until sometime in August, that kind of run isn't likely.


When people talk about the slow-moving July trade market, the main factor mentioned is the parity in the game. There just aren't that many teams that are totally out of contention.

But baseball officials say that another big factor is the overall financial health of the game.

There just aren't many teams that need to dump big contracts.

The Marlins, for example, don't need to dump contracts simply to save money. Same goes for the Royals, who would be very willing to trade Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur but aren't under financial pressure to deal either one.


The Marlins are trying to decide whether they have any realistic chance to catch either the Phillies or the Braves.

The Mariners need to make the same decision in the American League West. Seattle has had a much-better-than-expected season, but they find themselves 7 1/2 games behind the Rangers and 6 1/2 games behind the Angels.

Realistically, they're not as good as either of their two division rivals. Would it really make sense for the Mariners to spend assets on adding a veteran hitter?

Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: July 9, 2011 12:15 pm

3 to Watch: The Trout (and Jeter) edition

The day the Yankees first brought Derek Jeter to the big leagues, the New York Times handled the news with three lines attached to the bottom of the game story.

"It is Derek Jeter to the rescue, or so the Yankees hope," Tom Friend wrote that day. "With nearly the entire infield in the infirmary, the Yankees need someone with energetic legs, and their best candidate was Jeter, who was batting .354 at Class AAA Columbus."

Jeter was 20 years old. Baseball America ranked him as the fourth best prospect in baseball (behind Alex Rodriguez, Ruben Rivera and Chipper Jones), but there were no daily internet chats about what day the Yankees would call him up.

There were no daily internet chats about anything in May 1995. But there were no daily water cooler debates about top prospects back then, either.

The world has changed in the course of Jeter's 19-year career, to the point where on the same day that Jeter will be going for 3,000 hits, a significant portion of the baseball world will still be buzzing about the Angels' decision to call up 19-year-old Mike Trout.

Like Jeter, Trout will make his big-league debut against the Mariners, tonight in Anaheim. Like Jeter, whose arrival was speeded by injuries to Tony Fernandez, Dave Silvestri and Pat Kelly, Trout is coming to the big leagues now because someone got hurt (in this case, Peter Bourjos).

Who knows if this is the start of another 3,000-hit career?

What we do know is that Trout was the second biggest name in the minor leagues (there's some debate over whether he or Washington's Bryce Harper is the best prospect, but Harper is definitely better known). And we know that if you want to get 3,000 hits, it helps to get the first one when you're young.

Jeter was 20, as was George Brett. Pete Rose and Paul Molitor were 21. Tony Gwynn and Craig Biggio were 22.

Now Trout arrives at 19, as the youngest player in the major leagues. He was one year old when Jeter signed with the Yankees. He was three when Jeter debuted in the big leagues, and now he's given Jeter a 2,998-hit head start.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Jeter batted ninth in his debut at the Kingdome, going 0-for-5 against Mariner pitchers Rafael Carmona, Jeff Nelson and Bobby Ayala, in a game Rich Amaral won for the M's with a 12th-inning walkoff home run off Scott Bankhead. Trout will debut in Mariners at Angels, Friday night (10:05 ET) and Angel Stadium, with 22-year-old Blake Beavan starting for Seattle. Beavan is just up from the minor leagues himself; he allowed just three hits in seven innings to beat the Padres last Sunday in his debut.

2. It's hard to know exactly how big this weekend's "National League East showdown" in Philadelphia really is. Yes, the Phillies' NL East lead over the second-place Braves is down to just 2 1/2 games, heading into the weekend. But with the Braves holding a five-game lead in the wild-card race, the Phils are actually up a comfortable 7 1/2 games on a playoff spot. It could be that the Phils and Braves this September will be like the Yankees and Rays last September, where they'll only be playing for playoff seeding. What we do know is that there's a great pitching matchup, in Braves at Phillies, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Citizens Bank Park. Tommy Hanson, who many feel should be on the All-Star team, faces Cliff Lee, who is on the All-Star team.

3. Jeter enters the weekend needing just two hits for 3,000, so the first game to watch is probably Yankees-Rays on Friday night. And if he doesn't get two hits Friday, the second game to watch is Yankees-Rays on Saturday. But let's say he just gets one hit in those two games combined, so that we can focus on Rays at Yankees, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. And even if the Jeter celebration comes Friday or Saturday, Sunday's game is worth watching, with All-Star James Shields facing could-have-been All-Star CC Sabathia.

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