Posted on: February 27, 2011 4:07 pm

In so many places, a sad spring

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs don't go a day this spring without thinking of Ron Santo.

They barely go a day without talking about him.

"It's good to think of him," manager Mike Quade said Sunday, a few moments after recording his first radio pregame show with Keith Moreland, Santo's successor in the Cubs broadcast booth.

The Cubs will wear a patch on their uniforms to honor Santo, who died in December. The Indians are wearing a patch to honor Bob Feller. At Goodyear Ballpark on Sunday, the grounds crew painted a "19" in front of the Indians dugout for Feller, and a "10" in front of the Reds dugout for Sparky Anderson.

In Peoria, the Mariners ran a video on Dave Niehaus before their spring opener.

Nice tributes, all of them. It's sad that this spring is filled with them.

Santo. Feller. Sparky. Niehaus.

And now Duke Snider.

The Hall of Fame announced Sunday that Snider died in California, at the age of 84.

Unlike some of the others, Snider wasn't around big-league ballparks as often in recent years. For many fans of my generation and those younger, the biggest memory of Snider is from Terry Cashman's song, "Willie, Mickey and the Duke."

But Snider lives on in the memories of Brooklyn Dodger fans. He lives on in the memories of those who have been with the Dodgers over the years.

"Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant," Vin Scully said, in a statement released by the team. "He's joining a great Dodger team that has moved on."

The Dodgers will no doubt find a way to honor Snider. I have no doubt they'll do it well, just as the Cubs have done, just as the Indians and Reds have done, just as the Mariners have done.

In too many places, it's been a sad spring.
Posted on: February 21, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: February 21, 2011 7:37 pm

Ethier: The Dodgers' Jeter?

PHOENIX -- Can Andre Ethier become the Dodgers' Derek Jeter?

Perhaps not, but if the Dodgers are going to be successful, Ethier is going to need to do more than just hit. This is a team in need of some clubhouse leadership, and it sure seems that Ethier is a guy who needs to provide it.

"They need leaders who can step up," Ethier said this morning, a day before the Dodgers' first full-squad workout of the spring. "Yeah, I can be one of them."

Ethier said that in offseason conversations with new manager Don Mattingly, Mattingly referenced Jeter.

"Donny said to me that Jeter is very quiet and soft-spoken most of the time, but he leads by example," Ethier said. "That's the type of presence we need."

"I told him that to me, the reason the Yankees have been where they've been, it's all because of Jeter," Mattingly said. "When your best players play the hardest, that's leadership, and that's all Andre has to do."

Mattingly said he doesn't need Ethier to become more vocal, and pointed out to him that Jeter isn't always a vocal leader, either.

Ethier has other examples to draw on. He watched what Manny Ramirez did after coming over to the Dodgers in midseason 2008, and is also good friends with Dustin Pedroia.

"You learn from Manny, how he was so quick to complement players on anything they did," Ethier said.

Ethier, who turns 29 in April, is in his sixth year with the Dodgers. It's time for him to take on that role, too.

"You need guys like that, and that's something we've been lacking," Ethier said. "For me to make myself a better player, it's not the playing side that's going to dictate it. That could help in the long run more than hitting an extra home run a week."

Posted on: January 17, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2011 8:29 pm

Dodgers still need OF, interested in Thames

If the Dodgers were certain that Tony Gwynn Jr. could hit, they might not worry about adding another outfielder.

But they're not sure, so they've continued to look, and right now sources say that Marcus Thames is the one they're interested in. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday night that the Dodgers expect to sign Thames on Tuesday.

Thames, who spent last year with the Yankees, has good power and a strong track record against left-handed pitching. He's not a good defensive outfielder, though.

Gwynn is a good defensive outfielder, so good that the Dodgers would likely play him in center field and move Matt Kemp to a corner spot -- what does it tell you about Kemp that the Dodgers would happily move him off center field two years after he won a Gold Glove there?

But unlike his famous father, Gwynn Jr. has yet to prove he can hit in the big leagues. He hit just .204 last year with the Padres, and his career average in more than 1,000 at-bats is only .244.

The Dodgers had been interested in re-signing Scott Podsednik earlier in the winter, but they didn't like the amount of money he was seeking, and they moved on (although Podsednik still hasn't signed with anyone).

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 13, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 3:08 pm

A return to New York (but not to Brooklyn)

The Giants brought their World Series trophy to Sacramento, and they brought it to Stockton. They're bringing it to San Jose, and also Monterey.

And to New York.

Yeah, New York, the city they abandoned 60-something years back.

You think the Los Angeles Dodgers ever brought one of their trophies to Brooklyn? You think the A's took any of their four trophies to Kansas City, on the way back to Philadelphia?

You think the Indianapolis Colts celebrated in Baltimore?

Why is this different?

I'm not sure why, but it is. It is different.

It's different because for some reason, some New York Giants fans (and there weren't nearly enough of them at the end) have stayed with their team. It's different because instead of feeling abandoned and angry, they felt loyal.

That seems a little strange, but there's no doubt it's true.

"A lot of us never stopped rooting for the Giants after they moved," Bill Kent, president of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society, told the New York Times last October. "The Giants have a big fan base in New York, but you never hear about us."

The Giants heard.

They heard that 1,000 or so fans packed Finnerty's Bar for playoff games (and thus the trophy will make a stop at Finnerty's next week). They heard from fans who said they had never lived in California but were Giants fans because their fathers or mothers or grandfathers or grandmothers had been fans.

And when it came time to plan their trophy tour, general manager Brian Sabean was the one who suggested a stop in New York.

They scheduled it for next week, because Buster Posey will be in New York to accept his Rookie of the Year Award at the New York Baseball Writers' annual dinner.

I'm still not sure why the Giants can do this and have it feel right, but they can.

"That connection is important to us," Giants senior vice president Staci Slaughter said. "The organization has made it a priority to keep it. There was a connection with Willie Mays, and with his love affair with New York. There's a lot of San Francisco-New York connections."

Yeah, but there are plenty of Los Angeles-New York connections, too, and that never helped the Dodgers. And just as the Giants have always included their New York history, the Dodgers have honored their Brooklyn history.

With the Giants, though, it still seems to be a two-way street.

"It is unique," Slaughter agreed.

It's unique, but for some reason, it feels right.

By the way, the Giants have also scheduled a trip to Troy, N.Y. , later this year. The Giants were originally founded -- sort of -- as the Troy City Trojans (I'll bet a lot of Bay Area fans are glad they dropped that nickname!).


It's funny how franchise moves affect people.

There's a huge debate going on right now among supporters of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in England (and I count myself as a proud supporter). The club has considered taking over the London Olympic Stadium, which is seven miles from its current home at White Hart Lane, but is not in Tottenham.

Sometimes seven miles can mean everything. And sometimes, in the case of those Giants fans, 3,000 miles isn't too much.

Posted on: December 9, 2010 9:36 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 11:16 am

When Lee signs, Greinke will go

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Royals arrived at the Winter Meetings ready to talk about a Zack Greinke trade. They left the meetings more convinced than ever that they'll trade their young ace this winter.

When? That's easy. The Royals almost certainly won't deal Greinke until Cliff Lee signs his new contract, because the Lee market strongly affects the Greinke market.

So where does Greinke go? That's much less certain, but officials familiar with the talks said four to five teams have been most aggressive. That group includes the Rangers, Brewers, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Nationals. Royals officials also continue to believe that the Yankees will pursue Greinke strongly if New York loses out on Lee.

In any case, it's very likely that Greinke will go somewhere, based on the offers that the Royals already received this week.

Greinke is signed for two more years, so the Royals have maintained all along that they don't need to trade him. But they've also realized that with this winter's thin free-agent market, this is the time to maximize his value. Besides Lee, Greinke is by far the best starting pitcher available.

Greinke is due $13.5 million each of the next two years, a reasonable salary for a pitcher who has already won a Cy Young Award. He has some no-trade protection, but it's believed that he would be amenable to most possible trades, because he has been frustrated by the losing seasons in Kansas City.

The Royals actually have a strong group of prospects on the way (some rival scouts feel they have more top prospects than any other team), but the ETA on those prospects doesn't fit Greinke's timetable. Thus, it makes sense for the Royals to shop him this winter and get even more prospects in return. They'll likely net four or five players in any Greinke trade.
Posted on: December 7, 2010 4:40 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:46 pm

Dodgers spent before the court ruled

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- According to a ruling Tuesday by a California judge, the Dodgers may no longer belong to Frank McCourt alone. It seems his ex-wife Jamie may have claim to them as well, further muddling the ownership situation.

Good thing the Dodgers have already finished most of their offseason shopping.

Or maybe that was the idea.

According to sources who have spoken to the team, some part of the motivation for shopping early was to avoid the possibility that a legal ruling could cause the money to dry up. General manager Ned Colletti was told at the end of the season that the payroll could rise from where it was on opening day 2010 (about $102 million).

Colletti quickly re-signed left-handed starter Ted Lilly, then also signed right-handers Jon Garland and Hiroki Kuroda, shortstop Juan Uribe and catcher Rod Barajas. This week, he was finalizing a deal with pitcher Vicente Padilla, and was still looking to add an outfielder. They'd like to re-sign Scott Podsednik, but think he has been asking for too much money.

According to the Los Angeles Times , Tuesday's ruling by Judge Scott Gordon could keep the team in legal limbo for several more years. Gordon ruled that a 2004 marital agreement signed by the McCourts was invalid, but the Times suggested that Frank McCourt could either appeal the ruling or use a different legal strategy to prove his sole ownership of the team.

Many people in baseball have hoped that an impasse in the case would force the McCourts to sell the team.

Posted on: September 17, 2010 3:14 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2010 3:36 pm

Mattingly to take over for Torre in LA

Joe Torre will step down as Dodgers manager at the end of the season, and hitting coach Don Mattingly will replace him.

Torre's decision had been expected, and there has been speculation for weeks that he would be a candidate to take one of the many managerial openings this winter. But one person close to Torre said today that he thinks it's more likely that Torre won't manage again.

Mattingly, who came to the Dodgers with Torre after the 2007 season, had long been Torre's favored replacement, but there had been talk in recent weeks that the team might go with Triple-A manager Tim Wallach instead. Mattingly has never managed at any level, but the Dodgers said he intends to manage in the Arizona Fall League this year.

Torre never managed in the minor leagues before taking his first big-league job, with the Mets in 1977.

Torre, who turned 70 in July, has managed 29 seasons in the big leagues, taking teams to the postseason 15 times. The 15 appearances ties Bobby Cox for the most ever, although obviously Cox would top him if the Braves hang on and make it to the playoffs this year. Torre won four World Series, all in his 12 years with the Yankees.

The Dodgers made the playoffs in Torre's first two seasons in Los Angeles, and they won their first two postseason series since 1988.

Torre's decision to leave the Dodgers was first reported by Yahoo! Sports and the Los Angeles Times and was announced by the Dodgers a few minutes later.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 29, 2010 9:37 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2010 12:08 pm

3 to watch: The Manny magic II? edition

Whether you like Manny Ramirez or not, you've got to admit that he carried the Dodgers into the postseason two years ago (and nearly carried them into the World Series, too).

Any chance he does the same for the White Sox, who he joins this week (possibly tonight in Cleveland)?

Your first instinct is to say no way. Manny was 36 years old then; he's 38 now. He had two months with the Dodgers; he'll have one month in Chicago. The Dodgers were just two games out of first place when he joined them; the White Sox are 4 1/2 games back now. The Dodgers had nine games remaining with the Diamondbacks, the team they were chasing (and went 7-2 in those nine games); the White Sox have only three games remaining with the first-place Twins.

Then again . . .

In Manny's first 32 games with the Dodgers, he hit .407 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. And after dropping three games behind Arizona when they lost Manny's debut, needed just 39 games to turn that three-game deficit into a 4 1/2-game lead.

They needed help from the Diamondbacks, who went 15-23 over that span.

The White Sox would need help from the Twins (or at least from the teams that are playing the Twins).

Can history repeat? It sure seems unlikely, but it sure will be intriguing to see if it can.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Before Manny plays a home game for the White Sox, he'll visit his first two big-league homes, with series against the Indians and Red Sox. Not surprisingly, he has good career numbers at both Progressive Field and Fenway Park. He has incredible career numbers against the Indians (.352, 16 home runs, 46 RBIs in 51 games). Ramirez could be in the lineup as soon as White Sox at Indians, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field , but in any case he should join the Sox during this series.

2. After A.J. Burnett completed a winless August by allowing nine runs to the Manny-less White Sox last Friday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi waited two days to announce whether Burnett would remain in the rotation. He will, Girardi told reporters Sunday, but the A.J. watch will be on in full force if he doesn't pitch well in A's at Yankees, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium . If there's one thing that is most worrisome for the Yankees heading into September and October, it's the rotation. Andy Pettitte remains on the disabled list, and in five August starts, Burnett had a 7.80 ERA.

3. Speaking of key pitchers who were winless in August, Tim Lincecum's next assignment is a big one, facing Ubaldo Jimenez in Rockies at Giants, Wednesday night (9:15 ET) at AT&T Park . The Giants lead the Rockies by three games entering this week's series, but both teams trail the Padres in the National League West and the Phillies in the NL wild-card race. Lincecum's August ERA, by the way, was nearly the same as Burnett's (7.82). Jimenez went 1-3 in August, losing his last three decisions, but his ERA for the month was 2.83.

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