Posted on: September 25, 2008 5:43 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2008 5:57 pm

Dempster in Game 1, and more from the Cubs

Lou Piniella strongly suggested Wednesday night that Ryan Dempster would be his Game 1 starter. Today, he made it official.

Dempster, 14-3 this season at Wrigley Field, will be on the mound for the Cubs Wednesday at Wrigley, against either the Mets or the Dodgers.

"He deserves it," Piniella said. "He's been extremely consistent and reliable all season long. Plus, Games 1 and 5 are at home, so it makes all the sense in the world."

Piniella didn't name the rest of his playoff rotation.

In other Cubs news, Piniella left Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez out of his lineup for tonight's game against the Mets. Mark DeRosa is also out, but he's unavailable because of a calf strain.

Piniella said that the Brewers, battling the Mets in the NL wild-card race, have no reason to be upset, because the Cubs have already won two of the first three games against the Mets.

"I'm resting my team," Piniella said. "That was a long, long game (Wednesday night)."

Piniella hinted that he'll also rest many regulars Friday night in Milwaukee, but that he plans to play most of them Saturday and Sunday.

"We have two days off Monday and Tuesday," Piniella explained. "I've got to play the regulars, because I don't want to see them sit for three or four days."

That all assumes, of course, that the Cubs don't ahve to play a makeup game Monday.

There are two scenarios in which they would. Rain is coming to New York, although as of now (almost 6 p.m.) the rain still hasn't arrived. If tonight's game can't be played, it would be made up on Monday if necessary.

And then there's the third game of the Hurricane series, the one in which the Cubs and Astros played two games in Milwaukee last week. The only way that game would be played Monday in Houston is if the Astros make up three games on both the Mets and Brewers between now and Sunday.

What makes that strange, of course, is that one part of the Astros making up all those games on the Brewers is that the Cubs would have to beat the Brewers all weekend in Milwaukee. Imagine a scenario Sunday in which the Cubs could get Monday off by losing, but could force themselves into a meaningless (for them) Monday trip to Houston should they win.

What kind of lineup do you think Piniella would play that day?

Posted on: September 15, 2008 3:46 pm

It's too late for the Brewers

So now they fire him?

Now, with 12 games to go in a season that's already well on the way to being lost. Now, after the series that could have saved the Brewers' season?

Now the Brewers fire Ned Yost?

Midseason managerial changes can work. There's no doubt that the Mets are a better team under Jerry Manuel than they were under Willie Randolph (although they still could be undermined by the bullpen). The Blue Jays are far better with Cito Gaston than they were with John Gibbons.

And just as with Randolph, just as with Gibbons, there are plenty of reasons to justify firing Yost. From the outside, his teams have always seemed tighter than they should be. They certainly looked that way last Thursday, when I saw them in Philadelphia at the start of the series that would cost Yost his job.

There has been talk that Yost had lost the confidence of some of the Brewers' key players.

No one would have been surprised if the Brewers fired Yost after this season. Really, nobody would have been surprised if the Brewers had fired Yost earlier, when a managerial change could possibly have saved their season.

But now, with the division basically lost, and with the wild-card race already tied, and with both the Phillies and the Astros both having much easier remaining schedules than the Brewers? Now, with 12 games left?

Now they do it?

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 4, 2008 11:21 am
Edited on: September 4, 2008 11:24 am

Yanks are down, and it obviously stings

I was at Yankee Stadium a couple of times last week, and it seemed to me that Yankee fans were taking losing surprisingly well. Sure, they booed Alex Rodriguez a few times, but it almost seemed that they were booing because it was the thing to do, and not because they actually cared.

So imagine my surprise when I open my mailbox and find a whole bunch of hatred from Yankee fans, just because I had the gall to point out that -- well, that the Yankees just aren't very good.

From Kurt: "Feel compelled to write about Cleveland or Detroit or St. Louis or Colorado with no hope? No, you try to bury the Yankees. Typical response from a fiction writer who gave no credit when the Yanks did dominate."

Hmm. I guess all those World Series columns I wrote from 1996-2000 didn't make it into your hands. And I guess you missed the column I wrote last month on the Tigers, or the one I did in June on the Rockies.

From Jon: "Danny Boy, what great insight. I for one believe that if it wasn't for the Yankees you wouldn't have anything relevant or interesting to write about. You inane drone!"

I guess Jon didn't like those columns on the Tigers and Rockies, either.

From Hyam: "The Yankees have won 26 titles since 1920 and the Red Sox 2. What rivalry? You appear to be just another jerk Red Sox fan."

Did you notice that the Astros are closer to a playoff spot right now than the Yankees are? Uh oh. Now you'll accuse me of being a Houston fan.

Posted on: August 19, 2008 11:48 am

Sabathia is 8-0, but pitch counts are worrisome

You couldn't help but notice that CC Sabathia threw another complete game for the Brewers on Monday night. You couldn't help but notice that Sabathia is 8-0 with a 1.60 ERA in nine starts since the Brewers acquired him from the Indians.

You also couldn't help but notice that Sabathia threw 130 pitches -- in a 9-3 win over the Astros.

According to the great play index at baseball-reference.com, the 130 pitches is a career high for Sabathia. Not only that, but Sabathia has now topped 120 pitches three times for Milwaukee. In his last 3 1/2 seasons with the Indians, Sabathia topped 120 pitches just three times -- twice in 2006 and once earlier this season.

Sabathia told reporters that the high pitch count Monday wasn't a big deal, because he has an extra day of rest before his next start, and two extra days after that.

It's not a big deal. Not unless it contributes to Sabathia getting hurt.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 5, 2008 3:06 pm

In baseball, lightning shouldn't strike once

Baseball shouldn't take a chance with lightning. Period.

I was at Wrigley Field Monday night. I saw, heard and felt the lightning strike that ended the Cubs-Astros game. It scared me. It scared everyone.

"I understand that players don't want to be out there (at that point)," umpire crew chief Wally Bell said this morning. "I don't want to be out there."

I don't blame Bell for what happened. I'm not sure I blame the Cubs, either, even though I take issue with general manager Jim Hendry's explanation that "No one was hurt, so in this one, they made the right call."

No, it wasn't the right call, because someone easily could have been hurt.

Baseball has no lightning policy. Now would be a fine time to write one. When there's lightning in the area, when there's a tornado sighted 15 miles from the ballpark, stop the game. End the game.

"Think about it," Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said. "People get killed by lightning strikes all the time. It's not likely, but it's a heck of a lot more likely if you're standing outside in a lightning storm."

Berkman heard ex-teammate Craig Biggio talk many times about being on the field when a friend was killed by lightning. Maybe that's why Berkman had the most sensible reaction to what happened Monday.

"You've got to keep some perspective here," he said. "This is a baseball game and these games are important because teams are trying to make the playoffs and everybody understands that. But at the same time don't lose your mind. You got tornado sirens going off and severe weather all over the place. There's no reason for it. There's no reason to put fans at risk. There's no reason to put players at risk. You put umpires in a bad spot because everybody's like, 'Well, it's on them. They got to make the call.' "

Berkman's right. The key is to figure out a way to keep this from happening again -- and more important, to keep something worse from happening.

"Everybody was at risk," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "Everybody."

And it's not a good enough answer to say that no one got hurt.

Posted on: August 4, 2008 7:38 pm

Astros' McLane: We'll never be sellers

I suppose you have to admire Drayton McLane's confidence, his determination and his willingness to spend money.

Or waste money.

It still makes no sense that the Astros were buyers at last week's non-waiver trading deadline. It still makes no sense that the Astros, 13 games out of first place and eight games out of the wild-card lead (with five teams in front of them) traded for Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, let alone that they didn't get a start on rebuilding an organization that badly needs it.

It makes no sense to me, I should say. Because after talking to McLane before the Astros' game tonight at Wrigley Field, I'm convinced that it makes sense to him.

"We never considered selling," he said. "It's not in my makeup. That was never in consideration. We had a lot of offers. You heard about (Miguel) Tejada. There was interest in Carlos Lee. Even Lance Berkman's name was mentioned. Roy Oswalt's, too. We wouldn't ever consider any of those things."

The natural question is "Why the heck not?" But McLane has an answer for that, too.

Quite simply, he expects this team to win. He still expects it.

"Absolutely," he said. "Look at 2004. We were in about the same position we're in now. In 2005, same thing, and we went to the World Series."

So he thinks the Astros are going to win in 2008?

"Yeah, I think we're going to make a great run for it, and I think we have the capacity to win," he said.

Sorry, but I still think it's nuts. I do, however, admire his confidence.

Oh, and for the record, on Aug. 4, 2004, the Astros were 14 1/2 games out of first place and five games back in the wild-card race, which they ended up winning. A year later, they were nine games out of first place, but were already leading the wild-card race (which they won again enroute to the World Series.

Posted on: July 22, 2008 5:13 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2008 5:38 pm

Could Pena pitch? It sure looked like it

One scout who watched Kansas City shortstop Tony Pena Jr. pitch the ninth inning Monday night against Detroit joked about trying to trade for him as a reliever.

At least I think the guy was joking.

Seriously, though, you have to wonder whether Pena should be pitching rather than playing shortstop. There's a shortstop shortage in baseball, but there's not much demand for guys who hit .152 with no power.

There is demand for guys who can throw the ball over the plate with some velocity, especially when they can also throw 75 mph breaking balls over the plate.

"He was throwing 91, with sink," the scout who watched Pena said. "I guarantee you someone is thinking about (a position change)."

Pena told the Kansas City Star that he pitched as an amateur, and that some teams that scouted him wanted to sign him as a pitcher.

"I liked playing short more," he said.

If it means staying in the big leagues, maybe he'll change his mind.


On the one hand, it's no shock to see the Astros trade for Randy Wolf, because owner Drayton McLane has been demanding that his team approach the July 31 deadline as buyers rather than as sellers. On the other hand, are you kidding?

The Astros are 12 games out of first place, and as one National League scout said today, they'll have a hard time finishing ahead of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, let alone the Cubs or Brewers.

But McLane refuses to give up. At last week's baseball dinner at the White House, McLane apparently told President Bush that the Astros will win the National League Central.


Speaking of the Brewers, they seem serious in their pursuit of Oakland closer Huston Street. Milwaukee scout Dick Groch followed Oakland from New York to Tampa Bay.

"If they get a closer, that would put them ahead of the Cubs, in my opinion," said one scout familiar with both teams.

But that same scout expressed concerns about Street's velocity, which has been down this year.


The Dodgers are still looking all over for a shortstop, but they don't seem nearly as concerned about replacing injured closer Takashi Saito. Jonathan Broxton has always been seen as Saito's eventual successor, and the Dodgers were very impressed with Broxton's first two outings in Saito's absence.

One good sign: Broxton, who never threw above 97 mph, threw his first two pitches at 99 and 101 the other day in Arizona.


Condolences to the family of longtime Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who was definitely one of the legends of our business.


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.


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