Posted on: June 10, 2009 3:35 pm
Did anyone notice that the Blue Jays are only 1 1/2 games out?
Of course not. No one ever notices the Blue Jays. No one ever takes the Blue Jays seriously, even though they're one of the few teams in baseball that has had a winning record each of the last four years.
I'll admit, in my column on A.J. Burnett, I wrote that the Yankees and Red Sox will likely both make it to October, because "The Rays have too many injuries and too many problems, the Central Division is too mediocre to provide a true wild-card contender and in the West it's hard to imagine the Rangers and Angels both winning enough games."
And not one person e-mailed to ask, "What about the Blue Jays?"
When the season began, the prevailing wisdom was that the best three teams in baseball might be in the AL East. At the 60-game mark, the Dodgers have certainly entered the argument, and maybe the Phillies are there, too, but otherwise the best teams in baseball still seem to be grouped in one division.
The Red Sox. The Yankees. The Rays (despite their problems).
And what about the Blue Jays?
They've played far fewer games within the division than the other three. Their 34-27 record is built largely on the strength of an 18-9 mark against the AL Central (Toronto has more wins against the Central than any Central Division team does). They have 12 games remaining against the Red Sox, 15 against the Yankees and 18 against the Rays.
The Jays still have a lot to prove. But maybe we ought to start paying attention while they try to prove it.
Posted on: December 9, 2008 3:11 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 3:41 pm
The talk this morning was that the third team is the Red Sox.
The Braves made a strong push for Burnett last week, and they still believe that their offer was strong enough to potentially get a deal done. The Yankees made their interest known in Burnett known even before the free-agent market opened..
The Red Sox have always left open the possibility of signing a free-agent starter, to go with their current rotation of Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield. They have met with CC Sabathia, the top starter on the market, but Boston's interest in Sabathia (and Sabathia's interest in the Red Sox) wasn't believed to be that serious.
It's possible that the Red Sox's interest in Burnett isn't serious, either. An executive with one team involved in the talks said he still thinks the Red Sox are only pursuing Burnett to make life harder on the Yankees. An executive with one of the other teams involved, however, said his team considers Boston a serious contender.
There was also some talk this morning that the Blue Jays were back in the picture, but sources said they're still a longshot at best to keep their free-agent right-hander.
Posted on: November 10, 2008 4:06 pm
The Braves still believe they have the best offer out there for Jake Peavy, even as some people in baseball believe that the Cubs are the favorites to land the San Diego right-hander. But even as they try for Peavy, the Braves are also making plans to go after other starting pitchers.
Dempster is believed to favor a return to the Cubs, who would like to keep their 17-game winner.
But the Braves are serious about upgrading their rotation, as general manager Frank Wren told my colleague Scott Miller at last week's GM meetings in California.
"We need a couple of starters," Wren said. "Maybe even more than that. I'd like to beef up our rotation. That's the area we've been known for."
Wren wouldn't talk specifics, but people who have talked to the Braves say that only CC Sabathia is definitely out of their price range. The Braves aren't interested in Ben Sheets, but sources said they will talk about any other free-agent starters.
Posted on: August 31, 2008 4:55 pm
And yet, when the Jays traded Eckstein to Arizona today, general manager J.P. Ricciardi had this to say about Eckstein: "He's the best. I've been in the game 28 years, and he's the best guy I've ever been around. He wasn't playing every day, and he still came to the park every day prepared to play. He's been absolutely great. We wanted to do something for him. We tried to put him in a spot where he was going to have a chance to go to the playoffs, and a chance to play, too. This is a great guy, an absolutely great, great guy."
By sending Eckstein to the Diamondbacks, Ricciardi seems to have done just what he said. Arizona began today with a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League West, and the Diamondbacks have a need for an everyday infielder to replace the injured Orlando Hudson. The Angels, the other team that had shown interest in Eckstein, would have used him mostly as a backup.
As for the minor-league pitcher that Toronto got back in the deal, 23-year-old right-hander Chad Beck, Ricciardi points out that the Jays drafted him out of high school in Jasper, Texas in 2004, but couldn't sign him.
Posted on: July 17, 2008 5:31 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2008 7:27 pm
It's no real surprise to see Tony Clark going from San Diego back to Arizona. Clark is from San Diego, but he has lived for years in the Phoenix area and very much wanted to get back there. The Diamondbacks needed help off the bench, and also the veteran presence that Clark brings, and the Padres have reached the point where they realize they don't have a chance this year.
There were those in baseball who thought Arizona would be a possible destination for Mark Teixeira, should the Braves trade him. Like Clark, Teixeira has a home in Arizona, and could possibly have been interested in staying there long-term. But Arizona didn't want a full-time first baseman who would take at-bats away from Chad Tracy and Connor Jackson. The Diamondbacks were encouraged by the 25 runs they scored in the final four games behind the All-Star break, and convinced themselves that at this point their offense doesn't need the big-time boost from someone like Teixeira.
It's also no surprise to see the Phillies trade for a pitcher, even though Oakland's Joe Blanton was far from their first choice. The Phils were looking for a difference-maker, and it's hard to see Blanton being that kind of pitcher. The one plus is that he normally pitches a lot of innings, and the Phillies might score enough runs to help him succeed.
Other talk circulating in the baseball world today:
-- The Mariners continue to be open for business, and there has been some talk that they would even be open to dealing young shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. But one official who has spoken to the Mariners said he was told Betancourt was one of four players the M's wouldn't talk about, with the other three being Ichiro Suzuki, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow.
-- The Rays' interest in Rockies closer Brian Fuentes has been talked about for days, but a baseball official said Tampa Bay has also talked to Oakland about Huston Street. The Rays are also in on Casey Blake, who could well be traded by the Indians.
-- Even after trading for CC Sabathia, the Brewers are well-positioned if they want to make another deal. Matt LaPorta was the key piece in the Sabathia trade, but one scout said LaPorta was no better than the fourth best prospect on Milwaukee's Double-A Huntsville club. "(Third baseman Mat) Gamel is an impact guy, and so is (shortstop Alcides) Escobar," the scout said. "And (outfielder Michael) Brantley has a chance to be an All-Star. For a lot of people, including us, LaPorta is going to be no better than an average everyday player."
-- One other Milwaukee player to watch is shortstop J.J. Hardy. The Blue Jays are very interested in him, and some people believe that if Dustin McGowan hadn't gotten hurt, a deal could have been made (the Brewers aren't interested in Burnett). There's still a chance, those same people believe, that the Jays could pursue Hardy this coming winter.
-- The Tigers haven't been saying very much about Dontrelle Willis, who was sent to Class A Lakeland more than a month ago (and more recently was in Detroit to have his knee examined). The word is that in Willis' workouts in Lakeland, his control hasn't been any better than it was in Detroit. People familiar situation said Willis has been doing a lot of running, trying to take off some of the weight he has added.
-- While the White Sox are telling people that they're satisfied with their team and unlikely to make any significant moves, there are those who wonder whether they'd deal shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Whether he's dealt or not, it's unlikely Cabrera will be with the Sox next year, because rookie Alexei Ramirez is expected to take over at short, his natural position.
Some e-mails, and some quick responses:
From Josh T.: "Did you even watch the (All-Star) game? Did you see any other pitcher pitch? Did you see the defense on each side? All you can talk about is the freakin' Yanks and Boston"
Let's see, the All-Star Game was at Yankee Stadium, the MVP plays for Boston. No, I can't figure out why anyone would have written about the Yankees and Red Sox. You're right. Next time, I'll be sure to feature someone who had a bigger effect on the game. Cristian Guzman, maybe?
From Jason: "You're an idiot to suggest that CC Sabathia isn't an All-Star because he didn't make this year's team. I could make a team out of the players not on this year's (All-Star) roster and beat them in a game."
Sorry, but if you don't make the All-Star team, you're not an All-Star. If you don't believe me, then try to collect that All-Star bonus in your contract without being named to the team.
From Scott: "I don't understand why you included the pitcher from Kansas City (Zack Greinke) in your (On The Block), other than for filler."
We included Greinke because the Royals are willing to talk to other teams about him this month. No, he probably won't be dealt, because it would take a huge package to get KC to actually make a deal, but we thought it was interesting that they're even willing to discuss him.
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Tags: A's, A.J. Burnett, Alcides Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, Blue Jays, Brandon Morrow, Braves, Brewers, Brian Fuentes, Casey Blake, CC Sabathia, Diamondbacks, Dontrelle Willis, Dustin McGowan, Huntsville Stars, Huston Streets, Ichiro Suzuki, Indians, J.J. Hardy, Jeff Clement, Joe Blanton, Mariners, Mark Teixeira, Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Orlando Cabrera, Padres, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Tony Clark, White Sox, Yankees, Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke
Posted on: July 6, 2008 2:05 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2008 3:35 pm
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'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.
Posted on: June 25, 2008 12:17 am
Cito Gaston looks great.
Relaxed. Happy to be back.
And then there's J.P. Ricciardi. Even on a night when fans were cheering his new manager and his Blue Jays team was pounding the Reds, 14-1, the Jays general manager was trying to put out another fire.
It started Tuesday afternoon. No, it started last week, with Ricciardi's ill-advised critique of Adam Dunn on his Toronto radio show. But it got going again Tuesday afternoon.
Ricciardi, who had been trying for days to apologize to Dunn, said that Dunn had called him (on his cell phone, no less) and that he'd finally delivered the apology. The only problem was that Dunn said he hadn't called.
Could Ricciardi have made up his story about the call? Doubtful, since he had to know that reporters would check with Dunn (who was, after all, in the same stadium).
Could Dunn have made the call and then lied about it? Doubtful, because he seems to want this all to be over with, almost as much as Ricciardi does.
So who made the call? Good question, and one you can bet that J.P. Ricciardi would like an answer to.
Posted on: June 24, 2008 7:48 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2008 7:50 pm
Jim Leyland hates managing against his friends, because either you lose or they do. Dusty Baker says the same thing.
"You'd rather manage against adversaries," the Reds manager said today. "It's more fun."
As it turns out, though, there are a whole bunch of friendly matchups around the majors this week. Leyland against Tony La Russa. Baker against Cito Gaston. Bobby Cox against Ned Yost. Cox against Gaston.
Leyland worked for La Russa in Chicago, and worked with him in St. Louis. Yost worked for Cox in Atlanta. Gaston played with Cox, played for him and then coached under him in Toronto. Gaston and Baker were teammates when Baker broke into pro ball in Austin, Texas, in 1967.
"My first game was in Little Rock, and I dropped a fly ball," Baker said. "I cried, and I said I was going home. Cito said, "Don't worry, kid, I'll take care of you. . . . He helped raise me in the game."
So how does Gaston feel about facing both Baker and Cox in his first week back on the job? He doesn't mind it. He has no problem facing his friends.
"I've always felt that if someone's going to lose, let them lose," he said.
Tonight's A.J. Burnett-Bronson Arroyo matchup didn't attract any special-assignment scouts to the Rogers Center, something of a surprise since both starters are candidates to get traded.
While the Jays are willing to move Burnett, they're said to be setting their sights high, looking for an established outfielder (preferably left-handed hitting) in return.
As for Arroyo, it's just as well for him and for the Reds that no scouts were here. He didn't record an out in the second inning and left trailing, 9-1, after the shortest start of his career.
"I was in New York the weekend before Willie (Randolph) got fired," Wine said. "Then I was in Seattle for (John) McLaren's last game. Then I was in Milwaukee for (John) Gibbons' last game (with Toronto). Holy cow, I'm like a black cat."
You've seen the numbers that show the American League is once again dominating the National League in interleague play. The difference between the two leagues isn't lost on the players.
Did he mean that the Red Sox and Angels are better than any NL teams?
"Hands down," Hamels said. "They're a lot better than the NL teams. Even playing in an NL park."