Posted on: October 20, 2009 4:07 pm

'The stadium was shaking'

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies won the World Series at Citizens Bank Park last October.

People who work here say it was louder Monday night.

"The stadium was shaking" after Jimmy Rollins' game-winning double, one stadium worker told me on my way into the park for today's workout day. "It was so loud I couldn't hear the guy next to me."

The Phillies had some big moments last October, and they won the World Series at home. But no single moment from 2008 compares to Rollins' double off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth inning Monday. The Matt Stairs home run off Broxton would come close, but that silenced the crowd at Dodger Stadium.

Besides, Stairs' home run came in the top of the eighth inning. Rollins' double came with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and with one swing it changed the game from a Phillies loss (and a 2-2 series) to a Phillies win (and a 3-1 series).

It wasn't exactly Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series, or Joe Carter in the 1993 World Series, but it was close.

"I thought in '93 we were going to tie the score, and I thought last night we might tie it," said Pat Gillick, who was the Blue Jays general manager when Carter homered off Mitch Williams, and is a Phillies consultant now. "In '93, I thought if Rickey Henderson got on base, we had a pretty good chance to tie it, and then when Joe hit it, I still thought the ball might hit the top of the fence."

It cleared the fence, and Carter's one-out, three-run home run turned a 6-5 Phillies win (which would have forced Game 7) into an 8-6 Blue Jays win (which clinched the World Series).
Category: MLB
Posted on: September 11, 2009 11:59 am

Watching the weekend (baseball style)

The pennant races aren’t close, and it’s the first full football weekend. You’re excused if your mind isn’t totally on baseball right now.

That’s what we’re here for, to keep you up on what you have to know. So here’s what to look for in your limited non-football time this weekend:

1. Derek’s big night (or big day): No, it’s not nearly as big a deal as the New York media has made it into. But Derek Jeter needs one more hit to pass Lou Gehrig for the Yankees’ all-time record, and it figures to be a pretty cool moment at Yankee Stadium when he gets it. Jeter has hit safely in 12 of his 15 games against the Orioles this year. He’s never faced Chris Tillman, who starts tonight, or Brian Matusz, who starts Saturday.

2. The Giants and Dodgers: The Giants, now four games behind the Rockies, can’t afford to lose to the Dodgers. The Dodgers, now just two games ahead of the Rockies, can’t afford to lose to the Giants. Oh, and of course, everyone in San Francisco hates the Dodgers -- including Brad Penny, the ex-Dodger who starts for the Giants on Sunday. Should be fun.

3. The Rockies road: Colorado took charge of the wild-card race with a 9-1 homestand, but now the Rockies start on a three-city road trip. Worth noting: The Rox are 9-10 on their last three trips. Also worth noting: Top starter Ubaldo Jimenez has been scratched from a Saturday start in San Diego, because of a sore left hamstring. The good news: Jimenez should be able to start Tuesday in San Francisco. One last Rockies note: With the three games in San Francisco, three later on in Los Angeles and three at home against the Cardinals, the Rockies don’t have the easiest of schedules the rest of the way.

4. At home in the Central: The Twins are a bad road team. The Tigers are worse. And the White Sox aren’t too good away from home, either. Keep that in mind this weekend, as the Tigers begin a seven-game homestand against the Blue Jays and Royals, and the Twins begin a nine-game homestand against the A’s, Indians and Tigers. Meanwhile, the White Sox head back out to the West Coast to play the Angels.

5. What about the Rangers? Will Josh Hamilton return tonight? Will Michael Young come back next week? Will the Texas pitching hold up? Are the Rangers a real threat to either the Red Sox or Angels? Texas opens a nine-game homestand tonight against the Mariners, so maybe we’ll start getting some answers.
Posted on: July 31, 2009 6:30 pm

The deals that didn't get done

The Rangers were hot after a pitcher at the trading deadline -- but it wasn't Roy Halladay.

As the minutes ticked away before 4 p.m. EDT, the Rangers and Angels were both pushing hard in an attempt to acquire Heath Bell from the Padres, according to sources. It's not clear who the Rangers would have given up for Bell, but talks with the Angels centered on pitchers Jose Arredondo and Sean O'Sullivan and infielder Sean Rodriguez.

The Padres also discussed what would have been a monster deal with the Dodgers, one that would have sent both Bell and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles. In one form of that deal that was discussed, the Dodgers would have parted with James Loney, Russell Martin, James McDonald, Blake DeWitt and Ivan DeJesus Jr.

The Dodgers apparently backed away from that trade.

As for Halladay, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported that the right-hander told the Blue Jays that he wouldn't accept a possible trade to the Rangers, thus abruptly ending talks between the two teams. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi told reporters that he was never close to making a Halladay deal.

The Red Sox talked about Halladay and Gonzalez, but in the end weren't willing to part with the prospects it would take to get a deal done. It wouldn't be shocking if the Padres and Red Sox revisit Gonzalez talks in the offseason.

Posted on: July 13, 2009 6:29 pm

Home field? Rays, Tigers say they'll take it

ST. LOUIS -- A few notes and thoughts from All-Star Monday:

-- This one counts?

Since 2003, when baseball began awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the All-Star Game, the American League has won every year. Not that it has helped in October, because the National League team has won three of those six World Series, including two of the last three. One issue: There hasn't been a seven-game World Series since 2002, and there hasn't even been a six-game World Series since 2003.

Still, players from the Tigers and Rays, who lost in 2006 and 2008 despite home-field advantage, said Monday that they would very much prefer to have home-field advantage if they get back to the World Series this October.

"The way we play at home (29-15 this year), it helps us out a lot," Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett said. "Last year, I think what happened was we were playing so great, but when we got to the World Series we changed our game. I really feel like if we get there again and we have the home-field advantage, we'd do it this time."

"It didn't work out last year, but in the grand scheme of things, it would be great to have it again," first baseman Carlos Pena agreed. "We were just emotionally drained from the Boston series (in the ALCS) last year, so we didn't take advantage of it."

Like the 2008 Rays, the 2006 Tigers split the first two games at home, then lost three straight on the road.

"I think if we could have gotten back to our place (for Game 6), playing in front of our home crowds, it could have been different," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "Home-field advantage is worth a lot."

"I saw a stat where 18 of the last 23 teams with home-field advantage won it," Tigers starter Justin Verlander said. "But you'd better check that."

We checked, and he's right.

-- Brantorino, explained

So now we know where the idea for last week's Brantorino final-vote push came from. It came from Shane Victorino.

The Phillies outfielder revealed today that he was the one who suggested to Bonnie Clark (the Phils' vice president for communications) that they team up with the Tigers for a two-team voting bloc to win the final vote for him and for Inge. He didn't take credit for the "Brantorino" marketing slogan, just the idea of teaming up.

"I just knew Inge and I were in second place in the voting," Victorino said. "And I knew Detroit was a great baseball city, just like Philadelphia."

Sure enough, it worked, as Victorino and Inge went on to win the voting.

-- A vote for Bob Melvin

Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson played for Bob Melvin the last three years in Arizona. He plays for Joe Torre now.

He sees a connection.

"[Melvin] reminds me of a young Torre," Hudson said.

So he was disappointed to see Melvin get fired?

"No, I was happy for him," Hudson said. "I was happy for him to get a fresh start."

-- Little man in the Derby

Inge said he was more excited about Monday night's Home Run Derby than about Tuesday's game.

"I might set a record for the smallest Home Run Derby contestant ever," said Inge, who the Tigers list at 5-11, 190.

Inge said his last Home Run Derby was at the Southern League All-Star Game in Greenville, S.C.

"That one didn't go so well," he said. "I went 0 for my first 9. But then I think I hit the farthest ball in the Derby."
Posted on: July 7, 2009 11:10 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2009 10:27 am

Did they boo Manny? Yes, but ....

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira got booed more in Baltimore.

Johnny Damon gets booed more at Fenway Park.

Luis Castillo got booed more Tuesday night. So did Guillermo Mota.

We could tell you that Manny Ramirez got booed Tuesday night at Citi Field, in his first true post-suspension road game, and we wouldn’t be lying. But it sure would be misleading, because if this was as hostile as it gets for Manny, he’s got nothing to worry about.

Maybe fans don’t care as much about steroids as we think they do. Maybe they simply like Manny more than we think they do.

That’s his explanation, of course.

"The fans have been great to me, especially in LA,” he said. "What can I say, I’m just blessed everywhere I go. People like me, the way I play, the way I do things.”

We’d like to argue with him. We’d like to tell him people are outraged by his cheating, and by his refusal to talk about it.

Maybe somewhere, they are, but obviously not in New York. And if not in New York, then where?

Sure, Manny would get booed in Boston, but that has nothing (or very little, anyway) to do with steroids.

He’ll get booed, at least a little, at every stop.

"Even without the suspension, that’s the kind of reaction he’s gotten,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Last year, after he joined us, he got the same reaction.”

But really, the reaction wasn’t much. Even when Ramirez was tossed out of the game by home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck (“I was coming out in the fifth anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.”), the New York fans didn’t get too worked up.

Imagine the hooting if Teixeira gets tossed from a game at Camden Yards.

For Manny? Nothing.

So this is the lesson:

Fans hate guys who don’t decide to play for the hometown team (even when the hometown team is barely making an attempt to sign them).

They hate guys who leave the hometown team to sign elsewhere (even when that other team is offering much more money).

They hate guys who play for the hometown team and don’t play well.

Manny? It’s not love, but it’s sure not hatred.

UPDATE, Wednesday 10:23 a.m.: This morning's New York Times includes a photo of Manny walking off the field after his ejection. The caption in the paper (but not on the web) says "Manny Ramirez left the field to jeers . . . " But look at the picture. From what I can tell, maybe four people are jeering, one is cheering and two are taking his picture with their cellphone cameras. Look at those faces. Does that look like hatred to you?
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 18, 2009 12:32 am

Saturday is Weaver Time

The matchup Jeff Weaver has been waiting for could be on for Saturday.

According to Doug Padilla 's report in the Los Angeles Daily News, the Dodgers have told Weaver that he'll be starting this Saturday against the Angels. The Angels starter that night is Jered Weaver, which means the Weavers would finally get the family bragging rights game they've wanted.

"That's the one thing that hasn't happened," Jeff Weaver said when I saw him a couple weeks back in Chicago. "When I was with Seattle, we were set up for it, but then [the Angels] put [Ervin] Santana back in the rotation, so it didn't happen."

Jered Weaver faced Jeff's Dodgers on May 22 at Dodger Stadium, getting no decision in a 3-1 Angel win. Jeff admits that as he watched that night, he wanted his brother to pitch well while the Dodgers won. Jeff Weaver had started for the Dodgers two nights earlier against the Mets, so he missed the Angels series.

So how will the Weaver family react?

"I don't think my dad would like it," Jeff Weaver said. "I don't think he'd even go to the game. It'd be cool, but it'd be tough for the family."
According to Padilla, brothers have faced each other as starting pitchers 20 times in baseball history, most recently in 2002 when Alan Benes of the Cubs faced Andy Benes of the Padres. Nine of the 20 matchups featured Phil and Joe Niekro.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 7, 2009 12:44 pm

The message from Manny

So now it's Manny.


But not WOW!

Sad, isn't it? Not that Manny Ramirez is baseball's latest drug cheat, but that the news elicits only a mild reaction. That we're beyond the point of being shocked when another baseball star gets exposed. That almost immediately, we're thinking about what this does to the fast-start Dodgers (and whether it taints that start), rather than what it does to baseball.

We're thinking how crazy it is that Ramirez is leaving the major-league scene just as Alex Rodriguez is about to return. Yes, we know that Rodriguez is returning from injury, and not from a suspension, but we link A-Rod to cheating, just as we now link Manny to cheating.

Just as we link the entire sport to cheating.

Ramirez is by far the biggest star to fall victim to baseball's steroid testing, and no doubt baseball officials will tell us this proves the system is working, and that big stars don't get special treatment. But what this really tells us is what we already knew, or at least suspected, which is that baseball players haven't stopped trying to cheat the system.

The idea was that the 50-game ban for a first-time positive test, the one Ramirez will now serve, would be such a deterrent that no one would risk using.

The fact is that with so many ways to beat the system (HGH, etc.), players continued to use.

In fact, after the initial "Wow," the next thought isn't, "Why was he using?"

No, the next thought is, "He must have been pretty stupid, to get caught like this. Why was he using something they could catch?"

Some will surely suggest that by suspending Ramirez, baseball is sending a stern message to other users. And that's true, but the message it's sending isn't, "Don't use."

Instead, it's "Don't get caught."

If we believed that baseball's testing system works, then A-Rod would have had a solid defense to the newest claims that he continued to use performance-enhancing drugs since coming to the Yankees. If we believed in the system, we would have said, "No, that's not possible, because he's been tested each year, and if there had been a positive test, he would have been suspended."

The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the Ramirez suspension, suggested that Ramirez will claim his positive test resulted from medication received from a doctor for a personal medical issue.

Five years ago, that may have been a plausible explanation. It's hard to accept now, when every team warns its players against taking anything not approved by the club's doctors.

Now, when a player is caught, it tells us two things. First, that he was trying to cheat. Second, that he was dumb enough or oblivious enough to cheat in a way that he could get caught.

And what does it tell us about baseball and drugs in 2009?

Sadly, not much more than we already knew. Or at least, not much more than we already suspected.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 5, 2009 7:46 pm

How $45 million is better than $45 million

PHOENIX -- OK, so Manny Ramirez signed with the Dodgers for $45 million.

Last November, when the negotiations started, didn't the Dodgers offer Ramirez $45 million? And if so, why did it take so long for him to say yes?

Well, here's the explanation:

Yes, the Dodgers' first offer was for two years and $45 million. But that first offer also included a third-year team option that would have brought the contract up to $60 million. Agent Scott Boras thus considered it a $20 million a year contract, while the contract Ramirez just signed is for $22.5 million a year -- or $25 million a year, if he opts out after the first year.

Ramirez said at today's press conference that by waiting, he got three things. Boras said the three were a higher annual value (as just explained), a complete no-trade clause and the opt-out clause.

Boras also said today that Ramirez had told him at the beginning of negotiations that he didn't want to talk seriously to other teams unless there was no way of making a deal with the Dodgers.

As for the long negotiations, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said: "I felt like I spent Thanksgiving with Scott, Christmas with Scott, New Year's Eve with Scott and Groundhog Day with Scott."

Boras: "As Ned said, we were two people in the closet looking for the light switch."

One more thing. With Manny signing with the Dodgers and Rodrigo Lopez agreeing to a minor-league contract with the Phillies, Boras has only one remaining free agent: Pudge Rodriguez.

While Rodriguez has had some offers, no one has been willing to offer him anything more than a part-time job. As always, Rodriguez still thinks he can play every day.

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