Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mark Mulder Negotiates with D'Backs, Devil Rays

Injured hurler Mark Mulder is playing the small-market Diamondbacks and Devil Rays against one another while the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals look on. The Cardinals, reigning in the purse strings regardless of the burgeoning free agent market, refuse to re-sign the former teammate for big money due to lingering questions about his condition following rotator cuff surgery. But Arizona and Tampa Bay seem to perceive an opportunity to pick up Mulder on the cheap, relatively speaking, considering that ace Chris Carpenter was snapped up by St. Louis for a mere $300,000 three seasons ago after Carpenter underwent the same surgical procedure.

GM Terry Ryan Hints Twins Won't Spend Whole Lot

On one hand, Twins GM Terry Ryan heads to next week's Winter Meetings in Orlando with the objective of returning with a new pitcher, and claims he has enough latitude to increase his $60 million payroll to buy one. Then, perhaps more characteristically, in remarks quoted by the Star-Tribune, he warns fans that in the current economic climate not to be surprised if he has to fill out his rotation from his stable of youngsters, including Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Glen Perkins or J.D. Durbin.

Yankees Outfox Mets in Bid to Sign SP Kei Igawa

The Yankees outfoxed their crosstown rivals by floating phony reports that Japanese free agent SP Kei Igawa was not worth much to the Bronx Bombers. The reports helped the Yankees hold down Igawa's bid price and enabled GM Brian Cashman to top the Mets bid by $10 million and scoop up the rights to sign him. New York Daily News sports writer Bill Madden was only too happy to run with the misinformation that Igawa was, to one degree or another, nothing to get very excited about. Thus at Cashman's hands, Madden turned himself into a complete monkey -- though that's not much of a stretch considering his idiotic campaign to run Alex Rodriguez out of town.

Eric Gagne Guaging Interest of Red Sox, Indians

Former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne is attempting to guage the interest of the Indians and Red Sox in signing him, but is leaving the door open for a return to Los Angeles. The Dodgers bought out Gagne's contract for $1 million after doubts continued about his health following back and two elbow operations. Gagne, 30, claims to be ready to resume play, but the stumbling block centers around his durability. He hasn't pitched in 16 months and, even if he returned to play tomorrow, it likely would take as long as two years before he could with certainty be given a clean bill of health. Gagne has yet to demonstrate that he can throw in a game situation. Though his arm is believed sound, degenerative discs in the spine remain subject to potential relapse. So far Gagne has beaten the odds as back surgery statistically has been shown to result in improved health in only about 33 percent of cases. Historically, 33 percent of patients gain no benefit from the procedure and another 33 percent are worse off.

Jason Werth's Recovery Offers Possibilities for LA

Injured Dodgers OF Jayson Werth's recent follow-up wrist examination by surgeon Robert A. Berger at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., reveals that Werth's recovery going so well that he should be ready for action at the start of spring training. Since having his full-arm cast removed two months ago, Werth, 28, has been undergoing an intense rehabilitation program to restore normal function of his torn ultra-triquetral ligament in his left wrist.

Werth was severely hurt during spring training of 2005 by an A.J. Burnett fastball. The injury was aggravated by what some have described as a misdiagnosis or misinterpretation of X-ray and other tests. Resulting surgery by specialist Norman Zemel was unsuccessful, causing Werth to miss two successive seasons.

Werth had been a prized Dodgers prospect before the injury, having hit 16 homers in two seasons of limited play in a backup role. Though Werth has yet to hit for average, he shows excellent plate discipline and a good batter's eye in the mold of an Adam Dunn type slugger. Even with the departure of J.D. Drew, the Dodgers outfield picture remains crowded, with center fielder Juan Pierre the only name etched in stone. In addition to Werth, corner outfield candidates include Jason Repko, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.

Piazza Talks Show Barry Bonds' Options Narrowing

The Oakland A's progress toward closing a deal with free agent Mike Piazza to replace Frank Thomas at DH signals a narrowing of options for Barry Bonds. Bonds has been the subject of unconfirmed but well-worn rumors that he would cross San Francisco Bay to play for Oakland after reaching a stalemate with the Giants. Bonds had reportedly been seeking something in the neighborhood of $15 million a year to return to the Giants. But the Giants opened talks at about $7 million, and have balked at exceeding double figures. Bonds has been trying to claim that all 30 teams are dickering for his services, but the Giants are keenly aware that the slugger is running out of alternatives. Bonds projects as a poor fit throughout both leagues, not only for reasons of teams' lack of need but because of Bonds' contract demands, health concerns, age and performance limitations. That leaves Bonds with little leverage other than to threaten to retire. It's hard to believe Bonds would actually walk away from his chance top Hank Aaron's homer record, but he's making those noises. The next 45 days will tell.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Joe Crede Will Stay with White Sox for Awhile Yet

A certain West Coast rumor alleging an impending trade of White Sox 3B Joe Crede to the Angels has little viability. Joe Crede, his defense, right-handed bat and 30 homers aren't going anywhere but Chicago's south side -- at least for now. In the first place, the White Sox have a playoff contending team largely in place, and Crede makes up a key piece of it. Secondly, Crede will bring a much higher price at the trading deadline next July 31, when the front office will have had the option of dealing him if the team has fallen from contention. Moreover, coaches will have had eight more months to judge the progress of '04 first round 3B prospect Josh Fields, 22, as Crede's replacement, and another half a season to determine whether Crede has recovered from chronic back problems and other nagging health issues. The notion is laughable that the White Sox, even with Crede in the last year of his contract, would part with him for Angels IF/OF Chone Figgins. The White Sox wouldn't give up Crede for Figgins anymore than the Angels would just throw in SP Irvin "Magic" Santana, or the the White Sox give up SP Freddy Garcia, to balance the trade.

Mike Hampton May Be Atlanta's Secret Weapon

It's been a long time since once heralded lefty SP Mike Hampton's ERA balooned to more than 6.00 in Colorado -- even longer since he posted a 22-4 record with a 2.90 ERA for the Astros seven years ago. But before pronouncing Hampton dead, consider this: in his last 22 starts since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Hampton is 15-2 with a 2.61 ERA. If we are to believe what the doctors tell us about the procedure, chances exceed 90 percent not only for his full recovery, but the possibility that Hampton will come back to the Braves even better than ever. Hampton is already ahead of schedule, working on his sinker in Florida. Expect Hampton to have a rocky comeback next season, but within a month or two gather himself into his previous identity as one of MLB'S best starting pitchers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rangers Tom Hicks' 'If I Did It' Confession Scrapped

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has scrapped the publication of Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks' autobiographical tell-all book, 'If I Did It,' a thinly disguised theoretical confession about how Hicks, if he did it, ruthlessly bludgeoned the Rangers' chances of reaching the playoffs. In the book, in which Hicks stops just short of claiming responsibility for the team's year-in, year-out disappointments, a scenario is advanced in which Hicks guts his team to pay Alex Rodriguez $250 million, then winds up paying him $9 million a year to play for the Yankees. A number of other graphic eviscerations, such as the trade of starting pitcher Chris Young and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to San Diego for what turned out to be the virtually worthless pitcher Adam Eaton, are also detailed in an account almost universally condemned as being in unspeakably poor taste. "In retrospect, this project was very ill-considered,'' Murdoch said. "We apoligize for trying to profit from the virtual bloodbath that is the Texas Rangers franchise. It's only too ironic that the Rangers evidently aren't interested in profits anyway, so it's of little loss to them." In the book, Hicks recalled that after he executed his deeds, he attempted to dispose of a bloodied baseball bat by hurling it into the Trinity River, only to have it become wedged in the pollution like a lipstick-stained cigarette snuffed in a jar of Vaseline.

Bid for Dave Roberts Would Open Brewers Roster

The Milwaukee Brewers are eyeing free agent Dave Roberts and the 49 bags he stole for the Padres this past season. It's a bid that would create room on Brewers roster for wholesale changes, most importantly the trade of veteran Geoff Jenkins, thus creating playing time for youngster Corey Hart. Roberts would take over in center, Hart would move to right and Jenkins would be dealt for a pitcher. If the deal falls through, Billy Hall would likely play center. Coming on the heels of the acquisition of switchhitting catcher Johnny Estrada from Arizona, don't be surprised if the Brewers not only acquire Roberts but aggressively persue a number of other deals during and beyond the MLB winter meetings schedule. With only eight games separating the Brewers from division champion Cardinals in '06, the Brewers front office perceives an opportunity to reach the playoffs next season, particularly if the Cardinals rest on their World Series laurels.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Are Yankees Feigning Disinterest in SP Kei Igawa?

It isn't difficult to imagine Yankees GM Brian Cashman -- wittingly or unwittingly -- as the ultimate source of a subtle whispering campaign denegrating potential Japanese free agent starting pitcher Kei Igawa. The resulting chatter around the Bronx has Igawa being painted as little better than a back-of-the-rotation hack, unworthy of anything more than mild interest from the Yankees.

That Igawa has mediocre stuff may be true, or it may be a slander designed to hold down Igawa's bidding price. What would Cashman be expected to say; that the Yankees want Igawa and money is no object? No, if you're interested in him, better to be coy, for whatever else Igawa may or may not be, he is in his prime at 27 and is left-handed, which counts for something; and this year's free agent market for pitchers is a tad thin.

Igawa has had more than a solid career in Japan, with a 14-9 record and 2.97 ERA last year for the Hanshin Tigers, coming off his career best of 20-5 with a 2.80 ERA in '03. Based on his record, there's no reason Igawa shouldn't be able to throw 200 innings a season, year in and year out.

Like most lefties, Igawa doesn't throw especially hard. His fastball is usually clocked in the high '80s, sometimes as high as 92 when he reaches back for something extra. But Confucious say good things come in small packages, as the 6-foot-1, 190-pound hurler has a nifty little breaking ball, and varies speeds so effectively with his 75-mph changeup that he has led his league in strikeouts three times, racking up 809 in 843 innings over six years.

OK, Igawa will never become the next Steve Carlton, but for some reason the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Mets, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Mariners, Indians and Braves all consider him worth their attention, not to mention the Yankees.

Perhaps $10 million would once have been considered a reasonable price for the right to negotiate for the services of a pitcher such as Igawa. But with the Red Sox having recently outbid the competition by nearly 40 percent to pay $51 million just for negotiating rights to Igawa countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka, who can say?

Don't expect a revival of Tennesee Williams, but the next presentation of "Night of the Igawa" will likely come on the evening of Dec. 1, by which time the Japanese will have decided whether they have been successful in exacting yet another pound of flesh or two or three from inscrutable Americans like Brian Cashman.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Carlos Lee Deal Leaves Orioles Options Narrowed

The Astros signing of free agent outfielder Carlos Lee leaves the Baltimore Orioles Hot Stove League position out in the cold, with the club's free agent outfielder pickings dwindling down to Aubrey Huff, J.D. Drew, Cliff Floyd, David Dellucci, Craig Wilson, Trot Nixon and a number of lesser luminaries, most of whom are problematic and none figuring prominently in the team's ongoing negotiations, with the possible exception of Drew. With a present outfield of Brandon Fahey, Corey Patterson and Nick Markakis, the Orioles hardly scare anyone, hence largely unprotected cleanup hitter Miguel Tejada's failure to reach the 30-homer plateau this past season. Missing out on yet another big bat, after refusing to pony up more than $100 million for Lee, the Orioles find themselves languishing along the wayside while Alfonso Soriano, Gary Matthews, Nomar Garciaparra, Moises Alou, Juan Pierre and others parade to alternate destinations. If the front office continues to hesitate to make a deal, desperation may force a move of Melvin Mora back to the outfield to make room for a new third baseman, maybe somebody like Pedro Feliz. Whoop-de-doo! For their fans' sakes, hope the Orioles play for a trade, shopping a prized young pitcher for someone of the caliber of the Reds Adam Dunn.

Yunel Escobar Clouds Braves Marcus Giles' Future

Prospect 2B Yunel Escobar's sudden emergence as a superstar of the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League may mean 2B Marcus Giles' days are numbered with the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta's second-round draft pick in 2005, Escobar, 24, a Cuban defector, won the league's batting title by hitting .407, following up his '06 full-season combined minor league batting average of .320. Escobar's middle infield defense is outstanding, he has good speed and is ideally suited as a top-of-the-order hitter who can perform in the clutch. Giles, meanwhile, at 28 appears to be in a downhill trajectory, his average falling to .262 this season compared to his peak of .316 with 21 homers in '03. Giles has been limited by numerous health issues and injuries, including to both knees, the hand, shoulder, elbow, back and even his teeth. Don't be surprised if the San Diego native winds up joining his brother Brian Giles with the Padres. The Padres have a vacuum at second base now that Josh Barfield has been traded to Cleveland, but need not hurry to find a replacement. A plethora of middle infielders are on the free agent market, including left-batting Todd Walker, 33, whom the Padres had been platooning with Barfield.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Daisuke Matsuzaka 'Gyro Ball' Now New 9th Planet

In a rebuff to the International Astronomical Union's downgrading of Pluto to sub-planetary status, The Far East Observatory Society has designated Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka's "gyro ball" as a replacement. The gyro ball is the smallest but trickiest of numerous celestial spheres that can be tracked on any given summer night in various orbital trajectories around the sun. It can often be observed with the naked eye just above the horizon of the pitching mound, and has been hailed as the most amazing solar system phenomenon since the "Steve Hamilton Floater," which slowly passes through the Earth's solar orbit only once every 275 years. The gyro ball bears a striking resemblance to a common fastball when first observed, but despite its swiftness uses undetectable backspin to break late like a slider, coming in on right-handed batters before diving away. Former major league infielder Bobby Valentine, now managing in Japan, blames the gyro ball for his inability to watch bullpen warmups, as he now suffers chronic vertigo as a result of just trying to follow it. Like the famed Shinto Pagodas and the omnipresent image of Mount Fuji, the gyro ball has become so emblematic in the Japanese national conscience that it has been depicted in red silouette at the center of the Japanese national flag. All bow.

Torii Hunter Still in Minnesota, But for How Long?

The Minnesota Twins decision to pick up Torii Hunter's, one-year, $12 million contractual option signals that Hunter's injury-plagued season is behind him. Though Hunter hit .278 with 31 homers and 98 RBI -- placing him in the upper tier of offensive performers -- his defensive play lagged so noticeably that he was no longer among MLB's elite, quite a comedown for a player who with Atlanta's Andruw Jones had been regarded by many to be the very best defensive center fielder in baseball. But Hunter's decline was not so much a matter of age -- he's only 31 -- as injury, as Hunter played for most of the season with a nagging ankle. The Twins likely would not have held onto Hunter now if he had permanently lost the defensive dimension of his game, so expect Hunter to return at full tilt this spring. He's believed to be at 100 percent now that he has had several weeks to rest. The problem is that with so many questions in the Twins rotation, the team likely will not remain in contention, prompting Hunter's trade by mid-season. This is evident from the team's spurning of offers by Hunter's agent Larry Reynolds for a multi-year deal.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

George Steinbrenner Being George Steinbrenner

New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner is reportedly happy to be rid of Gary Sheffield, even though Steinbrenner was in dire need of Sheffield's big right-handed bat, one of the most feared in baseball. The problem with Sheffield was not only that he was self-absorbed; he could be difficult, demanding, obstinate, surly and frequently contrary. In other words, he was just like George Steinbrenner.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shea Hillenbrand Backs Yankees GM Into a Corner

Free agent 1B/3B Shea Hillenbrand has Yankees GM Brian Cashman cornered with no way out. Nomar Garciaparra re-upped with the Dodgers, Frank Thomas can't play the field and signed with the Blue Jays, Gary Sheffield refused to play first and was traded to Detroit, Craig Wilson is a slow, defensive liability and strikes out too much, Phil Nevin's best days are behind him, Daren Erstad has health issues and is a shadow of his former self since his high-school sweetheart ran off with a fireman, and Andy Phillips can't hit. Where is Nick Johnson when you really need him? Cashman is whistling in the dark when he claims he has players within the system to fill the void at first base. Like whom? Cody Ehlers, an 11th round pick who is three years away at best? And forget about Eric Duncan, the 27th overall pick in the '03 draft. The Arizona Fall League has finally concluded with Duncan turning in another lackluster performance, hitting just .257 with a couple of homers. Duncan will be doing well just to keep from washing out at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre. No, Brian Cashman needs a respectable right-handed bat to balance his lefty-dominated lineup. All the stars have aligned for Shea Hillenbrand, who likely will sign for what not so long ago was thought of as superstar money.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Angels Have Inside Track to Acquire Manny Ramirez

Slugger Manny Ramirez has indicated to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein that he would not veto a trade to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, as is his contractual right. Ramirez has been unhappy living in the tight quarters of Boston, and finds sprawling Los Angeles more to his liking. Talks between the Angels and Red Sox have been ongoing for two years, not so much ending as just cooling due in part to Epstein's demand for top young prospects plus a front-line starting pitcher such as Ervin "Magic" Santana. With Epstein's $51 million winning bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox will be flush with starters when (and if) D-Mat signs in the next three weeks. Thus Epstein's demands will moderate and possibly provide the break that both sides have been needing to finally consumate the Ramirez deal.

Lyle Overbay Hears Huge Footsteps Behind Him

Blue Jays 1B Lyle Overbay brings decent leather, a .300 batting average and sometimes even a little power to the game. But no matter how well Overbay plays he's always having to look over his shoulder. Having been chased out of Arizona by 6-foot-8 Richie Sexson and from Milwaukee by 260-pound Prince Fielder, Overbay now hears behind him the thundering footsteps of 6-foot-6, 275-pound Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas, Toronto's next DH. Also ticketed for arrival is Chip Cannon, a strident, 6-foot-five, 250-pound left-batting first baseman who is tearing up the Arizona Fall League. In little more than a couple dozen at-bats, Cannon has hit 11 homers with a more than .700 slugging percentage, .350 batting average and .420 OBP for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. At age 26, Cannon may be just about ready for big-league play, and will be given a chance to prove it next spring. At 6 foot 2, 235, Overbay can't be feeling anything if not small.

Mets John Maine Expands His Repertoire for Spring

Mets hurler John Maine, 25, acquired from Baltimore in the Anna Benson trade, was a major surprise when he won eight games in 90 innings with a 3.60 ERA this season. Now Maine hopes to become even better by developing a split-finger pitch to complement his 95-mph fastball, breaking ball and off-speed stuff. Maine's idea is to have an extra option when he has trouble finding the plate, enabling to increase the number of balls he throws for strikes. Maine should have a firm grasp on a spot in the rotation next spring. Anna couldn't top that if she doused her bra with Oil of Olay and touched a match to it.

OF Elijah Dukes Will Get Look at 1B for Devil Rays

Troubled Devil Rays prospect Elijah Dukes -- up until now primarily an outfielder -- will get a look at 1B next spring as the team seeks a replacement for mediocre journeyman Travis Lee, who hit just .224 with 11 homers in '06. With the Rays outfield set with Carl Crawford in left, Rocco Baldelli in center and Delmon Young in right, journeyman infielder Greg Norton has been awarded 1B job by default. But barring a spectacular performance next March, Norton has little chance to be anything other than a backup. Dukes is the Rays top prospect with the ascension of Young and B.J. Upton as starters. Dukes has been described as hard-working and multi-talented. But he has had numerous clashes with authority figures, most notably AAA Durham Bulls manager John Tamargo, who suspended Dukes five times last year. Ironically Dukes now has the last laugh on Tamargo. Tamargo has been fired along with Bulls hitting coach Richie Hebner and the entire Durham staff after the team's 64-78 record in a season tarnished by Young's 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire and Tamargo's 10-game suspension for bumping an umpire.

J.D.Drew Seeks to Put Off Free Agency Rendevouz

Dumping J.D. Drew's remaining $33 million, three-year deal with the Dodgers became a no-brainer for Drew's agent Scott Boras. Boras recognized an opportunity when he guaged the number of anticipated position openings throughout both leagues for 2007, the relative shortage of personnel and the number of teams with cash. Moreover, Boras reasoned that under Drew's current contract his oft-injured client would be in a weak position to file for free agency three years from now when the current pact terminates just as Drew would be turning 34, marking the downside of his career. Better to file now, in his prime, while there's still a chance for one last big play. Expect Boras to hold out for a five-year deal that, given Drew's dubious health issues, very likely will take Drew to the brink of retirement at 36. And don't be surprised if Drew is one of those guys who irretrievably winds up on the 60-day disabled list when he finally hangs up his cleats. After all, even with two nearly fully productive seasons out of the last five, Drew still has missed a quarter of the games in which he was eligible during that period.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Like Bad Penny, SP Kerry Wood Returns to Cubs

More than just a few fans had hoped Cubs SP Kerry Wood would be gone after he filed for free agency, but no such luck. Even at the bargain-basement price of $1.75 million, many feel the Cubs are still paying too much for the oft-injured Wood, whose ERA topped 5.00 and was limited to just five appearances last year. Chicago GM Jim Hendry says not to worry, though. Next year, he's sure to coaxe him into six appearances.

Japanese Ace Matsuzaka Familiar to US Audiences

Yes, Americans loved Daisuke Matsuzaka when as a child actor he played "Short Round," Indiana Jones' loveable little sidekick in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." But wait. There's been some changes since Matsuzaka developed into a star Japanese pitcher. No, no longer does Matsuzaka need to strap six-inch blocks to the bottoms of his shoes to reach the pedals of Indy's 1937 Cord Phaeton. He needs only three-inch blocks now. And yes, Matsuzaka can almost see over the top of the steering wheel without having to sit on a copy of the Tokyo Yellow Pages. But he's still small for a major league pitcher. Is he really worth the anticipated $40 million the Red Sox would fork over just for the rights to negotiate with him? After all, even at the tender age of 26, Matsuzaka has already had two seasons of dubious health, and may be on a collision course such as that of ex-BoSox ace Pedro Martinez, another slightly built hurler who now may have reached a premature end to his career with the Mets. Can it be that the Red Sox sought the winning bid just to block the Evil Empire's Yankees from signing him, and have no intention of closing a deal? If Matsuzaka and the Red Sox fail to reach an accord, the team's money is fully refunded and the Yankees will have to wait at least another year to get him.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Agent Sad as Rangers Lose Bid for SP Matsuzaka

Agent Scott Boras -- breathlessly awaiting the chance to win a multimillion-dollar-a-year contract for Japanese free agent SP Daisuke Matsuzaka -- was put on a suicide watch early Thursday as word leaked out in Tokyo that Rangers owner Tom Hicks would be unsuccessful in his bid to win negotiating rights to the star Japanese hurler. Boras financed a 20,000-foot wing of his home in 2002 after tricking Hicks into paying $250 million to acquire slugger Alex Rodriguez, for whom Hicks currently pays $9 million a year to play for the Yankees. Boras was also able to buy a 32-foot yacht last year after negotiating a $60 million Rangers contract for SP Kevin Millwood. After looking on as Hicks signed Millwood's papers at Hicks' northern Metroplex mansion, Boras even sneaked off with a set of Hicks' Waterford Turkish towels, his monogrammed satin smoking jacket and a 30-piece antique Sterling silver tea service that Hicks had tried to hide beneath his wet bar. "I'm unspeakably disappointed," Boras conceded. "The A-Rod and Millwood deals were nothing. I was just getting started." Matsuzaka, 26, being made available by the Seibu Lions, was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in the WBC last spring. He strikes out more than a batter an inning with a fastball clocked as high as 97 mph. He augments the heat with a wicked slider, a breakneck forkball and a unique, fall-away spinning curve that hitters upon first seeing it have described as the biggest surprise since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lyle Overbay Keeps Hearing Footsteps Behind Him

Blue Jays 1B Lyle Overbay brings decent leather, a .300 batting average and intermittent power to the game, but no matter how well Overbay plays he's always having to look over his shoulder. Having been chased out of Arizona by Richie Sexson and from Milwaukee by Prince Fielder, Overbay now hears behind him the thundering footsteps of Chip Cannon, a confident, 6-foot-five, 250-pound left-batting first baseman who is tearing up the Arizona Fall League. In little more than a couple dozen at-bats, Cannon has hit 11 homers with a more than .700 slugging percentage, .350 batting average and .420 OBP. At age 26, Cannon may be just about ready for big-league play, and will be given a chance to prove it next spring.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rangers Ponder Dealing Mark Teixeira to Detroit

This has all the markings of a classic Tom Hicks deal. First the 6-foot-6 Rangers team owner deals SP Chris Young to San Diego, only to watch the former fan favorite lead the Padres to the playoffs with a 3.56 ERA. Also lost to the Padres in the deal was 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who goes on to hit .301 with 24 homers. Meanwhile, virtually the only thing Hicks gets back in the deal is oft injured SP Adam Eaton, who misses most of the season while going 7-4 with an ERA exceeding 5.00. Eaton then files for free agency, leaving the Rangers with two holes in the starting rotation. Desperate now to replace Young and Eaton, Hicks reportedly is considering trading future megastar Mark Teixeira to Detroit for SP Jeremy Bonderman, but must insist on getting highly questionable Chris Shelton in the deal because the Rangers would have no one to play 1B with Gonzalez gone, not to mention former Rangers farmhand Travis Hafner lost to Cleveland in a previous trade.

Rangers, Orioles Watch Barry Bonds Negotiations

The Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles are watching to see whether slugger Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants contract talks advance toward resolution. The Rangers and Orioles have room for a slugger at DH, and potentially deep enough pockets to acquire Bonds if Bonds and the Giants negotiations stall. So far, progress is limited, with Bonds and the team a reported $7 million apart. Bonds has reportedly opened negotiations with a request for $14 million a year, an amount the Giants have no intention of paying. Bonds will have to come down significantly to keep communications open. So far, it looks suspiciously like the Giants intend to pay little more than lip service.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reynolds' Case Boils Down to 'He Said, She Said'

Herold Reynolds' $5 million wrongful termination lawsuit against ESPN will likely result in an out-of-court settlement in which the network essentially will pay Reynolds a nominal amount to just go away, allowing Reynolds to nominally clear his name. Reynolds would be wise to accept. Reynolds, 45, probably wouldn't dare roll the dice in a packed courtroom in which a judge or jury would have to choose between his and his unnamed accuser's credibility. Reynolds, a former Gold Glove winning second baseman and one of the best TV analysts in baseball, was fired last August after a female intern accused him of sexual harrassment, a behavior ESPN claimed fit Reynolds' pattern. Reynolds claims he only gave the intern an "innocuous hug," but jurors would probably learn more about Reynolds' behavior patterns and his decision to take the young lady to an expensive restaurant for dinner.

Twins Carlos Silva Makes Chump Out of Terry Ryan

Twins GM Terry Ryan has had his successes, his failures, his ups, his downs; and while perhaps not the greatest small-market general manager in baseball, he has been respected as at least being as good as the next guy. But picking up a $4.33 million 2007 contract option on 27-year-old hurler Carlos Silva elevates Ryan to something like world class chump. Not only did Silva test the patience of his teamates and coaches by taking himself out of key games over the course of the year -- most notably for a tummy ache in a resulting loss to Tampa Bay -- he pitched so badly that at one point he was demoted to the bullpen. Silva's near 6.00 ERA and 15 losses were among the worst in the majors, and he led all big league pitchers by surrendering 38 homers. The one bright spot was Silva's 3.34 ERA and 3-2 record over his last six starts, but even with him potentially rediscovering himself, the Twins rotation's outlook is dubious. With Francisco Liriano in all probability missing next season due to Tommy John surgery and Brad Radke retiring, a staff that once featured Johan Santana, Liriano, Radke and Kyle Lohse now looks like this: Santana, Silva, and youngsters Boof Bonser, Matt Garza and Scott Baker. Pressure is mounting for rookie lefty Glen Perkins, with his 1.59 ERA in limited appearances, to compete for a starting role. But with Ryan's propensity for refusing to challenge youths, don't expect Perkins to do much before the middle of next season at the earliest.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Grim Reaper Ruins San Francisco Giants Halloween

The death of Silas Simmons of St. Petersburg, Fla., born Oct. 14, 1895, means three things: the loss of the oldest surviving professional baseball player; the elevation of Ernest Pusey, born May 5, 1895, to his new ranking on the list of top 10 oldest living men in America; and the San Francisco Giants will have to look elsewhere to fill out their outfield next year.