Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dodgers Explode For 3 Hits, Faith Restored In Offense

A day after defeating (sort of) the Angels 1-0 despite being no-hit, the aggressively incompetent Dodgers offense produced a more sensible hits/runs ratio, scrapping together three hits and scoring zero runs.

Shawn Chacon Diagnosed with NPO Affliction

One should think that it would take more than a 2-3 win-loss record and a 5.04 ERA to excuse even a million-dollar athlete for a two-point, by-the-neck, take down of his own general manager in which he hurled him to the floor of the team's dining room during the pregame meal.

That is generally not the proper decorum one would expect to be observed by an employee being paid $2 million a year, who has had only checkered success on four different teams in four years.

No, it's not at all what you expect, unless perhaps the individual is Shawn Chacon, who suffers from NPO -- what psychiatrists have defined as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Evidently the 30-year-old, former Astros right-hander was indignant about being removed from the Rangers starting rotation last week and being relegated to the job of long reliever or -- less generously -- mop-up man. So much was he insulted that he refused to see the team manager in his office; so much so, that he refused to see the general manager, Ed Wade, in his office.

So, Wade decided, regrettably, to admonish the player, at virtually Chacon's own insistance, in public in front of the team. The rest is history.

Chacon is in the unemployment line and rightfully so. It is axiomatic that -- no matter if you are a U.S. senator, chairman of the board of IBM, or a burger flipper at Mickey-Ds -- you never grab the boss by the neck.

This story will be filed in the annals of famous sports anecdotes (read: gaffs) which fans and sportswriters will talk about for years.

The compelling question remains, why would a player snap? Why would an athlete with such tremendous talents, gifts and abilities, a millionaire, at the top of the sports pyramid, commit such a boneheaded ands egregious move?

Riddle me this: what does Shawn Chacon, Milton Bradley, Elijah Dukes, Julio Lugo, and Delmon Young all have in common? Yup, they all play baseball and have trouble responding to authority. Add into the mix a few other notorious sports figures like Latrell Spreewell, Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Adam "Pac-man" Jones, Dion Sanders, Allen Iverson, Jermain O'Neil, Andre Rison, Michael Vick, Warren Sapp, Bill Romanowski, Brian Bosworth, Dennis Rodman...the list goes on and on, a group colloquially labeled with a certain eight-letter word beginning with the letter 'a' and ending with the word-root 'holes'.

All are terrific athletes with enormous athletic talent and potential for winning titles for their teams, breaking individual records, and entering the Hall of Fame, but for some reason elect a different path; path of controversy, contentiousness, trouble with management, trouble with the law, trouble with substance abuse, domestic violence; and, trouble with the fan base as well as the front office.

It's very sad, very sad. It's very disquieting. It's also very normal.

Here is verifiable proof of the paradoxical reality that horses asses outnumber horses, with all these guys simply representing a subsegment of the normal population (with traits to some extent shared by each and every one of us) burdened by some degree of personality disorder.

We all have something. Most of us can keep the lid on it, some of us cannot. In particular, the crowd herein, we believe, actively display the narcissistic type of personality disorder. According to Moore & Jefferson (Handbook of Medical Psychiatry, 2nd ed. 2004 Mosby, Inc.) people with a narcissistic personality disorder see themselves as superior to others, regardless of their actual achievements in life.

They feel entitled to admiration and expect that others will defer to their wishes. Relationships are valued only insofar as they enhance these people’s self-esteem; they have little capacity for empathy or any true interest in the well-being of others.

These individuals tend to be very sensitive to criticism, or even a hint of criticism. If humiliated, they may react with overt rage; more often, however, they mask their reaction with an attitude of lofty indifference, as if what others think actually makes no difference to them. Narcissistic traits may first occur in childhood; during adolescence they gradually coalesce into a stable symptom complex.

Individuals such as Shawn Chacon have a lofty opinion of themselves; they see their accomplishments as admirable and often indulge in daydreams or fantasies of glory, power, or idealized love.

Personal defects are not tolerated. Grooming, dress, and makeup capture large amounts of time and must be impeccably done. The grand gesture is preferred, and entrances and exits are preferably done with a flourish.

These people regard themselves as omniscient and omnipotent; they rarely permit themselves to stoop to ask others for assistance. Narcissists tend to gravitate toward those whom, in one way or another, reflect their grandiose image of themselves. The company of other “ideal creatures” is often quite satisfactory, yet if any fault is found within these acquaintances, they are discarded as unworthy.

Admirers are tolerated, perhaps even welcomed at times, but are quickly discarded should any criticism be offered. Others are exploited for what they can do for the narcissistic person; of themselves they seem to have little value. Narcissists do not have truly reciprocal relationships with others. They may be socially correct, even polite, yet they are perceived as frosty and distant.

They seem to lack a capacity for sympathy or intimacy. Should an acquaintance be in need, their only motive for offering help would be to demonstrate their own power. These people do not make “anonymous” gifts of time or money and are rarely willing to sacrifice anything of their own.

People with narcissistic personality disorder do not tolerate unfavorable comparison with others. Should another’s achievements seem to shine more brightly, these people may become intensely envious, even enraged, and often attempt to belittle or devalue the accomplishments of others.

Should this fail to salve their wounded self-esteem, they often seek revenge. If any degree of criticism seems to touch them to the mortal quick; a vicious counterattack may occur, or, if that appears unlikely to succeed, they may withdraw from the field with a cold regal disdain and contempt for their opponents.

Others often feel exploited and manipulated by a narcissistic person. They feel as if they are regarded as mere pawns in the narcissist’s life and, often in short order, come to regard the narcissist as abrasive and arrogant.

Unfortunately, this disorder is chronic and lifelong; with age, however, the clinical picture may change. They are often intolerant of the inevitable decline that comes with age and often develop lingering, mild depressive symptoms. Social and occupational complications follow inevitably from the symptoms of this disorder. The inability to love another or to form a friendship leaves these people with a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Work may or may not suffer. If the narcissistic person happens to be talented, then the drive for admiration and praise may lead to brilliant success. However, should the narcissist happen to have only a normal complement of abilities, the inability to ask for or accept help leaves the narcissist stumbling and failing to accomplish what others, who can work cooperatively, are able to do.

Although theories abound, nothing is known with certainty regarding the cause of narcissistic personality disorder. Moreover, four other personality disorders may at times enter into the differential diagnosis: antisocial, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, and borderline -- each with it's own set of characteristic beliefs and modes of conduct, well beyond the scope of this report.

Patients with narcissistic personality disorder have been treated with individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and family therapy, and each method has anecdotally been reported as successful. However, no controlled outcomes studies have been carried out. Apart from treating intercurrent disorders, especially depression, pharmacologic treatment is of no avail. It is as such for Chacon and the rest. They lack the capacity to see themselves as others see them and have a penchant to flush their teams, their careers, and livelihoods down the loo. There is little anybody can do about it.

Joe Mauer Passes Jason Veritek in All-Star Voting

It has been no small accomplishment for the Twins to wage a political campaign on behalf of a relatively obscure catcher in a forgotten prairie backwater like Minneapolis in an endeavor to overtake Red Sox captain Jason Veritek, who has the distinct advantage of playing in the cosmopolitan baseball hotbed of Boston.

Yet here it is with just three days left to tally the totals, and young Joe Mauer has parlayed his recent hot streak into a tenuous but tangible lead, a shocking misdeed achieved through devious, sinister, underhanded and borderline corrupt (gasp!) BALLOT BOX STUFFING!

Yes, the "Vote for Mauer" mantra has been repeated so often and so ubiquitously that rumor has the young Minnesota native overtaking even Gov. Tim Pawlenty on presumptive presidential nominee John McCain's vice presidential short list.

Dishonest? Sure! Cynical? Most definitely! Republican? Well, let's not go that far. But at any rate, is it Joe Mauer's fault that he finds himself riding the crest of a tidal wave of love, admiration, loyalty and devotion? And whom, after all, is more deserving?

In the best tradition of late broadcaster and National Baseball Hall of Fame board member Tim Russert, an examination of the public record shows Mauer has hit nearly .360 over the past two months, raising his season average to more than .330 while playing outstanding defense, an All-Star qualifying resume if there ever was one.

The All-Star game will be held at Yankee Stadium -- one of the last contests before it is demolished -- on July 15, with voting to be concluded Wednesday via the Monster online ballot at, and the winners to be announced July 6.

Barring a filibuster in New England, expect Mauer to be named the starter, and deservedly so.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hall-of-Famer Joe Dimaggio a World Class Tightwad

Late Yankees great Joe Dimaggio was not only a Hall-of-Famer, hitter of historic proportions and a superstar outfielder, he was also a world class tightwad, according to former Baseball Commissioner Faye Vincent.

Vincent -- appearing in South Hadley, Conn., to promote a new book less than month before the beginning of induction week at Cooperstown, N.Y. -- said Dimaggio was magnetic not only on the field but off, and could be perfectly charming when he wanted. Dimaggio was especially endearing if you took him to an Italian restaurant and picked up the check, Vincent said.

"I told him once, I've never seen your wallet," said Vincent, quoted in Saturday's editions of The Republican in Springfield, Conn.

Vincent's book, "We Would Have Played for Nothing," a collection of interviews with baseball stars of the 1950s-60s, has no focus on Dimaggio's frugality. But among his acquaintances Dimaggio's stinginess was almost as well-known as his record 56-game hitting streak.

Despite considerable wealth, Dimaggio set aside time regularly to sign photographs and memorabilia at $100 a pop and more.

And Dimaggio was so tight-fisted that allowed he his asthmatic, alcoholic and drug addicted son Joe Jr. to live virtually penniless on the streets for years until finally granting him a modest, $1600 a month trust fund in a will probated only three years before Joe Jr.'s death.

His second wife -- actress Marilyn Monroe -- whom Dimaggio was known to secretly date even after their divorce, died more than $100,000 in debt though he regularly ordered fresh roses for her grave at Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.

New York newspapers once carried an account of Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner neglecting to leave instructions to admit Dimaggio at a Yankee Stadium ticket booth, so Dimaggio refused to pay and stomped off.

Phillies Fielding Offers of Bullpen Help

Veteran left-handed pitcher Tony Cogan -- a 32-year-old former major leaguer coming back from shoulder surgery -- is trying to persuade the Phillies he can once again be a capable middle reliever.

The former Stanford standout -- 2-1 with a 1.11 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 33 innings for the independent Gary RailCats -- is trying to demonstrate versatility, durability and effectiveness by converting back to starting. Cogan led the Northern League with 25 saves coming out of the bullpen last year during the league's 98-game summer season.

Cogan must extricate himself from his Northern League obligations in order to sign a minor league contract with Double A Reading, then continue to demonstrate his worthiness under the watchful eye of pitching coach Rich Dubee.

For the week ending June 1, the Chicago area native was 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA, striking out 10 in his last 6.2 innings for the period.

Cogan was drafted in the 12th round of the 1999 draft, pitching 39 games with a 5.84 ERA as a middle reliever for the Royals in 2001. He was released and signed with the Cardinals two years later, but went down with a shoulder injury after a tough spring.

Don't Laugh; Aaron Laffey Among Top Rookies

While potential future superstars like the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw or the Reds Edison Volquez make a big splash, 23-year-old Indians lefty Aaron Laffey is quietly riding a heavy, 87-mph fastball and some well-thrown junk into the statistical stratosphere.

It's hard to imagine that the high-flying youngster can avoid what would seem to be an inevitable crash, but so far Laffey must be congratulated.

Among American League rookies, Laffey's 2.83 ERA is third best, as he and battery mate Kelly Shoppach's well-chosen sinkers, curveballs and changeups have induced opponents to ground into a number of seemingly easy outs. It doesn't hurt that the Indians defense has committed the fewest errors in the league to rank second with a .987 fielding percentage, while turning 91 double plays, third best.

Ironically, Laffey failed to impress during a brief introduction last year, with his relatively presentable 4.56 buying him nothing better than a ticket to Triple A Buffalo. But with injuries to Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, Laffey has been able to make the most of his unexpected quick return to the majors.

While Laffey has been hit hard on the road, he has been untouchable at home, where his ERA stands at 1.39, helping him win an accolade as American League Rookie of the Month for May, as he turned in a 3-2 record with a microscopic 0.79 ERA. Over 34 innings, opponents batted .220 against him for the period.

Laffey's June mark stands at 2.87. He was 7-3 with a 3.28 ERA at Buffalo.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Shawn Chacon Insane, Unemployed

After batting practice Wednesday, now former Houston Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon confronted GM Ed Wade and attacked him, throwing him to the ground twice.  Needless to say, the team placed him on waivers today.

It's never a good idea to attack your boss, especially if you suck at your line of work.  But there are some B-list celebrities in Malibu that would probably hire him to fend off some frenchmen with cameras for the rest of summer.

Joe Torre All About Problem Solving

Normally when you have a starting rotation plagued by incompetence, inconsistency, and obesity, you make a move.  Perhaps a trade.  Maybe cut someone and give a reliever a chance.  Any kind of change that involves removing someone.

The Dodgers Joe Torre has different plans:  he'll be adding a 29-year old with 3 major league wins to his rotation and demoting nobody.  That's right!  A 6-man rotation in LA.  Eric Stults will join Derek Lowe, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Chan Ho Park, and Hiroki Kuroda when Kuroda comes off the DL next week.  

Stults pitched a masterful complete game shutout Wednesday night, but that is hardly a reason to take an arm out of the bullpen, change the routine of the rest of the rotation, and take starts away from guys like Lowe and Billingsley?  We'll see how this works out the first time Stults doesn't make it out of the 4th inning.

Stults made several spot starts in 2007, some of them good, but also pitched very poorly at times, finishing the season with an ERA of 5.82.  He very well could take hold of the 5th spot for the rest of the year, but why not send Park back to the bullpen, or Brad Penny to fat camp? Torre is acting like his hands are tied because the current rotation is just too good to remove anyone.  He's absolutely wrong.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bad Elijah Dukes Good -- Very Good -- for Birthday

Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes -- fast but not always fast enough to outrun his bad reputation -- has been very, very good boy as he approaches his 26th birthday this week, hitting .325 for the month with three homers, two triples, four doubles and five stolen bases.

Though Dukes career has been marred by a string of angry confrontations, embarrassing episodes and petty run-ins with the law -- the 6-foot-1, 240 pound slugger has been a model citizen since arriving from Tampa Bay in Washington, leading some to believe that with age comes mental maturity.

After struggling to keep his batting average above .200 for most of the season, Dukes' hot streak his raised his overall mark above the .250 threshold as he tries to hit to all fields, though so far only to left and center with authority.

Even though Dukes is right handed, he is flirting with a .300 clip against righties, perhaps an indication of just how high Duke's upside might be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where Is Josh Fields When You Really Need Him?

Rookie third baseman Josh Fields of the White Sox was one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2007 season, stepping up to knock in 23 homers in 375 at-bats as a replacement for injured Joe Crede.

But with Crede down with recurring back trouble again, Fields is nowhere to be found this year, having been banished to Triple A Charlotte where he is hitting just .251. Worse is that even though Fields is a right-handed hitter, he has been unable to hit lefties for any better than a .245 clip, and hardly can be expected to be promoted even though he has eight homers.

Fields is only 25, with plenty of time to improve, but the season is beginning to get old and he looks more each day like the White Sox might have done well last winter to consider him a sell-high candidate.

Meanwhile, Crede once again shows why no team was willing to trade much for him last spring, even though the team claimed his back troubles were -- er -- behind him. Preliminary indications are that the latest soreness in his lower back may not be especially serious, but having undergone spinal surgery, one cannot help but wonder whether he may be a time bomb waiting to self-destruct. Statistically, he has a 33 percent chance that the surgery could eventually be considered a failure.

Look for Pablo Ozuna to pick up most of Crede's at-bats for now.

Colby Rasmus' 11th Homer Extends Hit Streak

The addition of lefty bat Colby Rasmus to the Cardinals 40-man roster becomes all the more significant in light of his current 13-game hitting streak, in which he is has two homers for a total of 11 at Triple A Memphis.

The 21-year-old Georgia native -- rated the top Cardinals prospect over the past two years -- started off slowly this season, mired in an extended slump in which his batting average was below .200 for weeks.

At one point Rasmus was reportedly even under consideration for demotion to Double A Springfield, but he suddenly has caught fire, raising his average to .251 overall by hitting .371 over his last 10 games.

With Cardinals outfielders Brian Barton, Joe Mather and Chris Duncan hitting a combined 22 for 121 during the month of June -- a .181 average -- Manager Tony LaRussa will not need much of an excuse to call upon the Rasmus.

Though Rasmus still has much to learn, he has earned high marks for his fielding and has 10 stolen bases.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Curt Schilling Obviously A Hall Of Famer

Nobody questions that ESPN is a godsend to sports fans. Sportscenter, Monday Night Football,, ESPN magazine, and Kenny Mayne are all terrific.

But ESPN also does some silly things. Not only does it have a creepy obsession with Boston sports teams, but Peter Gammons’ trade rumors are notorious for almost always being erroneous, it once employed Keith Olbermann, and it seems to think that spelling is not only a sport, but one that warrants television coverage. And now this.

The top story on today questioned whether Schilling belongs in the hall of fame. Hall of Fame debates are fine, but Curt Schilling? Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez must not be close enough to retirement. ESPN itself notes that since 1992, among righthanders, he has 83 complete games (only Greg Maddux is within less than 25). Only Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens have more strikeouts. Only Pedro has a better K/9 ratio and Schilling’s strikeout to walk ratio is better than any pitcher in the modern era. That’s some excellent evidence for the Schilling is not a hall of famer argument.

Curt Schilling was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. A six-time all-star, he was instrumental in three World Series championships and starred in a 4th, pitching a complete game shutout in the 1993 World Series to force a game 6. Over 3000 strikeouts are good for 14th all-time, and had he not pitched his first two and a half years in relief, he would be top ten or higher. He also did that bloody sock thing.

The only explanation is that ESPN is still bitter that their decision to let a hockey announcer broadcast the ALCS backfired. Gary Throrne’s claim that Curt Schilling’s bloody sock was fake led to this blistering criticism from Schilling: “Gary Thorne overheard something and then misreported what he overheard. Not only did he misreport it, he misinterpreted what he misreported.” Schilling has never been a fan of the media and he made it pretty obvious back then that he was not happy with ESPN, so now they post this hilarious "story."

Logan White To Interview For Mariners GM Job?

For all the Dodgers deficiencies, they seem to have one thing down pat: drafting good young players.  Logan White has run the Dodgers scouting department for the last seven years and is largely responsible for the drafting of budding stars such as Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, James Loney, and Clayton Kershaw.  And now the Dodgers have given him permission to leave.

The Dodgers are well known for trading away superstars such as Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza.  They tend to make brilliant trade deadline moves such as trading future all-star first baseman Paul Konerko for scrub closer Jeff Shaw, just as Eric Karros' age was creating a need for a first basemen.  The Dodgers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on injured pitchers.  From Darren Dreifort to Jason Schmidt to Kevin Brown, whichever GM has not been around long enough to get fired finds a way to challenge common sense.  

If the Dodgers are in such a charitable mood this summer, perhaps they should let White take James Loney or Matt Kemp with him.  They need to make room to sign another washed up veteran anyway.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dallas McPherson Passed Over Despite 23 Homers

If ever there was a golden opportunity to give slugger Dallas McPherson even a momentary return to the majors, it would have been when the Marlins were in need of a designated hitter while visiting Oakland for interleague play.

Yet McPherson -- switched from the outfield back to third base for Triple A Albuquerque -- was rejected again, despite his hitting another pair of home runs during the past week to lead the Pacific Coast League with 23, with an outstanding .300 batting average.

The Marlins continue to look at McPherson and other callup candidates, if for no other reason than to find players who can help reduce the team's .976 fielding percentage, worst in the majors, and number of errors, now at 65, second only to Texas.

Ironically, McPherson's primary rival is corner infielder Jorge Cantu, who has a hot bat but leads the team with 14 errors. Cantu's fielding alone would seem to be enough of a reason to give McPherson a shot, but McPherson has 11 errors for Albuquerque, though the total may be misleading as those miscues came when McPherson was learning a new position in left field.

It will be interesting to see whether McPherson's number of errors are more tolerable now that he has moved back to third base, and whether the move will raise his value. If not, indications are McPherson will continue to labor in obscurity until an injury or the September roster expansion changes his outlook.

Ambidexterity Gone Wild

Here's an 8-minute video clip of switch-pitcher Pat Venditte of the Staten Island Yankees making his major-league debut, and facing a switch-hitter. I believe there's something in Revelations about this ...

The New York Times reported:

As Henriquez walked to the plate, Venditte, assuming Henriquez would bat left-handed, stood behind the pitching rubber with his glove on his right hand and the ball in his left. Henriquez, looking out at Venditte, then stepped across the batter’s box, determined to hit right-handed and gain a righty-lefty advantage. Seeing this, Venditte quickly switched his custom-made glove to his left hand and put the ball in his right, hoping to gain a righty-on-righty advantage.

Henriquez stepped out and began asking the home-plate umpire, Shaylor Smith, to lay out his options, then summoned his third-base coach. With the matter unresolved, Henriquez again stepped across the batter’s box in an attempt to bat left-handed. Again, Venditte switched glove and ball. The cat-and-mouse game reached full comedic gear when Henriquez again strolled across the batter’s box to hit right-handed, and Venditte responded with the old switcheroo, setting up as a righty.

Other things Venditte can do: Bite his toenails; tie a cherry stem into a knot with his tongue; pat his head and rub his tummy ... at the same time!

He can also adjust his cup with either hand.

On Jason Giambi's Thong: One Last Nasty Crack

In one final comment on Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi's lucky golden thong, Giambi has explained to Radio Station WNJE 10.50 that he only wears it, or loans it out to Derek Jeter or other teammates, when absolutely necessary as it has never failed to break him out of a slump and he wants to assure that its magic does not wears off.

Noting that he has had the thong hanging in his locker for 12 years, Giambi said that it's a guaranteed producer of hits because "you can't think of anything else with that thing so far up your crack."

File under "More Information Than I Really Need." Homepage

Dave Duncan to Work Mark Mulder Miracle Plan

With Todd Wellemeyer and Adam Wainwright the latest Cardinals pitchers to go on the disabled list, coach Dave Duncan has been asked to rush injured Mark Mulder back into action, no small task given the fact the Mulder has lost 5-6 mph off his fastball and has been repeatedly hammered in a number of minor league rehabilitation starts.

Still, the Cardinals are running out of bodies, so Mulder will be brought back -- perhaps as soon as Tuesday -- with the benefit of a special, Dave Duncan miracle plan that calls for a crew of orderlies from the Barnes Jewish Hospital Trauma Center to stand by to unload Mulder out of the back of the ambulance, place him onto a gurney and roll him out to the mound.

Because Mulder will be a pitch count of, oh, say seven, he will dispense with pregame warmup tosses in order to save his stamina to go deeper into the game. Catcher Yadier Molina will be given the responsibility of placing the ball in Mulder's hand and closing his fingers around it, then pointing him in the direction of the plate.

An extra supply of new balls will be on hand because it is expected that Mulder will quickly dirty and scuff them as most of his pitches will hit the dirt about 10 feet in front of the plate. Communication between Mulder and the dugout will be strictly limited to hand signals to the third base coaching box, as Manager Tony LaRussa's two mound visits must be used to check Mulder's pulse, replace his intravenous saline solution bottle and wipe the spittle from the front of his uniform.

At the conclusion of Mulder's appearance, the Cardinals will attempt to persuade the Triple A Memphis Redbirds to take him back, a difficult task because the Redbirds have already twice sent him back to Double A Springfield. Homepage

Friday, June 20, 2008

Warning of 'Sinking Ship' Haunts John Gibbons

It has taken nearly two years, but the words of former corner infielder Shea Hillenbrand that fired Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was running "a sinking ship" at long last appear to have been prophetic.

Say what you will about Hillenbrand and his seemingly self-absorbed perspectives, the record shows that Hillenbrand hit a solid .291 with 18 homers and 82 RBI in 152 games for the Blue Jays in 2005, only to have Gibbons bench him regularly during the following year in favor of Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay.

Whether Gibbons' decision at that time was prudent or effective is an open question, but certainly one could not expect Hillenbrand to have liked it.

The fact remains that Hillenbrand had been a pretty good ballplayer until Gibbons got inside his head, not only by benching him but questioning his devotion and loyalty to his teammates simply because Hillenbrand asked for some personal time to be with his wife Jessica when the couple was bringing home their newly adopted infant, a girl named Dakota, to their Phoenix area home during the second half of the 2006 season.

A personal day under such circumstances hardly seems unreasonable, but Hillenbrand's request was rebuffed and Hillenbrand was incensed, and rightfully so.

At that particular time it was immediately incumbent upon Gibbons as manager to smooth over the problem, not aggravate it by continuing to undermine Hillenbrand by raising questions about his supposedly misplaced family devotion. Nor should Gibbons have discouraged Hillenbrand's natural competitive instincts to play every day.

Rightly or wrongly -- mostly wrongly -- an angry and hurt Shea Hillenbrand revealed his indiscreet opinion of Gibbons and his methods by writing on the clubhouse chalkboard that "this is a sinking ship."

And a sinking ship it was, yet Gibbons chose to engage Hillenbrand in a clubhouse screaming match in which Gibbons attempted to argue that the Blue Jay were not sinking, but rather The Good Ship Lollipop.

Not only did the Blue Jays fail to as much as sniff the World Series, the team continued to underperform all last season and into this year, with the mediocrity of the team's current 35-39 record all the more ironic considering Gibbons has had the benefit of one of the deepest and potentially best rotations in the majors with Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch; and a batting order that features Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Scott Rolen, Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay and Shannon Stewart.

Reporters and pundits closely familiar with the team are almost unanimous in their criticism that the Good Ship Gibbons was in disarray, unfocused and often unprepared.

Most teams' group pictures will be used in next year's baseball card editions, but the Blue Jays' image should also appear in the dictionary, under 'U' as an illustration for the word "underachievement."

More free baseball rumors

Rockies Troy Tulowitzki Hitting, Running Well

Injured Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- hitting just .156 before going down with a knee injury after 26 games -- finally is swinging the bat with authority, even if it is against only minor league pitching.

Tulowitzki's resurgence is unsurprising considering he was running well enough this week to steal a base for Triple A Colorado Springs, not to mention going 3-7 with a double in two rehabilitation starts for his team's Triple A Pacific Coast League affiliate at Colorado Springs.

His return to major league play is expected tonight, according to radio station KOA .850 in Denver.

Observers have reported to MLB Newsonline that Tulowitzki occasionally appears slightly tentative, as he is coming off a muscle tear that initially had been anticipated to keep him out of action until the All Star break or beyond. Tulowitzki told he is experiencing no pain, however.

More free baseball rumors

Albert Pujols Reckons With Pain Tolerance

Injured Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols' issues at this time are largely those of pain tolerance, manager Tony LaRussa has told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

He appears to be on schedule for return to action.

Eligible to come off the disabled list when the team travels to Kansas City next week, Pujols is swinging the bat and taking grounders at first base during pre-game workouts with his teammates, the newspaper said.

More free baseball rumors

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sean Marshall Poised to Replace Carlos Zambrano

Cubs starter Sean Marshall -- poised to return to Chicago from Triple A Iowa -- erased any doubts about lingering health issues as he surrendered just one run in eight innings in the 4-1 downing of Mets Pacific Coast League affiliate New Orleans.

Marshall's performance -- in which he lasted into the eighth inning and lowered his ERA to 3.41 in two starts -- virtually assures he will replace injured ace Carlos Zambrano, who is expected to miss at least one start while on a regimen of anti-inflammatory medicines due to what the team has described as relatively mild shoulder discomfort.

The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Marshall has been up and down with the Cubs since being taken in the sixth round of the 2003 draft, and had been sidelined with injuries coming out of spring camp. He was added to the Des Moines roster only 10 days ago after clearing up lingering questions about his durability.

Marshall is expected to start Tuesday.

Yankees Offer Top Prospect Alan Horne in Trade

The Yankees are readying to showcase top prospect Alan Horne -- currently pitching for Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre -- in an attempt to acquire starters Eric Bedard of the Mariners or Ben Sheets of the Brewers, a mid-ranking, confidential clubhouse source told

Barring setbacks in his performance, Horne likely will be promoted to New York before the end of the month, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Horne, 25, having fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, has been throwing a lively fastball that occasionally tops out at 97-mph, complementing it with a bonafide, major league curveball and a newly improved changeup.

If unsuccessful in a deal for Bedard or Sheets, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman will fall back on a lateral negotiation to acquire lefty Randy Wolf from the Padres, according to the source. Cashman is trying to accomplish either deal without fanfare, the source said.

In addition to Horne, an unnamed pitcher and middle infielder at Short A Staten Island are also among the components of the transaction, said the source.

Hiroki Kuroda Joins Brad Penny on Dodgers DL

The Dodgers lost their second starting pitcher in a week, when they announced that Hiroki Kuroda was headed for the DL with shoulder tendinitis. The injury is not considered serious and Kuroda is tentatively scheduled to start June 28 against the Angels.

Chan Ho Park will take Kuroda's turn Saturday against the Indians. The team has made no decisions regarding Kuroda's roster replacement, but the name being thrown around most by Joe Torre is Justin Orenduff, a 2004 supplemental first round pick. Orenduff is 2-2 in 13 starts with a 5.25 ERA at AAA Las Vegas.

The Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until June 28th so Orenduff would likely be used in a relief role. This also explains why Orenduff is being considered over top pitching prospect James McDonald, who yesterday pitched seven shutout innings for AA Jacksonville. If Kuroda's injury becomes more long term, McDonald might get a call-up because Torre has been reluctant to disrupt the bullpen by starting Park on more than a spot start basis.

No Chance to Escape for Brewers Billy Hall

Struggling Brewers infielder-outfielder Billy Hall has reportedly asked General Manager Doug Melvin to trade him if the team has no further use for him than as a platoon player and pinch hitter.

Sure thing, Billy. There's people in Hell that want ice water, too.

With the Brewers playoff berth still within reach, one can hardly expect Melvin to deal away a right-handed role player who is hitting better than .360 against lefties, though Hall's overall effort at the plate has been sorely lacking.

Expect Melvin and manager Ned Yost to continue to hold Hall in reserve while riding out the hot streak of Hall's replacement, Russell Branyan, currently hitting home runs at a rate of nearly one per seven at-bats for a total of nine since being called up last month.

Yankees, Dealing for Pitcher, Throw in Shortstop

Hushed talks are under way as the Yankees seek to acquire starting pitcher Randy Wolf from San Diego in exchange for a pitcher at Triple A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre or Double A Trenton, plus the throw-in of obscure, 21-year-old shortstop Addison Maruszak of Short A Staten Island, according to a clubhouse source.

Mariners starter Eric Bedard and Brewers starter Ben Sheets are also on General Manager Brian Cashman's radar screen, again with the young shortstop included in the offer, the source said, requesting anonymity.

The unnamed pitcher will be brought up to be showcased within coming weeks, it was reported.

Cubs Carlos Zambrano Injured by His Teammate?

In one of those typical Chicagoland MLB rumors as common as Vienna All Beef wieners and cheese fries, Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano's shoulder discomfort has been described as being caused or aggravated by his odd pre-game warm-up routine.

In the routine, after stretching and limbering exercises Zambrano has a catcher, trainer or fellow pitcher repeatedly slam his fists on Zambrano's shoulders as though he were an NFL linebacker being fitted for his shoulder pads.

Nice. The only problem is, Zambrano, of course, is not wearing shoulder pads.

Zambrano underwent an MRI exam Thursday, and will have another on Friday. Indications are Zambrano likely will miss a start as a replacement was to be called up from Triple A Iowa.

Jerry Manuel Might Be Insane

New York Mets interim manager Jerry Manuel wasted no time showing his players who's boss.  One batter into his first game, he was forced to remove Jose Reyes because of a tight hamstring.  When Reyes tried to stay in the game, Manuel did what any rational human being would do -- threaten to stab Reyes:

"I told him next time he does that I'm going to get my blade out and cut him.  I'm a gangster. You go gangster on me, I'm going to have to get you.  You do that again, I'm going to cut you right on the field," said Manuel.

Jeeeeesus.  Four minutes into the game and he's threatening to murder his superstar. It's too bad Manny Ramirez is not on the Mets.  Who wouldn't want to see Manuel react when Manny cuts off a throw from his own center fielder, interrupts the game to urinate in the green monster, or high fives an opposing fan in the middle of a play?  

If Jose Reyes is going to get stabbed next time he doesn't want to come out of the game, will Billy Wagner be summarily executed after his next blown save?  This guy is great.  Major League Baseball needs more Jerry Manuels, and so does every other sport.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dodgers Brad Penny Goes On DL, Kuroda Also Hurt

The Dodgers have placed Brad Penny on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday. Lefty Eric Stults, who was recalled today, will start Thursday and replace Penny in the rotation.

Had Penny's injury only required him to miss one start, the Dodgers would have likely gone with Chan Ho Park, rather than make a roster move. Although Penny's MRI showed no serious problems, his mild shoulder tendinitis warranted a trip to the DL.

Stults was 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA at the Triple A level this year. Dodgers fans may recall him from last year, when he made five mostly mediocre spot starts.

Further complicating the situation is Hiroki Kuroda, who flew to Los Angeles to have his sore shoulder examined. Kuroda had been scheduled to start against the Reds on Wednesday but Derek Lowe will take his turn in the rotation.  Lowe will pitch on his usual four days rest because of Monday's off day.

Eulogio de la Garza Rides Near 100-mph Fastball

Expect prospect Eulogio de la Cruz -- a hard-throwing righty who has struck out nearly a batter an inning to go 7-2 with a 2.34 ERA in his last 10 starts at Triple A Albuquerque -- to push starter Ryan Tucker for the No. 5 spot in the Marlins rotation.

At 8-3 with a 3.72 ERA against offensive-minded Pacific Coast League hitters, de la Cruz, 24, appears to have mastered his near 100-mph fastball as he allowed only one run in his last six innings, striking out nine for a microscopic 1.06 ERA in 18 frames. Had the Marlins known his most recent hot streak was coming, de la Cruz might already have been called up ahead of Tucker.

Tucker meanwhile is a promising but weaker link in the Marlins rotation, starting out of the gate slowly with a more than 5.00 ERA in his first two appearances, though he has confused a small sample of lefty hitters with his anomalous delivery that may one day convince the team he could be converted to a closer.

As soon as the Tucker experiment is completed in its present manifestation, look for de la Cruz to make a splash.

Latest Dallas McPherson Moonshot Gives Him 21

Marlins Triple A farmhand Dallas McPherson's most recent homer -- a more than 450-foot moonshot off former major leaguer Brandon Duckworth -- helped raise his OPS to more than 1.000 and his Pacific Coast League leading home run total to 21.

Yet McPherson's chances for promotion appear blocked, with no spot for him on the major league roster, even after he was moved from third base to the outfield.

Though the 6-foot-4, 240-pound left-handed hitter's more than .300 batting average and prodigious power are at least mildly inflated in the western desert air, McPherson clearly could have been starting for any number of major league teams by now if only he had not been seriously sidelined by various injuries in recent years, most notably spinal trouble.

McPherson has two homers in his last five home games, the last one flying well over the flagpoles past the 410-foot marker in center field, and the previous one landing on top of a grass embankment well beyond the right field fence.

Dwayne Wise Takes Paul Konerko's Roster Spot

The only good thing about first baseman Paul Konerko being placed on the disabled list is that the White Sox will finally get a look at prospect Dwayne Wise, an outfielder who will take Konerko's roster spot.

Wise arrived in Chicago this morning even before Konerko was evaluated, as trainers already had feared the worst, WSEC Radio said.

Wise, hitting at a better than .300 clip with nine homers for Triple A Charlotte, will likely be used sparingly at first but if he proves worthy should get plenty of opportunities as Konerko's injured oblique muscle is sure to keep him down for a good month or more.

Nick Swisher will move to first base with Wise being mixed and matched with other hitters as circumstances dictate.

Wise reportedly runs well but is not the type of burner who steals a lot of bags, yet his athleticism punched his ticket to Chicago ahead of third baseman Josh Fields who presumably might have been able to cross the diamond to first base but has done nothing special at the plate this year.

Former Pittsburgh prospect Brad Eldred, like Konerko a lumbering first baseman, has been left to languish in the minors as well.

Mets Skipper Willie Randolph Shown the Door

Mets manager Willie Randolph was fired early Tuesday morning along with pitching coach Rick Peterson and first base coach Tom Nieto.

Randolph had been widely criticized this year following New York's monumental collapse last season. Inconsistency has plagued the Mets and Randolph only made the situation worse, fanning the flames of controversy by insinuating that criticism by the New York media was racially motivated.

The Mets were preseason favorites in the NL east, but currently sit 6.5 games out of first place. Jerry Manuel will manage the team on an interim basis.

Harden May Be Next A's Ace to be Dealt

A's righty Rich Harden is quickly becoming one of the more coveted arms in baseball. His 4-0 record and sparkling 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings have led many to speculate that he could be moved to a contender if General Manager Billy Beane gets the right offer.

ESPN commentator Peter Gammons is already touting Harden as the most dominant pitcher in the AL right now.

While Beane is sure to demand a king's ransom in line with the Dan Haren and Mark Mulder deals, the abundance of injured and underperforming starters around the majors makes for many intriguing trade partners. While teams will no doubt be reluctant to part with the type of high-end prospects it would take to pry Harden from the A's, the winds of desperation are beginning to swirl for several teams struggling to stay in contention.

Omar Minaya's desperation could lead him to try to add another legitimate top of the rotation arm. The Yankees, faced with the emergence of the Rays and the recent freak injury to Chien-Ming Wang, might be willing to take a gamble on Harden's overpowering fastball, even with the injury concerns. The Tigers are a major disappointment to this point. With the loss of Jeremy Bonderman and the disaster that is Dontrelle Willis, General Manager Dave Dombrowski has to be feeling the pressure. Depending on the results of Brad Penny's MRI, the Dodgers could also be in the market for a quality starter.

All trade talks involving Harden are tempered by the fact that Oakland currently sits only 3.5 games behind the first place Angels. If Oakland can hang close to the Angels, Beane could very well decide to stand pat and make a run at the division. However, should the A's falter, look for a heating up of talks to deal Harden, starter Joe Blanton, shortstop Bobby Crosby, and second baseman Mark Ellis.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Update Brightens Paul Konerko's Outlook

An updated report on the condition of White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko considerably brightens his outlook for avoiding the disabled list, as his injury is now described as an intercostal muscle strain rather than an oblique.

Because of the difference in function between the two types of rib muscles, an oblique strain might have pointed to a need for several weeks of rest, whereas the intercostal muscle injury could mean as little as a few days, according to medical experts.

Still, it will be up to Konerko to tell when and if he can return to play, his decision based on how much pain he must endure. Disabled status remains a possibility.

Konerko sustained the injury in the batting cage during pregame practice Sunday, and is listed as day-to-day. He is to be re-evaluated Tuesday. Konerko sustained another, entirely different muscle strain in his back about two years ago, and missed only two games.

Konerko is commonly regarded by insiders to be psychologically indisposed to miss time for any reason.

Tony Gwynn Jr., 'Chip Off Old Rock,' Leading Team

Brewers prospect Tony Gwynn Jr. -- 26-year-old son of the Hall of Fame former Padres singles hitter -- is starting to show why Milwaukee General Manager Doug Melvin selected him as the 29th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

Gwynn's .310 average leads the Triple A Nashville Sounds among players with 75 or more at-bats, staging Gwynn's rendezvous with a major front office decision on whether the Brewers should promote or trade him.

Ordinarily, trading Gwynn might be considered unthinkable. But the possibility becomes closer to reality as Melvin must determine whether the team has a realistic shot at competing for a wild card berth this year, thus creating a need to deal Gwynn or other young players to acquire pitching for the playoff run.

Further complicating the issue is that Gwynn is blocked in Milwaukee by left fielder Ryan Braun, center fielder Mike Cameron and right fielder Corey Hart. If Gwynn continues to be held as a deep reserve, the team risks losing him altogether as he will soon be out of options and must be exposed to other teams should he be called up then sent down again next season.

White Sox Seen Parting with SS Orlando Cabrera

It might be wise to expect the White Sox to part company with 33-year-old shortstop Orlando Cabrera next season now that he is in his walk year.

Cabrera and his $9 million contract has become expendable on Chicago's South Side in part because General Manager Ken Williams and Manager Ozzie Guillen have quietly concurred that rising young second baseman Alexei Ramirez will be capable of taking over Cabrera's position next year, according to an MLB rumor quoted by Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo.

The White Sox also have first round pick Gordon Beckham under contract. A second baseman who can hit with power, Beckham is expected to advance quickly through the minor leagues and he and Ramirez could soon become the team's newest double-play cornerstones, Cafardo said.

Mariners Finally Address Bill Bavasi's Incompetence

Bill Bavasi's amusing run as general manager of the Seattle Mariners has ended. Hired before the 2004 season, Bavasi managed to assemble only one team that did not finish last in the AL west -- the 2nd place finishing 2007 team. The current squad is not only in last place, but its 24-45 record is the worst in baseball.

Some of Bavasi's questionable moves during his tenure:
  • Signing Richie Sexson for four years $50 million
  • Trading top prospect Adam Jones, George Sherrill (now Baltimore's closer), and three pitching prospects for Erik Bedard
  • Signing Carlos Silva for 4 years $48 million. Silva is 3-7 with a 5.79 ERA
This list is kind of a waste of time because you can trace just about every Mariners player to a questionable signing or trade. The Tacoma News Tribune has Bavasi's lengthy rap sheet here.

The Mariners are going nowhere this year and probably nowhere next year or the year after, but this firing could set the stage for an Erik Bedard trade.

The new GM will have no attachment to Bedard and it would make sense to trade the team's most valuable commodity. The Yankees might be interested, now that Chien-Ming Wang is out for six weeks. The Cubs and Blue Jays have also shown interest in the past.

Prognosis Disquieting for Chicago's Paul Konerko

A disquieting rumor circulating among the ubiquitous dram shops, dogstands and tee boxes of Greater Chicago holds that observers near the batting cage literally winced Sunday when first baseman Paul Konerko swung his mighty bat during a pregame warmup, and a discernible popping noise emanated from beneath the 6-foot-2 slugger's pinstriped tunic.

Only so much credence can be assigned to such MLB rumors, of course, but the Major League Baseball Information Highway being what it is, these and various other manifestations of gossip, hearsay and canard are unfortunately the sole conduit for information about potential injuries in the early going.

If true, this MLB rumor potentially portends of serious trouble for Konerko, who in all probability would be assigned to the disabled list for a minimum two weeks -- more likely four or more -- if the rib muscle he supposedly strained turns out to be significantly torn as would be the case in the instance of an audible popping noise.

In any event, an added incentive to sideline him would be the fact that Konerko has been dealing with an injured right thumb for six weeks, and both injuries might heal faster with rest.

However, no number of radiographs, CAT scans, sonograms or magnetic resonance images at this time will tell anyone anything any more about his rib muscles than will Konerko himself after his having the advantage of 48 hours rest, at the conclusion of which he will simply inform team physician Dr. Chuck Bushjoseph just exactly how he feels.

In other words whether he returns to play or not is this simple: If Konerko can swing the bat without pain or discomfort, he will be back; and if he can't, he will simply be forced to sit out for however many days are required, no more; no less.

Until then, only God knows the outcome.

Brian Anderson to Pick Up Slack for Paul Konerko

Expect outfielder Brian Anderson to pick up most of the slack for the White Sox if first baseman Paul Konerko misses significant time with a rib cage injury -- a trip to the disabled list being a distinct possibility.

Anderson will be given extra playing time as outfielder Nick Swisher moves to first base until Konerko returns.

Though Konerko is listed as day-to-day for now, Manager Ozzie Guillen said during his post-game media conference Sunday that he is "not too optimistic" that Konerko can keep from missing several days, perhaps much more. Guillen was doubtful whether team's idle day on Monday would be enough to make a difference.

"Hopefully, with the day off it will be better," Guillen was quoted as saying in Monday's editions of the Chicago Sun-Times. "...You hope for the best."

Konerko felt a sharp pain near his ribs while swinging a bat before Sunday's game, with preliminary indications that it might be an oblique tear or strain. Konerko has been playing poorly all year, with his batting average mired at .215.

Reds Superstar Ken Griffey Jr. To Rays?

The Tampa Bay Rays, trying to shake their reputation as MLB's version of the Los Angeles Clippers, are rumored to be a potential destination for Ken Griffey Jr., should the Reds decide to move him. According to ESPNEWS and, Griffey, who lives in Orlando, has privately told friends that he would consider waiving his no trade clause for a trade to the Rays.

But do the Rays want him? Griffey is only hitting .245 with seven home runs and 30 RBI. He makes $12.5 million this year and his contract calls for a $4 million buyout of his $16.5 million club option for 2009. The Rays would be on the hook for at least $10 million unless the Reds pick up part of the tab.
This does not sound like a favorable deal for the Rays, especially if they have to give up any significant prospects.

A more logical choice for the Rays would be to sign Griffey as a free agent in the offseason, if they are in fact interested.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Troy Tulowitzki Plays Nine in Single A Rehab

Recovering Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki appeared energized and refreshed after taking the previous night off to be with Los Angeles area friends, going 3-5 with a run scored for Single A Modesto as the Nuts defeated Rancho Cucamonga 12-10 in Tulowitzki's first full game since going on the disabled list with a torn quadriceps muscle last month.

Having played five innings in his first rehab start at Visalia Wednesday, and six Thursday, the young star was granted permission to leave the team and rest Friday night after starting the game at designated hitter, batting once and then departing with his acquaintances.

Tulowitzki has been moving with relative fluidity, though he occassionally appears to be slightly favoring his injured knee, which is normal.

"Other than that, he looks pretty good," said Greg Young, play-by-play broadcaster for KESP Radio in Modesto.

Barring setbacks, Tulowitzki is to make his last appearance with the Nuts tonight, then travel to Triple A Colorado Springs for another week of rehab starts.

The 22-year-old former Long Beach State standout -- second runner up in last year's Rookie of the Year balloting -- signed a six-year, $31-million contract extension last year and is expected to be eased back into the Rockies lineup as soon as possible, perhaps by June 20.

Jody Gerut Underscores Indians Coaching Failure

Former American League Rookie of the Year Jody Gerut -- now with the Padres -- returned to Cleveland for his first game there since being cast aside by the Indians in 2004, going 3-5 with a homer and two RBI to raise his average to .289 and help defeat his former team 8-3.

The re-emergence of the 28-year-old Gerut -- named top rookie by the Sporting News after hitting .279 with 22 homers and 75 RBI in 127 games with the Indians in 2003 -- continues to draw attention to seeming inadequacies in the Indians coaching and scouting staff, which willingly let Gerut get away three years ago.

Gerut's separation from the Tribe is slightly complicated, having been excellerated by his torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2004, and his struggles to recover while playing for Triple A Buffalo.

And yet the fact remains that while Gerut was on the comeback trail he was traded for Cubs outfielder Jason Dubois, the Indians having failed to recognize not only Gerut's remaining potential but his strength of character, tenacity and determination to revive his career.

Ironically, after acquiring Dubois for Gerut the Indians also failed to develop Dubois, who like Gerut had been regarded as a potential star.

If it had been only Gerut whom the Tribe let get away, or just Dubois, that would be one thing. But rightly or wrongly a peculiar pattern can be discerned when one considers that no sooner than the team had acquired top prospect Andy Marte last year -- for instance -- coaches began tinkering with his swing to the point that he hasn't been the same either, though he remains with the team.

Add the cases of Gerut, Dubois and Marte to the Indians handling of second baseman Brandon Phillips, now a star in Cincinnati, and second baseman Josh Barfield, who has spent most of this season in Buffalo, and one cannot help but wonder.

Not only has Barfield failed to succeed under Indians tutelge, but the player traded to acquire him -- third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff -- has done quite well for himself in San Diego, the Indians having nothing to show from that deal either.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Angels Kelvim Escobar Progressing Well

Kelvim Escobar's career was thought to be in jeopardy at the beginning of the season, but he now might return before the All-Star break. Escobar threw a 45-pitch bullpen session Friday and will throw to live batters for the first time on Tuesday. He could begin a rehab assignment soon.

Despite winning 18 games as a starter in 2007, Escobar will not necessarily return to that role. The Angels think his injured shoulder may respond better to pitching in relief, but no decision has been made.  If the Angels decide to continue using him as a starter, an August return is most likely because he will need to build endurance.

Victor Martinez Wastes No Time Starting Rehab

Injured catcher Victor Martinez wasted no time in beginning a post-surgical limbering and motion workout at the Indians training and weight room, then suited up and joined newly acquired backup catcher Yamid Haad in the bullpen as they watched the Tribe fall to the visiting Padres 8-3 at Progressive Field.

Martinez underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove chips from his throwing elbow only 24 hours earlier at the Cleveland Clinic, where Dr. Mark Schickendantz pronounced the procedure successful.

Martinez is expected to be out for up to two months, then undergo an evaluation as to whether he can resume play behind the plate on a limited basis, finish the year mostly at first base, at designated hitter or merely come off the bench.

The possibility -- however remote -- that he would sit out for the remainder of the year has not been ruled out. The performance of catcher Kelly Shoppach -- widely recognized as an outstanding all-around replacement potentially coming into his prime at 28 -- likely will figure prominently in evaluating the best course for the team when Martinez finishes his rehabilitation program.

Fans had been suspicious for weeks after Martinez -- who normally can be counted on for 20-30 homers a year -- had failed to hit a single ball over the fence in more than 200 plate appearances since spring.

Martinez also prompted MLB rumors by sitting out immediately at the end of spring with what he described as a "sore hamstring," even though hamstring injuries are very rare for catchers because catchers stretch in a squatting position for extended periods.

Few have speculated whether the hamstring issue was a cover story to hide the fact that Martinez was having trouble with his throwing arm, a possibility that would tip off opposing base runners that they could steal with impunity. Martinez already had been cited among the weakest throwing catchers even before his elbow trouble was confirmed by a magnetic resonance image.

Though apparently uncomfortable when the season began, Martinez managed to hit enough singles to maintain a .350 average over the next 30 days, yet refused to complain for another two weeks. Finally mounting pain while swinging the bat became more conspicuous as he hit .221 in May and .200 in since June 1, prompting the MRI exam.

Brad Penny Is a Mess

Add Brad Penny to the list of injured former all-stars on the Dodgers roster.

After giving up 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings in today's loss, Penny will fly to Los Angeles tomorrow to have an MRI on his right shoulder. It is hard to say whether Penny is actually hurt or if this is just an excuse for his 5.88 ERA, but the latter is more likely.

Penny, the Dodgers former staff ace, claims to have been suffering from shoulder discomfort since the beginning of the season, which begs the question: why the hell didn't he have an MRI in April? A better question is: why does Penny weigh 260 pounds?

Is it possible to fire a trainer? You see coaches on the hot seat all the time. The Mets are not winning and Willie Randolph is rumored to be on the way out. The Mariners are not hitting, so they fired their hitting coach. If Penny goes on the disabled list, that will make SEVEN Dodgers on the DL. So why are there no rumors of the Dodgers trainer getting the axe? He should be fired -- if for nothing else, allowing Penny to pack on so much weight.

If Penny does go on the DL, the Dodgers may call up top pitching prospect James McDonald, who is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA at Double A, or go with veteran Chan Ho Park.  Another option is Jon Meloan, who was recently converted from closing to starting. Meloan is 4-5 with a 4.13 ERA in 13 starts at Triple A Las Vegas.  Hong-Chih Kuo is likely to stay in the bullpen, but has started in the past. Given all those options, knowing the Dodgers, they will probably sign a washed up veteran who was recently released by another team. Decision forthcoming.

Tigers Jim Leyland Denies Smoking Seven Packs

As his team weaved and bobbed throughout the early part of the season, an often agitated, surly and defensive Jim Leyland was observed lighting up one cigarette after another, furiously straining hot, toxic smoke through his yellowed teeth and generally disregarding any sort of reasonable outlook for his long-term health.

But six or seven packs a day? No, says the 67-year-old Tigers manager, not even close.

"It's only about a pack and a half, and I don't smoke all of those (completely), so it's only about a pack," Leyland said in an interview with WSER Radio .670 during a recent stopover in Chicago.

Leyland, whose team has been playing well lately, said the Tigers problems -- though mysterious to many -- are common in baseball and have more to do with blocks of personnel going through momentary sluggishness simultaneously than fundamental shortcomings of the whole. It's part of a normal process to rotate individuals -- either through attrition, need for development or injuries -- throughout the year to react to productivity declines, Leyland said.

"It's all just part of the process," Leyland said.

Having just demoted reliever Clay Rapada to Triple-A Toledo, Leyland must now find room for relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, who will considerably brighten the team's outlook as they come back from injuries. Reliever Freddy Dolsi likely will be ticketed to Toledo to make room for the two budding bullpen stars, one of whom will sooner or later replace veteran closer Todd Jones.

Red Sox Catcher Jason Varitek Misses Game

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek was held out of Saturday's game in Cincinnati with what a team spokesman described as a sore throat and related symptoms, none serious. Varitek was due for a rest anyway.

Varitek, 36, continues to travel with team and act as captain, and is listed as day-to-day. Likely as not, Varitek will resume play within the next few days if not immediately.

Carl Crawford-Hideki Matsui Deal to Rekindle?

A carefully guarded secret MLB News on Line uncovered directly from the Yankees offices in The Bronx indicates that for more than a year the team has been trying to acquire Tampa Bay outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford, though the talks cooled after neither team could reach an accord coming out of spring camp.

Now with the Rays having flirted with first place and the Yankees having flirted with last, could the two teams' potential reversal of fortunes result in the deal being turned upside down?

It is far to early to write off the Yankees as contenders for a playoff berth, but given numerous problems with the starting rotation it is conceivable that the team might reach a point at which Managing Partner George Steinbrenner or his son Hank Steinbrenner may decide that the Yankees best long term outlook would be to position the team to win next year, when contending will be far more critical with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium.

Either way, the Yankees are in need of a youth movement and the Rays are in need of experience, so don't be surprised if circumstances intensify the need to consumate the long considered, on-again, off-again deal for Crawford, with someone like 35-year-old star outfielder Hideki Matsui -- according to knowledgeable sources -- in the bait.

The Braves Almost Had a Huge Problem

The Braves came dangerously close to losing Larry Jones (Chipper Jones for those with an unfortunate sense of humor) for an extended period of time when he hit a foul ball that ricocheted off the batting cage and hit him just below his left eye.

He was immediately taken to the hospital, where a CT scan showed no fracture. He is listed as day to day and is likely to look like he got socked in the face tomorrow.

Larry leads major league baseball with a .414 batting average.

Mets Acquire Trot Nixon from D'Backs

The Mets acquired Trot Nixon from the Diamondbacks for cash or a player to be named. He had been hitting .309 with 10 homers at Triple A Tucson and will be in uniform in time for tomorrow's game.

Injuries to Moises Alou and Ryan Church left the Mets thin in the outfield, so Nixon should significant playing tisee me.

Prince Fielder And Miguel Cabrera Should Switch Diets

The Brewers Prince Fielder and the Tigers Miguel Cabrera both received National League MVP votes in 2007. It is questionable whether either will even make the All-Star game this year. A comparison of their 2007 and 2008 stats:

2007: .288 AVG 50 HR 119 RBI
2008: .278 AVG and on pace for 27 HR 83 RBI

2007: .320 AVG 34 HR 119 RBI
2008: .276 AVG and on pace for 22 HR 95 RBI

What happened to these guys? The answer is simple: Fielder became a wimp and Cabrera turned into a blimp.

Before the season, Fielder announced that he had gone vegetarian after reading a book given to him by his wife, Chanel (wtf). "After reading that, [meat] just didn't sound good to me anymore," Fielder said. "It grossed me out a little bit." What a pansy. This is a guy who starred in a McDonalds commercial as a kid and now he's screwing up the circle of life by abstaining from meat.

A comparison of his home runs per at-bat in 2007 and 2008:
pre-hippy: 1 HR per 11.46 at-bats
as a hippy: 1 HR per 21.54 at-bats.

A significant decline. Perhaps this will spur some "must eat like a man" clauses in free agent contracts this winter.

On the other end of the spectrum sits Cabrera, who clearly eats anything put in front of him. His weight and fitness problems have been well documented in the past, but they just keep getting worse.

Cabrera came up as an outfielder, but the Marlins moved him to third base because of mobility problems. Several weeks into this season, the Tigers moved him to first base for the same reason. Now, there is talk of moving him to DH. The next step is presumably to ask for a courtesy runner every time he gets on base.

The solution is clear. Fielder needs to substitute some steaks for the tofu and Cabrera needs to mix in a few salads and some running in between games, or just stop eating altogether.