Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rangers Eye Red Sox Minor League Rosters

Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels will be closely watching Red Sox spring training camp to see whether Wes Littleton makes the team.

Having acquired Littleton from the Rangers, the Red Sox must give up an additional player if Littleton lands a spot on the bench.

As part of the deal, the pitching starved Rangers have already acquired minor leaguer Beau Vaughn, who had a combined 2.33 ERA in Double A and Triple A last year.

George W. Bush Becomes Tom Hicks' Neighbor

It may be a mere coincidence, but former President George W. Bush has moved into a sprawling, oak-shaded, brick-veneer mansion in the same Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex neighborhood as multi-millionaire Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

Bush, of course, formerly was principal owner of the team before he became governor of Texas, and went on to the White House.

Bush's stately 50-year old dwelling -- reportedly with a greatroom fireplace as big as a travel trailer -- is located in the Preston Hollow plat and has been said by some to be valued at several million dollars or more. It is also is near the home of speculator/developer/investor T. Boone Pickens.

The former president continues to maintain his ranch near the central Texas hamlet of Crawfordsville. Though the former chief executive is described as being not much of a television fan -- devoting much of his spare time to reading some 80 books a year -- his favorite program is ESPN's "Baseball Tonight."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ex-Slugger Jeff Bagwell Suggests Astros Stand Pat

Former All-Star slugger Jeff Bagwell -- speaking to the San Antonio Express-News during an Astros promotional tour at Lackland Air Force Base -- said his former team has enough talent to successfully compete in the National League's Central Division without acquiring additional talent.

"The most important thing is pitching and health," Bagwell said. "I don't think anyone in this division has stepped up and done anything to make itself a clear-cut favorite."

He singled out the Cubs, however, as being especially strong.

"Hopefully they don't get (former Padres ace Jake) Peavy -- so we just have to hope for health and we'll be okay."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cards' Glaus Questionable for Opening Day

Troy Glaus is out of action for three months. Good thing it's the offseason!

Glaus underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder this week; he'll be cleared to begin physical therapy next week. In 2008, Glaus batted .270 with 27 home runs and 99 RBI.

With a speedy recovery Glaus may be able to make the Opening Day start. But he is considered questionable and the Cardinals are looking at two farmhands to fill in during what may be Glaus' absence.

The candidates are 25-year-old David Freese and 22-year-old Brett Wallace. Freese, a native of St. Louis, batted .306 with 26 home runs and 91 RBI at Triple-A Memphis last season. Wallace, the Cards' No. 1 draft pick in 2008, batted .337 with eight homers and 36 RBI between Class A and Double-A in 2008.

While Wallace is the Cards' third baseman of the future and has the greater upside, Freese is almost certain to be the choice to fill in for Glaus - assuming Glaus needs filling in for, and assuming the Cards don't go the "proven veteran" route.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Does Anyone Want Andruw Jones?

Perhaps my favorite line from any of the news articles reporting Andruw Jones' release by the Dodgers is this one by Ken Peters of the AP:

When the Dodgers added Manny Ramirez in a trade deadline deal July 31, that left Jones with minimal opportunities. But with the staggering performance by Ramirez (.396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games) and the fine work of fellow outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, Jones was hardly missed.

Um, Jones was batting in the .150s. Mario Mendoza could have been in the outfield for the Dodgers and Jones wouldn't have been missed.

Jones' collapse started a couple years ago. He truly fell off a cliff in 2008, however, "hitting" .158 with three homers and 14 RBI. The Dodgers finally threw in the towel late last week.

What is the likeliest destination for Jones now? Somebody is going to take a chance on him, after all; the first 10 years of his career combined very good offense with what some argued was all-time-great defense in center field.

His old team, the Braves, may be the most likely landing spot for Jones. The fact that after his release by the Dodgers Jones attended a college basketball game in Atlanta wearing a Braves cap lends credence. But the Braves are said willing to offer only a minor-league contract, despite the fact that the team signing Jones will only have to pay him the MLB minimum (because the Dodgers are still on the hook for $21 million).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bruce Bochy to Explain Vacuum in Giants Lineup

The front office will push catatonic manager Bruce Bochy out front on Feb 7 when he'll be forced to face down questioners at the team's annual fan fest in San Francisco, explaining why the Giants continue to feature a power vacuum in the middle of the batting order.

Though desperate for a power hitting corner infielder, management came away from Hot Stove League negotiations in Las Vegas with next to nothing accomplished offensively, leaving aging Rich Aurilia and untested youth Travis Ishikawa among leading candidates to platoon at first base.

Even if the Giants acquire former East Bay refugee Nick Swisher from the Yankees, the lineup looks more and more like the same old same old, with GM Brian Sabean's familiar, indecisive commitment to either invest significantly in a playoff push or begin a rebuilding program.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Broadcaster Mark Patrick Still on XM Radio Payroll?

Baseball commentator Mark Patrick -- formerly co-host with Buck Martinez on XM Radio's "Baseball This Morning" daily talk show -- is believed by a former network insider to be equivalently collecting pay from the satellite network while he contemplates options to return to broadcasting.

Having abruptly departed from XM last November, the former Fox sports radio personality is being paid through the period when catchers and pitchers report to big league training camps in Florida and Arizona next month. The prearranged contractual agreement likely will have been discontinued by the time major league exhibition games begin in March, according to speculation.

Ironically, Patrick's departure from XM came at a time when he and Martinez -- a former manager and 17-year major league catcher -- had developed an outstanding chemistry and were gaining the attention of a small but devoted following. Martinez remains with the network and also broadcasts for ESPN.

Patrick -- a former batboy for the Triple A Indianapolis Indians -- could not be reached for comment.

Though he has often been assailed for his ego, Patrick remains among the most talented and buoyant voices in sports broadcasting, with a broad range of knowledge, experience, grace under pressure and other divergent gifts.

Hideki Matsui Escapes Yankees Chopping Block

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman's personal preference is to trade outfielder Hideki Matsui to clear a roster spot for newly signed first baseman Mark Teixeira, but he is hesitating because of a negative reaction in Japan.

Word on the street indicates the team's intense recruiting effort along the Pacific Rim -- in which Japan is the cornerstone -- would be seriously undermined if Matsui were to be dealt. Matsui is a national hero in his native country, and his fans would be more than heartbroken, they would be disgusted.

Longtime dealers in the Asian talent pool, the Yankees not only have stepped up scouting in Japan, the team has reportedly invested a conservatively estimated $13 million in the planning, funding, development and establishment state-of-the-art training center there, including an elaborate intelligence network and data bank. It has already begun paying big dividends, and it bears the brand "Steinbrenner."

Saying goodbye to the player affectionately known as "Godzilla" would be virtually unthinkable, even though advancing age and serious health setbacks limited him to just 337 at-bats last year, including a mere .206 average over his last 37 appearances.

Though he returned to play in September after a more than two-month layoff, Matsui was forced to sit out the last two games of the season while doctors drained fluid from his knee. Rehabilitation is expected to have him back in playing shape by the beginning of the season, but for how long?

With Matsui enjoying privileged status, look for Cashman to deal outfielder-first baseman Nick Swisher or outfielder Xavier Nady, even though they are far more valuable to the team than Matsui. Whether Swisher or Nady will be traded depends largely on what kind of a deal can be developed over the next two months. Cashman would like to keep both, but probably favors Nady.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Should the Reds Take a Flier on Andruw Jones?

The Dodgers have worked out a deal on Andruw Jones' contract that should help the team lower its payroll and get rid of the hugely disappointing outfielder. Jones signed a large free-agent deal with the Dodgers to patrol centerfield, but wound up patrolling the bench after batting .158 in 209 at-bats. That's sub-Mendoza Line. That's even sub-Bill Bergen Line.

But now the Dodgers have restructured Jones' deal so that he is only owed $5 million in 2009. That's assuming the Dodgers trade him; the restructured deal will make him a free agent if the Dodgers can't find a trading partner by Jan. 15. Somebody is going to take a chance on a 10-time Gold Glove centerfielder who was, for most of his career, a good (sometimes great) hitter.

The Rangers have been mentioned (GM Jon Daniels said Texas "probably" isn't interested). A return to the Braves has been broached as a possibility; the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels (the usual suspects, in other words) have also come up.

I think the team that should take a flier on Jones is the Reds. If the Reds open 2009 with their current roster, they will have one of the worst offenses in baseball. Barring a major breakout season by Jay Bruce (which is a possibility) and a major improvement from Edwin Encarnacion (which isn't), anyway. They've done nothing so far to upgrade the offense. In fact, they arguably made it worse by signing Willy Taveras.

At the same time, the Reds still have gaping holes in their defense. Let's see: Bad hitting, bad fielding. What's that equal? Bad record.

So take a flier on Andruw Jones and hope for the best. Sure, a return to pre-2006 form is unlikely. But you never know.

Since July 2006, Jones has batted .209 with 46 homers, a .312 OBP and a .401 slugging percentage. Atrocious. But guess what? That .713 OPS has been bettered by Taveras only once, is 100 points higher than the OPS Taveras posted in Coors Field last season, and is 50 points higher than Taveras' career OPS.

The Reds signed Taveras to a 2-year deal, so they probably aren't going to bench him in favor of Jones. But opening the season with Bruce in left, Taveras in center and Jones in right at least improves the defense, and Jones could move over to center once Taveras shows himself to be Corey Patterson without the home runs.