Monday, December 21, 2009

Ex-Reds GM Jim Bowden Blasts Scott Rolen Pact

The restructuring and extension of Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen's contract has come under fire from the team's former general manager, who questioned the pact on grounds of Rolen's advancing age, history of injuries and declining offense.

Jim Bowden, now co-hosting a morning baseball radio talk show on Sirrius/XM. said it was unwise to extend Rolen through 2012 at a cost of $23.63 million, after he was due $11 million in 2010. Rolen will be 37 when the contract expires.

"It's very disappointing to me committing that amount of money without knowing that Scott Rolen can bounce back," Bowden said.

Rolen will receive $6 million this season, $6.5 million per season in 2011 and 2012, plus a $5 million signing bonus.

The Reds acquired Rolen from the Blue Jays last season for third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and pitching prospects Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart.

Lee Hamilton Fans Nix National League DH

A slim majority of fans responding to a poll taken by Sirrius/XM weekend radio talk show host Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton rejected a call to introduce the designated hitter to the National League despite Major League Baseball's contemplation of doing so.

Though non-scientific, the poll rejected the rule change proposal by a 24-22 margin, results seen by Hamilton as a surprising rebuff after he had argued in favor of the DH on grounds that National League pitchers' combined batting averages last year were a paltry 0.78.

Fans would rather watch a slugger at the plate, Hamilton contended. "Isn't that an interesting question that I just posted today," Hamilton said. "The phone lines just exploded."

The American League introduced the designated hitter in 1971 to boost scoring, which had fallen to a modern low during the end of the 1960s. To undermine the dominance of pitchers at that time, both the American and National Leagues agreed to lower the pitching mound by six inches, with umpires adopting a more and more stringent strike zone over the years.

In nearly four decades, however, the National League continues to make pitchers bat, though collegiate and minor leagues largely have followed the American League lead.

"It's not just about some slugger standing at the plate and hitting a big fly into the seats," said one caller. "If that were the objective, you could just field nine defensive players and let somebody like (Cardinals first baseman) Albert Pujols take all the at-bats."

Other callers lamented the loss of strategy in the American League, emphasizing that baseball was conceived not so much as a game of action like basketball or soccer, but of decision making in which the fans must think along with the field manager.

Hamilton said he proposed the question in conjunction with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's announcement that he would convene a panel to consider revamping playing rules and regulations. Though an official head count was not imediately available, knowledgeable observers have estimated that Hamilton has a following of up to 20,000 listeners or more per hour during his program, which broadcasts Saturday and Sunday afternoons and is replayed during the night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Medics Cast Shadow on Mike Lowell's Career

Little wonder that the Texas Rangers backed out on the acquisition of Boston third baseman Mike Lowell, considering that a medical examination sends a fairly clear signal that not only will he need surgery but that his career is questionable.

The Red Sox can spin the story as favorably as they want, with the prediction that Lowell will be ready for Spring, but the Rangers doctors know better.

Surgical repair of the ulnar collateral ligament in Lowell's right thumb is among the most difficult surgeries for athletes, particularly baseball players. The key problem is that the ligament is isolated, it is almost the sole manipulative link to the brain, and yet is intricately tiny. Merely maintaining blood flow to the ligament during surgery is a challenge, as a drop in blood pressure can rapidly bring on necropathy.

Though Lowell can look forward to a normal and happy and more or less totally functional use of this thumb for the rest of his life as a private citizen, the question of swinging a bat is another consideration altogether. At least Lowell can take satisfaction from the fact that it's his right ligament; for the left could be even more problematic.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kyle Drabek's Phillies Gear to Be Auctioned

How to get rid of his red No. 81 Phillies spring jersey and other Philadelphia gear is the least of his problems, but Kyle Drabek says he might as well auction it to the highest bidder as long as he's going to be playing for the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I'll put it on eBay," the hard-throwing young prospect laughingly told the Doylestown, Pa., Intelligencer.

Drabek, 22. dealt to Toronto along with fellow prospects Travis D'Arnaud and Michael Taylor when the Phillies acquired Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, will report to Blue Jays camp in Dunedin, Fla., in 60 days.

Taylor has been flipped to Oakland for former St. Louis third base candidate Brett Wallace, but Drabek and his 96-mph fastball have a shot to compete for a spot at the back of the Blue Jays rotation, though more likely Drabek will start the season at Double A New Hampshire.

"I think I'm ready," said Drabek, son of 1990 Cy Young winner Doug Drabek. "...My dad just said to make sure you go out and pitch like you know how to. Where I am doesn't change anything. It's just putting on a different jersey."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marcus Scutaro Projected as Red Sox Superstar

In Oakland he was perceived as a limited, part-time utility player, but newly signed Red Sox shortstop Marcus Scutaro now has been projected by a former coach as having blossomed into a catalytic, minor superstar who can do it all.

"He'll draw a walk, he'll hit and run, he'll move runners along, he'll bunt, he'll hit some balls into the seats, he'll steal a base," says 2009 Blue Jays bench coach Brian Butterfield. "He's immersed with the offensive part of the game."

Speaking to sports columnist Larry Mahoney with the Bangor Daily News, which serves Butterfield's hometown of Orono, Me., Butterfield, 52, described Scutaro as "outstanding" defensively as well, having committed only 10 errors in 143 games despite leading the lead in chances under Butterfield's direction last season in Toronto, Scutaro's second with the Blue Jays.

He credited the 34-year-old Latino veteran with intelligence, skill and knowledge in positioning himself to take maximum advantage of batters' hitting tendencies and proclivities, thus re-enforcing accuracy in critical situations. "There's no panic in his hands," Butterfield said.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mark Patrick Renews Old MLB Acquaintances

Former network air personality Mark Patrick renewed old acquaintances at the annual major league general managers' meeting in Indianapolis last week, bringing them up to date on his current status and placing a few well-placed words in introducing his budding superstar son, Drew Storen.

Just exactly what he said is unknown, unless it was to ask the kid if he could borrow a couple of bucks. Storen was the No. 10 overall pick in the June major league baseball draft and signed with the Washington Nationals for a bonus of $1.6 million.

The brainy 22-year-old had a brief but shining college career at Stanford, then went on to notch a 2-1 record with a 1.95 ERA in 37 innings at AA Harrisburg and two other professional levels last year, with 49 strikeouts. The Washington Post has projected him as the Nationals closer of the future.

His father, who uses the air name "Patrick," formerly was host for Fox Radio's daytime daily sports program, and later launched XM Radio's "MLB This Morning" show with co-hosts Buck Martinez and Larry Bowa before being released after three years.

By almost any measure, he is among the most talented personalities in network radio, possessing not only an encylopedic knowledge of baseball and other sports, but also an efferfescent personality replete with an array of world class impersonations such celebrities as John Wayne, Richard Nixon and Johnny Carson.