Monday, January 31, 2011

Steroid May Push Chipper Jones' Knee to LImit

Doctors' treatment of Chipper Jones' left knee with topically applied cortisone -- a legal steroid sometimes referred to as a "miracle drug" for its ability to reduce inflammation -- is having a predictable, immediate beneficial effect on the Atlanta Braves third baseman's lingering injury, but time may be short.

The greater amount of cortisone and the longer Jones uses it exposes him to an inherent risk of cumulative brittleness of fibrous tendons, and may hasten Jones' departure toward a point of no return.

Jones' case is aggravated by the fact that this is his second, catastrophic, left knee ACL tear since he was the Braves No. 1 overall draft pick in 1992, the first tear having come during spring training in 1994 when he was trying to beat out a grounder to first base. As a result he missed the entire season.

To accelerate his rehabilitation, the 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer plans to present himself to trainers in spring camp in just two weeks. He has been swinging the bat in the cage for more than six weeks in Atlanta, but is taking it easy before returning to work around the bag, an activity which caused this most recent ACL injury six months ago.

Jones' recovery will be eight months along by the time the season starts, making it possible but questionable whether Jones will be ready to take the field by opening day. He will be required to undergo extensive strengthening and limbering exercises, including bench work, stationary bike and pool activity.

Even if Jones is able to return to play without a setback due to the cortisone, it's only a matter of time before multiple trauma leads to the onset of arthritic discomfort, if it hasn't started already.

Don Mattingly Unsure of Russell Martin's Future

Yankees starting catcher Russell Martin still has a high upside after two disappointing seasons, but as to whether he can recover his earliervpotential at the age of 28 remains an open question for new Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

"I'm not sure how he'll do, but one thing I can say is he won't be afraid," said Mattingly, who spent his entire playing career in front of the often intimidating fans in New York. Like Martin, Mattingly in his later years was a shadow of his former self, perhaps with injuries to blame.

In a recent interview with Mike Francesca on WFAN Radio 660 in New York, Mattingly said Martin stands to benefit from a change of scenery after the former Dodgers catcher was non-tendered in Los Angeles.

Mattingly focused on Martin's competitiveness and work ethic as key in potentially helping him to rediscover his former form, though the one-time Yankees superstar made no mention of frequent criticism that former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, for whom Mattingly served as bench coach, wore out the young backstop.

Most notably, Martin saw 620 at-bats in the middle of the Dodgers batting order in 2007, the year after his Rookie of the Year campaign, and hit .293 with 19 homers, an extraordinary amount of playing time for a catcher. By 2010, Martin's average had fallen to .245 with only five homers after he developed hip and knee trouble that may explain his shortcomings. Martin steadfastly has refused to cite injuries as an excuse, however.

Mattingly also said it was "really tough" to fire third base coach Larry Bowa, the former Phillies manager and Yankees third base coach. Bowa has been replaced by Triple A Albuquerque coach and former All Star Tim Wallach.

Mattingly predicted a tough struggle not only for the Dodgers but other teams in the National League West due to fierce competion.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stan Musial Had Meeting With Sam Giancana

When Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama on Feb. 15, it won't be Musial's first time meeting a president, as it brings to mind his historic meeting with John F. Kennedy and a bevy of VIPs -- including notorious Chicago crime family mobster Sam Giancana.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the meeting. It took place during the 1962 All Star Game in Chicago, when Musial ascended to the presidential box at Wrigley Field to receive a warm greeting from Kennedy, who threw out the first ball, while Giancana looked on.

Ironically, Kennedy had recently re-enacted the Medal of Freedom honor after it had been discontinued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It has never been fully explained what Giancana was doing there, though his association with Kennedy has been well documented. Also on hand were Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Speaker of the House John McCormack, Senate Majority Leader Russell Long and Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick.

Kennedy was assassinated the following year, and Giancana was gunned down five years later.

Musial, 90, the last surviving member of the group, will be presented the medal for his meritorious service to the nation in ceremonies presided over by Obama, who is also from Chicago. Musial is the fourth major leaguer to received the award, the others being the late Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.

According to C. David Heyman, writing in in 2009 book "Bobby and Jackie, a Love Story," JFK was introduced by the late entertainer Frank Sinatra, a noted Democratic booster, to Giancana paramour Judith Campbell, ex-wife of actor William Campbell and a former Las Vegas showgirl.

Campbell later was quoted as acknowledging simultaneous affairs with Kennedy and Giancana, beginning when Kennedy was still in the senate, and she claimed to have relayed messages between the two, plus payments from government contractors to government officials.

Kennedy's father, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, has been widely believed to have had business interests in the sale of liquor during and predating Prohibition, and continued to have connections with spirits manufacturers even as late as the late 1940s, when his son was in the House of Representatives.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rangers GM Denies Michael Young on Block

Texas Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels put the lid on rampant speculation that the team was trying to trade former All Star third baseman Michael Young, admitting Young had been on the block during the Hot Stove League, but no more.

"There had been some talk earlier, but it ended when Michael agreed to play DH," Daniels told KTKS 1310 Radio, The Score. "There's really nothing to it."

Daniels' statement followed another the previous day from team President Nolan Ryan, who was visiting his minor league club in Round Rock. Ryan said Young would open the season at DH, plus play sparingly at third base, second and first, and that no team would be able to field a more effective player in that role.

Manager Ron Washington has said previously that Young will see plenty of at-bats in those capacities.

Germaine Dye Marks 37th Birthday, Keeps Vigil

Former White Sox outfielder/designated hitter Germaine Dye marked his 37th birthday, still holding out for the right team and the right price.

The Oakland native who now resides in Paradise Valley, Ariz., , has been out of baseball for 14 months since the White Sox bought out a mutual option on his contract in November of 2009.

Spring training came and went last year, when he reportedly spurned a $3 million offer for a bench role with the Cubs. He was thought to have rejected other bids throughout the summer, some speculated to be little more than $1 million.

Though he belted 27 homers when he last played in 2009, his defensive capabilities and stamina have been doubted. But he has refused to retire.

It appears to be highly questionable whether he can still swing the bat after spending more than entire season sitting by the phone, but he might get a chance to prove himself if only he would agree to sign a conditional minor league contract somewhere or another.

Another Big Year Awaiting Angels Vernon Wells?

After adding 22 RBI and more than doubling his home run total to 31 last season compared to the previous, is another big year in store for star outfielder Vernon Wells now that he will be playing for the Angels in hit happy Southern California?

"...You forget about everything that happened last year because it doesn't really affect this year," Wells told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in this morning's editions. "It's a whole new challenge."

After hitting .565 in his last year at nearby Bowie High School in Arlington before being taken as the No. 5 overall pick in the 1993 draft, Wells has had an often disappointing, up-and-down career especially considering his signing of a $126 million contract with the Blue Jays five years ago, compensation which he admits he has never earned.

The fact that the Blue Jays traded him to the Angels for part-time, third-string catcher Mike Napoli (since traded to the Rangers) and aging outfielder Juan Rivera may say something about Toronto's lack of faith that Wells will be able to stay healthy long enough to continue performing until his contract runs out in 2014.

But the good-natured Wells, 32 -- who once laid down a bunt in the home run hitting contest at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown -- seems unaffected, concentrating on home life, community and life off the field while he can.

"In the off-season, you try to take as much time as you can to separate yourself from the game," Wells said. "The biggest sacrifice you make during the season is being away from your family. So you've got to soak it all up while you're here."

Wells and his wife Charlene operate the Vernon Wells Perfect 10 Foundation, providing aid and assistance to single mothers and disadvantaged children. Sunday he will address the Texas Brahmas hockey team for the school's Faith and Family Day.

"It's an honor to be asked to do things like this," Wells said.

Rangers Urged to Keep Veteran Michael Young

Any ideas that the Rangers should trade veteran slugger Michael Young don't make sense for Dallas-Fort Worth sportscaster Norm Hitzges, who contends that the aging superstar has only marginal value on the open market, and is much better suited to stay put.

Young, who will be 35 when the season opens, has been under fire in recent years for diminishing defensive range that has forced him from shortstop to third base, and now to designated hitter. Though he hit .281 with 91 RBI and 21 homers last year, Hitzges questions how much the team could receive in return for him.

"I'm going to suggest to you, not a great deal" Hitzges told listeners during his daily program on KTKS 1310 Radio, "The Score."

The problem, he explained, is not his productivity but rather his contract, which will pay him $16 million a year through 2013. "...You're asking someone to eat $48 million. "Now how many teams can afford to do that? Very, very few."

Still, Young's 2011 projected assignment as DH has led some, most notably Fox's Ken Rosenthal, to view him as expendable, especially with this season's acquisition of Adrian Beltre to play third and Mike Napoli as a third-string catcher, super reserve and potential designated hitter. Whatever else Napoli is, he has a big right-handed bat, having hit 26 homers last year in 463 at-bats for the Angels.

But Hitzges believes that for the Rangers to receive fair value for Young, the team will have to cover perhaps $8 million to $12 million per year of the Rangers contractual obligations , and even then receive nothing back but prospects. Prospects will be of little help in this year's drive to return to the playoffs.

Better to keep Young for the long haul, primarily playing DH while being used sparingly at third base and second to provide rest for Beltre, 30, and the oft-injured Ian Kinsler, and to spell first baseman Mitch Moreland when the left-handed hitting youngster must contend with a tough lefty pitcher, according to Hitzges.

"I think the Rangers have the perfect situation here," Hitzges said.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rays Slugger Dan Johnson Snubbed by Experts

Two of the first three 2011 MLB fantasy magazines -- rushed into print some two weeks before the Superbowl -- have seemingly deemed Tampa Bay Rays slugger Dan Johnson as to be unworthy of a thumbnail biographical analysis or annual statistical projection.

Both the Sporting News Fantasy Baseball and the Yahoo Fantasy Baseball annuals turn their attentions to the Johnsons Chris and Kelly and even part-timer Nick, but Dan Johnson is left out in the cold, even though he is widely projected to open the season as the Rays starting first baseman.

Johnson -- the erstwhile top prospect from the Athletics organization who has stumbled in a a number of manifestations including one with the Twins -- found his way into a handful of games for the Rays last year, batting .198 with seven homers.

With the departure last year's starter Carlos Pena to the Cubs, Johnson seems to have -- for the time being -- blundered into yet another chance to live up to the sky-high potential envisioned for him nearly a decade ago.

To be fair, Johnson has generally been regarded as having a good eye at the plate, ability to hit for power and possessing a measure of skill around the bag. But a number of injuries and other setbacks so far have robbed him of what might have been a promising career.

Whether Johnson's omission from the Sporting News and Yahoo is the result of design or inadvertence, at 33 Johnson would do well to read the writing on the wall, or lack of it, if he expects another opportunity such as the one the Rays are giving him this year -- assuming he doesn't blow it in spring training, or isn't relegated to the bench as the result of a free agent acquisition or other personnel change.

As it looks in the early stages, all Johnson has to do is hold off Cuban exile Leslie Anderson, who brings a fine pedigree to the states from his imprisoned Caribbean outpost. Even with little other professional experience, let alone major league time, Anderson may yet prove to be too strong a challenge for Johnson, given Johnson's perennial shortcomings and just plain bad luck.

Meanwhile, print lovers who wish to read about Johnson more expansively might do well to instead try RFP's 2011 Fantasy Baseball Guide.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cardinals Return To KMOX in St. Louis

Radio broadcast of St. Louis Cardinals games, after a five year hiatus, will once again be able to be heard from Canada to Cuba and 44 states in between as the team has returned to the "Voice of St. Louis", KMOX.

The 50,000- watt blow torch, which was the radio originator of Cardinals games when they first reached the airways in 1935, reaches nearly half a million listeners weekly in metropolitan St. Louis alone. The impact has been nothing short of sensational since KMOX won the broadcasting rights back from KTRS. KTRS had been broadcasting the games since 2006, but with only 5,000 watts had difficulty reaching the fringes of the city with a clear signal.

"We're really exited," program director Steve Moore told "There's been an enormous reaction, all positives."

The station will broadcast the entire 162 game schedule, plus 18 spring training games, Moore said.

Veteran play-by-play-man John Rooney and color man Mike Shannon, who played for the team in championship seasons during the 1960s, will continue to team up to the broadcast, while KMOX's own Kevin Wheeler will follow the Cardinals on locally generated sports programming, Moore said.

The Cardinals are expected to be highly competitive in the National League Central Division with slugging superstars Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday anchoring a potent lineup top to bottom.

Once home to late Hall-of-Fame broadcasters Harry Caray and Jack Buck, the storied radio station is widely credited for helping to build bastions of Cardinals followers from the Rockies to the Smokies, and especially in the deep south.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homer Bailey Likely to Win Rotation Spot

Upcoming fireballer Homer Bailey -- despite heavy competition for limited spots on a deep Reds staff -- likely will make the starting order out of spring training.

It's not so much that Bailey seems to be catching on after three years of difficulty -- note his 31 strikeouts and 3.72 ERA in his last 29 innings of work last year -- but that he is out of options, and cannot be sent back to Louisville without exposing him to other teams.

Hello Homer Bailey. Good bye Mike Leake.

Barring a complete catastrophe in the Cactus League, Bailey will open the season as the No. 4 or No. 5 starter, and needs to make the most of his opportunity given that the team has so many other options, especially with the return of Edinson Volquez from the disabled list.

Observers have never questioned Bailey's potential, given his high '90s fastball and other pitches, but fault him for his obstinance in taking direction. It might be a bit harsh to call him uncoachable so early in his career, but it would seem to be high time that he matured if he wants to stick around.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jodi Applegate Prepares to Marry Michael Kay

WPIX anchorwoman Jodi Applegate, who is preparing for her nuptials with New York Yankees' Yes Network broadcaster Michael 'See ya!' Kay, dropped a couple of C-notes or three Friday for an 'updo' specially created to accommodate an elaborate headpiece to match her wedding gown.

Dictating specific instructions to the stylist at Liz Russell's Third Avenue hair salon, Applegate watched attentively as her thick, auburn mane was carefully sculpted to frame a high forehead.

The wedding, whose date has not yet been announced, will take place at the renowned Plaza Hotel in Manhattan just in time for Michael's 50th birthday on February 2. This is the first marriage for Michael and the second for the 46-year-old Applegate.

A native of the boroughs and a Fordham grad, Kay proposed on Montauk Beach in July with the presentation of a stunning, emerald-cut four-carat diamond ring. What a rock! Applegate, a Pittsburgh native, is a graduate of New York University, who likely was at a loss for words when she saw the ring for the first time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pituitary Cited for Miltion Bradley's 'Mood Swings'

A malfunctioning pituitary gland may be at the root of Seattle Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley's continuing difficulties with anger management, according to a former media acquaintance who has conversed with Bradley on many occasions.

"It's a problem with the pituitary gland; that would be my guess," commentator Les Grobstein told listeners on Sports Talk Radio 670 The Score in Chicago. "It causes wild mood swings."

Bradley, current awaiting a Feb. 8 arraignment in Van Nuys, CA, has been released on $50,000 bail after being arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on a felony charge of making terroristic threats against an unidentified woman in the vicinity of Bradley's home in nearby Encino.

Police declined to provide details of the incident, in which officers responded to the woman's telephone complaint. "He's been arrested. That's all I can confirm," an LAPD spokeswoman said.

Grobstein noted that the former Cub was publicly praised by several teammates after Bradley left the team for Seattle in a trade for struggling pitcher Carlos Silva following tension between Bradley and then-manager Lou Piniella.

"They said he was a good teammate. But a lot of players said privately that they were thrilled to get him out of there," Grobstein said.

Researchers have cited findings in which the cause of antisocial behavior has commonly been misdiagnosed as a personality disorder when a malfunctioning pituitary gland is actually to blame. In up to two out of 10 cases, it's the pituitary that may be the culprit.

Evan Longoria Confident Despite Rays Roster Loss

All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria remains confident that the Tampa Bay Rays will remain remain competitive in the American League East despite the loss of outfield superstar Carl Crawford to the rival Red Sox, rotation ace Matt Garza to the Cubs and other ongoing roster changes.

'I'm positive, very positive," Longoria told KLAC Radio 570 in Los Angeles. "We have a great group of guys, a corps group of guys."

Interviewed in advance of his Jan. 27 keynote speaking appearance for the opening of the baseball season at Long Beach State, his alma mater -- Longoria said he and star outfielder B.J. Upton, infielder Reid Brignac, first baseman Dan Johnson and others can be expected to pick up the slack. A number of other top prospects are also ready to burst onto the scene soon, he noted.

Highlighting a rotation headed by ace David Price, Longoria said: "We have a lot of talent left."