Archive for October, 2006

Tuesday Morning Coffee

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Happy Tuesday morning. Here are some links to get you started off on the right foot.

  • Arizona Fall League Notes From October 30th – (Link)
    There are some notes on Elijah Dukes and his move to first base for the Devil Rays.
  • White Sox exercise their option on Mark Buehrle & Jermaine Dye – (Link)
    This one seems to me to be a no duh type of news story. Of course Kenny Williams is going to exercise options on these two guys.
  • Tim Wakefield staying with Boston – (Link)
    I know he’s only 40, but doesn’t it seem like Wakefield has been around since the Ernie Banks era? It does to me.
  • Baseball Prospectus Notes on the Farm – (Subscription Required)
    If you don’t subscribe to BP, what are you waiting for? There is so much good information on that site. The fee is just $4.95 per month. That’s way cheaper than Sports Illustrated or Baseball America. Why are you not a subscriber?
  • The Week In Quotes – (Link)
    I always enjoy when this column comes out. Fun to look back at the week that was via the quotes from around the league.
  • Harold Reynolds plans to sue ESPN – (Link)
    This is a story worth following. I have always liked Harold Reynolds. We’ll see how this turns out.
  • Cuban Defectors finding a new home – (Link)
    This is a free article from Baseball America, which is one of my favorite sites.

    ***** MLB Rumor Mill *****

    1. Joe Borowski could be headed out of Florida based on the success he had. Because Florida refuses to spend money, look for average Joe to begin to shop his services elsewhere. Rumor is that the Phillies have interest. It’s funny that just a few years ago, Borowski was the talk of the town in Chicago, only to be released after pitching with an injury for most of the season. I really wish we would have stuck with him.

    2. Apparently the Cubs and Indians have interest in Japanese pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda. I don’t know much about him, so maybe Mastrick can help out with this. I do know that he went 13-6 last year in 26 games. He is 91-81 in his career with a 3.70 ERA.

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    Ramirez opts out of Cubs contract

    Monday, October 30th, 2006

    Well the day that many fans feared has finally come. Aramis Ramirez basically had a contract that obligated him for two years, however that very same contract obligated the Cubs for two additional years. Apparently he has chosen to move on to greener pastures, as today he exercised his contractual right and entered the free agent market.

    One thing that’s different about the new collective bargaining agreement is that the Cubs will be free to negotiate with Ramirez until the beginning of the next season, assuming that he his still available. Prior to the new CBA the Cubs would have until about the second week of November to execute a deal or lose bargaining ability until May 1st.

    So what does this all mean to the Cubs? It means that now they need two boppers, not just one. It makes signing Carlos Lee almost imperative and Soriano might just get an opportunity to do what he wants most, play second base. The Cubs can then go out and get a decent glove man for third base. Ramirez was good, but I’m not about to cry over spilt milk. His inability to run the bases with enthusiasm always concerned me, and he had a tendency to pull muscles all the time so I always wondered about his personal conditioning regimen. He always seemed to be a cold hitter when we needed him the most and put up prodigious numbers when it really didn’t matter.

    If Aramis feels better playing outside Chicago so be it. I hope our pitchers throw him some chin music when he comes back to visit.

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    Time for plan B

    Monday, October 30th, 2006

    From Rotoworld:

    Aramis Ramirez opted out of the final two years of his deal with the Cubs and filed for free agency on Monday.
    Had Ramirez not opted out, the Cubs would have had him at $22.5 million for the next two years with an $11 million option for 2009. As a free agent, the 28-year-old could receive at least $60 million over five years. He’ll keep negotiating with the Cubs, but it doesn’t look like the two sides are at all close to a deal. The Angels, Dodgers, Phillies, Red Sox, Giants and Padres are among the other teams that could talk to him.

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    Gary Sheffield – (Whether I like it or not)

    Monday, October 30th, 2006

    Certain things in this universe swirl and surface with such consistency that at last they permeate my being and I am left pondering or theorizing or at the very least becoming aware of their existence very much against my will.

    For instance, I have been made aware that my neighborís 19 year old cat has stopped using the litter pan. 19 years into the gig and the little guy just up and quit. I am sure this is indicative of many other afflictions that are creeping on the horizon for a cat of this age, but, perhaps cold- heartedly, I prefer not to know of them. A huge amount of such incidental knowledge fills my semi-valuable brain space, from the terrifying realities on the News to simply knowing that the show ìVeronicaís Closetî once existed, and at some point was cancelled. Now add to this perilous list of peripheral information the recent spewing of Gary Sheffield and the tantrum with which he currently disgraces New York.

    Baseball has been a nice story of late: Itís purging itself of drug abuse. It settled on a labor agreement that ensures my summers will be enjoyable through 2011. Fans are enjoying an impossible outcome to the World Series. All in all we are lucky to be part of a true golden-era on many levels of the game. But then thereís Gary Sheffield’s bone-chilling whine rising above it all and serving as a reminder and the very personification of all that is rotten within our current culture of sports.

    Poor Gary. The New York Yankees picked up his $13 million option for 2007 and he doesnít like it. For starters, he doesnít want to play first base.

    ìIf Iím just going to a team for a year, thereís going to be a problem. A big problem. I donít want to be a Yankee to play first base and DH for one year. If I do, thatís what I become (a problem). It ainít going to work. I ainít going down that easy. If you donít think much of me, someone else will.î

    But it gets worse for poor Mr. Sheffield. The likely reason the Yanks picked up his astronomical option was in hopes he would bring about astronomical trade value.

    ìHereís some friendly advice. If you want to trade for me, you have to deal with me directly. Trust me, you wonít want me to be there if Iím not happy. I donít care if I love the owner, if I love the GM, if I love the city. Iím going on my terms.î

    Some of the most enjoyable moments of baseball fandom come when an event occurs that strips the game down to its rudimentary elements. Then we are reminded that at its core, beneath all statistics and punditry lies the fact that baseball is nothing more than a magnificent game.

    Conversely, at its worst, we can be reminded that lurking somewhere deep in the soul of the game is the fact that often we are studying the achievements of businessmen who happen to be athletes. Gary Sheffieldís comments are one such reminder.

    Here is a man who has made $130 million dollars over his career in baseball, and yet in all that time he has never bought a clue. And being ìoutspokenî has long been a cover for common idiocy.

    Sheffield has the right to have a say in which direction his remarkable career will head. But how could an 18-year veteran lack the foresight to realize that barking threats to the media will just go to further cement his legacy as baseball’s reigning philistine? It is absolutely baffling that he would choose to include the rest of the world in this aspect of his employment. Even more mind blowing is that he would pick a fight with the organization that has elevated his career to its current crest and can only help in his bid for the Hall of Fame.

    And it was bashing this same team in 2005 that placed Sheffield at the forefront of the highly competitive race to become the Worldís Richest Moron in 2005 when he said of his Yankee team:

    ìDerek Jeter ain’t the leader of this pack. I know who the leader is on the team. I ain’t going to say who it is, but I know who it is. I know who the team feeds off. I know who the opposing team comes in knowing they have to defend to stop the Yankees. Why shouldn’t I tell the truth? I ain’t trying to get no Pepsi commercial.”

    My ideal outcome for Sheffield is that the Yankees get stuck with him and he gets stuck with the Yankees. Let them deal with his childish discontent. Let him make a fool of himself trying to play first base. Let him be the financial burden that prevents the Yankees from acquiring a pitching staff. How big is the market for an incredibly expensive, aging outfielder who is not afraid to attack his own organization on a regular basis anyway?

    Sure there is plenty more offense to come from this guy. But for a batter whose power originates in his wrists, it seems the current market would be quite hesitant to sign him, especially on his terms, after this yearís surgery-necessitating wrist injury. After all those years of snapping his wrists, they have begun to give up on him. In 18 big league seasons, he has played more than 100 games 13 times. In 2006 he played in just 39. Injuries have and will continue to plague his career.

    It has long been discussed that Gary Sheffield would like to run out the clock on his career in Tampa Bay (as would seemingly the rest of the world.) Heís from Tampa and you know that song-and-dance. Under Naimoli the prospect may have seemed terrifyingly plausible. But if there is one giant upside to Sternberg and Co.ís crafty penny-pinching, itís that there is no worry that a scourge such as Gary Sheffield will ever defame a Devil Ray jersey.

    This being said, I can now enjoy the events of this offseason that will actually mean something. Meanwhile, I will file Sheffieldís talented stupidity to the seldom visited outposts of my mind, where he can hang out with Kirstie Allie, the WNBA and feline incontinence.

    Gary Sheffield’s Career Stats

    Jon Wolfson is a writer for Rays of Light

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    Monday Morning Coffee

    Monday, October 30th, 2006

    With the time change making it much more enjoyable to go to work today, I figured I’d keep your day rolling well with some morning tidbits.

    • NBA Eastern Conference Preview. It’s nice to see the Bulls rating #2 in this fan’s mind. – Blog a Bull
    • Orel Hershisher to interview for A’s Job – Story
    • Rangers narrowing down their manager search – Story
    • Arizona Fall League Update from 10/28/2006 – Baseball Digest Daily
    • Arizona Fall League Update 10/29/2006 – Talking Chop
    • Fan grabs a baseball at 454 straight baseball games. Seems to me, after watching the video, that this guy needs to get a life. – Video
    • Dontrelle not expected to get long term deal – Miami Herald
    • Bruce Weber has hard feelings. Me? I hate Indiana and the devils they are. – Chicago Tribune
    • Finally, can we really end without mentioning that the Bears are now 7-0 and looking for more? I think not. Super Bowl here we come!!!!
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    Sunday Morning Smorgasbord

    Sunday, October 29th, 2006

    The other day, I had an idea for what to do with that ugly idea of blogging on Sunday. Because so many people are not at work, the number of visits to the sites are less. With that in mind, I want to point the readers to a variety of things I find on the web over the coarse of the week. The links will cover all areas of the map. Some baseball, other sports, misc. news. etc. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this each week. In addition, if you come across something that would be a good fit for the post, use our contact form and send it my way. Without any more delay, here is the first installment.

    White Sox looking at Dave Roberts (Link) – A combination of Dave Roberts and Scott Podsednick would be a deadly combination on the basepaths for the White Sox. You would almost have to start your backup catcher if he had the better arm to try to minimize the damage.

    Arizona Fall League Notebook
    October 27th, 2006

    October 24th, 2006

    2006 Minor League Free Agent List – (Link)

    Among the notable names on the list, Brandon Sing, Jared Sandberg, Tike Redman, Bubba Crosby, Bo Hart, Bobby Hill, and Tim Raines Jr.

    World Series Quiz – (Link)
    If you take this quiz, you’ll have to wait till the next article comes out for the answers.

    Fun Stuff from the Onion
    World Series overshadowed by thrilling new labor agreement – (Link)

    Kenny Rogers denies cheatin’ during World Series – (Link)

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    What’s worse than a punch to the gut?

    Saturday, October 28th, 2006

    Perhaps a kick to the groin. Fresh off seeing the Cardinals crowned the champions of baseball last night, I open my e-paper and read that “The representative for free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez said Friday no deal is close between Ramirez and the Cubs.” So basically, in the span of about a week, we can see the Redbirds win and our All-Star third baseman test the free agent market. This has to get done. We have got to get Ramirez on this team if we have any chance at moving to the frontrunner in the division next year.

    I look at the Central and I see a division ripe for the taking. The Cardinals, champions as they are, are still old and virtually pitcherless. Don’t let the Reyes and Weaver’s of the playoffs fool you. These are no dominant pitchers. The Astros and Brewers are the other two teams that have potential. Neither of them really scare me. Jim Hendry needs to move on Ramirez and get this done.

    I see no other alternative. So let’s fire up the hot stove and get this team back to playoff caliber. 2003 seems way too far away.

    In other news, Joe Niekro passed away due to a brain aneurysm on Friday. His is some information about his career via Wikipedia.

    Joseph Franklin Niekro, was an American starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, the younger brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, and the father of current San Francisco Giants first baseman Lance Niekro.

    Niekro, like his brother, specialized in throwing the knuckleball, and his 221 career victories make him one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers of all time. The Niekro brothers combined for 539 total wins, making them the most successful brother combination in baseball history.

    Joe Niekro was much more traveled than his brother, pitching for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers with only occasional success before joining Phil with the Atlanta Braves in 1973. Initially a fastball/curveball pitcher, Joe perfected his knuckleball while pitching for Atlanta alongside brother Phil, and two years later joined the Houston Astros, where he would become the most successful pitcher in Astros history. The knuckleball became an essential part of his arsenal though never his sole pitch. Joe threw harder than Phil and could set up batters nearly as effectively with his fastball in combination with his excellent change-up. In 1976, he hit his first and only big league home run in 973 lifetime at bats, off his brother Phil. He was an All-Star in 1979, a year in which he led the National League in wins with 21, threw a league-leading five shutouts, and finished second in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

    The Niekro brothers were briefly reunited again in 1985 when Joe was acquired by the New York Yankees. In June 1987, the Yankees traded Niekro to the Minnesota Twins. A month later, on August 3, 1987, with the pennant race heating up and the Twins leading the American League West, Niekro was ejected for having a nail file on the mound. Niekro claimed he had been filing his nails in the dugout and stuck the file in his back pocket when the inning started and had not been doctoring baseballs. National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti didn’t believe him, and suspended Niekro for ten days.

    When Niekro appeared in the 1987 World Series, he set a record for the longest period of time elapsed between a player’s major league debut and his first appearance in the World Series.

    On May 4, 1988, after compiling a 10.03 earned run average in his first five games, the Twins released Niekro, effectively ending his 22-year career.

    Joe Niekro
    1944 – 2006
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    What I learned about today.

    Saturday, October 28th, 2006

    The Chicago Cubs opened the season with high hopes. In a division they knew was weak, they added a leadoff hitter and a left-handed bat. They strengthened their bench. They had a mix of young and old, with Murton and Cedeno offsetting Jones and Maddux. They had players in their prime who were offensive powerhouses in Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. They had an emerging ace in Carlos Zambrano, a solid closer in Dempster, and other pitchers like Prior, Wood, and Rusch who had good seasons for the team in the past. They had a manager who had been successful and a big payroll. 90 games, it appeared in the preseason, would have won it. They didn’t have to build the ’27 Yanks. The ’87 Twins would have been enough.

    And then the season happened. Injury and bad management were the antagonists, and this movie would end up having the kind of happy ending only Bergman could devise. When the curtain closed, the hated St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of a weak division that, had the Cubs played slightly above .500 ball, they would have owned. The rival Cards back-doored into the playoffs and emerged on top of the major leagues, hoisting high the World Series trophy.

    It is in this way that I discovered a new sort of religion. It is this:
    Hell is being a Cubs fan.
    We’re being punished for something we did a long time ago. For me, it was the pain I inflicted upon my brother James, who bore the brunt of all the misguided agression from my childhood.
    My personal hell is also inflicted due to the bludgeoning-based bullying I committed as an unhappy youth upon the Loser (pronounced LOW-ZER) family, Chris and Brandy. I regularly beat them up as a child.

    I apologize to the aforementioned. I have to believe something which cannot be explained by the natural laws of the universe is afoot. After seeing the Green Bay Packers beat the crap out of the Bears throughout the nineties and now watching the St. Louis Cardinals, 83 game winners and my personal baseball bane, win the series, there’s some personal crap going on ‘tween me and the universe.

    I’d like to believe that it’s a management team that’s just one step behind the competition. Again. For the 98th straight year.

    I’d like to believe that, in a 7 game series, the hot team, not the best team or the best matchup, wins.

    But for Buddha‘s sake, I’m 35 and in the third generation of inept management! My dad was FOUR years old the last time this team was in the World Series! And I’m looking down the barrel of another gun packed with a “Win Now” manager and a short-term GM willing to sacrifice his farm system to save his job.

    On this night when the team that even Cardinals fans must admit has been their crummiest in years emerges as the World Champs, that these years I’ve been enduring as a Cubs fan are penance for all the things I did wrong while I was learning what I now know.

    Congrats to the Cards. I hope Chris and Brandy Loser are Cards fans.

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    Congrats to the Japanese champions!

    Friday, October 27th, 2006

    Japanese baseball has been dominated for years by the likes of “old school” teams, such as the Yomiuri Giants, Chiunichi Dragons, Hanshin Tigers and Seibu Lions. These teams all play in the older Central Division, but they have not fared well in recent years. For American comparisons, please consider recent National versus American League results.

    This year the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (whose roster includes Jose Macias) have claimed the title. The Fighters have been ably managed by Trey Hillman (pictured at right, rather upside down,) a former AAA Columbus Clippers manager. My gut instinct is that Trey will be announced soon as the new manager of the Texas Rangers. Trey is potentially a younger version of Cubs manager Lou Piniella. The big star for the Fighters (named after the Japanese meatpacking conglomerate Nippon Ham) is pitcher Yu Darvish (pictured to the left;) Yu shares both Iranian and Japanese ancestry – American Major League fans will start to hear about Yu in about six years when he nears free agent eligibility. Their victory was iced by a former Montreal Expo player named Fernando Seguignol, seen in the picture to the right hitting a two-run homer off of Chuinichi Dragons pitcher Kenshin Kawakami.

    Hokkaido used to be one of the three “Tokyo” teams and could not survive in a market that included Yomiuri. In bad games they had less than a thousand fans, so the team headed to the northern island when Sapporo built a domed stadium. Nippon players insist that their championship could not have happened without the urgent support of the Hokkaido faithful – compare and contrast that with the egotistical “me-ism” of their American equivalents!

    For American baseball fans this is the equivalent of the Seattle Mariners winning a championship – best of luck to the Fighters’ players and congratulations to their fans!

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