Wednesday, January 31, 2007


In all of my running around I completely overlooked Barry Bonds's blog. His excitement, love for the fans & for the game is affable. Wait, wrong word. I meant laughable. See for your self.

Dear Fans,

I am excited to announce that I will be playing baseball in a Giants uniform this season. I have always said, and continue to say, that San Francisco is my home and where I want to be. I am committed to the organization and I am looking forward to a championship season with my teammates.

My trip to the Dominican Republic was awesome. The Juan Marichal Golf Classic was a great success and I love spending time with the Marichal family, telling stories about the days when Juan, Willie and my dad played. I have to give a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Luis Jose Asilis and the
Marichal family for their hospitality during my stay in the DR.

Right now I am enjoying being home with my family, working out and preparing for Spring Training. See you all in February.


Later,


Barry Bonds


Not so fast Bar-oid. Right now Bud Selig has mad scientists and a braintrust reminiscient of the Manhattan Project mulling through ways to keep Bonds from breaking Hank Aaron's record in 2007. As Highlander would announce: There can be only one! We will see what goes down in the coming days. I predict a Bonds contract will be completed prompting Selig to go into hiding when Aaron's record is soiled, er . . . surpassed.

If you remember those entertaining "MadLib" books, this Bonds address would certainly make a good one. All you have to do is substitute "performance-enhancing drugs" for every noun. For example: "Right now I am enjoying being home with my performance-enhancing drugs." It's that easy.

Epstein & Son: You Got Punked

UPDATE: Apparently Theo may have pulled a fast one on Sports Illustrated, the media in general, bloggers and myself. A story at Boston.com reports that the "Theo at Nathan's" was a rouse spurred by Epstein's father.

‘‘[I’m] following the lead of my father and uncle -- some day I’ll give you a list of their gags,’’ he said in an e-mail today. ‘‘There was once a mean grocer in their neighborhood as kids and they got a friend to dress up in a Western Union uniform and brought him news that he had won the Irish Sweepstakes. The guy ran into the street and gave away the whole store.’’

Leslie Epstein said he was sworn to secrecy on the actual site of the wedding. Last night, he’d accepted congratulations from a Globe reporter and written: ‘‘We’re very happy for them, of course, but we can’t say much more other than Marie has some strong childhood memories of Coney Island and that’s why we all went down to watch the orthodox rabbi who married them at Nathan’s Famous. It’s amazing the grip that nostalgia has on people.

‘‘Neither Theo or Marie has ever been to Coney Island as far as I know, or has ever tasted a Nathan’s Famous (though I have -- perfectly delicious), and Rabbi Schnitzlebaum slept
undisturbed all day long. In short, not a word of it was meant to be taken seriously.’’

Congratulations to Theo's dad for completing one of the strangest gags of all time. At least we now know where Theo got his misdirecton talents from. Numerous general managers have implied Theo is prone to tampering. Exhibit "A" is the J.D. Drew deal, in which many believe Red Sox officials hinted that Nancy Drew's opting out of his contract may earn him mega-dollars on the free-agent market. The result? A five-year $70 million deal from Boston.

Spring Invite for Bern, Bonds Contract Rejected, General Manager's Fastfood Marriage

RedSox GM Theo Epstein got married recently. It wasn't in Boston and it wasn't at the Four Seasons:
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, known for his stealth in baseball deals, quietly got married this month, according to a published report.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that Epstein's father, Leslie Epstein, confirmed his son married Marie Whitney in New York at the original Nathan's Famous hot dog stand, built in 1916.

"We're very happy for them, of course, but we can't say much more other than Marie has some strong childhood memories of Coney Island, and that's why we all went down to watch the orthodox rabbi who married them at Nathan's Famous. It's amazing the grip that nostalgia has on people," the elder Epstein, head of the creative writing department at Boston University, told the Globe in an e-mail.

Are you kidding me? Not only does Theo get married in the Evil Empire's lair, he does so at a Nathan's Famous? And his parents sounded thrilled about the ceremony. Sounded like a child at the dinner table after Daddy smacked Mommy during an argument. I had heard of drive-through marriages in Vegas, but hot dog stands? That takes some cajones or maybe just a little too big an obsession with frankfurters.

*
The Yankees invited Bernie Williams to Spring training as a nonguaranteed minor leaguer.
Although he could more money somewhere else, Williams seems immovable. John Heyman says:
Williams still could decide to retire, too. But the third option, which is to sign a better deal with another team, seems to be out of the question.

Though Williams could have gotten a guaranteed contract elsewhere, people close to him say he considers himself a Yankee and only a Yankee.

Williams knows that if he decides to return for what amounts to a tryout, through no fault of his own he becomes the story of spring, superseding returning hero Andy Pettitte, at least until Roger Clemens decides whether to rejoin them.

If Bernie decides to accept the Spring invitation - which is a slap in the face & the ultimate portrayal of loyalty - there is always the outside chance that he could make the team. With Joe Torre's admiration for Bernie, he would push hard to make room for him on the roster. We'll see what happens, but I would think that Melky's status as a trade chip has died down - until the trading deadline maybe.


*

After writing yesterday that the Bonds contract has finally been finalized, the Commish has thrown a monkey-wrench into the deal. Apparently, Bud Selig rejected the agreement:

Complicating matters, Bonds' contract was not approved by the commissioner's office because it contained a personal-appearance provision, a baseball executive said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details had not been made public.

Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said late Tuesday the team was redrafting the agreement and sending him a revised version by express mail for Bonds to review and sign.

Surely, there are technical reasons why the commissioner's office did not approve the contract, but there might be more behind it. Maybe Selig will reject any deal offered until Barry Bonds is forced out of baseball. Wait, that's just a fantasy of mine, but the Commish sure isn't making it easy on Bonds.

Mussina On Pavano, Rotation

The Man from Stan-ford spoke to Yankees.com about the 2007 rotation, Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson and being the oldest player on the team.

On Carl the Krutch:
"I think [Pavano] has to do his job and kind of be a new guy again. That's the best way to put it," Mussina said in New York, where he was honored at the 27th annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner. "He's been away a long time. There were periods of time when he got real close, and everybody thought he was going to come back, and he didn't.

"He's got to earn some trust from some players again, and from the coaching staff and the manager and the organization. If he can do it, we know he can pitch and we know he can get people out. If he gets over those hurdles, he'll be an asset."
On the '07 rotation:
"If our staff goes out there healthy and pitches, we're going to be good," Mussina

The staff surrounding Mussina in the first days of camp at Legends Field might take some getting used to. Re-acquainting with Andy Pettitte won't be much of an issue, but Mussina will be curious to see up close what both Pavano and newcomer KeiIgawa can provide.
On G-Unit:
Mussina seemed to allude that Johnson "doesn't seem like he has a lot of fun pitching in New York, and he certainly wears it on his sleeve."

Simply put, Johnson never was able to completely adjust to life in the big city.

"I just think that the expectations that New York posed with the Yankees -- all the media coverage -- the expectations are large and high," Mussina said. "Randy's name is synonymous with 15 strikeouts and 20 wins and Cy Young Awards and all this stuff.

"When you put on the pinstripes, you're expected to do that 35 times a year. Realistically, that's not possible, but you can't fight it either. You have to roll with it and expect to do well. I just think he got a bad taste in his mouth."

Mussina can be blunt at times and the topic of Pavano brings out the straight-shooter in Moose. Over the past two years of absenteeism Pavano has earned himself a lot of doubters and many of them are in his own clubhouse. It will take more than an impressive Spring to regain trust in the locker room. If he ever returns to the major league level again and begins to pitch with the same success seen in 2004, everything else will become unimportant.

As for Randy, Mussina paints a pretty ugly portrait. This is to be expected when the subject is a grump approaching his mid-40s. "Wearing" his distaste for New York on his sleeve shows how much Johnson enjoyed pitching here - confirmed by the fraternity-party atmosphere during his reintroduction as a Diamondback. G-Unit is probably about as miserable a locker-room influence there is, only further lauding the reacquisition of Andy P.

Random Mussina Link.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Even Bonds' Contract Stinks

The Giants new deal with Barry Bonds has an unprecedented stipulation. If Bonds is indicted with Federal steroids charges, San Francisco can void his contract.

Barry Bonds gave the San Francisco Giants the right to terminate his $15.8 million, one-year contract if he is indicted.

The unusual provision, included in the deal that was completed Monday night, protects the team in case Bonds is charged in the federal government's steroids investigation.

Under 7(b)(1), a team may terminate a contract if the player shall "fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the club's training rules."

Section 7(b)(3) gives the team the right to end the deal if a player shall "fail, refuse or neglect to render his services hereunder or in any manner materially breach this contract."

In addition, the Giants have the less drastic option of converting Bonds' deal to nonguaranteed, the baseball executive said. Players with nonguaranteed contracts can be released before opening day for 30 or 45 days' termination pay, depending on the timing.

Brian Sabean sounds more like Carlo Gambino concealing a paper trail than a baseball general manager protecting himself from public backlash and financial liability. But these are the burdens emanating from steroids' black cloud. Pretty soon Major League managers will be accompanied by their own personal lawyer - in the dugout - to avoid legal trouble.

In the mean time, Chris Henry has been arrested for the third time this season, raising the Bengals tally to nine players arrested in thirteen months. Tank Johnson's impression of Luca Brasi (along with countless other potential black eyes) have been completely ignored by the NFL and by extension the viewing public. Justifying the statement: the NFL is bulletproof and MLB is not.

Also contained in Bar-oid's new contract comes the banishment of his million-man entourage. No longer can his wisterol-hoarding cronies enjoy the Lazyboy recliner or 80 inch plasma housed in Barry's wing of the Giants clubhouse.
Under the new agreement, two of Bonds' trainers -- Harvey Shields and Greg Oliver -- no longer will be on the Giants' payroll. They also won't be permitted in restricted areas in any major league ballpark, such as the clubhouse.

"I have no problems with it," Bonds said. "[Oliver] and Harvey will be with me, just outside the ballpark."

Damn, what's next? Maybe they'll make Bar-oid warm up in the parking lot and sit in the stands when the Giants are batting. Sounds about right. In the mean time I will keep my fingers crossed for an indictment and subsequent contract termination. Who's with me?

The Prospectus Speaks


The immortal Baseball Prospectus has released their edition of FutureShock for the Yankees. Kevin Goldstein ranks the top 10 prospects, separating the premiere from the preliminary. The list looks like this:
Excellent Prospects
1. Philip Hughes, rhp
2. Jose Tabata, rf

Very Good Prospects
3. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
4. Humberto Sanchez, rhp
5. Dellin Betances, rhp

Good Prospects
6. Kevin Whelan, rhp

Average Prospects
7. Tyler Clippard, rhp
8. J. Brent Cox, rhp
9. Ian Kennedy, rhp
10. Alberto Gonzalez, ss
I will not attempt to refute Goldstein's ranking of the top ten, but readers should realize that this ranking is not the be-all-end-all. In my mind, guys like Kennedy and Cox already fall under the "Good" category, but all of the Yankee prospects have the opportunity to move up the rankings. Although Clippard seems doomed to be a mid-level prospect until he is promoted to the Majors and proves otherwise.

The Prospectus then lists the pros, cons, and random insights into what a prospect is or could become. Here's a look at the top three:
1. Philip Hughes, rhp
The Good: The total package, making him the best pitching prospect in the game. His 92-96 mph fastball has good movement to go along with outstanding location, and his hard curveball gives him a second major-league-quality out pitch. His change-up is at least average, and has nice fade and deception. His size is ideal and his mechanics are nearly flawless.
The Bad: 2006 was Hughes' first season with no health problems, and he was treated with kid gloves at the end of the season. He's yet to prove that he can hold up under a full-season workload, although he was as dominant as ever at the end of the year.
The Irrelevant: In the first inning of games, opposing hitters facing Hughes hit .125 (11-for-88) with 34 strikeouts.

2. Jose Tabata, rf
The Good: Plus hitting skills and a mature approach well beyond his years. With outstanding bat speed and excellent hand/eye coordination, Tabata projects through the roof offensively based on what he's already been able to do at such a young age. He's a tick-above-average runner and a solid outfielder with a good arm.
The Bad: While nobody questions Tabata's ability to hit for average down the road, his power projection is a matter of some debate. Some feel that his pure hitting skills are enough to project for plus power, with others are concerned that his smallish frame will limit him to no more than 15-20 home runs annually.
The Irrelevant: In 2006, Tabata hit .261 with the bases empty, and .331 with runners on base.

3. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
The Good: Projected as a top pick early in the college season, injury issues dropped him to the supplemental first round. He's already looking like a draft-day steal. Chamberlain blew away scouts in the Hawaiian Winter League, pumping out mid-90s fastballs and plus sliders. He's a big-bodied power pitcher with the much-desired combination of plus stuff and plus command.
The Bad: Chamberlain at times borders between big-bodied and fat, and conditioning will always be an issue. He needs to improve the arm action on his change-up. He can be guilty at times of falling in love with his fastball, and needs to mix in his secondary pitches more often.
The Irrelevant: Chamberlain is a Native American and a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
Interesting that they projected Joba higher than Humberto Sanchez, but I think the twosome is very similar. They are both big-bodied power pitchers who could suffer from weight-problems. They both have had injury problems in their past, spawning GM's reluctance to annoint them (particularly Sanchez) top-level talent. Tabata's batting average with runners-on-base is an intriguing statistic. His ability to raise his game when RBI are up for grabs is a positive sign.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Highway to Helton is A Dead End

With help from Rockies CEO Charlie Monfort, the Todd Helton to Boston deal has officially fallen apart.

"This is not a trade that we were anxious to complete, but we are always exploring ways to improve our team," Monfort said. "Discussions like these regarding a player of Todd's talent and character are never easy, and it's not surprising we were not able to reach an agreement. Todd has been and will continue to be an important part of our franchise, and we can't wait to see him with the rest of the Rockies in Tucson."

The Rockies, who train in Arizona, added that there will be no further discussions.

The second stumbling block was which prospects would have headed to Colorado as part of any package. The Rockies were said to be asking for young pitching, with Hansen, Delcarmen, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester rumored to be discussed.

The Boston Herald reported on Monday that Josh Beckett, while watching the movie "Fever Pitch" over the weekend at his Florida home, had thrown his support behind the left-handed-hitting slugger. On Monday, another Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling, called Helton "the toughest out, by far" he's ever faced in the Majors.

Aw, poor Schill. I guess his "toughest out" will remain in a competitor's uniform. Even those Yankee fans who downplayed Helton as the benefactor of a little league home-park are relieved his bat was not added to Boston's lineup.

Helton Update. Monday Round-Up

Clemens threw from a mound today, told reporters he wouldn't pitch a full season, and all of us couldn't care less. In all probability, Clemens will not join a team until April and May, making the continuous Rocket updates a bit absurd. That's pure hypocrisy on my part, but I find the Clemens-courting hilarious and therefore must cover such ridiculousness.

*
So much for the no-doubt-about-it mentality swirling around a Todd Helton deal. Following speculation that the Rockies would basically eat the majority of his remaining contract in exchange for Mike Lowell, Julian Tavarez and a bag of balls, Colorado's CEO burst their bubble.
"This is Todd Helton we're talking about," Colorado owner and CEO Charlie Monfort told The Associated Press. "We're not just going to give him up for nothing... Tavarez and Lowell are good, and they'll help us this season, but we need to get something else pretty good in return," Monfort said. "So, we'll see."

The Red Sox are believed to be offering third baseman Mike Lowell (one year, $9 million remaining) and right-hander Julian Tavarez in exchange for Helton. The Rockies are interested in young pitching, with various reports pointing toward Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen as possible chips in any deal.

Monfort also told the AP that if a deal is to be struck, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd would likely make it happen by the end of the week.

"I don't see it dragging on. If Dan and Theo can work out the bodies in the next couple of days, it will happen," said Monfort, who would need to sign off on the trade.

As someone who believes Helton to be a powerful offensive weapon - particularly in Fenway's confines - I would welcome Colorado's nixing of a potential trade. And after hearing some of the possible offers the RedSox were making for Helton, I found it strange that baseball writers were not dismissing it as an unreasonable mismatch of talent. Monfort has raised the ante. We'll have to wait and see what Theo's next move will be.


*
Brian Sabean's Barry Bonds holdout appears to be on the verge of crumbling as Bar-oid will soon finish a one-year deal. The contract was thought to have been completed weeks ago, but an amphetamine fopah and ownership-reluctance slowed the process. They fought the good fight, but the evil Bonds will live to rise another day.


*
The Alaskan Loudmouth says he plans on pitching in 2008, putting a damper on any political aspirations until thereafter. Asked if he would consider pitching in the Bronx, Schilling sounded an emphatic "no."
"Where I'm going to play beyond 2007? I hope it's Boston, but I will go out and find a home to pitch," he said. "I hope it's here, but there's also that possibility [of pitching elsewhere]. It would not be to New York."

Schilling, who is signed through the upcoming season, also said on WEEI that he is hopeful that a deal with the Red Sox can be worked out before Spring Training.
For someone who named his son after Lou Gehrig, Curt sure has a lot of pent up aggression toward the Bombers.


*
Earlier today, Barbaro hit the hay for good. Racehorses have a tough life: win or face ruthless trainers, become injured and face euthanasia.

Highway to Helton & "The Coors Fx"

Since Todd Helton has already made it clear he would OK a trade that sent him to Boston, it's time to learn more about this forgotten Mile-High hitter. The hitter's paradise that was Coors Field cannot be ignored, but many baseball stat-nerds believe it is now comparable to Wrigley. Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton can attest to the tendency for flyballs to become satellites.

Neagle
effectively committed career suicide as he followed a terrible showing in pinstripes with the kiss of death: three years in Colorado. In his final three seasons, Neagle posted ERAs of 5.38, 5.26 & 7.90 respectively. The last season saw Neagle allow 12 homeruns in only seven starts. At age 34 his career was over.

After six seasons as a starting pitcher, Hampton was impressive with an average ERA of about 3.50 per year. The next two years he spent in Colorado. He tossed about 400 innings - which is to be respected these days - but posted ERAs of 5.41 and 6.15. His first season away from Colorado yielded Hampton another sub-4.00 ERA.

Meanwhile, the Rockies hitters were doing just fine and "Highway To" Helton was on a rampage. Following his 1998 2nd Place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting, Helton earned himself the 2000 NL Batting Title with a .372 average. The next five years he would hit .336, .329, .358, .347, and .320 respectively.

Between 2000-2003, he was in the top-ten in MVP voting three different times. During this same four-year period, Helton won four straight SilverSlugger awards as a first-baseman. He was an Allstar five consecutive seasons from 2000-2004 and earned himself three GoldGloves at first. A doubles machine, Helton has posted 40+ doubles in 6 of his 9 professional seasons - he had 37, 39 & 39 in the other three seasons. The accommodating Fenway gaps would reward such a hitter.

The last seven years Helton also displayed patience at the plate, walking at least 90 times each season, and reaching the century mark on five occasions. For a "dwindling" star, Helton's OBP has constantly impressed. Last year's .404 OBP was the lowest since his 1999 OBP of .395. His career OBP of .430 rivals on-base hounds like Giambi, Pujols, Manny, etc.

In fact, for his career Helton sees 3.97 pitches per plate-appearance. The career numbers for Giambi and Manny are 4.10 and 4.04 in this category. His OBP and #P/PA are just the types of Moneyball fixtures that have Theo Epstein salivating.

Furthermore, the past few years Coors Field's status as an NL launchpad has noticeably declined since the "Coors Canaveral" days (referring to the NASA launchsite, Cape Canaveral). Here's a scientific, mathematical breakdown of "The Coors Effect" occuring during the mid-1990s through the early 2000s. But that was then, this is now. An unappreciated story from Scout.com reveals the statistical withdrawl of the Coors Field offensive explosion:

In 2002, everyone was abuzz about the Great Humidor Scandal of Colorado. It had been revealed that the Rockies kept their gameday balls in a humidity controlled chamber before use, thus making them less lively. The park would go on to engender the most runs scored in baseball for two of the next three seasons, though never again would the park do so for home runs hit.

Right now, it’s safe to say that the Humidor has indeed slightly depressed home run totals at Coors, though not to the extent that the uproar of 2002 was justified. But now in 2006, it appears that we may have learned our lesson too well. Through the first six weeks of the season, Coors had actually played like a pitcher’s park, and we haven’t heard a peep from anybody about it.

Well, let the silence be broken. Through May, Coors field ranked 21st among ballparks in runs allowed and 23rd in home runs hit. Specifically, runs in Coors have been depressed by 6.5% and home runs have been depressed by 17.5% versus the average of the other parks that the Rockies have played in so far, and all this during a season in which home runs are up 25% league-wide over the first 40 games.

The excerpt is not intended as some sort of conspiracy theory or a way of talking up Todd Helton as Jimmie Foxx only to bury him if he fails in Boston. There is no denying the thin air contributed to Helton's offensive statistics, but there is also no denying his periods of dominance (Takes more than a hitter's park to create Helton's career .333 batting average).

Neither
an immortal offensive powerhouse or an inflated scrub, Helton falls somewhere in between, along the lines of the perennial allstar and professional hitter. If Boston is able to complete a deal for Helton, Yankee fans should be weary as a lineup already bolstered by Lugo & Drew only gets deeper. Especially if the deal does not further chip away at an already decimated AL East bullpen. Pitching wins championships and right now Boston has the starters, plus a dynamite order. If a respectable bullpen falls into line during Spring training the Sawx will be tough to beat.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Roundup: Manny for Helton? Bernie & Barry.

The Helton deal has traveled from rumor to an actual possibility. Buster Olney says that Boston and Colorado are in "high-level talks" with an underwhelming package possibly going to the Rox:

In the current proposal, the Red Sox would send Lowell, Tavarez and prospects to the Rockies. But the identity of the prospects could hold up the deal: The Rockies want relief pitchers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, while the Red Sox do not want to give up either at this time.
The brilliant Woody Paige, jester of ESPN's "Around the Horn," threw his take into the pot. Paige believes the Rockies should be getting Manny Ramirez back for any Helton deal. He then compares Manny to Dante Bichette, reminding us that this is Woody Paige we're reading.

*
Newsday believes it is doubtful that San Francisco will cut ties with Bonds. Good for Barry, bad for Earth.

*
Bernie's still torn on his decision for 2007. Here's what Bern Baby Berned about:
"That's the part of this game that's always hard to deal with, the business side," he said. "When this point comes, it's always hard. It doesn't come as a surprise to me. As a player you should never take that personally."

"There are a lot of things I can't control," he said. "Right now I'm just going to stay in shape and see what happens. I've got to wait and see what my options are."
The find it hard to believe the Yankees will retain Williams as a 5th outfielder. And it is even harder to believe - even a classy yeoman like Bernie - could swallow such a low-profile demotion. He would spend 80% of his time in the dugout, have to claw for plate-appearances, and would have little effect on the outcome of games.

*
As the El-Train turns, the drama in Chisox town has just begun. As talked about yesterday, Mark Buerhle and GM Kenny Williams are not on the best of terms right now.
"I picked up the paper [Saturday] morning, read this article and it made me sad,'' Williams said. ''I've told you guys before that one of the things that's tough for me to balance is becoming close to the players, and I am close with them, a lot of them. That makes it particularly hard when you have to handle the business of baseball. There's a way to do it and a way not to do it. In an effort to be truthful, honest, candid, this just doesn't work.''
Sounds like someone's getting more mushy and less menacing. Williams still scares the hell out of me. While Chicago shows their disinterest in Buerhle's future, they may be seeking a return of defensive impresario Aaron Rowand. Rowand is a free agent after the 2007 season.

*
This just in: Johan Santana is going to get paid a lot of free-agent money. The Boston Herald says that Santana Has Power. That's like saying "The W" has an approval rating problem.

If the two sides can’t work something out by the end of spring training, Santana’s tenure with the Twins could be in doubt.

“If the team really wants to retain him they’re probably going to have to do something soon,” said Greenberg, who added it’s unlikely for his client to seek an extension in the final year of his deal with free agency approaching.

If Kansas City is willing to give Gil Meche a five-year, $55 million deal, imagine what Santana and his agent, Peter Greenberg, could have commanded this winter.
This is a scary thought. Since Santana is about 10-times the pitcher Gil Meche is, is it fair to just multiply $55 million by 10 and give Johan half a billion dollars?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

RedSox Interested In Helton. ChiSox & Buehrle Not So Much

The Rockies have begun their annual get-out-from-under Todd Helton contract sweepstakes a little earlier this year. But this time, the player is a bit more intriguing. The Denver Post is reporting that the Boston Red Sox are discussing a trade for the lefthanded first-baseman:

The Rockies are in discussions with the Boston Red Sox involving a trade of Todd Helton, according to multiple baseball sources.

Nothing is imminent, but negotiations are expected to resume Monday or Tuesday when Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd returns to work after tending to a family matter. Helton, 33, has a complete no-trade clause, but has said he would consider Boston.

Helton has six years and $90.1 million remaining on his contract, and the Red Sox could face luxury-tax penalties if they acquire the first baseman, issues that would have to be resolved.

Helton has been bothered periodically by a back injury the past five years, and last season he landed on the disabled list because of a serious stomach ailment. Helton's age, back and contract caused the Angels to cool on a deal.

Helton has not hit over 20 homeruns since the 2004 season, but he is a career .333 hitter and may experience a rebirth in Fenway. Check out the numbers, Helton may have regressed slugging-wise but he is still a professional, dangerous hitter to insert into an already formidable lineup. Whether the deal progresses or not, the RedSox have again displayed a Yankee bankroll - which is to say, nothing is unattainable.

*
Mark Buehrle is getting kicked out the door before the 2007 Spring training commences. GM Kenny Williams and Buehrle have had an old-school showdown of sorts during the offseason and it would not take a Mensa certification to predict the southpaw would be pitching elsewhere come 2008.

"I want to be back, but I've seen direct quotes from Kenny saying that Mark Buehrle won't be in a White Sox uniform in 2008," Buehrle said. "I'm just kind of going off what he said."

Williams, speaking loudly and slowly, trying extra hard to get his message across, claims that's not what he said at all.

"I don't remember saying that in those words ... " Williams explained. "In assessing what our focus is and what our direction is, is there something there that's a realistic opportunity in retaining Buehrle? Only he knows the answer to that. Have we explored the possibility? Yes.

"Am I optimistic? Not at all. Not at all. If somebody is going to try to paint a picture of some Draconian stance or remarks, they're painting the wrong picture and they've got a little bit of a twisted view ...

"All we need to be focused on, whether it's Mark Buehrle or any other player who has a contractual issue for 2008 -- I say again, for 2008 -- is take care of 2007. Take care of 2007, because you win, and we win.

"Play him the tape."

"I just said 'Hi' to (Williams on Thursday)," Buehrle said. "I haven't had the chance to sit down and talk to him.

"I probably won't, either."

I would love to be a ChiSox beat guy right about now. The flames have been officially fanned and more verbal battles may be lingering around the bend. I'll give Williams credit for one thing, he sure as hell does not beat around the bush (think the Frank Thomas exit).

*
Jake Peavy has been exonerated for a recent misconduct charge at Mobile Regional Airport.
Peavy was arrested in his hometown after he parked in front of the airport entrance Jan. 4.

When the airport officer ordered the vehicle moved or be ticketed, Peavy indicated he would take the ticket. Peavy then made a comment about "a real cop" as opposed to airport security and was subsequently arrested and booked into Mobile Country Metro Jail on the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said.

Tyson told the judge at a court hearing Thursday the decision to dismiss came "on the recommendation of the individual officer involved and the chief of airport police."

There ya go Jake. The 350k bond kept him from spending more than a few minutes behind bars and the airport policeman has lost whatever authority he had once held.

Cashman Makes ESPN Kiss the Ring


Keith Law at ESPN.com has ranked the Major League farm systems from top to bottom. His top five looked like this:

1. Tampa Bay: Packed with high-ceiling bats and a lot of pitching depth, although most of it was in A-ball in 2006.

2. Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta give them two outstanding up-the-middle prospects, and outfielder Dexter Fowler, who turned down a chance to go to some liberal arts school in Cambridge, Mass., looks like an outstanding late sign from 2005.

3. Arizona: One of the most impressive waves of hitting prospects that any team has assembled continues in 2007 with Chris Young ready to step in and Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Upton coming along behind him.

4. Kansas City: Little depth, but their top three prospects (Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Luke Hochevar) are as good as any organization's top three.

5. N.Y. Yankees: Massive improvement since 2005, buttressed by some trades for prospects and a higher-ceiling approach to the draft.
Since Yankees fans have been used to ignoring the wasteland that was the Bomber farm-system, I would be remiss if I did not also mention his bottom five. The worst minor league system seems to be a consensus no-brainer:

26. Texas: Probably the shocker of the list for me, as the Rangers' touted DVD trio hasn't panned out as planned, with Thomas Diamond looking destined for the pen and John Danks dealt to pick up the more major-league ready Brandon McCarthy.

27. San Francisco: No surprise here, as the Giants have willfully surrendered their first-round picks for years until they were forced by the rules to keep their No. 1 in 2006, which they used to select Tim Lincecum, now their top prospect.

28. St. Louis: Saved from the bottom spot by Colby Rasmus, who just needs to pass the Double-A test to become one of the top 10 to 15 prospects in the minors.

29. Philadelphia: Thin system which got thinner by the sudden rise of Cole Hamels. The closest solid-average prospect to the majors here is Carlos Carrasco, who spent the year in low-A.

30. San Diego: The system's best prospects are Kevin Kouzmanoff, a low-power corner bat just acquired from Cleveland, and pitcher Cesar Carrillo, who missed the last half of the season with elbow trouble. Years of unproductive drafts have really taken a toll here.
Another ESPN "Insider" offered his two cents on the legitimacy (or lack thereof) that accompanies top-prospect hype. Hell, Rob Neyer even came up with a grading system. Studying the minor league systems of 10 MLB franchises, Neyer took Baseball America's list of 50 prospects (the top-5 from each team) and ranked them from grades of A through F. Of the 50 prospects analyzed, only six of them received an "A" grade. They were Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Joe Crede, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano.

Keith Law also formulated a more in-depth analysis of the top farm systems. Here's what he had to say on what impressed him most about the Yankee minor leagues:
What sets the Yankees' system apart from most others is the presence of two of the 10 best prospects in baseball, something no other organization can claim. The first of these two is right-handed pitcher Philip Hughes, who should show up in the Bronx in the first half of this season. The Yanks' first-round pick in 2004 has rocketed through the system with two consistent plus-plus pitches in a 93-95 mph fastball with fair sink, and a 12-to-6 curveball, and he has a promising changeup as well.

Hughes' hitting counterpart on the Yanks' prospect depth chart is teenaged center fielder Jose Tabata [who] has an outstanding package of tools, but also has a degree of baseball acumen not often seen in players so young.
He has a quick bat with developing power and good command of the strike zone. He has good instincts in center, with a plus arm that will allow him to move to right if he outgrows center.

The Yanks' system also now boasts depth that it hasn't had in years. Trading Gary Sheffield netted the Yankees another top pitching prospect in Humberto Sanchez as well as two live arms in Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett. The Yanks also added two more tough signs in Mark Melancon and sashimi-raw flamethrower Dellin Betances. [The Yankees farm has shown] significant improvement for such a short period of time, and that's very bad news for the other four teams in the AL East.
I don't know if I would call Dellin Betances "sashimi-raw" because he has apparently taken large strides during a minuscule serving of professional ball. Perhaps Law was describing the 6-8 Betances before the Yankees drafted him, but we both agree on one thing . . . he does throw smoke. The teenager has impressed Nardi Contreras by bettering his mechanics and delivery which thereby helps loosen any "wild" tag. A well-located plus fastball that can reach 99mph can be a reliable backbone for a pitching prospect who is developing an above average knuckle-curve.

A lot of the naysayers on 18 year-old Tabata have said he lacks the power (and frame) needed to be an impact outfielder. But, his physical maturity may erase such doubters since he has been blessed with batting instincts well beyond his years. Either way, it's nice to see so much love being thrown in the direction of future pinstripers.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Yankees Are 007 On Clemens, Pavano News


In today's New York Times is a story on the Yankees foreign legion journeying to China. There is also mention of Carl Pavano and J.B. Cox, as well as a brief comment on the Clemens watch.

Despite his long list of injuries the past two seasons, starter Carl Pavano is expected to handle a regular workload when spring training starts Feb. 13. “He’s not a rehab player going into spring training,” Brian Cashman said. “He’s going to be on the same time frame, ready to go full-bore.”

J. Brent Cox, a promising setup man in the Yankees’ farm system, broke a bone in his pitching hand and will not train with the major leaguers this spring. “He was in a minor altercation and he won’t be ready until minor league camp starts, so it makes more sense to just wait until then,” Cox’s agent, Randy Hendricks, said in an e-mail message. Cashman said Cox would not be disciplined and was expected to be ready for the start of the minor league season.

Cashman continued to dispute the idea that the Yankees are the leading candidate to sign Roger Clemens. “Last year, we had interest, and he didn’t choose us, and I don’t think we were second, either,” Cashman said. “I think it would be a mistake to say we’re the team to beat.”
It's obvious that Clemens will be pitching a shortened season as he did in 2006. So I really try to ignore any Clemens talk unless the discussion revolves around his potential impact on players already with the club, or prospects hoping for a '07 promotion. Clemens probably won't make a decision until April or May anyway.

As most Yankee fans were perplexed when the Spring Training invites were released (and Kevin Whelan, not J.B. Cox was on it), the recent announcement of his altercation provides the answer for his omission. Tell you one thing. If I had as valuable an arm as Cox, and was on the brink of making the major leagues, I would keep my pitching arm in a hyperbaric chamber. Instead of throwing his million dollar arm in a meatgrinder, let's hope Cox tries to emulate his college world series success.



As for Pavano, what is there to say. Until he is on a MLB mound everything said by him or about him is simply conjecture in my mind. After last years compilation of disasters I could care less how hard he works. For me and many other Yankee enthusiasts, the results are all that matter now.

Hughes, Top Prospects Speak

My previous post on the Rookie Career Development Program was linked to a short video presentation at MiLB.com. The interviews were only snippets with the focus more on an overall synopsis of what the conference means.

However, MiLB.com has now expanded the RCDP piece. Now there is a 15-minute round table discussion with MLB's top four pitching prospects: Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, Matt Garza and Adam Miller. The site also posted 4-minute interviews with one strong prospect for every Major League organization. Humberto Sanchez is the Yankees representative on this page.

Somebody posted this video of Homey Bailey's bullpen session. If this is Bailey warming up, could you imagine digging in on this guy. I would need protective armor a la King Arthur.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Drew Deal NEARLY Finalized

For the 100th time since the Winter Meetings closed, the RedSox believe they are close to finalizing a contract for the 31 year-old rightfielder. Boston has therefore generated 100 variations on the definition of "close." Once Drew is holding up a jersey at Fenway, I'll believe he's finalized a deal.

Some seven weeks after coming to terms on a contract with free-agent outfielder J.D. Drew, the Red Sox finally appear to be on the verge of formalizing that five-year pact. According to both The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, the Red Sox will likely announce at some point on Friday that Drew is officially a member of the team.

Phrases like "on the verge" should be eliminated from Scott Boras' vocabulary. The hold-up on the Drew deal is due to contract language as Boston is doing everything to protect themselves should "Nancy" tear another muscle. A seven-week hiatus between "finalized" deals sure breeds confidence for their alleged new rightfielder.

Yankees Setting Up Shop in China

The Yankees are hoping to reach an agreement with the China Baseball Association:

This could lead to the Yankees dispatching coaches and trainers to work with players in China, and perhaps, in years to come, beginning a baseball academy.

The Yankees have been in negotiations for seven months on this deal. [The] goal is to get their brand into the world's most populated nation, and put themselves in position, down the road, to scout talent,

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays were the first teams to firmly establish themselves in the Dominican Republic, and benefited greatly. Nothing prevents other Major League Baseball teams from attempting to reach the same strategic alliance that the Yankees hope to soon formalize.
Maybe the Yankee discovery of Chien-Ming Wang has Randy Levine & Company going a bit overboard. But hey, with a population approaching 1.5 billion people, there's got to be some good middle-relievers in there, somewhere.

Have No Fear Victor is Here


Just when you were doubting the strength of the Mets rotation, a story like this pops up. Apparently, New York is showing more than just interest in regards to one Victor Zambrano.

Free-agent pitcher Victor Zambrano is still a possibility to re-sign, according to a person close to those negotiations, but nothing is expected to be finalized in the near future.

Zambrano, who has offers from other clubs on the table, is still recovering from surgery last May for a torn ligament in his right elbow. The Venezuelan right-hander has been inconsistent in his three years with the Mets, compiling a record of 10-14 and an ERA of 4.25, but is another arm for the team's depleted rotation.

Not sure if they remember that Zambrano walks more people than an AIDS March, but the Mets definitely have a plan. I think the objective is to sign any replacement level pitcher available and hope the National League is accommodating. Not much of a plan. Jorge Sosa and Victor Zambrano in the back of a rotation do not exactly strike fear into NL East compatriots Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, or Andruw Jones.