The first big bombshell of the off season has exploded with the Astros trade of closer Billy Wagner to the Phillies for Brandon Duckworth and two minor leaguers. Wow!
The Phillies Achilles heel all last season was the bullpen, especially with Jose Mesa closing games. Mesa had an ERA over 6.00 well into the season and never looked effective or even scary. Wagner will come in with his 100 MPH fastball and his 44 saves in 47 chances and give the Phillies a legitimate shot at making the game a seven inning game.
Brandon Duckworth is a big potential pitcher who has shown short flashes of his capabilities in two seasons with the Phillies. Yet he has a losing career record and has given up more hits than innings, which isn't a good sign for a supposed power pitcher.
Houston has a lot of arms in the bullpen but they need every one of them as their manager is a bullpen killer. Houston also has a penchant for having their top arms come up injured in a similar way to the Marlins before Jack McKeon took over. Most likely, Houston will try Dotel as a closer and if that doesn't work out, go with another of their electric bullpen arms. But you have to ask the question: What does it tell the fans and your team to trade away a sure thing in what looks like a money deal?
Two managerial decisions came down today. Both were surprising. First, the Chicago White Sox made a great decision in choosing Ozzie Guillen as their new manager. Guillen will bring fun and enthusiasm to a team in sore need of it. In much the same way that Tony Pena brought a spark to the Royals, Guillen could do the same for the White Sox.
The move is also a big day for MLB as Chicago now has a former African American in charge of the Cubs and a former Hispanic player in charge of the White Sox. We've come a long way when one of the top cities in the country can boast such an alignment. Good for Chicago and good for baseball.
The second decision is somewhat sad in that Bobby Valentine decided to sign a three year deal to go back to Japan and manage over there. He said the money was flattering and that at this point in his life, it's important to him to feel needed and wanted. It's a shame that there wasn't a spot for Valentine on the American field as he is a creative and fiery competitor and manager.
Valentine also did a super job on Baseball Tonight for ESPN and always seemed on point and dead on with his commentary and analysis. He will be missed on that show and on this continent. I hope he comes back someday.
The Yankees made an excellent move in bringing Don Mattingly in as their batting instructor. Mattingly did wonders for Tino Martinez when Tino got in slumps. It is a good sign when the first move the Yankees make after their disappointing loss to the Marlins is a classy one that will please the fans. Mattingly is one of the most popular players to ever wear the pinstripes and should have the respect of his players.