Friday, November 07, 2003

A fixture on the field at Yankee Stadium for half a decade has been hired to manage the Baltimore Orioles. Lee Mazzilli, the former outfielder for the Mets and Yankees had to be the underdog since he was competing for the job against former Orioles, Rick Dempsey and Eddie Murray as well as Grady Little and Terry Francona.

Mazzilli was a popular coach with the Yankees and he was frequently used by television crews to wear microphones during important games. He inherits what could be a very good team. The Orioles played half a season with an offense that was right up there with Boston and the Braves before injuries to Melvin Mora and others derailed their progress. Don't be surprised if they become a contender in the coming season.

In what I thought were classy moves, both Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner and manager, Joe Torre, praised Mazzilli and were excited and positive about Mazzilli's opportunity.

Speaking of underdogs, the Mexico team beat the United States team and knocked the defending country out of the Olympics in Athens. The stunning loss means that if the Olympics would have been one last way to see Roger Clemens pitch, that dream is over and his win in the World Series could be his last game ever.

Tommy Lasorda, who managed the gold medal winning American team in the last Olympics said it was a shock and a disgrace that the American team lost. That criticism won't sit very well with Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson, who managed this year's Olympic hopeful team.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Baseball news has been pretty quiet the last few days. 208 players have already filed for free agency including Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte of the Yankees. Clemens, of course, has said he is retiring. But if he changes his mind, he will have the right to talk to any team.

Andy Pettitte has said that he can't imagine pitching for any other team and who can blame him. He was drafted by the Yankees and has pitched for them since the 1995 season. His record of success is remarkable judging from his record as it's one of the best in winning percentage history. Add that to his post season success and he seems like a must sign for the Yankees.

The Mets did score a very good victory in landing Oakland A's pitching coach Rick Peterson. Peterson has developed the A's remarkable pitching story and his philosophy is used through the A's farm teams. The Mets were always famous for their development of pitching talent but that has not been the case in recent history. There hasn't been a Doc Gooden, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Nolan Ryan come out of their farm system in a long time.

Peterson will upgrade the entire Mets' system and the addition of Bill Singer to the Mets front office to find the talent to develop means that the Mets are doing all the right things to rebuild that franchise. But Bobby Valentine will be in Japan. Alas!

I have to wonder what will become of the Athletic's pitching with Peterson's departure. Will their big pitchers continue to develop without him? Will they continue to keep coming up with great arms from the minor leagues. Look what Peterson did for Ted Lilly in his first full year with the team. Lilly went 12-10 in his first full season and had a perfect ERA in the playoffs (0.00).

In the "I've-got-to-see-this" category, the San Diego Padres announced that they will have new uniforms this coming season. What a victory for that team! That's even better news than having a new stadium. The Padres have consistently had the worst looking uniforms in baseball. They went from those awful brown and yellow uniforms in the 80's to equally ugly blue uniforms in the 90's.

Have you ever seen pictures of Dave Winfield in those old Padres' uniforms. Yeesh! No wonder he wanted to get out of there. Speaking of Winfield, I remember watching him while he was with the Yankees. No one consistently hit the ball harder than Winfield. Infielders used to play in the short outfield when he came up. Anyway, he had this way of wiggling his butt when he was waiting for the pitch. That used to drive the women crazy. It didn't do much for me but I can imagine what they were looking at.

There wasn't a picture in the news reports about the uniforms but they were described as a tri-color pattern of sand, navy and sky blue. Hmm...sounds like an improvement.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

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.