Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Symmetry is always a beautiful thing. When life comes full circle or wrongs get righted, a sense of peace tends to invade a little of our chaotic lives. Today's headlines include two pitchers who may come full circle and come home.

One is in the bag. Sidney Ponson came home to the Orioles and signed a three year contract to pitch for the team. The Orioles have done much to strengthen their lineup and now they have made a great step to address pitching. And Ponson is just coming into his own.

Only twenty-seven years old, Ponson was never drafted and is still learning his craft. He made great strides and had his best year so far this past season. The Giants made the right deal and borrowed him for a few months, but now that Ponson had a choice to go anywhere he wanted, he came home. That speaks well of him and the team for signing him.

The other headline isn't a done deal, but as a Fan, I hope it happens. The Cubs are wining and dining Greg Maddux and offered him a two year contract to come home. What a perfect place for Maddux to pick up his three hundredth win--where he started to become the Hall of Fame pitcher that he is.

Maddux was drafted by the Cubs and they developed him. In his seven years with the Cubs, Maddux had a 92-75 record for some really bad teams. Cub fans were crushed when their star left and ended up in Atlanta. There must have been a lot of teeth gnashing as their former star had great year after year for the Braves.

And now Maddux may go home and finish his career there. I hope he does. Symmetry. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, January 12, 2004

If you have been a regular reader at the Fan's place, then you would know the twenty year fan relationship I have had with Roger Clemens. As a transplanted Yankee fan from New Jersey who moved to first New Hampshire and then Maine, Clemens started his career with the Red Sox at that same time. His early career coincided with the Fan becoming the world's only Yankee AND Red Sox fan.

Then Clemens moved on to Toronto and that was okay too. Living in New England, our cable providers carry Canadian channels so I got to watch Roger pitch up north for the dreaded Blue Jays. All New Englanders hate the Blue Jays almost as much as they do the Yankees. But I was angry when the Red Sox gave up on Clemens and said he was past his prime. And I cheered every time he went in to Boston to win another game on those great back-to-back Cy Young Award, twenty-win seasons.

And then one of the best pitchers that ever lived went to the Yankees. Certainly, I was excited by that. One never knew whether or not he would hold up, but he had a great Yankee career and it was an emotional moment for me when Clemens reached his milestones.

I was ready to say goodbye at the end of last season. 310 wins, over 4000 strikeouts, he finished his twentieth season at 17-9! How good is that. And he was great in the playoffs and World Series. But the Yankees didn't win it and the Marlins did. Still, it was a great way to end a career.

Somehow, when Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros (A terrible blow to the Bronx cheering section), the thoughts first appeared that maybe Clemens would join his friend there. And you know what? It's okay. He reached his milestones as a Yankee. One of the greatest pitchers of all time pitched his last Yankee game to a gem and I cried when he got the standing ovation (even from his opposing players).

He did all that with the Yankees. He won his last Cy Young with the Yankees. He reached 300 wins with the Yankees. His last game in that great uniform was brilliant and a fitting farewell. And that was okay.

Now he is home and can spend time with his family and pitch one more year with his friend Andy. Good for him and good for baseball. I just hope he doesn't get rapped around in that band box of a stadium. I hope you win twenty, Roger, and lead your team to the World Series. I'll be watching just like always.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

The California Angels are clearly not going to be out done by the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Phillies this post season. Today they signed Vladimir Guerrero to a five year contract (contingent on him passing a physical) for a reported $70 million. Guerrero is only twenty-seven years old and was the most talented player on the free agent market.

There is some risk to the deal as Guerrero missed time last year for the first time in his career with back problems. Having watched a bad back end Don Mattingly's great seasons (and his career), it's always something to think about. However, Mattingly's problems were back spasms and not a herniated disc, which can be dealt with.

Guerrero never really received the press he deserved because he played for the Expos and was watched by no one. But the stats in his young career are impressive. Here are his averages for the past six years, and keep in mind that he only played 112 games last year:

Average: .327
OBP: .400
Hits: 195
Homers: 37
RBI: 110
Runs: 99
Doubles: 37
Stolen Bases: 20
Outfield Assists: 13

Vladimir can do it all and now that he will be on natural grass and in a stable environment, he could blossom even further as he is entering the peak years of his career. This is a great pickup for the Angels IF the outfielder is healthy.

The Angels have not been shy this off season and Guerrero caps the signings of Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen (who had a "coming of age" year last year) and Kelvim Escobar. If all goes as expected, the Angel outfield of Guerrero, Garrett Anderson and Guillen is powerful, athletic and still fairly young.

How about this lineup? Eckstein, Erstad, Guerrero, Anderson, Glaus, Guillen, Salmon, Molina and Adam Kennedy. Whoah! That's a great lineup. The Angels starters? Ramon Ortiz, Bartolo Colon, Jarred Washburn, Kelvim Escobar and then John Lackey or Aaron Sele. The Bullpen? Percival, Weber, Shields and Rodriguez. Wow! On paper, this team becomes the team to beat in the AL West next year.

Leave it to my wife to come up with some players I missed on my Mo Vaughn post:

Mark McGwire: Eleven healthy seasons
Jason Giambi: Coming into his ninth season

Both the above players have had similar knee tendonitis. McGwire's finished his career. What will happen with Giambi? According to my formula, Giambi is coming up on borrowed time.

It was great to read about two old guys finding a home this past week--one, old by baseball standards, and one by any standard. Rafael Palmeiro will bring back his Hall of Fame career to the Baltimore Orioles and Don Zimmer landed with the Devil Rays as an advisor. Good for them and good for baseball!

Speaking of the Orioles and lineups, check this one out: Brian Roberts, Luis Matos, Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, Melvin Mora, Jay Gibbons, Rafael Palmeiro, David Segui and Larry Bigbee. That's a great lineup. Now, if they can get Ponson back and get some pitching?