Friday, December 28, 2007

Jim Leyritz Accused of Vehicular Manslaughter

In another wonderful story for Major League Baseball, former player, Jim Leyritz, is charged with driving drunk and killing the driver of the other vehicle in a crash. Leyritz, a player never well liked while he was playing, had some spectacular moments in the post season for the New York Yankees.

Drinking and then driving is a serious issue and can't be downplayed as an offense. There certainly is enough warnings in the media concerning the issue and anybody who drives while impaired is seriously flawed in their thinking--especially in this day and age.

All that said, this is unfortunate because the news reports indicate that the driver of the other vehicle was ejected as a result of the crash. We all know that you won't get ejected from a vehicle if seat belts are involved. If that driver was using seat belts, he likely would have walked away from the accident. So two people who thought they could get around laws put on the books to protect people are either dead or in a lifetime of trouble for their actions. Stupid and very sad.

Astros Sign Villarreal

The Astros signed former Diamondback prospect, Omar Villarreal to a two year contract. The young pitcher (26) pitched the last two years for the Braves. Villarreal is a talented pitcher who has a history of walking too many batters. His career average is close to four walks per nine innings, but that number increased this past year, showing a decline instead of improvement.

Unless he can find the strike zone more often, he is a decent middle reliever who keeps the ball in the park.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ho Hum

Another scintillating transaction day in Major League Baseball as most teams are still in the holiday lull. Two transactions today typify the action lately.

In one deal, the Florida Marlins signed third baseman, Jose Castillo. Castillo broke into the majors in 2004 with the Pirates and played with them all or parts of the last four seasons. His power numbers in 2006 were decent with 16 homers in his only year as a starter, but with a batting average of .253 and an on base average of .299 (right around his career mark), he doesn't appear to be much help for the Marlins. He has played all infield positions except first base and his fielding isn't spectacular either. Looks like roster filler unless he improves dramatically.

While the Marlins picked up a borderline player, the Kansas City Royals picked up another one who used to play with the Marlins, catcher Miguel Olivo. Again, Olivo has decent power and hit 30 homers in his two years as the Marlins' starting catcher. But he never takes a walk. He only walked 23 times in 882 at bats in those two years and has a lifetime on base average of only .275. Yuck! And while Olivo fared okay throwing out runners (34%), he added up 16 passed balls in 2007. So the Royals picked up a low-on-base, high-strike-out and marginal-fielder-behind-the-plate kind of guy. That will boost season ticket sales for sure.

In other transaction news, the Yankees picked up LaTroy Hawkins, your typical 35 year-old career reliever. Hawkins, who failed in previous lives as a closer had three excellent years between 2002 and 2004. His production since has been marginal. He is a solid innings guy who will keep the ball in play, but he doesn't do much to get the ball to Rivera. Hawkins is probably a mild upgrade on Luis Viscaino, who signed elsewhere this year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fighting for the Only Life They Know

There have been some excellent posts recently regarding the human element to the recent drug allegations. Most have focused attention on talking with the young people about looking up to ball players who are just talented people in a profession that happens to pay a lot of money and garners a lot of attention. That slant works for me when talking about the bigger names. But what about some of the names that sparked only a small shred of a memory or were forgotten completely? Do names like Exavier Logan, Cody McKay, Bart Miadich and Mike Judd ring any bells? Perhaps there is a human element there as well.

One of the favorite pastimes of this blog over the years has been watching the transaction wire. In the past couple of weeks, we see fringe players signing minor league contracts. Players like Keith Ginter, Chad Paronto and Sean Barker are trying one more time to hang on and keep their careers going. These players, like Logan and McKay have only known the dream of playing baseball at the highest level. At one time they were the stars of Little League and high school teams and made all state teams. Perhaps they were the best players in their South American country.

Who among us who ever dreamed of making it as a baseball player wouldn't have been tempted if it was the difference between giving up the dream and having a chance? Those big names made their millions. The difference for them might have been to make more millions. For the McKays, Logans, Miadich and Judds who rode dusty buses for most of their professional career, they made the choices they made. We can all understand that can't we? Just recently, in my own career, I had to make the choice between losing my soul and doing the right thing. I did the right thing. But don't think for a moment that I haven't had buyer's remorse ever since.

Monday, December 24, 2007

There's a Kind of Hush

I'm dating myself with the title of that old Herman's Hermits song, but it adequately describes the lull in baseball news with the Christmas holiday. There have been no major news stories or transactions since Thursday, which is probably as it should be. I'm in the mall myself selling our books and this is the last day of what has been a successful season. The halls are empty on this Christmas Eve day and the canned holiday music is blaring to no one but us poor venders.

While I am sitting here on this quiet (considering) morning, I thought I would list my Christmas wish list. So in no particular order, I wish that:

- Ken Griffey Jr. would have one more successful season and play on a contending team.

- Santana stays with the Twins and the youngsters the Red Sox and Yankees did not trade have big impact years.

- Francisco Liriano comes back from his surgery and comes back better than ever.

- the Mitchell Report fades into the background so we can concentrate on baseball. I know...fat chance of that.

- Mariano Rivera has one more great year.

- Willie Randolph starts having some fun and confidence in his managing.

- Jim Edmonds has one more good year in San Diego.

- Scott Rolen decks Tony LaRussa.

- Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have very good seasons.

- Derek Jeter has another 200 hits and continues his pace to overtake Pete Rose.

- the Bay Rays have a season over .500

- the Royals have an encouraging and competitive season.

- Prince Fielder continues making gains in his career with a monster year.

- the Home Run Derby is canceled as a remnant of the steroid era. It's boring anyway.

- each league has exciting pennant races, with lots of surprise performances and fans happy everywhere.

Merry Christmas everyone and happy holidays.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Josh Hamilton Traded to Texas

The Cincinnati Reds solved their outfield overload and gained a very good pitching prospect by trading Josh Hamilton, the feel-good story of 2007 to Texas for Edison Volquez. Volquez is a 24 year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic and was the minor league pitcher of the year for the Rangers last year. He also made six decent starts after being called up to the bigs last year. The Reds are hoping he can slot right into the rotation this year.

Hamilton became one of my box score heroes this past season after several years out of baseball for addiction problems before returning and becoming an impact bat for the Reds in limited action. Though the Reds are losing a fan favorite (well at least those fans who can root for a guy trying to straighten his life out), this deal makes all the sense in the world for the Reds and no sense at all for the Rangers.

For anyone who is more than a casual fan, what is the first thing thought of when considering the Rangers? Chronic lack of pitching. They have always hit well, but couldn't get anyone out. So, in effect, they have added a bat (and crossed fingers that Hamilton doesn't fall off the wagon) while trading away their best pitching prospect. Does that make sense?

The Reds have been in the same boat as the Rangers with a thumping lineup and not enough pitching. If Vosquez works out, they have gained one more step toward pitching acceptability.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Boston's Balls

The Boston Red Sox sure have trouble with World Series baseballs. A recent news story related how Jonathan Papelbon's dog ate the ball that was in play for the last out. The ending of the story is contradictory in that Papelbon first said that he threw out the remains of the ball while he was in Florida. The story now goes that Papelbon still has the uneaten portion of the ball.

You may remember that after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Doug Mientkiewicz kept the ball he caught for the final out. He and the Red Sox fought over who should have custody of the ball until it was finally agreed to send it to the Hall of Fame. Well, "Doug" is similar to, "Dog," no?

Mark Prior to Sign With Padres?

Mark Prior has been courting teams since he was non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs. The latest rumor has him deciding to sign with the Padres. That would be a good place for him since it's a pitcher's park and he'll have Maddox and Peavy over there to deflect interference.

You have to root for a guy like Prior. Everyone loves a good comeback story, especially if the person coming back has been unfairly kicked around by critics. The guy was a heck of a pitcher and perhaps the Padres will find lightning in a bottle.

Another kicked around pitcher is Matt Clement, who never recovered from getting hit with a baseball and being booed out of Fenway. I hope he finds a home and wins some big league games again.

Funny how both pitchers were former Cubs. It does not seem that organization is very kind to its pitchers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Slow Days

Roger Clemens is still denying. Curt Schilling is flapping about Clemens. Congress is calling for hearings. Sports writers are speculating about Bud Selig's options. When those writers are not postulating about the steroids flap, they are speculating about Santana and Bedard. Oh, and a few signings squeaked into the news.

The Rockies signed Kip Wells and Mark Redman. Robert Kip Wells seems to fascinate every general manager but other than a couple of decent years in Pittsburgh, has never done very much other than lose. His lifetime won-loss record is 64-91. Hardly awe inspiring. Along with his lifetime on-base record of .353, it seems another GM couldn't quite resist giving this another shot.

Redman had a good year for the Marlins in 2003 but otherwise hasn't fared much better than Wells. His lifetime won-loss is 66-80, but at least his on-base average given up is 30 points lower. So the Rockies tally here is two pitchers with a lifetime won-loss of 130-171. Yeesh! At least they were one year deals. Both pitchers were former number one picks in the draft. Somebody shoot those scouts.

The Royals are having a good off season and signed Ron Mahay, a much sought after lefty. Mahay had a great 2007, but his career is erratic showing good years and terrible years. That seems to be pretty typical for career relievers.

Expect things to stay fairly quiet until after the holidays.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Alex Rodriguez on 60 Minutes

The Alex Rodriguez interview on the long-running, CBS news series, 60 Minutes, was interesting and entertaining. He made it very clear that he has never used steroids or any other drug and that he was never tempted to do so. When interviewer, Katie Couric, tried to pin him down on his teammates and Barry Bonds, he did not bite and held his ground.

Even more entertaining was his remarks about what went wrong with the opt-out and how it went down during the World Series and his regret and apologies for how it happened. He also distanced himself from his agent, Scott Boras, and how the whole "debacle" was handled.

His responses were candid and contrite and it shed new insight on his falling out with his agent. A-Rod's wife, Cynthia, talked about how her husband had to make phone calls himself and how he had to take the initiative. It was a remarkable sequence and left--at least this Fan--quite gleeful at the hit Boras was taking.

The interview was the same night as the Surviver: China finale, and I couldn't help but compare the new Surviver winner and Rodriguez and Boras. The winner fully admitted manipulating the situations and even gloried in his strategy. He duped everyone so masterfully that the "jury" gave him the top prize even though they were the victims.

Boras has been the master manipulator, but unlike the Survivor winner, will never admit it. Let's face it, part of his job is to sell his clients and make them (and himself in the process) a lot of money. He does his job well, but there is a moral fiber that seems to be missing. Rodriguez seems to understand how Boras went too far and had to fix it with the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Steinbrenners.

Or, as Jeff Probst questioned the "poker player" about the flattery the Survivor winner delivered during the "jury" questioning, "But did he mean it." There is something about Rodriguez that makes me ask the same question. "Did you mean what you said, Alex?" He certainly seemed genuine. Or he could be duping us with just another strategic play where he ended up getting what he wanted in the first place.

Being the rube that I am, I am going to be naive and say he meant what he said. Because if so, it makes a great story and a victory for all of us who have hoped that Boras would be knocked down a peg or two sooner or later.

And who knows, hopefully some day, we'll look back and know that Alex Rodriguez did not take any drugs, was a decent human being and finally took a page from John Elway and that speed skater (Heiden?) who finally won what he was supposed to win and capped off a glorious career. Time will tell.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wandering Thoughts

It has been a weird couple of days. Normally, I can't wait to read my favorite on-line sport entities (do people still buy sport magazines in print?). The last two days have been difficult to pull the trigger and go to my familiar haunts. How many more painful stories and analysis will there be today? Who will admit what and who will deny anything and everything. Pettitte came clean, which is good...I guess.

For long-time baseball fans, our game is rooted in our psychology. The memories of the past are part of the fabric of being a human and a Fan today. We naturally compare batting stances to those registered in our memory banks. We remember when today's currently good teams were bad and vice-versa. And, for many of us, we compare statistics of today's players to those we watched and treasured in the past.

Today we find that only two out of the three are sort of the same. So it is, in this post Mitchell haze, that I note the Edmonds trade--which should only help the Cardinals, by the way--without bothering to check his stats for the past few years. That's really odd for me.

But doggonit, I'm not going to give up a lifetime of passion for all of the ugly truth that was revealed, or at least revealed by the pond scum that Mitchell interviewed. Babe Ruth is given credit for saving the game after the Black Sox scandal, but though he did help with his Herculean feats, it was the fans who loved the game enough to keep coming and supporting it. Many who read about the game fixing and the gambling knew that the White Sox players from that infamous team were the only ones from that era who got caught. Many more got away with it and isn't that a parallel to what happened with Mitchell's report?

Nobody should consider Jose Canseco any kind of hero. He is the worst kind of spectator of this whole mess. Not only was he the cheerleader (and in many cases, the ringleader), but then he made a few million more writing about it when he was finished making millions by cheating. But even so, we all know deep inside that he is right that this report was a joke. A handful of players were indicted by hearsay while dozens more got away with their mischief. We know he's right. We just hate he is because of who he is. Can we believe A-Rod's denial? Should we? Does it even matter any more?

The scandal will pass and it will be a milestone looked back upon darkly, much like the "Say it ain't so, Joe." But, the bottom line is that, as much as it sounds like simplistic thinking, we fans are going to start reading our stats again and focusing on the hot rookies, the comeback players and which team will be this year's surprise. I may be an idiot, but this is my game and it has been for decades. I'm not throwing it away with all the other empty syringes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Arizona's Diamonds!

I'm sitting here shaking the Mitchell dust off my clothing and trying to pretend that if I hope hard enough it will all go away. Oh well, it's not. But I've said my piece and others (including Jayson Stark) will say it much better. So thank goodness there were some trades today to think about!

Arizona! Those Diamondbacks just got themselves a top of the rotation pitcher by prying Dan Haran from the Oakland Athletics along with a middle something prospect pitcher named, Connor Robertson for six player, one of which was their best prospect, Brett Anderson. The Diamondbacks used some of their best prospects, but got a proven and still young (and relatively cheap) pitcher.

Haran has been remarkably consistent while also improving his ability to win games. His WHIP (walks and hit per inning pitched) has remained at 1.21 for three consecutive years but has improved his batting average against for three straight years while increasing his strikeout percentage. And unlike other A's starters, he's remained healthy and has been in the 220 innings pitched range for three straight years.

Oakland is retooling and there is no doubt that Billy Beane got the prospects he coveted.

But Arizona wasn't done for the day. They also traded their league leading reliever, Jose Valverde to Houston in another big swap of players. Valverde may have been the best kept MLB secret last year. Valverde saved 47 games last year for the Diamondbacks who always seemed to be playing one-run games. While Valverde's strikeouts are off the chart, he has control issues and walks a batter every other inning. Perhaps the Diamondbacks got tired of the nail-biting? That is the only thing that makes sense with this trade.

The Astros unloaded Chris Burke, who was awful last year, Chad Qualls, a serviceable reliever, but with no closing track record (he did save five games last year for the Astros). The Astros also sent Arizona another reliever, Juan Gutierrez. Gutierrez is a roster-filler and not much of an addition.

While the addition of Haran is exciting for the pitching rotation to give the Diamondbacks the back to back punch of Webb and Haran, time will tell if they gave up too much. A proven pitcher is a proven pitcher and it's hard to fault Arizona for this deal.

Trading away their closer is a little more confusing considering they got little value in return. The must be more to this story than the headlines.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report Addendum

After checking my post after it was published, I read through some of my most recent ones and found that nearly all of them talk about players named today in Mitchell's report. Boy do I feel like a dork!
The Mitchell Report

The Fan is a fan first and a blogger second and as such, the Mitchell Report did much to sadden me. Some of my favorite players were implicated in the report and thus, a major part of the joy in watching them over the years is diminished. I certainly agree with Mitchell who echoed what I have said many times over the years: the past should be the past and put behind us. Amnesty should be granted to those in the report. They will have enough to deal with concerning their legacy, and for some, their Hall of Fame credentials. Some will lose endorsement deals and others their television careers.

Much of the report was not surprising. What makes it difficult for fans like me, who would rather see the issue dealt with privately and report a few suspensions here and there, is to see such jarring blatancy that makes this a sad day for all involved.

There are several things that bother me about the report. The first is that despite months of investigation, it appears that little traction was gained until two indicted ex-employees were culled for information. The result is that even though 80 players and ex-players were named, there are untold dozens who undoubtedly used and will get away with it. Thus the playing field is uneven and the punishment of testimony partial and crippling to the few who were named. I'm sure there are many players of the past and present who are sighing with relief for escaping the firing squad.

The second thing that bothers me is the glibness in naming the names in the first place. In effect, these players and ex-players are indicted without the due process of law. It would be similar to me as an employer posting in the newspaper when an employee is accused of sexual harassment. The names should have been reported privately to Selig and Fehr and handled on a case by case basis. The NFL has a similar policy when the league announces a suspension for a player for breaking the substance abuse policy without naming the substance or the details. The one benefit of such a breach of privacy is that Selig will now have more leverage to get the players union to cooperate with policy.

It was comical in an ironic way how politicians automatically jumped into the fray after the report was issued. Their duplicity and self-aggrandising knows no limits. During the last hearings, they basically told MLB to clean up its act or face further scrutiny. MLB has done that with this report and these politicians still want to drag it all back to Washington for more hearings. What a waste of time and political energy. Solve the energy crisis and lower green house gases for Pete's sake and let MLB deal with this.

Any action from here on out needs to be discussed by Selig and Fehr and both better be serious about restoring public faith in the game. Will baseball survive today? Certainly. Will the fallout continue? Most certainly. Will fans and writers get crazy and stand on soap boxes? They already are. Let's hope that all parties in leadership and the players themselves get in their fox holes and quietly restore order to baseball. And let's hope that Spring will arrive quickly so we can get a new season started and the bad taste out of our mouths.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baltimore Orioles Trade Miguel Tejada

Baltimore finally pulled the trigger and sent Miguel Tejada away. In a big trade today, Tejada went to Houston for five players. Keith Law, who is always excellent with analysis of personnel and how teams fared with their trades, outlined what Baltimore received for their days work.

Law wasn't very high on how much the Astros benefited from the trade. He gave them two games at best for improvement from the deal. I think it will depend on if Tejada, in a new atmosphere, will revive his career and return to the kind of form that previously made him part of the Jeter/Garciaparra/Tejada debate during the 1990s. If he does come to Houston with new life and new enthusiasm, the Astros could benefit much more than two games.

Law also pointed out that with Tejada, Houston will probably non-tender Adam Everett, one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball. Everett has had a couple of really awful years at the plate. I would keep Everett, bat him eighth and move Tejada to third. Tejada doesn't want to move from shortstop, but a few million in the bank and an escape from Baltimore might change his mind. Tejada at third is a much better deal than as a shortstop.

Tejada also gives protection to Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, giving the Astros a potent middle of the lineup. I think this is a better deal for the Astros than Law allows, but time will tell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some Quick Musings

Baseball writers are not enthusiastic about the Brewers signing of Gagne for a one year, $10 million contract. To me the risk is worth the signing because it's only one year. Is that a lot of money for the Brewers? Sure. But it's a better risk than $46 million over four years for Cordero. If it works and he saves a lot of games for them, then they are geniuses. If it doesn't work out, it's only a one year dud.

The Cubs are reportedly close to signing Japanese outfielder Kusoke Fukudome. Now there is an unfortunate name for a guy playing in Chicago. I suppose it would have been worse if he were playing in Minnesota with the Metrodome. Imagine all the fun New York fans will have when the Cubs come into Shea Stadium. My Sicilian brethren will probably hammer him.

Fukudome's stats in the Japanese league do not look all that impressive. He has less power than Matsui and hits only around .300. I don't see this as much of a deal for the Cubbies.

The Twins signing of Craig Monroe seems like a good deal to me. The guy is a monster who had some good years for the Tigers. He fell out of favor with Jim Leyland and fell off statistically the last two years. I can remember watching some of the moon shots he hit in the past and this seems like a good risk for Minnesota as a DH or spare outfielder.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nationals signed 35 year old Paul Lo Duca to a one year, $5 million contract. The one year is not a bad risk, but Lo Duca wore out his welcome in New York, has diminished defensive skills and has a lifetime slugging percentage of .414. I don't see much production in this deal.

Bully for the Padres as they appear to be in the final stages of signing Jake Peavy to a long term contract. The news item today indicated he was taking a physical to finalize the deal. Good for them and for him. Peavy is a class act and a terrific pitcher.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Inge as in Fringe

Sometimes a story comes out that simply boggles your world. Today, it was reported that Brandon Inge wants to be traded so he can play every day. His statements come in response to the recent trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Looking at the facts here makes the Fan want to scream to the player: "Do you have any clue?"

Inge has started for the Tigers for four straight years. In those four years, his on-base percentage and his batting average have declined each and every year. This past year, in 500 at bats, he posted a .236 batting average and an on-base percentage of .312. Gee, if I got benched for that kind of production, my feelings would be hurt too. Consider that in Inge's latest banner year, he struck out 150 times compared to his 120 base hits. Can you say "rally killer?"

If you are a MLB player and have a lifetime batting average of .241 and .304 on-base average and were making a shade under $5 million a year, wouldn't it just be gravy to still have a job? Better yet, wouldn't it be okay considering those circumstances to have a job and work for a team that (on paper) has what it takes to get to the post season? Yes, I agree.

Inge rhymes with, "fringe" and Inge would have been better served had he kept his mouth shut, hung on for a few more years and called it a huge bonus just to have bamboozled his managers he was worth keeping around for this long.

Friday, December 07, 2007

While the baseball world waits for the Mitchell report, news in the last couple of days keeps the the steroid and HGH issue front and center. Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen received the equivalent of a wrist slap while Barry Bonds had his first day in court and pleaded not guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

I started this site years ago and write from the standpoint of a fan of the game. I also know that we've been here before. The cocaine years of the 1970s tripped up many players and particularly hit the Pittsburgh Pirates hard. As a fan, many of the professional writers want me to be morally outraged that players would "tarnish" the game in such a way. As much as I've tried to work up myself into a lather, I have to admit in the end that I just don't care.

If anything, the whole business saddens me. Anyone who truly loves the game has to be saddened that records and players have come under suspicion. We can't watch a strong performance or see any record broken without thinking about if the moment will be suspect down the line or will we find out if the player had an "artificial advantage."

I have to admit that I just want to enjoy the game. I want to see the highlights and read the box scores. I want to see which rookie will surprise everyone and what player will have a career year. I want to see comeback stories and long shot career minor leaguers finally getting to play in the bigs. The reality is that I don't want to have my cozy little obsession clouded up with bad news and controversy.

And truth be told, I am not overly impressed with the "problem." I certainly understand steroids are dangerous to those that ingest or are shot up with them. The murder/suicide perpetuated by that pro wrestler a while back showed us all the destructive power of steroids. The side effects do not seem worth the short term gains. But let's say that as many as 50% of MLB players were using during the height of the period. And let's add that half of those would be pitchers. That gives any batter a one in four chance of facing such a pitcher and any pitcher facing such a batter. Did it really make that much of a difference?

Sure, we've all been shown how runs and homers increased in the last twenty years. We've also seen more players reach 500 homers in the last 20 years that for decades before this combined. Can we really say with any certainty that drugs were the only factor? How about the baseball, lower pitching mounds and the general decrease in pitching talent over the years or the greater number of teams causing the same amount of talent to be spread more thinly across the leagues? There is no way to quantify the use of drugs as the only culprit in the statistical anomaly.

Without an effective measure and without all other things being equal, records should stand and all talk of asterisks banished from the grandstands. There were some suspicious developments over the years:

- Brady Anderson's fifty homer season.
- The sudden emergence of Luis Gonzalez at Arizona.
- The long careers and sudden fitness of pitchers like Clemens, Schilling and Johnson.

I'm not making any judgment calls on those items above, but can anyone ever know for sure anymore? That's what this mess has done to the average fan. For me, it still comes down to a pitcher having to throw the ball on a certain plane, sixty feet, six inches away and a batter still has to decide in seconds whether to swing and then once committed, hit the darn round thing on a sold part of a round bat barrel. Drugs aren't going to aid you in those things.

While no one would disagree that steroids are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) was widely prescribed by physicians to aid in the healing process. Not outlawed in MLB until 2005, players would go down with a serious injury and take HGH to help speed the healing process. To me, that is very similar than shots many athletes get to relief stress on joints when they deteriorate and ache.

The commissioner has set a precedent with fifteen-day suspensions on Guillen and Gibbons. That sounds more reasonable than fifty days. But is he punishing those players for using a substance that was legal when they were taking it? Is that the correct thing to do?

The only logical stance, both now and after the Mitchell Report is released is to grant unconditional amnesty for anything prior to 2006 when this issue got to be as big a deal as it is now. Develop tests and policies that ban everything (including those shots!) from here on in and deal harshly anyone caught going forward. Anything more than this plan reeks of unfairness.

And if you are going to go through with punishing players who get caught, then shouldn't the teams and their trainers and physicians be under scrutiny as well?

The Fan just wants it all to go away. Perhaps there will be so many players on Mitchell's list, we will collectively yawn and put the subject away for a while. I totally understand that will depend on the frenzy created post-report by the writers and those politicians looking for a good cause to flex muscles. Let's hope that both of those groups will recognize that we don't care anymore and just want it to all end.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tony LaRussa's statements concerning Scott Rolen completely went outside the line. LaRussa tries to make nice and state that he wants Rolen to be a star player again and the Cardinals need him. If you take those as sound bites, it sounds all nice and encouraging. Until you read the rest of his statements.

How would you as an employee feel if your boss said (not to you, but to the media reporting about your workplace), "If he works hard, and as well as he can, he can keep working. If he doesn't, he's not working for me." Obviously, you wouldn't take it very well.

To his credit, Rolen's response was, "These are matters I never discuss publicly and are matters that should have remained private." You think? LaRussa is using bully tactics here and it doesn't come across as very pretty.

Rolen is a true warrior of the sport. Of course he was angry when LaRussa pulled him from the lineup in the 2006 playoffs. As many managers and coaches have said before, Rolen wouldn't be worth very much if he wasn't upset at not playing. What LaRussa did in that series was his call as manager and no one can dispute that fact, not even Rolen. But why would other managers and coaches do that all the time and not create two year rifts like LaRussa has. The only answer is the kind of man LaRussa is.

The kind of statement LaRussa made today was uncalled for and totally unprofessional. He had to know that his words would not help the situation and one can only assume that they were meant to add salt into the already festering situation.

Being in management, I know that personality clashes happen from time to time. I also know that if I have a strained relationship with someone on my team, I do not add to the woes by calling that employee out in public. I work behind the scenes and in private to mend the relationship. Most of the time that's possible. Rarely it isn't. But even when it isn't, I still don't call that person out in public. It's just not the right thing to do.

LaRussa should have kept his mouth shut. His statements point to him as the lower person in this particular situation. Let's hope that Rolen does get traded and away from what is a bad situation. He deserves better.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Executives from Major League Baseball meet in Nashville this week and experts are predicting some noise will come out of that Tennessee city. Rumors are rife and we'll all find out together what the outcomes will be.

It does seem fairly realistic that the Twins' great pitcher, Santana, will be traded this week. It also seems that Scott Rolen will escape Tony LaRussa some time this week as well. Since Santana is the bigger news, let's start there.

The logic of a trade from a salary dump seems twisted in favor of the cheap. We always hear that small market teams can't hold on to their stars for long because they can't pay like Boston or New York. That argument might have held true a decade ago, but rings hollow in the era of the taxes the "rich" teams contribute for their high payrolls.

Bud Selig (who the Fan still hasn't seen the same time as Bill Gates. They are the same guy!) touts the system as an equalizer. Some parity gains seem apparent, but overall, the cheap teams like the Twins and the A's seem to be the winners and the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels are the dupes.

According to published reports, the Yankees will pay Selig's office a combined $85 million. $25 million of that comes from the "luxury" tax and the rest is revenue sharing. How does it seem to be a fair deal that those three teams get to pay all the other teams a portion of their income and yet, the cheap teams still dump their best players.

The Twins rate 29th among teams in value, which means that they are receiving a hefty chunk of that revenue sharing money. If Selig's plan worked to perfection here, the Twins should receive enough from baseball to sign the world's best pitcher.

In effect, whether Santana goes to the Yankees, the Red Sox or Seattle, they will lose their best prospects, lose another big chunk of pay to the brilliant pitcher and thus add to their tax bill.

The system is skewed in the Twins' favor and if I were those three "rich" teams, I wouldn't be further subsidizing the cheap teams by losing good young prospects to pay for some other cheapskate's star.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ode to Phil Rizzuto

Several months have passed since Yankee shortstop/turned announcer, Phil Rizzuto, passed away and I debated about posting a heartfelt ode to what seemed like an old friend of mine. The danger of creating such a post is dating myself, and worse, setting this site aside as a team blog. I've always kept the site team neutral, but there is not a way to share my feelings about Rizzuto without revealing a childhood filled with all things Yankees.

There is so much going for baseball fans today. We used to have to wait a week for team-by-team analysis in The Sporting News and at least a day, sometimes two, for box scores. Now we have them instantly along with highlight shows, daily columnists and everything that's out there. What a wonderful time to be a Fan.

Whether the cause is nostalgia or the truth, the one thing missing from today's game is the joy of owning a little hand-held transistor radio listening to a game unfold with only one's imagination fueled by radio announcers and their color analysts. Wherever we went, we had our radios for the daily games. Phil Rizzuto was the man who really brought that experience to an almost cathartic experience.

Rizzuto was certainly a "homer" as far as announcers go. His playing career encompassed the glory days of Yankee history and his early announcing career began in the power years of the 1950s and early 1960s. But by the time I became a serious fan, Mickey Mantle was in his last years and the team began the most dreadful period of its history.

That didn't matter to us as kids. We had our homemade scorecards, our radios and games on Channel 11 television out of New York City. We would put up with Frank Messer and Bill White, but it was Phil we wanted to hear. Messer wasn't that bad of an announcer, though he reminded me of that fellow who played Superman on early television. Bill White was okay too since he was honest in his opinions and didn't sugar-coat what he was reporting.

But there was something about Rizzuto. His voice drew you in and it was filled with confidence and humility at the same time. My mom's family were full-blooded Sicilians and having an Italian announcer with a name similar in rhythm with her family added to the familiarity. You didn't have to be of the same ancestry though to share that familiarity. I read several blogs after his death, and he touched so many people the same way. He was our uncle.

And he went everywhere we did. He was with us on the beach or at the lake. He was with us as we walked down the street or home after school. His humor, his self-deprecating fear of lightning and his excitement when something good happened or bad, everything about his time with us built and solidified this lifelong love affair for baseball.

We were never awed by Phil Rizzuto. We were just comforted, entertained and grateful. I miss him.
Wow! Has it really been a year and a half since I last blogged? Apparently so. It's not like I haven't thought about getting back to to this place before. Every Saturday, like clockwork, I receive a report of how many hits the site has received. Apparently, some folks still like to read old news. Baseball has always been my first love. History is my second, which makes baseball the natural sport of choice for me.

I've been pursuing my other love for the past 19 months and in that span have published four books and three books for children. If you're interested, you can click the shameless link on the home page.

But it's time to get back to blogging. As a middle-aged creature, well past my prime, it was kind of cool that blogging was a place I was actually ahead of the curve of technology. I started this site long before discovered that blogging was cool. Much to their credit, the writers there often cite bloggers these days and that is just as it should be. The Web is the great equalizer and though many find fame and boggle the mind in doing so (can you say, "Tina Tequila?"), the same can be said in any medium. Eventually, the true talent will win out when combined with perseverance.

I have no delusions of fame. But heck, if my son reads the site once in a while and says he misses my posts, that's good enough for me.

So here goes...The Fan is back.