The Disputed King's Speech
It’s like accepting your honor roll swag after being accused of cheating on the final exam, an awkward feeling similar to what Ryan Braun must have felt when he gave his NL MVP acceptance speech this past Saturday at the annual New York dinner hosted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of Americawho selected Braun last November before it was revealed he had flunked a steroid test. The Milwaukee slugger was greeted by warm applause as he approached the podium and then spent so much time thanking everyone he knew that, had this been the Oscars, polite piano music would have started playing to remind him to wrap up.
Braun then got to the meat and potatoes of his speech, discussingalbeit indirectly and quicklyhis positive test for performance enhancement, which he argued against earlier in the week in front of an arbitration panel. He said: “Sometimes in life we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure. We have an opportunity to look at those challenges and view them either as obstacles or opportunities. I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I’ve always believed that a person's character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.”
False Fausto Pulls a Fast One
The Cleveland Indians received a bit of a shock this past week when pitcher Fausto Carmona was arrested in his native Dominican Republic for false misrepresentation. It turns out that Carmona is actually none other than Roberto Heredia, and he’s really 31 years oldthree years older than what he previously claimed. All of this may come as no surprise to Cleveland fans, who will tell you that Carmona over the last four years has been falsely representing a major league pitcher (33-48, 5.01 ERA).
The Indians publicly shrugged off the news as no big deal, but it was curious that they quickly traded for former Minnesota (and, all too briefly, Colorado) pitcher Kevin Slowey as a possible rotation replacement.
The story mirrors the saga of Miami reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo, who we all knew at this time last year as Florida closer Leo Nunez at an age one year younger than he actually was. Incidentally, Oviedo signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Marlins this past weekbut he won’t receive a penny until he solves his own visa problems in the D.R. and returns to America.
The deadlines were set after current Dodger owner Frank McCourt settled his last battle with Fox over the team’s local television media rights. Bankruptcy court also revealed this past week just how much debt the Dodgers are buried with, at a whopping $573 million. The sale of the team is expected to top $1 billion, which would make it the highest tab ever for a major league team.
If you’re looking to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers and have yet to drop in a bid on bankruptcy court, too late. Monday was the deadline for potential buyers to deliver opening bids on the Dodgers, with the winning bid to be revealed no later than April 6, according to the Los Angeles Times. The question isn’t who’s going to bid on the Dodgers, but who isn’t; everyone seems to be in on buying the team, from Magic Johnson to Joe Torre to Mark Cuban to the O’Malleys to the Disneys to, so it was rumored this week, the new interested party: Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
No More Orlando Octobers
Orlando Cabrera decided to step down from the game this past week at the age of 37 after performing for 15 years with nine different teams, collecting a total of 2,055 hits; he was 12th among active players with 459 doubles. But Cabrera will be best known for his knack for being at the right place at the right time; he went from the obscurity of Montreal midway through the 2004 season to the limelight of Boston, helping push the Red Sox to their first world championship since 1918. Over the next six years, he played in four more postseasonswith four different teamsthough his 2004 trip to the Fall Classic would be his only one. The magic ended last year when he failed to help lift the defending champion Giants to an October spot, even after they acquired him while still in first place (Arizona leapfrogged the Giants late and took the NL West).
Star pitcher Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants raised the bar on arbitration figures this past week when the former requested $21.5 million in salary and the latter offered $17 million; both are record highs. Weekend reports suggest that Lincecum and the Giants will come to an amiable settlement for this year and nextbut the Giants have a bigger challenge in their ongoing attempts to lock up Lincecum beyond 2013, when he’s due to become a free agent.
An Invitation to Danger?
Here’s a match made in offensive heaven: Colorado’s Coors Field and Jamie Moyer, the all-time recordholder for the most home runs allowed in a career (at 511). Moyer signed a minor league contract with the Rockies this past week after sitting out a year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. If he makes the team, Moyer will be the third oldest pitcher after Jack Quinn and Hoyt Wilhelm ever to throw in a major league game. (We discount Satchel Paige, who pitched at age 59 in a one-game promotional stunt for the Kansas City A’s in 1965.)
Mr. Imperfecto is Back
Armando Galarraga is getting another shot. The pitcher who had a perfect game robbed on a bad call in 2010 while playing for Detroit has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles, which means he’ll have to fight his way to make the parent cluband given the state of pitching in Baltimore, that may not be such a difficult task. The 30-year-old right-hander was traded to Arizona after the 2010 season and flopped with the Diamondbacks, starting eight games and recording a 3-4 record with a 5.91 ERA.
Son, Let Me Tell You About Bill Buckner...
Kyle Williams, whose two fumbled punt returns figured prominently in the San Francisco 49ers' overtime loss to the New York football Giants in the NFC Championship Game, is the son of Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
Now Playing at TGG
Our review of the 2011 season is now live in our Yearly Reader section. Check out the season that was now!
I've Got Yu, Babe
How good can Darvish be? He’s 76-28 over his last five years in Japanwhere he ranged from age 20 to 24and has furnished an earned run average below 2.00 in each of those years. Comparatively, Daisuke Matsuzakawho took a similar path to America at roughly the same agenever had an ERA below 2.00 and showed less consistency. So if anyone’s going to come from abroad and set the majors on fire with Cooperstown-like heat, it’s going to be Darvishuntil someone better comes along.
The Texas Rangers beat the clock this past Thursday and agreed with colorful (and sometimes controversial) Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish to a six-year, $60 million contract; on top of that, the Rangers now owe his former team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, $51.7 million in transfer fees.
Darvish’s arrival in America is just one of many for this coming season from the Orient. Following is a list of other newbie’s from the Far East and their chances of making it here in the States:
Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee. The 30-year-old left-handed hitter has fair pop but has hit over .340 four times in Japan and is an aggressive basestealer. He had an off-year by his standards last season, establishing career lows with a .292 average, four homers and eight steals for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, but the Brewers are crossing their fingers that the trend won’t continue into 2012 in Milwaukee.
Tsuyoshi Wada, Baltimore. He’s not Darvish, but for the Oriolesdesperate for any sort of pitching stabilityany live body will do at this point. However, the 31-year old southpaw with a delivery that evokes Hideo Nomo had a breakthrough season in 2011, going 16-5 with a 1.51 ERA that halved his previous career low. He doesn’t serve up many walks, but he’s prone to serving up gopher balls.
Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore. Or is it Chen Wei-yin? (Both variations are making mainstream press headlines.) He’s not Darvish either, but again, it’s the Orioles checking what sticks against the wall. Chen may have more upside than Wada; he’s five years younger and has shown more consistently good ERA numbers (even if his won-loss totals have relatively suffered). Though a native of Taiwan, he’s spent the bulk of his professional career in Japan.
Yoshihiro Doi, Baltimore. For the Oriole scouts, it must be the sushi. We’re wondering why they even bothered with Doi, who’s 35, didn’t play at all last season (knee injury), hasn’t won a game since 2007 and has produced an overall 5.22 ERA over the last six years in Japan. Doi has been signed to a minor league contract.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle. After the Oakland A’s posted the high bid late in 2010 but failed to land him (perhaps “Moneyball” doesn’t translate well in Japan), the right-handed pitcher has successfully landed in Seattle, where Japanese players have always felt at home. Iwakuma had one sensational year in Japan (with a 21-4 mark and 1.87 ERA in 2008) and has been modestly above average since. With the Mariner rotation hurting for talent after Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma should be a welcomed addition.
Wounded of the Week
It was also reported that Boston outfielder Carl Crawford underwent microscopic surgery on a left wrist that has pained him since the end of last season and hasn’t dissipated; he likely will not be active for Opening Day. This is certainly not the way Crawford, who disappointed in 2011 after signing a huge contract with the Red Sox, wants to start 2012.
Even in hibernation, baseball’s emergency room has to take in new patients. It certainly did so this past week with news that Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinezwho hit .330 for the Tigers last year and gave terrific protection for star hitter Miguel Cabrerawill likely miss the entire 2012 season after tearing an ACL doing a pre-spring training workout. The injury has rocked the Tigers, and now every available hitter on the market is being linked to Detroit as a possible replacementfrom (still) free agent Prince Fielder to Cuban émigré Yoenis Cespedes.
Gib, Gib, Gib...
Ozzie Guillen may be a Miami Marlin now, but that hasn’t kept him from continuing the feud with his former employers, the Chicago White Sox, via his active Twitter account. The veteran manager knocked out a series of tweets over a five-minute period this past Friday aimed at those criticizing his last year with the White Soxand doing it with such bad command of the English language that you thought he was Ed Harris struggling to use his keypad while sinking deep down the ocean waters in The Abyss. Here’s an example: “I will kill peoples fellings no mercy i turn the page but they no let me a long then get ready going to be bad.” And this one: “People want me to look bad but I so honest i wiil saynthe real true put u seat belt on.” Let us know when you reach the bottom, Oz.
Painting the White House Cardinal Red
The St. Louis Cardinals’ victory parade made its way to the White House this past week, as the World Series champions were honored by President Obama. The bigger news probably was who wasn’t there; the departed Albert Pujols and retired manager Tony La Russa were not present, though Obama was quick to point out that La Russa ended his career after beginning it with the Chicago White Sox, his favorite team. Obama was given several Cardinal jerseys and bats, to which he responded: “I’m a little worried about giving my wife a bat.”
TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.