The Week That Was in Baseball: February 11-17, 2013
Ten Former Star Players Who May Not Play Again • A Very Rich King in Seattle
Biogenesis' Bad Boys Face the Media • A Winter Without an Arbitration Hearing
Dust in the Wind?
Spring camps in Arizona and Florida are filling up with players returning from the offseason, but some stars of yesteryear aren’t hopping on the plane as they still await the call from a potential major league suitor. The following ten names, almost all of them with All-Star experience and even a few considered Hall of Fame-worthy, have publicly shown no desire to quit the game and are willing to trudge back on the field—if only someone would let them. In alphabetical order, they are:
Bobby Abreu. Nowhere as productive as he was in his heyday, Abreu has struggled to hit .250 in recent years but still has a penchant for walks and speed—yet at 39, does anyone care? The rumors suggest that the Baltimore Orioles are the only ones who seem to, but just maybe. Abreu has his own wish, recently quoted as saying that he would “love” to play for Jeffrey Loria’s Miami Marlins. Bobby: Be careful for what you wish for.
Orlando Hudson. The O-Dog was once considered one of the premier second basemen in the game, and although his fielding may still be better than half of the other current second sackers, his hitting has gone to pot. Maybe the 35-year old can make for a good backup somewhere, but no one’s calling.
Aubrey Huff. The 13-year veteran has seen his career run notoriously hot-and-cold, but after an ice-cold, mostly absent performance last year in San Francisco, the only thing warming up may be the bench he’d be sitting on if anyone had interest in signing him. Which, right now, does not appear to be the case.
Carlos Lee. Approaching age 37 with a body weight that’s threatening to become higher than his batting average, Lee just doesn’t seem to show much promise—and worse, much enthusiasm—to continue carrying on in a major league uniform, which is why he hasn’t received much of a sniff from anyone. After raking in (some say stole) $20 million over each of the last four years, maybe you wouldn’t, either.
Derek Lowe. Unlike Lee, Lowe—who turns 40 in June—does appear to have some Baseball Jones left in him, but apparently on his own terms; he’ll be happy to sign somewhere, but not under one of those minor league contract deals. Only the Colorado Rockies—very desperate for pitching—have offered him even that. Lowe said no.
Roy Oswalt. Despite an underwhelming “comeback” performance (4-3, 5.80 earned run average) for Texas last season, Oswalt is said to have attracted interest from the New York Mets and San Diego Padres for 2013—but the wiry right-hander with a exceptional 163-96 career mark says he’ll only return if he gets a spot in the starting rotation. That may be a big sticking point in any negotiations.
Freddy Sanchez. The 35-year-old second baseman hasn’t played since badly injuring his shoulder midway through 2011, and most teams are skeptical that he has a comeback in him. There’s been some linkage to Minnesota, but otherwise all is quiet for the career .297 hitter.
Grady Sizemore. Here you have a three-time All-Star who’s barely 30—but going on 50, thanks to a nonstop parade of injuries here, there and everywhere. One reason no one’s signing him right now is that he won’t be ready for Opening Day as he still recovers from the back and knee issues that kept him all of last season. Both New York teams are said to be interested; never will the formality of passing the physical be so important for anyone as it will for Sizemore.
Jim Thome. After bouncing around on and off the bench with six teams over the last four seasons, it may appear that the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer has seen his last action. Not even the Cleveland Indians, who could sell a few more tickets with Thome back in uniform as a sentimental attraction, bothered—signing another grizzled old vet (Jason Giambi) instead.
Chien-Ming Wang. No player regards the upcoming World Baseball Classic with more importance than the 33-year-old, injury-riddled right-handed pitcher, who has badly struggled to return to the form that produced a 46-15 record over two-plus years with the Yankees from 2006-08. Wang desperately needs to shine for the Taiwanese squad to rekindle interest from major league teams; a possible Yankee reunion is catching the biggest buzz.
A King’s Ransom
He’s only 26, but Felix Hernandez has become baseball’s highest-paid pitcher—and is tied for the second highest-paid player (with Josh Hamilton and Ryan Howard) behind Alex Rodriguez. King Felix secured the sweet seven-year, $175 million deal to stay with the Seattle Mariners (a near-non-negotiable factor, according to his agents), but what makes this contract so appealing to the Mariners is that Hernandez will still be only 32 when it expires in 2018. So while other ballplayers with rich contracts are being paid for past performance as they reach the late 30s, Hernandez will be paid top dollar in what should be the prime of his career—although there was some hesitancy last week when the Mariners brooded over an elbow issue that held up finalization of the deal, before team doctors gave Hernandez “a clean bill of health.”
Hernandez’s deal will pay him just under $20 million in 2013—nearly three times the number of the next highest-paid Mariner, outfielder Franklin Guiterrez.
What Did You Do in the Offseason, Biogenesis Clients?
The beginning of spring training meant the arrival of ballplayers implicated in the Biogenesis scandal. How did they face the music?
Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez said he had “no clue” as to why his name showed up in the Biogenesis books even as he acknowledged that his father was a “legitimate patient” at the client to fight weight loss. “You’re stunned, you’re shocked,” Gonzalez told the media at Nationals camp, “Your name’s just brought up out of nowhere. And it’s like, you can’t do nothing about it.” Curiously, Gonzalez mentioned that MLB gave him a blood test two days after his name was leaked in the Miami New Times report on Biogenesis. Yankee catcher
Francisco Cervelli said his dalliance with Biogenesis consisted of nothing more than to pay a visit and “get some suggestions, and that’s it.” “I walked away with nothing in my hands,” Cervelli claimed, “No supplements. I just went there and talked.” (This contradicts an earlier statement in which Cervelli said, “I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by MLB.”)
Texas slugger Nelson Cruz found the appearance of his name in the Biogenesis files “shocking” and “depressing,” but otherwise had nothing to say because his lawyers told him so.
Melky Cabrera, now with Toronto after being suspended for 50 games last season with the Giants, said too that his lawyers would handle any questions regarding his steroid-related issues, but did say curtly, “I made a mistake. I paid the price for it. I’m looking forward to 2013.”
Alex Rodriguez wasn’t around to talk; he’s still in hiding, rehabbing from his latest hip surgery.
And then there was Ryan Braun. More information came out about his link to Biogenesis when ESPN released more documents with his name on it. The docs provided no smoking-gun evidence that Biogenesis provided steroids to Braun, but a source close to Biogenesis told ESPN that there’s “no other reason to be on that paper” (which also includes Rodriguez, Cabrera and Cervelli) except to purchase PEDs. In response, Braun congenially declined to comment about the new accusation, saying he had made his statement of denial earlier and was sticking to it; meanwhile, one of Braun’s lawyers threatened ESPN with a lawsuit if they published the report; ESPN, calling the lawyer’s bluff, did.
Doing All One Can to Perk Up a Bad Housing Market
Jose Reyes, former Miami Marlin and current Toronto Blue Jay, claimed that just a few days before vilified Miami owner Jeffrey Loria traded him and basically every other star player to the Jays, the two sat down for dinner where Loria encouraged Reyes to buy a house in the Miami area.
Last week we reported on Arizona catcher Miguel Montero’s frustration with former Diamondback pitcher Trevor Bauer, the hot young prospect now with the Indians who apparently wasn’t willing to take advice from his more sage teammates. So how does Bauer respond? Through a rap song. In a ballad entitled You Don’t Know Me, Bauer appears to take aim at Montero by using the line, “hiding behind a mask.” Bauer later claimed that the song wasn’t intended as a response to Montero and the Diamondbacks but, instead, at “Twitter haters.” Right, and Jeffrey Loria has real estate to sell you in Miami.
There was a time when salary arbitration hearings were so contentious, the Chicago White Sox once put together a video compilation of ‘lowlights’ to counter a highlights reel produced by agents for slugger Ron Kittle in an attempt to sway an arbitrator in their favor; Kittle, after seeing the collage full of his bloopers, must have wondered, “Why do they even want to keep me?”
Today, arbitration-eligible players and their teams have increasingly gone out of their way to sign on the dotted line before the dreaded hearing in front of the arbitrator. In fact, with the Padres’ Clayton Richard signing a one-year deal for $5.24 million this past weekend, it ensures that not one arbitration case will be held this winter—with players and teams all agreeing in advance. The previous low total of arbitration cases in one offseason was three.
Odds and Suds
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reiterated this past week that they will allow alcoholic beverages in the clubhouse, which is curious for a couple reasons. One, Josh Hamilton—a recovered alcohol and drug abuser who’s briefly dropped off the wagon a few times since claiming cold turkey—is now a member of the team. Two, it’s only been four years since the death of young Angel pitcher Nick Adenhart, killed by a drunk driver early in 2009. (There was a tinge of irony when, at the end of that season, Angel players celebrated winning the AL West by pouring champagne over Adenhart’s jersey, left in the clubhouse as a tribute to him.)
Last week we reported on some of the advance, juicier nuggets to come from Mike Piazza’s new autobiography Long Shot, but the release of the book shed more public light this past week that will hardly warm the retired catcher’s relations with the Los Angeles Dodgers (with whom he played for from 1992-98) and their fans. Piazza writes that he holds legendary Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully primarily responsible for his departure from Los Angeles, in part because Scully continually criticized Piazza for his contract stance in 1998.
Reached for comment, Scully was dumbfounded by the accusations. “As God is my judge, I don’t get involved in (contractual negotiations),” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I have no idea where he is coming from. I really have no idea. I can’t imagine saying something about a player and his contract. I just don't do that, ever. I’m really flabbergasted by that reference.”
There’s only one way to be sure about all of this: Let’s go to the videotape! (Unfortunately, it’s not on YouTube.)
Ryan Ripken, the son of Hall-of-Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and a freshman for the University of South Carolina baseball squad, will be doing a lot of something his father almost never did: Watch the games from the dugout. He’s redshirting, which means he cannot participate in any games—only practice.
Wounded of the Week
Oakland closer Grant Balfour reported to camp saying he was ready for surgery. Discovering that he had a torn meniscus, Balfour and the A’s decided that he undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to deal with the issue; he’ll be out roughly a month but should be ready for Opening Day.
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