The Week That Was in Baseball: March 21-27, 2011
MLB's Debt Wish? • Our Picks for the Best & Worst From Spring Training
Testicle Spectacle: The Barry Bonds Trial Begins • Joe Biden Keeps the Jays Waiting
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At the heart of the problem is the issue of debt. The Mets and Dodgers are operating at a debt-to-operating income ratio well above the 10:1 allowed by MLB’s bylawsbut a terrific article published this past week by Forbes dissecting the two teams’ struggles states that commissioner Bud Selig is turning his back on the problem, in part because he probably doesn’t know how else to deal with it outside of simply stripping away the franchises from Fred Wilpon in New York and Frank (and maybe Jamie) McCourt in Los Angeles. The players’ union reportedly doesn’t like the idea of the debt limit bylaws, because it could discourage teams from spending more on players; in a sense, they’re encouraging a build-up of debt that could become unsustainable.
Do you see a bubble growing? Has anyone in baseball learned from Wall Street?
Compounding the issues of the day is the release of Forbes’ annual list of MLB franchise values this past week. While the average team value is up 7% from last year (with the Yankees tops at a whopping $1.7 billion), it was revealed that five of baseball’s most noted have-not’sPittsburgh, Kansas City, Florida, Oakland and San Diegoapparently have a lot; all five made profits of at least $10 million last year, in part due to revenue sharing payments from big spenders like the Yankees, Red Sox and, yes, the Mets. Those latter teams would like to neuter revenue sharing, which would lessen their debt load but also cause more league-wide financial upheaval and thus limit funds for handing out gracious long-term contracts to playersanother point of contention likely to be brought up by the union during negotiations.
A year or so ago we opined that MLB, if it really wanted to be deviously headstrong, would be smart to try and split the union on the subject of HGH blood testing during labor talks. But it’s more likely it’ll recommend solutions to the sport’s looming debt and revenue sharing issues, some of which makes common sense. The union may cringe and even balk at the idea of such solutions; after all, HGH testing only involves a player’s health. This is about money.
Barry Bonds: The Trial
The trial began with former best friend Steve Hoskins detailing his strong concern (and evidence, including an audio tape recording) that Bonds was in too deep with steroids and trainer Greg Anderson. It got more technical later in the week when an expert on testicle shrinkage described the use of an orchidometer to determine the size of, yes, you guessed it. Anderson himself was called in, said he would refuse to testify and therefore was sent to jailagainout of contempt for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last roughly a month.
Bonds is said to have hired 13 lawyers for this case, led by Allen Ruby, a high-powered legal eagle who once battled the NFL on behalf of the Oakland Raiders and their mercurial owner, Al Davis. No one knows the legal costs for Bonds, but it’s safe to suggest that it’s well in the millions.
Is Bonds worried? It doesn’t appear so. Reporters noted that he was seen yawning and closing his eyes at time during the trial, which recalls the scene in The Untouchables when Al Capone is doing the same while the Feds are attempting to grill him for tax evasion. Perhaps Bonds has also bought out the jury as well as Anderson.Some believe Bonds has this coming to him; others roll their eyes as to why the Federal Government is spending our hard-earned tax dollars trying to jail a guy for lying about cheating in baseball. Jose Canseco, like Bonds a former member of baseball’s steroid fraternity, called the trial “ridiculous,” adding: “They’re not going to find him guilty. If they do find him guilty, they’ll have to go after Roger Clemens and millions of other players who perjured themselves before congressional members.” Millions, Jose? All we recall is Bonds and Clemens and Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. More like a handful, pal.
East vs. West
Some might think that it’s no big deal to drive from one part of Phoenix to the other to catch a game, but why would baseball tourists anchored in Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa fight up to 40 miles of traffic to cross town when you have prime spring training action right down the street?
Wounded of the Week
Among the many on the shelf for the first pitch of the season: Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox (shoulder), Cincinnati starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey (both with shoulder issues), two Houston second basemen (Jeff Keppinger, foot, and Clint Barmes, broken hand), Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Kendrys Morales (toe), Los Angeles starting pitcher Jon Garland (oblique), Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart (oblique), New York Yankee outfielder Curtis Granderson (oblique), Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley (knee) and closer Brad Lidge (shoulder), San Francisco outfielder Cody Ross (calf), Texas starting pitchers Tommy Hunter (groin) and Scott Feldman (knee), and Toronto starting pitcher Brandon Morrow (arm) and reliever Octavio Dotel (hamstring). At upload time, word spread that San Diego ace Mat Latos and Seattle outfielder Franklin Guiterrez may also hit the DL after they struggled to get game-ready.We’re no experts on this, but maybe the players had it right years ago. Don’t work out in the offseason; just take a job selling clothes in the winter.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Spring Trained? Who's Ready and Not for 2011
On our list last year, we were deceived by Delwyn Youngwho hit a spring-high six homers but then labored to total seven in the regular season for Pittsburgh (he’s now fighting for a job in Philadelphia)and pitcher Todd Wellemeyer, who looked so hot for San Francisco but failed the test big time once the games counted in April (all while keeping the five spot in the rotation warm for Madison Bumgarner). But we did note the awful camp performances of Nate McLouth, Carlos Pena, Kevin Millwood and Ben Sheets in advance of their regular season efforts that similarly stunk. (Full disclosure: The statistics listed below are through March 26.)
Ready: Alex Rodriguez. A .422 average, six homers and seven doubles in 45 at-bats. Looks like there’s some (natural) juice left in him.
Not Ready: The rest of the New York Yankees, who are hitting .242 as a team minus A-Rod. No other team has a worse average this spring.
Ready: Ryan Roberts. One of the few bright spots in an otherwise awful spring for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Roberts is hitting .510; with 13 walks, his on-base percentage moves up to .609. Take that, Ted Williams.
Not Ready: Engel Beltre. Texas fans might have a seizure if they see the Rangers’ hitting stats and see 0-for-17 next to “Beltre,” but relaxit’s not the highly-touted Adrian Beltre who’s come up completely empty, but a 21-year old Dominican who’s of no relation and obviously won’t make the Opening Day roster.
Ready: Mitch Maier. The back-up Kansas City outfielder will be getting more playing time in the regular season if the Royals believe in his .548 average over 36 at-bats. Maier seems to love the springtime; over the past two years, he’s hitting .505 at camp. Eat the rest of your heart out, Ted Williams.
Not Ready: Koby Clemens. The son-of-a-you-know-who didn’t pass his first major league test, managing just two hits in 23 at-bats with eight strikeouts. He wasn’t expected to make the parent roster anyway.
Ready: Mike Morse. We listed this guy a few years back when he impressed during the spring for Seattle. Now with Washington, he’s burning up the Grapefruit League anew with eight home runs and a .361 average. If the baseball season stopped at March 31, Morse, like Meier, would already have one foot in Cooperstown.
Not Ready: Jhonny Peralta. The first-year Detroit shortstop is hitting .220 in 59 at-bats. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he has yet to knock in a single run this spring.
Ready: Jake Fox. The 28-year old part-time power hitter was plugged in this spring for Baltimore, belting an exhibition-high nine homers with seven doubles added; he hit .318 overall.
Not Ready: Garrett Atkins. The former all-star’s decline is complete; he couldn’t even make it with Pittsburgh, going just 4-for-31 with 11 strikeouts before receiving an outright release from the Bucs.
Ready: Welington Castillo. When he’s played, he’s been white-hotcollecting 12 hits in 18 at-bats for the Chicago Cubs. His defense behind the plate is said to be superior as well. He’s trying to beat out Koyie Hill for the back-up spot. So how is Koyie doing?
Not Ready: Koyie Hill. One hit in 28 at-bats this spring.
Ready: Chris Davis. Forever struggling at the major league level with the Rangers, Davis has blistered spring training opponents with a .364 average, five homers and 17 RBIs in 55 at-bats. It looks like his career Triple-A numbers, which makes sense because it’s probably Triple-A pitchers he’s facing.
Not Ready: Hideki Matsui. Now with Oakland, the veteran DH has struggled with a .125 average, one homer and two RBIs in 56 at-bats. And that’s in the warm, dry desert; wait ‘til he meets the power-killing marine air hanging over the Coliseum.
Ready: Roy Halladay. A 4-0 record and 0.42 ERA in 21.2 innings. This guy is always in midseason form.
Not Ready: Carlos Silva. And not employed, either, after the Cubs let him go following a dismal spring with a 10.90 ERA and a dugout fracas to his bad credit.
Ready: Justin Verlander. The Detroit ace was 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 23 strikeouts (against just three walks) in 28 innings.
Not Ready: Russ Ohlendorf. Pittsburgh’s projected Opening Day starter, 1-11 last year, was 0-4 with a 10.05 ERA this spring. Attention, Pirate fans: If the aspirin bottle hasn’t emptied out yet, reach again for it.
Ready: Kyle McClellan. The St. Louis Cardinals are praying that the career reliever’s camp numbers (3-0, 0.53 ERA) are no mirage and that he’ll make up for the loss of Adam Wainwright.
Not Ready: Joe Saunders. Arizona’s pitching has been bad in general this spring, but no one on the Diamondbacks has been worse than Saunders, 0-3 with a 12.51 ERA in 13.1 innings.
Ready: The Milwaukee Brewers’ offense. The strength of the Brew Crew was on full display in the Cactus League with a .333 team batting average, a .387 on-base percentage and a .507 slugging percentageall tops in the majors.
Not Ready: The Arizona Diamondbacks. No team this spring has lost more games, made more errors, struck out more often and given up more home runs. Mark Reynolds is gone, so you can’t pin the blame on him.
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