The Week That Was in Baseball: November 24-30, 2008
Jumping Over Junichi The Risks of the $100 Million Pitcher
Make Room on the Marquee, Citigroup More Bonds and Clemens (Ugh!)

Regarding Tazawa
There’s a glut of top-line pitchers on the free agent market this winter, but adding to the crowd is Junichi Tazawa, a 22-year old phenom of sorts from Japan that’s being courted by a number of major league teams—with the front-runner considered to be the Boston Red Sox, who have Daisuke Matzusaka, Tazawa’s idol, on their roster. (As of this past weekend, Tazawa has reportedly rejected all other offers except that of the Red Sox’.)

So who is this guy? At the risk of gleaning the following information from his Wikipedia page, this is what we found: Tazawa was undrafted by the major Japanese leagues out of high school and has spent his time since pitching as an amateur. In 2008 he had a tremendous campaign with Nippon Oil of the Japan Amateur Baseball Association, posting a 10-1 record with a 1.02 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 88 innings. But again, he’s not facing major leaguers, but perhaps opponents with the collective talent level of a Class-A outfit, if even that.

True, Tazawa has performed on the big stage before, representing Japan at the 2007 Baseball World Cup played in Taiwan—but even that tourney lacked A-list names; the U.S. squad was wall-to-wall minor leaguers, albeit some very good ones like Evan Longoria. But Tazawa, then as now, threw a fastball at 97 MPH and obviously has upside at a young age. Tazawa may be a work in progress and may even toil in the minors for a year or two—or, as the Red Sox are hoping, he is the can’t-miss diamond in the rough on the order of Tim Lincecum and will be worth the reported $6 million the Red Sox plan to invest in him.

Share the Limelight as We Share the Pain
Now that Citigroup has received $300 billion in rescue money from the Federal Government, should U.S. citizens be entitled to share the name of the new ballpark of the New York Mets? That’s what two members of the New York City Council believe; their idea is to call the Mets’ new digs Citi/Taxpayer Field. Neither Citigroup nor the Mets cared to comment on the proposal.

Goin' Indian
A few weeks back we reported on the presence of two young natives of India who came stateside to show off their pitching velocity less than a year after picking up a baseball for the first time. Rinki Singh and Dinesh Patel didn’t exactly bring down the house with a fastball that topped out at 90 MPH, but the Pittsburgh Pirates were impressed enough that they signed the two 19-year olds to minor league deals—and are hoping to get a toehold in a country of a billion people, an “untapped market” that’s in love with cricket, a cousin of baseball.

Saturday Night Retrievers
For their final season in the Metrodome before moving into their new ballpark in 2010, the Minnesota Twins announced that for all Saturday home games in 2009 they’ll be wearing uniforms similar to those worn in their first year at the Metrodome. Modern-day fashion does trump the 1982 jerseys in that these throwbacks will be buttoned-down, as opposed to the double-knit originals. The modern-day Twins are also hoping the new old uniforms won’t come complete with the Mojo of the 1982 team—one which lost 102 games.

Now Playing at TGG
New to the They Were There section of our site is Ed Attanasio’s wonderful chat with Herman Franks, who may have had a role in helping Bobby Thomson hit his famous 1951 home run that won the New York Giants the NL pennant. Also note that our They Were There segment with Duane Pillette (discussing his remembrances of 3’7” Eddie Gaedel’s one and only major league at-bat) has been moved to the 1952 Yearly Reader page.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.

The $100 Million Pitcher: A Bubble Waiting to Burst?
For any major league general manager who may go nuts and throw money at a free agent pitcher like CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets, the New York Daily News has a warning for you: Spend carefully. This past week the Daily News put out an article on the track record of pitchers who’ve been rewarded with $100 million contracts—and it isn’t pretty. Yes, there is Johan Santana, who has thus far proven his $137 million worth for the New York Mets, if just for a year. But the three other pitchers who were able to wrench out nine-figure packages, presently or otherwise, have essentially been failures:

Kevin Brown—A 72-45 record sounds nice, but that’s just ten wins per year over the life of his seven-year megadeal. This is not what the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office had in mind when they signed him.

Mike Hampton—Eight injury-riddled years and $121 million produced 56 wins, 52 losses and a 4.81 ERA for Hampton, who spread his pain over two franchises (Colorado and Atlanta). At least he could hit, with a .253 average, 15 homers and 41 RBIs over 316 at-bats.

Barry Zito—The San Francisco Giants must be sorely regretting signing this guy to seven years and $126 million; in his first two years, he’s 21-30 with the Giants, has lost whatever velocity he had left to a fastball to compliment his curve, and has mentally shrunk under the weight of his heavy money. 

Oh Please, Just Go Away!
Just when you thought it was safe to mothball the toy syringes, everybody’s favorite whipping boys of the steroids era, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, were back in the news again this week. Federal investigators were on the hunt for Clemens’ DNA on used syringes, needles and gauze pads that were turned over by his trainer, Brian McNamee, earlier this year; if Clemens’ DNA is indeed all over the items, it would bolster a perjury case against him. Adding insult to injury, Clemens was also asked to part ways with a charity golf tournament in Houston that he had hosted for the past four years.

The news for Bonds is hardly any better. Although Susan Illston, the judge presiding over his upcoming perjury case, threw out a few more of the voluminous charges facing Bonds, it hardly weakens the Federal prosecutors’ case—but in a surprise result, the Feds also persuaded Illston to release to them all grand jury testimony and evidence related to the 30 witnessses who testified in the BALCO case five years ago. This now means that, if they choose to, prosecutors can publicly release or discuss the content of the documents, including past drug-test results of Bonds and numerous other major leaguers. For now, the Feds say they will keep the information to themselves—until the obligatory source who remains anonymous because he is not authorized to speak divulges some juicy bits, wink-wink.

They Tell Us, They Tell Us Not
Earlier in the week, MLB officials sent out a memo stating they were going to release the names of players who flunked tests for amphetamines in 2008. The powers-that-be at Players’ Union Central likely went through the roof when they read the note, given that first-time offenders for amphetamines are not supposed to be made public. MLB exec Rob Manfred beat the union to the PR punch and quickly sent out a correction note, saying there was a “misunderstanding” within his offices that led to the errant information and that there would be, in fact, no public disclosure of first-time amp users.

He Said What?
Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke on a series of convoluting comments made by Los Angeles Dodger president Jamie McCourt which attempted to reconcile $30 million-a-year player contracts with building 50 baseball fields for the community: “No, fans should not have to worry that signing CC Sabathia means some poor child doesn't eat that night, that's beyond belief. Who runs this team, Charles Dickens?”