Taking Back the Late Innings
The Mets’ moves apparently didn’t move Philadelphia Phillie ace Cole Hamels, who said on local sports talk radio this past week that the Mets are “choke artists” and have been “for years.” It was just a matter of time before someone on the Mets returned a volley in the latest round of verbal sparring that’s taken place between the two teams, and that someone was Francisco Rodriguez, who responded that the Mets “are the team to beat.” Or the team to beat up on, as the Mets proved over the last two Septembers.
In one week, the New York Mets went from having a highly maligned bullpen to one of the more fearsome. The Mets not only picked up Francisco Rodriguez, the grand prize among closers, they also grabbed via trade Seattle closer J.J. Putz, who was phenomenal in 2006 and 2007 before injuries got the better of him in 2008. If doubling the pleasure of Met fans wasn’t enough, the Mets trebled it by casting away beleaguered relievers Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis. Putz is slated to be the set-up man for Rodriguez, who set the season record for saves with 62 in 2008.
Pitching for MoneyLots of It
Meanwhile in New York City, that other major league teamthe Yankeesare back to sparing no expense to become the best team money can buy; eight years without a championship will do that. The Yankees won the CC Sabathia sweepstakes this past week with an eye-opening $161 million package for seven years, and added more pitching punch by the weekend with the five-year, $82 million signing of A.J. Burnett. Sabathia’s likely the real thing, but Yankee fans better cross their fingers and hope that the oft-injured Burnett doesn’t become the Bronx replacement for the just-exercised Carl Pavano.
Is it Apathy...Or Karma?
Manny Ramirez, who became almost a forgotten story at baseball’s winter meetings this past week as no contract offers came his way, is said to be so upset over the lack of activity that he’s considering retirement if he doesn’t receive a proposal he likes. The Los Angeles Dodgers, the incumbents, had offered Ramirez two years at $45 million, but took it off the table when Ramirez’s agent Scott Boras scoffed in response. It’s likely Ramirez’s phone wont ring until Mark Teixeira gets his deal, but perhaps things might be going differently if not for Ramirez’s clubhouse baggage.
Some people in the media have been commenting how Teixeira is being given the superstar treatment when his name has seldom if ever been on the household radarespecially in relation to Ramirez. Part of it is ageTeixeira will be 29 in 2009, Ramirez 37and part of it is defense; Teixeira’s a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman while Ramirez is a left fielder begging to be a DH. But the production is also there for Teixeira; over his first six seasons, he’s averaged 34 home runs, 113 RBIs, 94 runs scored, 37 doubles and 74 walks with a .290 batting average. During the same time, Ramirezplaying mostly at the height of his careerhas averaged 36 homers, 115 RBIs, 100 runs, 34 doubles and 86 walks with a .312 mark. Bottom line: If you haven’t realized what Teixeira can do for a major league baseball team, you will, sooner than later. Or, to quote Casey Stengel, you can look it up.
Wild is Out in Baltimore
We said of Baltimore pitcher Daniel Cabrera when we named him the AL’s worst pitcher of the week in our August 25 edition of the Comebacker: “Cabrera may still be a work in progress at age 27, but the O’s must be losing patience.” This past week, patience ran its course and the Orioles declined arbitration on Cabrera, making him a free agent. Cabrera’s size (6’7”, 220 lbs.) and potential had the Orioles salivating at first, but after five years of perennially leading the AL in walks, wild pitches and hit batsmennot to mention, he led the AL in losses with 18 in 2007Baltimore finally said enough. It’ll be curious to see who takes Cabrera on, and whether that team will describe him as a reclamation project.
What Have You Done For Us Lately
One of the more surprising moves of the past week was the decision by the Dodgers to allow closer Takashi Saito to become a free agent. Saito quietly became of the game’s toughest (if not underrated) closers from 2006-07, recording 63 saves in 69 opportunities with an opposing batting average well below .200 and an astounding WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) of 0.82. The Dodgers are concerned about Saito’s age (he’ll be 39 in 2009), his health (an elbow problem sidelined him for part of 2008, curtailed his effectiveness and cost him his closer role after the All-Star break) and what he might had made via arbitration if they had offered it to him. Without Saito, the Dodgers are content with Jonathan Broxton in the closer role.
Tough Schmidt, Dodgers
The Dodgers sued ACE American Insurance Company, which issued an insurance policy on injury-riddled pitcher Jason Schmidt, claiming ACE has not paid $9.27 million in claims. Upon his free agent signing before 2007, the Dodgers knew Schmidt had a rotator cuff injury that had not been repaired, but the suit contends that Schmidt suffered a torn labrum unrelated to the rotator cuff problem; ACE apparently doesn’t concur. Schmidt’s tenure with the Dodgers has been virtually non-existent; he made six starts in 2007going 1-4 with a 6.31 ERAdid not pitch at all in 2008 and, according to the Dodgers, is not likely to recover from his current injury issues in time to pitch in 2009, the final year of his three-year, $47 million contract.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Nothing Personal, Joe
We didn’t see Joe Gordon when he played, because we were born some ten years after he played his last game. And what we don’t see today is how he got elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee this past week. This is not a criticism of Gordona very good player who, on paper, wielded a solid stick at the plate, an outstanding glove at second base and played for five world championship teamsbut a criticism of the Veterans Committee, which continues to dumb down the gold standard for allowing as many pseudo-legends into Cooperstown as pure, overlooked legends (if there are any that haven’t already been elected). We love you, Joe, even though we never saw you play, but your numbers were too inconsistent to be considered a true great and, well, when we think New York Yankees (where you played from 1938-43 and 1946-47), we don’t think Joe Gordon. We think the voters had it more fairly accurate the first time around, when Gordon never received anything higher than 28% of the required 75% vote to be enshrined during his initial eligibility; looking at this, maybe Mark McGwire does have a good shot of getting in the Hall, eventually.
One Last Beef, And Then We'll Move On
After the veterans’ Hall of Fame vote produced a shutout of eligible players who began their careers after 1943, former Chicago Cub third basemanand current Cub broadcasterRon Santo probably reacted the same way he does on air when the Cubs blow a ninth-inning lead, and later publicly complained that the voting process should be changed. Santo came closest to enshrinement, falling nine votes (or 14%) shy of the 75% requirement. “They have to change (the voting process),” Santo told the Chicago Sun-Times in Las Vegas this past week, “it should go back to where it was (in the 1990s) when Bill Mazeroski got in.” But, you see, Ron, that’s why they changed it: Because Mazeroski got in. At the risk of repeating ourselves, we say it once again: To get into Cooperstown, you need to be a no-doubt-about-it great, not very good.
Cutting Completely Loose
In receiving the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting this past week, Tony Kubek made a rather startling statement: That he has not watched or listened to any major league game since he stepped away from the booth in 1994. “If I couldn’t be part of all of it, I didn’t want to be a part of any of it,” he told reporters as he received the honor in Las Vegas. Kubek, a nine-year shortstop for the New York Yankees from 1957-65, is best known for his crisp and often unapologetic analysis for NBC’s Saturday morning Game of the Week broadcasts from 1969-89; any national telecast of the game, before, during or since, have seldom been better than when Kubek and a young, equally opinionated Bob Costas worked together for NBC in the late 1980s.
Sox Change Operation
The Boston Red Sox made a big media splash this past week when they announced a revised visual brand, which included alternate uniforms and caps based on a simplified icon that will now primarily consist only of the “hanging red socks.” The icon will occasionally (but not primarily) be used on the Red Sox’ caps for 2009 in place of the famed “B,” though it will not be the first time it’s happened; the hanging red socks were on the caps of the 1931 team before being ultimately transitioned to the center of the team’s logo. Click here to see a comprehensive review of the Red Sox’ 2009 wardrobe from boston.com.
Things Are Tough All Over
The recessionor the fear of something deeperhasn’t even spared baseball’s cash cow, mlb.com, which had been a thriving financial success. Twenty employees of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which runs the web site, have been laid off.
Please, Just Cut to the Chase
Fox announced that it will not have a pregame show for any of its MLB telecasts in 2009. Does this mean we can now start a World Series game at a reasonable hour?
Welcome to the Land of Carbs
Apparently the good American life has caught up to Cuban defector and newly signed Chicago White Sox third baseman Dayan Viciedo, who currently tilts the scales at 246 pounds. The kid is 19 years old. Either test him for steroidsor Crispy Cremes.
It Ain't a Winning Season, But It's Something
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t won much of anything over the last 16 years, but at least they have this going for them: Baseball Prospectus recently named the Pirates’ medical staff as the best in the majors and formerly congratulated the Bucs by handing them the Dick Martin Award, which is not to be confused with the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate given once upon a time by Dick Martin and Dan Rowan. (This Dick Martin was the longtime trainer for the Minnesota Twins.)
No Future for Futures
We checked out the early odds for the 2009 season and found the closest thing to a longshot on a par with the 150-1 Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 are the Washington Nationals, currently listed at 200-1. Whereas we saw something in the Rays to the point that we encouraged people to spend little to be rewarded big time (and the Rays came within three games of making it happen), we see nothing in the Nats' prospects for 2009. Trust us on this one: Save your money.
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.