Tagged: Atlanta Braves

“Hotel California”…

… by the Eagles is one of my favorite songs (and one of the best songs in American songwriting history) and what I felt would be a fairly good transition into the troublesome world of the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s, or the Montreal Expos West Coast, just finished one of the semi-annual fire sales.  Chances are, should they still be in Oakland in two to three years, they’ll be holding another one.  Don’t get me wrong, these sales are great for baseball.  It gives other teams a chance to trade prospects for what are usually great young arms and keep one of baseball’s historic (yes, historic) and once proud franchises in the basement.

Lets take a brief look at the past…

The history of the Athletics Major League Baseball franchise spans the period from 1901 to the present day, having begun in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City in 1955 and then to its current home in Oakland, California in 1968.

The “Athletics” name originates from the late 19th century “athletic clubs”, specifically the Philadelphia Athletics baseball club. They are most prominently nicknamed “the A’s”, in reference to the Gothic script “A”, a trademark of the team and the old Athletics of Philadelphia. This has gained very prominent use, and in some circles is used more frequently than the full “Athletics” name.  They are also known as “the White Elephants” or simply “the Elephants”, in reference to then New York Giants manager John McGraw calling the team a “white elephant”.  This was embraced by the team, who then made a white elephant the team’s mascot, and often incorporated it into the logo or sleeve patches. The typical Philadelphia uniform had only a script “A” on the left front, and likewise the cap usually had the same “A” on it. In the early days of the American League, the standings listed the club as “Athletic” rather than “Philadelphia”, in keeping with the old tradition. Eventually, the city name came to be used for the team, as with the other major league clubs.  After buying the team in 1960, owner Charles O. Finley introduced new road uniforms with “Kansas City” printed on them, as well as an interlocking “KC” on the cap. Also while in Kansas City, Finley changed the team’s colors from their traditional red, white and blue to what he termed “Kelly Green, Wedding Gown White and Fort Knox Gold.” It was also here that he began experimenting with dramatic uniforms to match these bright colors, such as gold sleeveless tops with green undershirts and gold pants.  Upon moving to Oakland, the “A” cap emblem was restored, although in 1970 an “apostrophe-s” was added to the cap and uniform emblem to reflect the fact that Finley was in the process of officially changing the team’s name to the “A’s.”  The innovative uniforms only increased after the team’s move to Oakland, which also came at the time of the introduction of polyester pullover uniforms.  During the team’s 1970s heyday, management often referred to the team as The Swingin’ A’s, referencing both their prodigious power and to connect the team with the growing disco culture.  During their Oakland Athletics updated logodynasty years in the 1970s, the A’s had dozens of uniform combinations with jerseys and pants in all three team colors, and in fact did not wear the traditional gray on the road, instead wearing green or gold, which helped to contribute to their nickname of “The Swingin’ A’s.”  After the team’s sale to the Haas family, the team changed its primary color to a more subdued forest green and began a move back to more traditional uniforms.  New owner Walter Haas restored the official name to “Athletics” in 1981, but retained the nickname “A’s” for marketing purposes.

The A’s are the only MLB team to wear white cleats, both at home and on the road, another tradition dating back to the Finley ownership.

One of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniaia, in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics.  The team had some prominent success in Philadelphia, winning three of four World Series from 1910 to 1914 (the “First Dynasty”) and two in a row in 1929 and 1930 (the “Second Dynasty”). The team’s owner and manager for its first 50 years was Connie Mack, and its Hall-of-Fame players included Chief Bender, Frank “Home Run” Baker, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.  After two decades of decline, however, the team left Philadelphia for Kansas City in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics.

After 13 mostly uneventful seasons in the Midwest, the team moved to Oakland in 1968.  There a “Third Dynasty” soon emerged, with three World Championships in a row from 1972 to 1974 led by players including Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and colorful owner Charlie O. Finley.  Finally, a “Fourth Dynasty” won three consecutive pennants and the 1989 World Series behind the ‘Bash Brothers’ of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.

Since the mid 2000s the A’s have been in talks with Oakland and other Northern California cities about building a new baseball-only stadium. The planned stadium, Cisco Field, was originally intended to be built in Fremont, California (a location that has since been abandoned), and there were talks about it remaining in Oakland, and current talks about building it in San Jose.

As of February 26, 2009 the city of San Jose was expected to open negotiations with the team.  Although parcels of land south of Diridon Station are being acquired by the city as a stadium site, the San Francisco Giants’ claim on Santa Clara County as part of their home territory would have to be dealt with before any agreement could be made.  By August 2010, San Jose was “aggressively wooing” A’s owner Lew Wolff.  Wolff referred to San Jose as the team’s “best option”, but Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he would wait on a report on whether the team could move to the area because of the Giants conflict.  In September 2010, 75 Silicon Valley CEOs drafted and signed a letter to Bud Selig urging a timely approval of the move to San Jose.  In May 2011 San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed sent a letter to Bud Selig asking the commissioner for a timetable of when he might decide whether the A’s can pursue this new ballpark, but Selig did not respond.  Selig addressed the San Jose issue via an online town hall forum held in July, saying, “Well, the latest is, I have a small committee who has really assessed that whole situation, Oakland, San Francisco, and it is complex. You talk about complex situations; they have done a terrific job. I know there are some people who think it’s taken too long and I understand that. I’m willing to accept that. But you make decisions like this; I’ve always said, you’d better be careful. Better to get it done right than to get it done fast. But we’ll make a decision that’s based on logic and reason at the proper time.”

Well, the proper time is most likely sooner rather than later.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who was recently extended through 2014, has placed the A’s and their pursuit of a new stadium and a move to San Jose on the front burner.  The special committee Selig put together to examine the dilemma has delivered a “comprehensive” report but has yet to be presented to all 30 owners. Still, Selig says they’re “proceeding at a rather quick pace” and seemed to agree to the suggested analogy that if the stadium issue were a baserunner, he’d be on third base.   A’s owner Lew Wolff said he’s “delighted” to hear that Selig is prioritizing the situation and that MLB is moving toward a decision.

The Giants could fight back by supporting an anti-ballpark campaign in San Jose, where a special ballot referendum (partially financed by MLB) would need to pass, or perhaps even by persuading one of their sponsors to sue MLB (the Giants cannot sue MLB themselves). There’s also nothing preventing the Giants from filing a lawsuit against the city of San Jose itself.

The Giants’ territorial claim can be overturned by a 75 percent vote from MLB owners.

So, let’s look at it positively.  Selig cleans up the whole mess, makes the Giants happy and San Jose constructs a stadium.  Yay!  The A’s (who currently have the worst stadium deal in most any major sport) will finally have a much-needed revenue stream to go with all those first round draft picks.

My suggestion… The California Athletics.  Using the original and updated San Jose Sharks logos and looking at one-time Bruins Captain and #1 draft pick over-all Joe Thornton, we get some useful uniform and cap ideas.  The new version of the Sharks jersey uses Deep Pacific teal, black, burnt orange and white.  The Miami Marlins have, except for probably a throwback jersey or two, abandoned the teal shade as their primary color and it could easily transition west.  The burnt orange could be amended to a more golden hue, and kept as a background color, mix well with the darker hues of teal, black and finally white.  Taking cues from the Athletics’ past, they can create a great ‘new’ yet totally retro jersey color scheme for their jerseys and caps.  Something that recalls the history of the Philadelphia Athletics while easily reminding you of the Oakland A’s.   I’d imagine the only team with much of a complaint would be the Royals (The Royals of Kansas City who take their color cues from their predecessor Athletics), but even then, too bad.  Look at how many teams utilize the ever familiar red, while and blue… The Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Angels and Nationals.  After all, Baltimore and San Fransisco are practically twins (because when John McGraw left Baltimore for New York and the Giants, he took the familiar colors with him), yet easily separated.

The A’s are a proud and deserving franchise who, if the transition is done right, would definitely thrive in a new venue.  Think of it like an expansion franchise designed to contend pretty quickly.

Advertisements

The Holidays are upon us… must be Hot Stove!

Isn’t it crazy that the Hot Stove season can be just as exciting as the real deal?

Due to the ongoing CBA negotiations and other technical stuff which isn’t expected to be resolved till the Thanksgiving time-frame, the real heat of the Hot Stove could be closer to December.

Teams that could definitely make a splash:

The Los Angeles Angels. Several members of the Halo’s front office were let go following the rather inept offseason of 2010-2011.  The ‘Napoli’ fiasco (turning Texas down and then trading him to Toronto knowing Texas would obtain him from the Jays) and taking a pass on Adrian Beltre (who lives 30 minutes from the Stadium) who both went on to solidify their only division rival (well, with money, anyway) and have great postseason stats will do that.  Even with the division facing expansion (The Houston Astros joining the AL West) the Rangers are their biggest foe (in town rival Dodgers should be fairly quiet facing their sale to new ownership) and the Angels need to make up ground to keep pace.

The Miami Marlins: New stadium, new branding and a good deal of dollars to invest.  The Fish are looking to become ‘Latin America’s Team’ and have already taken a few steps to push that.  Signing Ozzie, Latin baseball’s poster boy went a long way as did the geographical name change but look for a few changes in the playing personnel too, especially with a number of Latin free agents available and the owner’s decision to increase payroll.

The Washington Nationals: They’ve rebuilt and now it’s time to contend.  The Nat’s have shown some signs of brilliance and an ability to contend in the NL East (the Braves and Phils aren’t going anywhere) with the talent assembled.  Like Miami, they have money to spend and a hungry fan base.  Plus being friends with Scott Boras helps.

The Chicago Cubs: Theo has arrived and brought a number of his former Red Sox employees with him to build a new Dynasty in baseball’s only other historic Cathedral.  He may not have as much payroll as he did in Boston but he has enough to make a splash and be taken seriously in the market.  No, the Cubs won’t be serious playoff contenders next year, but building for two and three years down the road starts right now.

Darkhorse Candidates:

The Los Angeles Dodgers: No, I don’t see them being serious contenders for Prince Fielder (though they should have been under better circumstances) or the top five to ten in the market, but with a pending sale both Frank McCourt and MLB may believe a few prize pieces to complement the established core could go a long way to frost the cake.

The New York Mets:  Again, I don’t see a lot of big name consideration but the brain trust finally came to the overdue decision to bring in the fences at CitiField and by cutting loose Jose Reyes and possibly David Wright they’ll have money to spend on some flashy re-treads who could show some power.  The owner’s financial situation may be too shaky for a Pujols or Fielder to settle on.  Plus they need to contend with the Yankees on the back page.

Now, I’m not expecting the Sox to be big players in the market, they have a set team and may be playing ‘gun-shy’ because of their recent past signings (Crawford, Lackey, multiple members of the bullpen), but they will dabble and pick some fruit from the lower B & C tier.  After all, anyone in their right mind knows Carl Crawford will rebound and so for that matter could John Lackey.  If I had a bum arm, a wife with cancer who decided to divorce me and was in a generally p!ss poor mood for the entire season… yeah, I’d be a rather poor teammate, drinking and fast food pickin’ in the clubhouse who had one of the worst starting pitching seasons in Sox history (and we had Matt Young in early 90’s too.. Yeesh!).  Just remember, now he has something to prove (or at least should) and will be easier to off load if he turns it around.

Anywhoo!  Here is a list of the Scarlett Hose free agent players:  Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Conor Jackson, Trever Miller, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield.  Obviously, of these eight, Big Papi and Pap’ are the one’s to watch while Wake and ‘Tek are the sentimental faves.

David Ortiz: A Type-A free agent who has ranked in most experts Top 10 or close to it.  Yes, he had a great year, almost a ‘comeback’ year but in the end it was a ‘contract’ year.  Papi has the cache to demand his price for a what will probably be his last big payday but the market for a professional DH has dwindled greatly.  Sure, the power is there and he can still be a middle of the order threat in the right line-up (taking home his 5th Silver Slugger), but the stars still need to align both contract wise and probably (with most veteran players) championship caliber talent wise as well.  No, he won’t be as beloved elsewhere.  He’s a big personality and a great media darling but he’s a part of Red Sox lore and you can’t just transplant that, even if he did shoot himself in the face with the ‘Yankees are great’ comments in the Francona/Theo fallout, plus the fact Youk may require more DH time to avoid these late season breakdowns, especially with Will Middlebrooks seasoning in Pawtucket. I don’t forsee much NL interest due to his limited mobility at first.

Teams who might show interest:

1. Boston: Obvious.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  A big-ticket draw who can re-shape that line-up in a hurry and appeal to LA’s latin fan base.  They are contenders in the West and would sign him to keep Texas from thinking about it.

3. Toronto Blue Jays: A power hitter who does well at the Rogers Center but they Jays could climb as high as 3rd in the AL East.

4. The Texas Rangers:  A world champion and veteran presence who could change the face of an already great line-up.  If they can’t sign Prince Fielder, he may be a power hitting 2nd chance prize.

5. New York Yankees: He’s a part of Boston’s folk-lore, so he’s worth a look just as the Sox looked at both Jeter and Mo Rivera last off-season.  They’re the ‘Bombers so they can afford him and will obviously be in contention, but they don’t need him and don’t really have the roster space.  With A-Rod declining in the field, he’ll need more DH time to avoid injury as will a grooming Montero, aging Posada (should they re-sign him) and possibly Jeter as well.

I see him staying put, but if the Angels or Rangers offer 3 years and silly money…

Jonathan Papelbon: Type-A free agent who had a good rebound year but more importantly progressed as a leader with maturity.  Pap’ has said for years he’s been drooling to hit the market and I don’t see him jumping without due diligence.  There are several other closers on the market, however, Papelbon is obviously the best pick, ranking in the mid to late teens on most experts FA lists.

1. Boston: Obvious

2. Philadelphia: The closer’s role has been somewhat by committee the last few seasons and after the downfall against the Cards in the NLDS, they may be the serious contenders for a proven closer.

3. Los Angeles Angels: He’d go great with the Rally-Monkey.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Would be another jewel to package with the young core to entice a new owner.

5.1 Washington Nationals: If they’re making an honest push, they’ll make contact but K-Rod or maybe even a Joe Nathan could be a cheaper alternative if Prince or Reyes are on the radar.

5.2 Chicago Cubs: The Cubs can offer a ‘reasonable’ contract, and Theo’s experience will definately dictate that as the former Sox GM praised Pap’s progress as a mature leader who found the next level in his game.

If he doesn’t go to Philly, the Sox may be the next best landing spot for a big payday and shot at another title.  If he can accept a leadership in rebuilding role, Theo’s Cubs could be a very distinct Darkhorse candidate.

Tim Wakefield: Sure, he’s closing in on tying both Clemens and Young for all time Sox wins and is old enough to say he played in Scarlett Hose with the Rocket, but he fits in where ever he is asked and he’s still the Time Lord who can flash some brilliance in the flutterball.  His silence in the ‘Pitcher-gate’ fall out may go against him as a veteran leader in a clubhouse looking for change.

Jason Varitek: He rebounded a bit with a lighter work load in his role as mentor/back-up to ‘Salty for the majority of the season.  With Lavarnway still needing some seasoning in Pawtucket for both his defensive and offensive prowess (probably a mid-season call up with some back-up catcher/DH duty), I can see ‘Tek coming back for one more year as back-up before transitioning to his life as a coach and manager in the major leagues.  Like Wakefield, he may suffer from the silence regarding ‘Pitcher-gate’ and the fall-out may go against him.

Now, a few of the other groceries available in the winter market…

Albert Pujols, 1B: The best player of his generation seeking a contract to match.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a an established legend in a rabid baseball town and two-time WS Champion with the ‘Cards.  However, LaRussa was his mentor and King Albert may not be giving a hometown discount.

2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins should be hip deep in the biggest Latin player this side of Ozzie Guillen, who just happens to be the new manager for the Fish.  While increasing payroll, it still might be too steep to relocate the King.

3. Toronto Blue Jays:  The Jays are looking to compete in the AL East and obviously Pujols would be the trigger to get them on the right track.  He’d put a$$es in the seats but probably limit them beyond that.

4. Los Angeles Angels: Since the Dodgers can’t do it, it’s up to the Halos to try to bring one of baseball’s biggest marquee names to LA.  Arte Morneo would love to put this Latin juggernaut in the line-up, but may need to pick up more pitching and line-up depth for the money.

5. New York Mets: Nothing serious, but it would trump the Yankees Hot Stove season on the back pages.

This will probably drag out but will make a great Christmas present to either Miami or front-runner St. Louis.

Prince Fielder, 1B: He’s only 27 and been one of the best hitters in either league for the past six years.  Probably not A-Rod money (Rodriguez was younger in his initial free agency), but easily Mark Texiera dollars.

1. Washington Nationals:  He’s the cornerstone to build on and become the new ‘it’ team in the NL East.  They have the money to spend and have taken years to rebuild to this point.  Baltimore is an afterthought in this mid-Atlantic market and the Nats can finally put the Montreal stigma in the rear-view mirror.

2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers, for all their power and prowess, went to the WS without a bona-fide 1st baseman.  Adding Prince shores up the corner position, adds incredible power to an already potent line-up and ensures Texas a ticket to the dance for years to come.

3. Chicago Cubs: Theo will call in for King Albert but could give serious consideration for the Prince instead.  Fielder is younger and will most likely be cheaper, but could easily carry the hopes and dreams of Cubs fans while kicking Brewers fans in the gut.  Plus, one would think the smaller confines of Wrigley may increase those already gaudy numbers.  It may be the first big step in Theo’s plan for the future.

4. St. Louis Cardinals: Pujols is obviously the priority but should talks stall, turn ugly or just not meet on paper, another star of the NL Central certainly couldn’t hurt.

5. Darkhorse: It’s hard to imagine an off-season like this, with a player like Prince Fielder, where both the Dodgers and Mets are basically tied up in a corner and forced to watch.  This could give teams like Miami, Seattle or Toronto a chance to get into a better negotiating position.

Too close to call for me.  The Cubs offer history and a massive media market to a shy kid who could be the darling of a hungry fan base while Texas may be the best chance at a quick fix WS title.  I’d avoid St. Louis and the endless comparisons to Albert and settle for Washington, whose money is still green, if I had to.

Jose Reyes, SS:  He may have wanted Carl Crawford money but the poor dear is fragile and may have to settle for four or five years just under a hundred million.

1. Miami Marlins: Jose is friends with Hanley Ramirez (who already supposedly stated he’d move to third or another bag for his buddy) and could flourish under Ozzie Guillen.  If Pujols is off the radar, signing Reyes and maybe an Aramis Ramirez could go a long way remaking and re-branding ‘Latin America’s Team’.

2. Washington Nationals: Again, they have the money and he could fit nicely with what the Nats hope to do this offseason.

3. San Fransisco Giants: Jimmy Rollins may be a better investment for the G-Men but I look for them to make a fairly serious inquiry on a still moderately young big name.

4. New York Mets: It’s a longshot at best but he’s been there, has a fan base and is still marketable as a Met.

5. Darkhorse: The Red Sox may only be a bit off the radar if they feel Jose Iglesias is going off track, especially since Scutaro isn’t a long-term fix. St. Louis is in the market as well and don’t count out interest from the Yanks (Jeter and A-Rod are aging…).

I can easily see him amending his asking price / years to be part of something special in Miami.  Anywhere else, he’s cashing in.

C.J. Wilson, SP: He’s had a couple of above average regular seasons now, but fell apart in the playoffs.  However mediocrity is always rewarded (John Lackey & A.J. Burnett) when starting pitching is thin.

1. Texas Rangers: Texas is certainly a good place to be these days, so I’d be surprised if he wanted to leave.  But if the Rangers are going for Prince Fielder then it may tie things up.

2. Los Angeles Angels:  Hometown OC kid who the Halos can afford to add to an already impressive front half of the rotation (and lure away from rival Texas).

3. New York Yankees: He’s a big-ticket AL pitcher. Nuff’ said.

4. Boston Red Sox: I think the Sox will take a fairly serious look at a young guy who can win 15 games.  I think the Bombers will take it more seriously as Cherington may want to avoid a big-ticket pitcher for a rehab/low-cost alternative for the #4 and #5 starter.

5. Darkhorse: Obviously each of the bigger market teams will have a look with Chicago (both), St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Seattle on the bubble but he has WS experience now and again the market is thin.

The Angels should be able to pry him free, especially if he’s perceived by Texas as a choke artist in the playoffs.

Carlos Beltran, OF: 2011 was supposed to be the contract year but once he got to San Fransisco the remainder of the year stalled out on him.  There’s still a market for his bat, even if his outfield mobility is waning.  The Red Sox and Yankees are expected to make calls on him as are several other clubs.  I’d imagine he’ll land in the AL for a platoon OF/DH role but probably won’t be worth the years/money expected.  Grady Sizemore may be a better alternative for someone wanting to take a chance.

Roy Oswalt, SP: He’s older and obviously a bit more hittable, but he’s still Roy Oswalt.  He’s not necessarily out of Philadelphia, but he’s going to be cheaper if he’s in.  Most teams will call in on this one, especially from the NL, but The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees love older innings eaters who cost money.  The Rangers will probably give some serious consideration for mid-range money for the guy who carried the Astros for years.

Jimmy Rollins, SS: He’s not the same player he was four or five years ago but his skills, passion and leadership could easily make him a valuable alternative to Jose Reyes.  He’s looking for four years, but an incentive laden three years plus an option for a contender may work.  Both the Cardinals and Giants could go deep for his services, but San Fransisco might win out as the Cards wait on Pujols.  Washington and Seattle (and don’t count out the Mets) could call on him for some veteran stability as well.

Grady Sizemore, OF:  He’s not going to rate very high on anyone’s FA list due to his injury plagued past, but he’s only 29 and will be a year removed from micofracture surgery.  For a big market team in need of a platoon OF/DH type, he could definitely be worth a try.  Boston should be on the phone with serious consideration (after all, they used to have J.D. Drew) as could a team like the Rays.  If he gets the right situation and is held to under a hundred games, it could supply enough rest to build towards his old self.   He could fall somewhere between Carlos Beltran and a Josh Willingham.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B: He opted out of Chicago which may have saved Theo the buyout fee.  One of the better hitting 3rd basemen in the NL, there aren’t a lot of options on the market this off-season.  Definitely not Adrian Beltre but may translate as a 3B/1B/DH for an AL club.  Look for the Miami Marlins to give a serious look as a Pujols fall back plan to team with Reyes and Hanley.

David Ortiz, DH/1B: see above.

Ryan Madson, RP:  Like Oswalt, he’s not necessarily out of Philly, but with the steps he’s taken in the past few seasons he’s definitely sought after.  The Phillies and Red Sox (depending on what they plan to do with Bard) could be at the top of the list (especially if both end up scrambling for Papelbon) but so could any big market team in need of late-inning help.

Edwin Jackson, SP:  Yes, he’s a WS Champion but he’s been traded more than a few times and you really have to wonder why for such a young and seemingly capable guy.  He’ll command a salary in the market (perhaps too pricey for a #4 or #5 type guy the Yankees or Red Sox need) but that could leave anyone to step-up.

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: see above

Carlos Pena, 1B:  His average was down but over all Pena still performed for the Cubs.  Most figure he’ll land in Milwaukie to replace Prince Fielder but I could see the Rays (he has a history), Rangers (if they don’t land Fielder) and Pirates (could be cheap but established) calling as well.

Heath Bell, RP: His K’s were down but he’s still a possible alternative to Papelbon or maybe a Madson.  Probably staying in San Diego, he could still command more than a few inquiries.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP: K-Rod will probably get a lot of attention as a Papelbon alternative even though he’s still a 9th inning rollercoaster.  A few teams will probably call for his set-up qualities as well as closing prowess, the Reds and Red Sox among them but look for Ozzie’s Marlins to make a big push.

Josh Willingham, OF: Even though he played in the caverns of Oakland’s O.co Stadium, Willingham still posted respectable numbers.  Moving to a smaller home field will probably work wonders for him.  The Mets, Red Sox, Braves and Rays could come calling.  Boston could be a viable option as they need a right-handed RF in Fenway to platoon.

Johnny Damon, DH/OF: Damon has transitioned well from everyday outfielder to spot starter/DH and mentor for teams with younger emerging talent just as he did in Detroit and most recently Tampa.  Plus he can still hit.  Arizona would appear to need someone to fill those shoes and maybe even the Cubs (Theo won a title with Johnny) but I see him staying in the AL, possibly for Toronto, Seattle or the Angels if not returning to Tampa.

Now obviously there are roughly 200 free agents on this year’s market.  I’m not covering them all, just touching on some of the more notable players crossing everyone’s wish lists.  There are a lot of B and C type players, veterans, rehabs and retreads who will be circulating as well.  In my next post, I’ll touch upon a few more who I feel the Red Sox in particular should explore.

How the hell does that happen..?

The Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers today filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. 

One of the oldest, most historic franchises in Major League Baseball, the crown jewel of baseball on the West Coast and formerly THE franchise of all Los Angeles is officially a wreck.

And just how did all of this come about?  In all seriousness and looking at it in a fact based reality….

I recall a few decades ago when King George The Only (arguably one of the greatest owners in baseball with the possibility of all major sports) was removed from The Bronx Zoo for actions detrimental to his team.  Bud Selig, a still kinda’ sorta’ owner in his own right, has for the most part, kept great stewardship of MLB in his tenure.  Be it securing the future of Montreal in the Nation’s Capitol or making sure the Have Nots can try to compete with the Haves, Interleague Play or Wild Cards, one who looks at it realistically would have a hard time completely discrediting his term as Commissioner.

So how did this happen?  Let’s get a few opinions….

Folks in Boston knew McCourt would be a disaster for Major League Baseball.  He was a smooth-talking, nicely dressed, well-mannered guy with parking lots and  delusions of grandeur. He fancied himself as a serious bidder for the Red Sox in  2001 when the Yawkey Trust put the team up for sale, but nobody in Boston took  McCourt seriously because he didn’t have enough of his own money.

The “sale” of the Red Sox turned out to be a bag-job of the highest order.  Cable czar Charles Dolan submitted the highest bid, while Boston businessman Joe  O’Donnell was viewed as the local favorite to get the team.

Tire-kicker McCourt was never in the running. In December 2001, Selig  announced that John Henry’s bid was the winner. Selig was beholden to Henry  (former owner of the Marlins) and put him together with Tom Werner (former owner  of the Padres) and Larry Lucchino (former Orioles and Padres boss).

Selig denied all charges of a fix, but later admitted, “Someday you’ll thank  me for this.”

He was right. Henry has been a spectacular owner. The Sox have won two World  Series, made the playoffs six times in eight years, rebuilt Fenway Park, and  established a record-breaking home sellout streak.

McCourt, meanwhile, has turned the Dodgers into a major league joke. On  Monday the iconic franchise filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

-Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/dan_shaughnessy/06/27/dodgers/index.html#ixzz1QW3IRZeW

Facing the painful prospect of stiffing players and employees, the Los Angeles Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court Monday, adding to off-the-field troubles that have hobbled one of baseball’s most storied franchises and setting up another showdown with Major League Baseball.

Team owner Frank McCourt, upset baseball Commissioner Bud Selig rejected a multibillion-dollar TV deal last week, now hopes a federal judge will approve $150 million in financing to be used for daily operations and give him more time to seek a more favorable media contract. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

The move by a cash-starved McCourt comes just days before he was expected to miss team payroll Thursday and possibly be confronted with an MLB takeover. The filing also means it’s unlikely a resolution over team ownership, a fight that began two years ago when McCourt and his ex-wife and former team CEO Jamie McCourt decided to divorce, will be found any time soon.

Selig said in a statement that the bankruptcy filing has inflicted further harm upon the Dodgers.

“We have consistently communicated to Mr. McCourt that any potential solution to his problems that contemplates mortgaging the future of the Dodgers franchise to the long-term detriment of the club, its loyal fans and the game of baseball would not be acceptable,” he said. “To date, the ideas and proposals that I have been asked to consider have not been consistent with the best interests of baseball.”

Among the 40 largest unsecured claims, totaling about $75 million, are former Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez at nearly $21 million; Andruw Jones at $11 million; pitcher Hiroki Kuroda at $4.4 million; and the Chicago White Sox, which share a spring training facility with the Dodgers in Arizona, at $3.5 million. Longtime Dodger announcer Vin Scully is owed more than $150,000 as part of his contract, court documents show.

-Beth Harris, Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports)

According to most reports and insider information, The McCourts, who put a mere $30 million into the team upon taking ‘ownership’ have received five times that amount in return, often being referred to as using the Dodgers as their own personal ATM to support their lavish lifestyle.

My question is.. if McCourt wasn’t good enough to be a player in the sale of the beloved Red Sox.. excuse me, a player in the pre-determined sale of the beloved Red Sox, why was he suddenly a player in purchasing the West Coast equivalent?  And why on Earth, with such a questionable and shaky investment strategy to begin with, was he/they allowed to mortgage The Dodgers organization (in separate divisions no less) beyond the point of no return before anyone who should have been watching started watching..?

The Dodgers, I feel, could be the beast of the opposite East or Best of the West should you prefer if their heads were on straight.  You know somewhere in the players minds they’re worrying about getting paid, about being settled and about their futures.  Teams in need often ring the dinner bell in a ‘fire-sale’ of trades… and the Blue have a lot of pieces to sell if they choose.  One hopes that Selig will be standing his duty shift in the guard tower.

Many have said that the Dodgers have been in disarray since Rupert Murdoch bought the team back in ’98 and the team purged itself of the continuity that had settled Los Angeles as the premier team in Southern Cali as well as the National League.    Most of the modern-day players who had a hand in that continuity or ‘The Dodger Way’, found themselves in Anaheim to help that other Los Angeles team.   Several weeks ago during an ESPN Sunday Night broadcast, Orel Hershiser let it be known that he and Steve Garvey were heading an investment group who “if the opportunity presented itself” would be interested in purchasing the Dodgers and restoring ‘The Dodger Way’.  See: Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers.

I went to a game earlier in the season, a mid-April encounter with the Braves.  The Blue were doing fairly well and the media had put aside the unfortunate attack on a Giants fan to start the season.  Of course, the Braves being my ‘back-up’ team due to their previous residency in Beantown, I was going in a 1935 Braves Babe Ruth #3 throwback.  Everyone I worked with told me ‘no’… the stadium is in the ghetto, the fans are rubbish and obviously I’d be beaten for being a fan of the visitors… you know, in-between carjackings.   It was a pleasant game.  The Blue played well, took advantage of every opportunity and won a great game.  The stadium was nearly empty but the fans who were there (obviously  a few of the real Dodger fans) were friendly,  talkative when the game called for it and not near what the ‘experts’ were saying.  I never felt uncomfortable with three-quarters of the LAPD in attendance both in and outside of the stadium (including the officers of the mounted patrol who let the City Boy  have a giddy nature moment petting a horse while chatting it up about the team, the Sox and my throwback jersey).

If you’re a baseball fan in Los Angeles… Go!  Enough people at Angels games wearing their Dodger Blue caps.  Wear it at a Dodgers game… please.  If you love your team, let them know it.    Yes, I know you guys have a lot of Arizona and Colorado to look at but these are opportunities to get better seats and cheer on the Blue for a win.  Bud Selig can’t do it alone… he does indeed need your help.

Between the Dodgers and the Mets, baseball is looking at a long hot summer off the field.

It could be worse, though.  Tom Yawkey or his Trust could still own the Red Sox.

Where are they now..?

How about a Red Sox pitching staff edition of “Where are they now?”

 

Matt Young.  Young would pitch for the Red Sox for two seasons before being released days before the start of the 1993 season. He became part of baseball history during his tenure with the Red Sox. On April 12, 1992, Young faced the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a doubleheader, allowed two runs on seven walks and an error by shortstop Luis Rivera en route to the fourth no-hitter by a losing pitcher.  On that day Roger Clemens pitched a two-hit shutout in the second game of the double-header, giving Young and Clemens the Major League Baseball record for the least number of hits (2) allowed in a doubleheader. While Young sent the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Major League Baseball, in a rule created prior to the season, did not recognize the performance as a true no-hitter, as Young, playing for the losing team on the road, only pitched eight innings in his complete game loss. According to Seymour Siwoff, who was on Baseball’s Committee for Statistical Accuracy, the feat could not be listed with the “pure” no-hitters because “Young didn’t get the chance to go out and pitch the ninth…who knows what would have happened if he did.” Had the no-hitter been officially recognized, it would have been the first no-hitter by a Boston pitcher since Dave Morehead did so in 1965, also against the Indians, and was the fifteenth time, at that point, that a Red Sox pitcher had completed a game without allowing a hit.

Young would be released by the Red Sox in 1993, appeared in 22 games for the Indians in 1993, spent a month on the Toronto Blue Jays roster before being released a final time in September 1993.

Steve Avery. With his career in a sudden and premature decline, Avery signed with the Boston Red Sox on January 22, 1997. He pitched two years for the Red Sox, going 16-14 over two seasons as the number two starter behind Pedro Martinez. However, his ERA was 5.64, and he was clearly finished as the brilliant pitcher who dazzled fans and batters in 1991.

He signed a one year contract with the Reds for the 1999 season. He was 6-7 when he was lost for the rest of the year in July. He signed with the Braves during spring training in 2000 and again during spring training in 2001, but failed to make the club each time.

In 2003, Avery made a brief comeback with the Detroit Tigers team that threatened to break the 120-loss record of the 1962 Mets. He made 19 relief appearances, including the final appearance of his career on July 20, 2003, at U.S. Cellular Field against the Chicago White Sox. His final pitch was a double play caused when Paul Konerko lined to Avery and he threw Magglio Ordóñez out before he was able to get back to first base.

 

Ramón Martinez. Ramón started the 1999 season in the minor leagues for rehabilitation. He was called up by the Red Sox in August, to pitch again alongside brother Pedro, making four starts for a 3-1 record with an ERA of 3.05. Martinez was less successful in 2000, with a record of 10-8 and a 6.03 ERA, and his option for 2001 was not picked up by the Red Sox.

After his two years with the Red Sox, he signed again with the Dodgers, but they released him at the end of spring training. He played briefly with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001 before retiring.

 

Ramiro Mendoza.  Mendoza was the only player in the last 75 years to win a World Series ring with both the New York Yankees (1998–2000) and Boston Red Sox (2004) before Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske joined that club in 2009.

After recovering from shoulder surgery during the 2005 offseason, Mendoza returned to the Yankees after September 2005 callups, becoming one of three members of the 2004 Red Sox to play for the 2005 Yankees, along with Mark Bellhorn and Alan Embree. After the 2005 season, Mendoza signed a minor league contract with the Yankees.

He played for Panama in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In February 2009, he signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers and received an invitation to spring training, but departed spring training after failing a physical.  Following his release, he subsequently retired from major league baseball.

 

Matt Clement.  As a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 2005 season, Clement was named as an All-Star Game selection for the first time in his big league career, replacing injured Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. Clement’s record was 10-2 before the All-Star break, and he finished the season at 13-6 with a 4.57 ERA. On July 26, 2005, Clement was struck in the head by a line drive from Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Clement made just 12 starts in 2006, posting a 5-5 record with a 6.61 ERA,before having season ending shoulder surgery in September. He was rehabilitated at the Red Sox extended spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida, but did not make a major league appearance in the 2007 season.

On January 3, 2008, Clement was signed to a major league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals’ team doctor said that Clement was healthy and would be able to begin the season playing regularly. The Cardinals cited his recent rehabilitation and physical as reasons for adding him to the starting rotation for the 2008 season with no expected limitations upon reporting to Jupiter, Florida for spring training. However, Clement would begin the year on the disabled list after making no appearances in Spring Training. On June 3, Clement made a minor-league rehab start at Single-A Palm Beach, allowing only 1 hit over six innings. He was released by the Cardinals on August 2.

Clement signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on December 12, 2008 and was invited to Spring Training. After being unable to make a spot in the rotation, Clement announced his retirement from baseball on April 5, 2009.

 

John Smoltz.  On January 13, 2009, Smoltz signed a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox for a reported base salary of $5.5 million with roster time incentives and miscellaneous award incentives which could net as much as $10 million.He made his first start in the Boston Red Sox rotation June 25, 2009, allowing seven hits and five runs through five innings. Smoltz struggled his entire time with the Red Sox posting a 2-5 record over eight games with an 8.32 ERA and no quality starts. He was designated for assignment on August 7, 2009, after a 13-6 loss to the Yankees, giving the Red Sox 10 days to release, trade, or send him to the minors.The Red Sox offered Smoltz a minor league stint in order to prepare him to be placed in the bullpen, but he rejected the offer, leaving the Red Sox the options of either releasing or trading him. On August 17, 2009 the Red Sox released Smoltz.

On August 19, 2009, Smoltz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Smoltz made his debut against the San Diego Padres on August 23, 2009. In his first game for the Cardinals, Smoltz went five innings, striking out nine and walking none, while setting a Cardinals franchise record by striking out seven batters in a row.  That win against the Padres with the Cardinals was his only win with them that season. Smoltz finished 1-3 with an ERA of 4.26 with the Cardinals. He was 3-8 with an ERA of 6.35 overall with the Red Sox and Cardinals. In Game 3 of the 2009 NLDS, Smoltz finished with a 4.50 ERA after pitching 2 full innings, giving up 4 hits.

On March 16, 2010 it was announced that Smoltz would serve as a color analyst alongside Joe Simpson for the 45 Braves games on Peachtree TV. Smoltz also tells a joke once a game on Peachtree. John is an analyst for MLB Network and he would also serve as a guest analyst, from time to time, on TBS Sunday Afternoon Baseball.  Smoltz is also part of the TBS post-season coverage.

 

Brad Penny.  On January 9, 2009, Penny signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox with a base salary of $5M. Incentives and performance bonuses were included to increase the total deal another $3M.

Penny recorded his 100th career win on June 17, 2009, against his former team the Florida Marlins, in a five inning effort only giving up one unearned run. The win came on the Red Sox’s 500th consecutive sell out at Fenway Park.

During his last five starts with the Red Sox, Penny was 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA. After a disastrous start against the rival Yankees, it was decided on August 22, 2009, that Penny would be replaced in the rotation by veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield who was coming off the disabled list soon. During Wakefield’s August 26 start, Penny was placed in the bullpen as insurance, but was never needed with Wakefield pitching a strong seven inning effort giving up only one run. With Wakefield completing a healthy start, reliever Billy Wagner being added to the roster, and Penny not wanting to be a reliever, the Red Sox granted his wish to be released late that night. During his time in Boston, Penny’s record was 7-8, with a 5.61 ERA.

On August 31, 2009, Penny signed with the San Francisco Giants after clearing waivers. The Giants paid Penny only the pro-rated remnant of a $400k MLB minimum salary (i.e. under $100k), with the Boston Red Sox picking up the remainder of his $5M salary for the year. In his debut, Penny pitched eight shutout innings in a 4-0 win over Philadelphia.

On December 10, 2009, Penny agreed to a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. On May 21, 2010, Penny hit his first career grand slam, to give his team an 8-4 lead during interleague play against the Angels. He was pulled the next inning with an injury and therefore did not earn the win. The injury was an aggravation of a pre-existing oblique muscle strain that landed him on the disabled list for the remainder of the season.

On January 18, 2011, Penny agreed to a one-year $3 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.

 

Honorable Mention:

Frank Viola (1992-1994)

Jamie Moyer (1996)

Bret Saberhagen (1997-1999, 2001)

David Cone (2001)

Hideo Nomo (2001)

John Burkett (2002-2003)

Wade Miller (2005)

Sunday Morning Funnies…

Just reading the ‘Funnies’ from the Sunday morning news…Smoltz 30.jpg

“In my mind, I’m pitching next year,” Smoltz said. “I think [my arm] is going to get even better next year. The surgery takes a while. I came back quicker than most. So the full benefit will come next year. I have that much more reason to train. And to succeed.”

Isn’t that good to know Red Sox Nation?  Sitting on a bench in NY with the Snowman (an 8) looking down upon him for what he believed was the end of his career and BAM! he shakes the cobwebs of all the revenge against the Braves, takes a deep breath and becomes the pitcher the Sox paid him over $5 million to be… but in St. Louis who is paying him minimum wage (by MLB standards).  1 run allowed in 11 innings over two starts with 15 strikeouts. 

I’m so glad the Sox took the time to investigate their “low risk, high reward” reclaimation project!  Who ever would have assumed it may have been a residual from the surgery or maybe a mental chip on his shoulder?  Oh wait… Jason Varitek did… and I kinda’ thought it was a premature ejection on the Sox part too (oh yes I did, you can go back and read it).

Speaking of Reclaimation Projects…. Paul Byrd will be making his 2009 no longer retired debut for the Scarlett Hose this afternoon.  At this point, I’m hoping for the best but holding my breath and seeing how it shakes out.  Byrd was obviously an above average pitcher in his day, but apparently even he thought his day was over.

The MVP talk is getting hotter and smells like a NY Hot Dog cart smothered in onions with all the ‘Tex is God’ talk.  Yes, Texiera is doing just as expected in the Bronx, especially in the House That Ruth Financed since no expected the place to be an alternate launching pad for NASA.  Obviously Bay will garner some attention (though it may be just a case of too little too late), but for me it’s Petey and Youk all the way.  Youkilis is the fave at this point but we’ll need to watch the rest of the season unfold to know who gets more consideration for sure.  If the Sox can make it deep into October (and yes they have the talent to do so) I can easily see a reverse of last years MVP voting with Youk taking the award while Petey takes third with Texiera filling the two hole.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe…. 

Well, just a few minutes to first pitch…. 

Smoltz: We hardly knew ye…

  Okay, this particular week on the schedule can be called “Ground Zero” at this point because it looks to be the ‘making’ or ‘breaking’ point.  Needless to say, The Nation has gone Ape Sh!t and collectively pushed the panic button.  Management as well needed to push a button or two… and ejected future HOF John Smoltz.

  Now, don’t read too deeply into this, I am not a dedicated Smoltzie fan.  I follow the Braves because of their Beantown connection and are my NL alternative, but have never been a ‘fan’.  I liked the signing of this 22 year veteran because it added postseason experience in the form of a guy who would do anything the club requested of him, much in the mold of Tim Wakefield.  Smoltz Sox.jpg

   And to those keeping score… I’m pretty sure a nutless monkey could have figured he wasn’t coming to town to win a  Cy Young. 

   The Sox are not in a tailspin, a meltdown or anything other than a funk.  The pitching is going through it’s normal semi-seasonal spasm which just happens to be overlapping with the drought of power at the plate.  Hell… nevermind power, how many times can you get two or three guys on with one or NO outs and not score? 

   Smoltz should have been accepted for what he was, a veteran pitcher with a reconstructed shoulder who could still go an inning or two to help float the bullpen and hold things together mentally for the younger guys in the stretch run.  He should not have been called upon to start.  Sorry Theo & Tito, but no.  Spot start sure, on a day when you know the bullpen will be required, but not to stand in as a regular starter.  Yes, with Wake going down and Dice-K going to Dunkin’ Donuts during the WBC we needed that stand in, but Masterson at the time and perhaps a Bowden/Tazawa experiment could have fared better.  But Smoltz is apparently gone (unless he decides to tough out some more time in Pawtucket) and now we’ll never know what a Smoltz seventh, Saito eighth and Pap ninth will look like.  Imagine that in the House that Ruth Financed in October..!

   Time will tell.  Tazawa is here, Dice-K shall return and Wake is expected next week.  With a little luck and some timely hitting all will be the normal controlled late season chaos in The Nation.