Tagged: Los Angeles Angels

Almost Teammates….

From ESPN: Boston

Toots and DiMaggioThere’s an old story that in April of 1947, over maybe a few too many drinks at Toots Shor’s restaurant in New York, Yankees owner Dan Topping and Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had agreed to the biggest trade in baseball history: Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. DiMaggio would get to play in Fenway Park with its inviting Green Monster instead of cavernous Yankee Stadium (457 feet to deep left-center back then) and Williams would get to move to Yankee Stadium with its short right-field porch.

Yawkey woke up the next morning and came to his senses, telling YawkeyTopping that his people in Boston wouldn’t do the trade. The Red Sox had just won the pennant in 1946, Williams was four years younger, Boston already had an excellent center fielder in Joe’s brother Dom and Joe had undergone offseason surgery on his heel. There wasn’t a good reason for Boston to consider such a move. In checking biographies on both Williams and DiMaggio, this story appears to come from a Dave Anderson column from the New York Times in 1980 (both Yawkey and Topping were dead by then) and not from contemporaneous newspaper accounts. Anderson’s column also suggests Yawkey, after turning down Williams for DiMaggio, asked Topping to include his “little left fielder” — a rookie named Yogi Berra.
The Splendid Splinter and The ClipperThe Berra part sounds a little apocryphal to me — for one thing, Berra had only played a few games in right field in April of that year, not left, and had hit .225 with no home runs. It doesn’t seem likely that Yawkey would have viewed Berra as the difference-maker to swing the trade. While the Red Sox never won another pennant with Williams, it would have been a terrible deal for them: DiMaggio would play just five more seasons and 625 games while Williams would play another 1,556 games (not to mention the time he missed in 1952-53 to resume military duty for the Korean War).

What I didn’t know until recently reading Richard J. Tofel’s book “A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees of 1939” is that DiMaggio and Williams could have been teammates if not for the twists of fate. Imagine a Yankees outfield with DiMaggio and Williams side by side. Not that the Yankees struggled without Williams.

DiMaggio had first starred with his hometown San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League as an 18-year-old in 1933, hitting .340 with 28 home runs in 187 games, including a 61-game hitting streak. Major league teams attempted to purchase DiMaggio — the Yankees reportedly offered $75,000 — but Seals owner Charley Graham elected to keep his prized asset for 1934. Remember, back then most of the minor league teams were independent of the majors, selling players to big league teams or even making trades.

Dimaggio Seals
In May of that year, DiMaggio hurt his knee climbing into a car. In his autobiography, DiMaggio said he had been visiting his sister, took a cab home and slipped on the climb out because “my left foot must have fallen asleep from the awkward position in which I was sitting.” Richard Ben Cramer’s biography of DiMaggio, “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life,” reports that the San Francisco Examiner at the time reported DiMaggio had slipped in the early hours of the morning at Fourth and Market — an area full of bars and nightclubs. Cramer’s insinuation that DiMaggio may have been “loaded” is speculative, but DiMaggio’s own account certainly isn’t true.

Anyway, DiMaggio missed some time, attempted to play through the injury and didn’t hit as well when he returned. He still managed to hit .341 with 12 home runs in 101 games but Graham, who had been hoping for $100,00 for DiMaggio before the injury, now saw interest wane in his young star.

The Yankees, however, remained interested. West Coast scout Joe Devine had loved DiMaggio and he had a local scout named Bill Essick check into DiMaggio’s knee. According to Cramer’s book, the Yankees paid for an orthopedic specialist to examine DiMaggio and the surgeon reported that the 19-year-old should be able to recover from the injury. Essick told Yankees general manager Ed Barrow, “Don’t give up on DiMaggio. I think you can get him cheap.”

He was right. With other teams out of the running or short on cash during the Depression, the Yankees got DiMaggio for $25,000 and five prospects, with the caveat that the Seals could keep DiMaggio for one more year and the Yankees could get their money back if DiMaggio’s knee didn’t hold up. He hit .398 with 34 home runs in 1935 and joined the Yankees in 1936. DiMaggio was an immediate star, hitting .323 with 29 home runs and 125 RBIs, and the Yankees won the first of four consecutive World Series titles.

* * * *

Williams was another California kid, from San Diego. While DiMaggio was tearing up the American League in 1936, Williams was playing at Hoover High School that spring. Tofel writes,

For the Yankees, Williams was the one who got away. Bill Essick, the same Yankee scout who recognized late in 1934 that DiMaggio was still worth $25,000 despite his knee injury, failed to sign Williams eighteen months later. Essick offered a $500 signing bonus but refused to meet Williams’s mother’s demand for $1,000.

Did the Yankees really lose Williams over $500? I had never heard that story before. I checked out Ben Bradlee Jr.’s comprehensive Williams biography — “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” — that came out in 2013 for more detail. As Williams was finishing up at Hoover, Bradlee reports that scouts had been tracking Williams for some time, with a local bird dog named Herb Benninghoven, who worked for the Cardinals, Williams’ “most ardent suitor.” Also interested in Williams was a bird dog named Elmer Hill, who worked for Essick. After Williams hit a long home run in an American Legion game, Hill and Essick showed up at Williams’ house.

Bradlee quotes Williams’ autobiography:

Essick was as anxious as anyone to get me. I’ll never forget what he said: “Ted, if I didn’t think you were going to be a New York Yankee, I’d never sign you.” Maybe he said that to everybody, but that sure impressed me. I think he offered me $200 a month and a $500 bonus if I made the team at [Class A] Binghamton, New York, but the story is my mother asked for a $1,000 bonus and Essick refused.

Note carefully the wording. Williams isn’t exactly saying that he didn’t because his mother asked for more money, but seems to be repeating a story that had been told by others.

Still, the Yankees remained interested, later offering $250 a month or $400 a month if he made the Yankees’ Pacific Coast League affiliate, and Hill apparently believed that an agreement in principle was in place once Williams finished high school. The Tigers also scouted Williams but area scout Marty Krug deemed Williams too skinny. The Los Angeles Angels of the PCL tried to sign Williams, but Ted’s father didn’t like the team’s manager. Benninghoven, still interested in Williams, invited him to a Cardinals tryout in Fullerton, where Branch Rickey would be present. Bradlee writes, “At the tryouts, the speed-conscious Rickey required recruits to run race after race with numbers pinned to their backs. But the day before the tryout, Ted was hit by a pitch on his thigh, just above the knee. Slow anyway, Ted was made even less mobile by the injury, and he largely went through the motions. Rickey showed no interest in him.”

Williams articleBenninghoven did finally get the Cardinals to make an offer, but Williams figured St. Louis wasn’t the quickest way to the majors. Sam Williams, Ted’s father, reportedly asked the Yankees for another $25 a month. In a 1957 letter, Hill wrote that he agreed to this with Williams and his mother. Ted’s parents had a strained marriage, often living apart, and it appears Sam Williams was working in Sacramento at the time. Williams ended up signing on June 25 with the San Diego Padres, a new team that year in the PCL, for $150 a month. For the cash-strapped Williams family, apparently the fact that the Padres had agreed to pay him for the entire month of June was a crucial factor, along with Ted’s mother liking the club’s owner.

Williams played sparingly the rest of the season for the Padres, The Splinterhitting .271 with no home runs in 107 at-bats. In 1937, at the age of 18, he hit .291 with 23 home runs. Now, just about every major league team wanted Williams. The Yankees were still interested as were the Tigers and New York Giants. Casey Stengel, who had been hired as manager of the Boston Bees (Braves) for 1938, had been out of baseball in 1937 but saw Williams when he played in Stengel’s hometown of Oakland and liked the kid’s potential. The Bees made an offer.

 
The Yankees fell out of the bidding, perhaps because of Joe Devine’s scouting report that said Ted “is a very slow lad, not a good outfielder now, just an average arm. There is no doubt Williams will never be a fast enough to get by in the majors as an outfielder. His best feature now is that he shows promise as a hitter, but good pitching so far has stopped him cold.”
Ted for the Padres
And then there were the Red Sox, who had closely watched Williams all season and had discussed a deal with Padres owner Bill Lane. Lane held off during the season but told other teams that he had promised Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins the right of first refusal. At the winter meetings that year, however, Yawkey suddenly seemed reluctant to spend the money, saying he was tired of buying other teams’ players and that Boston was trying to develop its own farm system. Collins insisted they needed to make an exception for Williams.
Williams with LaneLane was about to give up on the Red Sox and sell Williams to another team when the two sides finally agreed on a deal: $25,000 and four players for Williams. The Red Sox were so lacking in minor leaguers at the time that Collins had farm director Billy Evans quickly acquire four players he could then trade to the Padres. The Tigers ($30,000) and Giants ($31,000) had reportedly offered more money, but Williams belonged to Boston.

Ted Williams.Williams spent 1938 at Minneapolis, where he hit .366 with 43 home runs. He joined the Red Sox in 1939 and would spend much of the next 12 years chasing DiMaggio and the Yankees. While both players were active, the Red Sox would win just that one pennant in 1946, five times finishing in second place.

* * * *

How close did Williams come to signing with the Yankees? It’s difficult to say with any degree of accuracy all these years later. Certainly, dealing with Williams’ parents was difficult. The family was poor — Williams wrote that he was embarrassed to bring scouts to his house — and strapped for cash, thus wanted some sort of signing of bonus. Williams’ autobiography makes it appear as if he was willing to sign with the Yankees; when Boston finally purchased him from the Padres, he wrote that he was disappointed. “The Red Sox didn’t mean a thing to me. A fifth-, sixth-place club [the Red Sox had finished in sixth in 1936], the farthest from San Diego I could go. I certainly wasn’t a Boston fan.”
The scout Elmer Hill seemed to blame Williams’ mother for reneging on an agreement, but that could be some re-imagining of the facts years later. Or maybe the Yankees really did just cheap out in the end.

One more thing, however. Williams didn’t actually graduate from high school in the spring of 1936. He still had one more semester to go. Doesn’t it make sense that maybe Williams’ mother wanted him to finish school? He could sign with the Padres, get the family a little money in the short-term, play for them that summer and then finish his last semester of school in the fall. Also, Lane had apparently promised the Williams family a percentage of any sale in the future, so May Williams would eventually get her bonus money.

In fact, when Williams was sold, the Williams family asked for $5,000 from Lane, who now refused to give the family anything. The Williamses said Ted was a free agent and could sign with any team. All winter, reporters wrote on the squabbles going on with the Williams family, the Padres and the Red Sox. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered Collins to make sure he got Williams to sign a Red Sox contract.

He eventually did, but not until mid-February, and not until the Red Sox finally gave May Williams $2,500.

(Most of the information here was gathered from the books by Ben Bradlee Jr. and Richard Ben Cramer. I recommend both.)

Recent MLB Contracts That Became Nightmares…

With free agents cashing in big this off-season, it’s wise for teams to revisit some of the horrible contracts of the past. From extensions for franchise players to ill-advised free agent deals, there have been countless misfires by Major League Baseball general managers and owners in recent years. Here are seven contracts that quickly turned into nightmares for the teams in question.

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Howard downThough critics were horrified by the deal, Ryan Howard was all smiles when the Phillies offered him a five-year contract extension worth $125 million. Instead of waiting until the end of his contract, which expired after 2011, the Phillies locked up their aging slugger early in 2010.

This move became a case of how not to manage a franchise’s money. Age and injury caught up with Howard quickly, making the deal a major black eye for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. Philadelphia still owes Howard $25 million per year through 2016 for what is likely going to be average production.

A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees

BurnettAs a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, A.J. Burnett made mincemeat of mighty Yankees lineups. When it came time for Burnett to hit free agency, it coincided with the Yankees opening their new stadium after missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. The Yankees pounced, inking the right hander to a five-year, $82.5 million deal.

Aside from a successful 2009 campaign — which culminated in the Yankees’ 27th World Series title — New York and Burnett were a disaster together. The Yankees eventually pawned off the right hander to Pittsburgh for a few no-name prospects, eating much of the remaining cash owed to Burnett in the process.

Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants

Zito farewellThe signing of Barry Zito may have sounded good in theory, but few baseball minds thought the southpaw was worth $126 million over the course of seven years. The Giants were dismayed early and often by Zito’s performance, though the lefty did contribute to one World Series win for San Francisco. Now that his contract has ended, we’re able to see what he delivered to the Giants for $126 million: In 208 appearances, Zito went 63-80 with an ugly 4.62 earned-run average.

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

PujolsToo early to call? It’s possible, but it looks as if the Los Angeles Angels have an albatross on their hands with the 10-year, $240 million contract they handed to Albert Pujols after the 2011 season. Pujols has had the two worst seasons of his career thus far for the Angels, with his 2013 campaign enough to depress even the most optimistic of fans. At $24 million per year, 17 home runs simply won’t do the trick. This may turn out to be the worst contract of all time when it terminates after the 2021 season.

Carl Pavano, New York Yankees

PavanoFour years for $40 million doesn’t sound like an awful contract. However, the Yankees got next to nothing from the underachieving, tabloid-starring whipping boy that was Carl Pavano in pinstripes. Pavano was victimized by one curious injury after another while under contract for New York, with a buttocks injury keeping him out of the rotation at one point.

In terms of sheer uselessness, it’s difficult to top the Pavano contract. The right hander pitched just 145 innings in 26 appearances over four seasons for the Yankees. That amounts to $273,972 per inning.

Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels

Hamilton frustratedHitting Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton behind Mike Trout sounds like the makings of a new murderers’ row, but it hasn’t panned out that way for the Angels. After signing a contract worth $125 million over five years, Hamilton hit a career-worst .250 with just 21 home runs in 2013. At $25 million per year, those numbers simply don’t cut it. The Angels will need both Hamilton and Pujols to return to form for the franchise to right itself.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

Alex Rodriguez poutingAt 10 years and $275 million, there was really no way the Yankees could have gotten their money’s worth from the ill-advised contract they dished out to Alex Rodriguez at age 32. A-Rod went from MVP to PR nightmare for the Yankees, who have watched the once-epic player become an embarrassment to the organization, sport, and himself.

Both sides would benefit from a swift resolution to the pending lawsuits, suspensions, and other legal affairs hanging over Rodriguez. Once upon a time, he seemed destined to be one of Major League Baseball’s all-time greats.

Jack Clark Boston

I’m sure if went a little further back in the time machine, we’d find a good number of Tom Yawkey and later Lou Gorman inspired nightmares for the Sox of the 1970’s through the early 1990’s.  Jack Clark ring a bell?  Let’s not even get into Carl Crawford.

A lil’ Championship Fun….

I picked this up from SB Nation:  And I can’t really argue with it.

Papi WWE Champion

These comparisons are based on the 2013 editions of each team. Yes, the all-time Yankees would be “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase or Hulk Hogan or whatever; the 2013 Yankees are neither of those. So kick back, enjoy and try not to take things too seriously.

Just kidding; it’s pro wrestling discussion on the Internet! Tear each other limb from limb!

The Boston Red Sox are John Cena

Cena at FenwayNo one over the age of 12 wants to admit it, but John Cena is absolutely outstanding at what he does. The problem is that everyone is sick of him. They’re sick of his dumb shirts, they’re sick of his Sincere Serious Voice, they’re sick of him constantly Beating the Odds and they’re sick of him in general. That’s the Red Sox. They’re terrific this year — again — after an epic collapse and a lost year. They used to be America’s darlings until they won 3  World Series’ and the country got exposed to Red Sox Nation. Wait a minute … Red Sox Nation … the “Cenation” …

The Tampa Bay Rays are Daniel Bryan

You know the story of the Rays by now. They don’t get any help from anybody. They’re a small-market team in the second-worst stadium in the league, playing in front of no one, with one of the smallest payrolls in the league. But it’s okay; they’ll still be one of the best teams in the world, year after year. They’ll do it their own damn selves. Daniel Bryan, AKA “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has been wrecking shop coast-to-coast in independent federations for 13 or so years and he’s always been exactly this good. Always. Now he’s the hottest wrestler on the planet and wrestling fools for an hour on Raw and everyone is like “lol where the hell did this guy come from?”

The New York Yankees are the Undertaker

Red Sox versus Yankees

Spends most of the year injured, but will still never lose.

The Baltimore Orioles are Booker T

Everyone likes the Orioles in some way. They’re not really a team that lends itself to intense hatred. They probably don’t even have a real arch-rival (maybe the Giants for stealing their colors). I bet they think they do, like the Padres and Mariners have arch-rivals. But they don’t. Everyone loves that the Orioles are doing well again (except Yankees fans). Everyone likes the team’s history (except Yankees fans) and of course everyone is crazy about those gorgeous uniforms. (Yankees fans, you like the uniforms okay, right?) The Orioles have been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been the best, they’ve disappeared. That’s Booker T: no one really hates the guy; lots of people think of him very fondly. His career is all over the place. I mean ALL OVER THE PLACE. He was a tag team specialist, he was a guy who lost the rights to his name so he had to start wrestling as G.I. Bro, he feuded with a guy over shampoo, he was suddenly a foreign king, he kicked around in TNA hating everything before reinventing himself as an announcer. Like the Oriole’s, there is some aspect of Booker T’s career that you can recall fondly.

The Toronto Blue Jays are 2013 Chris Jericho

Jericho 2013 Rumble

We had such high hopes, but then it was all just terrible.

The Detroit Tigers are Kane

Kane has been extremely popular and successful for like 15 years. He’s been pretty much every champion there is, crowds love him, he sells merchandise and rarely makes a fool of himself in the ring. All that said; there’s nothing really getting worked up over. At the end of the day, he’s still just Kane.

(I am so sorry, Tigers fans.)

The Cleveland Indians are Tatanka

Yep.

The Kansas City Royals are Chainsaw Charlie

It should have been a can’t-miss opportunity. Mick Foley was just starting to set the world on fire as Mankind following his infamous interview with Jim Ross and being tossed off that cage. Everyone knew he was a crazy guy who would do just about anything to get ahead. Who better to bring in to be his tag team partner than Terry gosh dang Funk? So Funk and the (then-)WWF put their heads together and … introduced Terry Funk as “Chainsaw Charlie,” a guy in suspenders who wore panty hose on his head.

The Royals during the offseason were determined to make a big splash. They traded away the top prospect in all of baseball and got woefully shortchanged on the deal. They traded, they spent, they seemed to make a bunch of bad decisions and now… It could have been amazing. Instead, they’re wearing panty hose on their heads and wondering what went wrong.

The Minnesota Twins are The Miz

Because WHOOOOO CAAAAAAARES

The Oakland Athletics are ACH

I know; you’ve never heard of ACH. ACH is an amazing pro wrestler who is out there killing himself in front of 15 people in a rec hall in a ring that looks like it has linoleum for a mat. But he’s not going to stop; he’s just going to keep being great at what he does. And the people who DO show up love him to death and realize they’re watching something special. So you can see how there might be SOME parallels. Just throwing it out there.

The Texas Rangers are Ricky Steamboat

Ricky SteamboatRicky Steamboat is probably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But he never rose much higher than “second fiddle.” His contemporaries were more colorful, or more charismatic, or just more interesting. He got right up against superstardom, but never really got over the hump. That’s where the Rangers are finding themselves now. Ricky Steamboat won that match at WrestleMania III, but Randy Savage will always be more beloved. Can the Rangers find a way to make themselves memorable?  (For those who don’t know, he’s pictured here holding the WWF/WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship: It’s like winning the American League pennant but not winning the World Series… sorry)

The Seattle Mariners are Al Snow

In one of his books, Mick Foley uses “Al Snow” as a euphemism for taking a poop. The Mariners are not as bad as all that. Mostly because the Astros are in their division now. But I mean, come on; the Mariners are Al Snow.

The Chicago White Sox are Zack Ryder

From tarnished and shamed, to a long stretch of awfulness, to a relatively-brief period of intense success. Then they vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

The Los Angeles Angels are Scott Steiner

Once amazing, but now bloated with … contracts. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with deep slumps of sheer insanity. Either way, you can’t look away. Always, always, always entertaining. For better or for worse.

The Houston Astros are Dennis Rodman

Yes, Dennis Rodman wrestled. He fell asleep on the ring apron. He’s one of the worst wrestlers in history, but you can’t even be mad, because he’s Dennis Rodman. Like, what else is he gonna do, you know what I mean? I hope you know where I’m going with this.

“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.

Fact or Fiction…. ?

Many an MLB analyst, ‘insider’ and blogger have touched upon the subject of Kevin Youkilis and the possibility of his being traded during the 2012 calendar year.

It’s not that Youk has outlived his welcome, been branded a loss or some clubhouse miscreant.  It’s because he’s a valuable commodity.  That and both Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias could be making regular appearances on the big-club by September, should their minor league seasoning go as planned.

Youk is only going to be traded to a team that needs him.  The Sox aren’t waving the flag for a 33-year-old 3B who finished the last two seasons with injuries around the league.  The interested team will have a specific need for an established veteran 1B/DH platoon (not necessarily a 3B) who gobbles up at at-bats like Skittles… a need so great that they’ll part with a young MLB ready starter.  Period.

There are clubs out there… they’re all the one’s whose faces are turning blue waiting for Prince Fielder to make a decision.  Think of Youk bitch-slapping Bryce Harper in Washington as a calming influence on a young team.  Picture Youk in Texas filling the 1B/DH spot behind Hamilton, Beltre or Napoli in the line-up.  Ooh, maybe he’ll give Ryan Braun the fish eye, you know.. after the 50 game suspension is over, for the Brew Crew. Or maybe even a package deal to Seattle for King Felix.  And then there are teams who just need to bolster their line-up in front of or behind a veteran bomber.  Think of him (gasp!) setting the table for King Albert in LA as a 3B/1B/DH platoon.

I don’t want to see him go, but the business side of the game beckons and the truth may be obvious… Youkillis won’t be as productive a 3B for the long haul as he would a 1B or DH.  He plays too hard, too heartily and too old-fashioned,  the way he should,  to not breakdown over the span of the season.  I love Youk.  He reminds me of Bill Mueller, Mike Stanley or Dwight Evans… guys who go between the foul lines, play their heart out and don’t ask for or expect the attention for their fairly quiet, continuous production.  Dustin Pedroia is made in the same mold.   The other ‘one-five’ echoed this style as well, but Millar’s personality and media savvy attitude served as a shield for his teammates and allowed them to just be themselves on the grandest stages.  Youk can easily pick up the 1B/DH platoon with Adrain Gonzalez… once Big Papi has retired.

Obviously, this war or worried words will be continuing well into the season.  A tell-tale sign will come as soon as the ink dries on Prince Fielder’s contract.  The vultures will then turn eyes to guys like Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena while the serious contender watches Youk’s spring training sessions and Grapefruit League games.  I’d expect the beginning of March and then the beginning of July to be a real scale of the honest interest in his services.  Youkilis’ return from injury combined with Lars Anderson returning to form could obviously dicate how the Sox approach their future trades.

“Aftershock”

That was the headline in St. Louis ‘the morning after’, or the first day of ‘AD’ on the Cardinals calendar.  Albert Departed.

Folks can me mad.  They can blow up their Face_space pages,  jump on My Tube with clips of burning their Pujols jersey,  call the talk radio, be Twits on Twitter and blah blah blah…

But life will continue long past December 8th.

12/8/11; the Anniversary of John Lennon’s murder on the doorstep of the Dakota.  The day following the Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It will go on past this coming Saturday (the press conference in LA to announce Pujols official signing) and past the second week in February when players begin reporting for Spring Training.

The fans wanted it.  The team would have liked it.  Stan ‘The Man’ had hoped for it.  But as Ozzie Smith said, “.. It wasn’t meant to be.”

But, let’s look at it seriously.  Yes, The Los Angeles Angels made a splash.  A massive free agent splash.  But, they signed a 31-year-old player whose numbers have begun to show a slight decline.  In the end, St. Louis is breathing a sigh of relief (hence why they allowed him to become a FA in the first place).  Sure, it sucks to lose the greatest player of his generation, no doubt.  However, in five years, St. Louis will be coasting as a perennial contender and Pujols will be the DH in LA.  The Red Birds can invest that money a bit more wisely in a solid number three and four starter, a power hitting outfielder and make plans to find a slugging first baseman to succeed Lance Berkman next year.

It stings.  But it’s the business side of The Game.

Oh yeah, The Angels also signed C.J. Wilson to a five-year deal to augment one of the better starting rotations in the American League.    Amazing what a $3Billion television contract can do for a team, a fan base and a city.  (potential Dodgers owners had best be paying attention)  And please don’t be surprised if the Angels aren’t done yet.

Good thing there’s a second Wild Card now.

 

And I don’t care what Nolan Ryan says, The Rangers are going to make a play for Prince Fielder.  They don’t need to sign him for 7 or 10 years…  sign him for four or five years at the higher annual salary, win two or three WS Titles and let him hit the market again.  Go into the next few years with a bona-fide first baseman who can crush the ball in your ball park, use the time to cultivate a prospect 1B for when Prince makes the move to platoon 1B/DH and bask in the glory of the AL West.  Now they have to keep pace with the Angels not vice-versa… it’s an even playing field at this point…  because even after Houston joins the division in ’13, it’s still a two-horse race for the next half decade.

 

Aside from signing Bobby V., the Sox had no unexpected happenings at the Winter Meetings.  We’ll discuss the new manager and Big Papi’s return in a further entry as well as some of the big happenings across Florida and how all of it may affect the Scarlet Hose.

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.