Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26...More injuries and the start of exhibition games

Games are finally starting and Hot Stove is officially over until November.  Baseball is almost here and soon the rhythm of games will come back to the players like riding a bike.  There are some injuries though that continue to occur in camps.  Some of the injuries are season shattering and some are just bumps in the road.  These injuries are evidence as to why there is never controversy with Spring Training like there is in NFL preseason games.  Spring Training is like a filter that weeds out all the weak and soft players so that when the season rolls around, the strong and re-energized players are ready to initiate another long season.

As I mentioned before, Spring Training can shatter season dreams.  This is exactly what has happened for the Cards.  Just when you think the drama in St. Louis has mulled over (Pujols contract disputes) Adam Wainwright goes and gets himself hurt.  This is obviously not his fault and unfortunately this is just baseball.  Injuries to pitchers are common and they are so tough to swallow.  Wainwright is now going to miss this season and some of next year's season.  Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery and will have to just sit out and watch his team without him.  Something interesting about this is that his rotation buddies (Garcia, Westbrook, and Carpenter) have all had Tommy John surgery.  Since their surgeries, they are still very good pitchers.  This surgery could be a blessing in disguise in the long run because of the popularity of Tommy John surgery in baseball.  More and more pitchers are getting this surgery done because of injuries suffered and some to just strengthen and help their arms.  The Cards will definitely have major setbacks because they are now more vulnerable in their division; particularly with the moves the Brewers made.  The Cards are deciding now where they will go from here.  Do they find a pitcher within their system/team or do they go and sign a pitcher?  In my opinion, I think they should sign Kevin Millwood.  He is a veteran that played on a horrible team last season (Orioles) and is now looking to bounce back.  He dominated when he played in the National League (Atlanta and Philly) and I think he would make a good addition to their rotation.

The other injury looks to just be a bump in the road.  Adrian Beltre has injured his calf.  Apparently in the offseason Beltre injured his calf as he was running on a treadmill in his home and the injury has carried into Spring Training.  The injury is not serious according to doctors and the Rangers are optimistic that this will not affect his season play.  The Rangers are being extra careful with him though because of the expensive, multi-year contract they gave him.  They have said that they will let him rest for about two weeks and then see where he stands.  Luckily the injury is not too serious and Spring Training has really just begun so I believe this is not a problem for the Rangers.  The funny part about this is now that the Rangers are in need of a third baseman, keeping Mike Young rather than trading him looks to have paid off already.  The Rangers GM Jon Daniels decided that nothing teams were offering in exchange for Mike Young was worth making that move to trade him.  They decided to keep him and use him as the super utility/DH player.  With this injury to Beltre, Mike Young should now take over as the third baseman until Beltre returns.  This is something that makes me wonder why Mike Young complained so much to begin with.  I mean I know he lost his starting infield position (to a way better fielder) but because he has been in Texas so long he should've known the high rate of injuries that occur here.  Kinsler and Beltre are both players that are known for have injuries during the season and that would mean more playing time in the field for Young.  Mike is the number one back up in the infield (expect for SS).  Daniels is coming out of this looking very smart since he did not deal Young to another team.  Young could actually get more playing time than expected from a super utility man.  No matter if it gets worse for Beltre, it looks like this will not phase Texas because of the versatility they have on their bench.

There are two teams that are looking to show that they have improved very much this offseason.  The first is the Dodgers.  Don Mattingly has now taken the managerial vacancy in LA and he is really incorporating his own philosophies into the mix.  The Dodgers resigned Ted Lilly after acquiring him mid-season last year and they also signed Jon Garland who his re-ignited his career last season in San Diego.  Last year, Chad Billingsley somehow was off and pitched poorly but I doubt that will occur again.  With the rotation in LA looking to be: Kershaw, Garland, Lilly, Billingsley (not in that order); I really think that they will compete even more with SF and Colorado than they have in a couple of years.  They added some power in LF with Marcus Thames as well as at catcher with Rod Barajas.  Juan Uribe is coming off a hot post season after he won his second WS ring with SF (first won WS with Chi Sox).  LA is now looking to have some of that momentum in Uribe shift down south from SF.  The Dodgers are definitely better looking on paper and we'll see if they can live up to their abilities even under a financial struggling front office.  I mean Texas last year went to the WS after being bankrupt 95% of the season.  Maybe the Dodgers will fare better under similar circumstances.

The second team that has improved is the Chicago White Sox.  Last year they acquired Manny at the trade deadline to make a run at the playoffs but fell short.  Chicago went out this offseason and resigned Paul Konerko to a 3 yr deal (very smart move) and signed big bat Adam Dunn to platoon at first and be the DH.  Jake Peavy is looking good as well and should be at full strength by the end of April in my opinion.  The only hole that seems uncertain for the Sox is their third baseman.  They have a prospect they like (Brent Morel) and they have a vet they signed last year Mark Teahan, but are still uncertain as to who will start.  In my opinion I'd start Mark strictly because he proved himself as a good hitter and fielder in KC (a horrible team) and last year was Mark’s first year in Chicago.  He was constantly being moved around along with Gordon Beckham in the infield.  Chicago really looks strong with Konerko at first, Beckham at second, Ramirez at SS, and Teahan at third.  If Teahan is given the starting spot I think he'll comfortably be able to perform like he did in KC.  The Sox outfield looks to be strong too.  Alex Rios had a real bounce back year and I think Carlos Quentin just had a down year last season.  With Dunn rounding out the DH, the Sox will be very strong in the central and the Twins and Tigers will have to battle that much harder to win that division.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22...Spring training rolls on

Now that spring training is ongoing and all players are in and have reported, routines and workouts are in full swing.  The reception in all camps seem to be favorable and players are ready to get after it.  The first spring training games start this weekend and the healthy players are anxious to begin.

Injuries are still prevalent but on account mostly to last season's damage.  The biggest star out from injuries is a key homerun hitter for Minnesota; Justin Morneau.  Last season he suffered a concussion trying to break up a double play and has yet to fully recover from it.  Minnesota was instantly a different team without him and even though they were able to win the AL central last year, they were quickly dealt by the Yankees in the ALDS.  Morneau looks to be hitting and working out in drills but the Twins are being very cautious with him and hope that he is ready to go by the beginning of the season.  Not that I am questioning him at all, but his concussion seems to have really affected him and I just don't see how that concussion has kept him out this long.  I mean concussions in the NFL are unfortunately a dime a dozen and I am just a little confused as to why Morneau is taking so long to get over this injury.  I mean come on; he is a Canadian, which means he was breed on hockey making him tougher than most baseball players.  I just hope for his return and for his hockey mentality to take over and motivate him to tough it out and play ball already.

The only other injury to a player worth talking about is Frank Francisco of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Frankie was with Texas last year and after they avoided arbitration with him for this year, they traded him to Toronto flat out for Mike Napoli.  The trade seemed to be fair on both sides and it addressed areas that both clubs needed to address.  Frankie though is feeling soreness in his throwing arm.  According to the Jays, Frankie missed his second scheduled bullpen session today with soreness.  Such as the case was for Cliff Lee, maybe Frankie's injury from last year that sidelined him in Texas is still bothering him now in Toronto.  This injury though is skeptical for Toronto to look at.  Maybe Frankie does not like his new club, maybe he is seeing how everything plays out with his new team as he settles in, or maybe Texas knew that he could possibly have a resurging injury.  Either way Toronto should be a little annoyed and frustrated.

The Brewers made some really good moves this offseason and many analysts believe they could be the real deal this season.  Adding pitchers Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum were very important additions to the club and they look to be a complete team from top to bottom.  Despite these moves, they are really going to have to hit it big this season because next season will be completely different.  The Brewers' FAs are: Prince, Corey Hart, and Marcum.  Those three players are part of that core group in their clubhouse and unless they are able to go to the post season, those players will likely be on different teams later this year or next year.  Prince will probably be the one gone by the trade deadline if and when the Brewers are out of contention.  He will be very expensive in the offseason and Milwaukee just does not have the money to keep him there.  I'm sure that when they trade him they will get 3-4 players for him and that should be a good move for a team trying to get that last power bat for the post season.  Corey Hart is also a power bat that will be just like or be a good substitute for Prince to a team looking to go to the playoffs.  Marcum was traded by Toronto and then sign by the Brewers for this year only and I believe he will pitch well, especially going from the AL east to the NL central (American League teams are harder to pitch to especially in the eastern division).  Despite Marcum being a new addition, because he was only signed for this year he could be a guy that a team going into the playoffs needs in their rotation.  A return on him could be possibly 2-3 players and that could work for him, but it depends on how he pitches this year.  Either way, I think the Brewers made really good moves this past offseason and I hope they perform the way everyone in Milwaukee hopes they do; likely though, they will not.

What do y'all say?

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21...First victims

The weather is getting warmer and the skies are clearing up; meaning spring is close at hand.  I love to see that spring is almost here because of the time of year.  This is when an exciting time in sports comes to a pinnacle.  Baseball begins, college basketball has the tournament, hockey and pro basketball near the end of the season, and the pro football combine and draft initiate the football offseason.  This is fun to think about because of what will be happening soon.  Most importantly baseball commences.

Spring training has started and because of that, collateral damage from offseason inactivity and last year's injuries are carried into AZ and FL camps.  The biggest FA this offseason (Cliff Lee) comes into Phillies' camp injured.  Official reports say that it is only soreness in Lee's lat.  Regardless the condition of the injury, the news comes at a bad time because of the huge contract that he signed.  Lee has said that he injured himself after he had signed his expensive contract, but that does not put to rest the skepticisms of his health before signing with Philly.  Maybe because Lee pitched so much during the second half and post season with Texas he is still recuperating from last year?  It is hard to say but Lee being injured is not good news for Philly.  Other than Hamels, the big three in Philly's rotation (Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt) are all over the age of 30 and their ages and ability could affect this crowned all-star staff sometime this season.  Philly will have to be careful with Lee and the others on their staff because they have put a lot of hope and money into them bringing the Phillies back to the Promised Land.  Philly's offense struggled last year and now that they are starting a rookie in RF (Dominic Brown), they are going to have to bounce back hard and hope their staff stays healthy and lives up to their responsibility.

Texas also was hit hard with the news of newcomers Adrian Beltre and Brandon Webb having healthy issues.  In Webb's case, this could've been seen from a distant because of the lack of playing he has had over the last couple of seasons.  According to officials, Webb is still needing to build up arm strength and recover from his surgery in order to pitch off a mound.  The Rangers probably knew the risk they were taking in signing him and that is why Webb was signed for an inexpensive, one year deal.  In Beltre's case, the Rangers neither signed him for a small nor inexpensive contract.  Beltre's calf seems to be bothering him but it was said that he was not in any way unable to perform drills less than he usually does.  Despite the minor problem this is news that could be worrisome because of the amount of money Texas gave him.  Beltre also has a history of underperforming after signing big contracts.  Texas needs both Webb and Beltre in their respective roles.  The offensive power that Texas already has will permit Beltre to take some time off if needed.  Texas' pitching staff on the other hand will have to really step up if Webb is unable to play.  Pitchers will just have to work that much harder to take that open spot in the rotation, if vacant.

As I stated in my preseason picks, Colorado should win the NL west.  After seeing Hot Stove today and seeing how the Rockies look, I am that much more convinced “they are who we thought they were.”  I said that Troy Tulowitski and Carlos Gonzalez were the new faces of the team and today they proved my point.  CarGo showed up with 15 lbs. of added muscle to his frame.  With the way he performed last year and now having added muscle (steroid free), he should be able to match his play and possibly perform better this season.  Tulo showed up leaner and mullet free.  That shows you he has really grown up and is becoming the leader of that clubhouse officially.  Colorado's team seems to be 100% healthy and I think they will live up to their hype and truly shine this year in the west.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20....Spring training officially begins with the whole team

Pitchers and catchers have been at their respective camps now for 5 days.  They have settled in and have begun their seasonal routines.  Some position players also arrived at camp to get a head start on spring training.  Today, Saturday is when the real training begins.  Full and extended rosters are in effect and there just isn't a more exciting time than the beginning of a new season for baseball.  This is the time of the year when all ambitions and hope are at the highest levels.  When every team can plan to be better than last year and when the dream of winning it all begins.

Activity on possible trades and transactions still linger in the headlines.  Pujols arrived at the Cards camp with no new deal worked out and with the idea that Pujols will be a free agent after this year.  He will not discuss contract extensions or trades (he has said he would block all trades including himself in the deal) until the end of the season.  Speculation as to Pujols wanting too much money or too many years on a contract are what writers believe ultimately caused both parties to not come to a deal.  Pujols reassured the press that that was not the case but that both parties simply could not come to an agreement on terms.  Pujols also said that he wants to be a Card forever and that is a very positive note for St. Louis and their fans.  Looking at it in my eyes, I believe Pujols to be sincere and honest about the contract situation.  He has brought a WS championship to the Cards as well as unbelievable numbers for them.  He is hands down the best hitter in the league and he deserves to be rewarded for that.  I believe that no matter how the Cards play this year, Pujols will receive a giant contract and he will return to St. Louis where he belongs.  He is the face and the first baseman for that organization.  Seeing Pujols in Chicago (Cubs), NY or Boston would just not make sense to me, especially since he'd be the DH on the two American League teams.  Pujols should and will be a Card forever.

Miguel Cabrera has relapsed on his alcohol problem.  It’s funny how the two top hitters last year (Hamilton and Cabrera) are the ones notoriously known for their past substance abuse problems.  This is not good for Cabrera’s image or for Detroit’s, but I think he’ll bounce back from this.  Josh Hamilton has become the face for second chances in baseball.  Maybe Cabrera needs a mentor or companion to shadow him at least for some time.  Hamilton seems to have benefited from one and Cabrera would only be better from it.

Mike Young reported to camp today and there were no awkward scenes in the clubhouse.  Young seemed as normal as ever with his teammates and coaches.  That is only a relief for him because tension will only hurt the ballclub.  Young did seem standoffish about Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels.  I think eventually all parties will kiss and make up as the season approaches.  We don’t need more drama that flooded the Ranger offseason.  Put this all behind and get to work Texas!

I am so excited for spring games to start.  Let me know what you think of your teams and how their camps are and will be this year.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10...Arbitration dates nearing

Mike Young is still in the news but it seems the trade talks are dying down.  I think Young will be with the team because the Rangers need him just as much as Young needs the Rangers.  I also think that ultimately Young does not want to be anywhere else.

Albert Pujols is now in talks because of his expiring contract at the end of the year.  Pujols has made it clear as to the figures and years he wants in the contract but he has said that it must be reached before spring training opens up next week.  The market is bad still; none of the big market teams are in need or can afford a 1st baseman.  It looks like Pujols will be the most coveted free agent next offseason.  The Cards have thought about trading him but Pujols has said he’ll reject any and all trades no matter the team.  That right there shows that he wants to stay with St. Louis but he also does not want to be paid less than he is worth.  Pujols is by far the best consistent hitter in baseball and it would be weird to see him in another uniform.  He deserves to get paid a lot of money but what he is asking (10 years, $300 million) is just not realistic because of the economy and how much a team is affect by that kind of a contract.  New York and Boston could not bring him on because of the money they already have tied up with their current players.  Both of those teams also have established 1st baseman on their respective teams.  I have heard that the Cubs could possibly sign him as well as the Angels, but I just think that that is not realistic.  It’s hard to say how much he’ll eventually make whenever he signs with a team and as to where he’ll go.  I think somehow the Cards are going to retain him because of the established player and figure he is on that team.  He has won a ring there already so that also can be an indicator that he doesn’t necessarily feel obligated to stay.  We’ll just have to see how the season plays out and where he really wants to be (St. Louis or wherever the money takes him).

The Rangers were also in the news again but not because of Mike Young.  Josh Hamilton agreed to terms with Texas and avoided arbitration for this year and next year by signing a 2 year, $24 million dollar contract.  I think that both Texas and Hamilton wanted to get this done for the sake of the team and the public outlook on the Rangers and how they deal with their players (Mike Young drama).  This is definitely a big increase in pay for Hamilton and I think he has received this contract because he is deserving of it.  He is still looking to prove himself to the league even after winning the MVP; to show that he is healthy and able to stay healthy throughout an entire season.  It’s realistic to think that the Rangers need to see how he performs and how he stays healthy to decide if they will pull the trigger on giving him a big and expensive contract in 2013.  I hope Josh can put up strong numbers and show Texas that he can consistently play the way he has been so that he can become the “new” face of the Rangers.  Wish the best for Josh!

Arbitration is never a good thing for players that are hoping to stay on the same team in the following years.  What is arbitration?  Arbitration is used so that a player and a team can decide on increasing the player’s pay the last few years the team has control of that player.  Usually a player wants a certain amount and the team has a figure in mind, and they try to work out a deal before the arbitration date.  If they cannot decide by that date then the player and team officials will go to a mediator to decide whether the team’s offer or the player’s figure is the right amount.  Obviously this would cause tension between the player and that team.  Jared Weaver went to arbitration with the Angels today and there was only about a $1.5 million dollar or so difference between each party’s conflicts.  At the arbitration hearing, the player will plead his case and the team will tell the player everything he is not and how he is not deserving of his desired amount.  Needless to say, the Angels won the case today and Weaver will make around $7.5 million this year.  No matter the difference in money, Weaver and his agent will probably not forget this once he becomes a free agent.  This is worse news for the Angels because Weaver is such an important part of their rotation; they really cannot afford to lose him to free agency in the coming years.  The Angels have not done themselves any favors this offseason and it is looking bad for them this year and in the near future.

Getting closer to spring training.  It’s awesome!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 9...The Mike Young facade continues

Wow!  Dallas politics never seem to get better.  Why did Mike Vick receive the key to the city of Dallas?  I do believe the man has changed and that he is an example of how a person can really restart their life.  With that being said, why was he given the key to Dallas?  He has no connection to Dallas or Texas at all and he plays on a rival football team (Philly).  Dallas I love you but your politics are stupid, ignorant, and corrupt.  Yes, that was off topic but it had to be said.
Mike Young continues to be the talk in baseball.  He really is acting a bit melodramatic.  I want him on the Rangers more than anybody, but now he is coming out and demanding to be traded.  It’s just getting to me.  Hot Stove didn’t make me feel any better either.  Every analyst complained and said the Rangers are at fault and that they are the crazy ones that are “misleading and manipulating” him.  It looks as if Mike is frustrated that he will have to share DH duties with Napoli.  If that were the case then I would understand his frustration, but that is not the case.  Ron Washington has already come out and said that he’ll get 600-700 at bats whether at DH or somewhere in the infield and I trust Wash’s words.  Napoli seems to be in the mix for the purpose of being a DH/1st base/catching support.  It is smart that they traded for him and Napoli makes the Rangers a better team.  I am just trying to understand how Hot Stove argues that Young should be playing in the field everyday or the majority of the time.  Looking at the Rangers now, Beltre is the best 3rd baseman, Andrus is the best shortstop, Kinsler is the best 2nd baseman, and Moreland is better at 1st currently, because he has the experience there that Young does not have.  Moreland might not get it done at the plate and if that is the case Young can be utilized there.  So Young does have the need and incentive to learn how to play 1st.  The fact remains that he is not good enough to start everyday (as of now) in the field for the Rangers.
Mike has said he wants to play for a contender, particularly the Rangers.  Texas wants him here and they have verbalized that.  This entire debacle is hurting Young more than the Rangers organization.  At 35, a player must realize that guaranteed contracts and playing time are hard to come by.  Look at it like this; a company gives an experienced employee (an old guy) a 3 year contract in which he’ll make $48 million guaranteed.  Suddenly the executives of the company come to him and ask him to cut back on some of the work he is doing and to concentrate more on specific parts of the project (in this case hitting and getting on base).  What is the problem?  Player pride will be there and I understand, but when someone else is better for the job you have to take a step back and allow another (teammate) to pick up that work for you.  Work at what you can do where you’re asked to do it.  Young is in a great position for the next 3 years (if he chooses so) to be on a winning team that is only looking better at this point and is the favorite to win the West.  This drama just needs to stop, Young and the Rangers need to kiss and make up and get ready to rock the league again, TOGETHER.
The Braves are my pick for the NL wild card and they look a lot better than last season.  It was sad to see Bobby Cox leave.  Luckily he left on a high note (wild card playoff berth) and he should be a sure Hall of Famer.  Fredi Gonzalez is now managing the team and he looks to be the right guy.  He is stern, understanding, and disciplined; everything the Braves need to get back to the post season and compete with the Phillies.  Adding Dan Uggla to an already powerful lineup (Chipper, Heyward, Alex Gonzalez, Hinske, and McCann) will help their offense compete with the Phillies killer rotation (Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt).  Atlanta has a great pitching staff that can be really good when their key pitchers are fully healthy (Jair Jurrgens).  Look for the 1st base prospect Freddie Freeman as well; he’s a big boy and he can possibly become a home run hitter himself.  I like the Braves to compete with Philadelphia and get to the postseason as the wild card and even potentially win the East (probably not though).
Next week spring training officially begins and I can only expect that y’all are just as excited as I am.  Let me know what y’all think with your comments.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7...More drama in Texas

Well the super bowl is over and it looks like Mike Young's time in Texas could be too.  He is now publicly demanding to be traded.  He has said that he was "misled and manipulated" and that is pathetic.  If you are not better than the position player on your team and your offensive numbers continue to decline than I don't understand why you would complain if the team wants to add some security to the lineup.  I understand that Young has done so much for the Rangers, he and the team have benefitted from each other over the years.  Now when you are approaching 36 years old, you have to understand that your prime has past you by.  Being a role player on a competitve team (contender) or being a position player on a weaker team is what you have to decide as a professional.  The Rangers went to the WS this past year with Young as the starting 3rd baseman but they did not win.  Obviously the Rangers front office knows their team and what they can do better than any sports writer.  The Rangers made the necessary moves for their lineup and fielders that they believe will benefit them to potentially win a WS.  If Young cannot swallow that, then he has decided to play everyday for a weak team.

Now being a Ranger fan, I would rather have Mike Young on the team as an infielder/DH than for him to not be on the team.  At the same time I do not want him on the team causing rifts or not being the positive player he has been he whole career.  From the rumors and talks around the league it looks like he will be dealt to another team.  Young has name the teams he would accept playing for: Cardinals, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Rockies, Dodgers, Angels and the Padres.  Of course it is not a surprise he would like to ultimately go back to a southern California team (native southern CA boy), but for him to mention going to the Yankees is a bit much since he would have the same role as he has here there.  I don't know what he is thinking but it seems that he has been embarrassed by the writers saying he is getting screwed or something because those teams will not increase his playing time, with the exception of the Rockies and Angels.  In my opinion, Young is "butt hurt" and he needs to get over it and be ready to contribute to the Rangers and prepare to win the West again.

Hot Stove mentioned some things today that are thought provoking.  The Angels are really needing a leadoff guy and they mentioned that Scott Podsednik is the only option out there.  If Young was dealt to them then he could possibly be the leadoff or number 2 guy in their lineup.  I think he'd be happy there because he would be back at home, playing everyday in the field, and he'd be with his best friend, Vernon Wells.  The only thing with this is the Angels would pack on more salary.  Looking at it as an Angel, Young is needed in their infield more than Podsednik in their outfield.  Young's bat is much better than Podsednik, even though Pods has more speed.  The kicker: whether they care about spending more money on an older player that could be progressively getting worse.  My answer: trade for Young and better your infield and offense now.

The Twins look like a dangerous team again.  They did loose alot of their bullpen, but they were able to acquire 3 arms for the bullpen and Joe Nathan should be ready to pitch.  They brought back virtually every position player and Justin Morneau will be ready to play again.  Their rotation is as strong as last year's but what will be the x factor is how Nathan pitches.  Nathan missed the entire season and he is just coming off an injury.  I think the Twins will win the Central again but will have to battle the Tigers rigorously.  I would also not be suprised if the Tigers won the wild card with how competitive the East will be this year.  Maybe the Twins can finally show up in the post season instead of getting lit up and rung in 3 games.

Exciting stuff ahead, pitchers and catchers report officially next week.  Add your comments.