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Friday, December 29, 2006

Yanks, D-Backs close to Unit deal- NY Daily News

It would be best for the Yankees and pitcher Randy Johnson to split ties before the start of the new season. Hopefully, a deal can get struck between Arizona and New York.



The Diamondbacks have been the most aggressive suitors for Randy Johnson and sources close to the negotiations said yesterday that the Yankees and Arizona could complete a trade to send Johnson back to the desert before next week.

The Diamondbacks, who view Johnson as a gate attraction, want to talk to the Big Unit about a contract extension, a source said. That would give Arizona a chance to reap the attendance and buzz benefits of Johnson going for his 300th victory - he will enter next season with 280 wins.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have their eyes on a package of Arizona pitching prospects. The Diamondbacks are loaded with young talent and if the Yankees send Johnson home to Arizona - Johnson's home is in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley - they'd like to get at least two of the following three pitchers: Dustin Nippert, Micah Owings and Ross Ohlendorf.

Nippert, 25, is a 6-8 righthander who was 13-8 with a 4.87 ERA in Triple-A last season and lost both his major league starts. Owings, a 6-5 righty, was 6-2 at Double-A and 10-0 at Triple-A. Ohlendorf, a 6-4 righty, spent most of last season in Double-A, going 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA. Ohlendorf had 125 strikeouts and only 29 walks in 177-2/3 innings.

The Padres, believed to be offering reliever Scott Linebrink, also have been involved, but the Yankees apparently prefer the players they might be able to pry from the Diamondbacks. While talks are ongoing, the Yankees have not brought a deal to Johnson and his agents to approve - Johnson has a full no-trade clause in his contract.

Johnson, who is coming off back surgery, did not request a trade, but the Yankees began discussions with other clubs after GM Brian Cashman called Johnson to offer condolences after Johnson's older brother died recently. During the call, Johnson told the GM it was important to be close to his family.

The Yankees don't feel that trading Johnson is a necessity, but they're willing to listen, and several baseball officials have said privately recently that the Yankees are working diligently to consummate a deal.

While the Yankees have been pursuing pitchers in their talks with the D-Backs, Padres and other West Coast teams, it's believed they have made progress in their plans for the spare parts they need at first base and utility infielder. A source said the Yankees are zeroing in on Doug Mientkiewicz to play first while Jason Giambi is the designated hitter, even though Mientkiewicz is a lefthanded batter.

Also, the source said, Mark Loretta may be the Yankees' first choice to be a utility infielder. Loretta had hoped to find a job as a regular second baseman, but hasn't.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Barry Zito is headed to the San Francisco Giants

By David

According to reports Barry Zito is expected to sign with the San Francisco Giants. Many teams including the Rangers, Mets, Mariners and Yankees were in the running for the long time Oakland Athletic, but he has decided to remain in the Bay Area.

The two time all star will sign a seven year, $126 million dollar contract. This is going to be the largest deal ever given to a pitcher in baseball history and Zito can make up to $144 million if his option for 2014 is picked up by the Giants.

This is a major acquisition for the Giants and general manger Brian Sabean who have been pretty quiet on the Zito front up until now. The deal makes sense for the left hander because he already lives in San Francisco and he was offered $42 million more by his Giants, than he was by the Texas Rangers.

With Zito headed to the Giants the NL West becomes very ambigious. Even with a new manager and ace pitcher,the Giants still find themselves
a step behind of the competition in the tough NL West.The Rockies and Diamondbacks are two teams who have installed a great foundation for the future, but are still several years away from being serious contenders.
Still, the Padres and Dodgers remain the front runners for the division crown.

Finally, the biggest pitcher on the market has signed and the baseball off season can begin to slow down with no major players left on the market.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How is Mark Loretta still a free agent?

By David

I struggle to understand how second basemen Mark Loretta is still avaliable on the market. The 12 year veteran is a career .299 hitter and a person who would make a great fit with many teams as their starting second basemen.

The Northwestern graduate played with the Red Sox' last season and was selected to his second all star game in the last three seasons. With a .987 career fielding percentage Loretta is excellent with the glove, but more importantly he's a great guy to have in the clubhouse.

Loretta comes off as having a great demenor and he would be an excellent match for a team who has a young second basemen that needs mentoring. Still, based on his play on the field he deserves to start.

He might not have the power of a Chase Utley, but he should not be demoted to a utility role.The Yankees were looking at Loretta for a utility position and at the current time they seem like the front runner for his services.

The Texas Rangers were also eyeing Loretta as a utility player. If signed, they hope that he can fill the void left by Mark DeRosa's departure. Loretta played a few games at first base for the Red Sox' last season and has also played at shortstop in his career. The only negative for him is that he has never played the outfield.

The former Silver Slugger award winner lead all American League second basemen with 181 hits last season and he proved his durability as he played in 155 games.

Whereever Loretta ends up next season, he will be a productive and consistent hitter.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Baseball salary average up 9 percent to nearly $2.7 million

The inflation of baseball salaries is mind puzzling to me, but this years off season has shown us that salaries will only continue to increase.

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
December 20, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball salaries were booming even before the free-agent escalation that began more than a month ago.

The average salary shot up 9 percent this year to $2,699,292, according to final figures released Wednesday by the Major League Baseball Players Association. The increase was the highest since a 12.8 percent rise in 2001 and makes it likely the $3 million mark will be broken next year or in 2008.

"The increase in the average salary is a reflection of the growth in overall industry revenues, and that while the sport still has significant economic challenges, the increased average is a reflection of the level of the talent on the field," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

Baseball salaries are soaring, with Alfonso Soriano ($136 million), Vernon Wells ($126 million) and Carlos Lee ($100 million) agreeing to nine-figure deals since the end of the season, boosting baseball's total of $100 million contracts to 11.

Still, no one has approached Alex Rodriguez's record $252 million, 10-year contract, agreed to after the 2000 season.

The New York Yankees had the highest average salary for the eighth consecutive season, but their average dropped to $6.95 million from a record $7.39 million the previous year.

Houston was second at $4.28 million, up from ninth place in 2005. Boston was third at $3.99 million, down from $4.17 million the previous season, followed by the New York Mets ($3.86 million), the Chicago White Sox ($3.81 million) and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals ($3.78 million).

The AL champion Detroit Tigers were ninth at $3.06 million, up from 15th.

Florida's average of $594,722 was the lowest in the major leagues since 1999, when Kansas City was at $534,460, the Marlins at $561,111 and Montreal at $572,290.

Among the teams with the 10 highest averages, only San Francisco ($3.8 million) had a losing record (76-85). Among clubs with the 12 lowest averages, the only one with a winning record was Toronto (87-75).

Third basemen had the highest average among positions ($5.87 million), followed by first basemen ($5.78 million), designated hitters ($5.59 million), outfielders ($4.88 million), starting pitchers ($4.87 million), shortstops ($4.06 million), second basemen ($2.79 million) and relievers ($1.43 million).

Figures were based on Aug. 31 rosters and disabled lists and do not account for money owed to released players or payments teams make or receive to cover parts of salaries of players who have been traded.

The commissioner's office has not computed its final figure, which usually differs from that of the union because of calculation methods.

Yankees hit with $26 million luxury tax, raising total to nearly $98 million

Unfortunately, money does not buy World Championships and the Yankees have learnt that the hard way over the past six seasons.

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
December 23, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- World Series titles don't come to Yankee Stadium these days, just tax bills.

The Yankees were slapped with a $26 million luxury tax by the commissioner's office Friday, raising New York's total to $97.75 million over the last four years.

Boston, which missed the playoffs, was the only other team over the tax threshold and will pay $497,549.

New York hasn't won the World Series since 2000, and was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. The Yankees paid tax in all four seasons of the just-expired collective-bargaining agreement: $11.8 million in 2003, $26 million in 2004 and $34 million for last year.

While the Yankees' spending on players may have decreased because of the tax, the team says any dip was slight.

"I would say it has an effect," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "But at the end of the day, it's always been George Steinbrenner's philosophy to win. If a difference-maker is attainable, the Boss goes and gets him."

At the center of labor negotiations in 2002, the luxury tax was paid by only three teams over the four seasons, with the Red Sox owing $7.8 million and the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels $927,057.

Payments are due at the commissioner's office by Jan. 31. Commissioner Bud Selig concluded the tax achieved the result management wanted.

"I think it did. I really think, frankly, everything that we did pretty well came out to its projection," he said.

New York's bill decreased this year because its payroll, as calculated for the tax, declined from $212.9 million to $201.5 million and the threshold for where the tax began increased from $128 million to $136.5 million. Under the new labor contract, the threshold for the tax rises to $148 million next year.

For luxury tax purposes, the average annual values of contracts are used and benefits are included.

"The luxury tax is not the something the players are in love with because its purpose is to cause people to have an extra cost when they sign a player," union head Donald Fehr said. "Obviously we were prepared to live with it during the term of the last agreement and we got what we expect will be appropriate modifications this time.

"We didn't really envision specific numbers. What we were hoping was that we would see a circumstance in which it did not have a meaningful adverse effect on the player market, and obviously you have to judge that year by year."

Using the regular method of accounting, the Yankees finished with a $207.5 million payroll for their 40-man roster, according to final figures released Friday by the commissioner's office, up from $206.6 million in 2005.

Boston was a distant second this year at $137.5 million, followed by the New York Mets ($116.6 million), Houston ($107.7 million), the Los Angeles Dodgers ($107.2 million) and the Los Angeles Angels ($104 million).
The World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals were 10th at $96.1 million, and the AL champion Detroit Tigers were 14th at $89.8 million.

Florida, last at $21.1 million, had less than half the payroll of Pittsburgh, 28th at $43.4 million. Tampa Bay was in between them at $36.4 million.

Management calculated the average salary at $2,642,915. The players' association, whose calculation method differs slightly, had the average at $2,699,292 in its annual report this week.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jeff Suppan and Brandon McCarthy find new homes for the holidays

By David

Last years NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan agreed to a four year deal worth $42 million with the Milwaukee Brewers today. Yesterday, former White Sox pitcher Brandon McCarthy was traded to the Texas Rangers in a five player deal.

Several teams including the Mets, Pirates and Suppan's former team the St.Louis Cardinals were in the hunt for Suppan's services , but the 12 year veteran decided to go where the money was and sign with the Brew crew. With the addition of Suppan, the Brewers now have an extremly solid starting rotation and one that will be able to compete in the tough NL Central.

Brandon McCarthy was acquired by the Rangers along with Minor Leaguer David Paisano for Minor Leaguers John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner. In the view point of Texas general manager Jon Daniels ''this is one of the elite, young, now-ready, battle-tested pitchers in the game.''

McCarthy never seemed to find his place with the White Sox, but he will be an impactful addition to a Rangers starting rotation that is in desperate need of quality pitchers. Along with Kevin Milwood and Vicente Padilla, the Rangers have a decent starting three. Still, McCarthy has never started more than ten games in a season and he will need to demonstrate that he can hold up through an entire season.

Suppan was an extremly important signing for a young Brewers pitching staff because he brings stability, leadership and postseason experience. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said ''We're jumping the gun a little bit, but we wanted to make an announcement before things leaked out.'' It's a certainty that Milwaukee over paid for the right hander, but they believe that they can win now and the addition of Suppan only increases their chances of making the playoffs.

Suppan was 12-2 in his career against the Brew crew and 5-0 at Miller Park. Luckily for them, Suppan will now be in charge of winning games for the Brewers and leading them to the postseason.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dontrelle Willis is arrested on DUI charges

By David

Just when you thought nothing could go wrong for the Marlins ace, he gets arrested early Friday morning on DUI charges in Miami.

Willis is the face of the Marlins franchise and has become an emerging star throughout baseball. He is one of the top left handed pitchers in the majors and is coming off of another productive season.

It's unfortunate that the soon to be 25 year old who has everything going for him had to commit such a foolish act. Under his attorney's advice he has not commented on the case, but as the days progress we should expect to hear a statement from the electrifying south paw.

I hope that this was only a minor bump in the road for Dontrelle Willis and that he will quickly return to the lovable pitcher that so many of us have become accustomed too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jeremy Bonderman remains a Tiger

By David

Not too long ago Tigers starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman lost 19 games, but this past season he lead his team to their first World Series appearance since 1984. It's fascinating how quickly a young pitcher can go from being one of the worst to one of the elite.

At only 24 years of age, Bonderman has transformed into one of the best young pitchers in the league. Still, it is unthinkable to believe that he can warrant $9.5 million per season. Despite having stellar talent, he has never won more than 14 games in a season or have an ERA under 4.08.

Bonderman could not have responded better to his new contract when he said''They gave me a good offer that will make my family
comfortable.''Sure, what man in their mid twenties would not want to be making nearly ten million per season and belong to one of, if not the best starting rotation in all of baseball.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Radke says goodbye to Twins- MLB.com

Long time Minnesota Twin pitcher Brad Radke retired this week after a productive 12 year big league career. He will be cemented in Twins history as one of their best and most likeable players to ever wear the uniform.

Veteran announces retirement at Tuesday press conference
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com

• Radke highlight reel: 350K
Radke through the years
A look back at Radke's career highlights
Molony: Consistency key for Radke

MINNEAPOLIS -- His eyes glistened with tears, but Brad Radke was determined not to make his retirement announcement on Tuesday afternoon a sad event.

"It's time to close this chapter and move on," Radke said with a few sniffles as he looked out at the crowd before him. "No tears. I don't want to see any tears from any of you. This should be a happy time for everyone."

It may be the start of another phase in Radke's life, but it was clear by the emotions on display at his retirement press conference that the veteran's departure was the end of a special period for the club.

"He's done just about everything you can ask here," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told a packed room at the Metrodome. "It's been a pleasure giving him the ball and believe me, I never enjoyed taking it away from him. It's just always been a pleasure with Brad. We're not just losing a great pitcher, but we're losing a great person."

Radke's retirement was not a surprise as it had been talked about since the pitcher signed his last two-year deal with the club following the 2004 season. At the time, he felt that it would be his last contract, and he again echoed that sentiment earlier this spring.

The right-hander admitted that he considered pitching one more year, but after battling a torn labrum and a stress fracture in his right shoulder socket this past season, it was clear that the time to retire was now.

"I know my body real well, and this year I just totally ran out of gas," Radke said.

His numbers may not make him a Hall of Fame pitcher, but the impact that Radke had in Minnesota is hard to ignore. Having come to the club when the Twins were near the bottom of the American League to helping them rise to dominance in the AL Central, Radke certainly had an integral part in the organization's turnaround.

The latter part of the 90s was a dismal time for the Twins as the club was unable to record any winning seasons. It wasn't until 2001 when the team finally began turning a corner, and, of course, Radke, 34, was there for it all.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke on Tuesday of what it meant to the team when Radke agreed to a four-year extension in 2000 to remain in Minnesota, despite all the down years that he had endured.

"It was a turning point in the franchise," Ryan said. "After Brad signed, many others have since followed. It kind of got us on our way."

And it was his legacy as the consistent, stoic leader that will remain etched in Twins fans' minds.

The best testament of Radke's will and his heart may have been the way that he battled through his injuries in his last season. Even when the pain was so great that Radke could barely even hold a ball between starts, the pitcher continued to pitch every fifth day as he was determined to finish out his career by helping his team win.

"All you want is a guy to go out and give you everything he's got," Gardenhire said. "And Brad proved that over and over again in his career, especially this past year. He was broken down, between innings he could barely throw the ball to home plate, but he went out and did it for his teammates. That pretty much says what Brad Radke is all about."

Radke's loyalty to the franchise was also something not often seen in baseball. It's safe to say that Radke is one of the last of a bygone era where players remain with one team for their entire career.

Even though Radke grew up in Florida, he often considered the Twins his hometown team. Radke was born in Eau Claire, Wis., and grew up attending Twins games every summer when he visited his family. So to be able to play for the Twins was something he considered a privilege.

And for him, Minnesota really did become home.

"It's hard to leave this family," Radke said. "These 12 years have been really special."
Family is something that the Twins organization is known for and there were many of Radke's former coaches, teammates and longtime personnel in attendance for his press conference. Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, former teammates Kent Hrbek, Paul Molitor, Terry Steinbach and current Twins pitchers Glen Perkins and Pat Neshek all took part in recognizing Radke's career.

It was such a profound moment for Radke that the normally quiet pitcher kept going on and on, trying to make sure that he thanked all those in attendance who helped him throughout his career. For his extended thank yous, Radke got his fair share of ribbing from the very same people that have spent years professing him to be their quiet leader.

"That's as much as I've heard come out of your mouth in 15 years," Ryan chided Radke during his speech.

And family is the main reason why Radke is stepping away now as he plans to spend more time with his wife, Heather, and their two sons, Kasey, 11, and Ryan, 7.

Exactly how Radke will be remembered will vary from person to person, but if the veteran right-hander had his say in his legacy, it would be fairly simple.

"I'd like to be known a guy that went out there and played with all of his heart," Radke said. "If you don't play this game with your heart, you shouldn't be playing. That's the way I went out every five days."

And it's the way that he went out on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bagwell's career comes to a close- MLB.com

Major League Baseball saw one of their best players on and off the field retire last week as long time Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell hung up his boots. Bagwell was not only the face of the Astros franchise for the last 15 years because of his on the field contribution, but also for the kind of person he was when away from the game. He was an extremly respected and admirable man and one who will be greatly missed by his peers.

Four-time All-Star's performance leaves lasting effects
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com

Bagwell announces retirement: 350K
• Bagwell's career highlights: 350K
Bagwell retrospective galleries: 1 2
Molony: Why Bagwell is Hall of Fame caliber
Key Bagwell moments, facts

HOUSTON -- After 15 seasons, Jeff Bagwell put an official end to his stellar career Friday, confirming what has been considered as inevitable for several months. Bagwell, the greatest hitter in the 45-year history of the franchise, announced that he is retiring from baseball.

Bagwell ends his career as the all-time club leader with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs and 1,401 walks. He recorded a lifetime batting average of .297, and he finished in the top 50 among all Major League players in seven categories: home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, walks, slugging percentage, OPS and on-base percentage.

A four-time All-Star, Bagwell appeared in the mid-Summer Classic in 1994, '96, '97 and '99. He played in six postseasons and reached his first and only World Series in 2005, serving as the designated hitter in Games 1 and 2.

Bagwell's journey through his Hall of Fame-caliber career began in 1990. He was playing for the Double-A New Britain Red Sox, and in the middle of a game on Aug. 31, his manager, Butch Hobson, pulled him off the field.

Hobson broke the news quickly: Bagwell was headed to Houston, after the Red Sox traded him to the Astros for a much-needed middle reliever.

Bagwell, a native of nearby Killingworth, Conn. who had spent the past two years dreaming of playing third base for his beloved Red Sox, was speechless.

Houston? Texas? Several images popped to mind. Tumbleweeds. Horses. Cowboys. Here he was, steps away from wearing a Red Sox uniform, and now, this New England kid was headed for gosh-knows-where, as part of an organization he knew nothing about. And to make matters worse, he was traded for popular comic reliever Larry Andersen, whom the fans in the Bayou City were not pleased was leaving.

In Boston, the news was barely a blip on the transaction page. Bagwell was behind future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and prospect Tim Naehring, and his departure from the organization did not elicit much of an outcry. One rather astute baseball observer, however, reacted with disgust when he heard about the trade that night at Fenway Park. He knew the Red Sox would live to regret this.

"They passed out the press release near the dugout at 5," said Hall of Famer Peter Gammons, a Boston native who at the time was covering Major League Baseball for Sports Illustrated. "I rolled it up, tossed it in the trash barrell in the runway, went up the stairs and walked 1 3/4 miles home."

Bagwell may have had a similar reaction, but it didn't take long for him to realize that this trade was the best thing that could have happened to him. The Astros were rebuilding, replacing older veterans with young, inexpensive kids. Bagwell, having played no higher than Double-A, didn't figure to be in the mix in his first year with his new club. But after reviewing how the team was structured, with rookies and unprovens, he thought, well, maybe I have a shot.

He began Spring Training in 1991 as a third baseman behind incumbent Ken Caminiti. A month later, Bagwell hit his way onto the team, as a first baseman, giving the Astros what they figured to be a much better option than Mike Simms, who probably would have been the Opening Day first baseman for the sheer fact that the team didn't have any other viable options.

By the end of the season, Bagwell was the National League's Rookie of the Year. Three years later, he was the National League's Most Valuable Player. And just like that, he went from a homesick Boston kid to one of the most recognizable names on the Houston sports scene.

Beyond the statistics, Bagwell's contributions were priceless. His leadership in the clubhouse was as important as his performance on the field, and it's quite possible no other player in baseball generated more respect from his teammates.

Bagwell had a close, personal relationship with every player on the roster. When a young player was called up or the Astros acquired someone in a trade, Bagwell and Craig Biggio were the first to approach him to welcome him to the team.

Bagwell, remembering how he benefitted as a young player from veterans such as Casey Candaele, often took a young pitcher to dinner after his first Major League win. He was the first to reassure a reliever after a blown save or bad outing that things would be OK.

"He was a superstar-caliber player who really understood what every single player, regardless of their rung on the ladder, was going through," said Brad Ausmus, Bagwell's closest friend on the team. "He could relate to everybody, regardless of their status in baseball and their position on the team. He was very understanding."

In an era in which players are often more concerned about not hurting themselves, especially in a contract year, Bagwell played through an assortment of injuries. And he delivered.

He reached the 300- and 400-homer marks in signature fashion. He hit two off Brewers pitching on Aug. 19, 2000, to reach 300, and in Cincinnati on July 20, 2003, he knocked Nos. 399 and 400. Bagwell is the all-time club leader in multi-homer games, with 31.

Known as one of baseball's most instinctive players, Bagwell was nearly flawless on the basepaths. He stole home three times, including his swipe of the plate on Aug. 18, 2001, which contributed to a 3-0 win over the Pirates.

And his defense was second to none. He turned the 3-6-3 double play into his signature move, executing the somewhat acrobatic act with nearly 100-percent success rate.

"I was floored to see that he only won one Gold Glove," general manager Tim Purpura said. "I never saw a first baseman be that agile. Crashing in on bunts, whirling and throwing to second. He was a great defender."

Bagwell and Biggio were inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame on Nov. 12, 2004, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Feb. 9, 2005. As for Cooperstown, Bagwell will be eligible for that honor in 2011. After 15 stellar seasons as one of baseball's elite, he has a great chance to make it a hat trick.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Talks progressing on new Marlins' home- MLB.com

The Marlins want to call South Florida home for many years to come and now MLB has begun to step in to see that this becomes a reality. Despite not having a strong fan base, the fish have been very successful in their 14 years of existence and they want to continue their winning ways in the city of Miami.

MLB helping team secure funding for stadium in South Florida
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

MIAMI -- If no news is good news, then this was an encouraging week for the Marlins' stadium effort.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy was in South Florida taking part in a series of stadium-related meetings with team and local officials.

Securing funding for a new Marlins' home has become a high-league priority, and Major League Baseball has assumed an active role in the push to end more than a decade of stadium struggles in South Florida.

The Marlins had no comment on the meetings, which have quietly been going on outside of the public's eye.

MLB.com has learned that stadium talks are progressing.

One proposed site that is gaining momentum is the city of Miami, just south of the Miami Arena off I-95. Pompano, in Broward County, is also a viable location. And the city of Hialeah, in Miami-Dade County, is another possibility.

Since their inaugural 1993 season, the Marlins have been sharing Dolphin Stadium with the Miami Dolphins. A series of leases to remain in a park designed primarily for football expires after the 2010 season.

To secure the long-term stability of the franchise, the Marlins have long been searching for their own park, which would offer the team a much more favorable revenue stream.

With the Marlins having to be out of their current home after 2010, the clock is ticking to get a deal done in the near future. It takes three years to build a park, and ideally the team would like to move into a new home in 2010 rather than remain for the final year of their Dolphin Stadium deal.

Due to South Florida's scorching hot temperatures, and unpredictable rain patterns, the Marlins insist that a retractable-roof park is a necessity. One reason the city of Miami site is attractive is because parking isn't part of the estimated $430 million cost for a 38,000-seat facility.

The city of Miami has ample public parking already in the surrounding areas, plus the stadium would be accessible by the Metrorail train system.

DuPuy's presence at these meetings is significant because it shows the league's desire to keep baseball entrenched in South Florida.

Last year, the Marlins were granted permission to seek relocation after a proposed stadium plan next to the Orange Bowl in Miami fell through.

Marlins officials visited other markets, and while San Antonio, Texas, was impressive, there is no talk now of relocation.

MLB and team management want the franchise, with two World Series titles in their relatively brief history, to remain in South Florida.

Finding the Marlins a new home has moved up on the league's priority list because a series of events -- which includes the launching of the first World Baseball Classic, the new collective bargaining agreement and the Twins and A's stadium stalemates -- have all been addressed

Wells and Blue Jays agree to $126 million, 7 year extension- AP

Blue Jays Outfielder Vernon Wells was given an early holiday present on Friday as he agreed to a new contract worth a whopping $126 million. By keeping their franchise player, Toronto is able to keep their quest alive of over taking the Yankees and winning the AL East.

By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer
December 16, 2006

TORONTO (AP) -- Vernon Wells said he wanted to take care of his kid's kids. He'll get that chance with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The All-Star center fielder and the Blue Jays agreed Friday night to a $126 million, seven-year contract extension through 2014, the sixth-largest deal in baseball history.

"How can you not be happy?" Wells said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press hours before terms of the deal were finalized. "Like I said, my family comes first. Obviously this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That's the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn't been done in a while."

The contract value trails only those of Alex Rodriguez ($252 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Manny Ramirez ($160 million), Todd Helton ($141.5 million) and Alfonso Soriano ($136 million). It is the 13th $100 million deal in baseball history and the third of the offseason, following those of Soriano with the Cubs and Carlos Lee ($100 million) with Houston.

Wells is due $5.6 million next season in the final year of his old contract. The extension calls for a $25.5 million signing bonus, payable in three $8.5 million installments each March 1 in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He will receive a salary of just $500,000 in 2008 and $1.5 million in 2009, but his salary jumps to $12.5 million in 2010 and $23 million in 2011. Wells receives $21 million in each of the final three seasons.

Under the extension, Wells has the right to terminate his agreement after the 2011 season and become eligible for free agency.

He gets a full no-trade clause and could earn bonuses of $250,000 for MVP, $200,000 for World Series MVP, $150,000 for league championship series MVP and $100,000 for receiving the most votes in his league in All-Star game balloting.

In addition, he will donate $143,000 annually to the Jays Care Foundation.

Wells hit .303 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs last season. He would have been eligible for free agency after next season.

He thought about trying to play with his hometown Texas Rangers.

"The ballpark is 20 minutes from my house. It's obviously a temptation, but (with) everything that I've gone through with Toronto and the relationships I've built there, it's tough to leave," Wells said.

The contract is the largest in franchise history -- dwarfing the $68 million, four-year deal that Carlos Delgado got from Toronto in 2000.

"We've said all along we're going to make every effort to sign him," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Friday afternoon.

Ricciardi inherited Delgado's contract when the team's payroll was around $50 million, but it will be more than $90 million next season. A stronger Canadian dollar and ownership of the Rogers Center is allowing the team to spend more.

In the final month of the season, Rogers Communications chief executive officer Ted Rogers agreed that the team needed to increase its $72 million payroll to compete with New York and Boston in the AL East. The Blue Jays finished second in the division, trailing New York, which had an opening-day payroll of $198 million. Boston ($120 million) finished third.

Ricciardi said retaining Wells gives Toronto one of the best lineups in baseball.

"I know Gibby likes him in the third hole. We like our lineup. We think it's as good a lineup as there is in the American League," Ricciardi said.

Toronto could have traded Wells if it didn't get an extension done. While Toronto lost out on signing free agent pitchers Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, Ricciardi denied that those decisions freed up the money to sign Wells.

The contract is somewhat of a surprise because Ricciardi said after the season that if Wells wanted a contract similar the seven-year, $119 million deal Carlos Beltran got with the New York Mets two years ago they wouldn't be able to handle it.

The Blue Jays didn't include Wells in advertisements this winter, leading many to speculate that they wouldn't re-sign him.

Wells said the contract doesn't necessarily mean he'll retire a Blue Jay.

"It all depends on where my career is," he said.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

Updated on Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 2:58 am EST

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Daisuke Matsuzaka ends up in Boston

By David

The negotiations might have went down to the wire, but the Boston Red Sox and stud pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka were able to come to terms on a contract. Over the next 6 years, Matsuzaka will be making a comfortable $52 million and when you include incentives the deal could total $60 million. On top of the $51.1 million the Red Sox paid Matsizkaka's former team the Seibu Lions just to speak with the pitcher, this investment in the Japanese star totals $103.11 million.

Boston was able to sign Daisuke just in time because the deadline to come to terms with him was Thursday at midnight. There was no way that Daisuke wanted to return to Japan and he was content with the offer the Red Sox made him. On the other hand his agent Scott Boras who has become famous for getting players outrageous contratcts over the years was holding out until he got his client what he believed to be fair market value.

Boras was eyeing the $11 million that Gil Meche received from the Royals earlier this month, but for a player who has never thrown a pitch in a major league game $8.66 million per season is extremely respectable. Matsuzaka comes over to the states with very impressive credentials. In his Japanese career he had a 108-60 record to go along with a 2.95 ERA. He was also named MVP of this years World Baseball Classic.

The Boston brain trust that had to fly over to California just to solidify a contract with the pitcher is very confident that he will fit in nicely in an already potent starting rotation. He will be added to a staff that includes Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield and possibly Lester who is currently recovering from cancer. After struggling last season, the Red Sox instantly become contenders in a tough American League.

Still, if they want to overtake the Yankees in the AL East they will need to find a closer because last years man Jonathan Papelbon defected to the starting rotation. Matsuzaka said "I'm very happy and excited to be a member of the Boston Red Sox " and the Red Sox fans will be equally as pleased to have him if he can duplicate the success that he had over in Japan.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Busy day in the world of Baseball

By David

Today was an extremely hectic day around Major League Baseball as players continued to sign with new teams. Today is also the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to their arbitrationally eligible players and many teams decided to let players walk.

The Baltimore Orioles improved their offense by signing veteran Outfielder Jay Payton to a two year deal worth $9.5 million. Formerly of the A's, Payton is a versatile player who can play all three Outfield positions and will fit in nicely in the O's lineup. After not tendering a deal to right hander Joel Pineiro, the Mariners went out and signed fellow right hander Miguel Batista to a three year contract worth a staggering $27 million.

Batista pitched last season in the desert for the Diamondbacks where he won 11 games and posted a 4.58 ERA. I'm curious to see what Seattle management thought was so enticing about Batista. I might not be a general manager, but when I take a look at Batista's career the fact that he's lost 11 more games than he's won and that he has a career 4.46 ERA doesn't make me want to offer him $9 million per season.

On a positive note, the Texas Rangers reached an agreement with former NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne on a one year contract. He has battled injuries over the last two seasons, but it's nice to see that he'll get a fresh start in Arlington.

Marcus Giles has spent his entire six year major league career as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, next season Giles will be calling another city home after becoming another example of a player who was not tendered a contract by his team. The Padres seem like the most logical choice for him to land because his brother Brian is the teams Right Fielder.

The list of other big leaguers who were not tendered contracts include: the Dodgers Jayson Werth and Toby Hall, Atlanta's Chris Reitsma, the Yankees Aaron Guiel, the Mets Victor Zambrano and the Tigers ''playoff hero'' Alexis Gomez.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Freddy Garcia in the city of brotherly love

By David

The Philadelphia Phillies enjoyed a successful winter meetings as they were able to trade for work horse Freddy Garcia. In exchange for the two time all star, Philly shipped pitchers Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez to the windy city.

Almost a week after the deal was completed Garcia is finally speaking out about his new team. He recently added that "I'm really happy to go to Philadelphia" and that ''It's a young team with good players." The 30 year old right hander will be on his third team since 2004. He will be able to provide playoff leadership to his new team and teach his teammates about the art of winning.

Along with the off season signing of Adam Eaton, the Phillies are constructing a pretty formidable starting rotation that will be able to contend with the Mets for the NL East crown. Presently, Philadelphia's starting rotation includes Garcia, Eaton, Lieber, Moyer, Hamels and Myers. Myers and Hamels are two solid youngsters and at the age of 44 Jamie Moyer has the ability to nurture these two young pitchers.

Obviously, with the addition of Garcia the Phillies head into spring training with six starting pitchers. The question to ask is who will be the odd man out in Charlie Manuel's rotation? Will it be Adam Eaton who is getting paid slightly over $ 8 million per season or might veteran Jon Lieber be traded.

Garcia is coming off an impressive 17 win season with the White Sox and he will need to continue pitching well if the Phillies are to have any chance of making the playoffs. Despite winning 85 games in 2006 Philadelphia lost out on the Wild Card to the Dodgers. Freddy Garcia recently said "I love to pitch." and hopefully his love for the game can elevate the Phillies into the postseason.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rule 5 Pick Pitches A Perfecto- MLB.com

The Kansas City Royals have been the laughing stock of baseball over the last few seasons, but maybe their luck has finally changed. The Royals selected pitcher Joakim Soria in this years Rule 5 draft and the first thing Soria did as a member of the Royals 40 man roster was pitch a perfect game for his team in the Mexican Pacific League. The Royals will get their first up close and personal look at how great this right hander is during spring training.

It took Joakim Soria about 48 hours to justify the Kansas City Royals' faith.

Two days after the Royals made him the second overall pick in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, Soria pitched a perfect game in the Mexican Pacific League on Saturday night as the Yaquis de Obregon blanked the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, 6-0.

Soria already was dominating the winter circuit, leading all three pitching triple crown categories (9-0, 1.77 ERA, 73 strikeouts). But the 22-year-old right-hander struck out nine and threw 101 pitches to remain unbeaten.

Soria tamed a lineup that included one current and one former big leaguer. Jerry Hairston Jr. batted leadoff for the Naranjeros and failed to get the ball out of the infield in three at-bats, while Geronimo Gil struck out and grounded out before leaving for a defensive replacement.

Making his 11th start for the Yaquis, Soria struck out Braves prospect Ivan Terrazas and Jorge Luis Valle to begin the ninth inning. With the count full, he retired Alejandro Ahumada on a ground ball to third base on his 101st pitch to finish off the third no-hitter in league history.

It was the first complete game of the season for Soria, who missed all of 2003 due to an injury. As a member of the Padres organization, he made seven relief appearances for Class A Fort Wayne in 2006 and went 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA. Before joining the Wizards, the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder served as the closer for the Mexican League's Diablos Rojos and compiled 15 saves and a 3.89 ERA in 39 games.

When Kansas City selected Soria from San Diego on Thursday, Royals general manager Dayton Moore raved about his repertoire.

"He throws three above-average pitches, and his mound presence was outstanding," Moore said. "He was almost too good to be true when we saw him."

To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Kansas City released one-time top prospect Runelvys Hernandez.

"I think (Soria's) going to fit in well with some of the young arms we have coming into the organization," Moore said. "I think he's got a chance, a year from now, to be mentioned in the same vein with some of our younger prospects. He could be that kinda guy for us."

The Yaquis scored all of their runs on homers. Adan Munoz slugged a grand slam in the fourth inning off reliever Juan Alvarez, while Colorado Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs and Kit Pellow connected for back-to-back solo shots in the fifth.

Daren Smith is a staff writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Barry Bonds Remains With The SF Giants - SF Chronicle

All I can say is "Yeah!"

$16 million, 1-year deal would allow slugger to chase homer record in S.F. uniform
John Shea, Henry Schulman, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, December 8, 2006

(12-08) 04:00 PST Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- Roll in the leather recliner. Dust off the row of lockers. Alert the entourage.

Barry Bonds is ready to sign with the Giants for next season.

A source close to contract negotiations confirmed that Bonds and the Giants had reached an agreement on a one-year contract for $16 million, and the deal would be consummated once certain language is finalized and Bonds passes a physical.

"We're working real hard to get something done," Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said early this morning. "I'm optimistic we're going to get something done."

Giants Executive Vice President Larry Baer had no comment other than to say, "Some progress was made."

Early Thursday, sources on both sides of the negotiations said they believed the deal was on the verge of being done. In recent days, the sides narrowed the gap on how many millions Bonds would make in 2007 -- he wanted to be paid in the high teens, and the Giants preferred to pay in the low teens.

There was substantial give-and-take on both ends. Bonds wanted a vested option, hoping he could secure a second year by staying healthy, but the Giants insisted on only a one-year deal. They agreed to a higher base salary if Bonds took his eye off a second year, and it took weeks of hard negotiating to reach the compromise.

The deal, according to the Associated Press, includes performance bonuses that could push it to $20 million.

The sides had a series of phone conversations Thursday, one day after a three-hour meeting involving Borris and general manager Brian Sabean and a follow-up phone call.

Further dialogue was necessary to resolve issues, some nonmonetary, and it's possible the Giants will regulate Bonds differently -- for example, limit his number of assistants and their access.

As the winter meetings ended, Sabean hinted he wasn't willing to wait much longer to cut a deal. He was asked if he had any idea if other teams were interested in Bonds.

"No," he said.

Did he care?


Bonds didn't attend the Giants' negotiations here -- "It wasn't prudent," Sabean said -- but Borris made it seem Bonds was at the winter meetings hotel to visit with multiple teams. As the meetings ended, however, no other team emerged with legitimate interest in the 42-year-old left fielder.

Though published reports pointed to the Cardinals as the mystery team that could enter negotiations, they were no mystery at all. GM Walt Jocketty told reporters after Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft, "There's nothing on with Bonds. I'm sick and tired of people asking that. We don't have money for Bonds. We're trying to sign pitching."

The Cardinals never were interested in Bonds, sources said, and the stories were generated based on manager Tony La Russa's intrigue with big-name players. While Borris met with the Cardinals on Wednesday, sources said, Bonds was not present. On the other hand, Bonds did meet with Tigers manager Jim Leyland, apparently a long-awaited social visit.

With Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt a close friend of President Bush -- who called for pro leagues to get rid of steroids in his 2004 State of the Union address -- and the Cardinals still stinging from Mark McGwire's connection with the steroid scandal and embarrassing performance at a congressional hearing in 2005, St. Louis was never a fit.

It seemed clear Borris brought Bonds to the winter meetings to drum up interest for his client, but the Giants said his presence did not affect or accelerate negotiations.

What did alter negotiations was the free-agent market, which saw Alfonso Soriano sign for $136 million and Carlos Lee for $100 million, thus helping Bonds' bargaining power. The Giants pursued both players, along with a trade for Manny Ramirez, and adding any of them probably would have ended Bonds' time in San Francisco.

Instead, he's headed for a 15th season with the Giants. Though he's 22 home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's all-time record, Bonds wasn't attractive to other teams largely because of his involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal. From the outset, the Giants seemed Bonds' only possible choice.

Although Borris repeatedly said Bonds' main focus was winning a World Series, the Giants have posted consecutive losing seasons and lost ace pitcher Jason Schmidt to free agency. But Bonds often talked of retiring with the Giants, for whom his father (Bobby) and godfather (Willie Mays) played.

Bonds won five of his seven MVP awards with the Giants and set the single-season homers record in 2001. His last MVP was in 2004, and he was limited to 14 games in 2005 after undergoing multiple knee surgeries.

Last season, he played 130 games and didn't go on the disabled list. He hit .271 with 26 homers and 77 RBIs. He's coming off a five-year, $90 million contract.

E-mail the writers at jshea@sfchronicle.com and hschulman@sfchronicle.com.

Andy Pettitte returns to the Yankees

By David

Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees have agreed on a one year deal worth $16 million. Pettitte will be returning to the team that he helped win four World Series titles during his first nine seasons in the Bronx.

After spending the last three seasons pitching along side his good friend and former Yankee Roger Clemens in Houston, Pettitte began to contemplate retirement. He had an immediate offer from Brian Cashman on the table and decided that he will end his career where it began.

This is a great and much overdue move by the Bronx Bombers who should have never let their star lefty defect to his home town team. This signing will bring stability and a regained sense of pride to the Yankees who have struggled to find a true sense of character since Pettitte left.

The veteran will be re-united with former teammates Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and battery mate Jorge Posada. During his nine stellar seasons in New York, Pettitte posted a 149 and 78 record to go along a 3.94 ERA. He also won 13 postseason games and helped the Yankees capture the AL East seven times. Pettitte is definitely accustomed to the pressures of October and the Yankees will need his veteran leadership if they want to return to the World Series. Ironically, the last time the Bronx Bombers represented the AL in the World Series was in Pettitte's final year in pinstripes.

Fellow pitcher Mike Mussina commented that "It will be good to have him back." and as a whole, all of New York can't wait for him to toe the rubber at Yankee Stadium for one more go around. Is it possible that the signing of Pettitte will foreshadow a return by his close friend Roger Clemens to the Bronx? It seems that both men are closely attached and that the actions of one man predicates what the other one does. Only time will tell, but I hope that the rocket will follow in the foot steps of Andy Pettitte and end his career as a New York Yankee.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Greg Maddux signs with the Padres

By David

Twenty one year veteran and to be hall of famer Greg Maddux has agreed to a one year contract with the San Diego Padres. During his illustrious career Maddux has compiled 333 career wins and an impressive 3.07 ERA.

He will be added to a starting rotation that already includes all star Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Clay Hensley and Tim Stauffer. Last season, the Padres posted the lowest ERA in the NL at 3.87 and were the only team to see their ERA be under four. With the addition of Maddux and former pitching coach Bud Black as their new manager, the Padres are stating a strong case as a team that will be able to compete with the Cardinals and Mets for National League supremacy.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Oakland A's Barry Zito To Meet With Texas Rangers

Oh. Oh. Don't look now, but Barry Zito's meeting with the Texas Rangers, who just hired Ron Washington, the A"s ace third-base coach. According to MickSports, which you can view with a click on the title of this post, Zito met with Rangers Officials including owner Tom Hicks this week.

Looks like the A's are set to lose another great player.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Off season transactions

By David

The list of the top available free agents is dwindling as teams continue to sign players to handsome contracts. Many starting pitchers agreed to contracts this week and the most notable name on that list was Mike Mussina. At the age of 38 the ''moose'' agreed to a two year contract to stay with the Yankees.

This was a major move for the Yankees as they re-signed a pitcher who has solidified himself as the number two guy behind Chien-Ming Wang in the starting rotation. Last season, Mussina enjoyed his greatest success in pinstripes as he went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA. His contract will pay him $23 million over the next two seasons.

Left hander Randy Wolf is headed west to play for the Dodgers after spending his first eight major league seasons playing for the Phillies. It seems that reliever Danys Baez has finally found a permanent home after he agreed to a three year contract with the Orioles. This will be the fifth team Baez will pitch for since 2003.

Starting pitcher Adam Eaton will be extremely thankful this holiday season after Philadelphia gave him a three year contract worth $24.5 million. My question is: For what is Eaton deservent of this large contract? After having a productive 2005 campaign with the Padres, he was traded to the Texas Rangers during the off season. He spent much of last season on the disabled list and in the 13 games in which he pitched he posted an inflated 5.12 ERA. It boggles my mind that in today's market a pitcher who has never won more than 11 games and has never had an ERA below 4.08 can be making $8 million a season.

On a brighter note lefty Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies agreed to a new four year contract that will pay him $13.25 million. At the age of 25, Francis is blossoming into one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball. Last season he enjoyed his greatest success as he went 13-11 with a 4.16 ERA. That might not seem like much, but take into account that he's pitching in Coors Field. His ERA dropped by an impressive 1.52 from the previous season and became the fourth lowest in team history.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The trade market

By David

The hot stove season got off to a bang in the trade market with the Brewers and the Diamondbacks swapping players. Milwaukee sent pitchers Doug Davis, Dana Eveland and Outfielder David Krynzel to the desert in exchange for pitchers Claudio Vargas, Greg Aquino and catcher Johnny Estrada. Once again Arizona has shipped out quality players for what can be called at best mediocre ones.

Even though lefty Doug Davis is a good person to have on your team and Outfielder David Krynzel who is only 25 could pan out to be a promising prospect, they don't compare to what the Brew crew received in return. Vargas might not have the most impressive numbers, but he is young and showed potential last season as he posted a 12 and 10 record. Reliever Greg Aquino is a solid reliever and he posted a 2 and zero record to go along with a 4.47 ERA last year with Arizona.

The hidden gem from this deal and a player who is transforming into an elite major league catcher is Johnny Estrada. This will be the third team he will be playing for in two years, but I feel he has found a long term home in Milkwaukee. Besides posting good numbers last season, he knew that Arizona would only be a temporary stop because of how loaded their farm system is.

Last season in 115 games Estrada batted .302 with 71 runs batted in. In 2004 with Atlanta he batted .314 with 76 RBI's and since breaking into the majors in 2001 with the Phillies he has gotten progressively better every year. Estrada is lethal behind the plate as he has a career .994 fielding percentage and will be counted on with the Brewers to assist their young pitchers.

Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers have once again pulled off an excellent trade in acquiring great talent. Don't look now, but the Brewers might shock everybody this season and sneak into the playoffs.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Baseball off season frenzy

During this past week we have seen a plethora of signings throughout Major League Baseball. Top free agent Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. who is coming off a career year, cashed in with a five year contract worth $50 million with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Evidently, the days of not signing with a rival team are over after Matthews Jr. defected from Texas for the halos.

Outfielders who have found new homes include: Speed stir Juan Pierre who signed a five year deal worth $44 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Frank Catalanotto who will return for a second stint with the Texas Rangers after signing a three year contract and veteran Moises Alou who is headed to Flushing to play left field for the New York Mets after signing a one year deal.

Around the infield we saw all star Nomar Garciaparra re-sign with the Dodgers for two more seasons. This was an excellent decision by Dodger management to commit to Nomar for two more years even though he is coming off many nagging injuries that sidelined him for portions of last season. Alex Gonzalez, formerly of the Red Sox's signed a three year contract with the Reds to become their new starting Shortstop. Gonzalez might not be the best with the bat, but is very potent defensively.

Left handed reliever Jamie Walker who was intrical in the success of the Tigers this past season signed a three year deal with the Orioles. If Baltimore wants to be competitive in the Al East
next year, they will need great pitching and they made a great leap forward in achieving their goal by signing a top of the line relief pitcher.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Carlos Lee signs with the Astros

By David

The Houston Astros inked slugger Carlos Lee to a six year, $100 million contract this past week. Lee will provide a much needed offensive threat to the middle of the Astros lineup which has struggled with the bat the last few seasons. Along with fellow Outfielder Lance Berkman, Houston will have a formidable one two threat for many years to come.

''El Caballo'' has been spectacular over the last five seasons as he has compiled a .288 average with 157 home runs and 522 runs batted in. Since beginning his career with the White Sox, Lee has played with the Brewers and most recently the Rangers. He has a cattle ranch not too far from Houston and from what I can observe this signing seems to be a perfect fit for both sides.

With the short fences in left and right field Lee will love hitting at Minute Maid Park. Over an 81 game span Lee has the potential to break several records at his new ballpark. The signing of Lee was very critical for the Astros this off season because they have struggled offensively for many years and now they have finally found the bat to compliment Lance Berkman. Their pitching has always been capable of keeping them in the game, but when it came playoff time the Houston hitters were non existent.

By giving Carlos Lee the largest contract in team history, general manager Tim Purpura is demonstrating that he is committed to taking the Astros to the next level and that he believes ''El Caballo is the man to lead them to their first ever World Series title.

Still, with many teams in their division improving Houston will need to do more in order to distinguish themselves as the class of the Nl Central. At the top of their list,they must convince
Roger Clemens to return for one more season and for his good friend Andy Pettitte to re-sign. If both things happen then you can look at the Astros as major contenders in the National League along with the New York Mets.

Houston did a great thing in going out and signing the second best hitter on the market and according to Lee Houston fans ''won't be disappointed. I see him as being gravy for the Astros for years to come.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ryan Howard & Justin Morneau win MVP honors

By David

Fellow first basemen Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau took home the MVP award in their respective leagues. At the age of 27, the Phillies slugger overpowered opposing National League pitching to the tune of 58 home runs and 149 runs batted in. In the American League, 25 year old Justin Morneau surprised all of baseball in defeating Yankees shortstop and seven time all star Derek Jeter by a slim 14 points. Morneau became only the second Canadien born player to win the award since Larry Walker.

Both players enjoyed remarkable seasons as Howard lead the major leagues in home runs, RBI's, total bases and finished tied for second with a .659 slugging percentage and third with a 1.084 OPS. Morneau rebounded extremly well from a disappointing 2005 campaign where he batted .239 with 79 RBI's to bat .321 with 34 home runs and 130 runs batted in.

Still, Morneau was overshadowed by the heart felt story of catcher Joe Mauer winning the batting title and having the AL CY young winner and arguebly the best pitcher in baseball Johan Santana on his team. This is why Jeter should have won the award because he was the focal point of his teams success and with out him the Bronx Bombers would not have made the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Ryan Howard was the odds on favorite to win the award and even though slugger Albert Pujols enjoyed a productive season, with out Howard the Phillies would have never been in playoff contention. His numbers on the field don't speak enough volume to how overpowering he is at the plate. Just watching him clobber home runs to all sides of the field with such ease is startling for a player only in his second major league season. If Howard can continue on his current pace of destruction he will go down as one of the very best to ever play the game.

It seems to me that the winners of this years MVP award are beginning to open up a new breed of baseball players. Howard and Morneau are two young first basemen who play the game the right way. They are extremly diligent, very benevolent in the press and conduct themselves in a professional manner. If the rest of MLB could acquire some tips from these men maybe the game would be much more attractive for people to watch.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Alfonso Soriano signs with the Cubs

By David

Five time all star Alfonso Soriano is headed to the north side of Chicago to help out a Cub team that limped to a 66-96 record last year. This perennial slugger and one of the brightest stars in the game today will be added to a potent lineup that already includes all stars Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. By going out and signing the biggest name on the market early in the off season the Cubs have disguinished themselves as a team to reckon with in the NL Central.

Going back to his days as a Yankee, the knock on Soriano has been his inability to blend in as a team player and his lack for following directions. He proved last season after voluntarily switching to left field that he has started to break out of his shell and is now more of a team oriented player. Soriano inked an 8 year deal worth $136 million and this is unprecedent for a player who was undrafted coming out of the Dominican Republic. His contract is the fifth largest in baseball history and the largest in team history.

From the signing of manager Lou Piniella, to the re-signing of Aramis Ramirez and now this recent deal general manager Jim Hendry has invested heavily in bringing a winning product to Cubs fans. Still, with so much young pitching, an ambiguous bullpen and only one viable starting pitcher in Carlos Zambrano it's tough to envision this team making the playoffs next season.

With all the positive news surrounding the acquisition of Soriano it was lost today that the Cubs lost center fielder Juan Pierre to the Dodgers. He was an intrical part of the Marlins winning the World Series in 2003 and is one of, if not the best base stealer in the game. He was the table setter for the Cubbies last year and his presence will be greatly missed.

When you look down their lineup 1-8, the Cubs present major offensive threats with outfielders Alfonso Soriano, Matt Murton and Jacque Jones as well as Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Alone, Soriano and Ramirez combined for 84 home runs, 214 runs batted in and 84 doubles. These two sluggers will be relied upon heavily after the front office invested $211 million in these men this off season. Soriano also set a major league record as the first player to have at least 40 homers, 40 doubles and 40 steals in a season. He will be batting lead off for Chicago and will be sure to bring a plethora of fire power to the top of the order.

I am intrigued by the vision veteran manager Lou Piniella has for his new team. He took over the worst team in the NL with the knowledge that management would spend the money needed to bring a winning team to the north side of Chicago. The Cubs by far have made the most moves of any team this winter as they've gone on a spending spree to attract the best players. As the Yankees have proven time and time again despite how much offense you have, if you want to win you need good pitching and I don't feel at the present time that the Chicago Cubs have the pitching to be major players in the National League.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Frank Thomas signs with the Blue Jays

By David

Slugger Frank Thomas is headed north of the border after signing a two year deal with Toronto worth $18.12 million. Thomas also has an option for 2009 that will pay him $10 million. This is a great acquisition for J.P. Ricciardi and the Blue Jays as Frank is a major offensive threat.

Last year, as a member of the A's he batted .270 with 39 home runs and 114 runs batted in. He will be added to an already potent lineup that includes all star Vernon Wells, Troy Glaus, Alex Rios, Reed Johnson and Lyle Overbay. The big hurt is currently the only Blue Jay to be born before 1974. This team is founded on its youth and by adding a crafty veteran in Thomas you are telling your fans that you are serious about winning.

During last years off season general manager J.P. Ricciardi went out and signed pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan. Many people including myself thought that he was crazy in giving them such large contracts, but they both proved that they were worth the money. By going out early into this years off season and signing one of the best offensive players ever to play the game the Blue Jays will now find themselves up there with the best teams in the AL come October.

Toronto took a major step last season in leap frogging the Red Sox's into second place and this season I expect them to finish in first. When you can combine the pitching of all star and former CY young winner Roy Halladay with A.J. Burnett who has won a World Series ring before you are making a great one two tandem that will plow down opposing hitters. The knock on Burnett has been that he's never been able to stay healthy, but this year he will prove the doubters wrong.

Still, if the Blue Jays are to first make the playoffs and have a chance of going deep they need to solidify the back end of their rotation. Toronto possesses an above average bullpen that is lead by closer B.J. Ryan who posted an impressive 1.37 ERA last season and racked up 38 saves. Their offense featured six hitters who had at least a .300 or better average last season and with the addition of Frank Thomas their power numbers will sky rocket. The big hurt will be laying tremendous damage on American League pitching and hopefully he is successful enough to lead the Blue Jays into the playoffs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hot Stove Baseball

By David

The baseball off season got even more interesting today when we learned that Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka will most likely be signing with the Red Sox's. All 30 major league teams had the right to bid for the 26 year old pitcher, but Boston entered the highest bid at $51.1 million. Remember that this dollar amount is only for the Sox's to negotiate with the pitcher and not the amount of his contract.

Matsuzaka said "I was very surprised when I heard the figure" and I concur with his comments. It's unthinkable to believe that any team would bid that much money for a player. I understand that any person in any type of profession is entitled to a reservation wage, but the amount of money many major leaguers are making today is absurd. The re-signing of Aramis Ramirez by the Cubs for five years and $73 million as well as this recent transaction should be a good indicator for what the rest of the market has in store. Now, we will see many players who might have average skills receive large contracts.

The move by the Red Sox's will have major repercussions on the field. Their pitching staff struggled throughout last season and by acquiring this outstanding pitcher they are greatly bolstering their team. The tandem of Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Matsuzaka and Wakefield will be hard for hitters to beat.

In other news around baseball Jim Leyland of the American League Champion Tigers won the AL manager of the year. This award was expected after his teams surprising success, but you can't count out the hard work Leyland put into having such a great season. Many people laughed at the prospect of Leyland taking over a team that endured so many losing seasons, but he silenced the critics.

Over on the NL side Joe Girardi won manager of the year for the Marlins, but it's unfortunate he won't be back to continue his success. He took over a team that many people said was the worst in the game, but instead guided his club to a 78-84 record and was in contention for the wild card for much of September. More than any manager Girardi deserved this award as he showed the baseball community just how good he is and more importantly how much he was capable of doing with a team full of rookies. I hope that Joe Girardi will return to baseball and manage a team that appreciates his abilities.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Justin Verlander & Hanley Ramirez: 2006 Rookies of the Year

By David

In what was one of the best rookie classes in recent memory Justin Verlander of the American League Champion Tigers and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins took top honors in their respective leagues. Verlander became the run away favorite after Boston's Jonathan Papelban and Minnesota's Francisco Liriano suffered mid season injuries.

Verlander distinguished himself as one of the best pitchers in the AL after posting a record of 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA. As his young career progresses he will be among baseballs best pitchers. The National League race for rookie of the year was hotly contested between Washington's third basemen Ryan Zimmerman and Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez who went on to win. There was only a difference of four points between both players and this was the closest race in 26 years.

Ramirez was part of a Marlins team that had six players receive at least one point in voting for the NL rookie of the year and this is a major league record. Besides Ramirez, the list includes Dan Uggla, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Willingham. This speaks volume to the depth of talent the fish have and why they are one of the brightest teams in all of baseball.

After being acquired in an off season trade with the Red Sox's Hanley batted .292 with 17 home runs, 59 runs batted in, 46 doubles, 11 triples, 185 hits and an impressive 51 stolen bases. His 51 stolen bases ranked third in the NL and his seven lead off home runs tied a rookie record set by Nomar Garciaparra. Ramirez's lightning speed and knack for getting on base was a major reason why Florida shattered their expectations. He recently said "If we bring the same energy next year, we're going to be unbelievable." This optimism is a major factor into why this young ball club is so fun to watch on a regular basis.

The rookie class of 2006 exemplified how hard work can pay off. Many of the Marlins rookies and others around the league took a tough road to get to the majors, but these young men have now become very successful baseball players. When a pitcher can go 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strike outs in 28 games[started sixteen] and a hitter can bat .271 with 28 home runs and 81 runs batted in and not win the rookie of the year, you begin to realize just how talented this class of rookies were. If these players were so good in their first year just imagine how good they will become in years to come.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Manny Acta, The new Manager of the Washington Nationals

By David

The Nationals are set to hire Manny Acta as their new manager. Acta previously served as the Mets third base coach for the last two seasons and he will be taking over a team that has finished in last place for the last two years. Hall of famer Frank Robinson was dismissed of his managerial duties six weeks ago and this permitted the Nats to go after Acta. He separated himself from the other managerial candidates because of his hard work ethic and knowledge of the game.

The newly appointed manager will be taking over a team that showed very limited signs of improvement last year. The only bright spot was rookie third basemen Ryan Zimmerman who batted .287 with 20 home runs and 110 runs batted in. Unfortunately, Washington will most likely be losing their best player and one of the best sluggers in baseball in Alfonso Soriano to free agency. Last season the Nats pitching staff posted the highest ERA, pitched the fewest shut outs and hit the most batters in the National League. It will definitely be an up hill battle for first year manager Manny Acta.

It's nice to see a man who started as a coach back in 1992 with Class A Asheville finally get an opportunity to manage a big league club. With the hiring of Manny Acta, hopefully the Nationals will be able to return the sense of winning to the nations capital.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tigers trade for Gary Sheffield

By David

The Detroit Tigers acquired disgruntled outfielder Gary Sheffield from the Yankees today for three minor league pitching prospects. This was a move bound to occur after New York exercised Sheffield's $13 million option for the upcoming season. They did this to prevent him from becoming a free agent, but more importantly from signing with the hated Red Sox's.

This move made by general manager Dave Dombrowski so early into the off season will force many people to scratch their heads and think, why trade for a player in the latter portion of their career who is coming off of wrist surgery and only played in 39 games last season. The answer is that Sheffield will be reunited with manager Jim Leyland who he won a World Series ring with in 1997 for the Marlins and he will be able to provide a patient bat in the middle of the Tigers order. Still, I wonder why you give away three young pitching prospects when you can sign a Frank Thomas or someone of his calaber.

Throughout last years magical season Detroit was lead by their young pitching who all came up through the Tigers system either as a draft pick or via a trade. It seems as if the roles were reversed this time as the Tigers acquired a veteran player and the Yankees picked up good minor league prospects. Finally, Brian Cashman has relaized how porous of a farm system he has and if his team is going to get out of the first round they need to start with good young talent.

After failing to accomplish his goal of winning a second ring during his three year stint in the Bronx the 37 year old former all star will try his luck in the motor city. He was very fortunate to be traded to the American League champions and a team who if not for their defensive blunders could have won it all last season. Gary will be playing DH for now on and this will enable him to stay healthy, pro long his career and be better equiped to help his new team. Sheffield called this situation a "blessing" and said " I'm more than happy to be reunited with guys that I'm familar with". He signed a two year extension with the Tigers through 2009, but terms were not disclosed.

Hopefully, the Tigers receive the Gary Sheffield who averaged 35 home runs and 122 runs batted in for the Yankees during his two healthy seasons and not the player who was constantly plagued by injuries last year. If this happens and Detroit's pitching continues to perform well we could see the Tigers return to the World Series and this time win the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ron Washington, The new Manager of the Texas Rangers

By David Kaye

A month after firing Buck Showalter owner Tom Hicks and second year general manager Jon Daniels have found their guy in Ron Washington. Washington previously served the last 11 years as first and third base coach for the division rival Oakland Athletics as well as infield instructor. He has been noted by former players on the A’s including all star third basemen Eric Chavez for being an intricate part into why his defense has so steadily improved and this has translated into six gold gloves for the best defensive third basemen in baseball. . Washington will need more than his popularity throughout the A’s clubhouse and his successful track record if he wants to turn around a Texas team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and has had a losing record the last six out of seven years.

The knock on the Rangers team during this span has been that they don’t have the pitching to compete with rivals Oakland and Anaheim. It was made clear by the signing of Alex Rodriguez that owner Tom Hicks has a deep wallet, but instead of going out and signing top of the line pitching he throws his money away to different sluggers. Even during the hay day of the Rangers in the late 1990’s when they won three AL West titles they continued to struggle with poor pitching. Still, the Rangers were able to find some kind of balance that permitted them to win and if Ron Washington doesn’t want to become another casualty of under performing managers then he needs to re-invent that balance.

The Rangers are not helped by the fact that they play in one of the worst pitching parks in baseball Ameriquiest Field. Since the inception of their struggles began in 2000 the pitching staff has hurled a less than impressive ERA of 5.17, but if you’re looking optimistically Texas has not posted an ERA of over five since 2003. During this span Ranger hitters have enjoyed belting out an average of 223 home runs a season, but last year failed for the first time since 2000 to blast at least 200 homers. Texas has one of the best infields in baseball with third basemen Hank Blalock, short stop Michael Young and first basemen Mark Teixeira who is coming off his first gold glove. Still, these three players can’t do it all and they need immediate assistance in the form of some veteran arms.

We live in a world that is predicated by the saying what have you done for me lately and all the glamour surrounding Ron Washington will be short lived if the Rangers go out and get swept by the Angels to start the season. Owner Tom Hicks must start allocating his money properly and begin to spend on veteran pitching. The Rangers have young pitching, but if they want to return to the playoffs right away they need to sign someone such as Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito. By signing Zito they are re-uniting him with Washington and are also bringing into the clubhouse a winning presence. Last years signing of Kevin Millwood was a step in the right direction as he won a team leading sixteen games, but the acquisitions of un proven veterans Adam Eaton and Kip Wells did nothing to aid the team.

If the Rangers can sign one of these two all star pitchers they will be even closer to winning the division. Their two main competitors Oakland and Anaheim are currently going through some re-construction of their own. The Angels are in a fog of confusion and the A’s are very close to losing their two best players in Frank Thomas and Barry Zito who lead them to all the way to last years ALCS. I’m not saying the signing of a Zito can translate into what former Ranger Kenny Rogers did for the Tigers, but it can certainly put them a top the Al West.

When you mix in second year man Ian Kinsler, outfielder Nelson Cruz and possibly all star Carlos Lee [If they can sign him, but that possibility doesn’t look bright], a healthy Brad Wilkerson, pitcher Vicente Padilla and closer Akinori Otsuka the future in Arlington looks bright. Still, this hope rests on the Rangers bringing back their balance and new manager Ron Washington will do whatever he can to return the Rangers to their winning ways.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Harold Reynolds Suing ESPN For Firing Him For Hugging White Girl

Yep. You've read it correctly. ESPN's Harold Reynolds is suing ESPN for $5 million as reported by the Miami Herald. According to the newspaper's account, Reynolds claims that "he was wrongly fired after a female intern complained about what he called a 'brief and innocuous' hug."

The Smoking Gun has a copy of the filed lawsuit. In it, Reynolds' Lawyer says that ESPN is refusing to let the Connecticut Labor Department have a copy of his personal file, in fact, Reynolds can't see it either and it's about him. Wonder what's in it?

The Smoking Gun also reveals that Reynolds and the intern went out twice that day: lunch and dinner. So the real truth to this story is somewhere in those two outings. But it's clear that we've got a juicy story. If she didn't really like Reynolds, why go out with him twice? He wasn't her direct boss so there was no bureaucratic pressure to do so.

Since my column asserting that race was the reason behind not just Reynolds firing, but the idea that the woman was white and while liked Harold as a "friend" perhaps she didn't like a black man getting that close to her, I've received both praise and insults for my position. But let me re-state that this is a matter of race and the issue of how there are racial double standards in society is not well-discussed.

I was recently the victim of excessive force use by a California Highway Patrol officer, and just because I started to cry regarding how I was being treated. My good friend who's white and male and a prominent Oakland lawyer told me that had I been white, the treatment woujld have been different. He sees the double-standard.

Look, only an idiot or a racist would clam race has nothing to do with this. It does and there's no such thing as being color-blind. Everyone has a reaction to a person of color, one way or another. You can't avoid it.

Hey, Harold should not have hugged her first, but I'm willing to bet bucks that she's hugged some of ESPN's white male personalities. What Harold ran into was a racial double standard. The only problem is he doesn't have the guts to say it; I do. Moreover, if it turns out that the female intern was black -- which I seriously doubt -- the same standard applies. Hey, don't think there aren't African Americans who don't like blacks -- there are, and the self-black-hatred phenomenon is as much a part of the overall social problem as any other factor.

ESPN's offices are in Conneticut, a state not known for its high degree of mixed-race couples. Isn't it possible that ESPN's harboring some latently racist staffers? People who -- let's be honest -- have issues about black men dating white women, but try to keep their problems in their personal mental closets? (As small as they are! Sorry, but racism is a proven mental illness.)

Look, you're not going to tell me that ESPN really doesn't pay attention to female beauty and was protecting the intests of an intern. ESPN just hired Heather Cox, according to Deadspin, who has just two years of community college and a spot on American Idol.

Wow. So much for journalism school! I'll bet more money some guy at ESPN was behind her discovery. I know one thing: it wasn't Harold Reynolds.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

San Francisco Giants Hire Bruce Bochy As Manager - ESPN and AP

What I like is that they just hired the skipper of a key division rival, who knows all of their players. Nice. 3=

Bochy agrees to become Giants manager
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Bruce Bochy set to go to Japan on Monday to manage a group of major leaguers in an exhibition tour, the Giants had to move fast to pry him away from the Padres.

After a day of talks, that's apparently just what they did. Bochy agreed in principle to take the job left vacant when Felipe Alou's contract was not renewed, two baseball officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday night because the deal was pending.

The Giants scheduled a news conference for Friday to announce the deal. The San Jose Mercury News reported Bochy will receive a contract of at least three years for more than $2 million per season.

Teams are not allowed to make major announcements during the World Series, but Major League Baseball gave the Giants permission because Bochy is doing the league a favor. He agreed to replace Terry Francona as manager on the Japan tour when the Red Sox manager withdrew due to illness.

Bochy was the only candidate with major league managerial experience, something Giants general manager Brian Sabean said would be preferred. Mets third-base coach Manny Acta, Angels pitching coach Bud Black and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus also interviewed for the job.

The Giants received permission from the Padres on Wednesday to talk to Bochy, who traveled to the Bay Area earlier Thursday to meet with Sabean and other team officials about becoming Felipe Alou's successor.

"If he's available and that's a reality, we'd have to go forward and interview the man," Giants vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow said earlier Thursday.

Besides travel plans, the deal had to come together quickly because the Giants had only a seven-day window in which to come to agreement with Bochy because he is employed by another team. Bochy, who has one year left on his contract, and Sabean already had an informal conversation about the job.

Multiple calls to Bochy's cell phone went unreturned Thursday. Calls and e-mails to Sabean and Giants' executive vice president Larry Baer on Thursday night were not immediately returned.

Earlier in the day, Padres general manager Kevin Towers already was preparing for Bochy's possible departure.

"We certainly have to do our due diligence to come up with a list of candidates ourselves, a group of people we would probably interview if Bruce ends up leaving," Towers said in a phone interview. "I would imagine we'd know something by the weekend, because it probably would be hard to negotiate with Bruce going to Japan."

Bochy, 51, who just finished his 12th season as the Padres' manager, has guided San Diego to back-to-back NL West titles and is the winningest manager in franchise history. He has spent the last 24 years in the organization, dating to his playing days.

He is due to make $1.9 million in guaranteed money in 2007 and would be San Francisco's most expensive choice among the club's top candidates. But Bochy's experience and familiarity with the division certainly made him an immediate favorite.

Giants first baseman Mark Sweeney, who played for Bochy in San Diego for 3½ seasons, believes his former skipper would be a good fit in San Francisco.

"The one thing it's going to do -- and it's good for our organization -- is if there are potential free agents looking for a manager to play for, Bochy's that guy," Sweeney said. "It would definitely benefit us in getting some free agents who might go elsewhere. I just think that goes a long way in deciding a team. It adds to it that you get a guy who has that credibility and experience."

San Francisco, which has 11 potential free agents including Barry Bonds, did not renew the 71-year-old Alou's contract after the Giants finished their second straight losing season and third in a row out of the playoffs.

Black is expected to interview with the Oakland Athletics about their managerial opening and could become a candidate to replace Bochy.

Bochy's Padres made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time ever but were eliminated in the first round for the second straight year by the St. Louis Cardinals. San Diego did win a postseason game for the first time since clinching the NL pennant in 1998.

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