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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

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Nomar Garciaparra Hits Grand Slam Against Houston - MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Nomar Garciaparra didn't want Takashi Saito to feel bad. So Nomar made the Houston Astros feel really bad.

Garciaparra, in only his second game off the disabled list, hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to give the LA Dodgers a come-from-behind win, 6-2, over the Houston Astros on Monday night.

Saito looked like he might be the losing pitcher after he gave up a solo home run to Lance Berkman in the eighth inning. The rookie reliever from Miyagi, Japan speaks through an interpreter, but he knows enough English to understand what Garciaparra was saying to him after the half-inning.

"When I came into the dugout, Nomar and Bill Mueller both came up to me and said, 'Hey, don't worry. It happens,'" Saito said. "After he hit the ball, I knew he had said it like he knew we always had a chance to come back to win the game. I was happy beyond belief."

So was Garciaparra, although he was considerably more subdued.

"It was nice," Garciaparra said. "But the most pleasing thing about it was the way our pitchers threw the ball. Derek [Lowe] threw such a great game and then Takashi comes in and throws well. But that was a devastating blow. Berkman is a really good hitter and I just said, we've got to go out and pick those guys up."

Garciaparra, who missed 17 games with a strained right intercostal, came back to play against Arizona on Saturday and went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. He then sat out Sunday's game as manager Grady Little said he didn't want to rush him back too fast.

On Monday, he was 0-for-2 with a walk when he came up against Astros star closer Brad Lidge in the ninth. He hit the pitch to deep left-center. It was Garciaparra's sixth career grand slam and the fact that it came against the Astros All-Star reliever was not lost on the Dodgers.

"He knows how to pitch," Garciaparra said of Lidge. "He's a guy whose slider looks like he can throw it four times in the dirt and walk you, or he'll throw it three times and hit the outside corner and strike you out."

"What was big was Kenny Lofton getting that triple to start it off," Garciaparra added. "To a pitcher, that's big because he knows the tying run is 90 feet away. Then J.D. [Drew] and Jeff Kent walked and that set it up. I just threw the barrel at it and got lucky."

Kent said Garciaparra deserved much of the credit.

"We know Lidge," Kent said. "He's been around a long time and he's a great closer. With any great closer, you've got to have patience. Nomar showed a lot of patience."

Following the game, Lidge had no excuses.

"My location, in general, has been fine so far," said Lidge, who blew a save for the first time in eight opportunities this season. "I think tonight, unfortunately, the situation was such that I didn't have great location and I had to try to make pitches that I was going to get out of the strike zone to get guys to swing and miss."

Added Lidge: "With Kenny Lofton at third base, I have to try to get a strikeout or an infield ground ball. I made some pitches that were too low and out of the strike zone.

Catcher Dioner Navarro's RBI drove in Jose Cruz Jr., who had doubled, for the Dodgers' final run in the five-run inning. Before the outburst, they could do very little with Andy Pettitte and the Astros didn't fare much better against Lowe.

Pettitte went seven innings and allowed one run on only one hit, while striking out five.

"Pettitte did a great job, the kind I've come to expect of him while facing him so many times in the American League," Garciaparra said. "But so did Derek."

Lowe virtually matched Pettitte pitch for pitch, going seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits while striking out four.

"I'm really pleased with the outing Derek gave us," manager Grady Little said. "Pettitte was really good. He had outstanding command all day long. I've seen him that way many times and tonight was no different. But Derek pitched just as well."

Pitching against Pettitte had something to do with Lowe's performance.

"It was like pitching against [Chicago's] Carlos Zambrano last week," Lowe said. "You look forward to matchups like that. Then you look up and Pettitte has a no-hitter and you know you have to pitch your best to keep up. It was a great game for us to win."

Drew broke up the no-hitter up with one out in the seventh, hitting his fourth home run of the season to tie it at 1. Drew, who is off to a .339 start, has reached base in all 17 games he has played this season.

Jim Carley is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Greg Maddux Is 4-0 This Year; Cubs Beat Cards 7-3

Last year it seemed Greg Maddux was not his former self. That's changed this year. He's helping the Cubs make up for the loss of Mark Prior.

Splendid Maddux improves to 4-0
Lowers ERA to NL-leading 0.99; Jones, Ramirez go deep
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- So far, 40 is pretty special for Greg Maddux.

The veteran right-hander improved to 4-0, winning his 322nd career game, and lowered his ERA to a National League-leading 0.99 as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-3, on Sunday to avoid a sweep.

"Anytime you can come to St. Louis and get a win, it's a good day," Maddux said.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer, Jacque Jones added a solo shot and Todd Walker drove in three runs to back Maddux (4-0), who gave most of the bullpen a much-needed day off and stopped a two-game losing streak.

"He's been awesome all year, and today we really needed a stopper," Walker said.

"He gave us the innings, he gave us the quality, he gave us a hit to start a rally, gave us baserunning -- he gave us anything you could get from a position player and a pitcher," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We needed it badly."

This is the first time in his career that Maddux has won each of his first four starts. Not bad for a pitcher who turned 40 on April 14. He opened the 2000 season 4-0 with Atlanta, but achieved that record after six starts. He downplayed the feat.

"We've been scoring a lot of runs, too, so that helps," Maddux said. "Guys swung the bats well. Ramy got the big hit and put us ahead. Defense and runs goes a long way."

On Sunday, the Cubs right-hander struck out four and gave up one walk and five hits -- including three by Scott Rolen -- over seven scoreless innings. The four-time Cy Young winner appears to be turning back the clock. His lowest ERA in a single season was 1.56 in 1994 with Atlanta. Is he a better pitcher now?

"I wish I could explain it," Maddux said of tapping into the fountain of youth. "Personally, I"m just getting ready to pitch like I always have and catching a lot of breaks."

Like having one of Rolen's doubles hit the top of the center-field fence and not go over.

"Sometimes you catch a lot of breaks in this game, and right now I think I am," Maddux said.

"It was vintage Maddux," catcher Michael Barrett said. "He's been able to locate the ball really well early in the count. He's getting the ball down and away. Late in the count, he's keeping guys off balance by mixing his pitches. You can't say much more than vintage Maddux. He did today what he's been doing the last couple starts -- not trying to do too much."

Cardinals starter Jason Marquis (3-1) has seen Maddux's magic act before. The two were teammates in Atlanta, and this is the fourth time they've gone head-to-head.

"The guy is a special player," Marquis said. "He knows what he's doing out there. He's been baffling hitters for a long time, so it's not surprising to see what he's doing."

The good news is the Cubs now know they can win without Derrek Lee.

"We need all the help we can get since we lost our big guy," Walker said. "It was nice to get a win without Derrek. You start believing you can do it."

They still miss Lee, who will see his teammates Monday at Wrigley Field for the first time since he was hurt last week.

"It's tough losing D-Lee because he's such a good person, let alone a good player," Maddux said. "When you play with 24 other guys, some guys are really easy to root for and some you could care less. I think D-Lee is one of those guys who is really easy to root for."

Juan Pierre doubled to open the Cubs' third against Marquis, advanced on Ronny Cedeno's sacrifice and scored on Walker's infield single.

Jones, who entered the game batting .194, made it 2-0 with a leadoff homer in the fourth, his second of the year. In the Chicago fifth, Pierre reached on a fielding error by second baseman David Eckstein and two outs later, Ramirez belted his third homer to go ahead, 4-0. Ramirez also had been scuffling and came into the game batting .189.

"Aramis has been flirting with that fence for awhile," Baker said. "I'm just glad he caught one."

Maddux helped himself in the seventh when he singled, advanced on a wild pitch and on a sacrifice by Pierre before scoring on Cedeno's double. Marquis was pulled, and Walker greeted Brad Thompson with a two-run single. The three RBIs raised Walker's career total to 500.

"A few days ago, I got triple digits in homers," Walker said. "You look back in your career, it's stuff you'll remember."

Pinch-hitter Hector Luna hit an RBI double in the Cardinals' eighth off Roberto Novoa, and Gary Bennett hit a two-run double off Ryan Dempster in the ninth.

Maddux is the only Cubs starter who has pitched into the seventh inning this season.

"It says a lot for experience," Baker said. "He's not doing any more than what his Hall of Fame career has indicated."

This is the last year of the pitcher's contract with the Cubs. Would he like to talk about an extension?

"Let's just play," Maddux said. "It's not the time for that right now. The Cubs have a lot more problems than worrying about me right now. Let's take care of what we need to do to get better quicker and cross that bridge when we get to it."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Barry Bond's 709th Home Run Ends 2006 Drought - SF Chronicle

Finally! It's about time and a good sign of things to come. The investigations will reveal nothing and the witch hunt will fail. Bonds will prevail.

Bonds' 709th Ends drought

Slugger's 1st of 2006, strong bullpen help silence Rockies
Henry Schulman, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 23, 2006

Denver -- The rite usually is reserved for a rookie who hits his first home run in the Show, not a 41-year-old man close to catching Babe Ruth. When Barry Bonds finally hit his first homer of 2006 Saturday night, the 709th of his career, his teammates gave him the silent treatment. When he returned to the dugout, they just sat on the bench, stone-faced.

"That took me back quite a few years," Bonds said. "It was fun."

It was more than fun, Mark Sweeney said, after Armando Benitez struck out Clint Barmes with two outs in the ninth inning to save the Giants' 6-4 victory over Colorado.

"It was beautiful," Sweeney said. "We all wanted him to do it, hit the home run and break the ice. We all know he has the ability. It's pretty funny to hear people say he doesn't have it anymore."

Bonds' opposite-field drive in the first inning came three batters after Omar Vizquel opened the game with his first of the season. When Bonds was asked if he will be happy to see the rusty tote board in San Francisco changed from 708 to 709, he said, "It just felt good not to be behind Omar. That's about it."

Bonds' troubles did not disappear with the baseball, which landed in a tunnel adjacent to the left-field foul pole at Coors Field. Outside the feel-good Giants' clubhouse and the Bay Area, the resumption of Bonds' chase for the all-time home-run record will be viewed by many as a minus, not a plus, and the federal grand jury investigating him for alleged perjury is not going to stop its work.

However, at least one Bonds story -- the Drought -- can be written in past tense.

He homered in his 14th game of 2006, the most games it ever took him to hit his first. Also, it was his first homer in 35 at-bats, dating to Sept. 27, his driest stretch since he went 44 at-bats from July 24 through July 8, 2001. Ironically, that was the year he hit 73 to break the single-season record.

Aaron Cook joined Bonds' "life list" of pitchers to surrender his home runs. He is No. 417. It was Bonds' 25th at Coors Field.

Bonds took Cook's first pitch for a ball, then skied the next one out. He walked a few steps as he watched it clear the fence and for the first time in 207 days broke into a home-run trot in a regular-season game. Asked what he was thinking as he rounded the bases, he said, " 'Just hurry up,' because my leg was hurting."

Asked if his physical condition makes it harder for him to hit, Bonds said, "It's tough, but the later innings get harder than the beginning. I've never really been a first-at-bat home run hitter. I've got to try to put everything I can in that first at-bat, that first opportunity. It just worked out that way."

And the game worked out for the Giants, who assured they will do no worse than split their 10-game trip when it concludes today.

Brad Hennessey earned the victory with seven solid innings. He allowed four runs, three on a fifth-inning homer by Matt Holliday, but he never let the Rockies catch up from a 5-1 deficit. Nor did Scott Munter, who pitched the eighth, and nor did Benitez, who blew a ridiculously tough save try in his season debut Friday, still looked rusty Saturday but made a great strikeout pitch, a sinker, to strand the tying runs for the save.

The Giants built their lead on the solo homers by Vizquel, Bonds and Ray Durham, plus two unearned runs in the fifth and an insurance run in the ninth that scored after Bonds opened the inning with a walk. The Giants have scored 24 of their 84 runs this season following Bonds walks.

In the eighth, Jose Mesa renewed an old feud with Vizquel by drilling him in the back. Vizquel said Mesa has hit him all three times they have met since Mesa publicly said he wanted to "kill" Vizquel because his former Indians teammate wrote in an autobiography that Mesa choked while trying to save the deciding game of the 1997 World Series against Florida.

Manager Felipe Alou ran to home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson after Vizquel was hit to remind him about Mesa's comments, which were rehashed in a Denver newspaper Friday. Vizquel calmly jogged to first but admitted he is getting tired of Mesa's plunkings.

"It's stupid because he can still remember and still holds me that grudge," Vizquel said.

The Giants could not retaliate in a one-run game after Nelson warned the benches. However, today is another day and another game, in which Bonds will rest. But as he sits, the talk of baseball will be his 709th home run.

"It's good for the (ESPN) show," Bonds said. "They finally get to show a highlight of a home run."

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Barry Bonds - A Video Of Him On Fan Appreciation Day

For all of the media types who say that SF Giants Slugger Barry Bonds has an attitude problem or is surly to fans, here's an example where he's not that way.

It's Fan Appreciaton Day at AT&T Park in San Francisco. It shows a happy, smiling Barry on a picture perfect day. And no one's giving him a hard time and he seem to be enjoying himself with the kids.

Take a look.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oakland A's At .500 - Top Detroit Tigers 4-3

Swisher blasts Tigers
Switch-hitter has 2 homers, 6 for season

Susan Slusser, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nick Swisher homered in his first at-bat against hard-throwing Tigers rookie Justin Verlander on Tuesday, a two-run drive to right. His second time up, he struck out -- but he took mental notes, learned a little something.

The next time he stepped in against Verlander, Swisher looked for a changeup and, with a 2-1 count, he got it. He sent another home run over the fence in right center, the decisive blow in the A's 4-3 victory over Detroit at the Coliseum.

"The at-bat before, I spun myself into the ground twice on changeups," Swisher said with a smile. "He threw me a fastball up (to make it 2-1) and I thought, 'OK, here comes the changeup,' and you just have to believe that's what's coming. I'm just a lucky guy because if he throws a 99 mph fastball, I'm not catching up to it. With (Verlander), you blink and it's in the mitt."

Swisher has a nine-game hitting streak, a career high and the team's longest this season. His homer total is six, tying him with Eric Chavez for the most on the team. Last year, Swisher didn't hit his sixth homer until June 25. In just this past week, he has two two-homer games.

"He's the most talented one out of everyone here," Chavez said. "Nick's ceiling is so high, it's pretty scary."

The key for Swisher is consistent at-bats, keeping his swing the same every time, something that can be difficult for a switch hitter. He's also going the opposite way more, fighting his tendency to try to pull everything. The result: Swisher is batting .340.

Esteban Loaiza hasn't found that kind of consistency yet, but he took a stride toward respectability. He didn't get a decision in his 300th career start, but for the first time as a member of the A's, he gave his team a chance to win.

In his previous two outings, he'd allowed 17 hits and 11 runs in 82/3 innings, and manager Ken Macha had voiced concern about how hard Loaiza was throwing. Stadium radar readings were off in Minnesota, where Loaiza was actually around 89-91 mph, and the A's had the scoreboard radar gun at the Coliseum adjusted to match their own official readings last week. Loaiza hit 91 mph again Tuesday but he was mostly around 87-88. Both he and Macha thought his velocity was up a little and Loaiza believes it will only improve.

At the start, it appeared as if Loaiza might be knocked around again, as Curtis Granderson led off the game with a triple and scored on Placido Polanco's base hit to center. Loaiza didn't give up another hit until the fifth inning, however, and Detroit didn't score again until the sixth. Loaiza got two double-play balls, and he struck out three -- two more than he had in first two starts combined.

In the sixth, Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez., a lifetime .312 hitter against the A's, drove in a run with a two-out double on a 2-2 pitch, a 91 mph fastball. Rodriguez then scored the tying run on Magglio OrdoƱez's bloop to right, a cutter Loaiza thought was pretty good.

Macha removed him after that inning, saying he thought Loaiza was tiring and leaving the ball up. Loaiza said he felt fine; he's used to going 100 pitches or more (he threw 86 on Tuesday). "But that's the manager's decision," he said.

The A's had the edge on the defensive side. Oakland's third run of the game was helped by two throwing errors by Detroit shortstop Carlos Guillen, and A's center fielder Mark Kotsay turned in the play of the game. In the seventh inning, with Craig Monroe at first base, Kotsay came charging in for a sinking base hit by Brandon Inge and he fired to third to nail Monroe. It was the final out of the inning and it gave Kotsay 100 assists since 1998, the most by a major-league outfielder in that span; Vladimir Guerrero is second at 96.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Baseball Home Runs At A Considerable Pace - USA TODAY

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By Mel Antonen, USA TODAY

The season is only two weeks old, but home runs are leaving parks at the fastest pace ever.
And, it's not the usual culprits doing the damage.

Chris Shelton, first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, is tied for the major league lead with eight home runs while Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox's Manny Ramirez have yet to hit a home run.

Starting play Monday, teams have hit an average of 2.48 home runs a game this year.

Sunday, St. Louis' Albert Pujols hit three in the Cardinals' 8-7 win vs. the Cincinnati Reds, giving him eight. And the Cincinnati Reds' Bronson Arroyo has two homers. And he's a pitcher who spent the last three seasons in the designated-hitter American League.

Also Sunday, the New York Yankees hit four home runs against the Minnesota Twins.

Teams hit 2.06 home runs a game in 2005. The highest average was in 2000 (2.34).

Shelton, 23, hit a home run against Cliff Lee at Comerica Park on Sunday to give the Tigers a 1-0 win against the Cleveland Indians.

"I can't really tell you why it went out of the ballpark," Shelton said, "but it did. I wasn't trying to go up there and hit a home run. I was just trying to hit it hard."

Shelton is one of the building blocks in the Tigers' rebuilding process. He started last season at Class AAA Toledo (Ohio) and was promoted to the Tigers after the first two months of the season. He hit 18 home runs while averaging .299 in 107 games for the Tigers.

Bonds, who has bone chips in his elbow, is 4-for-23 with no home runs in nine games.

His longest home-run drought to start a season is 12 games in 1998. Bonds has 708 career home runs, six short of tying Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list.

Ramirez, who has at least 30 home runs in eight consecutive seasons, didn't hit a home run Sunday, so now he's dealing with an 11-game drought, longest of his career, says Elias.

Last season, Ramirez, who led the American League with 43 home runs in 2004, didn't hit his first home run until his 11th game.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Marlins Owner Jeff Loria Says Willis Trade Rumors Are Not True

Loria: No truth to trade rumors


Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera aren't going anywhere.

So said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who tersely dispelled growing speculation that the team might soon be looking to trade its two biggest stars.

''They are so unfounded as to be ridiculous,'' Loria said Friday of the rumors, which have surfaced in recent days on television and in print.

``We are not shopping players. We're rebuilding a team here.''

Loria, speaking just hours before Willis took the mound to face the Washington Nationals, said he doesn't normally comment on trade rumors. But he told The Miami Herald that he thought it was necessary to make an exception in this case, calling the rumors false and ``irresponsible.''

Willis, who finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting last season after setting a franchise mark with 22 wins, is making $4.35 million, which represents more than a fourth of the team's majors-low on-field payroll of about $15 million.

Cabrera is making $472,000 but is expected to see a large pay increase next season when he becomes eligible for arbitration for the first time.


Scott Olsen was told toward the end of spring training to circle April 15 on his calendar.

With that day finally having arrived, the left-hander is anxious about joining the rotation and making his first start for the Marlins this season.

''The days have gone real slow,'' said Olsen, scheduled to take the mound tonight against the Nationals. ``I was working out up in Jupiter when the team left for Texas, everybody was gone pretty much, I was in a hotel room by myself, and I had nobody to talk to.''

Olsen is back among friends and teammates now and said his goal is to remain with the club all season.

''It's going to be a year to develop, and I think and hope I can remain up here and grow,'' the 22-year-old pitcher said.

Olsen made his major-league debut with the Marlins last season, receiving four starts and going 1-1. But less than a week after being sent back to Double A Carolina on July 22, Olsen was shut down for the rest of the season because of discomfort in his left elbow.

''I was only up [with the Marlins] for 29 days and everything happened real quick,'' he said. ``Now I've got a chance to soak it up a little bit, enjoy my time and work hard.''

Jackie Robinson Day! - On This Day On April 15th 1947, He Became The First Black Man To Play In Major League Baseball

A special day for Jackie at Shea - MLB.com

Pregame tribute kicks off Jackie Robinson Day across baseball

NEW YORK -- The words faded in and out on Shea Stadium's video board like torches illuminating a road out of darkness.
"Courage ... Determination ... Teamwork ... Persistence ... "

As the pillars of Jackie Robinson's life framed a video tribute to the baseball pioneer and emancipator, Brewers and Mets players spilled out of their dugouts and made their slow way to the third- and first-base foul lines, respectively.

"... Integrity ... Citizenship ... Justice ... "

Josh Groban's powerful voice, belting out "You Raise Me Up," escorted the powerful images of Robinson's odyssey from signing a contract with the Dodgers through carrying out his contract with America.

And, still, the testimonials kept coming.

"... Commitment ... Excellence ... "

Shea Stadium public address announcer Alex Anthony greeted a house full of sun-splashed Mets fans to a brief pregame ceremony to honor someone who was "a beacon of hope and inspiration to Americans in all corners of the country."

And so fans stood in ovation to welcome Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow, as she strolled to the middle of the infield between her escorts, Bob DuPuy, the president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball, and Mets manager Willie Randolph.

Mrs. Robinson waved her response to all sections of the park, then made way for Adriana Lee, a Jackie Robinson Foundation scholar at Rutgers University, to deliver the ceremonial first pitch to Carlos Delgado.

Then four members of the Christ Tabernacle Youth Gospel Choir delivered an acappella national anthem -- and it was over.

Ceremonies marking the third annual Jackie Robinson Day, observed throughout MLB on Saturday and focused on Queens, were as subdued as the event it celebrates.

When Robinson played in his first Major League game on April 15, 1947, everyone recognized the occasion as groundbreaking. Yet no one could foresee the extent to which one man's noble bravery would revolutionize the sport.

Fifty-nine years later, the extent is evident and was reflected in that pregame video montage. Featured were not only African-Americans who have since endowed the game, but also images of Ichiro Suzuki taking bows and Manny Ramirez sprinting with a mini-flag and glimpses of others in the MLB melting pot.

"He opened a lot of doors," said Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd. "Especially at a time that had to be most difficult to play. It had to be really tough on him.

"I think it's great for baseball to now take the time to embrace someone like that, to let people know why this is someone they should appreciate."

As decreed three years ago by Commissioner Bud Selig, Jackie Robinson Day commemorates the man who carried baseball across the color line, with the entire country gradually to follow.

Given the breadth of Robinson's influence, baseball actually has shriveled to a small part of the day held in honor of his legacy. Sport has receded into the background to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which has aided meritorious scholars for 33 years, and to social progress in the general population.

Thus, the Shea Stadium ceremonies included "silent partners," who seldom hear the overt cheers they deserve.

Such as members of the Tuskegee Airmen, that legendary squadron of 994 African American pilots who helped execute World War II air raids. Three days ago, President Bush awarded to them the same ultimate civilian award presented last year to Jackie Robinson -- the Congressional Gold Medal.

Also attending were Negro League survivors Robert Scott, who pitched for the New York Black Yankees in 1945-50, and infielder Armando Vazquez, who played eight years in the league through 1952.

The mission of Jackie Robinson Day is mainly to recognize, both where we were and where Robinson led us, but also to educate new generations for whom his deed had been faded by time.

For people like Floyd, who is testament that the tributes are working.

Floyd had grown up in Chicago knowing Robinson simply as the man for whom the Little League field on which he played had been named.

"You'd think the coaches would tell you what he had done," Floyd recalled. "But, no, they never said anything. So I really didn't know much about his part in history.

"That's the great thing about this day. It makes people take a new look at what he did, and I think that's important."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Barry Bonds - Security Rep Visits Dodgers In Effort To Protect Bonds - SF Chronicle

Baseball security chief visits L.A. as he keeps track of how teams are protecting Bonds

Henry Schulman - SF Chronicle
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Los Angeles -- The first Giants series in Los Angeles prompted a visit from Major League Baseball's security chief, Kevin Hallinan, who revealed he met privately with Barry Bonds each of the last two springs to discuss his safety as he pursues the home-run record.

"I promise these players every year in spring training, I take responsibility for their security and their families' security," Hallinan said. "It's good to have a working relationship with all of them. When one of them is going for a record or is in some way in prominence, they'll get special attention, absolutely."

However, for all the talk of beefed-up security for Bonds in light of the steroids scandal, Hallinan said baseball and the teams Bonds visits are not necessarily flooding ballparks with more cops. Instead, Hallinan is having the teams' operations people talk with one another. For instance, he debriefed the Padres' security folks and asked what they might have done better when the Giants were there last week. Hallinan then had the Padres pass their answer to the Dodgers' people, who in turn will talk to Diamondbacks security ahead of Monday's game in Phoenix.

Hallinan would not divulge specific numbers of security personnel but said, "There's a way of moving people around from a timing standpoint. Sometimes it's good to do a good commercial at the front gate, showing a lot of (security) people. Those are the same people appearing at certain parts of the ballpark. Many times it isn't the number of people, it's how you use them.

"It's like a good shortstop. He knows how to position himself. It's the same with security guards. You've got to know how to position them."

Hallinan will not change his game plan based on the headlines, such as Thursday's revelation that a federal grand jury is investigating Bonds for alleged perjury.

"You try not to let the news of the day dictate what you're going to do or not going to do," he said. "I don't allow what's being alleged in the media and what's happened to impact that. I try to be consistent in my planning process across the board."

More on 25: In a scene sure to be repeated in every city, Los Angeles reporters tried to get manager Felipe Alou to discuss the allegations against Bonds. Alou made it clear he will not answer. When asked for the thousandth time if this was a distraction for the team, Alou said, "We don't have time to give it time here."

General manager Brian Sabean, speaking with Giants beat reporters, was asked if he had any contingencies in case the team lost Bonds for reasons not related to injury. He responded, "We've already done that. We've deepened the team the best we can, whether he's in the lineup or out of the lineup."

LA Angels Spring Training Home Attendance Down From 2005

Angels' home draws raves, fewer fans
JJ Hensley

The Arizona Republic
Apr. 15, 2006 12:00 AM

Spring training put a spring in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's step, even if attendance was down this year.

The club drew 94,739 fans this year at the renovated Tempe Diablo Stadium, down from more than 106,000 a year ago. But with the club playing two fewer games and competing for fans with the World Baseball Classic, the Angels brass found the silver lining.

"We think it was a great spring training," said Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications. "With the (World Baseball Classic) event there, there were a lot of people worried about how that was going to affect Cactus League play, but we think there was plenty of baseball to go around for everybody."

Overall numbers from the Cactus League back that up.

The league eclipsed the million-fan mark for the third consecutive year, drawing 1,169,030 for the 12 teams in the league. The World Baseball Classic drew more than 90,000 fans in Arizona.

The numbers league-wide and for the Angels would have been higher but a string of rainouts and a split-squad game on the final weekend of play kept some fans away, Mead said.

Still, he said, the club's revenues were up. Spring 2006 also was memorable as the year the club unveiled the redone stadium, which received a $20 million face lift in less than a year.

Mead said officials with teams throughout Major League Baseball were impressed with the club's facility, which allowed the team to move its minor leaguers into a shared facility with the big-league club.

"The people it probably meant the most to were the kids coming into the minor league camp," he said. "For them, it was, 'We're in the big leagues now.' "

And Tempe is in the big leagues, too, if only for a month.

Mead said the club has always seen a lot of the Angels' trademark scarlet hue in the stadium, but with the new facility, the team has started to create a real connection with Tempe.

"The interest is there," he said. "We've started to reach that point where we start establishing a quote-unquote, home base."

Retailers, restaurants and bars in Tempe and along Mill Avenue are getting used to seeing the effects of spring training at the cash register, too.

"Business is always great during March," and this year was no different, said Sarah Krajnak, manager of The Library,a Mill Avenue bar.

The reason, Mead said, is simple. Between the scouts and the fans, the Cactus League and the World Baseball Classic, "There was probably not a better place in the country to watch baseball than in Arizona."

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Barry Bonds: The Witch Hunt Gets Deeper - Feds Investigating Perjury Charge - CNN

They're determined, but I'd be surprised if anything comes of this chapter in the race to get Barry Bonds to admit the use of steroids, even when he's not tested positive. There's still the matter of Victor Conti's recent claims that he never gave Bonds steroids.

Sources: Grand jury looking at whether Bonds lied about steroid use

From Ted Rowlands

Friday, April 14, 2006; Posted: 2:30 a.m. EDT (06:30 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A federal grand jury is considering whether to indict San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds for perjury because of testimony he gave to another grand jury in 2003, CNN has learned.

Bonds told the first grand jury in December 2003 that he was clean. The new panel has been hearing testimony for a month about whether the baseball superstar lied about his steroid use during the hearing, several sources said.

"This is extremely bad news for Barry Bonds," said CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin, "because a federal prosecutor doesn't start looking into perjury unless he has a pretty good idea he's going to find perjury at the end of the day."

The U.S. Attorney's office would neither confirm nor deny the report. Grand jury proceedings are generally kept secret.

Bonds' legal team is unaware that a grand jury convened to hear the case, said Harry Stern, a spokesman for the attorneys

On December 4, 2003, Bonds and other athletes testified in the BALCO case, which targeted Greg Anderson, a trainer and longtime friend to Bonds, and Victor Conte, founder of the Bay-Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a sports nutrition center alleged to have created designer steroids.

During the hearing, prosecutors asked Bonds if he had used steroids, and when the man who is seeking to become baseball's all-time home run king emerged from the hearing, his attorney Mike Raines told reporters:

"Barry testified truthfully to the grand jury. Barry Bonds is clean."

Conte spent four months in jail after pleading guilty to distributing steroids, and Anderson was sentenced to three months on the same charge.

Bonds and his colleagues were offered immunity for their testimony. The deal was simple: Tell the truth, and you draw a walk; lie and go down for perjury.

Raines has long said that the federal government is out to get his client. And without admitting any wrongdoing on his client's behalf, he has suggested that prosecutors, with their immunity deal, are setting a familiar snare for Bonds.

"Look no further than Martha Stewart. The trap is perjury," Raines said. "You offer immunity and you get him in there and then you ask them questions and you get them on lying to federal officers.

"That's the trap. That's exactly what they got Martha for."

Raines also has suggested that prosecutors are going after his client because of his name and notoriety, not the allegations leveled against him.

Toobin said that wouldn't surprise him.

"Prosecutors are supposed to go after the big fish. It's those kind of prosecutions that tell everyone that it's not OK to lie to prosecutors or to a grand jury," the legal analyst said.

A House committee considered perjury charges against Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro when he failed a drug test for steroids following congressional testimony in March 2005 that he had never used them. The committee decided in November not to pursue the charges, citing "confusing and contradictory" information, according to The Washington Post.

"We couldn't find any evidence of steroid use prior to his testimony," committee chairman Rep. Thomas A. Davis III was quoted in the paper as saying. "That's not a finding of innocence, but it's a finding that we could not substantiate perjury."

Bonds' repeated and adamant denial that he knowingly used steroids came under new scrutiny when "Game of Shadows" -- billed as an expose -- hit bookstore shelves last month. The book claims Bonds used steroids he obtained from Anderson during the 1998-2003 seasons. That time span includes the 2001 season in which Bonds swatted 73 homers, surpassing Mark McGwire's single-season record.

Major League Baseball did not begin testing for steroids until 2003. Since the league began testing, the MLB has never reported that Bonds failed a drug test.

Raines has issued a statement saying Bonds has no intention of reading the book. "Barry regards this as an unfortunate distraction to his friends and teammates at the San Francisco Giants, and to the good name and the great players in Major League Baseball," read the statement on Bonds' Web site.

It further stated that the allegations have "misled the public in the interest of financial and professional self promotion."

After the book was published, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to oversee an investigation into steroid use in baseball. (Full story)

Bonds missed most of last season with knee problems and had three surgeries to repair the knee. With 708 career home runs, Bonds trails Babe Ruth by six homers and Hank Aaron, the all-time leader, by 47. He has yet to hit a home run this season.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oakland A's Continue Flirtation With Fremont On New Stadium - It Will Never Work

You've read it here first. By the time the City of Fremont adds the costs required to make the Cisco lot a really viable location for a new baseball stadium, the cost will be so high they'll punt on the entire effort, or be forced to by the city's residents. The traffic needs and environmental and access problems -- not to mention the lack of population density there -- make the site less than acceptable barring a $100 million expenditure on top of the stadium cost.

Just watch.

The other problem is that the A's are darting here and there like a high school girl who just realized boys like her. My read is the team's continuing to play "set up" -- if a deal's not quickly done, then they can say "The Bay Area just doesn't work." Or say, "change the Major League Agreement so we can move to San Jose." I reallly think the A's have adopted that strategy. I'm certain of it. They're moving way too fast and making too many errors in the process.

Here's the Trib article.

A's see a strong pitch in Fremont
Team, Cisco hashing out deal for 143 acres that ultimately could spell end to pro baseball in Oakland


FREMONT -- Oakland A's co-owner Lew Wolff is close to completing negotiations with Cisco Systems Inc. for a 143-acre parcel, a deal that could clear a major hurdle in allowing the team to move to Fremont, City Manager Fred Diaz said.

"I think we are the lead candidate for the new home of the A's," Diaz said. "If there's a deal to make for both the A's and the city of Fremont, then we'll find it and make that happen."

The Fremont city manager's comments came after Wolff briefly met April 3 with Fremont City Council members and staffers, including Diaz and Daren Fields, Fremont's economic development director.

Some city officials also were at a March 29 meeting in which Wolff told more than 200 people he is serious about pursuing a new ballpark on Fremont land.

If a deal between Cisco and the A's is completed, the next step would be for the team to submit a development application for the site, adjacent to Interstate 880 and just south of the Pacific Commons shopping center. An environmental impact report for the land then would be issued; that would take about 12 months.

Talks have progressed so far that only a few issues, such as stadium naming rights, remainunresolved, Diaz said: "That is my understanding through (talking with) Lew Wolff."

But Diaz said he does not rule out the possibility of the A's staying in Oakland or moving to San Jose or another city.
"I have never underestimated the competition ... in this race to attract the A's," he said.

Both Wolff and a Cisco spokeswoman have declined to comment on the negotiations.

When asked about Fremont sites, Wolff said last week, "You can close your eyes and picture that part of the Bay Area 10 years from now. It's going to be a growth area."

Wolff said Fremont has land that could fit "our idea of a baseball village. It will be more than just a ballpark."
In fact, it could include a hotel connected to the ballpark, thousands of houses and a major retail complex. The A's could use money from the mixed-use development to finance the stadium and avoid touching public funds, Wolff said.

Cisco leased the 143-acre property in 2000, and the San Jose tech company has an option to buy the land between 2007 and 2010. Cisco prepaid about $100 million in rent and also paid infrastructure costs on the parcel, Fields said.

Even if Cisco and the A's complete an agreement, there are many details to be worked out. Access to the Pacific Commons site is a potential problem. The Fremont BART station is about five miles from the site, so traffic could cause problems.

By comparison, AT&T Park in San Francisco provides access for fans through a combination of nearby Caltrain and Muni rail line stations, a ferry stop behind the stadium and BART lines several blocks away on Market Street. Oakland's McAfee Coliseum features nearby BART and Capitol Corridor stops. But those details can be worked out, Wolff said.

"Everybody is looking for the negative here," he said. "There are lots of issues, and we'll deal with all of them. I don't have all the answers this minute."

Wolff, a Los Angeles developer, co-owns the team with billionaire John Fisher, son of Gap founder Don Fisher. Wolff has turned to Fremont because he believes the team needs a new ballpark to replace its current, 40-year-old Oakland home.
A Fremont ballpark would allow the A's to tap into the corporate dollars of Silicon Valley without invading the South Bay territorial rights that belong to the San Francisco Giants. In Fremont, the team also would stay close to the East Bay suburbs along the Interstate 680 corridor.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Oakland A's Top Seattle Mariners 6-4

A's nearly throw lead away but hang on to top Mariners
By Joe Roderick
Knight Ridder
Talk to other A's fans in our forum
SEATTLE - Oh sure, there was some good-natured ribbing going on among relievers Justin Duchscherer and Huston Street in the afterglow of the A's 6-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

But no one found any humor -- at least not those wearing green and gold -- when Street's underhand lob in the ninth inning to Nick Swisher was high, pulling the first baseman off the base and prolonging a game that was quickly becoming a slapstick routine.

``It wasn't very comfortable sitting on the bench that last out,'' Manager Ken Macha said.

Street, after his miscue, induced Jose Lopez to ground out to shortstop Bobby Crosby, mercifully ending this one. It was remarkable that the game came down to the wire after the A's took a 6-0 lead into the eighth, with starter Rich Harden having allowed just two hits.

With an absence of the customary postgame music -- players were riveted to the Masters on the big screen -- reporters approached Street, who first had to hear it from his buddy and fellow reliever.

``Softball, underhanded lollygagging,'' is what Duchscherer called Street's toss on a smash hit by Ichiro Suzuki. ``We get on Huston, but he knows we're just joking. He always does that when he fields a ball. Ichiro's speed might have shocked him.''

Actually, replays showed Swisher touched the base a split-second before Suzuki. The two then collided, bringing the potential go-ahead run, in Lopez, to the plate.

``It looked ugly,'' Macha said. ``He's got to get his feet under him. He ran halfway over there and threw a grenade.''

Said Street, ``I like to run the ball over there. I thought I had more time. I didn't realize how fast Ichiro is. He hit the ball hard and I still didn't have time.''

The way Harden was comporting himself, Street -- and everyone else at Safeco Field -- thought he wouldn't get anywhere near the mound.

``I think the gun here is off,'' Street said. ``He was throwing a lot harder than that.''

When told Harden was touching 97 mph on the scoreboard clock, Street said, ``Those were probably 100.''

Harden retired the first 14 batters before Adrian Beltre singled to left-center with two out in the fifth. He allowed a seventh-inning double to Richie Sexson, then Beltre walked and Jeremy Reed singled to begin the eighth. As Harden said, ``I was out of gas.''

The A's streak of 27 scoreless innings -- two away from tying the team's second-longest stretch -- was intact until Duchscherer hit Lopez on a 1-2 count with the bases loaded in the eighth. (The club record of 37 consecutive scoreless innings was set in 1983.)

``I didn't want to be the guy to end the consecutive-shutout streak,'' Duchscherer said. ``I threw him a front-door slider and it stayed in and hit him on the elbow.''

Harden wouldn't allow thoughts of a no-hitter to seep into his conscience.

``If you start thinking about that stuff out there you're going to try to change,'' he said. ``You have to keep doing what you're doing and not change. I didn't think about it.''

The A's scraped together enough runs, though the lead was precarious at the end. Mark Ellis, who was hitting .158 and had Saturday off, returned to leadoff and went 3 for 4.

Eric Chavez gave the A's a six-run lead with a seventh-inning home run, his third in seven games. Chavez didn't hit his third homer last season until May 17.

New York Yankees Beat LA Angels

Posada stars as Yankees trounce Angels

Anaheim, CA (Sports Network) - Jorge Posada hit his first two home runs of the season while knocking in five runs, as the New York Yankees avoided a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels by posting a 10-1 win at Angel Stadium.

Robinson Cano plated a pair of runs on three hits and Alex Rodriguez also posted three hits, including his second home run of the season for the Yankees, who halted a four-game losing streak.

Mike Mussina (1-0) turned in a strong start by allowing just one run and five hits over six innings. He also struck out five and walked two to grab his first win of the season after getting a no decision in his first start against Oakland.

Chone Figgins drove in the lone run for the Angels, who had a modest two-game winning streak halted. Los Angeles was trying for a home sweep against the Yankees for the first time since 1995.

Bartolo Colon (0-1) hardly looked like the reigning Cy Young award winner as he was torched for eight runs - seven earned - on seven hits in just two-plus innings of work. He also received a no decision in his first start of the season.

After plating 15 runs in their first game of the season against Oakland, the Yankees had scored just 10 runs over their last four games, including just three over their two games against the Angles. New York, though, broke out of their slump in a hurry with a five-run second inning.

Rodriguez, who has always hit Colon well in his career, started the barrage. He came into the game with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 43 at bats against the right-handed hurler and his first at bat of the day was no different as he drilled a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall.

The flood gates opened from there as Jason Giambi singled and Hideki Matsui reached on an error before Posada took Colon deep for a three-run homer that made it a 4-0 game with no outs.

Cano followed with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Miguel Cairo, and, after Johnny Damon walked, scored on Derek Jeter's double down the right field line.

Colon didn't make it out of the third as he opened up the inning by walking Giambi before allowing a single to Matsui and a double to Posada that plated Giambi.

The spelled the end for Colon and he was replaced by Esteban Yan, who promptly allowed a two-run double to Cano for an 8-0 Yankees lead before settling down to get out of the inning.

Los Angeles got on the board in the bottom of the third on Figgins' run- scoring single that plated Jeff Mathis to make it 8-1. The Angles had the bases loaded with two outs, but Tim Salmon flied out to the warning track in left field to squander the chance.

Posada led off the fifth inning with a solo blast to right field to make it a 9-1 contest. In the sixth, Matsui put New York in double digits after his single to center scored Rodriguez. The Yankees had the bases loaded in the inning, but Cano grounded into a force out to end the threat.

New York Yankees Beat LA Angels

Posada stars as Yankees trounce Angels

Anaheim, CA (Sports Network) - Jorge Posada hit his first two home runs of the season while knocking in five runs, as the New York Yankees avoided a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels by posting a 10-1 win at Angel Stadium.

Robinson Cano plated a pair of runs on three hits and Alex Rodriguez also posted three hits, including his second home run of the season for the Yankees, who halted a four-game losing streak.

Mike Mussina (1-0) turned in a strong start by allowing just one run and five hits over six innings. He also struck out five and walked two to grab his first win of the season after getting a no decision in his first start against Oakland.

Chone Figgins drove in the lone run for the Angels, who had a modest two-game winning streak halted. Los Angeles was trying for a home sweep against the Yankees for the first time since 1995.

Bartolo Colon (0-1) hardly looked like the reigning Cy Young award winner as he was torched for eight runs - seven earned - on seven hits in just two-plus innings of work. He also received a no decision in his first start of the season.

After plating 15 runs in their first game of the season against Oakland, the Yankees had scored just 10 runs over their last four games, including just three over their two games against the Angles. New York, though, broke out of their slump in a hurry with a five-run second inning.

Rodriguez, who has always hit Colon well in his career, started the barrage. He came into the game with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 43 at bats against the right-handed hurler and his first at bat of the day was no different as he drilled a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall.

The flood gates opened from there as Jason Giambi singled and Hideki Matsui reached on an error before Posada took Colon deep for a three-run homer that made it a 4-0 game with no outs.

Cano followed with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Miguel Cairo, and, after Johnny Damon walked, scored on Derek Jeter's double down the right field line.

Colon didn't make it out of the third as he opened up the inning by walking Giambi before allowing a single to Matsui and a double to Posada that plated Giambi.

The spelled the end for Colon and he was replaced by Esteban Yan, who promptly allowed a two-run double to Cano for an 8-0 Yankees lead before settling down to get out of the inning.

Los Angeles got on the board in the bottom of the third on Figgins' run- scoring single that plated Jeff Mathis to make it 8-1. The Angles had the bases loaded with two outs, but Tim Salmon flied out to the warning track in left field to squander the chance.

Posada led off the fifth inning with a solo blast to right field to make it a 9-1 contest. In the sixth, Matsui put New York in double digits after his single to center scored Rodriguez. The Yankees had the bases loaded in the inning, but Cano grounded into a force out to end the threat.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Chicago Cubs Sweep St. Louis Cardinals - Michael Barrett Homer Keys 8-4 Victory

CHICAGO (AP) -- Michael Barrett couldn't conceal his joy, or his pain and relief.

Barrett hit a grand slam off Jason Isringhausen in the eighth inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-4 Sunday night to complete a three-game sweep.

That concluded arguably his best weekend on the diamond and one of his worst away from it.

He caught 319-game winner Greg Maddux in Friday's opener, hit a game-tying pinch-hit homer on Saturday, and a go-ahead grand slam on Sunday.

"Wow, I don't know what's going on," Barrett said, a smile stretching across his face.

Off the field, Barrett had problems though.

A tornado sent a tree ripping through the side of his house in his hometown Atlanta, taking out a deck and a living room window. His parents didn't tell him until Saturday night.

"That's just God saying, 'You'd better stay humble; I'll find you," Barrett said, adding no one was in the house.

With St. Louis leading 4-3, Ricardo Rincon walked Todd Walker to open the eighth inning. Isringhausen (0-1) relieved and walked Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez on eight pitches to load the bases for Barrett, who homered for the second straight day.

It was Barrett's second career grand slam, and it made a winner out of reliever Scott Williamson (1-0), who pitched a scoreless inning. The Cubs scored another run on a wild pitch by Josh Hancock.

"I had bad mechanics (against) the first two guys," Isringhausen said. "I thought I could get in on him with my best pitch, get a ground ball and try to get a double play. I didn't get in there far enough."

Fans chanted "Sweep!" after Barrett's shot, and the Cubs did just that, finishing their first three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Wrigley Field since June 2001.

The win was also the 1,100th for Cubs manager Dusty Baker.

Barrett had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the seventh inning to tie Saturday's game as the Cubs rallied for a 3-2 victory.

Scott Rolen hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and Albert Pujols singled in two in the fifth to give the Cardinals 4-3 lead.

Sidney Ponson allowed three runs on seven hits in five innings in his first start since signing with the Cardinals in the offseason but did not figure in the decision.

His lone mistake was a three-run homer by Jacque Jones -- his first hit as a Cub.

Chicago starter Sean Marshall allowed four runs and four hits in 4 1-3 innings in his major league debut. He left with a 3-2 lead and the bases loaded in the fifth.

Michael Wuertz, making his first appearance this season, relieved and allowed a two-out, two-run single to Pujols that put the Cardinals ahead.

The 23-year-old Marshall, who had never pitched above Double-A, started the game by retiring David Eckstein and Juan Encarnacion on grounders. He then walked Pujols and Rolen hit a 3-2 pitch to left for his second homer.

Marshall retired 10 of the next 11 batters before running into trouble in the fifth.

"He showed me a lot today," Barrett said.

Jones gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the fourth with his homer after two-out singles by Ramirez and Barrett.

Booed after a second-inning grounder that made him 0-for-13 on the season, Jones won the fans over when he lined a 3-2 pitch from Ponson into the shrubs beyond the center-field wall.

"It's just a relief to get that first hit out of the way," he said after going 2-for-4.

Chicago's Ronny Cedeno had four hits, including a double.

Ponson wasn't spectacular, but he was effective after a disastrous ending last season in Baltimore.

He started 5-1, but lost his last seven decisions to finish at 7-11 before going on the disabled list with a strained right calf and getting released on Sept. 1.

And he was headed to a victory -- until the eighth.

"The one thing I like about this team is as great as it was, as funs as it was, there's no real celebrating what happened today," Barrett said. "It means we're focused and moving on."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees Win Openers - White Sox Get Rings: Seattle Post

Halladay tops Santana; White Sox get rings
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - April 4, 2006


Not long after the Chicago White Sox received their championship rings, Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays showed why they could contend for a title this year.

Halladay outpitched Johan Santana in a matchup of recent Cy Young Award winners, and B.J. Ryan earned a save in his Toronto debut Tuesday night as the revamped Blue Jays opened the season with a 6-3 victory over the visiting Minnesota Twins.

Tired of finishing third behind the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East, the Blue Jays signed Gold Glove catcher Bengie Molina, starter A.J. Burnett and Ryan during an expensive offseason overhaul. They also traded for slugger Troy Glaus and first baseman Lyle Overbay.

The new additions paid off right away.

Molina homered off Santana to give Toronto a 3-1 lead. Ryan, signed to a $47 million, five-year contract - the richest ever for a reliever - entered to loud cheers and struck out two in a perfect ninth to close it out.

"You saw it all tonight - by design," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said with a smirk.

After winning it all in 2005 for the first time in 88 years, the White Sox took home their glittering hardware Tuesday afternoon.
In a pregame ceremony before Chicago hosted Cleveland, commissioner Bud Selig assisted White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Kenny Williams in passing out the rings.

Then the Indians put a damper on Chicago's latest celebration, beating their AL Central rival 8-2. Aaron Boone homered, drove in four runs and crashed into catcher A.J. Pierzynski to score a run for Cleveland.

"The rings are great. We can now put last year behind us and move on," Pierzynski said, adding that the ceremony had nothing to do with the way the White Sox played. "After tomorrow, hopefully all this stuff goes away and we can focus on the season."

And manager Ozzie Guillen, who embraced Reinsdorf in a huge bear hug as he went to receive his ring, agreed. It's been fun, but time to move on.

"It was great, nice for the guys. Thank God this thing is over. All the circus is over and we can concentrate on playing baseball," Guillen said.

In other AL games, it was: Texas 10, Boston 4, Seattle 10, Los Angeles 8; and Oakland 4, New York 3.

Winning pitcher Jake Westbrook allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings for the Indians, who put lefty C.C. Sabathia on the 15-day disabled list before the game with a strained abdominal muscle.

Victor Martinez also homered for Cleveland as the Indians roughed up loser Freddy Garcia for seven runs and nine hits in four innings. The Indians bounced back from Sunday night's soggy season opener, when they lost 10-4 in a game interrupted nearly three hours by rain.

Jim Thome hit a long homer for the White Sox, his second in two games against his former team.

In Toronto, Alex Rios also homered and had three hits for the Blue Jays. Glaus led off the fourth with a double, advanced to third on Overbay's single and scored on Shea Hillenbrand's sacrifice fly. Molina followed with a homer off the left-field foul screen.

"All the right moves were made, hopefully," Overbay said, referring to the offseason. "It's just the way it happened today."

Halladay didn't need much offense. The 2003 AL Cy Young winner allowed three runs - two earned - and five hits, striking out four and walking none in 7 2-3 innings. He missed the second half of last season with a broken leg.

"It was exciting to catch a guy that can dominate like that," Molina said.

Tony Batista and Shannon Stewart homered for the Twins, who wore "34" patches on their right sleeves to honor Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. He died March 6 following a stroke.

Santana, who won the AL Cy Young in 2004, allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings in his first opening-day start.

"Things didn't go the way we expected or wanted," he said. "Give credit to those guys, they put the ball in play."

The Twins and Blue Jays were the last teams to open this season.

Rangers 10, Red Sox 4

At Arlington, Texas, Phil Nevin hit a three-run homer in the first inning and later chased struggling knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with a two-run single. Winning pitcher Vicente Padilla allowed one run and four hits over six innings in his AL debut.

Athletics 4, Yankees 3

At Oakland, Calif., Marco Scutaro hit an RBI single over left fielder Hideki Matsui's head in the bottom of the ninth for the A's. Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez homered off New York starter Mike Mussina, who pitched seven solid innings. AL Rookie of the Year Huston Street worked a scoreless ninth for the win.

Mariners 10, Angels 8

At Seattle, Richie Sexson had five RBIs and Mariners rookie catcher Kenji Johjima homered in his second consecutive game to back winner Joel Pineiro against loser John Lackey.

Garret Anderson hit a three-run shot and Tim Salmon had his first career pinch-hit homer for the Angels. It was the first homer since April 25, 2004, for Salmon, a 14-year veteran who was on the brink of retirement after missing nearly 1 1/2 seasons following operations on his shoulder and knee.


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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Barry Bonds Q & A From The Oakland Tribune

The truth about Bonds

ALL EYES are on Barry Bonds.

Major League Baseball's investigators are watching him. Congress is watching him. The FBI and the IRS may be watching, too. And millions more will watch Bonds' every move this season as he takes aim at the all-time home run record.
Bonds' accomplishments are among the greatest in baseball history, and the greatest in question. For some, he will always be the ultimate symbol of the game's steroid era.

But whether you cheer his climb up the charts or view him as a loathsome cheat, it is easy to be confused on the facts as they pertain to Barry Lamar Bonds. With the Giants set to open the season Monday in San Diego, we attempt to clarify all things Bonds with answers to the 20 most common questions.

1. Where does Bonds stand on the all-time home run list?

Bonds has 708 home runs, which ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).

2. What will happen if Bonds passes Babe Ruth?

The Giants have said they would commemorate the occasion. If it happens at home, expect the game to be stopped and the moment to be acknowledged. Major League Baseball would get involved in the planning if Bonds begins to close in on Aaron's record.

3. How much will Bonds play this year, and is this his last season?

If he stays reasonably healthy, Bonds could play up to 120 games (out of 162). His contract expires after this season and he is preparing for this to be the end. But if he remains healthy and productive, he would seize the chance to get paid for another year. He says he'll know by midseason.

4. Will Bonds finish his career as a Giant?

That's his stated intention. He hasn't ruled out becoming a designated hitter in the American League, but the Angels don't want any part of his baggage.

5. How has Bonds looked this spring?

His bat remains otherworldly. He was 9-for-13 with four home runs in Cactus League exhibitions. Bonds also showed much improved mobility in left field from last year, when three right knee surgeries limited him to 14 games. Expect Bonds to be pitched around often.

6. How 'real' will Bonds' ESPN reality show be?

It won't be in the mold of "Fat Actress." Producer Michael Tollin pledges a fair and classy documentary-style show that mostly deals with Bonds the baseball player. Tollin insists it will include some discussion of steroids. But Bonds has review rights, so expect it mostly to reflect on Bonds' greatness as a player.

7. What was revealed in the two books on Bonds this spring?

"Game of Shadows" was written by San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Citing three years of gathered documents, affidavits, interviews and other evidence, it asserts that Bonds regularly used a large and varied amount of potent performance-enhancing drugs starting in 1999. "Love Me, Hate Me," by former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman, is more of an anecdotal look at Bonds through the eyes of opposing players and former teammates, including some who accuse him of steroid use.

8. Why did Bonds file suit against the authors and publisher of "Game of Shadows"?

Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, sued to have the book's profits given to charity, not to keep it from being released. The suit claimed the authors violated unfair competition laws because they published sealed grand jury testimony from the BALCO case — something other writers did not have access to. A judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order on the profits and said he did not think the case had merit but could go to trial. Rains says he has not ruled out a libel case, but it would be messy and difficult to prove — and impossible if Bonds actually used steroids.

9. Is the BALCO case over?

President Victor Conte, Vice President James Valente and Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, took a plea deal and were convicted of conspiracy to distribute steroids. Anderson and Conte also were convicted of money laundering. Conte received the most prison time — four months, which he finished Thursday, to be followed by four months of house arrest. Anderson served three months in prison and is currently serving three months of house arrest. Valente received probation.

10. Does Greg Anderson still train Bonds?

Yes. According to Bonds, the two remain friends and workout partners.

11. Could Bonds still be investigated on perjury charges for his grand jury testimony in the BALCO case?

Federal investigators are within the statute of limitations but likely would have pursued perjury or obstruction of justice charges already if the case were viable. If Bonds makes conflicting statements about steroid use in the future, such as a flat-out admission, he could face federal charges.

12. Will the IRS investigate Bonds?

It's a distinct possibility. His former mistress, Kimberly Bell, contends that Bonds used unreported income from autograph and memorabilia sales to give her a down payment on a house. She reportedly has some documented records to back up her claims.

13. Will Congress subpoena Bonds and/or other ballplayers for more hearings?

Bonds was a curious omission from the House Government Reform Committee's list of players who were subpoenaed in 2005, and his involvement in the BALCO case was cited as the reason. With those proceedings concluded, it's possible Bonds could be hauled in to testify. As he gets closer to Aaron's record, it will be even more tempting for members of the committee to make themselves part of the story.

14. Why is Major League Baseball investigating Bonds?

It's all about the home run record. And money, of course. Commissioner Bud Selig is under perceived pressure from the fans and media, and actual pressure from Congress and sponsors, to take a hard look at Bonds because Hank Aaron's record is considered the game's most precious. National sponsors such as Bank of America and Home Depot have pulled their support of a Bonds celebration campaign unless an investigation shows Bonds did not use performance-enhancing substances.

15. Who is heading up MLB's investigation, and when will it be resolved?

Selig asked close friend and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to head the so-called independent probe. The last time MLB ordered an investigation of this kind, it took Washington lawyer John Dowd three months to produce a 225-page report detailing the evidence that Pete Rose bet on baseball. It took nearly four more months before Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti reached an agreement to ban Rose for life in August 1989.

16. Can Major League Baseball suspend Bonds?

Selig has broad powers under the "best interests of baseball clause." But invoking the clause to discipline Bonds would draw an immediate grievance from the Players' Association, and likely would be overturned. When Rose was banned, he was not protected by the union. However, Bonds could be banned from the sport upon his retirement, which would keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

17. Will there be an asterisk next to Bonds' records?

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson has said any proven steroid user should have his records completely erased. But that's not practical, given the lack of facts prior to 2003. Expect Bonds' records to stand unless Selig's investigation turns up proof that the slugger used steroids — or Bonds tests positive this season.

18. Has Bonds ever failed a league-sanctioned drug test?

Unlike Rafael Palmeiro, Bonds has not tested positive for banned substances since penalties were made public in 2004. Bonds also claims he didn't test positive in'03, when violators were kept private.

19. Is it possible Bonds is using performance-enhancing drugs now?

Yes. Human growth hormone requires a blood test to detect, and the union has not agreed to that. Also, new designer steroids are being created in labs all the time. It's possible some players are using stuff that can't be detected, including Bonds.

20. Did Bonds use steroids?

It's the one burning question. While some players are suspected as users based solely on appearance and other anecdotal factors, a significant and compelling amount of circumstantial evidence exists that ties Bonds to steroid use. But ultimately, there still isn't a smoking syringe.

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