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Monday, January 29, 2007

Bonds signing appears imminent-MLB.com

At 42, it remains to be seen how productive Barry Bonds will be this year. Barry should have no problem breaking Hank Aaron's illustrious home run record later this season, but it will be interesting to see if he can lead his Giants back into the playoffs.

Outfielder in San Francisco on Monday for physical
By Barry Bloom / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Nearly two months after the San Francisco Giants agreed in principle to re-sign left fielder Barry Bonds for the 2007 season, complicated language in the contract has apparently been completed.

"We're getting closer," said Jeff Borris, Bonds' agent, without getting into details.

Pending passing of a requisite physical, the official signing of the one-year, $16 million deal, which would return Bonds to the Giants for a 15th season, is expected to be announced within days.

A Giants spokesman declined to comment, saying only that the announcement of the signing was not expected on Monday. But it is now evident that, barring any physical problems, familiar No. 25 will be back in the cleanup spot this season as Bonds continues his pursuit of Hank Aaron's Major League all-time home run record.

Borris said that Bonds is in good physical condition.

According to The Associated Press, Bonds was in San Francisco on Monday to take that physical. He had surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow at the conclusion of the 2006 season and is fully recovered from the trio of arthroscopic surgeries on his right knee that shortened his 2005 season to 14 games.

Bonds earned $18 million in 2006, the last of a five-year, $90 million contract.

Bonds goes into 2007 with 734 homers, 21 behind Aaron's magic 755. Bonds hit his 715th to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list on May 28 at AT&T Park against the Rockies.

The Giants, who have agreed to sign 10 free agents this offseason, had trouble closing the deals with all of them because of guarantee language in the contracts that their representatives found objectionable.

John Boggs, the agent for outfielder Dave Roberts, who agreed to move from San Diego, said recently that the language had been rescinded and that his client had moved forward to close his deal.

Unlike Bonds, the other nine free agents had signed term sheets, binding each player to the club. Bonds, instead, declined to sign a term sheet until all of the language was negotiated, although Borris said that all economic terms had been resolved on Dec. 7, the night Bonds agreed in principle to return to the club.

The unsigned term sheet became an issue when it was reported earlier this month that Bonds had failed an amphetamines test last season. But any failed test is handled under rules of the Basic Agreement and no Major League club can penalize a player above and beyond those rules.

For an initial failed amphetamines test, a player goes into a clinical tract and is subject to increased testing. A second failed test nets a 25-game penalty.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Red Sox, Drew finalize deal-MLB.com

Finally, the Red Sox will be able to officially announce J.D. Drew as their new right fielder later this afternoon. Drew will be a fine addition to an already potent Boston outfield.

Announcement to be made Friday on long-awaited signing
By Ian Browne / MLB.com

BOSTON -- It can now be said officially that J.D. Drew is the new right fielder for the Boston Red Sox. That has unofficially been the case since Dec. 5, when agent Scott Boras announced to a pack of reporters that his client had struck a five-year, $70 million deal with Boston.

Fifty-two days later, Drew finally put a signature on that agreement. The Red Sox will hold a conference call at 2 p.m. ET on Friday to announce Drew as their new No. 5 hitter.

The hold-up? After conducting a physical on Drew in the second week of December, the Red Sox had some concerns about the outfielder's right shoulder, which was operated on in September 2005.

For the past several weeks, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and Boras tried finding common ground on contract language that would give the team protection in the event Drew suffered a significant injury to his right shoulder. A resolution was finally reached on Thursday.

The Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox would be able to opt out of Drew's contract after three years if he has right shoulder woes in the third year of the deal. If Drew has a significant injury to the right shoulder in the fourth year of the deal, the Red Sox could void the fifth year.
Drew replaces long-time fan favorite Trot Nixon in right field.

"I think Drew is a great fit to complement our existing personnel," said Epstein in December. "If you look, last year and the last couple of years -- especially last year -- a couple of our weaknesses were a No. 5 hitter and outfield defense, generally, especially with a fly-ball staff, which we have. Drew, if we end up signing him officially, he addresses both of those areas of concern."

Drew, 31, is coming off a solid season. He helped the Dodgers to the postseason in 2006 by hitting .283 with 34 doubles, six triples, 20 homers and 100 RBIs.

A patient hitter -- which fits in perfectly with Boston's offensive philosophy -- Drew has a smooth opposite field stroke from the left side. That should help him at Fenway, with the Green Monster just 310 feet from home plate.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Games to watch in April of 2007

By David
Kaye

The 2007 MLB season commences on April 1st as the Mets travel to St.Louis in a rematch of last years NLCS. The Mets begin the season with an ambiguous starting rotation and the defending World Series Champs have already lost two starting pitchers due to free agency, but that number might reach three if Jeff Weaver decides to sign elsewhere.

Like many, I can't wait for another exciting Summer of baseball where I will have the distinguished honor of attending several Met & Yankee games. In all, there are 2, 430 games slated to be played between April 1st and September 30th.

The first day of baseball for many teams will be April 2nd and fans will have the opportunity to see many great games. The Phillies and Braves, Indians and White Sox and the Rangers and Angels will all resume their rivalries. On that same day sluggers Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee will both make their debuts for their respective teams.

Sports biggest rivalry will resume April 20-22 as the Yankees visit Fenway Park. With revenge on their minds, the Red Sox' will be eager to face their hated rival. Boston makes their first of three trips to Yankee Stadium the following weekend.

Mets, Randolph agree to new deal- MLB.com


Mets manager Willie Randolph will be rewarded today with a new three-year contract. Willie is a class guy both on and off the field, not to mention an elite manager. What he has done to remove the losing stigma from the Mets organization, and remind New Yorkers that there is another team besides the Yankees that actually plays in the Big Apple is remarkable.

Now, not only are the Mets talked about in the same breath as the Yankees, they are regarded as the better of the two teams.

Manager to get three-year contract with a club option for 2010
By Marty Noble / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- In the moments of exalt that followed the Mets' elimination of the Dodgers from the postseason in October, Willie Randolph spoke about how much he enjoyed watching his players celebrate.

"That's my reward," the Mets manager said in the middle of a crowded, loud and champagne-saturated visitors' clubhouse in Dodger Stadium. "Seeing them enjoy themselves the way I did when I won as a player."

A more tangible reward came his way late on Wednesday when his agent, Ron Shapiro, and the Mets agreed on a new contract for the 18th manager in franchise history. Randolph, who was to have earned $700,000 in 2007 and had no contract for beyond this season, agreed to a three-year deal that will pay him $1.4 million in '07, $1.8 million in '08 and $2.25 million in '09.
The contract also includes a club option for $2.5 million in 2010.

So ends a period of uneasy uncertainty that proved to be longer than anticipated and longer than it was confrontational. Whatever frustrations or disagreements that may have developed never manifested itself in any unbecoming way before Randolph achieved the security he sought, and the club assured itself of retaining the services of a manager who has directed a renaissance in his first two years.

An official announcement of the new contract is to be made on Thursday. The Mets may also announce that Randolph's revised staff of coaches -- Manny Acta having gone to manage the Nationals and Howard Johnson taking his place -- has been signed. Pitching coach Rick Peterson is believed to have agreed to a three-year deal.

The extension and restructuring of Randolph's contract came months after his team became the first Mets team in 18 years to win a National League East Division title. The Mets won 97 games -- they and the Yankees had the best records in the Majors in '06 -- after winning 83 in Randolph's first season.

Despite a series of injuries that undermined the team's starting rotation, the Mets finished 12 games ahead of the second-place Phillies and 18 ahead of the defending division champion Braves.

Moreover, he is generally credited with having changed the "culture in the clubhouse." Opposing managers routinely acknowledged that Randolph's teams play the game properly.

Until Randolph, no big-league manager ever had achieved improvement of at least 12 victories in each of his first two years on the job (strike-shortened seasons excluded). The last manager to achieve such improvement in successive seasons -- not necessarily his first two -- was Gil Hodges who, after managing the Senators, moved to manage the Mets in 1968. His first team won 12 more games than its predecessor. The 1969 Mets won 100, an improvement of 27 games, and the World Series.

Randolph's second team fell one victory short of the World Series. The new contract includes bonuses based on postseason achievements.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

MLB TV deal gets fuzzy reception- Yahoo! Sports

Columnist Dan Wetzel could not have done a better job in depicting the craziness that we call Major League Baseball. It's unfortunate that owners are so greedy that they need to continue alienating loyal baseball fans. In the long run, permitting 82% of people to watch out of market games is much better than permitting a mere 16%.

Sometimes I get tired of only watching the Yankees play, and want to tune into a Red Sox' or Dodgers game. This goes for many people, and especially fans who are forced to see the Royals or Pirates play every night. If these people are loyal fans they would gladly fork over the money to watch a competing club play every night. I can't wait for the day that owners wake up and realize what their doing is not only foolish, but down right dumb.

By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
January 23, 2007

So here comes Major League Baseball in a quick, shortsighted money grab (again), selling out its core fans (again) and telling everyone (again) how the sport ought to be consumed.

Here comes MLB, as arrogant and detached as ever, ready to limit its popular "MLB Extra Innings" package by giving it exclusively to DirecTV rather than a large consortium of cable and satellite providers. And for what, an average of a million bucks per year, per team?

That's the price of fan loyalty these days? That's how much baseball owners value their best costumers? A bad middle reliever?

According to the New York Times, MLB is close to handing DirecTV the exclusive rights to Extra Innings – which allows fans to watch many out-of-market games – for $100 million per year over seven years. InDemand, which distributes the package currently, has upped its offer, but, according to the Washington Times, its deal will pay about $30 million less per year.

The difference averages out to $1 million per franchise, per year – or, in these days of overheated player spending, chicken scratch. Even if it was five times that, it wouldn't seem worth it to keep the product from so many fans.

According to industry figures, 75 million of America's estimated 92 million cable/satellite households (82 percent) have access to the Extra Innings package.

DirecTV reaches just 15 million households, or 16 percent of available consumers.

How MLB, which isn't talking about the proposed deal, could consider severely limiting the availability of its product a good idea at that pathetic price is stunning.

"It always seems to be a risky proposition when you're not only reaching fewer fans but raising their ire in the process," said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute. "I've already seen reports that fans are not happy."

Why would they be? The current system – aside from MLB's maddening and nonsensical blackout policy – is the best one for fans. Extra Innings was available to almost everyone. You didn't need a dish, you didn't need to switch providers. You just paid and watched. Over 750,000 people loved it.

While some fans will undoubtedly make the change, it probably never dawned on baseball owners who live in gated mansions that not everyone can get DirecTV. Many apartment complexes and condominium developments prohibit satellite installation. Some lack the required clear view of the southern sky.

Other fans, especially the coveted younger demographic, may be in a transient stage and will not want to invest in a satellite system for a temporary place. Some simply favor their current television providers – such as Comcast in Philadelphia – which offer compelling original local sports programming. Others will balk at DirecTV, whose reception can be affected by weather and struggles to provide service for multiple television sets.

The reasons hardly matter. The question is: Why make it more difficult for customers to buy the product?

MLB would certainly like fans to sign up for streaming broadcasts of games through MLB.TV, but no one can, with a straight face, claim that watching a game on a computer is the same as on television.

"One thing we know about sports fans is they want to consume content on their own terms and not be arm-twisted into a way the league wants," Carter said.

Not that the owners cared about that. Or this. Or anything that has to do with you.

Extra Innings is more than just another entertainment option. For many, it's emotional. With downsizing and a fluctuating economy, Americans have increasingly been on the move, seeking jobs and lives throughout the country, often away from their childhood franchise.

Extra Innings gave many a taste of home each summer night. It offered, for example, the Mets fan who relocated to California the opportunity to follow his team – and his town – as if he still lived back in Queens. It provided a bond with old friends and family.

Baseball can do what it wants – ours is, after all, a capitalistic society – but this deal is a slap in the face to loyal fans, who the owners clearly believe will never abandon the sport.

About the only surprising thing here is the lack of surprise. This is consistent with how MLB runs its business, an anti-trust exempted monopoly of a product that is part of the fabric of America. It is a plaything and tax write-off for the rich and ridiculous.

The only hope to ditch the dish is intervention from Congress, which could strip MLB of its anti-trust exemption, which stems from a 1922 Supreme Court case that ruled baseball games were just "local affairs" and – get this – not "interstate commerce."

But considering how much money billionaire owners can sprinkle around to politicians, you could get better odds on the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series. Similar efforts against the NFL have died quickly.

Which is why baseball knows it never needs to reciprocate fan loyalty – you have no other choice.

"The challenge is how to maximize (revenue) without turning off your core audience," Carter said.

Not for baseball owners. There is no challenge. They've long ago proven they don't care about anything but fast cash.

The thing is, just because they own the teams, they shouldn't own the game.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Wednesday, Jan 24, 2007 2:58 am EST

Yankees will host the 2008 All Star Game

By David
Kaye

Get ready Yankee fans because your team will be hosting the 2008 Midsummer Classic. This will be the first time since 1977 that Yankee Stadium hosted the game, but there is added significance because it will be the last year that the Bronx Bombers will play in the current Yankee Stadium.Their new stadium is set to open for the 2009 baseball season.

The ''House that Ruth Built'' has experienced 39 American League Pennants, 26 World Championships, and now their fourth All- Star Game.

This is exciting news for a city that loves Yankee baseball more than anything else, and continues to set attendance records every year. The cross town rival Mets should expect an All- Star Game to be played at their new stadium Citi Field within five years of its opening. Their stadium is also expected to open for the 2009 baseball season.

This is great news for a fantastic baseball town. It's hard pressed to find another city outside of St.Louis or Boston that is more loyal to their team. Speaking of St.Louis, the Cardinals will play host to the 2009 All-Star Game. The game will be played at the new Busch Stadium.

As a result of the 08' All-Star Game, the city of New York will be receiving an abundance of revenue from many different sources. This game is sure to spark the attention of die hard baseball fans from across the country who will cherish the idea of coming into the worlds' most famous city for a few days during the month of July. Let alone, the thousands of Yankee season ticket holders who will have first grabs at tickets for the game. Now, the thousands of consumers from outside of New York will not only spend their disposable income at Yankee Stadium, but they will also spend money on hotels,restaurants, the theater, and many other venues.

The 2008 All- Star Game will be a win-win situation for the Yankees and the city of New York.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Twins add veteran leadership to their starting rotation

By David
Kaye

The Twins starting rotation includes three players who made their Major League debuts last season. In search of stability and leadership on their team, Minnesota inked right-hander Ramon Ortiz to a one-year deal worth an estimated $3.1 million. That's pretty impressive for a player who went 11-16 last season.

With only two starters in Johan Santana and Carlos Silva who had more than a years pitching experience, the Twins needed to go out and sign a veteran. Ortiz has been in the majors for eight years and during his career he has played for three teams. He won the World Series in 2002 with the Angels, and most recently played for the Reds and Nationals.

By no means is Ortiz an overbearing pitcher, but he will add some security to Ron Gardenhire's staff. During the past two season Ortiz has had an ERA of 5.36 and 5.57, and has surrendered a total of 65 home runs. To be successful, Ortiz needs to keep the ball down and find the confidence he had during his six seasons with the Angels. With the electrifying Johan Santana on his team, the 33 year old will quickly learn how to be an effective pitcher.

It appears that Glen Perkins who made his big league debut last September will be the odd man out in the Twinkies starting rotation. Right-hander Carlos Silva has been with Minnesota for the past three seasons, but struggled last season as he went 11-15 with an ERA of 5.94. Considering his experience, he should be given an extending period of time to prove himself, but if he's not effective Scott Baker, Sidney Ponson or even Glen Perkins could take his spot in the rotation.

Right-hander Boof Bonser is currently slated in as the second starter, and last season he displayed his talent as he went 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 18 games. More importantly, the St.Petersburg, Florida native had a walk to strikeout ratio of 3:1, and in his lone postseason start he went six innings and only gave up two runs.

As Twins pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 18th, it will be interesting to see who secures the final spots in Minnesota's starting rotation.The Twins will have an up hill battle all season long as they try to defend their AL Central crown. The White Sox, Tigers, and Indians will all be close on their track.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Utley gets seven-year, $85M extension- MLB.com

The best second baseman in baseball proved that hard work does pay off. After a career season, Chase Utley inked a contract worth a whopping $85 million. Quietly, he and reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard are forming the best one-two offensive combination in all of baseball.

All-Star second baseman to remain with Phillies through 2013
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley exchanged marriage vows with his fiancée on Saturday afternoon in San Francisco.

A day later, the All-Star second baseman made a similar long-term commitment to the Phillies, agreeing to a seven-year, $85 million contract that will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2013 season. Though Utley will make less annually up front and more toward the end, this deal averages a little more than $12 million a season.

"We view Chase as not only a great second baseman but also one of the top 10-15 players in the game," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "He's a hard-nosed, full-throttle player who exemplifies the spirit of Philadelphia. He is tailor-made for this city and we couldn't be happier to lock him up for years to come."

The contract eliminates the sometimes messy process of salary arbitration, when teams exchange figures and either agree on a number or have a salary determined by an independent arbitrator. Last week, Utley submitted a figure of $6.25 million, while the Phillies offered $4.5 million, the third-largest gap between player and team.

This pact covers Utley's three years of arbitration eligibility and delays his possible free agency for four years, keeping him in red pinstripes for a long time. In 2006, Utley emerged as Major League Baseball's premier offensive second baseman, clubbing 32 homers and driving in 102 runs, while scoring 131 times. He also fashioned a 35-game hitting streak, the longest streak of the season and second-longest streak in team history.

There is precedent for such an agreement. Entering his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2004, the Cardinals' Albert Pujols inked a seven-year, $100 million extension, also avoiding the arbitration process. That came a year after St. Louis gave the slugging first baseman a $900,000 pact, a then-record one-year deal for a third-year player.

National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Howard will likely read about Utley's contract with great interest, as he is eligible for arbitration after the 2007 season. If the Phillies don't signed Howard to a long-term deal this winter, he'll still likely break Pujols' $900,000 mark.

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

Saturday, January 20, 2007

David Wells signs with San Diego

By David
Kaye

Boomer is headed back home to San Diego. He agreed to a one-year deal worth $3 million, but the contract could be worth up to $4 million when you add in incentives. Wells is now 43 years of age,and has been hampered by lingering back troubles throughout his 2o year career. He recently had knee surgery at the start of last season.

If Wells can stay healthy he will add to an already potent pitching staff that acquired veteran Greg Maddux in the off season. Combined, both players have 563 career wins. San Diego will need this veteran leadership if they are to win the tough NL West. Along with Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Clay Hensley, the Padres have an extremely formidable starting rotation. It also doesn't hurt to have the all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman closing out games for you.

General manager Kevin Towers recently said ''This guy[Wells], when he's healthy, is one of the best big-game pitchers in the history of the game.'' If Boomer can stay healthy, the Padres have a pretty good chance at reaching the World Series for the first time since 1998. Coincidentally, Wells was on the Yankees team that beat the Padres in the 98' World Series.

After figure swaps, eight come to terms- MLB.com

The great thing about salary-arbitration is that many greedy players don't receive what they filed for. They are still getting a plethora of money, but at least they receive a little less than they though they deserved.

Two weeks remain before salary hearings set to start
By Jim Street / MLB.com

It's eight down, 48 to go.

That was the tally late Friday night, heading into the first weekend after salary-arbitration figures were exchanged.

Three of the players reaching contract agreements since Tuesday's salary-figure exchange landed multiyear contracts:

• Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Doug Davis -- acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers along with outfielder Dave Krynzel and pitcher Dana Eveland for catcher Johnny Estrada, pitcher Claudio Vargas and reliever Greg Aquino -- signed a three-year, $22 million contract.

• Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz signed a three-year, $13.1 million deal that includes a fourth-year club option.

• Cleveland Indians outfielder Jason Michaels received a two-year, $4.25 million contract.

Five others received one-year contracts. Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano avoided the final step of salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million offer (he filed for $3.7 million), Pirates pitcher Shawn Chacon, who filed for $4.25 million, signed a one-year deal for $3.825 million; Cleveland Indians pitcher Jason Davis agreed to a one-year deal, for $670,000; Oakland Athletics pitcher Kirk Saarloos avoided a hearing by accepting a one-year offer on Friday, as did Brewers infielder Tony Graffanino.

Less than two weeks remain before the first hearing before a three-member panel is held. Among the players still headed in that direction are reigning American League Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins teammate and AL batting champion Joe Mauer, and National League batting champ Freddy Sanchez, of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But if the past few years are indicative of things to come, most of the 49 arbitration-eligible players still unsigned should be in their respective folds before Feb. 1 -- the first day of hearings. Of the 43 players who exchanged salaries with their clubs last season, only six reached the hearing stage.

Several more multiyear deals are bound to be worked out in the coming days as clubs and players attempt to work things out well before Spring Training camps open in Florida and Arizona in mid-February.

But Davis and Putz can relax for a few years.

"We believe that trading for Doug and signing him to a three-year contract improves and stabilizes our rotation," D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes said. "It is challenging to acquire and retain quality starting pitching, and this is an important step for us to build a playoff-caliber rotation."

Davis, 31, filed for $7.5 million, and the organization offered $5.25 million. He made $3.6 million last year, when he went 11-11 with a 4.91 ERA in 34 starts over 203 1/3 innings pitched, marking his third consecutive 200-plus-inning season.

Arizona projects Davis to be the No. 4 starter, behind reigning Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb, five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson and veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez.

Davis has made 103 starts the past three seasons, second only in the Majors behind only Hernandez (104).

Putz finishes games.

"J.J. Putz was one of the great stories of the 2006 baseball season," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. "He took over the closer's role and was simply dominant. When he was called on, he really thrived in that ninth-inning pressure."

Putz saved 36 games last season despite not taking over the job until the first week of May.

"J.J. was just nails for us last season," manager Mike Hargrove said. "One of the things I really admired was his willingness to take the ball whenever we needed him to."

Putz led all AL relievers with 104 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings, and walked only 13 batters while pitching in a career-high 72 games.

"I don't know what it is, but the ninth inning is definitely different," Putz said. "I think there's something with the energy in the stadium. I live for that. I think that it's the best thing in the world. For some reason, those are three hard outs to get."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

George Mitchell Asks Baseball Owners To Cooperate With Steroid Investigation



George Mitchell urges owners' cooperation in probe

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) - Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell warned baseball owners that a lack of cooperation with his investigation into steroid use will "significantly increase" the chances of government involvement.
Speaking to owners at baseball's quarterly meetings, Mitchell said he intends to interview active players and raised the possibility that Congress or other government authorities could compel testimony..

"I believe it will be in your best interests, and the best interests of baseball, if I can report that I have received full cooperation from your organizations, and from others, in conducting this investigation," Mitchell said in remarks that were released to reporters.

Mitchell cited last week's Hall of Fame vote to underscore the importance of his investigation. Mark McGwire was picked on 23.5 percent of ballots — far below the necessary 75 percent needed for induction. The vote was viewed by many as the first referendum on how history will judge an age when bulked-up players came under suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball didn't ban steroids until after the 2002 season.

"If nothing else, the results of the Hall of Fame voting last week, and the reaction to it, offer fresh evidence that this issue will not just fade away," Mitchell said. "Whether you think it fair or not, whether you think it justified or not, Major League Baseball has a cloud over its head, and that cloud will not just go away."

Mitchell cannot compel testimony. He warned the clubs that Congress or other federal or state authorities which do have subpoena power could get involved.

"I believe that a report that is not credible and thorough will significantly increase the possibility of action by others, especially if it's the result of a lack of cooperation by the clubs, or by anyone else who is or has been involved with baseball," Mitchell said.

Mitchell did not speak to reporters after addressing owners. He was hired by commissioner Bud Selig last March following more than a year of allegations against Barry Bonds, McGwire and other stars. No timetable was set for Mitchell's report.

Bonds is under investigation by a federal grand jury as to whether he perjured himself when he testified in 2003 in the BALCO steroid distribution case that he hadn't knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs.

The San Francisco Giants are negotiating a contract with Bonds, who needs 22 home runs to surpass Hank Aaron's mark of 755. Speaking to reporters at a golf tournament in the Dominican Republic this week, Bonds declined to discuss ongoing negotiations with the Giants, or his reported positive test for amphetamines last year. Giants owner Peter Magowan declined to answer questions about Bonds.

Selig also spoke to the owners about Mitchell's investigation. Asked if he had urged the clubs to cooperate with Mitchell, Selig said, "Urge is probably not strong enough."

"Look, some clubs have been more cooperative than others, but at this stage, I'm not concerned about that," Selig said. "He will have cooperation."

Selig would not say which clubs are lagging in their cooperation. Mitchell acknowledged that teams aren't used to dealing with "large-scale document discovery," which can be time-consuming. But he said his investigation would move faster if clubs cooperated more quickly.

"Many have asked when my report will be completed," he said. "The pace of this investigation is dictated by the rate at which information is received."

Houston owner Drayton McLane said the owners weren't surprised by Mitchell's remarks.

"It's a process that's very complicated, and it's just going to take time to complete," McLane said. "The steroids issues continue to emerge, and the public wants to know. For some reason they want to know more about baseball on steroids than they do football or basketball. So it's certainly focused on this."

During the meeting, Selig also spoke about the free-agent market and singled out the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, among others, for their spending, one official at the meeting said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the remarks during the session were not intended to be made public. Selig also mentioned the Toronto Blue Jays, the official said.

Selig wouldn't specify what he said to owners about the game's economics.

"We discussed some things, but we do that at every meeting," Selig said.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bucs agree to deal for Braves' LaRoche- MLB.com


Finally, the Pirates were able to trade for their most coveted off season treasure. Adam LaRoche will be starting at first base this season for Pittsburgh and he will bring them youth and exceptional offensive production. With more deals like this, the Pirates are on their way to becoming a .500 team.

Pittsburgh sending closer Gonzalez to Atlanta for power hitter
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- After more than a month of speculation, the Pirates and Braves agreed in principle Wednesday to a deal that would send Pittsburgh closer Mike Gonzalez to Atlanta for first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

The deal will include at least one prospect from each team, likely non-roster players at the Class A level.

The trade will not officially be announced until LaRoche and Gonzalez have passed physical examinations with their new teams. Gonzalez will travel to Atlanta for his exam on Thursday morning, when LaRoche is also expected to meet with Pirates team doctors in Pittsburgh.

By acquiring LaRoche, the Pirates will fulfill their primary offseason objective of landing a young, left-handed power bat for the middle of their lineup. LaRoche, 27, batted .285 with 32 home runs, 90 RBIs and an OPS of .915 last year in his third season with the Braves.

Gonzalez, 28, went 3-4 with a 2.17 ERA and converted each of his 24 save opportunities last year in his first season as a closer. There had been some concerns on the Braves' part about Gonzalez's health because the hard-throwing southpaw was sidelined for the final month of the 2006 season by a sore left elbow.

Gonzalez, in a telephone conversation with MLB.com on Wednesday night, said that he felt mixed emotions about the deal.

"Of course I'm very pleased to be going to a great team like the Braves. They're a powerhouse," said Gonzalez. "But then again, I have my teammates in Pittsburgh that I've grown fond of. This is really the only organization I know.

"I'm happy for both sides. The Pirates are going to be a good team in the coming year. But now, I'm going over there and I'm ecstatic to get things going with the Braves."

The Gonzalez-for-LaRoche deal was nearly consummated during the Winter Meetings in December, but the Braves backed out of the trade when the Pirates would not add a second player to go along with Gonzalez. The two teams have remained in contact throughout the past month in an effort to come up with a transaction that was satisfactory for both sides.

There could be a financial motivation behind the Braves' decision to pull the trigger on the deal. On Tuesday, the Pirates signed Gonzalez to a one-year deal worth $2.35 million, thus avoiding the arbitration process. The Braves could not agree to terms with LaRoche before the Tuesday deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players. Atlanta made an offer of $2.8 million to LaRoche, who is seeking $3.7 million.

Romak, 21, could add some much-needed additional power to the Pirates' farm system. The right-handed hitter batted .247 with 26 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs, 68 RBIs and an OPS of .840 in 348 at-bats with Class A Rome last season.

Lillibridge, 23, combined to hit .305 with 13 home runs, 71 RBIs and 53 stolen bases in 2006 while splitting the season between low Class A Hickory and high Class A Lynchburg

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

Sosa, Rangers agree in principle to deal- MLB.com



Like it or not, Sammy Sosa is returning to the game of baseball. He will be in Surprise, Arizona next month when the Rangers open up Spring Training. Texas won't be receiving the Sosa that so many of us grew to love during the late 90's, but they will be receiving a player who's hungry to compete and who has something to prove to the baseball world.



The majority of people can agree upon the fact that Sosa did aid his performance by using steroids, but he wants to prove to us that he still has something left in the tank. This signing is a win-win situation for the Rangers because their financial responsibility to Sosa is next to nothing, and they will be receiving all the media attention they can get from now until the season is over.


Dominican slugger is fifth on the all-time homers list with 588
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com


ARLINGTON -- Sammy Sosa is coming back to the Rangers.

The two sides have reached an agreement in principle, and now general manager Jon Daniels and agent Adam Katz are trying to work out the final details. A formal announcement is expected in the next few days.


Two key figures in this whole process -- manager Ron Washington and hitting coach Rudy

Jaramillo -- are one with the idea: Bring on Sammy Sosa.

"I'm all for it," Washington said on Wednesday while driving from New Orleans to Dallas for the big announcement. "Anytime you can get a guy of his pedigree and background and attitude, and [he] shows he still has his swing ... I'm for it."

Jaramillo, who was Sosa's first manager back in 1986 with the Rangers Rookie League team in Sarasota, Fla., was among those who watched the seven-time All-Star work out on Monday at Ameriquest Field in Arlington and was excited by what he saw.

"The main thing is his attitude and the kind of shape he is in," Jaramillo said. "He looked in really good shape. He has been swinging the bat and working out all winter.

"There's a wrong perception of him. He knows he's not the Sammy of '98, but his attitude is great, and he's hungry. He wants to prove something. He has a lot of pride. He's not going to come back and let himself fail."

Sosa is expected to come in to camp on a $500,000 incentive-laden Minor League contract in an attempt to show the Rangers he can be their full-time designated hitter and occasional outfielder.

"I'd love to have him hit fifth behind Mark Teixeira if he shows he can hit Major League pitching," Washington said. "As we get into Spring Training, his performance will show what we can do with him.

"He's looking for an opportunity to get back in the game. There are no promises, he has to perform. If he does do that, we'll be happy to have him here. If he doesn't, then we'll have to make a decision."

Sosa, who broke into the Major Leagues with the Rangers in 1989, did not play in 2006. He was with the Baltimore Orioles in 2005 and batted just .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 102 games and 380 at-bats. His slugging percentage was just .376, which is 161 points lower than his career .537 mark.

"He had a bad year in Baltimore," Jaramillo said. "What I saw was bad timing and bad mechanics. He didn't trust himself and he was jumping at the ball. When you do that, your swing is going to look long and slow. But there were a few times where he was able to put it all together and he looked like the Sammy of old."

Sosa, fifth all time with 588 career home runs, was at his best between 1998-2001 while with the Chicago Cubs. In 1998, he joined Mark McGwire in a joint assault on Roger Maris' single-season home run record. McGwire ended up on top with 70 home runs, but Sosa still hit 66 home runs with 158 RBIs and a .308 batting average. He was named the National League's Most Valuable Player.

Between 1998-2001, Sosa hit 243 home runs. He also led the National League in home runs with 49 in 2002 and led the Cubs to a division title in 2003 when he hit 40 home runs with 103 RBIs.

At his peak, Sosa was one of the most popular players in the game and a national hero in the Dominican Republic. But he has also had off-the-field issues -- his enormous personality can command undue attention in a clubhouse and he has clashed with previous managers over his fielding and where he would hit in the lineup.

He was suspended in 2004 for using a corked bat, but he said it was an accident. Baseball confiscated 76 other bats that he owned and all were found to be clean. He was also one of several prominent baseball players called to testify before Congress in March 2005 about steroids in baseball. Sosa told Congress he has never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Washington said he has no concerns about any potential issues.

"We watched him swing the bat, we had dinner with him and covered everything we need to cover as far as him being a teammate and a member of the Texas Rangers," Washington said.

"We shared with him some ideas of what we want him to do. He wants to be a part of this and get back in the game.

"He promised there's not going to be a lot of hoopla. He's coming back to be a baseball player. If he does that, everything is going to be fine, but we told him we're not looking for a lot of distractions."

Jaramillo said Sosa will not be a distraction.

"The fans love this guy," Jaramillo said. "Can you imagine Sammy Sosa running to right field in Arlington? He has a great presence. I talked to Mike Young about him and he said, 'Bring him on.'

"He knows this isn't his team. His attitude is great. I know what people are going to say but I know Sammy. His makeup was one of the best I've ever seen when he was a kid. I know him better than anybody and he knows me. He won't get away with anything. I'll push him. I'll be hard on him."

Jaramillo said Sosa would be a big help to some of the Rangers' younger players like Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts and Joaquin Arias. Washington said Sosa is not going to take at-bats away from anybody.

"This is a competition," Washington said. "He's not going to be given a job. He has to earn it. Everybody is going to be given a chance to step up and earn the job.

"If somebody else loses at-bats in Spring Training, it's not going to be because of Sammy, you lose at-bats because you're not performing. If that's pressure, so be it, this is the Major Leagues."

The Rangers will find out soon enough. Spring Training starts next month. Sosa will be there with the Rangers.

"If he's close to the Sammy of old, it's a great sign," Jaramillo said. "I truly believe he's going to do it. It's going to take a lot of hard work and commitment but it's there."

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

Monday, January 15, 2007

Teahen helps effort to build youth field- MLB.com


Why can't there be more big leaguers like Mark Teahen?

Royals Player of the Year recovering from shoulder injury
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com

LIBERTY, Mo. -- Last season Mark Teahen was in a Royals series of commercials with the tagline: This is Kansas City! Shown were such warm and fuzzy locales as the Plaza, Worlds of Fun and Kauffman Stadium.

When Teahen emerged from a youngsters baseball clinic here last weekend into a world of freezing rain and snow, he couldn't resist.

"This is Kansas City!" he deadpanned.

Or at least it was Liberty where, as spokesman for the YMCA Challenger Baseball program, he participated in an instructional event at William Jewell College.

"It was awesome. I had a great time. It was a lot of fun," Teahen said. "The more I get to be with the Challenger kids, the more comfortable I get and the more I get out of it."

About a dozen kids with special needs attended the clinic along with 52 other youngsters, the William Jewell baseball team, Royals alumni and Major League scouts.

Teahen, the Royals Player of the Year for 2006, is lending his name and influence to the building of the Challenger Sports Complex in Kansas City. The facility will include custom-designed fields that cushion falls and accommodate wheelchairs and other assistive devices.

Royals Charities has joined forces with the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, William Jewell and the Little League in the creation of the north Kansas City complex. The baseball field will give kids, ages 10 to 18, the chance to hit the ball, run the bases and experience the thrill of crossing home plate.

Teahen spent the entire day last Saturday giving instruction in the clinic directed by Phillies scout Jerry Lafferty. Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, in town for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum banquet, stopped by on Sunday to answer questions from the participants.

"Cool," Teahen said. "I played with him in the fall league."

Teahen took time to meet privately with the William Jewell baseball players who were volunteers at the clinic.

"It was fantastic for our guys to hear a big league perspective," coach Mike Stockton said. "Mark seems very humble. He's kept a handle on things. When you're teaching college-age kids, it's great to have a guy like him as a role model."

Teahen's energetic approach indicated his recovery from right shoulder surgery is going well. He expects to be at full force when he reports to Spring Training next month.

This was the second KC clinic put on by the Midwest scouts, who also hold events in the St. Louis area.

"In 10 years, we've raised over $80,000 for charity," Lafferty said.

Funds from this clinic will go toward the Challenger complex.

Teahen noted the clinic turnout probably would have been bigger with better weather. More freezing rain on Sunday kept Teahen from heading for sunny Florida. His flight was canceled.

Now he knows the story all too well: This is Kansas City!

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

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jays lock up Overbay- MLB.com


The Blue Jays continue to make smart financial decisions. The re-signing of Vernon Wells earlier this off season might have seemed too expensive, but based on this years market the Jays did not over pay.


Likewise, the signing of Overbay should be looked upon as a bargain when you compare him to other big leaguers who were showered with money that they did not deserve. Overbay is a diligent player who will give his all to see that Toronto succeeds.


Deal cements first baseman in Toronto through 2010
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have lured another player away from the temptation of free agency. A Major League source told MLB.com on Sunday that Toronto has signed first baseman Lyle Overbay to a four-year deal worth $24 million.

Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi has previously expressed an interest in locking up Overbay with a multiyear deal, which would last beyond the first baseman's arbitration years. Overbay would have been eligible to become a free agent after the 2008 season, but the new deal would keep him with the Jays through 2010.

When reached by phone on Sunday, Ricciardi said that the two sides "were working on something," but he would neither confirm nor deny that an agreement was in place. An official announcement is expected to come in the next day or two, according to the source.

Overbay will make $4.2 million in 2007, including $3.8 million paid as a signing bonus. He is then scheduled to make $5.8 million in 2008 and $7 million in 2009 and 2010. The contracts for Ricciardi and pitchers Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan also end with the 2010 season.

Overbay, who made $2.525 million in 2006 in his first season with Toronto, was acquired in a five-player trade with Milwaukee in December 2005. At the Winter Meetings that year, the Jays sent Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson to the Brewers in exchange for Overbay and Ty Taubenheim.

Overbay thrived in Toronto's potent lineup and turned in arguably his best season. In a team-high 157 games, the left-handed hitter posted a .312 average and set new career highs with 22 home runs, 92 RBIs and 181 hits. He also clubbed a team-high 46 doubles, which ranked fourth in the American League. Since 2003, Overbay has the most doubles (133) in the Major Leagues.

Outfielders Reed Johnson and Alex Rios, as well as pitcher Scott Downs, are the remaining Jays eligible for arbitration. Ricciardi has yet to go to arbitration with a player in his tenure as Toronto's GM. The last time the Blue Jays went to arbitration was with pitcher Bill Risley in 1997.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bucs shuffle ownership structure- MLB.com


The Pirates emphasis having a ''stable platform'' for the future, but after 14 seasons of not having a winning team their future does not look pretty bright. They have good young players in Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez, but it seems impossible to think that Pittsburgh can compete in the tough NL Central.


I like the fact that the Pirates want to be financially responsible, but at some point they need to open up their pockets and spend money. They will not post a winning record for the next 14 seasons if they don't begin to sign top of the line free agents. This might involve over spending on a player or two, but after a while they will make the right signings, and this will translate into having a winning franchise on the field.


Nutting to lead organization, McClatchy stays on as CEO
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com


PITTSBURGH -- In a move that the Pittsburgh Pirates hope will add clarity to their organizational structure, the team has requested that Major League Baseball recognize a change of control within the team's ownership group.

Under the proposed move, Pirates chairman Bob Nutting would be recognized as the leader of the Pittsburgh ownership. Kevin McClatchy, who has served as the Pirates' managing general partner since becoming baseball's youngest owner in 1996, will remain as the team's chief executive officer.

Nutting, who also serves as the president and CEO of Ogden Newspapers, Inc., has been a member of the Pirates' board of directors since 2002. The Nutting family, including Nutting's father and fellow board member, G. Ogden Nutting, has been affiliated with the Pirates since joining McClatchy's original investment group in 1996.

As the Nutting family's investment in the Pirates has increased gradually over time -- they are currently the majority owners of the team, so has Bob Nutting's influence within the organization. He has worked closely with McClatchy to restructure the team's finances since 2003, when the Pirates were essentially forced to trade star third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs due to financial difficulties.

"My personal involvement since 2003 has been focused on making sure we have a stable platform to ensure the long-term viability of the franchise, to ensure that we have the flexibility so that we can hold our young core together, so that we can put a competitive team on the field, and we don't have to go through that kind of trauma in the future," said Nutting.

According to Nutting and McClatchy, both of whom met with MLB.com and other members of the media in two-on-one sessions throughout the afternoon Friday, the Pirates are simply asking Major League Baseball to give its official stamp of approval on a structural change that has been occurring gradually within the organization for the past three years. They do not view the request as any kind of a major franchise shakeup.

"This has just been a gradual development," said McClatchy.

"It was a natural evolution that brought us to this point," Nutting added.

After keeping a very low public profile during his first three years as chairman, Nutting believes that it is imperative for him to become a more visible member of the organization in order to clear up any possible misconceptions about his family's role in the franchise's leadership.

"I think it's fair to the team and the fans to have clarity," said Nutting. "The speculation of our role, Kevin's role, didn't help the team. I think being clear in all of that and moving forward with a clear, understandable structure is important."

There was widespread speculation last summer that McClatchy would sell his stake in the team or be forced out as CEO by the Nuttings following the 2006 season. McClatchy announced in October that he would remain with the club, and Nutting said Friday that he wanted to "make it crystal clear" that he has "unconditional support" for McClatchy.

"Kevin is remaining in charge," said Nutting. "He's been a successful leader of the organization ... from saving the team in '96, to getting PNC Park, the best park in America, built, [to bringing] last year's All-Star Game [to Pittsburgh]."

McClatchy does not expect his responsibilities to differ drastically under the proposed structural change, either within the framework of the team or in his dealings with the rest of the Major League owners. He said Friday that he will continue to hold a seat on such important league-wide committees as the MLB Executive Council.

"I am the CEO. If you are the CEO of any company, you are responsible for the day-to-day operations of that company," said McClatchy. "I don't really see it as a major change. Bob and I have been working together since he became chairman. We have a good working relationship."

The change in the ownership structure must be approved by Major League Baseball's owners. A vote to officially recognize the shift in control will be held on Jan. 18 in Phoenix during the quarterly owners meetings.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Alan H. "Bud" Selig expressed his support for Nutting in a statement released Friday by the Pirates.

"Bob and his family provide strong, stable ownership for the Pirates," said Selig. "Their long history of leading successful organizations and multi-generational commitment to the Pittsburgh region will translate well for the Pirates. I have enjoyed working with Bob over the past several years. He has a great passion for the Pirates and a tremendous desire for the team to succeed."

The one area of the Pirates that both Nutting and McClatchy want to change dramatically is the team's on-field performance. Pittsburgh has not posted a winning season since 1992.

"We are absolutely committed to putting the best possible team that we can out on the field," said Nutting. "The community deserves improvement, the fans deserve improvement, and frankly, I expect improvement. I believe we are well-positioned to see that with the young players that we have."

How will this commitment to winning impact the Pirates' payroll, which will likely be among the lowest in the Major Leagues again in 2007 at approximately $50 million?

"It is important that we maintain the long-term financial viability of the franchise," said Nutting. "But we have jointly discussed, reviewed and committed as many dollars to the on-field payroll, developmental staff and scouting staff to do everything we can to create a solid, competitive team going forward.

"Honestly, I think the plan is working. We have constraints in a market this size. But the plan of building from within, developing your own players, holding on to your own players -- that's the way we're going to be competitive."

McClatchy was quick to note that the team has given GM Dave Littlefield increased financial resources in recent seasons, and he defended the team's lack of significant offseason additions.

"We have taken payroll up since 2004," said McClatchy. "Dave has money to spend right now. But Dave has to find the right player, the right need, to spend it on.

"I know a lot has been made about this offseason about why didn't we go out and spend $50 million on a .500 pitcher. I think it goes back to financial responsibility, which gives you financial flexibility when you need it.

"Dave is, contrary to what I have seen some places, working the phone lines very closely. He is trying to get a couple of more players that are going to go well with our young core of players. We know we have to add to [the roster]. We have the flexibility to do that. Ownership has given Dave an increase in payroll to do that. It's just a question of executing in the right area."

Pending approval by Major League Basbeall, Nutting will become the sixth principal owner in Pirates franchise history, joining Barney Dreyfuss (1900-32), Bill Benswanger (1932-46), John Galbreath (1946-85), Pittsburgh Associates (1985-96) and McClatchy (1996-2007).

"I want to make sure it gets across at just how honored I am to have an opportunity to have a control position of a truly historic franchise," said Nutting. "I am proud of my association with the team. I take the role and the responsibility very seriously -- the responsibility to the fans, the responsibility to the team and its history and now, with the change in control, the responsibility to Major League Baseball."

The Pirates also announced Friday that they will be adding two new members to their board of directors: William Nutting and Duane Wittman. Both men are executives with Ogden Newspapers, Inc. The six-man board now includes Bob, Ogden and Bill Nutting, McClatchy, Wittman and Don Beaver, each of whom have one vote apiece.

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

WITH ANDY OFFICIALLY BACK, EYES TURN TO ROCKET- NY POST

If Roger Clemens decides to return to the Bronx the Yankees will become the perennial favorites to win the World Series. Still, Clemens must realize that he won't be receiving the same luxuries that he did in Houston. Don't expect a decision by the Rocket any time soon.

By MICHAEL MORRISSEY
January 12, 2007 -- Another Rocket launch will happen in 2007, Roger Clemens' buddy Andy Pettitte predicted yesterday. And Brian Cashman promised a "full-court press'' to bring Clemens to New York.

In no uncertain terms, the Yankee GM indicated that his team badly covets Clemens if, as expected, the future Hall of Famer wants to keep pitching.

Speaking after the official press conference welcoming Pettitte, Cashman praised the Rocket for his tenure in The Bronx from 1999-2003.

It was a glowing, flowing soliloquy that proved the Bombers have already loaded up their welcome wagon, and they're willing to steer it to Houston.

"If Roger is interested in coming to New York, I'd love to talk to him,'' Cashman began. "He had a huge impact on this organization.

"It was a trade I pushed hard on back in the day. And he came in here (in 1999) and not only delivered a huge performance on the field but also had a major impact within the clubhouse.

"And he cared a great deal not just about the young guys on the come, but he cared about his teammates and he cared about the people within his work environment, the staff members and things of that nature.

"So he's kind of like your perfect employee. You hire a player, he comes with all these other attributes ... He's one of the game's greatest that have ever played, and he had such a positive impact.''

On Wednesday, Clemens' agent Randy Hendricks told the Houston Chronicle that it was a better than 50/50 chance that the 44-year-old righty would pitch again for the Astros, Red Sox or Yankees. Pettitte, who signed a one-year, $16 million deal with a player option for 2008 in December, hopes it's New York.

"It's amazing to me that he still wants to pitch, but he does,'' Pettitte said. "It's like he's 20, and he's got an unbelievable amount of energy.

You add Roger Clemens to your staff ... as far as I'm concerned, he's the greatest pitcher to ever play the game. Would that be great? Does he know I would love that? Of course.

"And when you add him, your expectations are even higher. So from that standpoint, that would be wonderful.''

Pettitte, though, wouldn't feel comfortable recruiting the Rocket to the Big Apple, where he won his only two World Series rings in 1999 and 2000 (Pettitte was also on the 1996 and 1998 clubs).

"I would never try to do that to him,'' he said. "That's his decision, decisions he needs to make in his life.''

The two played golf during the past week, and the seven-time Cy Young Award winner apparently won't be pitching the entire season, according to Pettitte.

"I don't know exactly what he wants to do, but I would think spring training would definitely - probably - be out,'' Pettitte said. "I don't think he's thinking he's going to be heading to camp anywhere in the next three weeks.''

Cashman wouldn't speculate on what Clemens' schedule would be if he was a Yankee. Last year, the Astros let him come and go as he pleased on days he didn't pitch. It seems likely the Yankees would not allow that.

"It's wasted energy for me to discuss what potentially we would or wouldn't do,'' he said.

Cashman helped arrange a phone call between Pettitte and owner George Steinbrenner yesterday, according to spokesman Howard Rubenstein.

"I'm happy you're back,'' The Boss told the pitcher. "Do the job for us. I'm counting on you.''

"I'll be prepared to do it,'' Pettitte replied.

The Boss came away elated, Rubenstein said. Imagine how he'll feel if Cashman's full-court press on Clemens works.



Thursday, January 11, 2007

Barry Bonds: Mark Sweeney Did Not Supply Amphetamines - AP



Bonds: Sweeney not involved in alleged failed drug test
Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds said he did not get amphetamines from teammate Mark Sweeney, but did not deny a report Thursday saying he tested positive for the drugs last season.

According to a story in the New York Daily News, the San Francisco slugger failed an amphetamines test in 2006. The newspaper reported that when first informed of the positive result, Bonds attributed it to a substance he had taken from Sweeney's locker.

Thursday, Bonds did not deny that but did apologize to Sweeney.

"[Sweeney] did not give me anything whatsoever and has nothing to do with this matter, contrary to recent reports."
--Barry Bonds
"He is both my teammate and my friend," Bonds said in a statement. "He did not give me anything whatsoever and has nothing to do with this matter, contrary to recent reports.

"I want to express my deepest apologies especially to Mark and his family as well as my other teammates, the San Francisco Giants organization and the fans," he said.

That's all the Giants star, shadowed by steroids allegations and only 22 home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record, said about the alleged positive drug test. Bonds has steadfastly denied used performance-enhancing drugs.

"Obviously, we're pleased that Barry has straightened this out," said Sweeney's agent, Barry Axelrod.

Bonds' reported positive test could be another snag in contract negotiations with the Giants. The sides reached a preliminary agreement on a $16 million, one-year contract Dec. 7, but the seven-time NL MVP still hasn't signed the deal or taken the mandatory physical that is part of the process.

The sides have been working to finalize complicated language in the contract that concerns the left fielder's compliance with team rules, as well as what would happen if he were to be indicted or have other legal troubles.

"Last night was the first time we heard of this recent accusation against Barry Bonds," the Giants said in the statement. "Under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association, clubs are not notified after a player receives a first positive test for amphetamines."

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, refused comment, according to spokesman Rich Levin.

"I don't comment on the drug program, and I've never heard Barry Bonds blame anybody for anything," Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

San Francisco's front office and fan base long have stood by Bonds through his off-the-field problems and injuries. So have his teammates, deciding in spring training last year to support him every step of the way.

"There are so many substances out there right now you don't know what you should take or what you should not," Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel said Thursday. "Right now, I'm afraid to take vitamins for the same reason. You don't know what's going to be positive or what's going to be negative. The best way for players is to stay natural. Anything with chemicals in it can be bad. I know what I do. I don't know what the other guys do, and I don't really care.

"I tell the younger guys, but you don't need to be telling Barry Bonds and Mark Sweeney what they should take or what they should not."

There's a long history of amphetamines -- or speed and more commonly called "greenies" in the baseball world -- fueling generations of baseball players. Many turned to the stimulants for a way to get pepped up when their bodies couldn't do so on their own during a long season.

The pills, widely used even until recently, helped with energy for day games following night games and other times when players were short on sleep, such as after a long cross-country flight.

Baseball banned the uppers for the first time starting last season. A player is not identified until after failing two amphetamines tests, which also results in a 25-game suspension. The first failed steroids test, by comparison, is a 50-game suspension.

A first amphetamines offense, however, does require six additional drug tests over the following six months.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't address the report directly.

"Amphetamines have been around for seven or eight decades and this is the first time on the advice of doctors, trainers and everybody else that we dealt with it," he said. "We banned amphetamines and that's very significant and we're going to continue to monitor it all very closely."

Selig did say management and the union discussed the report Thursday.''

"I think maybe they have some suspicion on how it leaked out," he said.

Bonds did not appeal the positive test, according to the Daily News, which said Sweeney learned of Bonds' positive test from Orza. The newspaper reported Orza told Sweeney he should remove any troublesome substances from his locker and should not share said substances. Sweeney then said there was nothing of concern in his locker.

Before Bonds' statement, Axelrod told the AP that his client received a call informing him that his name had come up in regard to the testing.

"He responded at that time ... he did not give anything to anybody and he doesn't have anything illegal," Axelrod said. "That was the end of it, as far as we were concerned, until yesterday. We thought it was just a sort of procedural thing."

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Bonds perjured himself when he testified in 2003 in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid distribution case that he hadn't knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs. He told that 2003 grand jury he believed his trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him flaxseed oil and arthritic balm, not steroids.

Bonds, who's coming off October surgery on his troublesome left elbow, played regularly in 2006.

After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his right knee, Bonds batted .270 with 26 homers and 77 RBIs in 130 games last year. He passed Babe Ruth to move into second place on the career home run list May 28.

Bonds has spent 14 of his 21 big league seasons with San Francisco and helped the Giants draw 3 million fans in all seven seasons with them. The team is counting on him to be part of the hype leading up to its hosting of the All-Star game in July.

Bonds said he noticed an improved vibe in the clubhouse last season with the additions of Steve Finley, Sweeney and Todd Greene. The slugger was more sociable too, playing cards or chess with his teammates or trainers before games -- and even making a rare appearance in the team photo.

Bonds and Sweeney appeared to be good friends, with Sweeney speaking to the slugger by phone recently this offseason.

"This year we had the best chemistry on the team. I felt like the team was clicking," Vizquel said. "It's sad a stupid instance like this might rupture something that was going pretty good. I don't think the players will turn on each other. We are a veteran team. We should know what [substance] is good and what is bad."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Baseball Hall Of Fame Call Arrives for Gwynn, Ripken- MLB.com



Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn are quintessential examples of how the game should be played both on and off the field. For their outstanding achievements they will both be inducted into Cooperstown this Summer.

First ballot players to be inducted into Hall of Fame on July 29
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. will be forever joined at the hip. They co-existed during the same era, playing their entire careers near their hometowns for a single Major League team, while dominating their respective leagues.

On Tuesday, they were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on their first tries, both having been selected with nearly the highest vote percentages in history -- Ripken finishing third behind Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, while Gwynn nestled in at seventh.

"To me, the numbers and the stats, they're overwhelming," said Ripken, the Baltimore Orioles star who grew up in nearby Aberdeen, Md., and received an all-time high 537 votes on the record 545 ballots cast. "I really didn't get caught up in wanting to be unanimous or wanting to have the most. I'm very content to be voted in."

Gwynn, who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and played 20 seasons down the freeway for the San Diego Padres, received 532 votes, the second most in history.

Gwynn, who won a record-tying eight National League batting titles, and Ripken, who shattered Lou Gehrig's record by playing in 2,632 consecutive games, will be inducted at Cooperstown on July 29. They will be joined by any candidates elected in the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee election, the results of which will be announced on Feb. 27.

Ripken garnered 98.53 percent of the vote from veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the most for a position player. Ripken finished behind Seaver (98.83 in 1992) and Ryan (98.79 in 1999). Gwynn's percentage of 97.6 ranks directly behind Ty Cobb, George Brett and Hank Aaron, pretty good company.

"These percentages started to concern me a bit," Gwynn said during a conference call. "I feel guilty enough as it is being able to get in, while other guys can't. I was hoping to be in the low 90s and I could go about my business. I didn't want to be close to unanimous. I'm glad it worked out the way it did."

Mark McGwire, also a ballot newcomer, fell well short of election, his name appearing on less than a quarter of the ballots cast, two of which were left completely blank.

Gwynn said McGwire is a Hall of Famer and is being made the scapegoat for what transpired during the years when many suspect that performance-enhancing drugs were used liberally throughout Major League Baseball.

"You all knew about it," said Gwynn, referring to the media. "The players knew it and the owners knew it. But nobody did anything about it."

Ripken was hardly as vociferous

"I don't think it's my place [to give an opinion]," Ripken said during his conference call. "I know that it exists and [the fact] that it's a story doesn't bother me one bit. But when I sit and look at myself, I don't think it's my place to cast judgment. I honestly believe the truth will be known. But right now we're dealing with an awful lot of assumptions and speculation and not a lot of facts."

It was a day of good news and bad news for Rich "Goose" Gossage, the reliever who is creeping ever so close to his day in the Cooperstown sun. The bad news is that this time, Gossage came up 21 votes shy of the 75 percent needed to ascend to the Hall. The good news is that with a much thinner ballot next year, Gossage seems to be on the cusp. In 2008, Tim Raines and David Justice are the cream of the freshman class.

On the ballot for the eighth year, the Goose came in at 71.2 percent, an increase from his 64.6 percent a year ago. In the history of the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting, no candidate has ever received at least 70 percent in an election without eventually gaining a place in Cooperstown. Most recently, Don Sutton (73.2 percent in 1997) and Gaylord Perry (72.1 percent) were elected the very next year.

McGwire received enough votes to carry him over until 2008, but his 23.5 percent (128 votes) was a resounding rejection from an electorate which suspected that the slugger, who finished his 16-year career with 583 homers, was part of Major League Baseball's so-called steroid era.

Of the 17 first-timers on the ballot, only McGwire and Harold Baines received enough votes to carry them over. Five years after he retires, a player has 15 years of eligibility on the ballot, but he must receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year to maintain that status.

In another obvious statement, Jose Canseco (who hit 462 homers) and the late Ken Caminiti (who was named the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player as a member of the Padres), both didn't receive the requisite vote to remain on the ballot. Both players publicly admitted the use of steroids during their playing days.

Canseco, a Bash Brother in Oakland with McGwire, received six votes. Caminiti, who died from a drug overdose in 2004, got two.

With the addition of Gwynn and Ripken to the Hall, 280 members have now been elected, including 198 former Major League players -- 105 of them by BBWAA, whose voters must have at least 10 years of consecutive membership to receive a ballot.

Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, who like Gossage, received more than 60 percent of the vote last year, both lost a little ground. Rice dropped from 64.8 percent last year to 63.5 percent this year, while Dawson slumped from 61 percent in 2006 to 56.7 percent this time around.

From the outset, though, Gwynn and Ripken were dead-bang winners.

Gwynn played for the 1984 and 1998 pennant-winning Padres and considers his home run at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series to be the highlight of his stellar career.

Gwynn tied Honus Wagner for the most NL batting titles in history, and his career-high .394 average during the strike-shortened 1994 season is the highest in the past 65 years -- since Ted Williams became the last of the .400 hitters when he batted .406 to lead the American League in 1941.

In addition, Gwynn was a 15-time NL All-Star who had 3,141 hits, batted .338 and won five Gold Gloves as a right fielder in his 20 Major League seasons, all played with the San Diego Padres.

But he hit only 135 homers and knocked in just 1,138 runs in 2,440 games, both stats he considered to be personal shortcomings. He also never played a complete 162-game season.

"I thought I was going to get penalized," Gwynn said. "I didn't win any championships. I didn't hit a whole lot of home runs. I didn't drive in a whole lot of people. To be one of those lucky ones to get in is a blessing."

In contrast, Ripken, a shortstop and third baseman, didn't miss a game from May 30, 1982, to Sept. 20, 1998, shattering the record consecutive game streak of 2,130 once held by Gehrig, the Yankees first baseman. Ripken had 3,184 hits -- including 431 home runs -- batted .276, was twice an AL Most Valuable Player (1983 and 1991), was a 19-time AL All-Star, and won two Gold Gloves.

His Orioles defeated the Phillies in five games to win the 1983 World Series, with Ripken at short, snaring the series-ending line drive to short hit by Garry Maddox. But Ripken's Baltimore squad never again played in the Fall Classic during the course of his 21-year career.

Certainly, he captivated the hearts of baseball fans everywhere on the night of Sept. 7, 1995, when the Iron Man slipped past the Iron Horse at Camden Yards. That night, after the game against the Angels became official in the fifth inning, Ripken circled the stadium slapping hands with many of the fans as a never-ending cacophony of cheers rained down on him.

"That was completely spontaneous," Ripken said about the lap. "It was Bobby [Bonilla] and Rafael Palmeiro who pushed me out of the dugout and said, 'Hey, if you don't do a lap around this thing, we're never going to get this game re-started.' As I started to do it, the celebration of 50,000 became very one-on-one and personal. Catching the last out of the World Series was the best feeling because there was a sense of fulfillment, completion and joy.

"But the best human experience of my life was that lap. At the end of it, I couldn't have cared less if that game got started again. This [Hall of Fame honor] is a wonderful moment and a wonderful feeling."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Available pitchers left on the market

By David
Kaye

As the baseball off season slowly comes to an end, many players are still looking for work.

The Colorado Rockies are always in the market for starting pitching, and if Brian Lawrence gets his wish he will be part of Colorado's starting rotation this Spring. The former San Diego Padre is patiently awaiting a decision by the Rockies. In three Major League seasons Lawrence has a record of 49 and 61 to go along with a 4.10 ERA.

It appears that right hander Jeff Weaver will not be signing with the Mets this off season. After being part of the St.Louis team that defeated the Mets in the NLCS, the 8 year veteran is ''highly unlikely'' to sign with the defending NL East champions.

Omar Minaya and the Mets will be forced to continue their path of finding another quality starter. With Pedro Martinez out until mid season, New York must go with a shaky starting five. Minaya has the money to shell out, but he is yet to find the right guy. I envision the Mets acquiring a proven starting pitcher via a trade. Unfortunately, the Mets are more than likely going to have to part ways with their top prospect Lastings Milledge.

After adding two starters to their pitching staff this Winter[Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton], the Philadelphia Phillies have a surplus of arms. The player that they would like to trade away is veteran Jon Lieber. At the age of 36, Lieber would be a fine addition to a team in need of a number four or five starter. Several clubs including the Rangers, Brewers, and Padres have called to ask about trading for the former second round pick out of South Alabama.

Lastly, the deal to send Randy Johnson back to the Diamondbacks was finalized yesterday. The 43 year old signed a two-year deal worth a comfortable $26 million. The Big Unit will make $4 million this season, $10 million in 2008, and the last $12 million is counted in as a signing bonus.

Consider the fact that Johnson is receiving the $12 million bonus after posting an ERA of 5 , and most recently having back surgery. What happened to the day when your salary was based on performance and not your track record?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Miami ballpark deal progressing- MLB.com


The possibility of the Marlins staying in Miami is becoming more of a reality. Despite low attendance numbers year after year, the Fish continue to bring a winning attitude to South Florida.

DuPuy says finishing details is 'highest priority'
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Major League Baseball is closing in on finalizing a new ballpark deal in downtown Miami that would keep the Marlins in South Florida for a generation, the sport's No. 2 official said on Saturday night, just prior to the annual dinner held by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation at a local hotel.

The ballpark, replete with a retractable roof, would be located in a redevelopment district just miles inland from the American Airlines Arena, which is located on the banks of Biscayne Bay.

"Our highest priority this winter is to get a ballpark deal done in Miami," Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's president and chief operating officer, told MLB.com. "We've had tremendous cooperation from the county manager and the mayor. There have been several meetings and we are really optimistic we can get this done. There's a will to get this done. It's necessary for the Marlins. We're committed to baseball remaining in South Florida."

The ballpark is projected to be funded in a 60-40 percent public-private partnership between the city of Miami-Dade County and the Marlins, DuPuy said, with the public funding coming from hotel-motel, facility and redevelopment district taxes. A sales or income tax that would directly affect Miami-Dade County citizens is not contemplated nor is state money at the moment.

The deal wouldn't have to go to a public vote, but it would have to be approved by the Miami City Council and the Miami-Dade County Board of Supervisors, added DuPuy, who has become the point man for MLB and the Marlins on the project.

In South Florida, after a deal in Miami to build the facility on land near the Orange Bowl fell through several years ago when a $30 million gap in the project's cost couldn't be closed, the Marlins were allowed to explore moving the franchise to another state. But a possible shift to San Antonio was essentially nixed by MLB, which has decided to keep the team where it is.

A ballpark proposal from nearby Hialeah seems to have stimulated resolve in Miami for building the stadium there.

Asked if a deal was imminent, DuPuy stopped short of that assessment.

"Imminent is a difficult word," he said. "Everyone is working very hard and I do believe everyone is committed to getting it done. So I would hope that this winter we could finally bring it to resolution."

Since 2002, MLB's stadium efforts have been bifurcated, to say the least, between Montreal/Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Oakland and Florida. But each of the first three situations now seemed to be resolved.

Since the Marlins expanded into the National League in 1993, they have played in what is now called Dolphin Stadium, an open-air football facility that is home to the NFL's Miami Dolphins. The baseball team has a lease to play there through 2010, but has been told it must find a new venue by 2011.

The Marlins have won the World Series twice in their short existence (1997 and 2003), but three separate ownership groups have found it nearly impossible over the past decade to fund and build a new ballpark in South Florida, until now.

Jeffery Loria and his group of minority partners purchased the Marlins on Feb. 15, 2002. Loria had previously owned the Expos, but he and president David Samson failed to get a new stadium in Montreal to save that franchise for Quebec. At the same time, MLB purchased the Expos from Loria, John Henry, the previous Marlins owner, became part of a group that bought the Red Sox.

Despite defeating the Yankees to win the 2003 World Series, Samson claimed that the Marlins were losing in excess of $30 million a year. After the Miami stadium deal collapsed in 2005, Loria ordered the player payroll cut, and it was reduced to $15 million this past season.

Though the Marlins were surprisingly competitive, they drew a National League low 1,165,120 at home, well below the league average of 2,598,741. They attracted a high of 3,064,847 during their inaugural 1993 season, but since then have only exceeded 2 million once -- in 1997.

The current stadium is located north of downtown Miami not far from Fort Lauderdale. DuPuy said the Marlins need a ballpark that has a retractable roof, giving fans certainty that games will be played during summer months in South Florida when the heat and humidity is a constant and showers are always expected.

"It's a vertical audience in South Florida," DuPuy said. "In order to draw fans down to Miami from (Broward County) they need to know that the game is going to start on time and be over in two to three hours. That's the opinion of MLB and that's the opinion of the Marlins. A retractable roof is essential in making this situation work."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

News around Major League Baseball

By David
Kaye

Apparently, Astros management read my December 27th article on the availability of second basemen Mark Loretta and signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. His deal could end up being worth $3.5 million if the veteran meets incentives.

Houston is acquiring a versatile and proven player who will make a nice impact both with the bat and glove. Loretta understands that he's been brought in as a utility player, but as he said ''I feel comfortable with the organization.''

Loretta's former team the Boston Red Sox signed 28 year old pitcher Joel Pineiro to a one-year deal. The right-hander has spent all of his seven Major League seasons with the Seattle Mariners, but over the past several seasons he has struggled to get the job done.

Over the past three seasons Pineiro's ERA has been 4.67, 5.62 and 6.36. During the same span he compiled only 21 wins. Conversely, he won a total of 30 games and had a 3.51 ERA during the 2002 and 2003 seasons combined. The Red Sox's are hoping that he will become their closer for the upcoming season. Pineiro has even come out and said ''That starting thing, that's in the past.'' If Boston is to return to the playoffs they will need Joel to be lights out in the bullpen.

The Yankees inked veteran first basemen Doug Mientkiewicz to a one-year, $ 1.5 million contract. The former Gold Glove Award winner with the Twins will primarily be used as a defensive specialists at first. Mientkiewicz comes to the Bronx with postseason experience as he won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004.

Big Unit is headed back to Arizona

By David
Kaye

The two year marriage between Randy Johnson and the New York Yankees officially ended on Thursday as New York traded the future Hall of Famer to the Diamondbacks. Johnson failed in his attempt to bring a 27th World Championship to the Bronx, and after a less than impressive 2006 campaign where he battled injury and saw his ERA balloon to five , it was time for the eight time All Star to change teams.

Johnson will have the opportunity to pitch closer to home and most importantly, he will be joining the team that he enjoyed the most success with during his illustrious Major League career. During his six years in the desert he compiled a 103 and 49 record to go along with a 2.80 ERA. He won the NL Cy Young award four years in a row[1999-2002] and he helped the D-backs win their first World Championship in 2001. He did so well against the Yankees that he was awarded Co-MVP of the World Series along with former teammate Curt Schilling.

For New York, they acquired Minor League shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, Minor League pitchers Steven Jackson and Ross Ohlendorf, and 8 year veteran reliever Luis Vizcaino. This deal makes perfect sense for the Bronx Bombers because the Big Unit is near the tail end of his career, his enormous salary will not be their full responsibility, and most importantly they continue to add young pitching prospects.

The trading away of veterans Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson have yielded the Yankees five pitching prospects. Through the recent deals Brian Cashman is displaying that the way to win is by having young talent on your team.

He realized that spending ridiculous amounts of money over the past six seasons has only generated New York AL East crowns and not that coveted World Series ring. With the return of the beloved Andy Pettitte and the recent moves to acquire quality pitching prospects, the Yankees are telling the baseball world that they are improving for the long run.

In years to come it will be a crazy site to see the Yankees as a team who still has the money to spend, and at the same time has impressive young players in the Minors who are ready to make a major impact on the Major League level. I don't know about you, but does this remind you of the time period in the early 90's when the Yankees were bringing up players such as Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera from the Minor Leagues? All they went onto to do was bring New York fans six World Series appearances and four World Series wins.

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