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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Major League Baseball 2007 Season Predictions, Part 3

By David

Last year Freddy Sanchez emerged onto the stage and posted a .344 average in the NL. Likewise, Twins catcher Joe Mauer flirted with .400 for many months and eventually finished with a .347 batting average. Lurking in his rear view mirror was Yankees' captain Derek Jeter who has the chance to take home the award this season.

This season I don't envision many surprise players contending for the batting title, but one player who stands out to me is Blue Jays right fielder Alex Rios. After having his season cut short to a leg infection last year, he is primed to have a breakout year. At 26, Rios has the ability to hit 30 home runs, steal 20 bases and hit for a high average. While I wouldn't be shocked if he won the batting title I still think that it will be Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki who takes home the hardware.

The NL is a lot more convoluted as you have young power hitters like Miguel Cabrera, Garrett Atkins and Matt Holiday, and more established sluggers like Albert Pujols and Derrek Lee. If healthy, Lee can repeat is 2005 dominance and take home the batting title. Still, I like Miguel Cabrera of the Florida Marlins to win the batting title and improve on his .339 average from a year ago.

Comeback player of the year is an interesting subject to discuss because you never know what players are guaranteed to have bounce back season's and what players will re-injure themselves. In the AL, A's pitcher Rich Harden and Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta are the front runners for the award. I like both players to have solid seasons. but it will be Oakland's Rich Harden winning comeback player of the year.

In the NL, the race for comeback player of the year should come down to the Cubs' Derrek Lee and the Rockies' Todd Helton. Both first baseman need to have productive season's in order for their teams to be competitive. While Helton might be nearing the end of his career, he can still hit for average and has the chance to belt 20-25 home runs.

Derrek Lee's season was cut short last year to due a broken wrist, but if he can continue on his 05' success he has the possibility to be one of the premier sluggers in the NL. A .330 average with 40 home runs and 120 RBI's is not out of reach for him. With that said, I expect Lee to be this year's NL comeback player of the year.

In my next column, I will reveal who will be this year's breakout hitters and pitchers in each league.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Major League Baseball 2007 Season Predictions, Part 2

By David

It's the week before the season starts and I'm nervously counting down the hours until Chris Carpenter throws out the first pitch of the year against the NL East champion New York Mets.

At the same time, there are many youngsters on every roster who can't wait to play in their first major league game. After six weeks of spring training it's time for the real thing to begin and this means watching Alex Gordon and countless other rookies break in to the majors for the first time. It is also a difficult time for me to predict who will be the top rookie in each league, if Daisuke Matsuzaka can live up to the grand expectations he has received and if their is that one surprise player who comes up mid season and tears up every pitching staff.

While Alex Gordon and Delmon Young might dazzle the baseball world and prove that they are the future stars of baseball, there is something special about Matsuzaka that will make him a star pitcher on the major league level. For that reason I believe he'll be the Al Rookie of the Year. He will quickly become the ace of the Red Sox's staff and by his outings in spring training he appears to throw some deadly pitches.

In the NL, there is not a celebrity list of rookies, but rather hard working players who'll leave their stamp on National League pitchers. Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff will be good with the Padres, but my selection for NL Rookie of the Year is the Diamondbacks center fielder Chris B.Young. Young is a five tool player in the making who has both power and speed. It will not be long until the baseball community hears the name Chris B.Young and the names of many of his young teammates who are quietly making the D-backs into a real contender in the NL West.

It's very difficult to decide who the home run leaders will be because any year a certain player can have a breakout season. In the NL, Ryan Howard seems like the consensus pick to me because he plays in an extremely favorable hitters park and possesses fantastic power to all parts of the field. Even though Albert Pujols is a power hitter I seem him hitting more extra base hits than long balls.

Still, there is something telling me that Andruw Jones is ready for another 50 home run season and being that it's his contract year he wants to look impressive to potential buyers. A pair of Rockies sluggers, Matt Holiday and Garrett Atkins, are primed for career season's, but they are more in the range of 30-40 dingers. So is Miguel Cabrera, Derrek Lee and Lance Berkman.

In the AL, the home run race will come down to Alex Rodriguez, Travis Hafner and David Ortiz. All three players are the offensive leaders of their teams and can easily belt 45-50 homers. My choice for home run leader is Alex Rodriguez because I feel that he will finally silence the critics and produce a monster season.

Dark horse choices to belt the most dingers are Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Jim Thome. If Thome can remain healthy he can have a 40 plus season and A's slugger Nick Swisher is quickly turning into an elite hitter. Year in and year out Teixeira remains a triple crown threat and is definitely capable of hitting 45-50 home runs.

In my next column, I will reveal who the batting champions and comeback players of the year will be in each league.

Angels give Shields $14.6 million, 3-year extension- yahoo!sports.com

While Scot Shields may be an elite reliever, I believe that the Angels' overpaid to keep him in uniform through the 2010 season.
Even though he is the set up man on one of the best relief staffs in baseball, he does not deserve to make $14.6 million over three seasons. Only time will tell if general manager Bill Stoneman made the right decision.

March 29, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles Angels reliever Scot Shields agreed Thursday to a $14.6 million, three-year contract extension through 2010.

Shields, the Angels' setup man, had agreed last month to a $3.4 million, one-year contract. The new deal adds salaries of $4.25 million in 2008, $5 million in 2009 and $5.35 million in 2010.

The 31-year-old right-hander was 7-7 last season with two saves and a 2.87 ERA in 74 games, the fourth-most appearances in the AL. It was the second-highest games total in franchise history behind his 78 in 2005.

Shields pitched 87 2-3 innings last year, and his 284 2-3 innings over the past three seasons are the most among major league relievers.

"Scot has been crucial to the success of our bullpen," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said in a statement. "He is one of the most reliable and resilient relievers in the game and we are thrilled to keep him in an Angel uniform for a while."

Shields goes into the season with 31 career relief wins, three shy of tying the Angels record held by Dave LaRoche.

Overall, Shields is 35-29 with 14 saves in 293 games, including 14 starts.

He becomes the third Angels player under contract through at least 2010. Reliever Justin Speier also is signed through 2010, and center fielder Gary Matthews Jr.'s five-year deal runs through 2011.

The club also announced Thursday that Troy Percival, the Angels' career saves leader, will sign a minor league contract before Monday's season opener against Texas and immediately retire -- as a member of the Angels. Percival then will throw out the honorary first pitch.

Currently a special assignment pitching instructor for the Angels, Percival was with them from 1995-2004, then with Detroit from 2005-2006.

Updated on Thursday, Mar 29, 2007 6:32 pm EDT

Major League Baseball 2007 Season Predictions, Part 1

By David

After reading the predictions by Yahoo! Sports columnist's Jeff Passon, Mark Pesavento and Tim Brown, I agree with them on many predictions and also disagree with some of their selections.

There were a plethora of predictions made by all three men, ranging from who the MVP's will be to who the first general manager to be fired will be. So in an effort not to bore everyone , I will divide each column into different parts.

Al MVP is very difficult to choose. There are many great power sluggers and other hitters who make tremendous impacts on their team. I will count out Travis Hafner, reigning MVP Justin Morneau and David Ortiz. The runner up to Morneau in last year's balloting, Derek Jeter, will once again lead the Yankees to the playoffs, but I don't feel that it's his year to take home the hardware. My choice for Al MVP is Gary Sheffield. It might seem like an unlikely pick, but he will be the leader of the Tigers team and with an excellent offense he can guide his new team to another World Series appearance.

The choice for NL MVP is a lot simpler than the American League, but there are still many players who make a significant impact on their club. While Ryan Howard can win the award, he has too many great players on his team[most notably Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins], who will both overshadow his success. While Lance Berkman is a monster with the bat, his team will not post an impressive record. Likewise, the Cubs will not be so improved that either Derrek Lee or Alfonso Soriano can make an argument for the award.

So, my choice for NL MVP is Albert Pujols. He is lethal with the bat and is unquestionably the most valuable player on his team. Without Albert the Cards would not be competitive and would not have won the World Series last year. My only concern is that recently the award seems to be going to the player who had the most outstanding season, not the player who had an outstanding season and was extremely valuable to his teams success.

The race for CY Young in both leagues will be very competitive, but in the end there are a select number of pitchers who quickly stand out from the rest. For example, Johan Santana is a beast on the mound and is by far the best pitcher in baseball. While I think his team could struggle this season he will still be the AL Cy Young award winner. Roy Halladay, John Lackey, C.C Sabathia and Jeremy Bonderman are all amazing pitchers, but they take a step back to the talent level of Santana.

In the NL, Brandon Webb is very capable of being a repeat winner of the award. He not only has a better team than he did last year, but he has Randy Johnson to help him out on a daily basis. With that said, I believe Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter will be taking home this year's award. After seeing him pitch in Spring Training the 2005 winner is on top of his game and will be counted on heavily this season to lead an inexperienced pitching staff.

I fully expect Jake Peavy to have a bounce back season and once again be regarded as an elite pitcher. It would also not surprise me if Houston's Roy Oswalt was the Cy Young winner and if the Cubs Carlos Zambrano straightens out his control issues he could be adding another award to his resume before he enters the free agency period.

In my next column, I will reveal who this season's Rookie of the Year's and home run leaders will be in each league.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Baseball charts new course on seating- latimes.com

A major fact that stands out to me in this article is that 40% of baseball tickets go unsold every season. That number seems staggering considering that each year fans' continue to shatter the attendance records.

Simple, 'one size fits all' ticket pricing has become a thing of the past as teams use the Internet and other avenues with an eye on increasing revenue. The Dodgers now sell 24 categories of seats

By Bill Shaikin, Times Staff Writer
March 27, 2007

It used to be so simple. Walk up to the ticket window at the ballpark, buy a box seat.

Ask for a box seat these days, and you get more options than voice mail. As seating charts evolve into color-coded mazes and teams charge an assortment of prices for the same seat, some box seats are more equal than others.

The Dodgers sell 24 categories of seats, 11 with "box" in the name, with box prices ranging from $20 to $100 a ticket.

"It is a bit confusing," said Joe Sciuto, a Dodgers fan and the principal at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks. "The box seats used to be the field level. Now you've got seats in the second deck being called box seats."

And you might pay more for your seat than the fan seated next to you. The Dodgers sell tickets in the field box section for $20, $30, $35, $37, $40 and $45, depending on whether you buy on game day, before game day or as part of a full-season, partial-season or group ticket package.

What's the ticket price? The Dodgers offer you 104 answers in all.

From Dodger Stadium to Angel Stadium and all across the major leagues, teams have scrapped traditional pricing structures and borrowed from airlines, hotels, theaters and college sports, dividing the ballpark into an ever-increasing number of sections and charging more, much more or a lot more for the seats in greatest demand.

"It's not all about making it easier for the consumer," said Dennis Howard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "It's largely revenue-driven.

"If they can slice and dice their inventory and they can create rational price differentiation, you'll pay more. Teams are trying to create compelling reasons to justify charging more for tickets and driving the revenue engine."

In 1987, the Angels sold tickets for $8, $7, $5 and $3 and the Dodgers for $7, $6 and $4, with every seat on the same level at the same price.

"Whether you sat behind the backstop or you sat beyond the bases, it was one size fits all," said Robert Alvarado, the Angels' director of marketing and ticket sales. "There has been more pressure to increase revenues in creative ways."

It is no longer enough to charge more for a seat behind home plate than for one next to the foul pole. The latest round of slicing and dicing comes into full view this week, as baseball returns to Southern California with the annual Freeway Series exhibition games, at Dodger Stadium on Thursday and Friday and at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

In 2007, the Angels sell 23 categories of seats, with premium areas divided so finely that the first row sells for one price, the second row for another and the seventh row for yet another.

And, two decades after selling tickets for three prices, the Dodgers sell tickets for 83 prices, depending not only on where you sit but on when you buy your seat and whether you buy it for one game, some games or every game. If you want to take your group to the ballpark, the Dodgers offer another 21 prices, charging more for better seats and more popular games.

"You almost feel like someone is going to open up their jacket pocket and say, 'I've got a price for you,' " said Rich Sperber, a Dodgers fan and a vice president at an Anaheim home design company.

That's exactly right, teams say, so long as you substitute an authorized ticket seller for a shady-looking guy on the corner.

The best seats in the house seldom turn over, no matter how steep the annual price increase.
With the unintended help of such websites as StubHub and EBay, teams have learned that the market will support prices for premium seats that previously might have been considered unimaginably high.

"It's like real estate," Alvarado said. "They're in the high-rent district."

By dividing seats into so many categories, teams can define the ones in highest demand and attach stiff price hikes. But teams also can define the seats that do not sell so well and offer discounts or package deals to fans.

"If they're looking for value, I've got value," Alvarado said. "If they're looking for seat locations, I've got seat locations."

Said Marty Greenspun, the Dodgers' chief operating officer: "We're trying to offer multiple options for our fans."

No longer do you have to decide between buying the whole season or one game at a time. The Angels, for instance, sell a 27-game package in which you pick the games you want to see and a nine-game package with a more limited selection. The Dodgers sell packages for as few as four games and as many as 62.

Although the Angels and Dodgers each sold a record number of tickets last season, Howard said 40% of major league tickets go unsold every year.

Every unsold ticket also represents a lost opportunity to sell hot dogs, peanuts, beer and T-shirts.

By dividing the seating area into so many categories and analyzing demand for each one, teams can adjust prices to drive ticket sales.

The Chicago White Sox sell some seats at half-price on Mondays but slap a $4 surcharge on tickets for some summer weekends and a $14 surcharge when the Cubs come to play. The St. Louis Cardinals add $5, $10 or $20 to the ticket price on opening day, on Saturdays and for games against the Cubs.

The Colorado Rockies feature a $4 general-admission ticket, but the best seats jump from $47 to $75 when the New York Yankees visit Coors Field. The San Francisco Giants charge a base price Monday through Thursday, with increases ranging $4 to $9 on weekends and holidays and $10 to $20 for opening day and games against the Dodgers, Yankees and Oakland Athletics — except for a Dodgers series in chilly April.
And, thanks to the power of the Internet, teams can adjust prices even after the season starts, in much the same way airlines discount unsold seats at the last minute.

When the Dodgers realized they had a few too many seats left for midweek games against the Pittsburgh Pirates last September, they sent a half-price offer to fans who had registered their e-mail address with the team.

"It gives us much more flexibility to make unique offers, one-time offers, time-sensitive offers," Greenspun said.

With the Internet, he said, fans need not be confused or overwhelmed by so many choices at the ticket window. By clicking onto the Dodgers or Angels website, fans can study the numerous seating categories at their leisure, check the view from any section in the ballpark and print tickets at home.

The Angels sold almost half of their single-game tickets online last season, Alvarado said. The Dodgers sold one in three online, Greenspun said.

To further use the Internet to their money-making advantage, Alvarado said, league executives have encouraged teams to conduct online auctions for some premium seats.

For the Angels and Dodgers, that appears to be a pricing line they do not intend to cross any time soon. Greenspun said the Dodgers had "no plans to go that way in the near future," and Alvarado said the Angels would not disregard a listed price and open seats for bidding."

I feel it's the wrong message," he said. "It looks like we're just trying to get as much revenue as we can get. You're not sitting there trying to do a bait and switch on people."


Senate holds hearing on TV deal- MLB.com

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With four days remaining in Major League Baseball's negotiating window, a U.S. Senate committee put increased pressure on the sport on Tuesday to find a way to offer its Extra Innings package to a broader audience served by cable providers.

If not, DirecTV, a satellite-only provider, will have exclusive rights to the package for seven years and a 20-percent stake in the Baseball Channel, which will be offered on its basic tier beginning in 2009. DirecTV has agreed to pay $700 million for that exclusivity.

Acceding to a request by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chaired the session of the Senate Commerce Committee, Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, agreed to set up a meeting with the cable providers -- iN DEMAND and EchoStar Satellite LLC -- before the agreement with DirecTV finalizes in time for Sunday night's season opener between the Mets and Cardinals in St. Louis.

"It's possible to get the best of both worlds here if there's a good-faith effort," Kerry said near the close of the two-hour hearing.

DuPuy, seated next to the heads of the cable providers and DirecTV at the witness table, nodded in agreement.

"We're willing to meet with them," DuPuy said.

In an interview after the session, DuPuy was clear that he didn't expect the negotiations to go beyond four days and into "extra innings."

"We can't," he said. "We have a contract."

Earlier in the proceedings, DuPuy told a thin panel of senators that baseball is well within its rights to sign an exclusive deal with DirecTV.

"There's nothing sinister, illegal, wrongful or frankly unusual about that form of business negotiation or results," DuPuy said. "This is not a matter of fans being unable to view MLB's out-of-market games. It's a matter of not being able to watch those games on a particular system."

The committee is the same one that began investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional and scholastic sports five years ago before baseball had a collectively bargained drug policy at the Major League level.

There was far more interest in that topic. Of the 23 senators who are members of the committee, only two were in attendance as the hearing began at about 10 a.m. ET: Kerry and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the vice chairman. Five other Senators joined in at one point or another, including four committee members. But near the end, only Kerry, the 2006 Democratic presidential nominee, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) were left sitting at the horseshoe-shaped front table. Neither could correctly pronounce DuPuy's name.

Facing them at a rectangular table were DuPuy; Chase Carey, the chief executive of DirecTV; Rob Jacobson, the president of iN DEMAND; Carl Vogel, the president of EchoStar, and Stephen Ross, a professor at The Dickson School of Law.

Kerry has voiced the most vociferous opposition to MLB's deal with DirecTV and repeated his argument throughout the morning. He said that because MLB continues to enjoy an anti-trust exemption and that taxpayers have spent $3.7 billion on new ballparks in the past decade, baseball should be more responsive to its fan base.

"We're not here because anybody asked to intervene in a contract," Kerry said. "We're here because our constituents -- the people we represent -- leaped up at us. The economics of the deal has to be balanced by the broader public interest and have something truly seamless. I also believe that that's in the best interest of MLB, ultimately."

When MLB announced the seven-year deal on Feb. 28, DuPuy said that the cable providers had until the opening of the regular season to match DirecTV's offer "at consistent rates and carriage requirements." EchoStar and iN DEMAND had been providers of the Extra Innings package in the past.

The sides haven't met face-to-face since March 9, and neither provider has made an offer acceptable to MLB, which rejected a proposal from iN DEMAND last week.

Under questioning, DuPuy said that the Baseball Channel -- "which has been considered for 10 years," he said -- was the crux of the issue. Neither iN DEMAND nor EchoStar have been willing to match DirecTV's commitment to offer the channel to all of its 16 million subscribers by placing it on a basic tier.

In addition, neither cable provider has been willing to pay an across-the-board fee for the Extra Innings package, preferring to pay on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis only. In its exclusive deal, DirecTV is paying a flat fee regardless of how many of its customers subscribe to the Extra Innings package.

Kerry asked DuPuy if there was a chance of negotiating into next week, "three weeks if you can negotiate a fair deal," the Senator said.

"We've been trying to do that for nine months," DuPuy said. "That's why we've continued to leave the door open."

The committee hinted that Congress might have to step in and regulate the deal. MLB has enjoyed an exemption from the anti-trust laws governing interstate commerce since a Supreme Court decision in 1921 and Congress has often threatened to repeal it even though the high court has not.

"When folks around the country realize they can't watch games on television, there's going to be a tremendous reaction," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who's not a member of the committee but spoke at the hearing. "And when those fans react, Congress may react. And if Congress reacts you may be well-advised to act expediently."

Afterward, DuPuy said that MLB had been treated well by the panel.

"I think it was a fair and open discussion of our desire to launch a Baseball Channel and our desire to make as much product available to as many fans as possible," he said. "It was well received."

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.

Spring Training 2007 - Hooters Girls and Drunk Fan

Well, right on cue, this fan probably in search of Arizona Diamondbacks Tickets decides to show these Hooters Girls and us just how snockered he really is! Here comes baseball!

Spring Training 2007 - Beer, Fan, Hooters Girls

I guess this is what it's all about -- Hooters Girls, Beer, and one rather snockered fan. Here comes baseball.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Marlins, D-backs Swap Pitchers

By David

With a week remaining until opening day the Florida Marlins have finally found who their closer will be. He is 28-year old flame thrower Jorge Julio who was acquired by the Fish this afternoon from Arizona. In return, the Diamondbacks receive 22-year old right hander Yusmeiro Petit.

While Julio has not enjoyed great success in the majors [13-28, 4.20 ERA in six seasons], he does come to South Florida with some upside. The right-hander saved 15 games last season and posted a career-best 3.83 ERA in 44 games for the D-backs.

Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest confirmed the trade by saying Julio ''is our closer.'' Beinfest went on to say that ''we love the arm, we have for a for years.'' While Julio might have a great arm he is also very erratic at times and can quickly lose control of the game. Trust me I saw him pitch with the Mets and in the 21.1 innings he pitched for the Amazinzs he posted a 5.06 ERA. After pitching for the first five years in Baltimore Julio will now be on his third team in the last two seasons.

Luckily, Julio will be a major upgrade over the likes of Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens and Randy Messenger. I was at Marlins camp last month and it seemed that the leading candidate to take over the closers role would be Taylor Tankersley. The young lefty looked impressive, but the fish envision him as the set up man, not the closer.

Over the past three seasons Florida has been very fortunate in finding the perfect late inning relief. Veterans Armando Benitez, Todd Jones and Joe Borowski all pitched great baseball in their one-year stints in South Florida. Each man recorded at least 36 saves and Benitez saved a team-record 47 back in 04'.

While Julio will not attain the success these men had, he will be a quality reliever down the stretch for the Marlins. Only time will tell if he can contend with the high octane bats the NL East has to offer.

Friday, March 23, 2007

St.Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa Arrested on DUI Charges

By David

Cards manager Tony La Russa was arrested Thursday morning after he was found to have a bac of .093. The legal limit in Florida is .08. The reigning World Series Champion manager was stopped in the middle of the road at midnight in his blue ford explorer. The 62-year old La Russa posted $500 bail and was then permitted to leave.

This is very uncharacteristic of La Russa who has gained the reputation of being an outstanding citizen and manager during his countless decades in baseball.

This story was extremely saddening to me because just last month I was at Cardinals spring training in Jupiter and had the opportunity on three separate days to meet Tony. I perceived him as being a mild mannered man who was kind to the fans and went out of his way to sign autographs even when he didn't have to.

Initially after discovering the news I was shocked to see that La Russa would be involved in legal matters where he was on the wrong side of the law. The Cards manager did release a statement where he said ''It was an embarrassment, so I apologize to anyone that's close to me, members of the Cardinals organization, our fans. I regret it. I take responsibility, and I'm not sure there's anything else I can say.''

The words ''I take responsibility'' and ''I apologize'' were enough for me to hear and I expected that a man who has such a strong character would admit to his wrong doings. Unlike many players, he did not avoid the media because he knew his actions were wrong and he was even ''cooperative throughout the investigation.''

I hope that I never have to associate the words arrested with the Cardinals skipper because he is too much of a good person. Maybe yesterday served as a reality check in that even the best of people can experience road blocks in their lives and maybe La Russa will come out as a better person from this experience.

I hope that for the upcoming season fans don't think of Tony La Russa as the manager who was arrested for DUI, but rather as one of the best managers baseball has ever seen and a person who will one day be inducted into Cooperstown.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Shapiro agrees to 5-year extension with Indians- AP

Mark Shapiro has been the architect behind the reconstruction of the Indians. Cleveland is a young and very talented team that will be immenseley improved from last season. I expect the Tribe to compete for the Al Central crown.

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
March 15, 2007

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- General manager Mark Shapiro agreed Thursday to a five-year contract extension through the 2012 season with the Cleveland Indians, a team he has dismantled and rebuilt into a playoff contender.

Shapiro was only signed through this season -- his sixth as Cleveland's GM -- before working out a new deal with president Paul Dolan.

"We are extremely pleased with the leadership, direction, passion and pride Mark has instilled in the Cleveland Indians organization," Dolan said in a statement. "It's crucial for Mark to remain in this executive role to ensure the continued success of the Cleveland Indians franchise."

Shapiro's duties will remain the same. There had been speculation that his role with the club might expand.

Shapiro, who finalized the contract during spring training, had signed a two-year extension in 2004.

The 39-year-old Shapiro -- he'll turn 40 on April 3 -- has been the driving force behind the Indians' resurgence in the AL.

In 2002, with the Indians unable to contend and rebuild simultaneously, Shapiro traded top pitcher Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher Cliff Lee and infielder Brandon Phillips.

The deal signaled the beginning of Shapiro's massive reconstruction of the Indians, who had been one baseball's top franchises since 1995, winning six AL Central titles and two pennants under GM John Hart.

After winning only 68 games in 2003, the Indians jumped to 80 wins in 2004. The following season Cleveland went 93-69 but missed the playoffs when they collapsed in the season's final week. However, Shapiro was named baseball's top executive by the Sporting News.

The Indians were expected to contend last season, but a poor start coupled with baseball's worst bullpen resulted in a 78-84 record and fourth-place finish in their division.

This winter, Shapiro put off working on his own contract to rebuild Cleveland's bullpen and add championship-caliber players to compliment a roster of young stars like Sizemore, Travis Hafner and C.C. Sabathia.

Shapiro joined the Indians in 1992 as an assistant in baseball operations.

Updated on Thursday, Mar 15, 2007 12:58 pm EDT

Rose: 'I bet on my team every night'- AP

This case is just another blunder to add to the tarnished career of Pete Rose.

March 14, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pete Rose bet on the Cincinnati Reds "every night" when he managed them and, despite his lifetime ban because of gambling, would like another chance in a major league dugout.

"I bet on my team every night. I didn't bet on my team four nights a week," Rose said Wednesday on "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio.

"I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team," he said. "I did everything in my power every night to win that game."

In a wide-ranging interview, the banned Rose said he thinks he should be reinstated because "I believe I'm the best ambassador baseball has." He hopes a new exhibit in Cincinnati is a sign baseball will soften its stance toward him.

If reinstated, the 65-year-old Rose said he would like to again manage in the majors.

The career hits leader also said he supported Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, who fell far short in his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot.

"Don't penalize McGwire because you think other guys are taking steroids," Rose said.

Rose finished his career in 1986 with 4,256 lifetime hits. He was managing the Reds in 1989 when he agreed to a lifetime ban after an investigation of his gambling.

The new Rose exhibit at Great American Ball Park includes more than 300 items and will be up for nearly a year. Major League Baseball had to give permission for the display.

"When you're in my position, you're happy with anything," Rose said.

Rose, however, said he would not be thrilled if a future reinstatement did not also include him becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame. Making it into Cooperstown, he added, was no longer on his mind.

"I quit worrying about it," he said.

Updated on Wednesday, Mar 14, 2007 6:56 pm EDT

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Great Photo Of Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park

Comerica Park, originally uploaded by SOUTHEN.

This is a photo that's more a painting than a clip. The photographer explains:

"This photo is a shot of Comerica Park while the Tigers were taking on the Yankees. It was taken from the roof of the nearby David Whitney Building during an exploration.

"I really like this because when you combine the HDR with a view that nobody ever gets to see, you get a very cool shot. A few people have already inquired about purchasing this photo so Im thinking about tapping into the Detroit sports market and selling some prints.

"Oh and if you're wondering the outcome of the game, the Tigers rallied to force extra innings only for Todd Jones to blow it by giving up a few in the 11th.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Honus Wagner card sells for $2.35 million- LATIMES.com

Every person in the world wishes they were Brian Seigel right now. He has made one of the best transactions of 2007

Unnamed Orange County businessman pays record amount for 1909 card

By Bob Pool, Times Staff Writer
February 28, 2007

Call it the first home run of 2007.

Brian Seigel knocked one out of the park Tuesday by selling the world's most famous baseball card for a record $2.35 million — nearly doubling the price he paid for it six years ago.

The sale of the 1909 Honus Wagner card to an unnamed Orange County businessman was revealed in a ceremony at Dodger Stadium. Its buyer, however, remained a mystery.

Seigel didn't even have to make a pitch to sell the mint-condition slice of baseball history.

"The guy just called me out of the blue and offered to buy it," said Seigel, who heads an asset management company and lives in Las Vegas. "I wasn't planning on selling it."

He described the buyer as a businessman who lived six miles from him when Seigel lived in Tustin.

He speculated that the buyer requested anonymity because he doesn't want his business clients to know that he spent more than $2 million for a 98-year-old piece of cardboard that measures 1 1/8 inches by 2 5/8 inches.

The card — once owned by Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, the former Kings owner, and later by Wal-Mart — is encased in Lucite and mounted in a leather-covered book-like box. It depicts the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop sitting stiffly in front of a bright orange background.

The card was displayed for reporters at the Stadium Club. As an armed guard watched from a few steps away, executives of a sports memorabilia auction company who acquired a small share of the card from the new owner told of hopes to display it at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

"It's long been recognized as the most iconic and highly coveted object in the field of sports memorabilia," said Dan Imler, managing director of SPC Auctions Inc. of Mission Viejo. The card has changed hands four times in the last 10 years, doubling in value on three of those occasions, he said.

It is one of about 50 known Honus Wagner cards and is in the most pristine condition of any of them, Imler said.

SPC President David Kohler, who described it as "the Mona Lisa of baseball cards," said it has a colorful history — including its brief ownership by Wal-Mart.

The huge retailer acquired it to give away in a promotional drawing in the mid-1990s as part of a marketing campaign for a line of baseball cards it was selling. The winner, a Florida postal worker, could not afford to pay the taxes on it, however, and ended up selling it at auction in the mid-1990s for $640,000, Kohler said.

It was acquired by collector Michael Gidwitz, described by Seigel as a Chicago businessman.

Seigel acquired it at auction in mid-2000, paying $1,265,000, he said.Seigel mostly kept it in a vault at a Santa Ana sports memorabilia grading company, Professional Sports Authenticator. But it was frequently shown in public, such as at a 2003 cancer fund-raiser at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, and at collector shows.

A 1983 graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Seigel twice took the card to baseball games there.

"It was Little League day and kids and others filed through to look at it for all nine innings," said Seigel, 46. "They were blown away. I took it to a number of elementary schools, along with Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle cards. I did a slide show about baseball card collecting.

"Its previous owner never displayed it. It was just kept locked up. I wanted it to be seen and appreciated. I wanted to get fun from the card."

The auction company's Imler said the high value of the Honus Wagner card comes from its limited production between 1909 and 1911. The cards were inserted in packs of cigarettes — in this case the long-defunct American Tobacco Co.'s Piedmont brand.

But Wagner objected to his picture being used to promote tobacco and ordered it removed from Piedmont and a companion cigarette brand, Sweet Caporal, Imler said."

Honus Wagner was pretty vehemently opposed to smoking. That's well-known," said Mark Roesler, who heads Indianapolis-based CMG Worldwide, which represents the Wagner estate and Wagner's granddaughter, who lives in Florida.

There is no dispute that the Wagner card is authentic, said baseball card expert Mike Berkus, a sports radio show host and director of the National Sports Collectors Convention. But the anti-tobacco claim could be questionable. Some experts have suggested that Wagner simply felt cigarettes were too feminine and did not want to be associated with them.

A 1940s Leaf Candy Co. baseball card pictured Wagner with a hunk of chewing tobacco in his mouth that was so huge "that his head was round," said Berkus, of Villa Park. "He was still alive at the time. And he didn't object to that card."

Berkus speculated that as few as 25 or 30 Honus Wagner cards still exist. Even the most tattered is probably worth as much as $150,000, he said.

Wagner, a baseball Hall of Fame member who had a lifetime batting average of .327, is generally considered one of baseball's greatest players. He died in 1955 at 81.

Pressed as to the identity of the new main owner of the card, the auction company's Kohler jokingly pointed to the armed guard, off-duty Los Angeles Police detective Lt. Michael Florio."

Actually, he's the anonymous buyer," Kohler said.

Florio cracked a giant smile. But he didn't take his eyes off the $2.35-million prize.


Senators to examine baseball deal with DirecTV- AP

March 9, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two senators plan to examine baseball's $700 million, seven-year deal with DirecTV to determine its impact on fans.

Under the agreement announced Thursday, the deal contains a provision that allows its "Extra Innings" package of out-of-market games to remain on cable television if the other incumbent providers -- iN Demand and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network -- agree to match the terms.

But Robert Jacobson, president of iN Demand Networks LLC, said those terms for the "Extra Innings" package of out-of-market games were impossible for his company to agree to and called it a "de facto exclusive deal."

"I will review this deal to ensure it benefits consumers," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "I'm encouraged that Major League Baseball may be willing to provide broader access to their games than what was initially proposed. I will be watching closely to ensure the league works in good faith so that America's pastime is available to all fans. My concern all along has been that fans continue to have the ability to enjoy baseball on television."

The agreement also drew the attention of Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I will be analyzing the commitment to see ... if the conditions for other carriers are satisfactory," Specter said. "This arrangement should motivate the NFL to reconsider broader coverage on its Sunday ticket and Thursday/Saturday programming to make such games available to other carriers beyond DirecTV.

"It may be necessary for the Senate Judiciary Committee to have further hearings on the antitrust implications of the NFL and MLB TV programming and whether it is in the public interest to allow the antitrust exemptions of the NFL and MLB to continue."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Gary Jr.'s woes are growing- NYDailyNews.com

Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. might see his five-year, $50 million contract go crashing through the wall if the Angels organization gets their way.

Clearly, if he had nothing to hide he would have come out by now and explained his side of the story. With a little more than three weeks remaining until Opening Day it will be interesting to see if the Angels take any course of action.

Angels may void deal


Prosecutors may not be going after users in the ongoing nationwide steroid and HGH sweep, but Major League Baseball is ready to. Los Angeles Angels officials may move ahead with plans to suspend Gary Matthews Jr. or void his five-year, $50 million contract if the outfielder doesn't come clean on his alleged purchase of human growth hormone, according to a major league source who spoke to the Daily News about the standoff.

Matthews, who retained top-flight attorney Robert Shapiro, has deflected questions since he was identified last week as having received drugs from a Mobile, Ala., pharmacy raided by law enforcement agents in August. Albany County district attorney David Soares has led a wide-ranging investigation into a nationwide prescription drug ring in which a dozen people have been indicted in an alleged scheme to traffic steroids and growth hormone over the Internet.

Angels spokesman Tim Mead downplayed punishing Matthews, saying "we're not going down that road now," but the team is open about its frustration. "We want as much information as Gary can provide, but he can't or won't tell us anything," Mead said. "There is a sense of frustration here because of the lack of information. Everyone understands this is a legal issue but there is a sense of frustration. We feel like this is hanging over our heads.

"We'd like this resolved by Opening Day."

Mead wouldn't say what the team would do if Matthews does not cooperate, but the major league source said the Angels are expected to take action. As was the case with Barry Bonds before he finally agreed to his contract at the start of spring training, MLB officials are eager to find a legal tool that will let them chip away at guaranteed contracts, as well as take a hard-line stand on drug cheats. Any attempt to void Matthews' contract or punish him will be met by a union grievance and most likely will end up before an arbitrator, but MLB wants to test contracts any way it can. The Angels and MLB don't think Matthews has a legitimate reason to stay silent.

"There's no reason for him not to say something," the source said. "If he had a prescription (for HGH) and he took it before it was banned, then he doesn't have to worry about anyone punishing him."

Human growth hormone was not banned by Major League Baseball until 2005 but it was illegal to possess without a prescription, although prosecution of users is rare and prosecutors in the current investigation have said they are only targeting suppliers and distributors.

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, leading an investigation into baseball's doping past, is also trying to gather information on Matthews and other current and former players named last week, including Jerry Hairston Jr., John Rocker, David Bell and Jose Canseco, and wants to meet with the Albany prosecutors leading the investigation, an Albany County District Attorney spokeswoman said.

MLB and National Football League officials also met with Soares' office yesterday. "They said they were interested in helping the investigation move forward," DA spokeswoman Heather Orth said. "They said they would do anything to help, and they wanted the district attorney to know they wanted to establish a relationship with his office."

League officials did not ask for the identities of players implicated in the alleged steroid ring, or how many players from their sports may be involved, Orth added. Soares said earlier this week that investigators uncovered the names of "many" professional athletes during the course of the probe.

"Our security people were there to listen, to see if there is anything we should know," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

So far all of the names that have emerged from the ongoing investigation have been connected to Allied Pharmacy in Alabama, not Signature, the Orlando pharmacy raided last week, or any of the anti-aging clinics connected to the case.

Originally published on March 8, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Vazquez gets $34.5 million, 3-year extension from White Sox- AP

I find it amazing that a pitcher who posted a 4.84 ERA last season and is five games under .500 for his career can receive a contract worth $34.5 million. Does it make any sense to you?
March 6, 2007

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Pitcher Javier Vazquez and the Chicago White Sox agreed Tuesday to a $34.5 million, three-year contract extension through 2010.

Vazquez will get $12.5 million this season, the final year of his current contract, and $11.5 million in each of the following three seasons.

The right-hander, who went 11-12 with a 4.84 ERA with the White Sox a year ago, is 100-105 overall in 10 major league seasons. He pitched three innings Tuesday against Colorado, giving up four runs and six hits.

"Javier and his representative made a proposal that we felt was fair and made sense for us over the next several seasons," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said in a statement. "Javier has expressed a desire to remain in Chicago, and based on what he has accomplished in his career and the familiarity and stability he has found with the White Sox and he city of Chicago, it's a win-win situation for both sides."

Over the past nine years, Vazquez ranks among the major league leaders in strikeouts (fifth), starts (sixth) and innings (eighth). He is the only pitcher with 10 wins, 30 starts and 150 strikeouts in each of the last seven seasons.

Updated on Tuesday, Mar 6, 2007 5:11 pm EST

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Michael Young Receives Large Contract Extension By The Texas Rangers

By David

Shortstop Michael Young agreed to a 5- year, $80 million dollar extension with the Rangers'. The three time All-Stars' deal will run through the 2013 season. He now secures himself as the face of the franchise for many year's to come.

In seven seasons with Texas Young has gained the reputation as one of the elite shortstops in all of baseball. Last season he batted .314 with 14 homers and 103 runs batted in. Young was also awarded MVP honors at last year's ''Midsummer classic''. If that wasn't enough he set a club-record for doubles with 52 and has had 4 straight seasons of 200-hits.

Jon Daniels, Rangers general manager, said ''Michael represents exactly what the Texas Rangers stand for, both on and off the field'' . Jamey Newberg of the Newberg Report said that ''Young is committing $500,000 for the Texas Rangers Foundation, which funds local charities''. It is great to see one of the top players in baseball spending his time to aid a worthy cause.

The next step for Young and his teammates will be to reach the playoffs. With the A's losing ace Barry Zito and the Angels not improving their offensive[despite getting Gary Matthews Jr.] the Rangers' have a substantial shot at winning the AL West. They will not win the wild card so their playoff berth must come through the division. It won't take more than 90 games to get it done and most importantly they have a terrific manager leading them in Ron Washington.

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