Zennie62 on YouTube

Monday, April 30, 2007

Milwaukee Brewers Off To A Red Hot Start

By David

At 16-9, the Brewers are a top the NL Central. They have won seven out of their last ten games and are 3.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh for the Central division title.

Entering the 2007 season it was expected for the Brew Crew to be competitive, but not to lead the division at the end of April. While they are off to a tremendous start it will be key for the Brewers to continue to play well for the duration of the season. If they can acquire key players at the trade deadline there is a real possibility that Milwaukee could win the division.

With a young nucleus of hitters and a quality pitching staff the Brewers present serious problems for opposing teams. Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy headline an offense that is one of the most entertaining to watch on a consistent basis.

Milwaukee has sixteen players on their team that are 30-years of age or younger, as well as a nice compliment of veterans. They are lead by one of the superior managers in all of baseball in Ned Yost who has stayed patient with his young Brewers club and is now starting to see the dividends.

The Brewers present opposing offenses nightmares when they are able to come at you with a starting rotation that includes Jeff Suppan, Chris Capuano, Ben Sheets, Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas. Each pitcher has the ability to win at least twelve games on the season and Capuano and Suppan have already piled up four wins each through the month of April.

If you ask someone who the best closer through the first month of the season has been you will receive replies such as Joe Nathan or Francisco Rodriguez. Surprisingly, the Brewers' Francisco Cordero has been the best closer of 2007 as he is 10 for 10 on save opportunities and in 11.1 innings pitched this season he has permitted only two hits and zero runs. In my book that is amazing and his accomplishment must be recognized.

I have been a fan of the Brew Crew for several years now and I would love nothing more than for them to win the NL Central this season.

Steinbrenner backs Torre and Cashman, but says results `clearly not acceptable'

April 30, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- George Steinbrenner has spoken: For now, Joe Torre has his backing to turn around the Yankees following a start the owner termed "clearly not acceptable."

Torre was joined by general manager Brian Cashman on the team's charter flight to Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers that starts Tuesday night. Steinbrenner challenged players and staff "to show me and the fans what they are made of" and said of his $195 million team: "I believe in them."

Steinbrenner previously had refused comment on the last-place Yankees, who went 1-5 against the Boston Red Sox the past two weekends. New York has lost eight of nine and is last in the AL East at 9-14. Entering Monday night's games, only Kansas City and Washington (both 8-17) had poorer winning percentages.

"The season is still very young, but up to now the results are clearly not acceptable to me or to Yankee fans," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "However, Brian Cashman, our general manager, Joe Torre, our manager, and our players all believe that they will turn this around quickly.

"I believe in them. I am here to support them in any way to help them accomplish this turnaround. It is time to put excuses and talk away. It is time to see if people are ready to step up and accept their responsibilities. It is time for all of them to show me and the fans what they are made of.

"Let's get going. Let's go out and win and bring a world championship back to New York. That's what I want."

Cashman, who spoke with Steinbrenner on Monday, canceled a scouting trip to the Dominican Republic and traveled with the team.

"I appreciate his support and look forward to finding the solutions to these problems," Cashman said just before the plane took off. "We intend to find a way to get back on track sooner rather than later."

Yankees general partner Steve Swindal said the fault for the start doesn't lie with Torre.
"My feeling is Joe doesn't play on the field. He has to do the best he can with the players available to him on any given day. Because we've had so many recent injuries, I just don't feel it's fair to blame him," said Swindal, who is in divorce proceedings with the owner's daughter, Jennifer.

"I believe a manager is important to get players motivated to play, and Joe has historically done that," Swindal added. "You've got to judge a guy by his record, and he's been successful. There's no reason why he can't be with this team as well, especially if they get healthy."

After the Yankees' 4-8 start two years ago, Steinbrenner made a similar statement.

"Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I'm sure all Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team," he said then. "It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around."

New York fell as low as 11-19 that year, then rebounded and won the AL East title on the final weekend of the regular season.

Injuries, especially to Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano, have caused this year's poor beginning. The Yankees have a 5.02 ERA, 27th among the 30 major league teams, ahead of only Florida (5.13), Texas (5.37) and Tampa Bay (6.01). New York is the first major league team ever to use five or more pitchers in 10 straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Two clubs had done it nine in a row: Boston (2004-05) and Tampa Bay last September.
Wang returned from a hamstring injury but is 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA. Mussina is due back from a hamstring injury on Thursday night.

Yankees players have backed Torre, saying the blame should be directed at them. Captain Derek Jeter called criticism of the manager "unfair" and said "it should stop."

"You go back 100 years: pitching and defense," Alex Rodriguez said. "The team with the best pitching wins. It's as simple as that."

Updated on Monday, Apr 30, 2007 5:39 pm EDT

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cardinals Pitcher Josh Hancock Killed At The Age Of 29

By David

Two months ago I had the opportunity to meet St.Louis relief pitcher Josh Hancock and my first impression was that he was an exceptionally gracious individual who took nothing for granted.

I am deeply saddened to learn that he was killed in a car accident early Sunday morning and that I will not have the distinguished honor of meeting him again. I might have known him for five minutes, but he will forever leave me with a positive lasting impression.

On a picture perfect day in Jupiter, Florida Josh pulled up to the railing where the fans wait for autographs and spoke to us for several minutes. I distinctly remember him driving the same vehicle, a 2007 Ford Explorer, that was involved in his fatal crash Sunday when he smacked in to a tow truck on the highway. Now, I will value my signature from him with much greater significance.

The fact that Hancock was a member of the Cardinals brings back memories to when former Cards pitcher Darryl Kyle died just less than five-years ago in a hotel room before a game against the Cubs. Additionally, Hancock is the second baseball player and pitcher for that matter to pass away in the last six and a half months. Former Yankee Cory Lidle passed away last October in a plane crash.

I'm curious to wonder if it's just pure luck that two current and healthy players passed away recently or is something not being done by MLB to fully protect their players. I hope that this is not a trend that will continue to occur.

This incident really puts the value of a persons life in perspective because we realize how precious every moment we spend with them is. It also demonstrates that a sports figure such as Hancock is not super human and is like every other person in the world. His family and teammates will now enter a long grieving process and they will unfortunately never be able to see their good friend again.

Cardinals principal owner Bill Dewitt Jr. put it best when he said ''the pain our organization feels today is unspeakable.''

Friday, April 27, 2007

Schilling criticizes media, offers $1 million blood bet on his blog

April 27, 2007

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling offered $1 million to anyone who could prove it was not blood that blotted his famous sock in the 2004 playoffs, and criticized members of the media in a blog on his personal Web site Friday.

The controversy over what stained Schilling's sock was reignited this week when Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne said Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli had told him it was paint, not blood, and that it was done for a publicity stunt.

Mirabelli called that a lie, and Thorne said Thursday he had misreported what Mirabelli said.

Still, Schilling blasted Thorne and the media in general Friday in his first public statement since Thorne's on-air comments.

Schilling was injured in Game 1 of the 2004 AL championship series against New York. Team doctors stitched a tendon in his right ankle to keep it from flopping around, and he returned to lead the Red Sox to a remarkable win in Game 6 to tie the series at 3-3. The Red Sox went on to win that series, and won the World Series for their first title since 1918.
"If you have ... the guts, grab an orthopedic surgeon, have them suture your ankle skin down to the tissue covering the bone in your ankle joint, then walk around for 4 hours," Schilling wrote on his Web site www.38pitches.com. "After that go find a mound, throw a hundred or so pitches, run over, cover first a few times. When you're done check that ankle and see if it bleeds."
Thorne did not immediately return a message Friday left with his employer, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Schilling offered $1 million to anyone who could prove the blood on his sock was not authentic. But it's unclear where the sock is. Schilling has said he put it in the laundry; on Friday he wrote that he suspects a Yankees clubhouse employee still has it. The pitcher donated another bloodstained sock worn in Game 2 of the World Series to the Hall of Fame.

"If the blood on the sock is fake, I'll donate a million dollars to that person's charity, if not they donate that amount to (Schilling's charities for ALS research)," he wrote. "Any takers?"

Schilling also ripped several members of the national sports media for exaggerating stories based on their own insecurities and for "rolling their eyes" when he talks about his faith in God. His recommendation: "Put them all on an island somewhere.

"If you haven't figured it out by now, working in the media is a pretty nice gig," the pitcher wrote. "Barring outright plagiarism or committing a crime, you don't have to be accountable if you don't want to."

Use what you learned in this article to dominate at Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball '07

Updated on Friday, Apr 27, 2007 12:37 pm EDT

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Baseball's Best Pitchers Are Sidelined With Injuries

By David

Every year the injury bug hits teams hard, but through the first month of the season the elite pitchers around MLB are getting injured at drastic rates.

Chris Carpenter, Felix Hernandez, Jason Schmidt, B.J. Ryan, Kenny Rogers and Mike Mussina highlight the list of pitchers who are on the disabled list instead of on the field trying to help their club win.

The best example of how injuries have affected a pitching staff's performance is to look at the current state of the Yankees rotation. Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano are currently on the DL and staff ace Chien-Mien Wang returned Tuesday night and surrendered four runs over 6 and 1/3 innings of work.

New York has been forced to throw out inexperienced pitchers such as Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner and Chase Wright. It has been a struggle to get any Yankees starter to survive past five innings and this has taken a considerable toll on the bullpen. If Wang, Mussina and Pavano do not return to pitch effectively it could be a long Summer in the Bronx.

There has been a litany of other quality pitchers who are sidelined with injuries and as a result their teams have struggled out of the gate. The most notable players are Jaret Wright, Jason Jennings, Cliff Lee, Eric Gagne, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior[now out for the season, again], Ricky Nolasco and Micah Owings.

While I can't find a common theme as to why there's such a high propensity of top major league pitchers getting hurt so early in the season, I believe that this issue needs to bring awareness to how these players condition themselves and how the teams treat their injuries. Many ball clubs do not report the entire truth about an injury and many players will attempt to rush back to play before they are fully healed.

If Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan is not healthy by the middle of June and if ace pitchers Chris Carpenter and Felix Hernandez can not be effective upon return their teams chance of being successful is shattered. Carpenter is the leader of the St.Louis's pitching staff and is the reliable arm who can win 15-17 games and post an ERA under four. King Felix appeared unhitable in his first two starts of 2007 and looked as if he was quickly transforming into the majors most exciting and successful young star.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Baltimore Orioles Continue Red Hot Play

By David

Five games into the 2007 season the O's were 1-4, but since then they have compiled a 10-3 record. They are coming off a three-game sweep of the division rival Blue Jays and have now catapult into second place in the AL East.

After watching the Orioles down at spring training in Ft.Lauderdale this year I got the sense that they were an improved team from last season, but were still missing that compliment pitcher to Erik Bedard and hitter to Miguel Tejada.

Through the first three weeks of the season manager Sam Perlozzo has his team playing exceptionally well, but the next two weeks of their schedule will lend be an indicator if they can contend with the elite teams in the American League. The O's open a three-game series at home tonight against the A's and then travel to Cleveland and Detroit.

Offensively this season Baltimore has seen strong play out of several hitters. Nick Markakis is a star in the making and is currently batting .284 with three long balls and 14 batted in. Third baseman Melvin Mora and team leader Miguel Tejada have started off the season hot, but it will be critical for them to continue their success throughout the duration of the season. A strong year out of Mora would be key to the O's contending.

Unfortunately, second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielders Jay Gibbons and Corey Patterson have not begun the season on high notes. Patterson needs to be more aggressive on the base pads and Gibbons must display his power if his team expects to improve on last season. Zero home runs in 56 at bats is unacceptable for a man with his potential.

New York Yankees' Struggle Against Boston Red Sox'

By David

After a three-game sweep of the Indians at the stadium the Yankees were confident heading into their weekend series with the arch rival Red Sox'. Optimism would quickly transform into a state of panic as New York was outplayed brutally by Boston and was unable to salvage one victory in the series.

Many people can use the excuse that the Sox had their three best pitchers [Schilling, Beckett and Matsuzaka] lined up against Pettitte, Karstens and Wright, but despite who the Yankees throw out there they are expected to be victorious. The starting rotation was not aided by a poor performance by Mariano Rivera and the rest of the bullpen.

Rivera imploded in the bottom of the eighth Friday night as he surrendered two runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning. His ERA now stands at an inflated 8.44 and his record is 1-2 after his second blown save of the season. If Mo continues to struggle the Bronx Bombers have no chance of overtaking the Red Sox and winning the division. With the abundance of talent in the AL New York might possibly be on the outside looking in come playoff time. I still expect Rivera to rebound and for the Yankees to reach the playoffs and possibly return to the World Series.

Saturday afternoon Jeff Karstens made his season debut for the Yanks and allowed seven runs over 4.1 innings. David Ortiz lit up Karstens for a 2-run double and a 2-run home run. Surprisingly, the Yankees bullpen kept Boston's sluggers at bay for the rest of the evening as they pitched 3.2 innings of shut out baseball. In the end, the Yankees fell to Boston for the second straight game by the score of 7-5.

In an attempt to salvage the third game of the series the Yankees preserved their mark in the record books. Unfortunately, this is a record that Joe Torre and his players are not proud of. In his second career major league start, Chase Wright surrendered four consecutive home runs to the Red Sox' hitters. Manny Ramirez started the hit parade with a blast to left field and he was followed by J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek. In a span of 10 pitches Wright's pitching career was changed forever.

Entering Monday, the Yankees stand four games out of first place. New York has 147 games remaining on the schedule and while fans will begin to worry about their early season lack of success, I don't begin to get concerned until August when the games start to carry some merit.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Arizona Diamondbacks Unveil Brilliant Ticket Ideas

By David

Being a student in college can put a real strain on your purchasing power. With tuition and miscellaneous expense you don't have the extra spending money to attend several baseball games a year.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have attempted to resolve that issue with the ''Student Season Pass.'' If you are a student in the Phoenix area you will now have the opportunity to attend every D-Backs home game for ''as low as $29.99 per month.''

I find this marketing strategy by Arizona to be a real home run for students and D-Backs management. While the game can be affordable for students, it brings more fans to Chase Field and increases revenue for the team. This was a great idea and if I were a student in the Phoenix area I would attend as many games as possible to cheer on my Diamondbacks. Not to mention, Chase field is one of the premier stadiums in baseball with a swimming pool and retractable roof.

The team offers three ticket plans to students. There is the student season plan for $29.99 a month, the student school year plan for $39.99 a month and the student summer plan for $39.99 a month. If successful, I hope that this idea can be adopted by more major league clubs.

Baseball's Big Bucks- Forbes.com

Kurt Badenhausen, Michael K. Ozanian and Christina Settimi 04.19.07,
6:00 PM ET

Baseball games can turn quickly with one swing of the bat. Baseball's finances can change quickly too.

Three years ago, the 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams posted an operating loss (in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $57 million. Last season, they earned a record $496 million. Despite its ongoing steroids scandal, baseball has made a big comeback thanks to labor peace, new ballparks, tight races to qualify for the postseason and improved marketing.

In 2006, a record 76 million fans poured through the turnstiles at big league parks. The New York Yankees led the league with attendance (the fourth consecutive year the Bronx Bombers have done so) with 4.2 million, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers (3.8 million), New York Mets (3.4 million) and St. Louis Cardinals (3.4 million). With the average ticket price of a big league game increasing 5% last season, to $22, gate receipts (including premium club seating) came in at $1.9 billion, 8% above 2005.

Cable rights fees have also been a home run for baseball. Fox's regional cable sports networks, which are owned by News Corp. (nyse: NWS - news - people ), now have the rights to 19 teams and shelled out $257 million in fees last season. Among those teams that run their own sports channels, the Yankees raked in the most ,with $67 million in rights fees from their YES network. Their cross-town rivals, the Mets, pulled in $47 million during the first year of their SportsNet New York channel. Other teams with ownership ties to media properties also raked in lucrative fees. The Boston Red Sox, 80% owner of New England Sports Network, for example, pulled in $21 million in rights fees. The Chicago Cubs, owned by Tribune (nyse: TRB - news - people ), took home $20 million from its parent's local broadcaster, WGN, as well as $20 million from Comcast (nasdaq: CMCSA - news - people ) SportsNet, which Tribune also owns a piece of.

By our count, nine teams have equity stakes in regional sports networks [RSNs], with more likely to follow. John A. Moag, chief executive of the sports banking firm Moag & Co., points out that the typical RSN can generate a rich cash flow margin (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation as a percent of revenue) of 40% net of the fair market value of rights fees paid to the team that owns the network.

With business humming at ballparks and on television, MLB's revenues totaled $5.1 billion last season, 9% more than 2005. The combination of revenue growth and investments in new, revenue-rich ballparks (the St. Louis Cardinals moved into their new home last season, while the Mets, Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals should all be in new stadiums by 2010) fueled a 15% increase in team values, to an average of $431 million.

Three years ago, MLB, which owned the Montreal Expos, couldn't find a buyer for the team. Two years after the team moved to Washington, D.C., the Nationals, as the team is now known, were bought for $450 million by Theodore Lerner and his family. Buyers have been lining up to bid for the Cubs (the team will be put on the block after the pending sale of Tribune is finalized), who haven't won the World Series in a century and have not even played in one in three generations. Look for the buyer to be a Chicagoan that will pay around $600 million, or perhaps as much as $900 million if Tribune's interest in WGN and Comcast SportsNet are also part of the deal, surpassing the then-record $700 million John Henry's group paid for the Red Sox and 80% of NESN five years ago.

How quickly the game has changed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Demise Of The Philadelphia Phillies

By David

High expectations, a vow by shortstop Jimmy Rollins that his Phils were the team to beat in the NL East, but a 4-10 record to begin the season is the only thing Phlily fans have to look forward to.

At the root of their problems, is a bullpen that has struggled greatly in 2007 and continues to blow game after game. It might be the third week of the season, but manager Charlie Manuel has already gone ballistic and the probability that he will stay a Philly becomes less and less likely as the losses start to mount.

In a sign that the team is in disarray, management has moved ace pitcher Brett Myers to the bullpen and veteran Jon Lieber to the starting rotation. Despite two poor starts, Philadelphia should have stayed with Myers as a starter because he can only do so much to turn around a deplorable bullpen.

Initially, there was vast excitement around the city of brotherly love, but players have underachieved and the fans have become extremely restless. The team continues to play poor defensively and appear lackadaisical on the base pads. They do not look like the team that many analysts[including myself] expected to win the Nl East and contend for the World Series.

Still, one can not make a fair assessment of a team after fourteen games into the season. Unfortunately, the Phillies have gotten off to slow starts the past few years and were unable to rebound to make the postseason. While many journalists and sports critics around Philadelphia want to come down harshly on the Phils, we must wait to see if they can resolve their pitching woes and return to a contending team.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dellucci gives extra to Gulf Coast

Dellucci's Louisiana Lagniappe 22 bracelets can be purchased for $2 each on his website. He has done a tremendous job in trying to aid his home state and for that he must be applauded. I wish there could be more David Dellucci's around MLB.

Tribe outfielder determined to get aid to where it's needed most
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The donations have been overwhelming, but the recovery has been slow for the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

And that's where Indians left fielder David Dellucci's frustration lies.

As a Major League ballplayer from Baton Rouge, La., Dellucci found himself in a position to do a tremendous amount of good for his home state and the other areas battered by the two storms in August and September of 2005.

Through his charity, the Catch 22 for Blue Foundation (www.catch22forblue.org), Dellucci helped raise nearly $100,000 for various charities and needy causes in the Gulf region.

But while driving through Louisiana this past offseason, Dellucci often found himself wondering whether the generosity shown toward the area is being used constructively.

"Some areas are really moving forward and really rebuilding," he said. "But some areas are moving very slowly. You would think they would be further along in the rebuilding process than they are. I think there's a block in between what is being donated from other citizens around the country and what is actually filtering into the needy people down there."

Dellucci has tried to do his part to ensure the money he raised is spent wisely.

"Nowadays, you don't know exactly where your money is headed," he said. "I wanted the people who donated money to feel confident that it was all going where I advertised it to be going."

For Dellucci, donations were not hard to come by.

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, he wrote a check to the American Red Cross, and the Rangers -- his team at the time -- matched and doubled it.

Dellucci autographed some baseballs, and the team sold them during a home game for $22 a piece. They were gone by the first pitch.

And when Dellucci went on the field to stretch, fans and stadium workers were trying to hand him checks, on the spot.

"All game I'm thinking, 'I've got to do something,'" Dellucci recalled. "I called my agent that night and said, 'We need to put together a foundation to take this money and distribute it where I see fit.' Then I went out during the next game and was trying to think of ways to raise money. I was playing left field and coming up with ideas."

Dellucci's idea? Rubber bracelets, similar to Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" fundraiser. The 40,000 bracelets sold by Dellucci and the Rangers read "Louisiana Lagniappe," which is a south Louisiana term meaning "to give a little extra."

"In other words, if you go to Louisiana to a jazz or blues festival, you go down there and eat the food and love the food, so you leave with a little more than expected," Dellucci said. "If you go to a doughnut shop and ask for a dozen doughnuts and they give you 13, that's lagniappe."

Keeping with the spirit of the phrase, Dellucci and his newly formed charity kept giving. And while New Orleans got the majority of the national attention in the wake of the natural disasters, Dellucci knew the ripple effects of the storms lingered elsewhere.

Catch 22 for Blue teamed up with the Marines and the Toys for Tots program to donate 6,000 pounds of toys to children in Port Arthur, Texas, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Rita.
Dellucci bought 25 Thanksgiving meals for evacuees living in the Dallas area.
He made a donation to the Louisiana State Troopers Association, which saw many of its members unable to help repair their homes and help their families because they had to stand guard in New Orleans.

He bought new Braille books for the University of New Orleans' School for the Visually Impaired, which lost all its supplies in the floods.

He helped out an evacuee family in St. Louis with seven children, three of whom had Down Syndrome.

And when he read a story in People magazine about Sandra LaDay, who was taking care of 400 familes in Port Arthur, despite her own financial struggles, he cut a check for her charity, People Supporting People.

"She was living in a gas station," Dellucci said of LaDay. "Someone had given her a mattress. I knew I had to help this woman who helped people in her town."

Dellucci personally oversaw where each dollar raised by his charity went, because he knew, sadly, that charity money is not always appropriated properly.

"I wanted to make it a point where I wasn't giving money to people who just wanted handouts," he said. "I had to feel comfortable that they were doing their best to get by further down the line. I didn't want hard-earned money to be wasted."

Gauging the situation in Louisiana today, Dellucci is upset with the way some residents have resisted opportunities to get their lives back in order. He said many people in the region have developed a learned helplessness.

"There are job openings everywhere," he said. "That is a fact. There have been reports of construction companies going into shelters right after the storm and offering to take people out of those shelters and giving them jobs and getting them off on the right foot. And in many cases, only a few hands have gone up.

"If you don't have a job and you're still waiting for handout money, then shame on you, because there are plenty of jobs -- if not in the New Orleans area, then in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas."

This past offseason, Dellucci shifted the focus of Catch 22 for Blue to Louisiana-bred troops overseas. With the money left over from the donations received in late 2005, he boxed up some homegrown care packages for the troops.

"There are soldiers from the Louisiana area whose houses were damaged, but yet they are not able to do anything because they are serving the country right now," he said. "My charity's focus is on helping them."

Dellucci knows people around the country might still be inclined to help the Gulf region get back on its feet, but he hopes they'll be as judicious with where their money goes as he has been. He recommends donating to charities whose efforts include boosting the area's recreational needs.

"The state has received a ton of federal money for rebuilding down there," he said. "The issue now is that there are some groups that have been slow in getting that money out."
And the ensuing slow recovery is disheartening for Dellucci and all those who hold Louisiana near and dear to their heart.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Freezing Weather Headlines Mets' Win Over Washington

By David

It was Friday, the 13th of April and I was looking forward to attending my first baseball game of 2007. The Mets might have been facing the woeful Nationals, but it was still an opportunity to go to Shea Stadium with my best friend. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate temperatures in the low thirties and for the wind to be rapidly gusting in my face.

I felt like I was at the Meadowlands in mid- December attending a Giants game because at least then I can expect such fierce weather. Mother nature has played many tricks on New York and all of the Northeast in the past month. After a mild Winter, Spring has brought below average temperatures and snow to many cities.

While both teams played a competitive game with New York winning 3-2, the forecast overshadowed the events on the field. I was bundled up with four layers, a pair of gloves and a hat. That is extreme for me because I am the type of guy who'll walk outside in the middle of Winter wearing shorts or sandals. It was especially difficult Friday night because I was forced to sit stationary for three and a half hours watching the ball game. Not to mention, I was also keeping score with the five dollar program I purchased.

That expenditure might seem steep, but remember that a pretzel cost four dollars and a hot drink is $2.25. The prices at Shea and all ball parks are ridiculous and that is why I refuse to make any beverage or food purchase at a sporting event. The sad part is that as aggregate demand for the items go up, the price level will continue to rise. Unlike most ball parks, I witnessed that fans are permitted to bring food and beverages into the stadium, so it boggles my mind why more people don't do that.

At least, I was the smart consumer who bought his tickets for five dollars each online and did not fall into the trap of purchasing over priced seats. With ticket prices so high, I will only go to games when the Mets' have their five dollar deals. Not only do I get a great view[upper deck behind home plate], but I get to see the best team in the NL play. Now that equation is hard to beat.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Right idea, wrong solution

By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
April 12, 2007

Over the weekend, Major League Baseball will laud Jackie Robinson for his role in integrating the game and, ultimately, the country. At the same time, it will conveniently ignore another manner in which Robinson was far ahead of his time.

Given the choice, he probably would have chosen to play another sport professionally instead of baseball.

Thousands of African-American children are making that decision today, and no matter what it has tried to stop the trend, baseball has seen the number of black players in the major leagues decline precipitously. So for MLB to plan such a blowout for this Sunday, the 60th anniversary of Robinson's debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, makes it seem like the sport is trying to hide the elephant in the room with Saran wrap.

As nice an idea as it was for Ken Griffey Jr. to propose that players be allowed to wear Robinson's retired No. 42 for one day, and as touching as the ceremony at Dodger Stadium with Robinson's widow, Rachel, surely will be, baseball devoting such attention to the past – no matter its place in history – is a misguided attempt to gussy up a problem with no obvious solution.
The antidote? Just keep celebrating Jackie.

"We think we're making great strides in overall diversity, but we're losing the African-American player," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations and the league's highest-ranking African-American. "And that's a shame. Because there was a time when baseball was at the forefront with African-American participation. We were at the forefront of the whole civil-rights movement. To let that decline to the point where we can't reverse it would be a travesty."

It is a tenuous balance, trying to honor the past without misrepresenting the present. Last season, 8.4 percent of big-league players were African-American, almost a 10 percent drop from 10 years earlier and nearly a 20 percent drop from the peak in the 1970s. The percentages taken through the years read almost like a bell curve, with the present creeping downward toward 1947.

Robinson debuted with the Dodgers that season, hand-picked by general manager Branch Rickey because of his fortitude and stubbornness. He was talented, sure, though at UCLA, Robinson made his name playing football, joining stars Kenny Washington and Woody Strode to form what would be coined the Gold Dust Trio. Washington and Strode, incidentally, were the first two African-Americans to play in the NFL, signed in 1948, after Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

The year before he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, Robinson coached basketball at Sam Houston College in Austin, Texas, and, according to Jonathan Eig's brilliant new biography, "Opening Day," would insert himself into games when his team played poorly.
For Robinson, football and basketball had the allure of forbidden mistresses, and that was even prior to the NFL and NBA's maturation into baseball's legitimate competitors.

Lucky for baseball, it was willing to take the chance on Robinson and continues to ride Rickey's coattails – and Robinson's legacy – 60 years later.

"We had reduced him to this mythological figure who's the picture of cool composure and grace under pressure," said Eig, whose book chronicles Robinson's 1947 season. "He wasn't. He was a human being in lots of turmoil. We crave these myths. It's true with George Washington. It's true with Abraham Lincoln. Half these stories we learned about these legends are invented. It's because the myths help tell these stories, and we love simple stories."

Like the story of May 13, 1947, when Pee Wee Reese ambled up to Robinson at Crosley Field in Cincinnati and slung his arm around Robinson's shoulder. It's a moment cited as the turning point in baseball turning colorblind. And it's one that, according to Eig's research, never happened.

Such fables do give baseball justification for reminding younger generations of who, exactly, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was. And yet every time fans spin the turnstiles at a major-league park, they see the No. 42 alongside the rest of the team's retired numbers, a constant but subtle cue of his importance – a fair reminder, as opposed to a pound-over-the-head celebration that seems out of place on an anniversary like No. 60.

"A lot of players have lost sight of who Jackie was and what his legacy was and how important he was to our country, let alone baseball," Solomon said. "We've been pretty good over the last several years to make sure Jackie's legacy was obvious to everyone."

Whether it actually helps draw African-Americans to baseball is arguable.

Baseball, as Solomon admitted, made a decision about 20 years ago – based largely on economics – to spend money building academies in Latin American countries such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The players were teenagers, disposable if they didn't pan out, cheap to sign if they did. Even though the signing bonuses in Latin America have gone up exponentially, topping $2 million for the top talent, the best bargains still come from there. Nearly 30 percent of players in the major leagues last season were Latino, a number that has grown almost inversely proportionate to the number of African-Americans.

Meanwhile, in the United States, equipment prices rose and children in urban areas were priced out of the game. Baseball, slow to recognize the problem, failed to reach out. When the percentage of African-Americans dipped below 10 percent in 2004, the outcry among players began, and it continues today.

"Any publicity, anything Major League Baseball can do, is a good thing because it brings attention," said Cleveland Indians left-hander C.C. Sabathia, one of only two African-American starters in the major leagues and an outspoken voice who earlier this spring deemed the decline a "crisis." "People need to understand, this isn't going away. It won't be over after Jackie Robinson Day. I won't stop saying what I'm saying. I hope the same can be said for others."

Sabathia grew up in Oakland watching Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson and Dave Henderson, among others. He has heard all of the arguments why the trend will only get worse.

Football and basketball offer immediate riches. They have a greater appeal among the teenage girls athletes want to impress. Division I football teams offer 85 scholarships as opposed to the 11.8 of baseball, considered at most universities a non-revenue sport. Basketball hoops are omnipresent in urban areas because they take up minimal space, need little maintenance and can be used by an entire neighborhood with just one ball.

MLB tries to combat the problem with programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), which has done an excellent job of introducing kids to baseball and providing proper equipment. Keeping them is another story. Though MLB likes to point out that more than 150 RBI players have been drafted since the program's inception in 1989, only four current major-leaguers – Jimmy Rollins, Carl Crawford, Dontrelle Willis and Coco Crisp – were graduates.

The newest attempt comes from the MLB-financed Urban Youth Academies, like the one that opened in Compton, Calif., last year and others planned for Atlanta and perhaps Houston and Washington, D.C. They have the same concept as RBI. Whether they can have greater long-term success is impossible to gauge.

"We're realistic: The numbers can drop even more," Solomon said. "We're working hard as we can to make sure they don't. It won't be for lack of effort from (MLB)."

With no obvious solutions to fixing the problem, baseball has opted for the temporary salve in hopes of buying itself some time. Baseball knows it's too big and important an institution to turn its back on what it helped foster.

"Eight percent," Sabathia said. "What would Jackie think?"

Certainly not about rejoicing. In fact, at Game 2 of the 1972 World Series, about a month before Robinson died, MLB honored him for the 25th anniversary of his debut. Robinson blanched at going. There still wasn't a black manager in baseball. Robinson extracted a promise from commissioner Bowie Kuhn that he would pressure teams to hire one.

Less than three years later, Frank Robinson was managing the Cleveland Indians.

What would Jackie Robinson ask for today? It's impossible to say.

One certainty: He wouldn't want baseball to just keep celebrating Jackie, to harp on its past while its present worsens.

It's too simple, too programmed, too easy.

Everything that Jackie Robinson – and what he still stands for – wasn't.

Jeff Passan is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jeff a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Apr 13, 2007 3:13 am EDT

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Early ticket sales 'encouraging' for Angels-Indians series

If I lived in the vicinity of Milwaukee, I would have loved to attend all three games for $10 a pop. It also doesn't hurt to have two potential division winners squaring off against each other.

By DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press Writer
April 9, 2007

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Get ready for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim against the Cleveland Indians of Milwaukee.

Hours after officials at Miller Park agreed to let the snowed-out Indians host the Angels at the Milwaukee Brewers' home stadium, fan interest was "encouraging" and ticket sales outpaced tempered expectations.

Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes said nearly 10,000 tickets total were sold for all three games of the series within the first four hours of availability.

"We still don't have any idea of what to expect but so far we're encouraged," Barnes said Monday afternoon.

About 4,000 tickets were sold for each night game -- 7:05 p.m. EDT starts on Tuesday and Wednesday -- and about 2,000 tickets for Thursday's game scheduled for 1:05 p.m. EDT, Barnes said.

Chris Williams, a Cleveland native who studies finance at Milwaukee's Marquette University, said he felt lucky to have the Indians coming to town.

"I think it'll be really interesting," said Williams, 21, as he headed to Miller Park to buy tickets for Tuesday's game. "Any time I'm able to support my team, I always try to take advantage of it."
Tickets for all games and seats will be $10 each. The 9,000 field-level seats will be sold first and loge seats will be available if necessary.

A storm in Cleveland left several inches of snow on the Indians' open-air Jacobs Field.

As the news of the Miller Park series trickled out, local fans seemed intrigued by the idea of watching an Angels-Indians matchup on the Brewers' home turf.

Robin Meyer, a 21-year-old business major at Marquette, said he planned to attend at least one game.

"I'm just a fan of the sport," he said. "I'll be going for the fun of it, for the fun of baseball."

The Brewers went from the American League to the National League in 1998. The last AL game in Milwaukee was the Baltimore Orioles' 7-6 victory over the Brewers on Sept. 28, 1997, at County Stadium.

Michael Constantine, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student and passionate Brewers fan, planned to attend Wednesday's game.

"Being able to get tickets right behind home plate or right behind the dugout for $10, that's a unique opportunity," the 21-year-old Racine native said. "It's like getting courtside seats at a basketball game for $10."

It was unclear how revenue from the games would be distributed but Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers' executive vice president of business operations, said he was more concerned with getting the park's operations in order on short notice.

"Let's not worry about cost or the revenue aspect -- we'll figure that out after the fact," he said Monday. "At the end of the day we'll do what's appropriate."

Constantine said he'll root for a good game and low attendance.

"When I first heard about the series, my first thought was, 'Ooh, I'll be able to get a foul ball now,"' he said.

Use what you learned in this article to dominate at Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball '07

Updated on Monday, Apr 9, 2007 11:03 pm EDT

Padres' Young gets $14.5 million, four-year contract

April 10, 2007

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- At 6-foot-10 and Princeton-educated, Chris Young would stand out in any crowd.

The 27-year-old right-hander has impressed the San Diego Padres enough to earn a $14.5 million, four-year contract that would be worth $23 million if the team exercises a 2011 option.

The new deal was announced Tuesday, about 12 hours after Young beat Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants 1-0 at Petco Park.

Young seems to be a no-hitter waiting to happen, hasn't been beaten on the road in nearly two years and is the only Padres pitcher to win a playoff game since 1998.

"This is more than I could have asked for," Young said. "It's a tremendous opportunity for me and my family and I'm extremely grateful for everything they've done for me."
Young already was under contract for this season, with a club option for next year. He gets an immediate raise for this year, from $600,000 to $750,000, plus a signing bonus of $500,000.
He locks in a salary of $2.5 million for next year. Under his old deal, the 2008 option would have been between $1.8 million and $2.5 million, depending on innings this season.

He'll get $4.5 million in 2009 and $6.25 million in 2010. The club option for 2011 is worth $8.5 million and could go as high as $11 million, depending on accomplishments in the previous two seasons.

Young, who starred in baseball and basketball at Princeton, is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts this year. He allowed Bonds' only homer of the season so far last Wednesday in San Francisco, getting a no-decision in a 5-3 Padres win.

"It's pretty indicative of the type of pitcher that Chris is," general manager Kevin Towers said. "He's one of the bright young pitching stars in the National League as well as all of baseball. He's a fresh arm, someone who hasn't pitched a great deal but you wouldn't ever know that watching the way he approaches each and every game."

Young's deal came less than two weeks after first baseman Adrian Gonzalez got a $9.5 million, four-year deal that would be worth $15 million if the Padres exercise an option for $5.5 million in 2011.

Young, Gonzalez and left fielder Terrmel Sledge came over from the Texas Rangers in a six-player trade on Jan. 4, 2006, a deal that has turned out to be one of Towers' best.

"These are the type of individuals we want wearing the Padres name on the front of their jerseys," Towers said. "These are the type of guys we'd like to have around, the guys that are championship-winning type players."

Young was 11-5 with a 3.46 ERA last season, when he came within two outs of the Padres' first no-hitter on Sept. 22 against Pittsburgh. He also took a no-hit bid into the eighth against Colorado in May.

He also became the first Padres starter to win a postseason game since 1998 when he won at St. Louis in Game 3 of the division series, throwing 6 2-3 shutout innings with nine strikeouts. The Padres lost the series in four games. San Diego was swept by the Cardinals in 2005, their first time back in the playoffs since being swept by the New York Yankees in the 1998 World Series.

Hitters have struggled against Young because of his deceptive delivery.

"Hitters just don't get a good look at it," Towers said.

"He reminds me a lot of Trevor Hoffman, but a a starter," Towers said, comparing Young with the Padres' closer, who is baseball's career saves leader with 484. "It's tough to track his arm with the downward plane and the stride. His fastball is very deceptive. He's smart and he's got a lot of Hoffman-type intangibles. He's a fierce competitor, establishes his fastball and never gives in to the hitter."

Dating to June 25, 2005, Young is 9-0 with 16 no-decisions in 25 starts on the road. Only one other pitcher in big league history went undefeated in 25 straight road starts, with Allie Reynolds also accomplishing the feat during the 1948 and 1949 seasons.

Agent Lon Babby said he and Young prepared in the offseason in case Towers approached them about an extension, which he did at the end of spring training.

"I'm very happy with the way it worked out," Young said. "It's a great deal for both sides and I look forward to going out and concentrating on baseball."

The deal will allow the Padres to avoid arbitration, and the option year is the first season Young would be eligible for free agency.

"To avoid that process is great and to control one year of free agency is huge for us," Towers said.

Babby said the option year "is at a number that's slightly below market value but one Chris can live with. It's pretty fair compensation.

"You hope with a deal like this that he outperforms it," Babby said. "That means he's doing great, and that's good for club. He goes into it with the expectation that he'll perform at a level that justifies that and beyond."

Use what you learned in this article to dominate at Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball '07

Updated on Tuesday, Apr 10, 2007 6:48 pm EDT

Saturday, April 07, 2007

San Francisco Giants Begin 2007 Season Struggling

By David

A new manager, a healthy Barry Bonds and $126 million spent on an ace pitcher was not enough to prevent the Giants from starting the season 1-4.

Due to a group of aging veterans, a poor bullpen, shaky starting pitching and inexperienced young players, it was forecasted for San Fran to have a poor season and finish either fourth or fifth in the NL West, but it was not expected for them to begin the 2007 season by losing their first four out of five games.

San Francisco has only been outscored 14-10 to begin the new season and that is an indication that their starters have pitched pretty well. Matt Cain is an up and coming right-hander who's primed for a monster season, Noah Lowry is a quality left-hander who had a superb outing last night, Barry Zito did not pitch particularly well in his first start as a Giant, but has the opportunity to defeat the Dodgers' tomorrow afternoon, Matt Morris is looking to improve on a disappointing 06' and Russ Ortiz has not been impressive in his return to the Bay Area.

They can survive with the pitching staff they currently have, but their bullpen is very uncertain. If San Fran begins to fall deeper out of the race Brian Sabean would not hesitate to trade closer Armando Benitez and past him the Giants have no other reliever they can trust. In the NL West where most teams are evenly matched, having a strong bullpen can separate you from the pact. L..A. and San Diego have terrific late inning relief and that is a testament to why they're always competing towards late September for the division crown.

There is an abundance of buzz around the city of San Francisco because they will be hosting this July's All-Star Game and their favorite player Barry Bonds is only 20 home runs away from breaking the immortal Hank Aaron's record. Having a winning baseball team would add to the buzz and excitement around the Bay Area.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Atlanta Braves Complete Three-Game Sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies

By David

The Braves entered Thursday afternoon's game against the divisional rival Phillies with one goal in mind. That goal was to sweep them and return to Turner Field 3-0 for the first time since 1994. It would be a tall order against right-hander Adam Eaton who was making his Phili debut, but the Braves' bats were ready for the test.

With shortstop Edgar Renteira on first Chipper Jones hit a weak grounder to Ryan Howard who in an attempt to complete the double play wildly threw the ball into left field. As a result of Howard's miscue, Brian McCann who had been 5 for 9 in the series leading up to this at bat, ripped a 2-run single to put his team ahead.

Opposing Eaton was young left-hander Chuck James who has been picked by many to have a breakout season. James was aided by the frigid temperatures yesterday in Philadelphia and the fierce wind was able to hold in two monsterous shots hit by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Pat Burrell put the Phillies on the board in the bottom of the 4th with an RBI double to left. Left fielder Ryan Langerhans misjudged the ball and had it roll all the way to the wall. In the same inning with runners on the corners, Aaron Rowand struck out, followed by a fly out by Rod Barajas to end the threat.

Adam Eaton had been pitching quality baseball until he entered the top of the fifth and saw the Braves bats come a live in a hurry. After committing a cardinal sin by walking the pitcher Chuck James, Kelly Johnson clobbered a breaking ball into the right field stands. This was his first hit of the season and first long ball since August 15th of 2005. Atlanta continued the onslaught in the fifth as Andruw Jones smacked an RBI double to deep left center and Jeff Francoeur added an RBI single to knock Eaton out of the game.

After blowing the first two games of the series, the Phillies bullpen was out for redemption. Unfortunately Scott Thorman of the Braves had other ideas as he belted a 2-run double to right to give Atlanta an 8-1 lead. In total, the Braves scored six runs in the fifth and handed starter Chuck James a seven run lead.

If not for his high pitch count [92] James would have lasted past the fifth inning, but he was still in line for his first win of 2007. Oscar Villarreal, who struggled during spring training, came onto pitch in the sixth and surrendered a leadoff double to Burrell. The Phillies left fielder later scored on a ground ball to make the score 8-2, but his team would not have enough offensive fire power from their big bats to attempt a comeback.

Philadelphia went onto lose the game 8-4 and have now started the season 0-3 as they head to South Florida to begin a three-game series with the Marlins.

Notes: Pat Burrell missed a fly ball in foul territory in the eight inning and was heavily booed by the crowd. Relief pitcher Clay Condrey came on in the seventh inning and struck out the first five batters he faced. The record for consecutive strikeouts by a Phili reliever is six. Philadelphia left fourteen base runners stranded during the game.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A's Pitchers Dan Haren and Rich Harden Experience Success, Despite Having Low Salaries

By David

Oakland's star pitchers Dan Haren and Rich Harden are two of the best at what they do, but are not compensated like their colleagues. Both men are 26 and 25 years of age respectively, but will make a combined $4.5 million this season. In societies standards that's a handsome salary, but not in the world of baseball when the league minimum is $380,000.

Both pitchers had impressive outings to start the season with Harden pitching seven scoreless innings last night to pick up manager Bob Geren's first career victory, and on Opening Day Haren surrendered zero earned runs in six innings of work, but was the hard luck loser to the Mariners Felix Hernandez.

I began to take a look at other teams around the American League and what the salaries this season of their two top starters are. When healthy, 2005 AL CY Young winner Bartolo Colon is the ace of the Angels staff and along with Kelvim Escobar both men will make an astounding $25 million this season. Haren has won 28 games and pitched 440 innings over the past two seasons, while Colon and Escobar have combined for 36 wins and pitched 528 innings.

Haren, who is making a mere $2.25 million this season, has won 8 fewer games and pitched 88 less innings by himself than Colon and Escobar have done together. Not to mention, both starters are constantly plagued by injuries and Haren is extremely durable. I think this tells you something about how the A's allocate their resources compared to how the Angels allocate theirs. The difference is both staggering and troubling at the same time.

Other pitching duos who are breaking the bank for their clubs include: Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers who will make a combined $12.5 million this season, C.C. Sabathia and Jake Westbrook of Cleveland who will make a combined $14.875 million, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland of the White Sox who will make a combined $19 million, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling of Boston who will make nearly $20 million, Kevin Milwood and Vicente Padilla of the Rangers who will make a combined $19 million this season.

The one-two duo who takes the cake in terms of salary this season are A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay of Toronto who will make a staggering $25.95 million this season when you add their salaries together. These figures are preposterous, but remember that none of these players can match the salary of A-Rod. The Yankees third baseman will be raking in $27, 708, 525.

New York Mets Begin 2007 Season on a Hot Streak

By David

The Mets entered Bush Stadium with revenge on their minds after being eliminated by the Cardinals' in last year's NLCS. Never did the Amazins' think that they would sweep the defending Champions and outscore them 20-2 in the season-opening series.

Tom Glavine outpitched Cards ace Chris Carpenter Sunday night and lead his team to victory. With the victory, Glavine now has 291 wins for his career. To make matters worse for St.Louis Carpenter will miss his next start and by all indications the Cardinals could use any form of help in an effort to record their first win of the season.

Tuesday night I sat down eagerly with my uncle to see if 37-year old Orlando Hernandez has anymore tricks left up his sleeves. In seven innings of work El Duque surrendered five hits and one run to the Cards batters. He even chipped in a 2-run double down the left field line in the sixth inning.

The first two nights of the series witnessed quality pitching and timely hitting by the Mets. Last night, New York put on an offensive display as they smacked three home runs and produced twelve hits. 25-year old right-hander John Maine mowed down the Cards offense over seven scoreless innings and only gave up one hit to Scott Rolen. If Maine can pitch the way he did last night he has the opportunity to be one of the premier number three starters in the NL.

Offensively, the Amazins' did not disappoint as slugger Carlos Beltran blasted a solo shot and a 2-run dinger. Speedster Jose Reyes who is not known for his power added a solo homer in the seventh and a 2-run double in the top of the 8th. Both men combined to drive in seven of the Mets' ten runs.

I was shocked at how easy it was for the Mets to trounce the defending Champs and how poorly the Cards played. It appeared as if New York received the memo that the season had begun and St.Louis was still in spring training mode.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Baseball Highlights from Opening Day 2007

By David

The first full day of baseball action on Monday saw 13 openers and an abundance of high expectations for many major league clubs.

At Yankee Stadium in the Bronx there was a somber moment before Carl Pavano toed the rubber.Melanie Lidle, widow of the late Cory Lidle, took the mound with her son Christopher to thrown out the first pitch. May we never forget that awful October day when Cory and flight instructor Tyler Stanger were killed when Cory's single-engine plane crashed into a Manhattan building.

It didn't take long for the boo birds to come out in full force after A-Rod missed a pop foul in the first. Despite deplorable defense, New York went on to beat the D-Rays 9-5 and with the victory they won their tenth straight home opener. In watching the game I witnessed just how good all the young players for Tampa are. With his first big league hit center fielder Elijah Dukes blasted a home run off of Pavano.

Ben Sheets proved that he was eager to begin the season as he pitched a complete game two-hitter against the Dodgers'. Mariners' right-hander Felix Hernandez looked to up end the performance by Sheets' as he took the mound against the division rival A's. In eight innings of work, the 20-year old struck out twelve and surrendered no runs. In doing so, king Felix became the third pitcher all-time to strikeout at least twelve on Opening Day.

While many pitchers had impressive outings yesterday, the elite pitchers around MLB struggled in their first appearances of 2007. Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano lasted only 5 innings and gave up six hits, five earned runs and two homers to Adam Dunn. Red Sox' hurler Curt Schilling looked to have an easy outing in KC, but in only four innings of work he surrendered eight hits and five earned runs.

The reigning CY Young winners in both leagues did not get off on the right foot in their quest to reclaim their awards. Despite picking up the victory, Johan Santana gave up seven hits and four earned runs. Arizona ace Brandon Webb went five innings and gave up eight hits and five earned runs. Orioles ace and White Sox' starter Jose Contreras were both shelled in their first starts. Contreras only lasted through the first and allowed seven Indians' base runners to score. His E.R.A. now stands at an inflated 63.00.

While there were many poor pitching performances, other players got off to auspicious starts. Reds ace Aaron Harang silenced Chicago over seven strong innings of work and the D-Train went six innings and gave up one earned run against the Nationals. In a loss, Dan Haren of the A's went six scoreless innings but was out pitched by Felix Hernandez. Roy Oswalt pitched 7.2 solid innings for the Astros, but saw his bullpen once again blow the win for him.

Offensively, only the Cleveland Indians scored more than ten runs on Monday and eighteen teams scored five runs or less. Four teams managed to score a mere run and the Oakland A's were blanked in their first game.

Grady Sizemore, leadoff man for the Indians, blasted a home run to right to start the season for the Tribe. Shortstop Edgar Renteria of the Braves who had 14 home runs last season belted the tying and game winning home runs for Atlanta in their victory over the Phillies. Lastly, the Marlins continued their success from a season ago as they trounced Washington 9-2. All-star Miguel Cabrera had a homer, three hits, 2 walks and four RBI's. Defending NL Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez added four hits, four runs scored and two stolen bases in six at bats.

Later today, Barry Zito will make his debut for the Giants and teammate Barry Bonds will look to take one step closer to Hank Aaron's home run record.

Tribune says it plans to sell Chicago Cubs after 2007 season

By DAVE CARPENTER, AP Business Writer
April 2, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) -- Tribune Co. made a stunning pitch to investors on baseball's opening day: The Chicago Cubs will be sold at season's end.

The announcement Monday came as the ailing media conglomerate announced its acquisition by billionaire investor Sam Zell. It puts one of sports' most storied and star-crossed franchises on the block, a year shy of the 100th anniversary of its last World Series title.

Zell, a real estate magnate who already owns part of his hometown Bulls and White Sox, issued no comment about why he's not interested in keeping the Cubs in connection with the $8.2 billion deal. The team is one of Tribune's richest assets.

Bidding for the ballclub and historic Wrigley Field, however, is certain to be fiercely competitive. Analysts have estimated the Cubs could fetch $600 million or more, a far cry from the $20.5 million Tribune paid in 1981.

While the total may not exceed the record $660 million paid for the Boston Red Sox in 2002 by a group headed by John Henry, analysts and baseball insiders all agreed the price should top those paid since then for the Washington Nationals ($450 million), Los Angeles Dodgers ($430 million) and Milwaukee Brewers ($223 million), and agreed to for the Atlanta Braves ($461 million).

"The Cubs are a great franchise. Great history, great tradition," baseball commissioner Bud Selig told reporters in Chicago, where he was attending the White Sox opener against Cleveland. "I'm not going to speculate on price."

The Cubs' popularity as a sports franchise -- and the lure of potentially steering them to their first championship since 1908 -- has attracted the interest of many potential buyers since a sale became a strong possibility last year. Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Phoenix sports executive Jerry Colangelo and actor Bill Murray are among those reported or rumored to have interest, along with numerous Chicago business figures.

Cuban, the most prominent and wealthiest of the bunch, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Colangelo, a Chicago-area native who said in a November interview that he would have "great interest" in the Cubs.

Tribune hopes first to erase or at least lessen the Cubs' stigma of losing following 99 years without a championship, more than a quarter of them under its watch.

"In our last season of ownership the team has one mission, and that is to win for our great fans," said Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune's chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Speculation that the Cubs might be destined for new ownership ramped up last fall when Tribune put itself up for possible sale under pressure from disgruntled shareholders. It intensified with the club's offseason spending spree, including signing outfielder Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year contract for $136 million -- the fifth-richest contract in major league history.

Tribune had said for months that it would focus first on a sale of the entire company before
considering selling individual pieces, which also include 23 television stations and 11 newspapers. That sale was announced Monday morning when it said it had agreed to a complex deal in which the company will go private and Zell will invest $315 million.

While the Cubs are renowned for their losing ways, they also have become more of a box-office success under Tribune's ownership and have spent dramatically more money in recent years. Nevertheless, its stewardship will go down as checkered if it fails to win so much as a single pennant.

"It's a marquee franchise," said sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who pegs the club's value at $500 million to $650 million depending on any changes to TV contracts and how Wrigley Field factors into the deal. But, he added, "My guess is this is probably good news for Cubs fans. I don't think Tribune Co. has done a lot positive for the club."

Tim Speiss, who advises sports team owners for New York accounting firm Eisner LLP, pegged the Cubs' value based on 2005 revenues at roughly $465 million, excluding any debt, but said that's not only the factor in bidding for a sport franchise. "There's always a lot of emotion, for a lot of reasons," he said.

Selig contended that Tribune's ownership shouldn't be evaluated solely on on-the-field results.

"There are a lot of different ways to evaluate ownership," he said. "I understand completely the won-loss parameters people use to judge people in this business. The Tribune Company has, as far as I'm concerned, been outstanding owners."

The ownership issue overshadowed the start of the season in Cincinnati for the Cubs, who are given a chance to contend in a weak NL Central Division but are not the favorites. The Reds beat Chicago 5-1 in the opener.

Lou Piniella, the Cubs' new manager, said he met with his players before the game and told them not to let the news affect them.

"We're not to going to change," he said. "The club's going to be run the same way it's always been run. I told the players that with the business end, they don't have any control over that. The only thing they can control is what they do on the field."

Asked whether the impending sale could be a distraction, catcher Michael Barrett said: "It's a change. At the same time, we're more focused than we've ever been. We feel good about what Lou has accomplished in spring training, getting everyone to have a daily focus."

Cubs president John McDonough said there hasn't been any indication Tribune will cut back on resources for the team in its lame-duck ownership season, although he declined to say whether the announcement might affect negotiations with pitcher Carlos Zambrano on a multiyear contract.

"I feel confident that if during the (season's) midpoint we need to improve the ballclub, those resources will be there," he said.

General Manager Jim Hendry called the Cubs one of the premier franchises in sports.

"Everywhere we go, half of the fans are Cubs fans," Hendry told reporters in Cincinnati. "We play in the greatest ballpark in the world. It's the greatest city to play in. Who wouldn't want to be part of the Cubs?"

AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman in Chicago and Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

Updated on Monday, Apr 2, 2007 7:17 pm EDT

Monday, April 02, 2007

Giants Barry Bonds Hits Two Home Runs - In Great Shape To Take Record This Year

Two more makes seven homers for Bonds
Henry Schulman - SF Chronicle
Monday, April 2, 2007

Barry Bonds returned to the site of his 714th home run and celebrated by hitting two more in the Giants' 8-5 loss at Oakland on Sunday. Bonds concluded a healthy and productive spring by twice taking left-hander Joe Kennedy deep, a high drive down the right-field line with a man aboard in the first inning and a solo laser to left-center in the third.
Bonds concluded spring training with seven home runs, his highest total since he hit 10 in 2003, before swatting 45 during the regular season and winning the sixth of his seven National League Most Valuable Player awards.
"Unreal," starter Noah Lowry said. "The guy just looks healthy, and when he's healthy the results take care of themselves. It's exciting to see. Hopefully he can stay healthy the whole season and we can see him make history. He's out there in the outfield running balls down. It looks like he has his legs under him. That's going to help him on defense, and of course that will help him at the plate."
General manager Brian Sabean said Bonds seems "locked in and confident, and that's usually a dangerous combo, a confidence-builder for him. I think he really feels good about his physical shape and how far he's come from last year."
Manager Bruce Bochy said he will keep an open mind about how to use Bonds, but he expects Bonds to play some day games after night games. At the same time, Bochy had a telling comment when he said he would not be surprised if Todd Linden plays as many games as the starting outfielders. Linden presumably will start a lot of games when Bonds rests.
"I'll keep him monitored," Bochy said of Bonds. "I'm not going to run him into the ground."
Plea for Benitez: Kevin Frandsen would like fans to give Armando Benitez a rousing welcome before the season opener Tuesday.
"The past is the past. People need to move on," Frandsen said. "We're going to jump on his back in the ninth inning and the fans need to jump on his back too, and not in a bad way. The fans need to give him what he deserves. He deserves some support."
Briefly: Travis Blackley, a starter whom the Giants got for Jason Ellison, pitched four games for Seattle in 2004 but was sidelined by shoulder surgery in 2005 and spent all of 2006 in the minors, going 8-12 with a 4.06 ERA. "Anytime you get a starting pitcher of that ilk, it's interesting," Sabean said. "We're obviously trading a guy who's going to be in the big-leagues. Hopefully this guy is going to do the same." ... Bochy remains fuzzy on who will set up Benitez, suggesting at least initially he will use a number of pitchers in the seventh and eighth inning. ... Russ Ortiz allowed two runs over 8 1/3 innings in a Double-A intrasquad game at the minor-league camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. He stayed back so he could throw 100 pitches on his regular pitching day. In Oakland, Lowry allowed two runs over three innings in his final tuneup.

My 2007 Baseball Predictions: NL Division Winners & World Series Participant

By David

The NL is a lot more competitive and there are at least ten teams who can reach the playoffs. This creates for parity and last year the eventual World Series champions, the St.Louis Cardinals, only needed to win 83 games to secure the NL Central crown.

NL East

Philadelphia revamped their pitching staff during the off season and shortstop Jimmy Rollins proclaimed that the Phillies are the team to beat in the NL East. He might be setting high expectations for his club, but when you look through the rest of the division no other team scares you. The Mets have fantastic offense, but their starting rotation has many question marks and they have no bridge to get to closer Billy Wagner.

The Braves have several young players on their team coupled in with the Jones' duo and veteran John Smoltz. While Atlanta wants to reclaim the honor of being the class of the division they will have to settle for a third place finish. The Marlins should settle around .500 and it would be a success for the Nats if they avoided 100 losses.

NL Central

Even though the NL Central won't have a team top 90 wins it will prove to be a very competitive division. The defending champs will be there until the end, the Brewers will prove to be a surprising team and the Cubs will look to prove that spending $300 million can produce a winner.

Despite adding Carlos Lee, the Astros will struggle because of a lack of quality pitching and will find themselves as a sub .500 team. The Reds seem to stay a float till June and once the Summer hits they fizzle in the heat. Pittsburgh improved their ball club during the off season with the addition of slugger Adam LaRoche, but they are still very young.

This might seem like a bold prediction, but I expect the Brewers to win the division. Milwaukee has a potent lineup and the best pitching in the division. If Ben Sheets can stay healthy and Francisco Cordero can come through as the closer, the Brew Crew have the opportunity to beat out the Cards.

St.Louis seems to have too many uncertainties with their starting five and they also have no plan B if Izzy goes down, again. I find it too difficult for the Cubs to go from 96 losses to a real contender in the division.

NL West

The Dodgers are the class of the division, but just like the AL Central there are many great teams and players. The D-backs and Rockies are two young improving teams and I would not be surprised if Arizona stayed in contention till late September. The Giants spent $126 million to sign pitching ace Barry Zito, but overall their team is not good enough to contend.

While the Padres have excellent pitching [Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux], there offense is porous and at best they will finish in second place. L.A. has a terrific pitching staff and despite not having a true power bat, the Dodgers have very good balance in their lineup. This could be the year that Grady Little and his men represent the NL in the World Series.


First Round: Phillies over Brewers; Dodgers over Mets

NLCS: Dodgers over Phillies

World Series Participant: L.A. Dodgers

World Series: Yankees over Dodgers

Padres, Gonzalez sign four-year pact- Padres.com

Adrian Gonzalez is a young slugger who is quickly emrging into an elite first baseman in the NL I expect 2007 to be his breakout season.
04/01/2007 7:10 PM ET
First baseman a Padre through 2010, with option for 2011
By Sandy Bergin / Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- What a difference a month makes.
Just four weeks ago, the San Diego Padres offered to renew Adrian Gonzalez' contract for $380,500, which is $500 above the league minimum.

On Sunday, the Padres and their 24-year-old first baseman agreed on a $19.5 million contract. The deal, which includes a $500,000 signing bonus, is for four years through 2010, with a club option for a fifth season in 2011.

Gonzalez, the team's MVP last season after batting .304 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs, will receive $500,000 for this season, $750,000 in 2008, $3 million in 2009, and $4.75 million in 2010. The Padres will have the option of picking up a $5.5 million contract in 2011.

"This is a special day, a significant day here for this organization, as we're pleased to announce a multiyear contract for Adrian Gonzalez," said Padres GM/executive VP Kevin Towers at a press conference following the Padres final preseason workout at PETCO Park.

"The great thing is that we avoid that arbitration process and ensure that one of San Diego's own will play here in his home town," said Towers. "We're proud to say that Adrian is going to be the centerpiece of the infield, the middle of this lineup -- not only for this contract, but, hopefully, for many more.

"What led us to this decision was, not only is [Gonzalez] a great baseball player, but we take very seriously here in San Diego the type of people we tie ourselves to, long-term. It's important who wears that Padres uniform, who acts, and treats not only our fans but many people in San Diego, in a professional manner. And Adrian Gonzalez is a tremendous role model, who represents the city and this organization."

"First of all, I'd like to thank the Padres, Kevin Towers, Sandy Alderson, [and] John Moores for this opportunity," said Gonzalez. "It is something that secures (my wife, Betsy, and I) and gives us the knowledge that we are going to be here. I know trades are always a possibility -- we learned that in the past -- but I'm very happy.

"My wife and I look forward to trying to help this team win a championship. With the pieces that we have this year and the years to come, we'll be able to accomplish that feat."

Originally selected first overall in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins, Gonzalez was just the second first baseman in baseball history taken with the top pick, joining Ron Blomberg, who was selected first overall by the New York Yankees in 1967. Gonzalez was acquired by San Diego from the Texas Rangers on January 4, 2006, and is the seventh No. 1 overall draft pick to appear in a Padres uniform.

Over parts of three Major League seasons with the Rangers (2004-05) and Padres (2006), Gonzalez has batted .285 (217-for-762) with 48 doubles, 31 home runs, 106 RBIs and 107 runs scored in 215 career games. A native of San Diego, he attended Eastlake High School in Chula Vista where he was named the CIF and San Diego Union-Tribune Player of the Year in 2000.

Padres manager Bud Black, who joined Towers at the press conference, offered his take on securing Gonzalez for the long term.

"I've seen Adrian from the other dugout when he was in Texas," said Black. "I've read his name in print when he was in high school. I got the chance to put the name to the face finally when he got to Texas. When I was in Anaheim and saw him in a Rangers uniform, I knew he was going to be a good player.

"Knowing the year that he had last season [and] where he is in his career, I'm very happy for the organization and happy for Adrian," Black added. "To me, it is validation for the last five weeks in Spring Training watching him go about his business. He comes to play and had done everything that we have asked. He is up front, leading the pack.

"I think he's the guy I will be able to lean on. He has great knowledge of the game, and I look forward to seeing him playing in the field. San Diegians can be very proud."

According to Gonzalez, the deal was not in the works for very long, perhaps the last couple of weeks.
"I'm not the type of guy to be looking into contracts once I'm on the field," Gonzalez said. "That's what I worry about. I was glad the opportunity for this came up."

According to Towers, it was important to get this contract done before the season started.

"Anytime you start negotiating deals in season, sometimes it can be distraction to the players," Towers said. "We want these players focused once the season starts. We didn't have a great deal of time to get it done. Considering there was a renewal, we put our heads together and were able to hammer it out and put it behind us."

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

My 2007 Baseball Predictions: AL Division Winners & World Series Participant

By David

Today is the first full day of action around MLB. It's the best day of the year because every team believes they are the best and that they have an opportunity to reach the playoffs. Over the year's the parity around the game has grown immensely to the point that many teams, mostly in the NL, are in it until the end of August.

Unfortunately, only four teams from each league can make the playoffs and this is how I envision the season playing out.

AL East

Even though the Blue Jays finished ahead of Boston in the division last year, they did not spend the money or make the improvements that the Red Sox' did during the off season. Boston has a deep lineup that includes Ortiz & Ramirez, and their starting rotation might be the best in baseball. With Papelbon back as closer their bullpen is all but shored up. Still, I like the Yankees to win their tenth straight division title in what will be a two-team race. If Tampa and Baltimore played in another division then they might have a shot.

AL Central

Baseball's best division produced two playoff teams last year and the same thing might happen this season. Despite the loss of Kenny Rogers, Detroit has an intimidating pitching staff and they added Gary Sheffield during the off season. The White Sox have a chance to return as the elite team in the division, but with aging veterans and a shaky pitching staff the South Siders will have to wait another season. Minnesota might have the best pitcher in baseball, but after that many people could not name the rest of their staff. I forecast them to take a step backwards this year.

This paves the way for the young and energetic Cleveland Indians who have been predicted by many experts to win the division. If they can remain healthy and shore up their bullpen they have the best chance to win the AL Central. As for the Royals, at least they have Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon on their team.

AL West

Like the AL East, this division usually comes down to two teams, the Angels and A's. While I think the Rangers could be competitive their pitching is still very shaky. As for Seattle, they might be the team to take home the honor of first manager and GM to be fired mid-way through the season.

Despite losing veteran Frank Thomas and having question marks in the outfield, the A's have a solid team. Nick Swisher needs continue his hitting prowess and Rich Harden must stay healthy in order for his team to contend with the Angels. Still, I like the Angels with their elite pitching staff and dominating bullpen to win the division. Not to mention they still have Vladamir Guerrero roaming the outfield.


First round: Red Sox over Angels; Yankees over Indians

ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox

AL World Series Participant: New York Yankees

Visit the new Zennie62.com

Google Analytics Alternative