Friday, December 12, 2008

Burnett to Yanks; Peavy deal dead

Just when you thought the Yankees had made their big splash, a second cannonball has landed.

New York and A. J. Burnett have just agreed to a 5-year, $82.5 million deal, merely hours after the Yanks opened the coffers to sign C.C. Sabathia to a 7-year, $161 million contract. 

First-name initials must be all the buzz in the Bronx this offseason. Too bad B. J. Ryan wasn't available.

The scary part after these two signings is that the Yankees might not be done. How can that be, after cutting checks worth $243.5 million in the past 48 hours? Consider both Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi had huge contracts both come off the books.

And don't forget the Yankees open up a new revenue-streaming stadium in April. 

But even with the deepest pockets in pro sports, landing a third big fish, Mark Teixeira, is probably not doable. Teixeira reportedly has 8- and 9-year offers on the table from Baltimore and Washington in the $150-$160 million range and the Red Sox are said to be serious bidders as well.

Look for Teixeira, a Maryland native, to sign with either the Red Sox, Orioles or Nationals -- probably in that order -- as the Angels appear to be both too far from home and not desperate enough to hand out a 10-year deal, which Teixeira reportedly covets.

The aging Yanks, however, will still try to upgrade their lineup as a Melky Cabrera-Mike Cameron swap is very possible. A Robinson Cano-Matt Kemp swap has also been rumored.

Peavy-Cubs deal dead: In the end, Cubs GM Jim Hendry just couldn't justify adding to the already bloated payroll of the Cubs, without adding the coveted left-handed bat. 

The sticking point in a complicated three- or four-team deal was how much money the Cubs would have to eat of Jason Marquis' $9.5 million contract.

As a Cubs fan, it pains me to see the Cubs getting cheap, right at the doorstep of adding one of the Top 5 pitchers in baseball. After all, what is the best way to get out of the first round? Exactly. Elite pitching.

But I understand the ownership situation is dicey at best. And I would love the chance to land a Brian Roberts or Rafael Furcal, although it sounds like Milton Bradley is the most likely bat headed to the Windy City.

Phillies sign Ibanez: The biggest news out from the World Champs had been Cole Hamels calling the Mets, "Choke artists," until Philadelphia shored up its outfield by giving Raul Ibanez a three-year, $30 million contract.

Indians close with Wood: Talk about a deal taking forever to close. Sounds like this deal is done, just held up by Kerry Wood passing a physical, which is no small feat. Terms are reportedly $20 million over 2 years, with a third-year option.

In other news: The Blue Jays are buying into the Matt Clement comeback trail, giving the rotator-cuffed pitcher  a minor league contract... the Orioles are trying to move the control-plagued, strikeout phenom Daniel Cabrera ... a Julio Lugo-Eric Byrnes deal fell apart, probably after the Diamondbacks looked at splits of Lugo last season ... on a related note, Felipe Lopez, who was a stolen base fool for the Reds before falling off the fantasy map in Washington, signed a one year deal worth $3.5 million with Arizona to replace free agent Orlando Hudson ... the Indians tendered a contract for C Kelly Shoppach and why not after the backup catcher hit 21 HR, filling in for Victor Martinez ... the Cubs, Rays, Angels and Dodgers expressed interest in RBI-machine Bobby Abreu, although the Angels and Dodgers appear to have a glut in the OF, especially if the Dodgers sign Manny Ramirez, who is reportedly miffed at the lack of offers flooding in ... the Mets traded for J.J. Putz on Thursday, giving them possibly the best back end of the rotation, after having arguably the worst before the week began. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yanks sign Sabathia; Peavy to Cubs?

Really, not much has transpired since the end of that wacked-out World Series. 

Until the past 24 hours, that is.

The Winter Meetings usually yield some big-name free agent signings and like clockwork, this morning, sources say the Yankees have signed C.C. Sabathia, the most coveted free agent pitching prospect. The deal is worth $161 million over 7 years, which would be the largest deal ever for a pitcher, fourth largest for any player.

There had been so much talk that Sabathia wanted to go to the left coast. Of course, by most accounts, no team could offer him more than $100 million. So now with the extra money, he can just buy a private jet to fly to his northern California home. Sheesh. So much for the downturn in the economy.

Fantasy spin: Not a huge fan of Sabathia, after the Brewers rode him into the ground, throwing him approximately 4,000 innings in the month of September. Weight has also been an issue for Sabathia and you wonder if the new contract will impact his size and/or effectiveness. Still, pitching for the Yankees, he'll undoubtedly be a top 5 pitcher in almost every publication, starting in a couple weeks. I'd stay away, unless he drops outside the top 10.

K-Rod to Mets: So, a three-year, $37 million deal for former Angels closer Fransisco Rodriguez, who set the saves record this year with 62? This is about half the money K-Rod wanted, according to initial reports. Call it a perfect storm that cost him a fortune. Economic downturn. Glut of free agent closers. Few suitors from big markets. And truthfully, the Mets were bidding against themselves on this one. There is a $14 million, fourth-year vesting option, which sounds tricky, but even still, the Mets have immediately upgraded their bullpen and with one signing are suddenly the favorites in the NL East again.

Fantasy spin: Closers are so interchangeable in fantasy, I wouldn't waste a top pick here. K-Rod was fourth or fifth on most expert's lists going into 2008 and he finished with 62 saves. Nobody saw that coming. And nobody will be shocked if he only saves 35 for the Mets, which could happen as the Angels' small ball mentality tends to maximize save opportunities, which reminds me, don't sleep on whoever wins the Angels closer job. Could easily be 50 saves this year and he'll probably be cheap.

Peavy to Cubs? Well, not just yet, but no rumor has had more legs and a longer shelf life than this one. I've never seen a GM be so forthright to try to trade a player to one specific team. Partly because Peavy has a very limited no-trade clause and the Braves backed out and decided to pick up Javier Vazquez (cough, bit mistake), from the White Sox. Only the stock market sank lower than Ozzie Guillen's faith in Vazquez down the stretch.

But back to Peavy. The latest rumor has the Cubs, Padres and Phillies set to pull off a three-way deal. These are tricky, but occasionally done, as opposed to fantasy, where I've never seen it happen, despite many attempts. The skinny: Peavy goes to the Cubs; Jason Marquis to the Padres (with the Cubs eating half or more of the $9.5 million owed). Mark DeRosa goes to the Phillies, who in turn send the Padres more pitching prospect and possibly a top catcher prospect.

Let's see: Peavy for Marquis and DeRosa....uh, where do I sign? Yes, Peavy had a stint on the DL, but when you check out his stats the past four seasons, the guy has simply been the best pitcher in baseball not named Santana. DeRosa was money last year and is a nice, sturdy, flexible player. Marquis had his moments the past two seasons, mostly mixed. If the Cubs can pull this off, someone needs to just go ahead and mail Jim Hendry GM of the Year award.

Fantasy spin: Won't spend too much time, since it hasn't happened yet, but uptick Peavy slightly as a 20-win season becomes a legit possibility. His ERA/WHIP might take a hit, though, going from Petco to Wrigley.

Wood to Indians? Keeping it close to Wrigley, the Cubs closer Kerry Wood is now a free agent after the Cubs decided they had other pressing needs (and capable Carlos Marmol locked up). The Cleveland Indians, who have tried 75 options in the past two seasons at closer, are close to giving Wood a two-year deal with a vesting option (argyle, I presume). Nobody knows the exact terms, but the Detroit Free-Press says it's worth around $20 million. Not sure why they're the only ones reporting this.

Fantasy spin: Mid to late rounds, after all the name brand guys are gone, take a flier on Wood, but temper the expectations. Wood has been to the DL so often (12 times), I think he's built a summer home there.

Other tidbits: Mike Lamb re-signed with the Brewers....the Dodgers gave Casey Blake $17.5 million over 3 years and Mark Loretta $1.25 million over 1 year ... the Rockies are close to locking up former A's RP Alan Embree ... the Orioles sent Ramon Hernandez and between $2 and $3 million to the Reds for Ryan Freel, which has to have Cincy fans holding their breath, hoping that surely, they're not putting their trust in Corey Patterson.

There's also a bazillion rumors out there, 85 percent of them never come to fruition, but I'll be reporting on the key chatter as the Hot Stove season really heats up.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Did Rays' Maddon blow it in Game 5?

Just a few quick thoughts about strategy in Game 5 of the World Series.

Admittedly, it's much easier to manage from the couch. Or second-guess the day after.

Still, I can't let it go without bringing up a few managerial tactics by Rays manager Joe Maddon. It seems that no media outlet (including both major papers that cover the Rays) have bothered to second-guess Maddon, who deserves an A+ for getting the Rays this far in the first place.

Still, there are three things I can't help but question in an unprecedented Series game that lasted 48 hours from start to finish.

1). David Price. This is the easy one to take Maddon to task with. And frankly, it's the most subjective. Price has been the wild card all postseason and against the Red Sox, he came in and delivered a World Series berth to the Tampa Bay region. So, who only use Price 1 inning, if he's your best bet out of the bullpen?

Perhaps, Maddon was worried about overusing Price. After all, the Rays had four innings to shut the Phillies down. But the best that I can figure is Maddon badly wanted J.P. Howell to face Pat Burrell. Howell has a nasty curve and Burrell is known for chasing junk in the dirt. Maddon got his matchup, but not the result (Burrell doubled, which led to the winning run).

I don't have a problem not starting with Price, as Grant Balfour has done an admirable job this year. And Price, while dominant, has had control issues, so there's no guarantee he mows down the Phils for 12 straight outs.

Still, bringing out Price in the 7th inning (not the 8th) seems to be the way to go with a tie game in the balance and a season on the line.

2). Carl Crawford not stealing in the 8th? Crawford has been the single best base stealer in the American League over the past five years. Plus, he's one of the most successful base swipers in baseball history at 82.5 percent. Crawford stole 6 bases in the postseason and the Rays stole a postseason record 24.

Crawford led off the 8th inning with a clean single to center. B.J. Upton was up next and instead of taking a pitch or two to let Crawford get into scoring position with nobody out, Upton swings at the first pitch and hits into a double play. Game over.

Why didn't Maddon put the mandatory green light on for Crawford and the red light to Upton? To me, this was the most egregious error of the night. Pressing the issue has been the Rays' M.O. all season, especially in the playoffs. When it counted most, Maddon got conservative.

3). Fernando Perez not stealing 3rd in the 9th. This is my final rant and I'll get off my soap box. Dioner Navarro sawed a broken-bat single off the nearly-unhittable Brad Lidge. Predictably, Perez pinch-ran and easily stole second base. Wasn't close.

Pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist had just one strike on him. There was one out. Lidge has not blown a save all season long. Why not send Perez, one of the fastest guys in baseball, to third. Gutsy? Sure. But what's harder to do? Get a single off a dominant closer or steal a base and get a fly ball. Zobrist accomplished the fly ball a couple pitches later. But Perez ends up stranded at third.

Now, it's your turn. Did you think Maddon could've managed the game any differently? Starting in the bottom of the 6th inning, the strategic moves take on a whole new meaning.

The non-steal attempts by Crawford and Perez weren't awful, and haven't been mentioned, even on the game broadcast, but in my mind, considering the circumstances and Maddon's style, they were both way too conservative. This was a team with the season on the line. They need to manufacture a run somehow, someway.

Still, it's a great story, one of the best in baseball in my lifetime. And Maddon deserves praise for not just getting to the Series, but for winning the A.L. East with a payroll one-fifth as big as the Yankees.

Hopefully, this isn't the last we've seen of the Rays.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why the Rays will win Game 5

The game is tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 6th.

But Mother Nature is winning.

The question now is: Who will win tonight? Patience.

The most bizarre World Series situation has unfolded over the past 36 hours with Game 5 being suspended because of a rain that went from an annoyance to turn-the-windshield-wipers-on-high in the span of a couple innings Monday night.

MLB probably waited too long to call the game. But they waited just long enough for Tampa Bay to tie Philadelphia 2-2 with a Carlos Pena opposite-field single.

And now the wait. Who will win Game 5? 


Controversy has been brewing in the sports media on Bud Selig's rule change, insisting the game would not have ended because of rain, even after the 5th inning, had the Rays not scored that tying run in the 6th. Even though the letter of the law states that.

Incidentally, I agree with Selig's ruling, which as commissioner he's allowed to do. You simply can't end the World Series on a called game in the 6th inning. This guy's still trying to recover his image from calling the All-Star game a few years ago, tied in the 12th inning.

So, where does that leave us for tonight's 8:37 p.m., 6th-inning first pitch? 

Not so fast.

The fact that the Rays players didn't know what they were dealing with, specifically Pena, when he was at the plate. If he strikes out, is that the end of their run? Sure, Joe Madden could have told his players what the commish had decided, but the fact that the decision was made on the fly without the players' knowledge is stirring the pot. 

Pressure does change how you play the game. Sometimes dramatically. And leave it to Madden, the unorthodox, fifth-infielder, mad scientist to keep that pressure boiling in the clubhouse, which may have led to the them tying the game in a near-downpour.

Which leads us right back to our suspended game, which will be nearly 48 hours old before we know the winner of Game 5, and more importantly, whether the Phillies will bring the first major sports championship to the city since 1980.

My official gut feeling for tonight's game: The Rays win 3-2.

Let me explain. 

Temperatures will be in the upper 30s at first pitch. Wind chill will be around 30. 

Have you ever tried swinging a bat in these conditions? It's brutal. Actually beyond that. 

And both teams will be using their best bullpen guys. Grant Balfour was the pitcher of record for the Rays, but look for David Price to throw at least two innings tonight. And I wouldn't be surprised if Madden digs deep into his bag of tricks and sends out Game 4 pitcher Andy Sonnanstine.

And you can bet the Phillies will likely stick with setup diva Ryan Madsen and closer Brad Lidge, who hasn't blown a save all year. 

Yes, these hitters are all big boys, but the sting of the bat and the deadness of the ball in these frigid conditions will likely paralyze most long-ball hitters, even the HR-swatting Ryan Howard, who had recently found his stroke, as if it was the remote stuck between two cushions of the couch.

Tonight, it's all going to come down to Small Ball.

Not to say the Phills can't manufacture a run. But the Rays and Madden's NL-style, run-manufacturing coaching all season long gives the Rays a huge advantage, despite the Phillies getting 12 outs to the Rays' 9. 

Look for Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton or even Jason Bartlett to steal a base or two to set up the winning run, possibly a bunt or sac fly or a grounder to the right side that sends this thing back to Tampa Bay.

And then, the Series will be on.

This 2-day rain delay may be a huge inconvenience for the players and fans alike.

But it's doing wonders for  turning a World Series Snoozefest into must-see TV.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rays starting Kazmir a mistake

Sure, it's easy to second-guess a manager's decision after the fact.

But here's one before hand. Call it 20/20 foresight:

Starting Scott Kazmir is a mistake for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Rays manager decided to roll the dice with Game 2 starter Kazmir in Game 5 against the Red Sox, in a game the Rays could clinch their first World Series berth.

The reasoning is Kazmir's career numbers (4-4 with a 3.02 ) at Fenway have been much better than those of James Sheilds (0-3, 10.13).

But when you look at Kazmir's most recent success against Boston it's a no-brainer to use Shields. Kazmir gave up 5 ER in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2, not to mention the 9 ER in 3 IP he served up to Boston on Sept. 15 show he could be just what the slumping Red Sox need.

Shields has been their rock all year and the Rays should go for the knockout punch while they can.

Thanks to TV, there's a day off between Games 4 and 5, which gives Kazmir the proper rest (four days) that makes this decision appealing.

But Madden shouldn't try to outsmart himself.

This is just the sort of decision that may rally Boston and inspire a Game 5 win. A 3-1 lead seems like a done deal.

Just ask the Cubs how that worked out in 2003.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Does Manny deserve 'despicable' label?

Manny being Manny is one thing.

But the question has surfaced in bold type recently whether or not Manny Ramirez's actions in Boston, where he appeared to be tanking it to get traded to the Dodgers, went too far.

The controversial quotes were delivered by MLB on Fox analyst Tim McCarver, according to a report in the MLB on FOX analyst Tim McCarver said, according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"It's extraordinary — the dichotomy between what he was in Boston and what he is in Los Angeles," McCarver was quoted. "I mean, talk about wearing out your welcome in a town, and it was a long welcome with the Red Sox. But some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable — like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on. And now it's washed, it's gone."

Is "despicable" a little strong for Manny's actions?

Perhaps. But depending on which coast you live on, you see this thing through different glass.

Looking at how Manny rolled out excuse after excuse for why he couldn't play in those final weeks in Boston, then miraculously seemed perfectly healthy in Los Angeles doesn't sit well with most baseball purists.

But how is this different than someone in the final year of his contract, running out every hit, diving for balls, taking the extra base, all for that extra 1-2 million per year on a multi-season deal?

(For example, see Adrian Beltre).

Thursday night, as the NLCS kicked off with a 3-2 Phillies win over the Dodgers, Manny went 2-for-4, including a double in the first that just missed going out.

Manny hit .398 with 53 RBI in the final two months with the Dodgers. These were numbers only a healthy Manny, playing at his absolute peak, could reach. So why could he not even play in a key game against the Yankees, despite looking completely fine taking batting practice?

Perhaps only one thing could put a rest to the whole "despicable" debacle.

Manny and the Dodgers facing the Red Sox in the Series.

Now that's must-see TV.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The root of the Cubs' heartbreak?

People want to know why.

After winning 97 games this year and with 100 years of futility staring directly at them, how could the Cubs get swept by the Dodgers.

It's simple.

All you fans out there have nobody to blame but yourself.

I know, pretty strong words. And how can I mean that?

After all, it is the Cubs' 25-man playoff roster who "choked" right? These are the guys who didn't perform, stopped hitting, forgot how to field, couldn't find the strike zone with a GPS.

Well, yeah. But that's just the root of the cause.

Hear me out.

I've had a full 24 hours to digest this and I can only come to one logical explanation: There was too much pressure.

Expectations are a funny thing. Take a frozen pizza. How many times have you popped one in the oven, expecting something barely edible, but instead, after taking a couple bites tell yourself, "you know, this ain't half bad."

The 2003 Cubs were a frozen pizza.

Nobody expecting much of anything out of them and then behind Mark Prior and Kerry Wood they came five outs away from the World Series. The were nearly a Tombstone supreme.

This year, since the first optimistic day in Mesa, Ariz., so much was made of the 100-year drought and how THIS was the year. But then you would hear about the billy goat. The black cat. The ground ball to Leon Durham. Steve Bartman.

If you believe in all that stuff, more power to you, but I don't think any of that had a shred of influence on the Cubs' pathetic display this week.

They simply were trying too hard to live up to the grand expectations everyone – and not just the city of Chicago – but the entire sports media branded on them before the playoffs began.

They had the best starting pitching in baseball. One of the top bullpens. Steady lineup. No easy outs from top to bottom. Experienced manager.

All that was true.

But in the end, it may have been just the opposite of what has done in the Cubs countless other times this past century.

Instead of everyone thinking of them as lovable losers, they were unbeatable winners who would end decades of frustrations with a World Series Championship and a celebration like no one has seen since man first stepped on the moon.

One of these years the Cubs will take that one small step ... and one giant leap for Wrigley Kind.

But it'll be when you – and the Cub Nation – least expect it.

Let's hope it's soon.

"Nooooooooooooooooooo! ... I simply can't believe it!"

Ron Santo can only take so much.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back to football: Week 4 pickups

If you're like someone I know, puttering along at 0-3, you've been scowering that waiver wire with a fine-tooth finger.

You know there is no coming back from 0-4.

And, of course, you have Manning or Wayne or Addai on a bye.

Here's some quick fill-in options for this week.

Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars (3.5 stars)

You mean, the former college QB, Matt Jones? That's right. And after 16 receptions, 24 looks and 173 yards in the first three games, Jones draws an ultra-Downey soft Texans defense. Then, there was this quote from Jags offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter: "We have to continue to find better ways to use Matt [Jones]," Koetter said. "Let's face it. He has some talents that other guys don't have." Expect 6 catches, 80 yards and a score.

Hank Baskett, WR, Eagles (3 stars)

His weekly yardage totals have been schizophrenic: 102, 10, 85. Which Baskett will show up against the Bears on Sunday night? After giving up 400 yards to Brian Griese and the Bucs, you'd have to think Baskett will get his share of looks. Expect 4 catches, 65 yards with a possible score.

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (3 stars)

You saw Chris Chambers torch the Panthers' secondary in week 1. You saw Bernard Berrian burn Carolina last week. And you've seen Matt Ryan's huge arm, connecting for a 62- and 70-yard TD score already this season. All it takes is one bomb to Roddy White or Michael Jenkins and you have a nice fill-in day for Payton or Eli Manning (how much you wanna bet those two are on the same golf course this weekend?). Think 205yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.

Steve Slaton, RB, Texans (2.5 stars)

If it wasn't for the Jax defense, I'd make Slaton a 4-star sleeper. Slaton chewed up a good Tennessee defense with 116 yards on 18 carries. Jacksonville lived up to its reputation, holding Buffalo's run attack in week 2, but Chris Johnson ripped off 6.2 yards per carry in week 1 and Joseph Addai managed 4.9 last week. Slaton might not get to 100, but he'll get to 80 and score.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Eagles (2 stars)

With the game-time decision of Brian Westbrook holding up rosters Sunday afternoon, how could I honestly recommend Buckhalter? Dude, I gave him 2 stars. This is only a good idea, if you are in a desperation mode. But even if Westbrook plays, look for Buckhalter to get more carries than usual. All indications seem to point to Westbrook NOT playing, but you never know. Westbrook is good for 1-2 DNPs a season for regular maintenance. That's why he always comes at a slight discount on draft day. Expect 35 yards if Westbrook plays and 70 and score if he doesn't.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Final stretch: Brewers, Mets or Phils?

Nothing beats a late-September chase for the playoffs.

With five games left, three teams are battling for two spots in the National League. Sure, a few more are still mathematically alive, but basically it's the Brewers, Mets and Phillies.

And not in that order.

Thanks to Johan Santana, the Mets pulled within 1 1/2 games of the NL East-leading Phillies last night and hold a slim 1-game edge on the Brewers for the Wild Card spot.

So, who will be left without a chair when the music stops?

Conventional wisdom says it's the Brewers. After two more game with Pittsburgh, it's three with the Cubs in the Land o' Cheese.

Yes, the same Cubs who have clinched home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs and have little to nothing to play for.

Translation: The Brewers could very well sweep the Cubs, as motivation to win this weekend will be at polar opposite ends of the spectrum.

Look: The Cubs aren't about to tank the final weekend. It's considered un-American, or at least un-baseball-like for Lou Piniella to bench his starters, almost as bad as spilling your beer or not eating apple pie. Although you probably will see a few regulars get a breather, I would imagine.

If the Brewers were to get in, that would send the Cubs to Hollywood for games 3 and 4 of the opening round of the playoffs. Sure, nobody wants that kind of commute, but faced with the choice of facing the Dodgers or Mets/Phillies, I'm guess the Cubs would rather face Joe Torre's band of castoffs.

Just another reason why the Cubs shouldn't tank it.

But the sense of urgency is simply not there.

The scene in Milwaukee is quite different. The Brewers will throw C.C. Sabathia on 3-day's rest again. And will do so again this Sunday, if Sabathia's arm is still attatched.

Still, the Brewers will just miss facing Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harder, getting Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, three fine pitchers but still hittable.

The Mets? After two with the Cubs, the host Florida for three games. And the Phillies? After tonight's game with the Braves they roll out the red carpet for the vaunted Washington Nationals, who may be re-classified a AAA team next season.

On paper, the Phils will win the East. It may come down to the final day of the season with Sabathia going for the Brewers and Santana for the Mets.

I'm feeling a one-game playoff on Monday, but regardless, if this thing comes down to Sunday afternoon, the winner will be crystal clear:

All true baseball fans.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to NFL; Week 3 waiver gems

After watching Carlos Zambrano get rocked for 8 runs in 1 2/3 innings this afternoon, I have no other choice but to turn my attention to football.

Actually, The Ryder Cup is again making a claim for the best sporting event on TV, but even I think fantasy golf is lame, so we'll move onto the NFL.

While it may be a little late to give pickup advice, here are some sleepers you should think about, especially if you have a few holes on your roster (and who doesn't).

This week's pickups:

Michael Bush, RB, Raiders (4 stars)

With Darren McFadden battling the dreaded turf toe and Justin Fargas gimpy with a groin injury, Bush remains the healthiest back in what is turning into a run-heavy offense. McFadden is still starting, so don't expect miracles here, but moving forward, there's bound to be many weeks where Bush is a strong play. This week at Buffalo, however, may not be one of them, but if you're scraping for life in a flex spot, don't hesitate. After 90 yards last week on 16 carries, look for about half that this week (50 yards on 10 carries), but Bush could be a good bet to score, especially if this one turns into a laugher late. The Raiders won't ride McFadden in a blowout.

Justin Gage, Titans, WR (3.5 stars)

A Tennessee receiver? No, I'm not smoking anything. Here's the deal. Kerry Collins has taken over at QB with Vince Young's shenanigans going on. Coach Jeff Fisher said this week that Collins would keep the job, so long as the Titans keep winning. We all know Collins has a gun and while the Titans are a run-first team, someone's gotta catch the ball and Gage is the top target, although he is a game-time decision so you may want to wait a week before you en-Gage this sleeper. Facing Houston and Minnesota secondaries the next two weeks is like printing money. Think 75 yards and a TD, if he plays

Bernanrd Berrian, Vikings, WR (3 stars)

If you've missed out on Gage, Berrian's likely still hanging around your waiver wire. But what do you want with a wideout who has only 3 catches for 38 yards this year? Thy name is Gus Ferrotte. The benching of Tavaris Jackson is not only surprising after two weeks, but should increase the Vikings' passing game two-fold. Maybe now, they'll actually try throwing inside the red zone. Berrian is a star, paired with the right QB, and while Ferrotte is no Manning, he's been known to air it out with the best of them. Look for 65 yards and a score this week from B.B.

J.T. O'Sullivan, QB, 49ers (3 stars)

What? J.T. who? Yes, the obscure 6th-year QB who has thrown for 516 yards (thanks Mike Martz) has a dream matchup this week in the Detroit Lions. It's a good bet to start any QB and starting RB against what looks like the worst defense in the league. And it might not be close. O'Sullivan has developed nice rapport with Isaac Bruce and you know Martz knows how to use Bruce, regardless of how close he is to AARP status. Those of you who drafted Carson Palmer should plug and play this Irish gunslinger while Cincy tries to find themselves. O'Sullivan should get another 300-yard game this week, with two scores.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers (2.5 stars)

The main reason to pick up Jackson is Ryan Grant's tender hamstring. Grant practiced without pads on Thursday, but is expected to play Sunday night in what should be a wild shootout with the Cowboys. Any RB who could get carries for a team as explosive as Green Bay should be owned and Jackson should find carries, similarly to Bush, but in a much more prolific offense. And he could make for a good bye-week fill-in coming up. Look for 7-10 carries for 40 yards, but probably no score this week.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Was firing Yost the Brewers' ticket?

The news of Ben Sheets' elbow injury has to be worse than the beloved bratwurst getting hit by a baseball bat in the beloved Sausage Race in Milwaukee.

The Brewers' collapse seems more eminent with each passing day.

The good news is the usually-dicey Brewers bullpen shut down the Cubs in a 6-2 Milwaukee win Wednesday night in Wrigley.

But the Brewers are still 1/2 game behind the Mets in the wildcard standings.

Milwaukee had lost 11 of 14 before the win, prompting the firing of manager Ned Yost, a move that may have been long overdue. Especially if you followed the Brewers through the past two seasons, including All-Star Ryan Braun mysteriously absence from the 2007 Opening Day roster despite obvious signs of stardom.

The Brewers have put everything on the line, trying to make the playoffs this season. They traded highly-regarded prospect Matt LaPorta to Cleveland for C.C. Sabathia, who will most likely be just a half-year rental, as the lefty is looking for big, big bucks and years. Sabathia and Sheets will probably be pitching elsewhere next year, which is a sad economic reality of baseball.

But now, Sheets, who says he's had this elbow pain since Aug. 26 will have an MRI, but you can bet if there's any way he can pitch at all next week, the Brewers will roll him out.

Tthe pressure is on. Ten games left. Your manager has been fired. You've mortgaged the future for 2008. Everything's riding on this final stretch.

Great atmosphere to play loose, right?

Look for the Brewers to fold, not that I want them to. I always like to see small market teams make it. The Rays story is one of the best in years, even if they can't sell out still.

But the expectations are just too great in a must-win now environment and baseball is a funny game.

Maybe baseball's cheeseheads will prove me wrong.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is Big Z's no-hitter tainted?

Not since 1972, has a Cubs pitcher thrown a no-hitter.

Until last night, in the most unlikely place.

Carlos Zambrano, a hot pistol to say the least, dealt the Houston Astros a 10-strikeout no-hitter in Milwaukee.


Well, of course. Actually, it makes little sense, as Miller Park, designed to be a neutral fall-back venue after Hurricane Ike slammed Houston Saturday morning, is clearly home-field advantage for the Cubs.

But that's what happens when you have a commisioner (Bud Selig) with obvious ties to Milwaukee, this is what you get.

Surely, a game in Cincinnati or Atlanta or Tampa would've been more legit.

But, still a no-hitter is a no-hitter and the Astros were completely demoralized on this night. Is it tainted? Absolutely not.

So, what about Zambrano's 110 pitches after coming off shoulder tendinitis? Manager Lou Piniella said pitching coach Larry Rothschild was going to have to go get him. He didn't dare try to pull Big Z.

And knowing Zambrano's temperament, Piniella did the right thing. 

Nothing beats a confidence boost and no better confidence boost than a no-no.

Here's the call on TV:

Here it is on the radio. Gotta love Pat Hughes and Ron Santo.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

K-Rod breaks saves record, 2 weeks to spare

While most of you were fast asleep, Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez broke the 18-year-old saves record Saturday night.

K-Rod's 58th save had a little adventure: a double and walk before getting Wladimir Balentien and Ichiro Suzuki to strike out swinging.

It was K-Rod's third save in four days, as the Angels closer tries to increase his free agency stock.

It also came 10 days before I predicted the record would fall in this June 24 post.

The old record was held by Chicago White Sox RP Bobby Thigpen (57) in 1990.

Here's a complete list.

And in the meantime, be thankful you passed on J.J. Putz and grabbed K-Rod two rounds later. Just goes to show how unpredictable saves really are.

58 — x-Francisco Rodriguez, L.A. Angels, 2008

57 — Bobby Thigpen, Chicago White Sox, 1990

55 — John Smoltz, Atlanta, 2002

55 — Eric Gagne, L.A. Dodgers, 2003

53 — Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, 2004

53 — Trevor Hoffman, San Diego, 1998

53 — Randy Myers, Chicago Cubs, 1993

52 — Eric Gagne, L.A. Dodgers, 2002

51 — Dennis Eckersley, Oakland, 1992

51 — Rod Beck, Chicago Cubs, 1998

50 — Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, 2001

49 — Francisco Cordero, Texas, 2004

48 — Dennis Eckersley, Oakland, 1990

48 — Rod Beck, San Francisco, 1993

48 — Jeff Shaw, Cincinnati-L.A. Dodgers, 1998

47 — Chad Cordero, Washington, 2005

47 — Jose Valverde, Arizona, 2007

47 — Armando Benitez, Florida, 2004

47 — Francisco Rodriguez, L.A. Angels, 2006

47 — Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis, 2004

47 — Lee Smith, St. Louis, 1991

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Price is right; Phillips screwed; Ike dicey

Just a few random fantasy notes as you spend your Saturday watching the devestation of Ike on Texas:

David Price: The Rays finally, and yes, I mean finally, called up Price, the last of the high-praised pitching phenoms this year. We've been tracking Price since, oh, seemingly the Reagan Administration, and now he's finally here. Price went 12-1 in three levels of minor league ball, posting 1.82, 1.89 and 4.50 ERAs in A, AA and AAA ball. For good measure, he went 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 2 playoff appearances.

Here's Price throwing in spring training. A little rigid with his motion, but you can tell he throws gas.

Now what? Price will undoubtedly be stuck in the Rays bullpen for the stretch run and he probably won't be used in a closer role, although you never know, as Troy Percival is bothered by a bad back. Still, his main value lies in keeper leagues, as he projects to be a front-of-the-rotation starter for years to come, probably as soon as 2010.

Brandon Phillips: Trying to put down a bunt this week, Phillips was hit in the finger, breaking it to the point it required two screws. And yes, if you're in the playoffs with Phillips at 2B, you're also screwed. Phillips has been decent (.261, 21 HR, 23 SB, 78 RBI), but even at a full season, he would've fell short of most owners expectations. Could be a nice 7th round sleeper next year, so keep him in mind.

Hurricane Ike: The Cubs wisely stayed in Chicago, letting Ike make his way through Texas and boy is it a big one. Friday and Saturday games between the Cubs and Astros have been postponed, not to mention the Rays-Yankees and Brewers-Phillies games (also weather-related, but not Ike). If you're like me, you had about a third of your team ppd'd tonight, leaving you with a line like 1 run, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .174. OK, maybe that's about right every night. Anyway, look for the Rays-Yanks to play two today and the Brewers-Phillies and Cubs-Astros to play a doubleheader on Sunday, weather-permitting. This is of particular interest to all you streamers out there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Switch gears: Football pickups

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is supposed to be a baseball blog.

But the NFL is here and must not be ignored.

So, switch gears, for a moment, let's look at the pickups for Week 2 and hopefully, you're not digging out of an 0-1 hole like someone I know. Ahem.

WAIVER WIRE PICKUPS (5 star scale)

Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos (4 stars):

Myth buster time. Rookie wideouts have little to no fantasy value. (Buzz!). Not true. Well, not always.

Sure, wideouts have a much harder time adjusting to the NFL, but let's not forget Anquan Boldin, who racked up 1377 yards and 8 TDs in 2003, making him a top 10 WR surprise, despite going undrafted in virtually every league.

So, is Royal this year's Boldin? Well, it's doubtful. But he could be this year's Dwayne Bowe, the K.C. rookie who racked up 995 yards and 5 TDs last year. 

Royal hauled in all 11 laser passes thrown his way from QB Jay Cutler on Monday night for 146 yards, including a 29-yard score. 

And there's a lot to like about the second round pick from Virginia Tech. His size (5-10) and quickness makes him almost unguardable off the line, ensuring him probably a half dozen quick looks each game. The only question marks are a) what will his output be with Brandon Marshall back in the fold this week and b) what will happen when a real NFL team (not the Raiders) plays defense. 

My guess is Royal will be an upper-eschelon No. 3 WR going forward, netting 70-80 yards a week, but not finding the end zone more than 5 more times this year.

He's probably gone, but worth a look anyway.

Matt Cassel, QB, Patriots (3 stars)

Let's be honest here. What can we really expect from a career backup, who hasn't started a game since high school? 

With Randy Moss and Wes Welker as your wide recievers, well, you could do a lot worse. 

Cassel backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, then held the clipboard for three seasons before the shocking Tom Brady injury Sunday.  

If you've been living in a cave, here's a dramatic version of how it happened, set to music:

There's no word who he handed off the clipboard to, but you may be seeing the Patriots handing off to Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris (more on him later).

But there's a reason New England sent Phil Simms and Tim Rattay back to the airport on Monday after initially inviting them to a tryout. Cassel knows the complex Patriots system and has a cannon for an arm. 

Barring a meltdown, look for the Pats to stick with Cassel this year and if they do, the playoff weeks of 14, 15 and 16 feature Seattle, Oakland and Arizona. The question is, will you still be alive.

Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots (2.5 stars)

Really? Sammy Morris? Considering how New England has buried Laurence Maroney in its Red Zone Doghouse, you could do a lot worse as a No. 2 back in deeper leagues or a spot play in shallow ones.

Morris and Maroney split 20 carries last week with Morris running for 53 yards and Maroney 51. But Morris got the golden carry from five yards out.

How will this play out as the season goes along? Hard to say, but for now, stash Morris and cross your fingers.

David Patten, WR, Saints (2 stars)

News of Marques Colston's thumb injury (out 4-6 weeks) opens the door for someone in New Orleans, the question is who? My bet is Patten is the primary beneficiary, but there are a host of WR in the Big Easy that could benefit.

Patten caught 54 balls for 792 yards and three scores last year so, there is track record of chemistry with Brees

Devery Henderson, WR, Saints (1.5 stars)

The other beneficiary of Colston's injury could be New Orleans' long ball threat, Henderson. Just two years ago, Henderson came out of nowhere with regular 2-catch, 100-yard games, but if you rode him to a Super Bowl title in your league, you may never forget.

Wildly inconsistent, Henderson has the raw tools to be a legit deep threat in the way Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards is, but don't confuse him with those two elite wideouts. As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig....ahhh, forget it.

If you have two spots, grab Henderson and Patten and see what happens.   

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cubs, Brewers can't buy a win

While I was gone to my baby sister's wedding, something strange happened.

Well, stranger than seeing my baby sister getting married.

Since that ring was placed on her left finger on Saturday, the Cubs have stopped winning.

For only the second time this year, Chicago's northsiders have lost four games in a row. The only other time was on June 29, when the White Sox swept them at the Cell.

Of course, this isn't an 0-14 panic like the Cubs started the 1997 season. And the Brewers have now lost three straight to the Mets after today's 9-2 whipping, leaving the Cubs with a comfy 5-game cushion.

But after witnessing Monday's 3-0 Labor Day stinker at Wrigley with 18 of my relatives, a few random thoughts came to mind:

* Roy Oswalt is still an elite pitcher. He threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up just 4 singles (two in the 9th) and is now the top pitcher in Yahoo! over the past month, despite ranked 136th among all players for the season. His past six starts have all been quality and if he keeps this up, he moves back into the keeper category.

* Derrek Lee is killing my team. Warning track power is exactly what we saw with Lee's near-miss of a HR in the bottom of the ninth with two out and two on. To be fair, the wind was blowing steadily in and on most days, he's the hero and Wrigley is going crazy, singing feverishly "Go Cubs Go" afterward. On this day, it was like a funeral visitation.

* Jose Valverde is nuts. You may not know about all his rituals, running in from the outfield, then walking as soon as he hits the infield; tossing the first ball he gets back to the umpire for a new one; circling the mound and studying the rosin bag; the unorthodox wind up, as if he's playing a game of charades. He's fun to watch, that's for sure, but he makes Carlos Zambrano look like a librarian.

* After caravanning three vehicles and 19 mostly Cubs fans on a spectacular September day, we managed to still have a good time at the ol' ballpark, despite the Cubs delivering roughly one hit for every five of us. Wrigley is still spectacular even when the Cubs lose. And the new Ernie Banks statue is a long-overdue addition outside.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Will K-Rod break the record?

It's been an ongoing saga. But now, it's getting juicy.

Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez saved his 51st game Thursday night.

This means he only needs seven saves in the final month to break Bobby Thigpen's record of 57 saves back in 1990 with the White Sox.

Will he do it?

I say yes, with a week to spare.

But what do you think?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blue Jays really sending Marcum to AAA?

Shawn Marcum meet the cliff.

According to your bosses, you just fell off.

Before the All-Star break, Marcum was cruising. A 2.65 ERA. A 1.00 WHIP. Almost a K an inning.

Then, the arm injury.

And after a month off, Marcum came back as a shell of his former self. ERA was up to 3.57 in just three starts.

But then, Marcum settled down. Into a groove. Three strong starts and three wins.

But one bad start Friday night (5 ER, 3 2/3) and poof! -- the Blue Jays ship Marcum off to AAA.

Please. Doesn't the Jays brass know anything about folks steeped in a fantasy title hunt.

Of course, they don't care.

But they say Marcum needs to work on his control. Uh, just two walks on Friday. Sure four walks the outing before, but just four walks in the three outings combined....where's the big control issues?

Just another tale in a long line of them north of the border.

Marcum owners might wanna suck it up. Sounds like he should be back with Toronto in two weeks.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Zambrano hitting Cubs to playoffs

Who says pitchers can't hit?

Carlos Zambrano has defied those odds this season, batting .361 with 4 home runs after single-handedly winning Thursday's afternoon tilt with the Reds.

Zambrano held Cincy to just 1 ER and smacked a HR as the Cubs won 3-2 and increased their lead in the NL Central to 5 1/2 games.

Zambrano also has a 12-game hitting streak and has pinch hit on several occasions for the Men in Blue.

Perhaps someday, fantasy baseball will evolve to a point where pitcher's hitting stats will count, but until then, the only real value a good-hitting pitcher gives you is possible an extra couple wins throughout a season with a little extra run support.

Zambrano, never one to be labeled level-headed, seems to think of himself as a legitimate .300-plus hitter, as evidence of his temper that flares up sometimes when he whiffs.

Here's one where he got caught on a check swing against Roy Oswalt, and promptly broke his bat over his knee.  Snap. It's quickly becoming a Zambrano staple.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wagner, Bedard done for the year?

News came out today about two fantasy big dogs.

And the news bites.

Mariners SP Eric Bedard and Mets RP Billy Wagner are both likely to miss the rest of the season with shoulder and elbow injuries.

Bedard tried to throw a side session and it did not go well. Wagner's left elbow is still painful. And today the Mets went out and signed Al Reyes of last year's Devil Rays closer folk hero.

Fantasy-wise, Bedard had turned into a non-factor, simply shocking since he was a consensus top 5 pitcher in any format going into the season. If this is it, he finishes with a 3.67 ERA, 6 wins, 72 KS and a 1.32 WHIP. Not at all, what the doctor ordered on draft day.

Wagner, who had 27 saves and a 2.30 ERA, is showing signs of a 37-year-old pitchers. The Mets plan on using Aaron Heilman as closer the rest of the year. Tread lightly with Heilman as the ERA/WHIP will likely not be kind. Reyes could get some save opps.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

O's Sherrill on DL; grab Johnson

And down goes Sherrill.

The Baltimore Sun reports that closer George Sherrill has been placed on the 15-day DL after he couldn't get his back loose Monday night.

The good news for Sherrill owners is he's eligible to come off Sept. 1, since he hasn't pitched since Friday.

Also positive is that his likely replacement, Jim Johnson, is probably floating on just about every waiver wire except maybe the one Michael Phelps might belong to in the Baltimore area. Not sure Phelps has had much time to play fantasy baseball. Although some may call what he did last week fantasy swimming.

Outside of Baltimore, most folks probably haven't heard much about Johnson, but he's been quite dependable this year. He doesn't strike out a ton, but holds a 2.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a save in 64 2/3 IP.

Johnson's August has been a little rough, giving up 6 ER in 6 1/3 IP, but before that he had posted seven straight scoreless outings, so maybe it's just a rough patch.

Sherrill has been somewhat of a surprise this year, posting 31 save,s although his ERA and WHIP have been a drain.

Maddux still wanted, dealt to Dodgers

After all these years, Greg Maddux is still getting it done.

Never one to overpower hitters, Maddux's laser-like control has extended his career to age 42, where his ERA is still under 4, albiet just barely at 3.99.

On Monday, he was traded yet again to yet another contender. 

The Dodgers have reportedly acquired Maddux, who has 353 wins and a 3.14 career ERA, for a player to be named later.

One of the guys you just can't help root for, Maddux winning a World Series would be a fitting end to his career, although not to Cubs fans. A Dodgers championship would mean at least 101-year drought for a championship to the north siders.

Maddux could very well put the Dodgers over the hump as they are locked in a tie with the Diamondbacks at 64-60.

Can you imagine a Dodgers-Cubs NLCS with Maddux and Zambrano squaring off in Wrigley? Ghost of the past vs. the present. 

This is why baseball is great. Forget fantasy for a moment. It's the players and personalities that make the game what it is.

In part, I guess, it's why fantasy is so popular as well. We like to pull for individuals to succeed just as much as teams sometimes.

The Mad Dog may be the last player ever to win 350 games and because of that, we should be pulling for L.A. to make a run in these playoffs.

OK, a small run.

Fantasy spin: Maddux was pitching in a pitcher's paradise but Dodgers Stadium is not too far behind Petco. Look for similar ERA and WHIP numbers and an uptick from his 6 wins this year. His run support has been atrocious and with the new Manny-energized Dodgers, 4-5 wins in September is possible.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quentin defies logic, may win MVP

"What it means to be a top prospect is simply a statement. A label. Personally, i don't think it's any different than being a non-prospect."

The philosophical quote was made last year by someone who for years had been just that - a top prospect. (Click on the video below to hear them yourself).

But now?

Prospect no longer.

How fast can you rise from "top prospect" status to MVP candidate?

For that answer, we'd have to ask White Sox OF Carlos Quentin.

Quentin just smacked his 34th HR this afternoon in Oakland, and now has 95 RBIs.

In most leagues, Quentin went undrafted this spring. He didn't even have a starting job at the beginning of the season.

And now, he's getting legitimate buzz for American League MVP.

How can this happen, you say? It sometimes goes beyond logic. 

Occasionally, it just all clicks for a player. In Quentin's defense, he battled shoulder injuries all last year and the Arizona Diamondbacks, who thought they had a glut in their outfield, dealt him away for yet another top prospect Christopher Carter.

On the surface you would think the D'Backs must be kicking themselves and you may be right. Eric Byrnes ripped up both hammies and has been useless since May. Justin Upton, who everyone compares to Ken Griffey Jr. and he may be someday, has been on the DL with a left oblique strain since July 18.

Arizona, trying to recover, shuffled 1B Connor Jackson to LF and recently traded for Adam Dunn.

Think they'd like to have Quentin back?

To the D'backs defense, Carter has smacked 35 HR himself in AA Stockton this year, so you may see him make an impact in the desert soon.

But Quentin has been a remarkable story and the guy simply doesn't quit producing. Rarely can you scoop up a 40 HR, 115 RBI guy off the waiver wire. 

That, however, is why fantasy baseball is great. 

Its unpredictable nature makes those lucky few who took a shot at Quentin look like and feel like geniuses, even though we know it's not really true. Some traded him away early, thinking they were selling high. Some traded for him, then cashed him out again, thinking, like everyone else, this pace simply can't continue.

But it has. And sometimes there's simply no explanation for it.

Don't try to figure it out. It'll make you crazy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are the wheels falling off Rays?

First it was Carl Crawford.

Then Evan Longoria. Now Troy Percival.

Believe me. I want these pesky Rays to win the East.

Who doesn't. OK, who outside of all the northeast.

But with Percival popping the hammy about as often as NASCAR drivers pop the hood, with Crawford likely out the rest of the regular season, with Longoria out for three weeks with a fractured wrist...

I'm just not buying it.

Not this year anyway.

The pitching's been extraordinarily good. Can that continue?

The hitting's been extraordinarily average. It may not even be that anymore with a hitter's row of Willy Aybar, Cliff Floyd and Gabe Gross.

Sends shivers up the spine of Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, I'm sure.

Now, they have a guy with the last name of balfour closing out games, at least some of the time while Percy is icing the leg.

Balfour? Closing?

That's either hilarious or ironic, I'll have to consult Alana Morissette to make sure.

There were rumors the Rays had claimed Raul Ibanez this week, but it turned out to be the Tigers, who couldn't consummate the deal.

The deadline has now passed, so unless Tampa has another trick up their sleeve, possibly hiding out in Durham, the extended honeymoon may be over.

It's possible that top prospect David Price could get called up soon and help out the bullpen or the rotation. Price is one of the few can't-miss prospects that could make an impact this September.

But outside of Carlos Pena, there's really no power there and while B. J. Upton can steal a million bases, he was benched again Friday night for not hustling, the second time in as many weeks.

But already, the Rays have set a franchise record. People are coming to that hideous dome and watching games in a sterile environment and they really have built this thing the right way.

Hopefully, we'll see them in October, but I think we're looking at the Red Sox, Angels, White Sox and Twins this fall.

Friday, August 15, 2008

For Cards fan, all is Wellemeyer

He's 6-foot-3 and throws 94-mph gas.

Yet, the Chicago Cubs, after three season, gave up on him, as his ERA was never below 5.92.

Then the Royals grabbed him, threw him in their bullpen, but after a half season of decent relief work decided they'd ship him to the Marlins.

The Marlins, after 18 games, had had enough. You can have him back, K.C. 

Thanks, anyway.

The Royals trot him out 12 times and after he compiles a 10.34 ERA says goodbye.

That in a nutshell is Todd Wellmeyer.

And like the St. Louis Cardinals have done time and time again, they grab a guy off the scrap heap -- correction, buried underneath the scrap heap -- and resurrect his career.

See Jeff Weaver, Joel Pineiero, Jeff Supan, Braden Looper, etc. The list goes on and on.

After a 10.34 ERA with K.C., Wellemeyer appeared in 20 games in St. Louis, including 11 starts, and posted a 3.11 ERA.


Then this year, Wellemeyer has only compiled a 10-4 record and a 3.79 ERA after a 3-hit gem Thursday night against the Marlins.

At the start of the year, I went on the record with a co-worker saying Wellemeyer would not hold up. He's a reliever by trade. The most he's thrown before this year is 79 innings.

Now, he's at 134 2/3.

I'm not ready to buy Wellemeyer stock quite yet, even though he keep piling up the quality starts. September can be awfully painful for reliever-turned-starters in their first season.

See Looper's 2007.

So tread carefully with Welly. Sell high if you can.

This might not end well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why did Crawford opt for surgery?

Carl Crawford is going under the knife.

Officially the word is 6 to 8 weeks recovery time after the subluxation of his right middle finger tendon is repaired.

The options, according to Rays Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operation, were simple.

1). Have the surgery and possibly miss the rest of the regular season.

2). Rehab.

The problem with rehab, according to Friedman, is that while rehab may have temporarily fixed the injury, it's very possible the same injury could reoccur and Crawford would end up in worse situation, needing a more serious surgery.

The timing, as all Rays fans know (and I know both of you are reading this), is terrible. Actually, it seems almost every other person now is a Rays bandwagon jumper, but it seems more about rooting for the small-market team than specifically for the Rays.

Folks are tired of the Red Sox and Yankees year after year.

The Rays are clinging to a 2 1/2 game lead after their 3-2 win over Oakland late Wednesday.

Good news of sorts from Rays Nation (OK, that's a stretch), is that rookie sensation Evan Longoria will likely just miss three weeks with the fractured right wrist, which if you know anything about wrists is, well, not too shabby. Seems like wrist injuries linger worse than a suitcase of limburger cheese.

Here's hoping the Rays have just enough fire power to make it to October.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dissecting the 19-17 Fenway bonanza

Charlie Zink, thanks for showing up.

Who is Zink? The knuckleballer the Red Sox called up to replace Tim Wakefield. And he was pretty good in Pawtucket, posting a 13-4 record with a 2.89 ERA in 25 starts this year.

But Tuesday was not kind to Zink, as the Rangers unloaded the kitchen sink, racking up 20 hits and 17 runs ... and LOSING.

That's right, the Red Sox matched Texas with 19 runs and 17 hits, including two HR apiece from David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis. Ortiz finished with 6 RBI, Youks 5 RBI.

One game can't make up for such a disappointing season, but Ortiz's night sure helps and it all came in a 10-run first inning. 

You could say it was a short night for Rangers SP Scott Feldman, who gave up 12 runs, although just 6 earned.

Zink's final line: 11 hits, 8 ER and 1 K in 4 1/3 IP

It's safe to say, there won't be much clamoring for Zink's services on tomorrow's waiver wire and Feldman had actually been doing OK until Tuesday night, but he'll be dropped plenty Wednesday

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dunn traded to Ariz.; Longoria DL'd

Rumors of Adam Dunn being traded have been going on longer than most of his mammoth HR blasts.

Today, Cincinnati finally parted ways with their country-strong left-handed slugger, sending him to Arizona for three prospects, most notably, pitcher Dallas Buck, 23, who was 1-4 with a 3.94 ERA at Class-A South Bend.

If you're a Dunn owner, you know he's been struggling the past month, as his average has dipped to .233 with the predictable power (32 HR), Ks (120) and BBs (80). 

What do the D-backs want with a .233 hitter? Just look at Dunn's .380 on-base-percentage and you'll know why. 

Not to mention with OF Eric Byrnes likely out for the season, OF Justin Upton on the DL and 2B Orlando Hudson out for the season, Arizona needs any bats it can find to keep up with the Manny-led Dodgers.

And even if you're not a big Dunn fan, you have to like a guy who supports his country with spots like this:

Fantasy spin: Dunn's value away from Great American Park would seemingly take a dive, but not so fast. The D-backs have two series at hitter-haven Colorado left, not to mention a trip to Houston. And most trades to contenders seem to rejuvenate hitters, so it's likely you may even see an uptick in Dunn's production. Not to mention he's playing for a contract, as free agency looms at the end of this season.

Longoria put on DL: Turns out those initial X-Rays on Evan Longoria's right wrist were not, how do you say it, accurate. Longoria's wrist was fractured after being hit by a pitch and he'll miss some time, although the Rays are not saying how long just yet, possibly because they simply can't believe this rash of injuries. Considering Carl Crawford was just put on the DL Sunday, only Red Sox and Yankees fans can find any silver lining in what was turning out to be the best story in baseball this year.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crawford on DL; Baldelli activated

Carl Crawford owners may be wincing louder today than Crawford himself.

OK. Maybe not. But I bet it's close.

The Rays left fielder suffered what is being called a right middle finger tendon subluxation and is being put on the 15-day DL. The Mariners team doc says it could be a six-to-eight week deal.

Talk about painful.

If Crawford's substandard season wasn't enough. He was hitting.273 with 8 HR, 57 RBI, 69 runs and 25 SB.

These isn't horrible production, but considering you likely paid a 2nd-round price, you should be feeling a little buyer's remorse. Not that you can control injuries. But a dozen HR and mid-30 SB is not at all what Crawford owners were hoping for.

For years, Crawford has been living off hype and upside. We've read so many times that this is the year Crawford develops into a 25-30 HR guy that you'd have to think Roto magazines have it on a save string.

But after 18 HR in 2006, the year Crawford turned 25, we saw 11 last year and likely single digits this season. Of course, when you're consistently churning out double nickles in the SB department, you can overlook the power outage.

But this year, the steals haven't come and while part of that can be blamed to hamstring issues, you can't help but wonder if CC will ever regain his elite status.

Speaking of CC, check out this borderline funny clip on the speed demon:

Good news for Rays fans is that Rocco Baldelli has been activated from the disabled list. Of course, Tampa doesn't know what to expect from Baldelli who has missed all season with Mitochondrial (or fatigue) disorder.

But emotionally, it has to be a shot in the arm, especially after losing Crawford.

Add Baldelli in AL-only leagues and keep the expectations low.

But you never know. After all, how many predicted the Rays being in first place on Aug. 10?