Friday, July 31, 2009

Late trade roundup: Peavy to ChiSox

This time, it's for realsies.

Jake Peavy, the Padres ace, sidelined since June 9 with a bum ankle, was dealt to the Chicago White Sox today for a wheel barrel of youngsters: Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell. 

Back in May, Peavy was traded to the South Siders, only to turn it down, which he has the authority with a full no-trade clause. 

This time, he consented.

“He never said no, he just said ‘not yet,”’ White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said.

Richard, who you may have seen a time or two at the Knights Castle, is the most major-league ready of the bunch, throwing back-to-back gems and has a 4.65 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He was also scheduled to pitch tonight for the Pale Hose.

Peavy (6-6, 3.97) was having a down year, although apparently pitching through ankle issues his final four starts or so. 

He's expected to be back on the field in late August.

In other late trade news...

JOHNSON TO FISH: Nationals 1B Nick Johnson was traded to the Marlins for AA starter Aaron Thompson.

ROLEN TO REDS: Toronto 3B Scott Rolen was dealt to the Blue Jays for Edwin Encarnacion and an unnamed minor-leaguer.

HARRISTON JR. TO YANKS: Jerry Harriston Jr. was sent to the Bronx for catching prospect Chad Weems

BEIMEL MILE HIGH: Steady reliever Joe Biemel was traded to the Rockies  for two unnamed prospects.

LAROCHE BACK TO ATLANTA: This was in the previous blog, and it's a minor note, but it bears repeating....Adam LaRoche was traded to Atlanta for 1B counterpart Casey Kotchman. Huh?

GONZALEZ, HALLADAY STAY PUT: The Toronto Blue Jays' price was too high for anyone to meet and the Doc, Roy Halladay will stay in Toronoto. ... The Dodgers kicked the tires on Adrian Gonzalez, throwing out James Loney and a few other names, but San Diego wasn't biting.

Tweet: V-Mart to Boston official

Through the magic of Twitter, we've learned that, it is likely, in fact, that the Indians are about to deal 1B/C Victor Martinez to the Red Sox, waiting the confirmation of, well, anything really.

Actually the source is solid. USA Today writer Bob Nightengale is the one who broke it on his Twitter page. Ed Price at upstart AOL Fanhouse also has Twittered that it "looks good"  a deal will happen. Fox Sports also supports the validity, in a non-Twitter story.

Of course, in this Twitter age, by the time I hit publish post, the news may be completely changed, so stay tuned.

(UPDATE: Nightengale has just posted a Tweet that the deal is offiical and the haul is pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. Hagadone and Price were first-round picks for Boston in 2007 and 2008 and both were currently pitching like top prospects in AA Greenville).

Wait, things just changed. No. That was a false Facebook flury. Some Yankee fan trying to make a joke.

No word from MySpace, if anyone still has an account there. And I'll check to see if there's any trade commentary on YouTube (just as soon as I re-watch the JK Wedding Entrance).

You had to know technology would be flying fast and furious on baseball's version of Christmas Eve.

Will your team make the critical move to get over the hump? Or stay pat.

Here's a couple other nuggets from today:

  • Twins acquire Orlando Cabrera from the A's for SS Tyler Ladendorf, a young, cheap, talented Billy Beane special.
  • Musical chairs continues for Adam LaRoche, who just finished filling out his change of address forms. LaRoche is headed back to Atlanta, as Boston now has a logjam at first with Martinez. LaRoche broke into the bigs with the Braves in 2004 before being traded to Pittsburgh before the 2007 season.
  • The Padres have been listening to offers for 1B Adrian Gonzalez, but appear to be holding onto their only real offensive weapon. Rumor has it, had they traded Gonzalez, Selig was going to ship them to the Pacific Coast League.
  • Tigers get resurgent starter Jarrod Washburn from the M's for pitcher Luke French and pitching prospect Mauricio Robles. I still like the Twins or White Sox chances better to win the AL Central.
  • Roy Halladay appears to be staying in Toronto. This isn't news, but it's worth repeating. Toronto's price was just too high.
  • Mariners had six teams trying to pry Felix Hernandez loose, and like a stubborn fantasy owner in a keeper league, Seattle has wisely said no thanks.
  • After snapping up LHP George Sherrill yesterday, the Dodgers sent Claudio Vargas to Milwaukee for C Vinny Rottino. As a side note for those of you in dynasty leagues, it might be time to go out and grab 3B Josh Bell, the main piece in the Sherrill trade. I'm hearing Bell has the talent to be manning the O's hot corner for the next decade. And they've got quite an impressive young offense brewing in Baltimore.

Does Ortiz steroid news taint Red Sox titles?

We're all sick of this 2003 steroid test.

Arod. Sammy.

Now, Ortiz and Manny.

Well, we've known Manny Ramirez hasn't been clean for awhile, but David Ortiz?

Big Papi?

This, after just a few months ago, he came out and drew a hard line in the sand, saying if someone tested positive, "Ban 'em for a year."

Hypocrisy? You be the judge.

Was he the only one doing it? Not hardly. We've beat this drum before and most people think 70 percent or higher of all baseball players were using. And we've long had the discussion on whether it should taint the all-time records.

We've all thought about the Barry Bonds asterisks. The Great Home Run Chase of 1998? We're all still wondering if we got one pulled over on us during that great Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa theatre.

We've debated on whether or not steroid users should be allowed in baseball's Hall of Fame. Some think they should have a separate category.

But we haven't talked about team accomplishments.

When the Red Sox won in 2004, it was such a huge story in baseball. The curse was broken. Boston fans could finally die happy. And then they won it again in 2007.

But are these championships legit?

Technically, sure. But what will public opinion say?

Ortiz and Ramirez were the Red Sox offense that year. They combined for 88 home runs and 269 RBI that season. That's over half the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team last season (153).

But it was Big Papi's clutch hitting, night after night, that people look back on and for the first time are starting to see how much it has affected baseball, and to a degree, how much we were all duped.

Great theatre? Or great acting?

Ortiz hit .400 that postseason with 5 HR and 19 RBI in 14 games.

I'll give Papi credit for facing the media, although he did so without actually saying anything:

Is there any wonder why Ortiz only hit 38 career HR in about 1,200 at-bats before signing with the Red Sox, then ripped off seasons of 31, 41, 47 and 54.

Oh, and since baseball's testing and penalties have ratcheted up? He hit 23 HR last year and has 14 this season, hitting .225.

Know what the difference between a 20-HR guy and a 40-HR guy is?

About $15 million a year.

Longtime Twins teammate and good friend Torii Hunter said it best.

"This hurts, this really hurts," Hunter told "I don't know what to think about this. I guess you just never know what people do in the dark.

"I still love him but at the same time it's tough to hear that. I know it's going to be tough on him and tough on his family once this gets out. It's Big Papi, man, it's the Big Dog of Boston and he helped win two World Series with those guys, with the clutch hits. And now all those things are going to be tainted.


Pretty strong language.

And after about 8 hours to digest the situation, I can't disagree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kicked ball not ruled a catch?

Did you catch this?

Well, Delwyn Young did, a spectacular grab by the Pirates 2B after left-fielder Garrett Jones made an acrobatic kick save in one of the craziest plays in recent baseball memory.

But the umpired ruled it a hit. Read for yourself here

See for yourself below. Yet another argument for instant replay on all baseball plays, not just boundary calls.

 Although I'm still not for it. It's a slippery slope.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Former Knight Wise saves Buehrle perfect game

Mark Buehrle may not believe in Déjà Vu.

But he's got to be a little suspicious after today.

Chicago LHP Buehrle spun a perfect game against the Tampa Bay this afternoon, the first perfect game since Randy Johnson's 2004 gem, and only the 16th pitcher to accomplish the feat in MLB history.  That's not the Déjà part.

This is. On April 18, 2007, Buehrle threw a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in a game lasting 2 hours and 3 minutes. Guess how long today's perfect game lasted? Yup: 2:03.

That's not all. Eric Cooper was the home plate umpire during Buehrle's 2007 no-no. Who was behind the plate today? Why, of course, Mr. Cooper.

You realize there's 68 full-time MLB umpires out there, right?

Perhaps less Déjà but still with plenty of Vu is that each game featured a great catch in center field.  In 2007, Aaron Rowand banged up against the fence to save the no-hitter, while former Charlotte Knight DeWayne Wise did Rowan one better.

Gabe Kapler drove a 2-2 pitch into left-center, where Wise made possibly the best clutch perfect game-saving catch anyone can remember.

"I was hoping it was staying in there, give him enough room to catch it," said Buehrle, who received a congratulatory call from President Obama, an unabashed White Sox fan. 

Wise sprinted to exactly the perfect spot, robbed Kapler of a home run, but the impact of hitting the wall jarred the ball loose, temporarily dislodging it before Wise snagged it with his bare-hand as he fell to the ground. 

And Wise had just entered the game that inning as a defensive replacement.

Check it out yourself: 

"I was so pumped when I caught it," Wise said. "It was an unbelievable feeling."

Nobody knew that more than Buehrle. I'd say dinner at Ruth's Chris is on him sometime very soon.

Fantasy Spin: A quick quiz: Who belongs to which set of numbers? 3.78 ERA, 1.26 WHIP  and 3.66, 1.24 WHIP.  The first is Buehrle and the second is Yankees' C.C. Sabathia. Sure, Sabathia also comes with a truckload of K's, but Buehrle is worst-case a poor-man's version with similar other numbers. The lefty struck out six on Thursday and now sports a 3.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 11 wins. Frankly, I still can't get the taste of 2006 out of my mouth, but even with 120-130 Ks a year, he's still a top 35 pitching option.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kazmir, Soriano snap out of it

Is it ever too late to amend for a bad season?

Scott Kazmir and Alfonso Soriano are trying to make up quickly for lost time. But is it enough to make owners forget about an awful first half?


Actually, it's Rays and Cubs fans that probably need the most convincing, but Saturday night showed promise for both.

Kazmir: The Rays struggling lefty had lost velocity on his fastball this year. From 95 to 90, Kazmir had regained a couple ticks recently, back up to 92 and tonight, while walking four Royals, the lefty did pitch six solid innings, giving up just 4 hits and 1 ER.

No, you probably can't go out and swap him straight-up for Javier Vazquez, but his stock did raise a bit. Still concerning is the low K total (3 Ks) and is more reminiscent of lefty Joe Saunders than Clayton Kershaw.

Kazmir did leave the game early, in the 7th, but is reporting it was just mild cramping and he should be OK.

Soriano: The bad news is he struck out three times tonight. The good news is he jacked a 3-run home run in his old stomping grounds, and lifted the Cubs to a 6-5 win over the Nationals. It also gave hard-luck starter Randy Wells a makeup victory from several he should've won back in May.

Probably most encouraging wasn't so much that Soriano went yard, it was how he did it -- opposite field. And even impressive was that the $136 million man even played, as he jammed his pinkie finger on Thursday and was possibly going to miss the entire series as of Friday night.

My professional advice, as a Soriano owner, is to just be patient. Dropping him, or selling him for pennies will not end well for you. Soriano still has 15 jacks, despite not hitting a HR since June 7.

Is he the 40-HR Soriano of old? I wouldn't take that bet, even on 10-1 odds. But he could still smack a dozen HR the rest of the way and steal 6-8 so don't cut your losses now, especially when he's been moved into a prime RBI spot in the Cubs order.

Remember, Soriano has always been streaky. If his knee was really bothering him the past month-plus, you have to hope the under-reported injury of the year has healed enough and that Soriano goes on one of his patented tears like September of 2007 when he carried the Cubs with 14 September homers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Even LaRussa smiled at Lou's antics

If Lou Piniella took this one from a book, nobody knows where that library is.

Proving you haven't seen everything yet in baseball, the Cubs manager, with only one lefty in his bullpen, Sean Marshall, used a little razzle dazzle to escape a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the top of the ninth.

With a rightly splitting up two left-handed Cardinals in Sunday night's game, Piniella decided to bring in right-handed Aaron Hielman. Here's where it got interesting.

Piniella electrified the Wrigley crowd, sending Marshall to left field, and bringing in Alfonso Soriano. With Marshall manning left field Hielman threw a steady diet of inside pitches to the right-handed Brendan Ryan before striking him out.

"It was kind of funny to watch Heilman pitch because he was throwing so many pitches inside because if he does hit it will it will be right at me and hopefully I can make a play and throw someone out,” said Marshall.

By now, Wrigley was in a near-frenzy, with fans in the bleachers chanting: “We are Marshall.”

Marshall came back in to pitch, with Reed Johnson going to left field. Marshall struck out Jarrett Hoffpauir, then coaxed a fly ball to Colby Rasmus, that Johnson made a stumbling, diving catch to end the rally and igniting the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crowd.

Still, the Cubs lost 4-2, but it was baseball theatre at its best. Even Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who tries to outstrategize everyone he comes into contact with, could appreciate Piniella's creativity.

“I stopped (Cubs first base coach Matt Sinatro) and said you tell Lou that was a classic," LaRussa said. "It was fun to be a part of it no matter how it turns out. It takes creativity and it takes guts. Lou showed both of them. That was fun actually. It was terrific."

Waiver wired: If Pirates OF Garrett Jones is still on your waiver wire, it's time to find room for him on your roster. Jones is hitting third and was a big reason the Pirates felt comfortable trading Nate McLouth and Najer Morgan. A 25-15 prospect, Jones has hit 5 HR and stole 3 bags in 42 ABs.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

After 3-HR night, is it Andruw time?

Revivals have been started in less obvious places.

But Arlington's hot summer air has been known to defribillate some of baseball's least likely suspects.

Andruw Jones is the latest hitter-left-for-dead, taken off the scrapheap, propped up at home plate and turned into a reliable fantasy player.

In 2007, Sammy Sosa was able to smack 21 HR and drive in 92 runs, albeit while hitting .252, but still finishing higher than anyone thought possible after his swift demise from Wrigley to Camden to the Dominican.

But longtime Braves slugger Andruw Jones is experiencing a stunning turnaround from a 2008 season where he .158 with 3 HR in 209 ABs.

“He’s having a terrific season for them,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s obviously much more comfortable in the batter’s box than he was last year when we saw him with the Dodgers.”

On Wednesday night, Jones matched his total in the span of 5 innings, launching 3 HR in Anaheim, giving him 14 HR and 34 RBI, along with a respectable .250 average in 160 ABs.

Andruw put us on his back and everyone followed,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Now, the question is will you put Andruw back on your team, after secretly vowing to never trust him again?

My official advice: Be careful.

It's clear Andruw has regained some of his power stroke that led to 368 home runs with the Braves.

The real question: playing time.

Josh Hamilton is back and Nelson Cruz is a fixture in the lineup. That leaves one OF spot for David Murphy, who's been raking lately, and Marlon Byrd.

Fortunately for Jones, the Rangers have grown tired of the K machine Chris Davis and sent him to AAA despite 15 HR in the first half.

Hank Blalock has moved to 1B, opening up the DH spot for Jones, but Davis is bound to come back as soon as he regained his stroke (ala Howie Kendrick), creating a logjam, where Jones may be back to half-time status (he's only on pace for 320 ABs).

Fantasy Spin: If you're starved for power, in an NL or a shallow mixed league, I could endorse the Andruw ticket. As for mixed league pedigree, the RBI and run totals, not to mention the dragging average, should probably be left alone in 10-team leagues or smaller.

If it's any indication, it's been 24 hours since Jones' 3-HR outburst and nobody has taken a flier on Jones in our ultra-competitive 10-team Observer league.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Choo, Lee, Pujols ... and one important holiday

Fourth of July and baseball. It really doesn't get much better than this.

And in fantasy, this holiday is significant in more ways than one.

Taking a break from the sporting world, Independence Day is truly a significant mark in the history of our country. 

Think for a second where we'd be, had it not been for our foresight of our forefathers. Freedom is not cheap and we live in the greatest country there is.

OK, back off my soap box, and onto your fantasy team, which may be struggling mightily in the first half, the 4th of July is very significant.

It's time to take real inventory of where your team is, what categories are lacking, and take action. Whether it's dropping the dead weight, punting categories or trading away excess, the halfway point is your last real chance to make worthwhile change.

Time is running out.

Power surge: In case you've been off-line the past few days, two players have lit the world on fire in one game: the Cubs' Derek Lee and the Indians' Shin Soo-Choo. Both players had a 2-HR, 7-RBI game in the past 48 hours and if somehow you happened to own both, you probably saw a surge in the standings.

Lee was especially disappointing, with just 6 HR and 23 RBI in the first two months of the season. But in the past month, he's racked up 8 HR and 24 RBI and hit over .300, sparking memories of the Triple-Crown-threatening 2005 season. If you gave up on him too early, as I did, shame on you. And if you own him, you might wanna sell high, if you can. Can't imagine him keeping up this pace.

Choo now has 12 HR and 53 RBI. Add in 13 SB and a .301 average and the Indians new cleanup hitter is ranked 20th in the Yahoo! game and is one of the best first-half steals not named Mark Reynolds.

And while we're talking about power surges, The Machine, aka Albert Pujols hit another one last night, this one a grand slam, giving him 31 HR and 82 RBI over the first half, begging one fundamental question:

Why are teams pitching to him?

The Twins said they play the game right and their fans deserve to see them challenge Pujols and not give him a free pass. I say bologna. An intentional walk, when used right, an be the biggest weapon in all of baseball. If managers are afraid to use it, then they deserved to be beaten by arguably the best hitter in the game (and as a Cubs fan, that pains me to say).

Barry Bonds was never pitched to this much in his prime. In 2004, he walked 232 times, most of them intentional. Pujols has just 64 free passes this year at exactly the midway point (81 games).

With no other hitter worth a salt right now in St. Louis, I would walk Pujols every single time, unless the bases were loaded. Make Ryan Ludwick or Chris Duncan beat you. And even then, I'd think about it. 

Last year, down two runs, Joe Madden walked the Rangers' Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. And guess what, the Rays retired the next batter and won by a run.

Teams will start to wise up sooner or later and if they don't, pencil the Cardinals in the playoffs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's wrong with Big Game James?

He was dangerously close to becoming the face of the young Rays.

As flashy as Carl Crawford? Well, no? As electric as Scott Kazmir? Not exactly?

As much hype as Evan Longoria? Not even close.

But after James Shields silenced the red-hot Phillies for Tampa Bay's only World Series win last October and finished with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, both the Rays and fantasy nation were taking note.

His specialty, was somehow keeping runners off base in a loaded AL East, posting back-to-back whips of 1.11 and 1.15. That's what happens when you only walk 36 and 40 runners in consecutive seasons.

But it was Shields' moxie, his big-game reputation, the 1-hitter against the Angles, the beam ball to the Red Sox's Coco Crisp that has endeared him to Tampa fans.

They marketing team was even building campaigns around Big Game, who will gladly pose for a photo with fans.

And while Shields hasn't been near the disappointment of teammate Kazmir or World Series hero Cole Hamels, the WHIP has been very normal.

Shields is now 6-6 after giving up 5 runs (4 earned) against Toronto, with a WHIP of 1.27.

"Once May started, everything started clicking," Shields said after a rare gem on May 19 against the offensively-challenged A's, where he retired 17 in a row.

Shields retired the first eight batters he faced on Thursday, but lost focus as he dropped to 1-4 on the road.

And since the end of April, Big Game has given up 7 or more hits nine times in 13 appearances, including double digits on four occasions. That's more than all of 2008.

“I felt great, I thought I batted today,” said a frustrated Shields.

Fantasy spin: The walk and HR rate are about what they were last year and the K projections have crept back to the 150 neighborhood, so there's no real cause for alarm. And this might be the perfect buy-low opportunity, as Shields may get two more home starts before the break (Toronto and Oakland) and then start off the second half at Kansas City. The Rays, 5 games back of the Red Sox, need him to be the staff horse as most of their rotation has been inconsistent at best.