Monday, August 23, 2010

Great Moments in Lou Piniella History

Lou Piniella may not have invented arguing with an umpire. But he sure perfected it.

But on Sunday, five weeks earlier than anyone expected, Piniella retired, pulling the plug on 48 years of baseball, both as a coach and a player. He moved up his retirement date to be with his ailing mother and his final post-game press conference was quite emotional. Read about it here.

Piniella, a likely managerial Hall of Famer, finished with 3,547 wins (14th all-time) and 1,705 hits.

But more than those stats, he'll be remembered for his on-field antics. Going nose-to-nose with an umpire. Throwing a base into the outfield grass. And, of course, kicking dirt on an umpire's shoes.

Here's a couple classic Lou tirades to warm your soul on a Monday.




Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lee trade signals winds of change at Wrigley

Well, if you know anything about this blogger, it's his passion for the Cubs.

As much as I try to hide it (not that much), Wednesday was a sad day for the Chicago Cubs (not really).

There was a small pit in my stomach when news broke that Derek Lee had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for three mediocre low-level pitchers. This wasn't about the minor-leaguers.

It was about starting over for the Cubs. This is the twing in the gut part.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were annual threats to win the NL Central. A powerhouse, if there is such a thing in that division.

The core of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derek Lee and Carlos Zambrano were going to help them break that 100-year World Series. Or so we believed.

Then, they got old. Together, Soriano (34), Ramirez (32) and Lee (34) brought to the plate a century worth of years to the plate. And who knows what happened to Big Z. Probably too much e-mailing his brother.

But this is what happens when you hand out long-term contracts like full-size Snickers at Halloween. Eventually someone gets the circus peanuts. And that's the Cubs right now.

Nobody knows what they're doing. Lou's retiring. They're trying to play the young guys, although Tyler Colvin has now sat out three straight games.

Shedding their aging, big-money contracts gives fans hope, as they make room for younger guys like Micah Hoffpauer, who seemed more than ready after the 2009 Spring Training.

Between Colvin, rookie SS Starlin Castro, Hoffpauer, Randy Wells and Carlos Marmol there is a youth movement starting to creep into Wrigley.

The sad part is a true youth movement takes years to mature and pay off.

Look for Ryne Sandberg to get the managerial gig, if Joe Girardi spurns their advances (and why wouldn't he).

But there's still a lot of dead weight in that lineup.

Derek Lee was the lightest. Sure, he was hitting .250, but he just raked 4 HR in the Cardinals' series. He's a "professional hitter," as some would say.

He will be missed. A quiet leader, Lee never really took over that position, but he was a stand-up guy and one of the fan favorites on the North Side.

So much so, that someone put together this little ditty:

Fantasy Spin: Lee's value probably gets a kick up in Atlanta. Presumably, he'll hit 3rd or 4th with the Braves, who desperately need the Gold-Glover's service. Lee has a way of hitting HR in bunches when he's healthy. A wrist injury limited him a couple years ago, but it's been the back that has kept him off the field. Still, if he's around your wire, snatch him up. Double-digit HR are not out of the question. Since when has a pennant race not help energize a slugging hitter?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slowey's no-no broken up by manager

Here's one you don't hear every day.

In the year of the pitcher, the Twins' Kevin Slowey's near no-hitter may be the most bizarre of them all.

Slowey was breezing along with seven no-hit innings against the A's when it was abruptly broken up -- in the dugout.

That's right. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulled the plug after Slowe had thrown 106 pitches.

"They said we'd love it for you, but we can't do it," Slowey said of the dugout conversation. "Gardy specifically said, 'Liston son, I can't throw you back out there. I'd love to, but I can't look myself in the mirror and say I threw him back out there."

Why not? The rationale was that Slowey's last start had been skipped because of elbow tendinitis. I get that.

But pitch counts can be one of the most overrated statistics managers use. Slowey was breezing and a majority of his pitches were stress-free. Had Slowey felt anything, sure, take him out. But he could've breezed through the 8th and 9th in 20 innings.

At the very least, I think you leave it up to the pitcher. After all, it's Slowey's future earnings at stake.

"I would do it a thousand times the same way, because Slowey is just coming off an elbow injury and we're not about to e en come close to risking this guy," Gardenhire said. "I know I'm responsible for this young arm."

ESPN agreed with Gardenhire's decision and it's definitely the cautious approach. But this may be a real turning point in the game of baseball. Where the business side has overtaking the fun side.

Sure, the Twins don't want to lose their pitcher to an injury in a stretch run. But what about the 30-some thousand home fans, all wanting to be apart of history.

Instead, they were apart of the color beige.

Fantasy spin: Slowey owners who have hung on for dear life this year, your patience has been rewarded. Slowey showed signs a couple years ago to breaking through to that near-elite status, only to fall way back in 2009. Keeper leaguers, especially of the AL-only variety, take special notice. Slowey could be in for huge things this decade, pitching at the spacious new Target Field. Keep him in mind for a mid-round sleeper in next year's draft. His final numbers will not show up on a lot of radars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

10 observations at trading deadline

Some thoughts at baseball's trading deadline:

Yankees get richer: There's no way around this. We say this every other year. We moan about the bottomless wallet. The free-spending pinstripes were at it again, snatching up a DH (Lance Berkman), a setup man (Kerry Wood) and bench depth (Austin Kearns).

Berkman's fantasy value gets a lift in the Yankees' wind tunnel (for lefties), Wood loses value and Chris Perez inherits the Indians' closer job and is the only decent pickup here.

None of these can be pointed as impact moves, but together they might be. And baseball economics aside, you have to hand it to the Yanks for trying to overpower the Rays, Angels and Rangers.

Spending is Bigger in Texas: The story is similar in Arlington, where Nolan Ryan and company has decided to go for it all. After all, with Vlad and Cliff Lee free agents at the end of the year, this may be their window.

Cliff Lee a few weeks ago was the big splash, but they put a little window trimming at the deadline by adding the Marlins' Jorge Cantu, Benji Molina and Christian Guzman. You can officially start the eulogy for Chris Davis, the latest Ranger with the AAAA tag. Cantu's value gets a boost, playing in the Texas air and Guzman's drops to a utility role, so if by chance you had him manning a MI spot, go ahead and cut the cord once Ian Kinsler comes off the DL.

Phillies add another Roy: By throwing prospects at the Astros, Philly now has both Halladay and Oswalt, not to mention Cole Hamels for possibly the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball. The biggest concern is getting Rollins, Utley and Victorino back in time to squeak into the playoffs. Oswalt's value gets a small bump in the wins, but the ERA/WHIP may take a hit in a smaller park.

Cubs can't unload the right guys: Getting Blake DeWitt and prospects for Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly isn't exactly the Cubs fans' idea of blowing up the team and starting over. Theriot had found Lou Piniella's dog house and at the bottom of the lineup, playing sparingly, his value had almost vanished. Lilly, however, gets a boost, pitching for a contender in a hitter-friendly park. But why the Cubs didn't deal Kosuke Fukudome or Carlos Zambrano is a mystery. Actually, they probably couldn't find a taker with their huge salaries. You have to wonder when the rebuilding truly begins here. Or how.

Twins lose faith in closer: Jon Rauch evidently blew up one too many times for the Twins brass. Minnesota paid retail and then some for the Nats closer Matt Capps, in the currency of highly-touted catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Sure, he was going to rot behind Joe Mauer, but they could have fetched a quality starter or position player to help fill a more obvious need. After all, Joe Nathan's back next year. Drew Soren of the Nats is the obvious add here, while Rauch hits the cutting room floor, unless your league for some reason counts holds (yes, I'm in one of those. Somehow).

Padres going for it all: Nobody believes San Diego is for real. That's fine. They went out and shored up their lineup. Or at least tried. Adding Miguel Tejada will move Chase Headley to the OF and give them another professional bat in a lineup seemingly held together by smoke and mirrors. Tejada may be rejuvenated in San Diego and playing in a pennant chase. He's hitting cleanup, which bodes well if you need RBI. Don't look for too many HR in that cavern called Petco Park.

Red Sox quiet: Boston, without doing so, raised the white flag on the season when they didn't go after any big, medium or even small names a the deadline. Disappointing season gets an exclamation point. Too many injuries.

Cardinals add Westbrook?: Cincy fans have to look at the Cards move (dealing Ryan Ludwig and adding Jake Westbrook) and breathe a sigh of relief. That's all they've got? Jake Westbrook? And they give up one of their top 4-5 bats to do so? That could be game over for the Reds.

Dunn stays home: Washington said all along they weren't going to trade Adam Dunn without getting the right package. Message received. The best hitter on the market wasn't going to come cheap and so he didn't come at all. Interesting strategy. We'll see if Dunn resigns to play in Washington now next year.

Angels going after it again: Two words: Dan Haren. These guys don't know how to give in. You have to like that about any franchise.