Rob Iracane: February 2009 Archives

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, spring has sprung.

That's a wrap on quite a fun week of spring training exhibitions and athlete encounters. Kris will still be knocking around camps over the weekend so let's hope he has some more interviews and whatnot to share with us. I hear he got some one-on-one time with Jerry Tranuel in his Cadillac. Have a good one, everybuddy!

(phonecam picture collage of today's Yankees/Twins tilt legitimately taken from Flickr user santheo)

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Manny Ramirez and his floozy flack super agent Scott Boras have reportedly turned down a two-year, $45 million offer from the Dodgers, as per the LA Times. Wait, what? Isn't that what Manny Ramirez wanted? A multi-year deal valued at over $20 million per? What gives?

What Colletti didn't mention, the source said, is that most of Ramirez's salary would've been deferred. Two other sources previously told The Times that the proposed deal included deferred payments.

Under the terms of the contract that Ramirez was offered by the Dodgers on Wednesday, he would've received $10 million this year. And by exercising the option for the second year, he would've received $10 million in 2010.

Ramirez, who turns 37 in May, would've been paid the remaining $25 million over the next three years without any added interest. He would've received $10 million in 2011, $10 million in 2012 and $5 million in 2013.

Manny Ramirez is not a charity, people. Manny Ramirez is not ready to give the Dodgers an interest-free $25 million loan so they can waste it on his left field competition's bloated salary. Manny Ramirez wants his monies up front, either in unmarked bills or wired to his offshore accounts in the Caymans. Manny Ramirez simply doesn't show up for just $10 million a year; that's peanuts!

But really, this is just another chapter in Scott Boras' massive tome entitled "How I Screwed the Dodgers Without Even Trying" (available at Amazon for only $382.95!). Think about it, Boras is singlehandedly responsible for the following ill-fated Dodger deals and non-deals: Adrian Beltre walking to Seattle after finishing second in the MVP voting, Eric Gagne's $19 million deal spoiled by massive elbow problems, Luke Hochevar spurning the Dodgers and re-entering the draft, J.D. Drew's bloated $55 million deal, and Andruw Freakin' Jones.

Serves Frank McCourt right for even bothering to make a deal with the devil after selling his soul so many times before. Your move, Giants.

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Here's what happened in baseball while you were walkin' down the levy:

Diamondbacks 15, Indians 9: It's true, the ball carries further in Goodyear. Just ask Tomo Ohka, who gave up seven hits and six runs in just one inning of pitching as the Indians fell for the second day in a row. It's not all bad news; young prospect Matt LaPorta smacked his first ding-dong of the year while Grady Sizemore and Mark DeRosa continued to hit well.

Cubs 7, Brewers 4: Starting pitcher Seth McClung and the rest of the Brewers hurlers had the control of a fat girl at a soda stand, allowing eleven base-on-balls through eight innings of work in a loss to the Cubbies. The Brewers also committed two errors and accidentally caused a tear in the space-time continuum. Says new Milwaukee manager Ken Macha, "If this was the regular season, you'd call this a 'giveaway' game." But it's the spring, so you just call it 'browning the bed'.

Mets 9, Marlins 0: Mets manager Jerry Tranuel tried to distract his team from a possible injury to frontline starter Johan Santana by staging a fake incident that purportedly ended with a cracked windshield to his prized Cadillac. No word on whether Kris' Grand Marquis escaped unscathed. Oh, and Jose Reyes smacked two tater tots including a king dong, while Oliver Perez hurled two scoreless frames.

Yankees 5, Rays 1: Tampa collected just five singles against a Yankees pitching gang that included the two Phils, Hughes and Coke. Meanwhile, Jorge Posada homered and A-Rod's pseudo-cousin was banned from Steinbrenner Field. Of course this is news. One time my cousin was banned from attending my Little League games because she was selling macrame out of the concession shack, so I sympathize.

Pirates 3, Red Sox 2: The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead into the ninth but Pedro Alvarez and his Pittsburgh mates overcame the deficit to notch a 3-2 win. Alvarez doubled to drive in the first run and eventually scored the winning run after Boston shortstop Argenis Diaz had an oopsie-doodle. Ian Snell's otherwise fine start was marred by two unearned runs created by shortstop Brian Bixler's error. I know it's early and these kids are young, but folks be playin' some sloppy baseball.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, access granted.

That's a wrap for Thursday kids. Speaking of wraps, I think Kris is outside the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex puking up his guts right now after feasting on the press box buffet. Don't worry, he'll be back tomorrow with some special posts for us, including the much-awaited Creampuff column. Sayonara, WoWies!

(that's a photo from yesterday's Astros-Nats tilt as taken by Flickr user picAndrew)

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Via the inimitable Was Watching blog:

As part of a first-of-its-kind promotion, the Lakewood BlueClaws and Trenton Thunder have announced all children will eat for free at every 2009 home game.

"We want to bring some joy back to Jersey," said Joe Finley, President of both ballclubs. "Our teams are an important part of their respective communities, and this is our way of helping everyone in both areas."

We're in a recession, y'all, and it seems the only way for minor league ballclubs to attract families to the ballparks in Central Jersey is to promise them to stuff their already fat kids' mouths full of unhealthy ballpark food. Every snotty kid that shows up to these games gets a voucher for a trans-fat-laden hot dog, a bag of greasy potato chips, and a high-caloric, corn syrupy cup of soda. This is progress?

(picture credit to msmail)

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After rumours swirled yesterday that Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden was going to get canned, I sent our own roving Florida reporter Kris Liakos to Kissimmee, Florida to check in on the Nats-Astros tilt to see if he could come up with any intel. Kris came back with a Grand Marquis full of zip zero zilch, and it looks like Bowden is safe today. Nationals team special assistant for the Dominican Republic Jose Rijo, however, fell on the proverbial sword.

The Washington Nationals have decided to fire special assistant Jose Rijo and will shut down the team's academy in the Dominican Republic as part of a restructuring of the team's operations in Latin America in the wake of an age-changing scandal involving one of the team's top prospects, several baseball sources have confirmed.

The team's academy operates out of a complex owned by Rijo in San Cristobal.

The decision comes less than a week after it was discovered that prized prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez, who received a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006, was actually Carlos Daniel Alvarez Lugo and was four years older than originally thought. The player, prior to signing with the Nationals, had trained at Rijo's academy and was represented by trainer Basilio Vizcaino, a childhood friend of Rijo's.

Well, that's one way to get out of a sticky situation! You recall, of course, that the Nats organization and Bowden were under federal investigation for skimming bonuses from Dominican amateur signees. This is like helping your buddy get a job down at the dock but then demanding he drive you to work everyday and buy you a case of Michelob every week. Well, not exactly but you catch my drift. Jim Bowden: alleged violator of ethical hiring practices.

The problem now is that the Nationals are up a Dominican creek without a baseball school. The only team in baseball without a Dominican presence is the Brewers; you simply can't run a team nowadays without having deeply ingrained Latin roots. Even worse, the Padres' and Tigers' teams now have to either drive two hours each way to find other opponents or play each other every single day in San Cristobal. Boring!

But back to the mastermind (ahem) behind the entire operation, Jim Bowden. The good people at Fire Jim Bowden have been on the balls of their feet all week long waiting for the axe to fall, even coming up with the possible replacement's name, Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava. This in turn got the Bluejayblogosphere agog and once you get those kids agog, it's hard to un-gog them.

So Bowden lives to see another day as Nats GM, scoot around on his Segway, and generally spit in the face of reason. Good news, I suppose, for fans of the Braves, Phillies, Mets and Marlins.

Baseball Before Bedtime: Stop It

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Hey kids, here's what happened on exhibition baseball's first day back:

Marlins 5, Dodgers 5 (10): Florida committed four errors (including one by Senor Oopsiehands himself, Dan Uggla) causing team president Larry Beinfest to sarcastically exclaim, ''More runs than errors, we'll take it as a positive." Oh, the snark in Jupiter FLA is so thick you could use it as a hot dog condiment. Hanley Ramirez tater-totted while the Cardinals stranded 14 runners. Shame they didn't play on, a spring training walkoff walk woulda been keen.

Padres 4, Mariners 3 (10): Walkoff Walk favorite Kyle Blanks laced an RBI hit in the bottom of the tenth to send his Padres to a win over Seattle in a battle of last year's lovable losers. No, Ken Griffey Jr. did not play and no, Geoff Baker did not get the express written consent of Major League Baseball to retransmit the game-winning hit on YouTube.

Athletics 3, Brewers 3 (10): Seriously, three games went to the tenth inning yesterday and only one ended in a victory. That's like getting real drunk at a party and making out with three hot girls only to find out that one of them was your second cousin and one was your first cousin. Gross. Trevor Hoffman made his Brewer debut and pitched a scoreless seventh, while new Oakland slugger Matt Holliday went 1-for-3.

Cubs 5, Dodgers 3: Micah Hoffpauir collected a king-dong in the fifth to topple L.A. but the big news in Dodgerland is the team's reported two-year offer to hijo pródigo Manny Ramirez. Forty-five million dollarinos? Sounds like a deal to me. You know how many grills that could buy?

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1: Alex Rodriguez tater-totted and that drug burro pseudo-cousin of his was in attendance, but to me, the real story was Brett Gardner's leadoff ding-dong off lithe left limb owner Brett Cecil. Face it Lloyd, our Brett is better'n your Brett.

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It's a day of new beginnings in old places! The Cleveland Indians haven't had a taste of that dry desert heat since 1992. They are making their triumphant return to the Cactus League today, inaugurating their new ballpark in Goodyear, AZ with a tilt against their longtime desert rival, the San Francisco Giants. We here at the Wednesday Afternoon Liveglog Club are making our 2009 debut in brand new club blazers but in the same old creaky blog you know and love.

Today's matchup features last year's NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum taking on the Indians' young hopeful Jeremy Sowers. Cleveland had a chance to make this game really interesting by putting AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee on the mound, but manager Eric Wedge wussed out. Doesn't really matter, I suppose, as both starters will be pitching for just one or two innings before giving way to such illustrious names as Keiichi Yabu and Tomo Ohka.

So let's get glogging for the first time in aught-nine, after the ol' jump:

Tune in at 3PM Eastern Standard Time, folks, for your first chance to don your Wednesday Afternoon Liveglog Club blazer in 2009. Indians! Giants! Liveglogs! Walkoff Walk! Human condition! There are other games, too, if that strikes your fancy.

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Remember the 2006 World Baseball Classic? Yeah, me neither. I spent most of March 2006 watching the first season of Big Love on HBO and the twelfth season of Survivor on CBS; I didn't have much time to pay attention to an artificial World Cup ripoff that barely featured any of my favorite players. Plus, I had a nasty case of March Madness! I might have paid attention to the semis and the finals of the WBC if the United States hadn't been embarrassingly eliminated after that 2-1 loss to Mexico in the second round. (Both runs were driven in by sassy senior Jorge Cantu).

But I didn't have an internationally-recognized baseball blog in 2006, so who really cared if I was ditching the WBC to watch the NCAA mens hoops tournament? Now three years later, I've convinced myself I should strap myself to the sofa and watch as much of this international hullabaloo as I can so as to keep our 30 readers well-informed. Do you think this is the sort of attitude Herr Selig wanted when he signed off on this massive undertaking? That the 38th biggest baseball blog in all the land would have its writers begrudgingly paying some modicum of attention to this spectacle?

Luckily for Bud, our own Lloyd will try and pick up some of the slack for the other WoW staff members. While Kris is embedded in Florida and I'm embedded in my living room, Lloyd will (allegedly) be hitting up the Rogers Centre for some Molson Export and some Pool C action. That's the U.S., Canada, Venezuela, and Italy. Lloyd will be rooting hard for Canadia, but with Corey Koskie and Matt Stairs on the team, how good could they really be?

The sixteen team rosters were officially announced yesterday and honestly, I do have a good deal of interest in the U.S. team. Our four outfielders are young and speedy (Braun, Hawpe, Granderson, Sizemore) but the infield leaves some question marks, despite the presence of my irrational mancrush, Derek Jeter. Seems the only first basegentleman we have on the roster is Kevin Youkilis. Sure he's one of the best in baseball, but what if he gets hurt? Mark DeRosa is not a decent backup. Whither Derrek Lee? Too afraid to take on a backup role? Shame.

Still, who am I to judge? DeRosa's a great utility player and should provide some pinch-hitty goodness against tough lefties. Obviously I am going to be quite biased here and hope for success by the U.S. squad. After all, if they make the semis, I could be convinced to watch the WBC final four over the NCAA Final Four.

Unbeknownst to one another, Kris and I both wrote about the MLB Network's upcoming Phillies bullpen reality series last night. He chose to associate it with a nouveau Real World featuring pro ballplayers while I thought to re-imagine it as a different Survivor. Both of us have terrible taste in TV. Which one is terribler?



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Ever wanted to get inside a major league bullpen? Mom, put your hand down. Anyone else? Hmm... well anyone ever want a deeper understanding the dynamics of a close knit group of pro athletes with divergent personalities? Well, whatever. You're getting it anyway. It may sound kind of lousy at first but the MLB Network is about to take their first stab at original programming with "The Pen," a reality show chronicling the day to day operations of the Phillies bullpen. But you know what, the MLB network has been pretty awesome so far so I'm gonna choose to get excited. The details from MLB.com:

MLB Productions has been in Phillies camp the past week shooting footage for the debut episode of "The Pen," an inside look at the Phillies' bullpen, which is scheduled to debut June 1 on MLB Network. It will be MLB Network's first original programming.

MLB Productions chose the Phils' bullpen for a couple of reasons: First, it had tremendous success in 2008. And second, it has diverse personalities.

Who's gonna catch Ryan Madson with his fingers in the peanut butter jar? Who's gonna get wasted and call Chan Ho Park a no good Chinaman? Who's gonna be the first guy to implode and bring what was an absolutely stellar 2008 Phillies relief corps tumbling back to earth? The suspense is endless. I heard that show about football teams on HBO was pretty good. I never saw it but I imagine these things lend themselves to high drama. I mean sports are the original reality TV and that's why we love em. I can see "Pen Parties" popping up all over America like when my roommate Sara used to have friends over to watch The Bachelor. But instead of Prosecco and loathing there'll be dudes eating Cakies and drinking Steel Reserve.

For the record my all time favorite Real World character was Dominic.



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Hey, Phillies bullpen! You just completed a fantastic season full of solid lead-protecting and unmatched save-getting, helping your team compile an 87-0 record when leading after eight innings and culminating in a World F'in Championship. The good people at the MLB Network would like to reward your good work with the channel's first ever bit of original programming: a reality series, set to debut in June:

Six weekly episodes are scheduled to run through the All-Star break. The series is expected to show how a bullpen works, as well as how individual pitchers work together and rely upon each other throughout the course of the season. The show also will visit with the pitchers off the field to give viewers a sense of their personalities and interests.

Well that sounds like a nice setup for a completely boring tee-vee show but it's probably just a red herring. I fully expect this reality series to take a turn for the visceral, as manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee will split the bullpen candidates into two teams, and start forcing them to compete in reward challenges and immunity challenges. Each week, the losing team will go to Bullpen Council and vote out one pitcher who will be sent to Triple-A Allentown.

The two teams will be the Homegrowns and the Imports, with the Homegrowns made up of J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Madson and Mike Zagurski while the Imports will consist of Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Chan Ho Park, and J.C. Romero. In the first episode, the Imports will prevail when Kyle Kendrick cannot devour a live jellyfish in a wacky eating challenge. Chan Ho Park downs it in 4 seconds flat and the Homegrowns, behind a strong Happ/Madson alliance, are forced to vote out Zagurski.

MLB Productions originally wanted to make this a baseball version of the MTV show The Hills but Kyle Kendrick was completely incapable of memorizing his script.

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Our patron saint of low on-base percentages enters the confessional on Saturday in Viera, Florida to atone for his sins of hitting leadoff despite a wild inability to draw walks. Bless him, Dusty, for he has sinned. I wonder what his penance was.

(Picture stolen from the Nationals photo day slideshow at zimbio.com)

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With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we finally finish our arduous task with the American League East:

  • Boston Red Sox shortstop: This really shouldn't be a contest, but Julio Lugo is due $9 million in aught-nine and young turk Theo Epstein will be damned if he lets that money go to waste. Jed Lowrie is not made of magic, isn't much of a contact guy, and doesn't inspire Ripken-esque visions of an All Star shortstop power hitter, but he knows how to use a glove. Lugo, on the other hand, is a butcher in the field, averaging 20 errors a year in his career, and his proclivity for GIDPs is well-documented. Okay, maybe not well-documented but it's been documented. This could all be for naught if Mike Lowell's arms and legs fall off, pushing Lowrie to third.

  • New York Yankees center field: Manager Joe Girardi seems to think the right field job is up for grabs, too, but with three gents jockeying for center field, it's the race of the season. Melky Cabrera fell off a cliff last year but looks to win back the job against youngster Brett Gardner and import Nick Swisher. Gardner's value seems to come with his supersonic speed and high OBPs throughout his short minor league career. Melky's value is an irritating nickname. Swisher would just rather win the right field job and not have to embarrass himself trying to field a position at which he has not succeeded in the past.

  • Tampa Bay Rays right field: With the acquisition of young buck Matt Joyce from a pitching-starved Tigers team, the Rays have set up a nice group of gents to compete for the right field job. The two Gabes and New Jersey's own Fernando Perez will do their best to wrest time away from Joyce. Joyce has the power, Perez has the brains, Gross has the glove, and Kapler has the menschy good looks. I'll be darned if I know who Overmanagin' Joe Maddon will choose to win the job.

  • Toronto Blue Jays fifth starter: Last year's surprise Shaun Marcum is out for the year with an ouchie elbow, freeing up a spot in the Jays rotation for someone, anyone, who can nail down 10-15 quality starts and help out what will prove to be another light-hitting Toronto lineup. Our own resident Canadian Crazy would have you believe that that the young southpaw Brett Cecil is ready for his closeup, but if he can't fulfill Lloyd's wildest dreams, there are others. Casey Janssen missed the entirety of '08 with a shoulder injury that might prevent him from eating too many innings. Former Pirate and Indian Bryan Bullington would knock over your gramma for another shot at a rotation spot. But really, we all know who is going to win AL Comeback Player of the Year, so why even bother?

  • Baltimore Orioles left field: Luke Scott thought he had this job wrapped up a couple months ago. That was so, until the O's brought in Felix Pie from the Cubbies, Ryan Freel from the Redlegs, and Ty Wigginton from the Astros, not to mention the presence of prospect Nolan Reimold lurking in the wings. Forget it, Luke. It's Baltimore. The best you can hope for now is a trade to the outfield-hungry Braves.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, must not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?

That's the last time we run a picture of Shea Stadium's skeleton, I promise. In fact, let's look towards rebirth and growth and new beginnings, especially with our own Kris Liakos in sunny Florida right now. He's going to spend the next week tooling around in his white Lincoln from Port St. Lucie to Orlando to Fort Lauderdale to Pirate City and reporting on what he sees, hears, smells, and eats for Walkoff Walk. Blessed are we, indeed! Have a great weekend, folks.

(Shea's last gasp obtained on the up-and-up from Flickr user Swerz)

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With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we look at the National League Central:

  • Chicago Cubs closer: With Kerry Wood moving on to browner pastures in Cleveland, Sweet Lou Piniella must make another tough decision involving the Cubs' endgame scenarios. Chicago returns just a few relievers headed up by strikeout wizard Carlos Marmol, who is favored to win the job out of camp. I mean, it's not like Jeff Samardzjia (pronounced suh-mar-dih-JIZZ-ee-uh) is suddenly going to become an above average pitcher suddenly. But lo, Kevin Gregg and his two-year portfolio of 61 saves has emigrated from Miami and is looking to make this a two-dog race. Both gentlemen have unhealthy walk rates (greater than 4.5 BB/9 in the last two years) but Marmol should get the edge because of his strikeout numbers.

  • Milwaukee Brewers closer: Just because Eric Gagne had Lasik eye surgery this offseason doesn't mean I'm putting him in the closer sweepstakes in Milwaukee. The dude is going to have to bust his ass to just make the team out of spring training and Bob Uecker will have an aneurysm if Gagne is allowed to close games for the Brew Crew. That being said, the $6 million that Doug Melvin threw at Padres legend Trevor Hoffman pretty much makes him the man, but there are other gents lurking. New Brewer Jorge Julio has had better strikeout rates over the last three years and closing experience way back when in Baltimore. Unfortunately, Julio's walk and tater tot rates are atrocious, but hey, Trevor Hoffman is 83 years old.

  • St. Louis Cardinals closer: Are you sensing a theme here? The NL Central teams had trouble closing games at the start of last year too. Who will be the white knight to save the Cardinals bullpen in 2009? PECOTA is predicting four different pitchers to earn at least 8 saves for St. Lou: sexy prospect out of Miami Chris Perez, aging righty Ryan Franklin, one-time college catcher Jason Motte, and former Ray lefty Trever Miller. Perez, with his magic fastball and high strikeout rates, is the odds-on favorite. But hey, the Cardinals have had success turning pitchers into hitters in the past, so why not try the reverse for Motte?

  • Cincinnati Reds left field: For better or worse, Coco Cordero has the closers job locked up, so we'll take a different route for the Reds team. Our pal John Fay mentioned yesterday that, contrary to popular belief, Chris Dickerson has not yet earned the starting LF nod on Opening Day. The Reds brought back the versatile Jerry Hairston, who collects high OBP rates and can play the infield as well as the outfield. There's also Norris Hopper, ex-Ray Jonny Gomes, and Dusty's old pal Jacque Jones, who also had corrective eye surgery this offseason after batting a miserable .147 last year in Detroit and Miami. Expect Hairston to win the job and hopefully Dickerson can supplant the horrid Willy Taveras in center.

  • Pittsburgh Pirates fourth and fifth starter: Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, and Ian Snell should have the top three slots in the rotation locked up, but after that, it's a big fat question mark. Manager John Russell will have a few gentlemen to choose from, including former Yankees prospects Jeff Karstens, Dan McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf, one-time Cub stud Donald Veal, last year's mistake Phil Dumatrait, and homegrown guy Tom Gorzelanny. The 1989 Oakland Athletics, these are not.

  • Houston Astros catcher: Whoever would have thought that the departure of Brad Ausmus would create a power vacuum! But really, it's happening in Houston, where Ausmus was the unassuming catcher for ten years. Alyson Footer at MLB.com thinks the job is merely a placeholder for stud prospect Jason Castro, so here are the three candidates to get a year's worth of work in: last year's big flop J.R. Towles, longtime Astro Humberto Quintero, and shaving cream pie victim Toby Hall. Look for Towles to rebound in his sophomore effort and lead the Astros to a whopping 53 wins!

In case you missed it, our buddies Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel were featured on ABC World News the other night. Luckily for us, our pal Dmac helped us steal the video so we could embed it for you. We give you Rinku and Dinesh in Pirate City:


That makes me want to head down to Pirate City and do some soft-toss with the boys. GAZAB!

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With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we look at the American League Central:

  • Cleveland Indians rear-end rotation: Besides reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and stud Dominican Fausto Carmona, Indians manager Eric Wedge has some tough choices to make filling out the rest of his starting staff. With Jake Westbrook having his elbow ligaments replaced with orangutan scrotums, Wedge seems to think Bronx pariah Carl Pavano is ready and willing to fill out the third slot. But remember, being ready and willing does not necessarily make one able. Looking past to slots four and five, Wedge can decide from the grab bag of Anthony Reyes, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Zach Jackson, David Huff, Scott Lewis, Kirk Saarloos and Tomo Ohka for the leftover 75 to 80 games. Huff was a stud lefty last year at Triple-A Buffalo while the other young southpaw Lewis went 4-0 in four impressive late season starts last year for the big club.

  • Minnesota Twins third base: GARY GAETTI IS NOT WALKING THROUGH THAT DOOR, PEOPLE. Really, he's been banned from the Twins clubhouse for inappropriate contact with Harmon Killebrew's daughter. Filling out the hot corner for the Minnesota nine this year will be either Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, or if Ron Gardenhire's wishes come true, former White Sock Joe Crede. Tough nuts for Brian if Crede signs because the lefty Buscher would make a fine, fine platoon with the righty Harris. Offensively, Crede has the advantage despite a glaring inability to draw walks. Heck, he's got the advantage defensively too. But between the actual current Twins, I'm giving the nod to Harris for having a slightly better glove.

  • Detroit Tigers closer: I just found this Jerry Crasnick piece on ESPN that I totally would have been stealing from if I hadn't just discovered it. Anyway, he has the Tigers closer as the 7th most compelling contribution of Spring Training. Now that our own Todd Jones has retired, there is an enormous dumb vacuum in the Detroit bullpen. They've obtained former Diamondback closer Brandon Lyon who had some rough patches shutting down ninth innings last season. Past Lyon, there are Tiger vets Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, both of whom are adept at striking out major league hitters but also prone to giving up walks. Actually, Rodney walked in the winning run in a loss to the Rays last year. I see Lyon winning this job and being demoted some time in May.

  • Kansas City Royals manager: Royals skipper Trey Hillman was the only major league manager to receive less ink (pixels?) on this here weblog than Pirates head honcho John Russell last year. He compiled a satisfactory 75-87 record in his first season of USA managing after five years in Japan where he took the Nippon Ham Fighters to a championship in 2006. So what does that all mean now? If his Royals take a big fat step backwards in 2009, it might mean curtains for Hillman and might force owner David Glass to import another ex-NPB manager. Heck, anything that keeps Bobby V. out of New York City is okay with me.

  • Chicago White Sox second base: With Alexei Ramirez shifting from second to short to replace the departed Orlando Cabrera, an opportunity has arisen for White Sox youngster Chris Getz to make a splash. Marcel projects Getz to have a tidy .768 OPS next year but Brent Lillibridge and Jayson Nix are lurking. Getz is a great option for an obviously-rebuilding team, but there's a perfectly better option on the market for a team that wants to open up their purses a bit.
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Just one day after the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that he was to sign with the Braves, Ken Griffey has decided to sign a one-year, $2 million deal with his old team in Seattle. Needless to say, Braves fans are stunned and saddened. If they're looking for someone to blame, who better than everybody's favorite grandpa, Willie Mays! M's beat writer Larry Stone reports:

(Harold) Reynolds had been acting all week as a liaison between the Mariners and Griffey, trying relentlessly to convince his buddy that Seattle was the place for him. And Mays was his ace in the hole.

"I called Willie, and he acted like an old friend,'" (Mariners team president Chuck) Armstrong said. "He talked about the importance of coming back, and asked if it would be an imposition if he called Junior and talked about it.

"I said, 'Willie, you're probably the greatest player ever, and the reason Junior wore No. 24.' I gave him Junior's phone number.''

New MLB Network hire and former Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds had been acting as the go-between in the deal, trying his durndest to get Griff to come back to Seattle. Seems as though his own pleading was for naught but when he escalated the efforts to THE GREATEST LIVING BALLPLAYER (sorry, Hank), the deal was done. Armstrong claims that the most important word Mays used when speaking on the phone to Ken was "legacy," as if his return to Seattle would mean a great deal to the franchise and the fans.

But really, Braves fans shouldn't fret too much, despite losing yet another high-profile name in what has become a dark and cold winter in Atlanta. Griffey has little value for a National League team that is sans DH and has a pitching staff that needs to rely on slick fielding outfielders. And best of all, this still hasn't closed the door completely shut on Manny!

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With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we look at the National League West.

  • Arizona Diamondbacks left field: This isn't much of a competition, since Conor Jackson is set for left field on the days Chad Tracy plays first base, but really, it's worth pointing out that Eric Byrnes does not have a starting job. He hasn't been healthy in months and hasn't really produced since 2007 and finds himself competing for attention in an otherwise young Diamondbacks outfield populated by Jackson, Justin Upton and Chris Young. Byrnesy baby, you're too Hollywood to be futzing around on the bench for a team with no DH. Get Jeanne Zelasko on the phone, stat, and start your own pregame show on the Internet.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers left field: This shouldn't really be a competition either, but as of today, Joe Torre is stuck penciling in Juan Pierre in a spot where Manny Ramirez should be. Right now, PECOTA is projecting the Dodgers as an 84-win team, eight games behind the Diamondbacks. Add in Manny's projected 30 tater tots and .950 OPS and that win total goes up by four. So stop dicking around, Ned Colletti, and throw $40 million over two years at the poor guy.

  • San Francisco Giants second base: Technically, most of the Giants infield is open for discussion because they have a bunch of unproven youngsters and no slamdunk veterans short of Edgar Renteria. The good folks at Fangraphs are calling this a four-horse race between Emmanuel Burriss, Eugenio Velez, Kevin Frandsen and Juan Uribe. I'll let them do the heavy lifting and simply break down the odds for you: youngster Burriss is a 9-1 outside shot, Rule 5 draftee Velez is even longer at 12-1, 2007 regular Frandsen coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon injury that caused him to miss all of 2008 is a good bet at 4-1, and minor-league-deal signee Uribe is a 9-to-5 shot because he's a grizzled veteran and Bruce Bochy is a bum.

  • Colorado Rockies center field: With Willy Taveras' corpse mercifully shed from the payroll, the Rox can test out youngster Dexter Fowler against the more experienced Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez, and Mr. Hustle himself, Scott Podsednik. Fowler, a 2004 draftee, finally got a taste of the bigs last September and appeared in the Futures All Star Game in July despite not getting any Triple-A action yet. He's a high-OBP guy with not much pop, not unlike Spilborghs. Gonzalez came from the A's in the Matt Holliday trade and is seen as having the best defensive potential among the group but can't hit his way out of a wet paper bag. Podsednik is 33 and is a gigantic liability at the plate and in the field. I'd like to see Gonzalez get a chance in CF with Brad Hawpe in right and Spilborghs in left, until Dexter Fowler makes some noise in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

  • San Diego Padres shortstop: The Padres signed David Eckstein to be their second baseman and he was simply thrilled with finally moving back to his natural position. See, it's easier for little people to throw the ball to first from where a second baseman stands than where a shortstop stands. The problem is that the Padres are trying to figure out which young middle infielder is going to be less bad: Luis Rodriguez at short, or Matt Antonelli at second. Whoever screws up worse this spring might lose their job to Eckstein the professional dwarf. The wild card? Last year's second baseman Edgar Gonzalez who is also brother to stud first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Sometimes you gotta make the talent happy and give their big brother a job.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, regret is insight that comes a day too late.

That's it for today, kids. The Alex Rodriguez press conference is over and we're putting it to bed. Tomorrow, Kris will be back in action and maybe I'll continue my series on position battles across the major leagues. I can promise you this: we won't mention steroids again until Thursday at the earliest! Unless, of course, we're going to take down the entire Patriots dynasty.

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With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we look at the American League West.

  • Los Angeles Angels outfield: Longtime Angel in the outfield Garret Anderson is gone, but with the signing of Bobby Abreu, the logjam continues in Anaheim. With Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero as the two true automatic starts in the outfield, that leaves Abreu, Juan Rivera, Reggie Willits, and Gary Matthews Jr fighting it out for the third OF slot and the DH role. Shame that Matthews will get a good amount of consideration because of his over-inflated salary; his bat just doesn't have the pop necessary to be a league-average corner OF or DH. To complicate matters, catcher Mike Napoli is nursing a sore shoulder and may need to eat up some of that DH time in the early spring. What does this all mean? The Angels still won't be scoring six runs a game.

  • Oakland Athletics designated hitter: Another former Yankee heads west to mess up a team's depth chart, as Jason Giambi returns to Oaktown seven years later to mash some taters and take some DH time away from Jack Cust. Neither of those dudes are very good with the glove, but Cust is younger and knows where to stand and which way to face in the outfield. Still, he's not going to take much corner OF time away from newcomer Matt Holliday, so Travis Buck gets the short end of that stick. Expect Giambi to usurp most of the DH duty but also find time to use his first baseman's glove, leaving Daric Barton in the lurch a couple times a week. Bottom line: save for Holliday, don't draft any of these guys in your fantasy league.

  • Texas Rangers entire pitching staff: Here's a list of the eight possible Rangers starting pitchers that the good folks at Baseball Prospectus are forecasting to have an ERA under 4.70: ____. Ooph. Well, what about Sean Smith's CHONE projections? ____. Jeez, is there anyone on the Rangers roster who can pitch? I pity pitching coach ____ for attempting to cobble together a rotation out of Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Dustin Nippert, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Brandon McCarthy, Jason Jennings, and Kason Gabbard. That's a veritable who's who of who stinks.

  • Seattle Mariners closer: Last year's closer J.J. Putz is somewhere in Port St. Lucie right now plotting the mysterious disappearance of Frankie Rodriguez, and so is his wormball-inducing pal Sean Green. That leaves a power vacuum at the top of the Mariners bullpen. This, of course, is like a power vacuum at the top of a special needs high school's math team: it's just not a very important position when there isn't a ton of predicted success. Still, saves are saves and the extremely dated Elias Sports Bureau values them more than anything else when it comes to deciding how much relievers should get paid. Look for Mark Lowe, David Aardsma and newcomer Luis Pena to share closing duties, but also for new M's manager Don Wakamatsu to get creative because that's what the Seattle beat writers and bloggers enjoy. Ichiro as the closer? Sure! Why not?

Join me and blogger Kevin Kaduk (and countless others) for the official Big League Stew liveglog of the Alex Rodriguez press conference right now at Yahoo!. I'll be providing my pro-Yankee, pro-ARod, pro-pharmaceutical biases and hopefully a few tater tot jokes. YOU CALL THIS JOURNALISM?

Screw it, we live commented instead.

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With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we look at the National League East.

  • Philadelphia Phillies fifth starter: I was in Dover, DE this weekend and the top story in The Downstate Daily's sports section on Monday involved Kyle Kendrick's chances to retain his claim on the Phillies' fifth pitcher in the rotation. This told me two things: (a) Kyle Kendrick is a pretty lucky guy, earning that World Series ring and bonus check despite being a terrible pitcher who was left off the Philadelphia roster for the entire postseason and (b) there isn't much sports news going on in Delaware. Kiki is going up against the likes of Chan Ho Park, Carlos Carrasco, and J.A. Happ for the chance to pitch once every five days and carry Brett Myers' beer cooler out from the bullpen twice a week.

  • New York Mets fifth starter: The first four slots in the Mets starting rotation are taken by stud Johan Santana, smug John Maine, slug Oliver Perez, and scrub Mike Pelfrey. That leaves the fifth day, the Lord's day, left to be filled by one of a bevy of general manager Omar Minaya's gentleman callers. You've got youngster Jon Niese, born the same night the Mets clinched their last World Series win back in '86, former Nat Tim Redding, who somehow managed double-digits in wins for a miserable Washington team last year, journeyman Freddy Garcia, who looks nothing like this portly creature, and Livan Hernandez, the man who has never met a base-on-balls he didn't like. Dear God, please let it be Livan Hernandez, and please let him bring his golf clubs to camp.

  • Atlanta Braves center field: Quick, name the Braves' starting center fielder. Nope, keep guessing. Wrong again. I'll just go refresh my coffee mug while you keep repeating the names "Griffey" and "Andruw" over and over. If the season started today, (a) Gregor Blanco would be the man with the job and (b) we'd have neglected to give you our wacky predictions. However, Braves beat blogger Dave O'Brien thinks the job battle is between Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer. Anderson got his chance to play in the bigs after Mark Kotsay was traded to the BoSox last year and hit .294 in 40 games. Schafer's the dude who got suspended 50 games last year for ingesting some of that delicious human growth hormone, but don't hold that against him.

  • Florida Marlins catcher: Misty May's husband is gone, nursing his grundle with the Detroit Tigers, so that leaves John Baker and Mike Rabelo to 'fight' for a job they'll probably end up platooning. Still, Pudge Rodriguez might still swoop in and inject the young Marlins team with some veteran intensity and Icy Hot. This is progress?

  • Washington Nationals outfield: Ever since Jim Bowden oddly brought in difference-maker Adam Dunn to play first base, the Nats depth chart has been re-arranged more than Mickey Rourke's face (zing! relevant Oscars joke!). So: you've got Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham, Willie Harris, Wily Mo Pena, and my white knight Corey Patterson fighting it out for three outfield slots for a team that will struggle to score 700 runs. But hey, the 2009 Nats outfield can't be worse than last year's version...can it?
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Hey Mariners fans, are you getting excited about Seattle's rumoured dalliance with fan favorite Ken Griffey, Jr.? Well our favorite Northwest beat writer Geoff Baker seems to think the deal will be signed next week but the Kid himself is playing golf and playing hard to get:

"We don't know what we're doing next year with respect to Seattle. It's all rumors," Griffey said Thursday after finishing his round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.

"I really don't even know. My agent is handling," he said moments after stepping off the Poppy Hills course.

When asked if he still wants to play despite knee surgery last October, Griffey said: "As long as it's still fun, I want to keep playing."

Ken, playing baseball might not be fun for you but watching you run around and catch baseballs is fun for us. The Mariners are basically running a barebones operation right now. Outside of stud pitcher Felix Hernandez and box-office draw Ichiro, there's not much going on with this team that's deep in the rebuilding rut right now. Taking on a surefire HOF'er with mass regional appeal for a few sheckels and a platoon role is a great business move, as long as Ken is willing to take on a platoon role.

Matthew Carruth at Fangraphs points out that the lefty Griff still has pop against RHP but his OPS drops off a bit against southpaws. His outfield defense is no longer worth extra wins but the team wouldn't suffer from penciling him in the left field slot twice a week and giving him some DH action the rest of the time. So if that job split is being presented to him right now, does that give Griffey pause? Would he rather play full-time in the outfield for a contending team, or would he want to hang around with a bunch of kids and be the wise old veteran?

But hey, if we really wanted to know what Ken wanted to do this season, we should just ask Kris to get Mrs. Griffey on the telephone.

(Photo source)

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It's here! It's here! Mabel, get my baseball cap out of the cedar closet and dust off my novelty foam finger! Spring training starts officially this morning as pitchers and catchers for the Cleveland Indians are s'posed to report to camp this morning at 8AM local time in Goodyear, Arizona (which is right now!) The Indians spent the last fifteen years screwing around in Florida's Grapefruit League but made the jump back to Arizona this spring; they trained in Tucson from 1947 to 1992. Next spring, the Reds will make the jump to Goodyear and join up with the Indians so that all the baseball fans and hausfraus in Ohio can plan one easy vacation destination each March.

The team's first workout at the new Goodyear Park won't be until February 21st, but that's not stopping Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes from getting excited about the Tribe's chances in aught-nine:

The Indians are loaded with lefties including (Cliff) Lee, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Scott Lewis, Zach Jackson and Dan Haren among the candidates for the starting rotation. Among lefty relievers scheduled to report are Perez, Rich Rundles, Tony Sipp and Ryan Edell.

Wow! The Indians picked up Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks in a trade so surprising, absolutely nobody in the entire baseballblogosphere picked up on it! I kid, of course. But really, there's nobody on the active roster or the list of non-roster invitees whose name could be easily mixed up with Danny Haren. Heck, maybe Hoynes is onto something that we don't know.

So congratulations to the early bird Indians for being the first squadron to force their pitchers and catchers to clock in. Your reward was a short, snarky blog post that pointed out your local beat reporter's snafus and foibles; for you other 29 teams, don't expect the same treatment since y'all pretty much show up tomorrow or Saturday.

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Shoulder-shruggin' baseball commissioner Bud Selig told USA Today Wednesday afternoon that he is "heartsick" about Alex Rodriguez' latest steroid admission and that he is not ruling out punishing A-Rod or adjusting the MLB record books.

When asked in a telephone interview if he would consider suspending Rodriguez, Selig recalled that he "had put a bulletin out" about the illegality of steroid use in 1997, even though MLB had no drug testing at that time. Rodriguez tested positive in 2003, according to Sports Illustrated, and now has admitted to ESPN that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-2003.

"It was against the law, so I would have to think about that," Selig said of possible action against Rodriguez. "It's very hard. I've got to think about all that kind of stuff."

Asked if he would consider reinstating Henry Aaron as baseball's home-run king and adding an asterisk or some other notation to the statistics of Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and others involved in baseball's steroid controversy, Selig said that he might.

"Once you start tinkering, you can create more problems," he said. "But I'm not dismissing it. I'm concerned. I'd like to get some more evidence."

Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Bud Selig's reign of terror started in 1992, just before the dawn of the steroid era. For years, players were injecting PEDs into each other's butt cheeks and growing ridiculously large heads. This was not going on behind Bud's back, obviously. And what did Bud Selig and the rest of the owners cabal do about it? ISSUE A BULLETIN? No, Bud, that was not the time to issue a bulletin. My condo association issues a bulletin when a bear is sighted on the property. The local elementary school issues a bulletin when a mysterious white van is spotted driving slowly around the parking lot. But when up to 50% of your employees are engaged in illegal activities that just happen to make their performance better and are increasing gate receipts you don't just issue a bulletin and wash your hands of the problem, you get on your horse and you rein this nonsense in.

And now that baseball's most notable records have fallen by the wayside, you think you can simply scrub away the accomplishments of players who were tainted by steroid accusations, and punish your employees for breaking a rule that didn't exist at the time? You're a coward, Selig. When history writes your obituary, it will remember you as the weak-minded used car dealer who stuck his head in the sand when an environment was created that encouraged players to take steroids, and then years later threw his hands up the air and became a sanctimonious chicken.

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Hey, remember 1994? Yeah, me neither. I was too busy being a huge nerd back in high school, but not nearly nerdy enough to get excited about a concert tour pairing piano-playing pop performers Elton John and Billy Joel. Still, I remember every kid in marching band and the math club waiting on line at Bradlees to get tickets to the shows at Giants Stadium.

Well pull your feather boas out of storage and drunkenly crash your car into some lady's house because the noted ivory-tinklers are bringing their glam act to Wrigley Field and Citizens Bank Park this summer.

It will be the third summer concert to be staged at Wrigley Field since Jimmy Buffett performed in 2006. Sting followed with a concert in 2007.

John and Joel will open each concert with a series of duets, playing twin pianos and trading vocals. Each will then perform a set with his own band. The grand finale will have both on stage together for the encore.

Billy Joel and Elton John are the most successful and longest-running concert pairing in pop history. In July of 1994, they launched their first-ever tour in Philadelphia at Veterans Stadium.

Groan. Noted Long Island resident Billy Joel played the final concert at Shea Stadium last year along with such bland guest stars as John Mellencamp, Don Henley, and a fifth of cheap American blended whiskey. He's also played Yankee Stadium so he knows how to put tens of thousands of people to sleep at once.

In fact, when I was six, I slept through a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden. You can knock my native New Jersey all you want, but New Jersey has Springsteen while Long Island has Billy Joel. New Jersey 1, Long Island 0. The man hasn't even put out a new pop album since 1993.

Elton John, on the other hand, is absolutely talented once you look past all the bloated glam frou-frou garbage and pandering Marilyn Monroe/Princess Diana nonsense. Give me "Sixty Years On" or "Border Song" or "Burn Down the Mission" or "Country Comfort" over any Billy Joel song any day of the week.

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I would rather not post such slander and hearsay, but if any of this Robbie Alomar full blown AIDS lawsuit holds water, then it's a doozy of a story. The lowlights:

  • Alomar was sick and refused to get an HIV test, he later ended up with full blown AIDS.
  • His ex-girlfriend is suing him now
  • Alomar told his girlfriend that "he was raped by two Mexican men after playing a ballgame in New Mexico or a Southwestern state when he was 17."
  • Alomar had a yeast infection.
  • After Alomar spit in the face of ump John Hirschbeck back in 1996, fellow umpire Al Clark said, "If I were John, I'd insist that Robbie Alomar take an AIDS test." AL CLARK: SOOTHSAYER.
  • Reader Dmac thinks that perhaps Robbie Alomar was the "high profile gay New York ballplayer" that everyone else thought was Mike Piazza.

If this is too salacious for you, there's always Brian Giles' counter-suit against his ex-girlfriend that claims she drove drunk over his legs and stabbed him with her stiletto heels. Classy!

(picture taken from Flickr)

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, history repeats itself just once.

We're done here today, Bub. Tune in tomorrow and join us as we get excited for the Official Day of Pitchers and Catchers.

(Historic American photograph borrowed gently from the LIberry of Congress)

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But years later, we still get no apology for his "misappropriation of age". Says the AP:

All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada has been charged with lying to Congress about steroids. Tejada is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday where he is expected to plead guilty.

The charges against Tejada, who currently plays for the Houston Astros, were outlined in documents filed in Washington federal court on Tuesday.

The documents indicate that a plea agreement has been reached with Tejada.

They're not even charging him with lying about taking steroids, but lying about whether he knew a teammate was taking steroids. Of course the prosecutors allege that Tejada bought HGH in 2003, so it's all quite obvious that he's targeted for being naughty but suffering for some trumped-up charge.

This all comes a day after Alex Rodriguez admitted his own steroid use on national television. That's two Dominicans in two days; I fully expect Juan Marichal to come forward and admit he pitched for eight years hopped up on Whatchamacallits and Mr. Pibb.

A lot of the mainstream media types are repeating ESPN's statistic (helpfully available in a tidy sidebar on the Peter Gammons interview page) that A-Rod's career slugging percentage is lower than that of his three-year steroid-aided stint in Texas. Sure, it's a valid statistic, but don't believe them, because they're big fat truth-stretchers. Alex Rodriguez mashed the ball so well in Arlington because it's a teeny-tiny, eensy-weensy hitters park that favors any hitter, even a little twerp like Randy Velarde. See here, take a look at Alex Rodriguez' slugging splits over his three year career in Texas:

YEAR HOME AWAY
2001 .677 .567
2002 .700 .547
2003 .621 .577

My rudimentary HTML table doesn't lie, people! During three years as a Ranger, Alex' slugging percentage was about 100 points higher at home than on the road. In fact, I created a somewhat-less-crude table in Microsoft Excel that plots A-Rod's adjusted OPS across his career:

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Adjusted OPS, or OPS+, takes a players on base percentage and slugging percentage and normalizes it against park-adjusted league OBPs and SLGs. The important word in that sentence? Park-adjusted. To be sure, Alex Rodriguez' massive slugging percentage in Arlington was helped by the toaster-oven-sized park while his lower but still stellar slugging percentage in Yankee Stadium was hurt by the deep left field fences. Look, four of his best five years happened when spending half his time in pitchers' parks in New York and Seattle.

What does this all prove? Nothing, Alex Rodriguez was a Cheaty McCheaterson for at least three years because that lady Selena Roberts told us so. He might have cheated while with Seattle and he might have cheated while with New York and we may never know. The important part is this: when ESPN tells you a statistic, don't be so fast to repeat it no matter how damning the evidence may seem.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, that's just the way we get by.

  • WON'T you join me in wishing our own Kris Liakos a happy birthday? He's a virile 27 today, but years of drinking and hard living have aged his body like a healthy 8,255-year-old.

  • WHAT the heck is Joe Crede doing asking for $7 million in salary this year? Ty Wigginton is only getting $3 million and he can actually hit.

  • WHEN is Bobby Abreu gonna get a job? If he only makes a Wigginton-esque $3 million this season, I'm going to start a bake sale to raise money for the guy.

  • DO you really think the Yankees will allow but 673 runs this season and lead the majors? Sure, they have the best rotation in baseball, but their defense is stinkeroo. And hey, the Orioles scoring 5.3 runs per game? That's an absolutely Liakosian prediction.

  • ARE you gonna watch that A-Rod/Peter Gammons interview tonight? I will. Heck, I can't remember the last time SportsCenter was appointment viewing for me. Probably college, which is why I can't remember it.

That's all the fun we have for you today (/turns pockets inside out, lint falls out). Please join us tomorrow, where we'll compare the players in the latest steroid scandal to characters in Henry James' 1877 novel, The Portrait of a Lady.

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Ruben Amaro must really hate confrontation. Faced with his first big arbitration hearing of his short career as Phillies' G.M., he decided to cut out the back-and-forth dickering and all that arguing mumbo-jumbo and just wrote a big fat check to his big fat first baseman. Ryan Howard was offered $14 million earlier this winter by the team but he wanted $18 million in arbitration. No matter, he'll make his desired amount three times over in the next three seasons as his new contract is worth $54 million. Do you have any idea how many five-dollar footlongs that can buy? My rudimentary arithmetic says "enough to block up his bowels for the next 83,297 ice ages".

So, is he worth it? Last summer I compared Howard to Mo Vaughn which is akin to comparing your favorite musician to Creed. Howard just turned 30 in November and has pretty much started his career decline, typical among power-hitting, poorly-fielding first basemen. His slugging percentage and on-base percentage have dropped noticeably the last three seasons while his strikeout rate has remained about the same. Perhaps the only real good news is that his defense isn't getting any worse, but that's mostly because it's really hard to earn a grade lower than "F minus minus".

But Howard still has value, and most projections have him rebounding from a somewhat under-performing 2008 season. The man could strike out three times a game and still provide value to his team with his tater tots, free Subway sandwiches, and all-around jovial mood. The three-year $54 million deal buys out his remaining arbitration-eligible years and will leave him a free agent after 2011; Amaro is assuming that his value will not drop precipitously until that point so I'm going to call this a good deal for both the team and the player. As long as Ryan's mom keeps doling out his allowance and investing the rest of the $54 million, Howard should be comfortable the rest of his life, even if he's out of baseball at age 34 like Cecil Fielder.

(photograph stolen from Flickr user ebot)

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The Caribbean Series started Monday and things are getting muy caliente in Mexicali, Mexico. The annual playoff series for the best Winter League teams from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela features just a smattering of your favorite Latino MLB stars and some future prospects. The Puerto Rican Winter League even got their act together and fielded a team for 2009 (as opposed to last year). Heck, things are so wild down there this year, they even put White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (career Caribbean Series batting average: .154) on a billboard.

Which of your favorite MLB players are participating this year? Mexico's team is the Mazatlan Stags and features the fighting Gonzalez brothers, Adrian and Edgar. They both play for the Padres back in the USA and actually have a clause in their contracts that states they will only suit up and play if their brother is on the same team. Talk about co-dependency! Oddly enough, the ace pitcher for this staff is also named Edgar Gonzalez. Look for TV Azteca's new reality show entitled "Ayudame! Too Many Gonzalezes!" this spring. With a four-run explosion in the 12th inning, Mexico eked out a win over Puerto Rico last night and is a tidy 3-1.

The Dominican Republic is repped by the Licey Tigers, the reigning Caribbean Series champs. Licey features the fighting Aybar brothers, Erick and Willy, Jose Bautista, Ronnie Belliard, Ronnie Paulino, Ronnie Spector, and manager Jose Offerman. Unfortunately, the Tigers pitching staff headed north once the season ended so they lost closer Carlos Marmol and ace starter Daniel Cabrera; this might explain why Los Tigres have been eliminated from contention after last night's loss.

Puerto Rico sent the Ponce Lions this year, but most of the MLB representation for the team has left the team high and dry. See ya, Ivan Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Pedro Feliciano, and Javy Vazquez. Hello, Robinson Cancel! No wonder the team has yet to win a game. Still, Venezuela has a bunch of no-names on the team, and yet are undefeated to this point. After toppling the D.R. yesterday, they'll face Mexico tonight with the championship at stake.

As for the actual games, the series is a double round-robin format with twelve games happening during the first six days of action, ending tomorrow. This week has seen some real gems: Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez knocked in all three runs of Mexico's 3-1 win over Puerto Rico on Monday. Just before hastily leaving Mexico to tend to a sore elbow, Mets prospect Fernando Martinez hit a seventh inning pinch hit ding-dong on Tuesday to lead the D.R. over Puerto Rico, 2-1. Venezuela moved to 3-0 on Wednesday when they toppled Puerto Rico 5-2 on Wednesday. Yes, not unlike West Side Story, the Caribbean Series is all about beating up on Puerto Ricans.

The MVP so far has to be Mexico's Adrian Gonzalez who hit a record three ding-dongs in Wednesday's win over a struggling Dominican Republic squadron. The big guy must be thrilled to finally be playing in a park where home run balls don't die in the cavernous San Diego outfield gaps.

So stay tuned tonight at 9PM EST for the Mexico/Venezuela tilt, WoWies. Sure, the baseball season is still weeks away but the good folks at the MLB Network are already showing us live baseball on television.

Every fact in this story was purloined from Derek Jacques' coverage at Baseball Prospectus

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, open wide.

  • WHAT is standing behind the camera and making all these kids scream?

  • HOW MUCH have you been enjoying the LoHud Yankees Blog lately? Hurry up, only a few days left!

  • ISN'T Derek Jeter dreamy? This interview at the Stew is classic Jeter.

  • WHO comes off dumber in this video? Tommy Lasorda for not knowing what an isotope is, or the guy who tries to explain nuclear physics to him? That's like teaching trigonometry to a jelly donut.

  • WON'T you join me in saluting the recently deceased Baseball Toaster website? All the writers have found new places to blog but the Toaster will be missed.

That's all for today. Tune in tomorrow for some special field trip news and maybe some Caribbean Series news if we get around to it!

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In honor of Walkoff Walk's first year anniversary, we thought we'd take the opportunity to pat ourselves on our backs and present to you some of our best work over the past twelve months. Because what's the point of blogging if you can't take a break and do a silly clip show from time to time? Here's Kris Liakos' best work from the second, lazier half of our blog history as judged by me, the smart one on the blog:

The Wringing Of Hands, The Wearing Of Doo Rags: A Farewell To Manny Ramirez: One of the few opportunities we've taken to brush away our sad attempts to avoid bias and pen a heartfelt piece about a player we cared about. Look for my companion piece this March entitled "The Passion of the Jeter: An Ode in Nineteen Parts".

8/8/08: A Tribute To Yogi Berra, Bo Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski: Despite forgetting that Bo Jackson didn't wear #8 until his later White Sox days, Kris salutes three great players who wore #8 in honor of 08/08/2008. Joe Morgan is still pissed he was passed over.

Hal Bodley & Vince Naimoli: Someone Get The Hook: In the spirit of his Chuck LaMar rant, Kris dances on Vince Naimoli's grave after MLB.com writer Hal Bodley salutes the former Rays owner. It's as if everyone who ever had anything to do with the Rays wanted credit for their surprise 2008 season, even this chick.

The Walkoff Walk Interview: Helene Sovern: Perhaps the single most anonymous interview subject in baseballblogging history, Helene was the dame who showed up to a Rays game in September despite having surgery earlier in the day to remove a one-inch metal grill brush bristle from the back of her throat. Look forward to next season when we interview a peanut vendor at Kauffman Stadium who adopted an injured pigeon and nursed it back to health.

What's Up Creampuff: Dudes That Are Hurt On Teams That Matter: The late-season Creampuff column that somehow managed to avoid mentioning wallaby rape.

CC Sabathia Finally Hits Big Time; Acquires Already Tired Postseason Rep: CC Sabathia gets savaged by journos everywhere for his poor postseason performance after such a stellar stretch run with the Brewers, just one year after sucking wind with the Indians in October. Kris defends big CC, saying he "may rival Santana for the best lefty in the league next season". I'LL TAKE IT.

John Lackey: Email Me And I Will Fight You: Pasty white out-of-shape blogger challenges pasty white out-of-shape pitcher to fight. Lackey, not unlike Canseco, does not respond.

Baseball Playoffs In An Election Year: My Final Comment: Kris avoids one of the pres-o-dential debates in favor of an NLCS tilt; shames RNC spokescritter Alex Conant for complaining that Obama bought TV time and delayed a World Series game. Oh, boo-hoo, no Jeanne Zelasko pregame show.

Stealing Some Thunder: A Red Sox Postmortem: A lifelong Red Sox fan waxes and wanes about another Boston season that ended a week too soon and accompanies the piece with a well-framed photo of an extremely handsome gentleman. My kinda post!

Old Racist Dude Attacks Rinku and Dinesh: Kris gives the smackdown to local reporter Ken Slate for his racist attack piece on our friends Rinku and Dinesh. GAZAB!

Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel: The Walkoff Walk Interview : Our single best interview and one of the most widely-linked pieces ever published on Walkoff Walk. Out of every wacky baseball thing we've covered, Rinku and Dinesh was the one that really felt part of the WoW fabric.

Your Swingin' BBWAA Awards Roundup: No Shucking And Jiving, Just Cool Customers: Perhaps you missed this piece last month since it seems only four people commented and two of them were Honeynut. I thought it was lolarious.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I almost forgot to do this.

  • IS this the winter of our discontent? Looks like we're getting as much snow in New Jersey this season as they are up in Minnesoter.

  • ARE you following the Caribbean Series? MLB Network has two games tonight, including Mexico's three-headed Gonzalez monster versus Venezuela.

  • HOW pissed will Kris be when he finds out the Red Sox signed Brad Wilkerson to a minor league deal?

  • WHAT position will Ty Wigginton play in Baltimore? Might Luke Scott be trade-worthy now with three able outfielders, Wigginton at first, and Aubrey Huff at DH?

That's it for today. See you all tomorrow back here when we REALLY finish up the "best-of" pieces.

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Just over eight years after broadcasting his final playoff game, Bob Costas is getting back the keys to the baseball broadcasting booth. With the Super Bowl marking the end of the football season and Bob's size 32 NFL on NBC hosting jacket getting put in mothballs, the MLB Network has stepped in and hired Costas to do play-by-play commentary for regular season baseball games on the new cable channel. Darren Rovell reports that Costas will remain under contract with NBC to do Olympics and NFL stuff but will relinquish his position at HBO, the network that brought us this good stuff.

He'll also get a one-hour Thursday night interview-style show called "MLB Network Studio 42 with Bob Costas" which debuts February 5th. He'll be sitting down with Dodgers manager Joe Torre as he continues his book-whoring tour around the tri-state area.

You can take your Harold Reynoldses and your Hazel Maes and your Al Leiters because this is undoubtedly the biggest signing the fledgling network has undertaken in its first month of existence. Costas instantly provides the channel with class, gravitas, and a hearty dosage of snark. His sense of humor has been softened somewhat with the onset of his 50s but short-of-stature smartasses like me have always regarded Bob with admiration.

If you grew up in the 1980s, he was simply the voice of pre-game and post-game baseball coverage on TV, doing countless All Star Games and World Series games for NBC. Stuck on the depth chart behind Vin Scully for most of his career, he finally got to do play-by-play for the 1997 World Series, infamously causing chills across the Cleveland when he shouted, "The men of teal are for real!" That was the year Joe DiMaggio popped into the booth for an unannounced guest appearance, declaring that Costas' partner Joe Morgan was a real Hall-of-Famer, Costas was a future Hall-of-Famer and that he didn't know what to think about third man Bob Uecker.

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In honor of Walkoff Walk's first year anniversary, we thought we'd take the opportunity to pat ourselves on our backs and present to you some of our best work over the past twelve months. Because what's the point of blogging if you can't take a break and do a silly clip show from time to time? Here's Canada's own Lloyd the Barber's best work from his July debut going forward:

Lloyd's Debut Saturday Morning Post Post: I was in Maine for a wedding the weekend that Lloyd debuted as our weekend fella. I almost didn't come back home to Jersey after reading his work because his prose flowed so ably and his analysis was spot-on. We got over our embarrassment at having the new guy out-blog us by keeping him hidden away in the weekend ghetto for months.

Marlins Infield Powerful, Cost-Effective: Lloyd praises the tater-tot-hitting Florida infield while snickering behind their backs at how horribly they catch and throw baseballs out in the field. All this for three easy installments of $29.99! Act now!

Tampa Bay Rays Playoff Preview: AL East Cross Pollination: The Tampa Bay Rays get previewed by the world's most devoted Rocco Baldelli fan, who also happens to be Ontario's 352nd biggest Blue Jays fan. The preview is approximately 30,000,000 times more thoughtful than one written by either a scorned Yankee fan or a defiant Red Sox supporter.

Phils Oldies Want Their Moment to Wrinkle in the Sun: A blogpost that was so unappreciated in its time that even I just read it for the first time yesterday. (sorry!) Seems as if the Phillies old farts didn't get their just desserts during the World Series thanks to some nasty FOX execs.

The Hot Knives Report: CC Sabathia: The debut Hot Knives post. Lloyd correctly picks Sabathia's destination and, more importantly, makes me feel good about the $826 billion contract the Yankees put on the table.

Intelligent Beings Pile on Gold Gloves: The Gold Glove-awarding organization that is the BBWAA gets raked over the coals and the first annual Walkoff Walk Gilded Leather Awards get passed out to the proper recipients. What, no love for Alex Rodriguez? He loves his leather gilded!

UZR is the New OBP: Lloyd stays on the defense beat and educates the WoWies about the new market for good glovework, or why Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu still don't have jobs.

The Strawman Cometh: The economic crisis gets tackled and Lloyd wonders if the owners are participating in some sort of collusionary practices. Probably not, but while the Richie Riches in the baseball world really aren't feeling the recession, the little guys in the front offices are taking one on the chin.

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In honor of Walkoff Walk's first year anniversary, we thought we'd take the opportunity to pat ourselves on our backs and present to you some of our best work over the past twelve months. Because what's the point of blogging if you can't take a break and do a silly clip show from time to time? Here's Kris Liakos' best work from the first half of our blog history as judged by me, the smart one on the blog:

Eric Byrnes Is a Fruit: The origin of the head-slapping series. Nothing needed to be said that couldn't be illustrated by a simple JPEG of a man getting slapped in the back of the head.

Some Newspaper Blogs No Longer Utterly Useless: In which Kris salutes Tyler Kepner and Geoff Baker for having really good baseball blogs based in old media newspapers, and not "peppering me with 20 two-line roster updates every day". Kepner correctly predicted the Yanks would miss the playoffs, too.

Walkoff Walk Crimestopper Private Eye Detective Club #1: The first in a series of investigations in baseball bat attacks in Australia where we make the joke that perhaps Graeme Lloyd's crime syndicate is behind the attacks. Oh, that wasn't a joke?

Jim Leyland Berates Tigers Team; I Can Relate. Seriously.: With Jim Leyland's cranky attitude in the news, Kris takes the opportunity to tell the tale of his own personal Jim Leyland encounter. Spoiler: it involves snuggling!

I Have No Idea What This Means, But I'm Positive It's A Scam: The original Rinku and Dinesh post, and the first huge news story broken by Kris that he found by searching Google News for the word "baseball".

I Must Be Out of My Mind: Jose Canseco gets challenged to a fight by a pasty-white baseball blogger. Hilarity fails to ensue.

In Memoriam: Teams That Were Dead By Memorial Day: Kris correctly calls the season for every single bad team AND managers Willie Randolph and Ned Yost. Kudos!

Wha Hahppund: Are The Tigers Done Because Leyland Is?: Jim Leyland loses his fire in the clubhouse and Kris pounces. Walkoff Walk: your source for shrimp videos, liveglogs that end too early, and a constant barrage of Jim Leyland attacks!

Chuck LaMar Gives Credit To Anyone Who Walked Within Ten Yards Of The Trop: Kris takes former Rays GM Chuck LaMar behind the toolshed for some ass-whuppins after LaMar claims credit for the Rays breakout season despite being nowhere near St Pete for the past two years.

The Epic All Star Game Glog: In which Kris and the commenters nearly broke the entire Internet while Rob fell asleep at Yankee Stadium during the All Star Game.