Igawa Is In Midseason Form

Is it unfair to draw conclusions from one game?  Absolutely, but when the opponent is South Florida giving up a grand slam and walking two guys is not a great way to make people forget about 2007. 

I know the Yankees didn’t want to trade Igawa in the offseason because his value was almost nothing, but they should act right away if he does something to reestablish his value this spring.  Last year they got burned by keeping Carl Pavano when the season started instead of trading him away in the spring (amazingly there was some rumored interest)  Igawa "only" makes $4-million a year so they would probably not need to eat too much in salary, just admit that the $26-million posting fee was a waste. 

In more serious news, Bobby Murcer is scheduled to have a biopsy next week because the doctors working on him found something in his last MRI.  it could simply be scar tissue, it could be something worse.  Bobby is one of the true gentlemen of the game and I hope everyone will extend their thoughts and prayers to him and his family. 

 

The Round Mound of the Pitcher’s Mound

In a move I never would have predicted, the Red Sox have apparently agreed to a minor league deal with Bartolo Colon.  ESPN is reporting that should Colon make the opening day roster, it would be for a low base salary and incentives.

The good news is that the Red Sox just signed an 146 game winner to a low risk deal.  The bad news?  Well, it’s a long list.  Colon has always been too short for his weight.  He has had numorous arm issues and he has won only 7 games in the past 2 years.

So what do we have here?  Well, Colon did win 21 games in 2005.  Last season, in September, he pitched an 8 inning, 8 hit, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K game.  Not a gem, but solid enough.  But despite all that, he is a question mark.  Basically, if he is healthy, great move.  If he isn’t healthy, well, they’ll learn that early and little risk taken.

This is a great signing.  It might not yield amazing results, but for the cost, bring it on.

If indeed Schilling is out for the year as he thinks (without surgery), this could go a long way to helping.  The key of course is getting some innings out of a player, Colon, who is definitely an injury waiting to happen.

Finally!

Thank you Derek Jeter for taking a stance on the drug issue in baseball.  In an interview with Bloomberg News, Jeter appears to have supported blood testing for baseball players. I don’t absolve the owners in any of the mess baseball is in, but the Players’ Union has been a much bigger anchor on progress.  Maybe having a player of Jeter’s magnitude make these comments will put some pressure on Union leadership to get something done.  Hopefully, at the very least some repoters are going to other stars and asking if they agree with Jeter.  Better yet, maybe the stars of the game won’t wait and will stand up and announce their agreement, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. 

Terry on Board

The Red Sox and Terry Francona agreed on a 3 year contract extension.  Word is that it will pay him roughly $10mm over the 3 seasons.  Not bad.

I’m glad this issue is resolved.  Francona has won 2 Championships in 4 seasons for a team well, you know the history.

With Spring Training just under way, there are really no major issues.  Coco Crisp said he’d prefer to be traded if he isn’t the starter.  No surprise and you certainly can’t blame him.  The question becomes, will the Red Sox move him now or when they know more about the holes on the team later in the season?  I can’t see Crisp being a distraction as long as he is told he will be moved eventually.

There are the usual stories about this minor leaguer or that journeyman player working really hard to prove his place on the major league roster.  I doubt we’ll see any surpsise roster decisions this year though.

Hammerin’ Hank Steinbrenner continues his quest to get sued by offering this one.  When asked about how Boston fans might treat Andy Pettitte at Fenway he said, "I don’t think they would want to be hollering too loud at Andy up in Fenway. They had plenty of players doing this stuff, too. It’s just that those players weren’t mentioned in the Mitchell Report."

So what exactly are his sources?  First off, there were plenty of Red Sox players on the list.  If you recall, I wrote that there were 15 players with Red Sox ties on the Mitchell report.  So it wasn’t that there were no Red Sox players in the report.  Secondly, to suggest there were a boat load of others without offering proof, is opening oneself up to litigation.  Granted he didn’t name specific names, but as a Red Sox player, you have to be a bit annoyed.  I’m not trying to say there aren’t current or former Red Sox that used HGH or steroids, but I don’t have proof aside from what I’ve seen on the field.  If Hank has something more, he has an interesting way of demonstrating it.

Anyway, I will say that Hank has shown some amazingly poor public relations decisions in his brief tenure, but he is interesting.  As a Red Sox fan, I am kind of happy about it.  As for Yankee fans, I’m not sure what they feel.  There must be some feeling that finally, we’ve got a leader (since George has withdrawn) that will do/say anything to win, but at the same time, there were many that grew tire of George’s act.

Wang Is #1

I have to say, as exciting as the concept of pitchers and catchers is, the reality can be pretty boring.  How excited can you get about the 87th injury update on Hideki Matsui’s knee or Hankensteins 200th proclamation of the spring? I feel somewhat sorry for the newspaper guys who have to fill up a set space every day, I can just not write for a week.  Then again, they are in Florida where the weather is usually pretty nice this time of year.

But, we are finally getting out of the tedium of spring and into the best part, actual games.   We still have to wait until Friday for baseball, but we know that Chien-Ming Wang will open the exhibition season for the Yankees and that means he is on track to open the season for real.  Not really a shock and the interesting thing will be to see who lines up behind him, but some concrete news.  

Some other interesting tidbits that have come out of camp so far are:

1- Joe Girardi has no plans to play Matsui at first at all and he might look at Damon there occasionally.  But, he thinks Giambi could play there a lot.  It’s really too bad about Matsui not getting a look there, it would give the team more options.  But, expecting Giambi to play a lot in the field is a foolish bet.  Jason made it out to first 18 times last year and I wouldn’t expect much more from him this year.  I know he lost 20 pounds and it is a contract year, but the guy is 37 and hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2003.  

2- The bullpen is really as open a competition as you could have.  Rivera, Hawkins and Farnsworth are the only guys definitely going North and Joba may or may not start in the pen.  I suspect Joba’s role will be definied by how comfortable the Yankees are with their other options more than anything.  That means guys like Veras, Ohlendorf, Jackson, Horne, etc., have a HUGE opportunity this camp.

We will see how the battle progress over the next few weeks, but for the first time in a long time, the names of the 25 guys heading North are not set in stone. 

 

 

 

Red Sox – Spring Training

Alright, fine.  Time for a new season.  I guess me relishing in the glow of the Red Sox crapulence has to come to an end.  The Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, not the 2008 World Series.  At least not yet anyway.

Major issue abound, do they not?

Curt Schilling heads this list.  He turned in a solid 2007 season and signed what I considered a decent contract for 2008.  But suddenly his shoulder looks like chop suey.  As I said last week, that’s either the Red Sox fault for lack of due dilegence or maybe Schilling really did get hurt in the past few weeks.  It really isn’t fair for me to point fingers in this case as I just don’t have the intelligence information to render an opinion, do you?

With Schilling down, the Red Sox rotation now includes:  Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Lester.  The 5th spot belongs to one of the following:  Julian Tavarez, Clay Buchholz, Kyle Snyder, Davern Hansack or David Aardsma.

Buchholz is the front-runner, but the Red Sox are smart enough not to give him the nod this soon.  In fact, if he opened the season in AAA, I would not be surprised.  We are talking about the 5th spot and, especially early in the season, that role isn’t vital.  Buchholz is young and has a ton of promise, why rush to give him 180+ innings.

Japan.  It sounds great and all, but I do worry about what toll it will take on the players.  Why?  I have no idea other than it is something decidely out of the norm.  In life, most prefer the norm.  Routine is king, so this trip could present a few problems.  The best thing to compare it to might be the World Baseball Classic.  Many of the MLB players that were involved struggled early on (Mike Timlin).  Then again, Daisuke Matsuzaka was showcased and, well, you know how that worked out.

Coco Crisp is still on the squad.  With Bobby Kielty signed to a non-guaranteed deal, the Red Sox get to figure this one out slowly, or at least in the next 30 days or so.  Either they get a taker for Crisp, or they keep him.  Crisp is a very good defensive outfielder, but his bat has been a bit of a letdown.  He’d make an excellent 4th OF.  Jacoby has this job locked down as far as I’m concerned.  But if a deal makes sense, I suspect they’ll move him immediately as they don’t want any issues made of the Ellsbury/Crisp issue.  Crisp was a great soldier in the playoffs, but he is likely to want to play everyday in 2008.  I thought Crisp would’ve been gone by now, but I was wrong.

Terry Francona.  He has won 2 World Series Championships with the Red Sox but is not signed beyond this year.  I’m not sure what the hold-up is here, but for the love of crud, what gives?  Francona will always get second-guessed.  This Boston/New England, but he is a very good manager that take endless punches for his players and coaches.  While I don’t want to see a Joe Torre, when he was with the Yankees, type deal for Francona, he is deserving of a 3 year deal soon.

Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath.  If there are things around you that are tough right now, take some solice that baseball is back.  If all is right for you, then appreciate this time of year doubly.

Take My Wife- Please

Some notes from the hearings, I will add on as something interesting happens.

I am reminded of the old Henny Youngman act while watching the steroid hearing today.  Youngman used to go on stage and tell jokes with his wife as the punch line and then implore the audience to take her off his hands.  I get the feeling Roger Clemens is familiar with Youngman’s work.

Debbie used the HGH seems to be the crux of Clemens’ defense.  The three times he denied ever talking about HGH with McNamee in his sworn deposition went out the window when he admitted talking to McNamee about HGH, but only in the context of Debbie’s usage.  

Roger has also expressed "shock" at learning that Andy Pettitte used HGH.  And, when confronted with Pettitte’s asssertion that he discussed HGH with Clemens, Roger claimed that Andy must have "misunderstood" him and any discussion they had would have been about Debbie.  Of course, Pettitte recalls the conversations occuring in 1999 and Debbie supposedly didn’t use HGH until 2002.

Dan Burton is clearly hoping to head up Clemens’ fan club when he retires from Congress because he keeps hammering McNamee for lying.  He’s right, McNamee did lie, but McNamee’s lies were about not telling the whole truth to investigators from the start. McNamee said he did this because he was trying to protect his clients, you be the judge.

Is there anything more appetizing that hearing about "a palpable mass on Mr. Clemens’ buttocks"? McNamee claims that this was from McNamee not correctly injecting Winstrol (kids don’t click this) while Clemens claims it was from a bad B12 shot.  Dr’s differ in opinion on this issue and Clemens’ attorney tried to address it but was not allowed to speak. 

But, the Blue Jays’ trainer and Dr. don’t seem to recall this injury. 

Good question from Davis, "Mr. McNamee as a former policeofficer why did you inject professional athletes with substances you knew to be illegal?" 

And now we know who the third guy at the table is, Charles Scheeler, the guy who oversaw the evidence gathering of the Mitchell Report.   

McNamee claims that he never injected Clemens with B12 and that he only heard of the B12 injections when Clemens mentioned it on "60 Minutes"

Just asking, but what do you think the over’under on the number of reporters in Tampa tomorrow is when pitchers and catchers report tomorrow?   

Congresswoman Maloney sucked up to Clemens praising him for his work with children, but did ask why he was inconsistent in his answers as to why he didn’t talk to Senator Mitchell before the report came out. And Roger blames his agents for hiding the inquiry from him. 

Props to Congressman Clay who jabbed Palmeiro, Sosa and McGwire for their performances in front of Congress in 2005.  Then he blows it all by saying that a colleague of his wants to know, "what uniform you are going to wear to the Hall of Fame".

Clay went on to hammer McNamee about whether or not he has a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony.  McNamee swore that there was no deal.   

Fascinating exchange near the end of the morning session.  Congressman Waxman asked Clemens why when Congress asked for the contact information of a nanny who worked for him in 1998 it took time for Clemens to provide it (a couple of days) and then Clemens actually met with her before he turned the information over.  Clemens’ lawyers tried to deflect it, but as Waxman said, "it looked terrible". 

 

 

Andy Is A Liar

Andy Pettitte has admitted in his deposition that he used HGH in 2004.  As you may recall, Pettite apologized in December for using HGH in 2002.  At the time (December) he said:

"In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow. I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone."

Well, two days have now become three and his credibility has gone down the toilet.  Why he apologized in December and didn’t tell the full truth is mystifying, but he went with partial truths and now we cannot believe anything he says.  

 

The New Joba Rules

The Post is reporting that the Yankees have decided to start Joba in the bullpen this season with a plan to send him to the minors in June and then back into the rotation after that. 

The thinking behind the move is that Joba can only pitch about 140 innings this year and if you use him as a starter from the get go, you burn out those innings by mid-August.  If he starts in the bullpen for the first two months and they use the same rules as last year he is only going to throw about 4-5 innings a week, putting him around 40 innings by the time he gets sent down to the minors versus the ten starts he probably would have made.  You then send him to the minors he makes four or five starts (probably another 25-30 innings) and you recall him for the second half of the season with 75 innings or so left in the tank. 

As an added benefit, you don’t enter the season with a hole in the bullpen behind Rivera.  You get the chance to see if one of the young arms can step up and take Joba’s place in the pen and you give Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez (this year’s most likely candidates to become Jobaesque) time to get back in shape.  

Those are good reasons, but I see a couple of problems with this move.

First, you are putting a lot of pressure on Joba.  He has to change mid-season again and then jump into the rotation in the second half of the season when the Yankees are hopefully in the pennant race.  Granted, this kid appears to be impervious to everything except flies, but it is a risk.

Next, what happens if Joba repeats his performance of last year and absolutely dominates baseball for two months while no other viable replacements show up?  What if Mariano gets hurt and Joba becomes the closer?  The Yankees are putting themselves in a very tough position with this choice.

And, if 140 is the "magic number" how will this prevent you from exceeding it?  With Joba back in the rotation at the halfway point, you probably can expect him to make 14 starts and that means a minimum of 70 innings, unless you shut him down in September.

I suggested in a previous entry that the Yankees try a six-man rotation, but I built that on the assumption that Joba could throw 160 innings. If the number is truly only 140 the Yankees have a bigger problem than I thought. None of the other kids are going to throw 200 innings and I have serious doubts about Mike Mussina’s ability to be effective for an entire season. Karstens, Rasner and Igawa are probably options A,B+C for the rotation right now, does that make anyone feel great? Would it kill the Yankees to make a phone call to sign an innings-eating type of guy right now? There are a lot of “names” still out there, Benson, Colon, Garcia and Lohse to name a few. Yes, they are either hurt or not that good, but the Yankees need to at least see if they would sign incentive-loaded deals. Maybe you get a repeat of Jon Leiber in 2004, nothing flashy, but solid league-average pitching. A lack of starting pitching depth put the Yankees into a hole they couldn’t climb out of in 2007, let’s hope they plan better in 2008.

Youkilis in the Bag

KY and the Red Sox signed today. Youkilis and the Red Sox agreed to a deal that slightly favored the Sox, but at the end of the day, they both win, right?

So another deal taken care of . Just an fyi for what it is worth..