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..

“He feels great. The ball came out of his hand well.”

Those are the words of Dave Eiland about none other than Carl Pavano who showed up in Tampa yesterday.

Let’s be fair, Eliand hasn’t been around the big-league Yankees for very long, but someone needs to tell him how ridiculous he sounds when he says something like that. Pavano will be sent to the 60-day DL as soon as the season starts and that will hopefully be the last we hear of him with the Yankees.

Is Curt Schilling Done?

Multiple sources are suggesting Curt Schilling has a major shoulder injury that might require surgery and could spell the end of his career.

The Boston Heralds’ Tony Massarotti, baseball writer turned columnist, wrote today that the Red Sox threatened to void his contract (or try to) if Schilling opted for surgery to fix a partially torn rotator cuff rather than a rehab plan. Schilling apparently consulted with Dr. Craig Morgan, the man who performed his surgery in 1995, and was told he should have surgery. The Red Sox on the other hand believe rehab will suffice. Yikes.

Gordon Edes of the Globe offered a bit more detail in that the Red Sox recommended rehab while Morgan recommended surgery. Apparently the CBA has a provision that if a team and player disagree with a medical issue, a 3rd party Dr. is to be consulted, in this case Dr. David Altchek, the Mets medical director. He sided with the Red Sox.

Edes pointed out that the issue has caused tension between the player and the team. Not sure why. Schilling should know that if he opts for surgery, he gets $8mm for doing nothing while the Red Sox want him to at least try to do it without season/career ending surgery seeing as they are on the hook for $8mm. What am I missing here?

The biggest non-baseball question in all of this is what did Schilling know and when did he know it? In other words, did he know of his injury when he signed with the Red Sox. At the same time, did the Red Sox do their due diligence when negotiating with Schilling this past off-season?

As for the baseball part of this issue, Edes is suggesting that Schilling will not pitch until July if he opts for rehab (and would have to retire if he opts for surgery). What does that mean for the Red Sox rotation? This is what is means:


Hmmm, not bad, but Schilling in there would have been nicer, no? This forces the Red Sox to either go with Buchholz or sign/trade for a veteran arm.

No matter the solution, this is an unfortunate issue so close to Spring Training. While most of us where worried about bench players, the focus is now on starting pitching. I guess Julian Tavarez is going to be a Red Sox this year after all.

Get Well Soon Mr. Sheppard

Sad news at the bottom of this link, Bob Sheppard is “struggling to recover his health”.

There is simply nothing better than walking out of the tunnels in Yankee Stadium on a day game and coming into the sunlight as Sheppard announces the Yankees’ batting order, repeating the player’s number at the end. He has been “The Voice of God” at Yankee Stadium since 1951 which means he has announced the names of almost every great Yankee not named Ruth or Gehrig.

While the report doesn’t specify what exactly is wrong it only offers that the team “hopes he can return to the booth.” I know all of us certainly hope so.

A Wheelin’ and a Dealin’

Ok, maybe the Red Sox aren’t a wheelin’ and a dealin’ but they did do a few things in the past 36 hours.

First off they officially signed Sean Casey to a 1 year non-guaranteed deal at $800,000. They also gave Bobby Kielty a similar non-guaranteed 1 year, $800,000 deal with a possible $300,000 in incentives. Both Casey and Kielty have an invitation to spring training, but only get paid of they make the team.

With the Kielty signing, speculation surfaces that Coco Crisp was about to be shipped out of town although no meaty rumors are circulating.

Brendan Donnelly signed a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians. Donnelly had indicated during the 2007 season that he would like to re-sign with Boston but for whatever reason, perhaps the Mitchell Report, Donnelly elected to sign with Cleveland…and rehab his surgically repaired arm there.

Manny Ramirez has vowed to show up on-time to Spring Training. I guess none of his family members are planning on being sick this year. Additionally, he is working out this off-season with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Perdoia in Arizona. Interesting.

A few minor league deals have been announced recently as well.

Saturday February 9th is Red Sox truck day when all equipment is loaded and sent via semi to Fort Myers Fla. Spring Training is just around the corner.