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January and February, 2009
Managers can only dream of a career that replicates the one Joe Torre had in pinstripes for 12 seasons. Or could they? The Yankee Years gives us a view from inside the Bronx Bombers’ clubhouse during his tenure and so much more. The book also chronicles the steroid era, the tenets of Moneyball, and clubhouse chemistry.
After having been away for nine years, Ken Griffey Junior returns to the team with which he built his Hall of Fame career. His one-year contract with Seattle calls for a $2 million base salary and can reach $6 million based on at-bats and attendance. Having an incentive based on at-bats is ridiculous, as it will only discourage Griffey from drawing walks. The attendance incentive makes more sense. Between Junior and Ichiro, the Mariners should be one of the top draws in baseball even if they wind up posting the worst record in the AL two years in a row.
Ken Griffey Jogger represents at least the third disastrous free agent negotiation for the Atlanta Braves this offseason. After snubbing lifelong Brave John Smoltz and being snubbed by ex-Brave Rafael Furcal at the least minute, the Braves had nearly reached a deal with Junior. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that KGO had agreed to play in Atlanta, and when Griffey heard that news, which he denied, he limited his contact with the Braves and inked with his former club. Griffey is no longer a great player, but the Atlanta outfield is one big pile of unproductively, and the Braves need a general manager who doesn't regularly botch negotiations to shore it up.
Four sources told SI.com that Alex Rodriguez tested positive during the 2003 drug testing that revealed “5-7%” of MLB players were using steroids. It’s a pity that Senator George Mitchell could not corral any of those four sources during his report on performance enhancing drugs last winter. It is decidedly odd that thos sources were comfortable confiding in Sports Illustrated but not the Senator. Either Mitchell purposely omitted A-Rod’s name from his 409-page report, or that report is even less comprehensive than we thought it was.
Speaking of 5-7%, when did that figure evolve into 104 players? That implies that MLB randomly tested somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 players for 104 to have fallen between five and seven percent. Even if Major League Baseball had tested each of the players on the 40-man rosters of all 30 teams, that only amounts to 1,200 players tested total. Who else were they testing? Retired players? Replacement players from the 1994 strike?
Most likely, MLB wasn’t being completely forthright when it boasted that only “5-7%” of players tested positive in 2003. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.
Manny Ramirez and C.C. Sabathia represent two of the biggest-impact midseason acquisitions of all time. While Sabathia parlayed his success into the richest contract ever for a pitcher, Manny Ramirez remains unsigned, with only the Los Angeles Dodgers showing more than a passing interest so far. Obviously, eight years separate the two players and questions surround Manny's attitude, accounting for much of the disparity in demand. Still, this dichotomy leads to an interesting question: which acquisition made more of an impact, the Brewers' trade for Sabathia or the Dodgers' trade for Ramirez?
With the 2008 award season in the rear view mirror, Baseball Evolution finally doles
Mark Redman and
Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Awards. Better late
than never. Of course, since these awards stigmatize the pitcher and
hitter who collapsed most in the second half of the season, the motto for our
winners should probably be, "better never than late."
If the biggest travesty of the offseason is the New York Yankees' monopoly of the big-name free agents, number two is the atrophy of one-teamers. Three players who have each spent careers of ten or more years exclusively with one team have signe elsewhere as free agents, and one more is likely to folllow. Usually, the departure of one-teamers is bittersweet, as it generally means that the ballclub is at least making a sound maneuver for its future. Trevor Hoffman doesn't really fit in with the Padres' youth movement, and the Friars have an excellent in-house replacement in Heath Bell. While Kerry Wood was a fan favorite in Chicago and would be a plus in any contender's bullpen, Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg represent cheaper, younger, and more durable options. Cap Varitek is so bad that he may even be forced into retirement and remain a one-teamer rather than sign for less than he thinks he is worth with another team.
And then there is John Smoltz. The Braves have clearly positioned themselves as contenders this year, yet for some reason were unwilling to offer 20-year Brave John Smoltz anywhere near the relatively meager $5.5 million in guaranteed money that the Red Sox gave him. The Braves reportedly only offered $2 million guaranteed and set unrealistic incentive plateaus. While they figure to have a very strong rotation that features Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami, and Jair Jurrjens, a healthy Smoltz could have been as effective as any of those pitchers at a much lower financial risk to the Braves. Even though they have had a productive offseason overall, the Braves made a classless move with Smoltz that is also a bad baseball move. It has, in fact, become much easier to believe Rafael Fucal over Frank Wren and John Schuerholz.
The Hall of Fame balloting has disappointed once again. It’s not so much that Jim Rice has been inducted by the skin of his teeth in his last year of eligibility that infuriates Tony, but rather the cold shoulder treatment that Tim Raines has received. Some how, some way, Rice received 76.4% of the vote from America’s most respected baseball writers while Raines only garnered 22.6%.
The Tampa Bay Rays inked the 32-year old Pat Burrell to a two year, 16 million-dollar deal. Who would have thought that this consistent sugger would only receive 8 million dollars per year, coming fresh off a 6-year, 50 million dollar contract and earning 14 million dollars this past season? That comes out to a 43% pay cut.
Burrell is a good hitter who will add offensive depth to the Rays at a bargain of a price. It is being reported that he will act as a full-time designated hitter, instead of butchering balls in left field. Moving from the outfield to DH will nevertheless hurt his overall value, according to Tony.
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Ron Santo: Cubs Legend
Pat Hughes and Ron Santo were the Chicago Cubs' WGN Radio announcing team for 15 seasons. Their unique on-air chemistry became known as "the Pat and Ron Show" with fans tuning in as much for their eccentric banter as for Cubs baseball itself.
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