Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:28 pm
Turns out, bankruptcy was a minor little inconvenience on the road to forever between the Dodgers and Matt Kemp: The two have agreed to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension pending the outfielder passing a physical examination, CBSSports.com has confirmed.
Talk about a serious commitment. Only six men in baseball history had reached the $160-million mark: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.
For those with a sense of humor ... or a sense of irony ... Kemp's deal is for the same numbers -- years and dollars -- that Ramirez received from Boston before the 2001 season.
In becoming the face of the Dodgers for years to come and en route to serious MVP consideration, Kemp first had to blow past comeback player of the year.
It was barely more than a year ago when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti delivered harsh criticism of Kemp's defense and focus.
But after the disappointment of 2010 came a sensational 2011 in which Kemp batted .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He led the league in homers, RBIs, runs (115) and total bases (353), and he swiped 40 bases.
And in one more bit of irony, the man who now will remain in Hollywood will stay in part because he went a little less Hollywood last summer. Those close to Kemp do not think it is a coincidence that he took his game to a different level after his high-profile romance with Rihanna blew up.
"I think he has less distractions in his life -- from my perspective," third baseman Casey Blake, one of Kemp's closest friends on the 2011 team, told me late last summer. "This game, some guys can do it with a million things going on. But this game is tough enough by itself.
"It's a hard game, and it seems like you're always dealing with a lot of thoughts of failure. The more you can lessen those thoughts, the better. The fact that he doesn't have some of those distractions anymore. ..."
Blake told me he thought Kemp had made a conscious effort to simplify things in his life, and it worked.
"I think he was embarrassed by a lot of things," Blake said, referring to Kemp's 2010 season in which he batted just .249 with a .310 on-base percentage, 28 homers and 89 RBIs. "And he made up his mind he was going to get serious about it."
The off-field stuff, the Rihanna romance, "I think they all directly related," Blake said.
Blake could tell Kemp was more focused in 2011 from the first day of spring training.
"He showed it in his attitude and in his play," Blake said. "How he went about it, from day one.
"He's respecting the game a lot more this year. He has an understanding that to be a complete player, you can't take a day off -- whether it's on the bases, on defense, anywhere."
Today, that respect is coming right back at Kemp to the tune of $160 million ... and a trust the Dodgers are placing in him that maybe you can't even hang a price tag on.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 6:33 pm
The Los Angeles Angels of Desperationville didn't fire a general manager on Friday, they canned an executive secretary.
Everybody knows that owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia -- and Moreno and Scioscia alone -- run the Angels.
Somebody's gotta phone the agents and other general managers, take notes, collect information and make sure Moreno and Scioscia have enough of it to make their decisions.
That man was Reagins, a nice guy who was both badly overmatched and uncomfortable in the gig from Day One.
Now, somebody else will take the notes, make the calls and bring the information to Moreno and Scioscia so they can gather the information they need to take the Angels wherever they go from here.
And where that is is anybody's guess right now.
The Angels did not make the playoffs in 2011 -- or, in 2010, for that matter -- because the Texas Rangers are a better and smarter organization right now that has whipped them both on the field and in the executive offices.
The only reason the Angels remained competitive this summer was because of the boost young players like Mark Trumbo, Tyler Chatwood, Peter Bourjos and, yes, late in the season, Mike Trout provided.
And the man responsible for drafting them, Eddie Bane, was fired as the scouting director after last season.
Fact is, under Moreno, the Angels have become more adept at firings the past couple of years than postseasons.
They fired longtime trainer Ned Bergert last winter after 36 years in the organization. They canned Bane. A major league scout named Dale Sutherland who had been in the organization for 19 years. They've callously laid off longtime media relations employees in recent years who worked incredibly long hours and had devoted their lives to the cause.
They can call Reagins' departure a resignation if they want. But when the second paragraph of the news release contains a statement from Moreno saying, "Though we finished 2011 with a winning record, we remained short of our objective in winning a championship. In moving forward, we felt a change was needed", that's a firing.
Moreno got years of great publicity after the first thing he did as owner was lower stadium beer prices, but his ownership clearly is at a crossroads right now. Though he talks the talk of winning championships, he's consistently failed in the free agent market over the past several winters: Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre, among others.
Bottom line, the Angels' actions jibe with their words less and less frequently. The organization has become soulless, and disingenuous.
Reagins certainly wasn't the cause of this, only a symptom. He clearly was carrying out others' orders as a GM, while the real stuff was going on behind the curtain.
The Angels can hire another GM. But until they change the process, until that GM isn't just a puppet on a string, the gap between the Rangers and Angels is going to continue to grow.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:03 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:49 am
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- So one of the keys to this crazy game is forgetting yesterday and zeroing in on today.
Yet as the New York Yankees work Thursday to prepare for the Detroit Tigers and Cy Young shoo-in Justin Verlander in Game 1 of an American League Divisional Series on Friday in Yankee Stadium, they can't help but look way back to March 31.
"It's funny how the season goes full circle," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said late Wednesday after the Yankees lost to Tampa Bay and learned first-round playoff matchups. "Opening Day, we played Detroit and it was Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, and now that's what it is to start the playoffs.
"It should be fun."
The Yankees on that afternoon prevented Verlander from obtaining one of what would be his 24 victories this season. The Detroit ace went six innings, allowed three earned runs, fanned eight, walked four and surrendered a Teixeira homer in a no-decision.
"Detroit's a great team," Teixeira said. "It doesn't matter who we play [first]. We have to beat all the best teams in the league. The Tigers, the Rangers ... we have to bring our 'A' game."
In what easily is the most intriguing first-round matchup, the Yankees may face the difficult task of getting Verlander twice in a short five-game series.
But they also are one of the few teams that can brag about cracking the Tigers with Verlander on the mound. After beating Detroit 6-3 on opening day, the Yankees faced him one other time -- and beat the Tigers again.
It was in Detroit on May 2, and they scored three runs in the first two innings against Verlander en route to a 5-3 victory. That day, they also scored three earned runs in six innings against Verlander, who, as he did on opening day, struck out eight and walked four.
Again, Verlander came away with a no-decision. But in the end, Detroit lost only nine games this season in which Verlander started -- and the Yankees handed the Tigers two of those.
Funny, Yankees slugger Robinson Cano did not remember facing Verlander after opening day this year and, as it turns out, with good reason. He was not in the lineup May 2.
"His stuff has always been the same," Cano said. "He throws hard, he's got good stuff. Friday starts the postseason, and you forget about the past."
Some of the Yankees already have.
"I don't pay any attention to that stuff," said outfielder Nick Swisher regarding New York's first-round draw. "We're going to beat 'em. Hands down.
"We're excited. We're ready. It's in our house. It's going to be fun, a lot of fun, man."
Posted on: October 16, 2010 5:31 pm
Halladay's regular spring training routine was to arrive in the weight room in Clearwater, Fla., by 5:30 or 5:45 a.m. By the time most of the rest of the Phillies arrived at 7:30 or 8, Halladay was finished with that part of his day and on to something else.
When I visited the Phillies' camp, a couple of players talked about how this was a perfect example of his competitiveness. A coach told me it isn't that, it's just that Halladay is so focused on what he's doing that he did not want to share the weight room equipment. As he moves through his circuit, he wants what he wants when he wants it.
Whatever, his near-maniacal zeal was legendary in Toronto, and it's already the stuff of legend in Philadelphia.
"We had some guys try to latch on and stay with him this spring," pitching coach Rich Dubee said Friday before the Phillies worked out in preparation for Game 1. "That lasted a short period.
"If you're going to try and stay with him, you'd better start in the off-season."
One of those who experimented with the early-bird special in the weight room with Halladay this spring was fellow starter Cole Hamels.
"I did that one time, I think," Hamels said, chuckling. "I realized it was insanity.
"I had a newborn. I needed every ounce of sleep I could get. He would get there at 5:30, I was waking up at 5:30. That means he was waking up at 4:30."
Likes: Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum to start the NLCS playoffs. What fun. ... I don't think we've heard enough of this Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira as former Rangers story. I think we'll hear much more of it before this ALCS is finished. ... Tweet of the Day, and I had to pass this one alone, from ESPN baseball writer Jorge Arangure late Friday night when the Rangers blew the 5-0 lead to the Yankees in the eighth inning with a certain former President and Rangers owner in attendance: "I bet George W Bush authorized a sign that read "Mission Accomplished" after the 7th inning." ... The Conan O'Brien ads they're papering the house with during the playoffs are pretty funny. Which is no small thing, given how most ads they consistently blast at us start bad and quickly turn grating. ... Congratulations to the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons and Coach Jack Giarmo, who clinched another Huron League high school football title with Friday's 63-21 whipping of Milan. Excellent work to all as the tradition continues. Great job. ... Great run Saturday morning down Ben Franklin Parkway, past the Philadelphia Art Museum and along the Schuylkill River. Beautiful, especially the trees along the river. ... Geography lesson for the day: How do you pronounce "Schuylkill"? I admit, not being from the Philadelphia area, I didn't know. Until I checked with a bellman at the hotel when I returned: "Skoo-cull." ... John Lennon, still relevant on what would have been his 70th birthday the other day.
Dislikes: Bedbugs. I keep hearing about them. I've yet to see them.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"People asking questions lost in confusion
-- John Lennon, Watching the Wheels
Posted on: October 7, 2010 2:40 am
Just as you imagine the Metropolitan Stadium crowd did on Oct. 5, 1970, when pinch-hitter Rick Renick grounded to short to force Rich Reese at second in the ninth, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the Twins out of the ALCS.
The last time they played an outdoor playoff game in the Twin Cities.
The to-be-continued part following Renick's grounder, when the outdoor baseball chapter of Twins' postseason history resumed, returned with Twins starter Francisco Liriano fanning Derek Jeter to start Game 1 of the Twins-Yankees latest Divisional Series tussle here.
It was a gorgeous fall night, 63 degrees at game-time, shirt-sleeves weather for much of the evening.
But much like that old Metropolitan Stadium crowd from 1970, these Twins fans went home disappointed, too, following a 6-4 loss.
Of course, they've seen it before against the relentless Yankee machine.
"We play nine innings," New York shortstop Derek Jeter said of another comeback, this one after the Yanks trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning. "It's what you have to do. Whether you're ahead of behind, it's what you have to do."
Likes: Watching Roy Halladay was electric even from several hundred miles away. ... Perfect autumn day in the Twin Cities on Wednesday. Temperature around 70, gold leaves, textbook fall weather. ... Great noon-time run on a path along the Mississippi River. ... Former pitcher Jack Morris on the field before the game telling stories. ... Derek Jeter eating at Murray's home of the "Silver Butter Knife Steak" on Tuesday night, the eve of Game 1. ... The Flatliner burger at Ike's -- Angus beef, cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled onions and a fried egg. The trick is to keep the egg yolk runny, so when you bite into it, it oozes out onto the hamburger. You'd be surprised. Delicious.
Dislikes: No expanded instant replay for these playoffs. Delmon Young's two-out single in the ninth should have been an out -- television replays showed that Greg Golson, inserted by Yankees manager Joe Girardi as a defensive sub for Nick Swisher in the ninth inning, made a diving catch on Young's sinking liner. Umpires wrongly awarded Young a single which, in a 6-4 game, could have been problematical. But Jim Thome popped up the next pitch to third and the game was over. Had Thome deposited a game-tying, two-run homer against the Yankees, you wouldn't have heard the end of this debate for weeks. And being that it came against the Yankees, I guarantee expanded instant replay would have been put in place well ahead of next season's playoffs.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"From Mankato up to Brainerd
-- The Baseball Project with Craig Finn, Don't Call Them Twinkies
Posted on: April 25, 2010 8:58 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2010 8:59 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Forget that whole champions "I'm going to Disney World" thing.
When the New York Yankees wrapped up their series here Sunday, roughly one mile from Disneyland, they were headed to the White House for an appointment on Monday.
Now, I immediately figured the obvious, that President Obama had summoned the Yanks as part of his efforts to rein in the financial industry.
What Commissioner Bud Selig hasn't been able to do -- level the playing field between the Yankees and their $200 million payroll and, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates and their $35 million payroll -- I figured was being taken up by Obama somewhere between Goldman Sachs and AIG.
Turns out, false alarm.
"No," Mark Teixeira helpfully informed me. "It's because we're champions."
And so it is that the Yankees will spend an off day before Tuesday's series-opener in Baltimore visiting the Walter Reed Medical Center, lunching in the U.S. Senate Dining Room with the World Series trophy, Senators and wounded warriors and, yes, being welcomed on the South Portico (East Room if it rains) by President Obama.
"It's going to be exciting," Yankees ace CC Sabathia said. "I'm really looking forward to it."
For Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, this will be the third different sitting president that will welcome them as World Series champions to the White House -- Bill Clinton, the second George Bush and now Barack Obama.
"I don't know if it says they're old or presidents don't have long stays," Yankees manager Joe Girardi quipped. "I don't know what it is, but it's fairly remarkable."
Giarardi has visited the White House before as a player and said it's an awesome experience.
"You're in awe of the physical structure, the building, when you walk in," he said. "But I just think meeting a president ... I don't think any of us can fathom what that life is like. Just imagine what comes across his desk every day."
Sabathia says he'll stick to baseball, that he will bring no advice whatsoever for the president.
"I've got nothing," Sabathia said, grinning.
Likes: Loved Yankees manager Joe Girardi manning up and admitting a strategical mistake in Sunday's game. ... There is no love lost between these Yankees and Angels, who get after it pretty good. Three batters were hit with pitches Sunday: The Yankees' Robinson Cano by Scott Kazmir (who drilled a homer two plate appearances later) and the Angels' Juan Rivera (Javier Vazquez) and Torii Hunter (Damaso Marte). Nobody charged the mound, they all just kept playing -- hard. ... Angels manager Mike Scioscia was insistent that he thinks the play in which Mark Teixeira mowed over catcher Bobby Wilson at the plate Friday night, knocking Wilson into next week, was hard but clean. Teixeira still hadn't spoken with Wilson as of Sunday but had three different people deliver messages of well-wishes and had been assured the messages were received. Wilson, who suffered a concussion and a left ankle strain and was placed on the disabled list, was at Angel Stadium for the first time since the incident on Sunday. "He was playing baseball," Wilson said. "He was playing hard. I know he got hit a few pitches earlier. ... There's no hard feelings towards Tex. I know he wasn't trying to hurt me. Just playing baseball. People can say what they want whether they think it was a clean play or they think it was a dirty play. That's baseball. I know next time around, I'm telling you, I won't back down."
Dislikes: Hate to see the weekend end. Yankees-Angels has developed into one of the better rivalries in the game.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Caught between the longing for love
-- Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Posted on: April 23, 2010 11:43 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Absolutely amazing statistic here: The New York Yankees, heading into their weekend series here Friday, have won each of their first five series ... and they're the first defending World Series champion to do that in 88 years.
Doesn't seem possible that that many World Series champions have come and gone without winning that many series out of the gate the following year.
But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, these Yankees are the first since the 1922 New York Giants to do it -- and only the third World Series champion ever to do it. The only other one: The 1904 Boston Red Sox.
Meantime, in another stat that doesn't seem possible, the 2010 Yankees have equaled the all-time franchise record by winning each of their first five series, matching that of the 1926 Yankees. Only one other Yankees team has ever started the season with as many as four series' wins in a row -- the 1922 Yanks.
Likes: Watching Derek Jeter play, any day. ... Craig Ferguson might be the single funniest man on television. His Late, Late Show is consistently outstanding. ... One more week until Friday Night Lights is back for a fourth season. I know, if I had DirecTV, I could have watched the fourth season last fall. But I don't.
Dislikes: Terrible night for Angels catcher Bobby Wilson on Friday, leaving with an ankle injury and a concussion after getting drilled in an extraordinarily violent collision at the plate with Mark Teixeira. It wasn't a dirty play, just a bad and unfortunate initial decision by Teixeira not to slide. Wilson was in front of the plate to receive the throw from right field, and Teixeira went for the back half of the plate. When he finally decided to slide, belatedly, he was caught in-between and though his feet were starting to go down, his body was still up as Wilson dove across the plate from front to back to tag him. At that point, Teixeira lowered his shoulder to brace for a collision when it became apparent there would be one. Anyway, Wilson is a 26-year-old rookie who was making his first start behind the plate.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"There's colors on the street
-- Neil Young, Rockin' in the Free World
Posted on: November 5, 2009 12:00 am
But the chief bean counter who sat behind the desk last winter and approved the expenditure of nearly $425 million to hoist CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett aboard the U.S.S. Yankee? Now there's a true Yankee.
In the end, Team Steinbrenner delivered a 7-3 gold-plated, Game 6 World Series clincher for the ages, knocking the stuffing out of these Phillies and Pedro Martinez at every turn. On a 48-degree evening Wednesday, they won their 27th World Series title and, finally, climbed out of the muck of their long and torturous drought.
"Pinstripes are bigger than baseball," Teixeira said while The Champs were in Philadelphia the other day.
Consider that a modern update of the old Joe DiMaggio line, "It's great to be young and a Yankee."
"When you play for an organization like this, you humble yourself," Tex continued.
Or you wear a lot of rings.
The Yankees are kings of the baseball world. They are Pedro's daddies, and Sugar Daddies. The Bronx Bombers ride again.
The Commissioner's Trophy again will wake up in the city that never sleeps.