Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:38 pm
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dirt.
As a catcher, you wallow in it.
As a catcher who hails from Punxsutawney, Pa., home of the esteemed groundhog ... well, how perfect is that?
Rookie Devin Mesoraco, on deck to become the Reds' backstop this season, is just the seventh major-leaguer to emerge from Punxsutawney, where the country turns its eyes each Feb. 2 to see how much longer winter will last. (Well, perhaps not the entire country. ...).
He family home, in fact is only about a half-mile from Gobbler's Knob, where Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prognostication in a sacred ceremony. (Well, perhaps maybe not exactly sacred. ...).
"I went one time," Mesoraco says. "My brother goes almost every year. He seems to enjoy it.
"The rest of my family ... I don't know if my dad has ever been."
Mesoraco was Cincinnati's first-round pick in the 2007 draft out of Punxsutawney High School -- yep, home of the Chucks.
"He's around," Mesoraco says of the city's celebrity groundhog. "He comes to school with his handler. He probably gets treated better than any other groundhog in the world.
"If a groundhog could smell good, it would be him."
Odd thing is, both big leaguers to come from Punxsutawney since 1960 have played behind the dish: John Mizerock, who who caught for the Astros and Braves in the 1980s, and Mesoraco.
Who knew that, in addition to being Groundhog World Headquarters, Punxsutawney would become a cradle of catchers?
Also from Punxsutawney, a town of some 6,000 people, according to Baseball-Reference.com: Billy Hunter, an infielder for the St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians in the 1950s (he also managed the Rangers in 1977-1978); pitcher Al Verdel (Phillies, 1944); outfielder Nick Goulish (Phillies, 1944-1945); outfielder Wilbur Good (Yankees, Indians, Boston Rustlers, Cubs, Phillies and White Sox from 1905-1918); and shortstop Hutch Campbell (Pirates, 1907).
Don't ask Mesocaro, 23, if he saw any of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day being filmed. For one thing, the move came out in 1993, when he was just 5. For another, it wasn't even filmed in Punxsutawney -- it was made in Woodstock, Ill.
But he didn't need the movie. He's had plenty of his own Punxsutawney Phil encounters of his own.
"He's a big deal," Mesocaro says. "They bring him around in a big cage. At the library, he's on display 24/7. It's in the main park. He lives in what's called the Groundhog's Den. You can see him all the time. Him and his wife, Phyllis.
"I don't know what they do when they want some private time."
Sunblock day? Overcast skies in the desert today. They promised temperatures in the 80s. It's not even close. Some of these weather folks around here need to be replaced. I know where they can find a few groundhogs to do the job. ...
Likes: This passage from near the end of Rosanne Cash's terrific memoir, Composed: "We all need art and music like we need blood and oxygen. The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture becomes, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person's depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice; the more we need the simplicity of paint on canvas, or the arc of a lonely body in the air, or the photographer's unflinching eye." ... Great Michigan State-Ohio State game Sunday. The good guys didn't win, but it was terrific to watch. The Big 10 is the best conference in the country. ... Slickables, Home of the $2 ice cream sandwich. Great new discovery on Mill Ave. in the Arizona State University district. Freshly baked homemade cookies, you pick your two and which kind of ice cream you want between them. Everything from Snickerdoodles (by far, by the way, the most underrated cookie in the country) to chocolate chip to mint chip cookies. ... Grimaldi's Coal Brick-Oven Pizza. Heard great things about it and it didn't disappoint. The meatball pizza was delicious, but the pepperoni and mushroom was even better.
Dislikes: Still haven't picked up a copy of Leonard Cohen's new disc Old Ideas. Soon, soon.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You gave me light when I was blind
"You bring peace into my heart
"You drove me back to my beliefs
"And today I’m home again
"There must be a kind of light
"Lighting down you, from so far
"And wherever you go, it will follow you
"‘Cause you, my darling, you were made to shine"
-- Ilo Ferreira, Home Again
Tags: Al Verdel, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Bill Murray, Billy Hunter, Boston Rustlers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Devin Mesoraco, Grimaldi's, Houston Astros, Hutch Campbell, Ilo Ferreira, John Mizerock, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Nick Goulish, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Punxsutawney Phil, Slickables, Wilbur Good
Posted on: December 17, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 2:49 pm
Jimmy Rollins, the heart of the Phillies for the past several seasons, will continue to provide the pulse: He is returning to Philadelphia on a three-year, $33 million deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 9:04 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 11:39 pm
Teeth? You bet. Let's talk about teeth for a moment.
Ryan Braun testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, revealed by ESPN.com in a Saturday night bombshell and confirmed by CBSSports.com, is rough news for Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers and for major league baseball.
As Braun protests and the dispute is appealed, though, what we know right now is this:
Anybody questioning the bite of baseball's anti-steroid rules should question no more.
Never before, to our knowledge, has a standing Most Valuable Player award winner failed a PED test.
Quick reaction in the heat of the moment? Here goes:
1. Easy as snap judgments are, we need to momentarily hit the pause button until this appeal is heard and a decision is rendered.
2. If it is upheld, then just as Braun's stature will be diminished, baseball's should be elevated.
No player that we know of has ever had an appeal overturned. However, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened behind closed doors.
That a current MVP is busted for PED's and facing a 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season is further evidence that we're way past the Steroid Era. While it is naïve to believe the game is clean and nobody's doing that stuff anymore, at the same time, the fact that testing can work is exhibited by Braun's collaring.
If the failed test is upheld, there will be a lasting stain on Braun and an increasing strain on Milwaukee. Already, the Brewers are expecting to lose Prince Fielder this winter in free agency. That happens, and they lose Braun for the first 50 games of 2011, they are in deep trouble.
Braun cannot talk about his situation until after the appeals process is finished.
Right now, the baseball world awaits his explanation.
"I really hope Braunie's initial test is not upheld," tweeted Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP, on Saturday night.
If it is, what I really want to hear is the next conversation between Braun and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, who finished second in last summer's NL MVP voting.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:39 am
DALLAS -- Heath Bell, done. Jose Reyes, done.
Now owner Jeffrey Loria says the Marlins can add more, and you'd better believe it. The Marlins met twice with the agent for Albert Pujols on Monday, sources said late Monday night, boosting its nine-year offer in the process and giving the slugger even more to think about.
No decision was imminent as midnight approached, and one person with knowledge of the talks said they likely will play out more before a decision is reached. The Cardinals also met with Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, on Monday, and so did the Cubs.
But it is the Marlins who have stolen the show early in these winter meetings, and it is their efforts for Pujols that have electrified the lobby here at the Hilton Anatole.
Pujols in the same lineup with Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton and others?
"That would be great," Bell told CBSSports.com Monday. "I'm telling you right now, we definitely can win the NL East, even with just Reyes."
Imagine that. Even with just Reyes.
As in, gee, even if we don't sign Pujols, we've got an embarrassment of riches.
"I think we can win the division right now," Bell continued. "The Phillies, I think we can beat 'em.
"Ryan Howard is hurt. They might not be getting Jimmy Rollins back."
It is a tilting landscape and a bizarro world. As Rollins continued to frost out on the free agent market Thursday, sources said the Phillies were discussing free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Then they'd trade Placido Polanco, and maybe get a shortstop elsewhere
Whatever on the Phillies front. The Marlins are charging hard toward their new stadium and toward the top of the NL East.
Owner Jeffrey Loria would not speak directly about Pujols on Monday, but not because that's some crazy rumor.
"I don't want to talk about Albert," Loria said. "That's not the purpose of today. This is Heath's day."
Tuesday or, more likely, Wednesday will be Reyes' day, the day the Marlins introduce him formally here at the winter meetings.
Meantime, they're working hard toward another addition. The Pujols talks are serious. So are those for a starting pitcher. One person close to the Marlins suggested Monday night that free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle actually is above Pujols on the club's wish list. Loria has told people that the club's payroll, roughly $45 million last year, could zoom to the $100 million range in 2012.
When this winter started, that seemed like a bad joke.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, thinks the Marlins aren't serious now.
"I'm a serious guy," Loria said. "I don't know how many times I have to tell you guys that."
You cannot even begin to describe how different life is for the Marlins, whose executives arrived here about midday Monday. These are the guys -- Loria, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, general manager Michael Hill -- who sold their wares on the streets of the winter meetings in years past because they were so poor.
These are the guys who traded Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. ...
"We had a plan a few years ago," Loria said. "That's the reason why Mike Stanton is here, the reason why Logan Morrison is here, the reason why Hanley Ramirez is here."
As Beinfest says, the Marlins plan always was to compete, they just had to find extra creative ways to do so.
"It's fun," Beinfest kept saying Monday. "It's fun to come in here and sign an All-Star closer. There's nothing wrong with that."
In a perfect Marlins world, they'd leave Dallas on Thursday with Bell, Reyes and Pujols or Buehrle all done. But as quickly as they're moving, there's still some uncertainty.
"We'd love to get things done as fast as possible and achieve our goals," Beinfest said. "But we don't control everything. It takes two to tango."
Sure does. But the Marlins have entered the free agent market with swagger and are causing some folks to dance as fast as they can. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt said earlier Monday that he remains "hopeful" of signing Pujols.
"We're making every effort" to sign him, DeWitt said.
Well if they're serious, the Cardinals had better get moving. Because the Marlins are as serious as a spring breaker hell-bent on ravaging the Fort Lauderdale nightlife.
"We want to do more," Beinfest said. "We'd like to do more. There are some things we'd like to achieve.
"We're still in conversation with free agents and with clubs."
Every door is open, including trades -- with players both going and coming. Loria mostly remained tight-lipped regarding diva superstar Hanley Ramirez, who now must shove over to third base to make room for Reyes.
"Hanley is a super-professional," Loria said. "That's all I will say. We will work with him, make everything comfortable for him."
You bet they will. They're making everything comfortable for Bell, Reyes and others as they go. Loria anticipates attendance bumping up to somewhere between 2.8 and 3 million in 2012. They drew an NL-low 1.5 million last year.
They win like Bell says they can, maybe there really, finally, will be a buzz around the Marlins.
Said Beinfest: "It's time for this organization to play October baseball."
Posted on: November 9, 2011 12:48 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 12:57 am
That contract the Phillies were discussing with Ryan Madson, the one that was rich enough to perhaps set the bar for Jonathan Papelbon and others this winter?
It might have been too lucrative for the Phillies' own good.
The deal currently is in flux -- with Philadelphia ownership hitting the pause button, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Whether it or not it gets put back on track -- today or in the near future -- now will be the subject of great interest.
Madson and the Phillies on Tuesday were discussing a four-year deal worth $44 million, according to sources with knowledge of the talks, with a fifth year option worth another $13 million. The deal, negotiated between Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and agent Scott Boras, was said to be reaching its final stages -- offered, and accepted. Then it went upstairs to Phillies' CEO David Montgomery, and the club hit the brakes.
This doesn't necessarily mean the Phillies will not sign Madson, who converted 32 of 34 save opportunities in 2011. But it does mean that if they've got pause on the price tag -- a price they initially appeared to be OK with -- they might decide to in a different direction -- Papelbon? Heath Bell? -- before what has turned into a highly curious negotiation finishes.
Madson, 31, compiled a 2.37 ERA in his first full-time season as a closer, with 62 strikeouts over 60 2/3 innings.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:38 am
ST. LOUIS -- The cute little girl leaned into the microphone and spoke.
"I love my dad," Ava Carpenter, 6, said.
Not long after, her pop, the Cardinals ace who earned the win in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, chuckled.
"Yeah, but she's got a crush on David Freese," Chris Carpenter said.
On a noisy Friday night in St. Louis after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series title in franchise history, who didn't? Freese, the Series MVP who batted .348 with a homer and seven RBI, emerged into an overnight sensation.
But crushes come and go.
Everyone knows true love lasts forever.
While Freese is on the launching pad toward potential great things ahead, Ava Carpenter's dad already is there. The Cardinals now have played in three World Series during his time here, winning two. He's so thrilled to be here, he signed an extension in mid-September that will keep him in the St. Louis rotation through 2013.
And to that, add this: Carpenter is the first pitcher ever to win two elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before winning Game 7 of the World Series on Friday, he beat Philadelphia's Roy Halladay 1-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series.
Carpenter says these Cardinals are the best group of guys with whom he's ever played. And Friday, he gave them something to remember him by.
Working on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, Carpenter immediately spotted the Rangers two runs in the first inning when Josh Hamilton and Michael Young boomed back-to-back doubles.
But after that ... he threw five shutout innings during which he surrendered only two hits against a potent Texas lineup.
Carpenter said he felt "pretty good" in the first inning. He liked the pitch to Hamilton that turned into a double, but he left a pitch up to Young that became the inning's other double.
"Coming back out for the second, I didn't know how long they were going to let me go," Carpenter said. "So I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time. If it was for two innings, one inning, three innings, four innings ... I had no idea. And nobody said anything to me about it.
"So I just continued to go out and try to make pitches, and as the game went on, I felt stronger. My stuff got better, my command got better and I was able to make some really good pitches when I had to."
Turned out, it was more than enough.
And after the debacle of Game 2 in Philadelphia during the Division Series when he allowed four runs and five hits in three innings while starting on short rest for the first time in his career, there probably won't be many more skeptics if and when he is asked to do it again.
"These guys, again, never gave up," Carpenter said, raving about his teammates, and who else does he think takes the lead in that department?
"This team is unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Most amazing team I've ever been a part of."
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:58 pm
MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, battling an inflamed tendon near his right middle finger, said Saturday he's "as good as I can be" and proclaimed himself ready to go for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series here Sunday.
Holliday said he is undergoing two therapy sessions a day, each one lasting about 20 minutes. In addition to that, he said, he's taking laser treatment on his hand has well that "supposedly helps healing."
He took a numbing shot before a game the other day, which he said lasts for about four hours, but is not going to take another one.
"I couldn't feel my fingertip," he said. "It was fine for hitting, but not for throwing."
Plus, the shot itself, he said, was excruciating.
"That shot pretty much was the worst experience of my life," he said.
Holliday played in four games against the Phillies during the Division Series, batting .222 with no homers and no RBI. In 10 plate appearances, he was hit by one pitch and struck out three times.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:02 am
PHILADELPHIA -- This is a trick, isn't it? The way the St. Louis Cardinals are setting this up, it looks suspiciously as if it might be a referendum on how smart the rest of us are.
We wrote them off once, back in early September when they were 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
You and the Atlanta Braves know what happened after that.
Now, after they blew an early lead in Game 1 of this Division Series and then fell behind by four runs against Cliff Lee in the second inning of Game 2, yes, just when it looked as if it was safe to write them off again ... BAM!
The Cardinals undressed Lee, a tag-team of six relievers redeemed Chris Carpenter's awful start and Tony LaRussa's gang swiped one from the Phillies, 5-4.
This was a game made for LaRussa. He used four different pitchers in the eighth inning alone. And it worked.
The Cardinals have to feel great about this one, and not just because of the win. But because of how they earned that win.
Rafael Furcal chopped a leadoff triple in the first ... but his teammates failed to score him.
David Freese drilled a leadoff double in the second ... and never moved as St. Louis blew another early opportunity against Lee.
St. Louis was 0 for 6 alone in the first two innings with runners in scoring position. And Carpenter was so off that LaRussa ripped plate umpire Jerry Meals during his mid-game television interview for having two different strike zones for Carpenter and Lee. Blatently untrue.
But somehow, Phillies mustered just two baserunners against the not-so-vaunted Cardinals' bullpen over the last five innings. The Cardinals drove Lee from the game in the seventh.
And they drove this series back to St. Louis even.