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Tag:Derek Jeter
Posted on: September 21, 2011 6:04 pm
 

Love Letters: Remembering 9/11, and Bush's pitch

I wrote a 9/11 rembrance column on President Bush's first pitch at the World Series, and then you wrote. And you wrote. And you were so touching, I wanted to share some of your thoughts. So if you don't mind, I'm going to roll the tape here, stand aside and skip my usual replies. ...

FROM: Coleman
Re.: Bush walked out alone -- with a whole country beside him

Scott,

The article you wrote on President Bush's first pitch after 9/11 was phenomenal. You powerfully evoked all of the emotions I felt that night watching him tell our country and our enemy that we can handle any pressure or obstacle. Thanks for that.

FROM: Robert B.

You captured the moment. I'm a 64-year-old, life-time Red Sox fan who was proud to be an American that night ... and every day since!

FROM: Brian S.

Bush walked out alone -- awesome article, simply awesome. Nice work.

FROM: Ruth L.

Magnificent!!!!!

FROM: Kevin F.

Scott,

I loved your article about President George W. Bush's first pitch before Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. The perfect strike symbolism didn't escape me at the time and it resonates 10 years later. Thank you for reminding me what a moving and inspiring moment it was. And Jeter is one funny you-know-what.

FROM: Steve O.

I have tears in my eyes and a huge lump in my throat.

FROM: Andrew

Based on how Obama threw the pitch at the All-Star Game (in St. Louis in 2009), let's be glad he wasn't out there trying to throw the ball.

FROM: Neal J.

As we look back, we see that Bush had one singular response to the horrific attack, to start a meaningless war and to pitch a baseball. He and his pals are laughing all the way to the bank.

FROM: Joe L.

Scott,

Thanks for such a well-delivered, poignant article. It is a good brick in the wall of remembrance. Evil can take away a lot what is precious, including the lives of the innocent, but it cannot touch our freedom. Thank God for all the strong and the brave who still stand up for it.

FROM: Mark H.

It moved me to tears thinking back about that night. In some ways, I wish we could go back to that feeling where we were a true United States.

FROM: Eric

Damn right it was a strike. Thank you for this article. It reminded me how important it was to do what he did. We forget how he helped bring unity as a leader. No matter what anyone says, we had never been through a moment like that before Pearl Harbor, then 9/11. Nobody can talk about how it was to be in that position but him.

FROM: Ian M.

Scott,

An absolutely awesome column. That pitch for me ranks one step higher than Kirk Gibson's HR in the 1988 World Series. A single first pitch that gave the nation a sense of strength and unity. Unbelievable!

FROM: Art

The best article I've read on this, or any other, site. Beautifully written, Mr. Miller.

Likes: Where the Yankees stand on things was exhibited again when Derek Jeter said after the team clinched a playoff spot in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday that there would be no celebrating. To the Yankees, it's about the AL East title -- and the World Series. ... Oakland giving manager Bob Melvin a three-year contract. He'll help the Athletics. ... Looking forward to seeing Moneyball. I'm sure I'll have some issues with it, but my I hear its very well done and the writing is snappy -- which is no surprise, with Aaron Sorkin writing the script. ... If you're on I-94 driving between Chicago and Milwaukee, pull off the freeway for lunch at the Mars Cheese Castle. Great cheese, lots of free samples, terrific deli and, hey ... bottom line is, you can tell everyone you've been to the Mars Cheese Castle. ... Both Gino's East and Giordano's deep dish pizza in Chicago. ... Bob Seger on iTunes. ... Glad to see Hawaii Five-O back for a new season. Fun show. ... Here We Rest, the disc from Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit that was released in the spring, is fantastic. You should check it out.

Dislikes: That is one ugly new logo for the Florida Marlins. ... The massive conference re-alignment/expansion scramble. All of these colleges should be ashamed of themselves, throwing traditional rivalries away like used napkins to flee for big paydays. ... Rough start for the Falcons of Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central. They're 1-2 so far, with, hopefully, a win on deck against Milan this week.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I've been stuck here in this town, if you call it that, a year or two
"I never do what I'm supposed to do. I don't even need a name anymore,
"No one calls it out, kind of vanishes away
"No one gives a damn about the things I give a damn about
"The liberties that we can't do without seem to disappear like ghost in the air
"We don't even care, Until it vanishes away"

-- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Alabama Pines
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:36 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:11 pm
 

I found someone happy Jeter's not here!

PHOENIX -- Weary of all this talk about how the Yankees' Derek Jeter should be in attendance at this All-Star Game, I went looking for someone who agrees that he shouldn't be anywhere near this event.

I found the guy.

And truth be told, it wasn't all that difficult, either.

Meet David Price. Yeah, THAT David Price.

Guy who served up the homer that was Jeter's 3,000th hit in New York on Saturday.

In fact, Price surrendered Jeter's first three hits on Saturday -- single, homer, double -- and yet appeared startled when I told him I had him figured for the one guy who is glad Jeter is nowhere near Phoenix.

"I'm not mad about it," Price said, smiling. "I love it.

"When he first hit it Saturday, I was mad when it went over the fence. Then I was like, 'It's Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, get over it.

"I understand people want to see him. But he's trying to get his body ready for the second half. He's been on an emotional roller coaster these past couple of weeks. He's the ultimate team guy and he's trying to get ready to help the Yankees in the second half."

OK, enough with the respect.

Now, David, the truth ... you saw enough of him on Saturday, right? You're sick and tired of him, right?

"I might be," Price said, eyes twinkling. "I wouldn't mind seeing Derek Jeter one bit -- but I'd ask him what he's going to give me [for surrendering his 3,000th hit].

"Aw, I'm just kidding."

Likes: Really fun talking with the three Pittsburgh All-Stars and seeing their excitement -- outfielder Andrew McCutchen, closer Joel Hanrahan and starter Kevin Correia. ... Ditto first-time All-Star Michael Cuddyer of the Twins. ... Padres closer Heath Bell having his father, wife and kids in tow at the press conferences Monday so he could share the All-Star excitement. Very, very cool. ... Glad to see Adrian Gonzalez getting his due in Boston. He was so overlooked and underrated when he was playing hidden in San Diego. And he's a class act who is intelligent and thoughtful as well as highly skilled. ... Very interesting seeing the Biltmore, the luxury resort where John McCain gave his election night concession speech after losing the last presidential election. ... Rokerij, best restaurant in Phoenix. The blackened salmon with apple chile was sensational Sunday night (as were the green chile potato, roasted beets and prickly pear margarita that came with it). ... Rubio's Fish Tacos, a San Diego staple blossoming in Phoenix. The manager of the joint we stopped by for lunch Monday was so sweet, too. She was a baseball fan and, overhearing All-Star talk at our table, she brought over four warm churros on the house.

Dislikes: The Home Run Derby. The rules are convoluted and it continues forever. And I mean, forever. Does it really need to be three hours? Of course, I'm also the guy that gets worn out quick at a movie by special effects. A little bit goes a long way, just like home runs. It's why I hated Super 8.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"We learned in Sunday school
"Who made the sun shine through
"I know who made the moonshine, too
"Back where I come from
"Blue eyes on a Saturday night
"Tan legs in the broad day light
"TV's, they were black and white
"Back where I come from"

-- Mac MacAnally, Back Where I Come From

 

Posted on: July 7, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Love Letters: The All-Star voting edition

Hot fun in the summertime. ...

FROM: Michael S.
Re: Weekend Buzz: Nice work on All-Star Voting

Are you out of your mind, Mr. Miller? Lance Berkman as a starting outfielder for the NL? He's a first baseman for ... sake! How about Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates? What are you smoking with your agreement with the Berkman selection?

Hmm, let's find out if I can see through all of the smoke from whatever it is I'm not inhaling: Berkman has started 62 games in the outfield for St. Louis this season, 19 at first base and two as a DH. So apparently, Mr. Michael, Berkman IS an outfielder. And I'm just high on life.

FROM: Frank D

Great job on your All-Star picks. I agree 100! You are by far the best writer on the site.

Don't tell that to Doyel. He just won a fancy award as the second-best columnist in the country and he might get his feelings hurt.

FROM: Thomas H.

So a team's position in the standings should factor into a player's inclusion in the All-Star starting lineup? These are INDIVIDUAL selections, not team awards. And how do you know that Rickie Weeks has made a better contribution to the Brewers than Brandon Phillips to the Reds? If you are going that route, then also include the contribution in the clubhouse, where Phillips is outstanding.

Your points are well taken. I'm a huge Phillips fan. Both he and Weeks are having great years. But on this one, I'm right.

FROM: John D.

Yankees at all positions -- second, shortstop and third. Shortstop, no Yankee should be selected. J.J. Hardy from the Orioles is better than Derek Jeter. How did you even become a sports writer?

First part of your argument is correct: A Yankee shouldn't be starting at shortstop. However, good as Hardy has been, you lose me with your second part. The correct answer is, Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera should be starting.

FROM: Adam S.

Adrian Gonzalez is the runaway MVP in the AL so far? You may want to take another look at Jose Bautista's numbers. Bautista's OBP is 63 points higher, his SLG is 85 points higher, he has more HR's, over 40 more BB's, more Runs, and fewer K's. Don't get me wrong, Gonzalez is having a great year, but I think Bautista has the edge right now, and I'm not sure it is even close. Other than that one argument, I enjoyed the article quite a bit.

I was overzealous (and careless) with my use of the word "runaway." You, sir, are correct. But given what Gonzalez has brought to the Red Sox, and given how he's propped them up into second place in the division, I'm still gonzo over Gonzo.

FROM: Capt. Hook
Re.: Padres resurgence could put trades on hold

Scott,

I'm not sure about your GM skills, much less your math skills, if you think San Diego's current resurgence will stop them from thinking trade. With 80 games left, if they go 56-24 (.700) and San Francisco creeps along at their current .586 over their remaining schedule, the Padres would win by one game. Well, playing .700 may be just a little far-fetched, ya think? Hmmm. Sell the farm, Padres, as the Fantasy of Mr. Miller is just that: A fantasy.

Come on now, read the entire column, not just the headline. I pinpointed the exact time the Padres will start to deal, about a week after the All-Star Game. All I said by pointing toward the Padres' current "resurgence" is that it will delay their plans to trade until later in July. I never suggested they would get back into the race. That would be silly now, wouldn't it?

FROM: Jason
Re. With Nationals, Davey Johnson ready to win again

I'm excited to see the Nationals hire Davey Johnson and think he's perfect for this team. I'm still in shock over the way Jim Riggleman left, but happy we got Johnson here!

How about the suicide squeeze bunt he masterfully called on Wednesday night? Guy is 68 years old and called it for the first time in his managerial career. He's a keeper.

FROM: Josh M.
Re.: Oft-injured Twins have limited options with Cuddyer

I can't see the Twins trading their highest-producing player. Michael Cuddyer has been the one guy who has been stable over the last few seasons. He is the most underrated player in the show. I don't know who they could trade for that would be better. I don't think they could get the power starting pitcher that they need. It would be a waste of a star player to trade him for some long-shot nobody.

Not only is he the most underrated player in The Show, he's the Twins most INVALUABLE player. Some really smart guy called that one way back during spring training in this column.

FROM: Jeff P.
Re.: Payroll deadline likely last straw for McCourts' regime

Scott,

I've been a Dodgers fan since 1960. Every cheap shot you threw at McCourt is well-deserved and earned. However, the parking lot beating had no place in this story. It doesn't hurt me as a Dodgers fan, but, as a compassionate human being, I hurt for the Giants fan and his family. I urge you to post a sincere apology and then refrain from such distasteful attempts of Andrew Dice humor.

Look, it was not a cheap attempt at humor, and yes, I'm sorry to those who were offended by that line. But the tragic parking lot beating this year is part of the overall body of McCourt's shoddy and irresponsible work as "caretaker" of the Dodgers. And I'm offended at being compared to a class-less, trailer-trash comic like Andrew Dice Clay.

FROM: Richard

MARK CUBAN, all that's right. Baseball don't like his type. Get rid of the CAR SALESMAN BUD SELIG. He did nothing about steroids.

Not sure that Mark Cuban is all that's right. But compared to Frank McCourt, a common house rat is all that's right, so I guess your point is well taken.

Likes: Mid-season, and the All-Star Game. Still, by far, the coolest All-Star Game in all of sports. Not even close.

Dislikes: Super 8. Just because today's technology can produce cool special effects, it doesn't always mean the more, the better. Just sayin'.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The moon beams we can dream on, when the working day is done
"And the stars we can wish upon, at the setting of the sun
"The sunsets we could cry over, put our troubles on the run
"But more than these miracles above, good people, we need love"

-- Eddie Hinton, Everybody Needs Love




Posted on: July 6, 2011 6:45 pm
 

HOFer Molitor on Jeter and 3,000

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor ranks ninth on baseball's all-time hit list at 3,319, just after Honus Wagner (3,415) and just in front of Eddie Collins (3,315).

Not only will he be watching as Derek Jeter becomes the 28th player to join the group, he's one of just a handful of players in baseball history who actually can relate to what the Yankees shortstop is going through now that he's just four knocks away from the milestone hit.

"You hope that as you approach it, you're swinging well and it doesn't become too much about sliding into it vs. marching into it," Molitor says. "You always separate individual goals and team wins as you approach, and you hope it's something where the experience allows you to feel pleasure in those things instead of the pressure."

With Robin Yount as a teammate in Milwaukee before Molitor punched out No. 3,000 while playing for Minnesota in 1996, a then-unknowing Molitor -- dubbed "The Ignitor" with the Brewers -- got a sneak peek of what was to come for him back in 1992.

"I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to watch Robin do it a few years before myself," Molitor said of Yount, whose 3,000th came on Sept. 9, 1992, a single against Cleveland's Jose Mesa in Milwaukee's County Stadium. "I got a glimpse into the way you go about your business with that while trying to help the team win."

Jeter will become the first player ever to hit 3,000 as a Yankee, which puts him into his own unique and extraordinary category. But given what the Yankees represent and Jeter's consistent attitude throughout his career, the whole individual goals vs. team goals thing is extremely relevant. Jeter already has expressed some awkwardness about all eyes being on him.

On the other hand, as we've seen over the years, outside of a contentious contract negotiation, there is little that ruffles Jeter.

"Derek has never been one to be phased by too many outside influences," Molitor says. "He's always had an amazing ability to take the emotion out of at-bats, whether it's in October or during regular season at-bats.

"He's had a remarkable career. It's going to be a pretty special accomplishment."

Likes: Molitor remains the only one of the 27 members of the 3,000-hit club to triple for his historic hit. He did it against the Royals' Jose Rosado on Sept. 16, 1996. How'd he do that at 39? "You have to pay the outfielders off on the high fly balls into the gap," he joked.

Dislikes: Quick thumbs from umpires Joe West and Angel Hernandez. Those two are brutal.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Hot town, summer in the city
"Back of my neck getting burnt and gritty
"Been down, isn't it a pity
"Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
"All around, people looking half dead
"Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head
"But at night it's a different world
"Go out and find a girl
"Come on, come on, and dance all night
"Despite the heat it'll be alright"

-- Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City

Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
 

Short Hops: All-Star Soria back on track (& more)

This isn't about Mariano Rivera. It's about the Royals' Joakim Soria. But as with so many other things regarding closers, it makes Old Man Rivera look even more sensational than he already is.

OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?

Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.

Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.

Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.

The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).

"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."

Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.

"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.

"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."

Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.

"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."

As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.

"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."

-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."

-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.

-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.

-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.

-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.

-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.

-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"

-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.

-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."

-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.

-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.

Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.

Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Driving in to Darlington County
"Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July
"Driving in to Darlington County
"Looking for some work on the county line
"We drove down from New York City
"Where the girls are pretty but they just want to know your name
"Driving in to Darlington City
"Got a union connection with an uncle of Wayne's
"We drove eight hundred miles without seeing a cop
"We got rock and roll music blasting off the T-top singing. ..."

-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County

Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Short Hops: Is it the bratwurst in Milwaukee?

Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:

-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.

-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."

-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.

-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.

-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.

-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.

-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."

-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."

-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
does to Martin's prowess.

-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).

-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).

-- Nate McLouth's strained oblique had better heal quick. The Braves' Jordan Schaffer is opening many eyes with his spectacular play in center field.

-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.

Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.

Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Good luck had just stung me
"To the race track I did go
"She bet on one horse to win
"And I bet on another to show
"Odds were in my favor
"I had him five to one
"When that nag to win came around the track
"Sure enough he had won
"I took up all of my winnings
"And I gave my little Bessie half
"And she tore it up and blew it in my face
"Just for a laugh
"Now there's one thing in the whole wide world
I sure would like to see
"That's when that little love of mine
"Dips her doughnut in my tea"

-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek




Posted on: December 15, 2010 1:11 pm
 

Love Letters: The Crazy Winter $$ edition

OK, here's the mail call from this week's monster Phillies/Cliff Lee deal -- followed by some reaction from the winter meetings and Adrian Gonzalez/Boston -- but I'm warning you New Yorkers:

I don't give a crap if Lee's annual salary in Philly will be more than it would have been with the Yankees. Plain and simple, he left nearly $30 million of guaranteed money on the table. There is no disputing that. So don't tell me that he really didn't sign with Philly for less money. Because he did. Period.

FROM: Jim
Re.: In the end, Lee chooses (Brotherly) love over money

Your sense of reality is as delusional as these baseball players. You make it seem like he is making such a big sacrifice. You have no idea what goes on in the real world, and articles like this are sickening to the middle class and upper-middle class people of this country. Gee Scott, Cliff made such a sacrifice. My heart bleeds for him. Write something with substance. Your article was ridiculous.

I have no idea what goes on with the middle-class people in the real world? Really? Let's see ... drove my daughter's car pool to school for the third day this week today. Driving car pool to schlep her and two of her friends to volleyball practice after school later today. Hauled the trash and recyclables out to the curb this morning for trash day. Helped nurse my wife following her hip replacement surgery for the past five weeks after returning home from covering the World Series (imagine, we don't have full-time, in-home staff). Signed off on my daughter inviting seven friends over Saturday for a Christmas cookie-making party. So what is all of this, the upper class? The poverty class? Sounds suspiciously like middle class to me.

FROM: Dave S.

It is heartwarming to see a pitcher follow his heart and go to a league that allows him to be a complete player rather than being pressured by the Players Union into taking the money from the highest bidder ... aka CC Sabathia.

Like at the end of the Grinch, when the old Grinch finally understands the meaning of Christmas.

FROM: Barry R.

I love your work. However, when will sports writers get this salary thing right? He is being paid more per year by the Phillies than the Yankees or Rangers offers. He gets to say that. If he works seven years, he'll make more than the Yanks and Rangers offers if he take a huge paycut in years six (which won't happen with the option) and seven. He's making more per year, and likely more overall than the other offers. He gets his cake and eats it too.

Thanks, and I love that you take the time to write. But Lee will turn 33 next season. He will be 38 when his first five years with the Phillies is up. Odds are overwhelming that he will not see year seven in this deal. And odds are whelming that year six might not ever appear given health issues.

FROM: Mike
Re.: Blockbuster deals make BoSox winners of winter meetings

The Red Sox right now look more blockbuster than Blockbuster. You are correct since Blockbuster is in bankruptcy.

Don't worry, no way a judge allows the Red Sox in bankruptcy court. Daisuke Matsuzaka works too slowly even for the courtroom. He'd slow the proceedings down so much, even a discussion of tax law would be a thrilling upgrade.

FROM: Tom B.

Like most media, you say Boston made out great. All they did was replace hitters of equal value. If I recall, they lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. OPS for these hitters was about the same as Gonzalez and Crawford. So Boston stayed even so far. The biggest edge Boston has is that Pedroia, Youlkilis and Ellsbury will be back. They added a lot of payroll and gave away some excellent prospects for Gonzalez. Conventional wisdom has it that Gonzalez will struggle, lose .050 on OPS due to changing leagues. The ballpark will help both a bit. From the standpoint of improving from where they started the winter meetings I could agree, Boston did the most. But compared to the Yankees -- and I am not a fan of the Yankees -- I say they are the poorest run organization in baseball and have been for years. All they did was get back to where they were. Thanks for listening and keep your column going. I do like it.

Very well-reasoned points, sir, and as they say, that's why they play the actual games. Right now, we're grading paperwork, essentially. When the schedule starts in late March, maybe you'll be proven right. But I think you're under-valuing Adrian Gonzalez. He's going from one extreme to the other -- from Petco Park, which severely works against hitters, to Fenway, which works for them. And his style of hitting is so conducive to Fenway -- all those opposite field shots that will bang off of the Green Monster. We'll see. And as far as Boston being a poorly run organization -- the Sox do have two World Series titles since 2004, which is one more than the Yankees and two more than they've had for decades.

FROM: Grant MacDonald

I love your sense of humor and presentation of facts. Boston has indeed walked away the winter winner. I am sorry my Blue Jays can't compete since the early 90's. It's a shame to see the greed affect the game. For teams who can't compete, fan base will dwindle and the team may have to move on. This is just sad!

I know. In some of these cities, last one out, turn out the lights.

FROM: Steve H.

To the San Diego Padres:

Thank you so much for the early Christmas present. We have all gotten so much more competitive overnight [without any of us having to do anything!].

Sincerely,
The Dodgers, Giants, Rockies and D’backs.

Next thing you know, these four will be sending a joint Christmas card.

FROM: Chris O.

The Gonzalez to the Red Sox trade is another reason why MLB is losing its popularity in the past 20 years, and the ratings show it. EVERY time there was an NFL regular season game against an MLB playoff game, the NFL game got higher ratings. Even Two and Half Men and Modern Family beat out Games 4 and 5 of the World Series!

I have so many friends who don't care about baseball anymore simply because the Yanks and Sox hoard the free agents every offseason from the small-market teams. ... The NFL has a salary cap, salary floor, and parity has brought its best ratings in over 20 years because every team has a chance, and you never see a small market teams like Indy losing Peyton Manning to the NY Jets or Giants to Free Agency. If I were a Padres fan, I would not even care about the team anymore, because if you can't afford your best player, what is the point of rooting for them?

I am saying this as a Phillies fan, because they have become the Yanks/Sox of the NL and they just go out and get guys like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt from small-market teams to improve their team. Hopefully things change, because MLB is slowly becoming a regional sport for fans.

It is very difficult to argue with your points, Chris. And your last sentence is ringing more and more true with each postseason rating dive.

FROM: Justin H.
Re.: The era's best GM, Gillick a master of the decades

Sure he built winners, but I think a lot of people overlook the fact that when he leaves a team, they collapse because the team got old and Pat Gillick had gutted the farm system to build the major league club by trading prospects and giving up draft picks for signing free agents.

This happened with the Blue Jays, it happened with the Mariners, and it will certainly happen to the Phillies as their veterans age and I think you saw the first signs of that last year. Think about the Jays first, who was drafted or acquired to replace Joe Carter or Roberto Alomar, David Cone or Jack Morris? Then look at the Mariners, who was there to replace Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Dan Wilson, Joey Cora, John Olerud, Jay Buhner, and Jamie Moyer? Now look at the Phillies, who is going to replace Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and you could already see the effect of losing Brett Myers to some extent last year. You could say the Phillies are exactly like the Mariners were when they were winning but they are aging now and they don't have any youth sitting on that bench learning and they have traded away the farm to acquire players like Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, and now have lost Jayson Werth, which will hurt them more than anybody realizes at the moment. Utley is hurt all the time now and Ryan Howard appears to be losing some bat speed and is prone to slumps and high strikeout streaks.

I think Gillick was great at taking teams with deep farms systems and decent major league clubs and using that to his advantage. You'd have to ask those fan bases if the winning for 4 years was worth the future. I'm sure in the Blue Jays and Phillies cases it is but in the Mariners case they did not win a World Series and are now in such a deep hole the end isn't in sight so I'd say it wasn't worth it for them. I personally think Pete Gillick is highly overrated.

You've hit on the knock on Gillick, that teams swirl down the drain after he leaves. But it's sort of like the "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" thing, isn't it? Gillick helped give four cities -- Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia -- some of their most exciting baseball in decades. Wouldn't you take that, however you can get it, if you're in those cities? And the flip side of that argument is, if Gillick wasn't the GM, there is every chance those cities never would have won during that time anyway.

FROM: Dbarv
Re.: Yanks, cut drama and give Jeter fair offer for an icon

IMO, Jeter is worth about 8 bucks an hour.

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

 

Posted on: December 4, 2010 1:59 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2010 5:29 pm
 

Hallelujah! Jeter back with Yankees

The archangels -- not the Angels -- are merrily blowing the trumpets in heaven. The sun smiling and planning to shine on the earth.

Derek Jeter and the Yankees have reached a deal.

And thank heavens that's over.

Rarely is there such huffing and puffing over a non-story.

Seriously, there was a greater chance that Babe Ruth would be reincarnated and come back to run a hot dog stand in the new Yankee Stadium than there ever was that Jeter would leave.

I don't care how "contentious" the negotiations became. It didn't matter who was asking whom to drink a "reality potion."

That it ever became this much of a story was absurd in the first place. There will not be a bigger non-story story this winter.

Anyway, the terms are three years at an average of somewhere between $15 and $17 million a season, with a fourth-year option for 2014.

Judging from the column I wrote the other day, there are many of you who think Jeter will be wildly overpaid at this rate, and that The Man (Hank or Hal Steinbrenner) should have stuck it to him.

There are others of you who agree with me, that a declining Jeter still deserves more than market value because of his iconic status with the Yankees.

If this were Pittsburgh, where every penny counts, I'd be a lot more critical of this contract.

But the Yankees print money. It's not like overpaying Jeter for his value on the field is going to hamstring the Yankees elsewhere as they put this year's team together ... or next year's team ... or their 2013 team.

We're talking about an all-time Yankee here, whose value to the franchise will extend even after Jeter joins Ruth for a hot dog lunch with the Great Yankee in the Sky however many years from now.

Whatever the salary, this was always going to happen.

Now can we move on to things that were not foregone conclusions, please?

 
 
 
 
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