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: November 7, 2011 5:00 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 6:43 pm
Be careful what you wish for: With big-market finances come big-market expectations, and the Twins plummeting to a 99-loss season in 2010 despite a club-record $113 million payroll caused a big-time reaction Monday.
Posted on: April 12, 2011 2:06 pm
Being entrenched as Cincinnati's shortstop means something else for Paul Janish: Perhaps his pitching days are finally finished.
"Ideally," he says, chuckling.
In two big-league mop-up appearances, Janish has fashioned a not-so-stellar 49.50 ERA.
Two innings pitched (both in 2009), nine hits, 11 earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts.
He says he's been informed by my friend and curator of "Useless Information", Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, that he owns the record for most runs given up by a position player in the last 50 years.
"So that made it pretty good," Janish says.
He says college recruiters projected him as a pitcher out of Houston's Cypress Creek High School. But at Rice University, the pitching staff was loaded, including Jeff Niemann (first-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2004), Philip Humber (first-round pick by the Mets in 2004), Wade Townsend (first-round pick of the Orioles in 2004, then first-round by Tampa Bay in 2005) and David Aardsma (first-round by the Giants in 2003).
So he remained an infielder at Rice, and helped the Owls win the College World Series in 2003.
Now, as the Reds starting shortstop, and two years after his last appearance on the mound, Janish no longer is being recruited as a pitcher -- by universities, or by Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker.
"No," he says. "And I don't think I'm going to be able to take [the 49.50 career ERA] to arbitration."
Likes: Friday Night Lights back for season five beginning on Friday (for those of us who don't have DirecTV). Can't wait. Mixed emotions, though: I hate that it's the final season for one of the best television shows ever. ... Win Win, the new film featuring Paul Giamatti as a dispirited attorney who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. Really good. ... The Joe Mauer/Troy Polamalu commercial for Head & Shoulders. Well played, Mauer ... and Palamalu.
Dislikes: Ken Griffey Jr. in the commercials. Junior, I love ya, but that Dick's Sporting Goods ad is just awful. ... Speaking of which, MLB's newest ad campaign, Always Epic, has a clunker of a television ad taking us "inside" Brian Wilson's beard. Creepy.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
-- Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
Posted on: July 15, 2010 2:34 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2010 3:07 pm
So my good buddy Gregg Doyel wants steroids back in baseball?
He wants artificially inflated behemoths flexing their muscles? He wants brawny Jolly Green Giants feeding us red meat and cheap thrills?
Hey, Gregg, we've already got that.
It's called the NFL.
I know, I know. They've got a steroids policy over there, too, and they had it long before baseball and yada, yada, yada.
What are we supposed to be, stupid? It's normal for guys to grow to 6-7 and run the 40 in two seconds flat?
You want juice, go watch Cowboys-Raiders. Or tour a Tropicana plant.
Leave baseball alone.
Go ahead, take your shots at the "purists". Compare the low-scoring games this summer to a Spain-
Steroids and greenies? Really?
I mean, I know you've always lived just one area code away from the cuckoo's nest, Gregg, but I thought you were more responsible than this. What are you doing tomorrow, teaching the neighborhood kids how to make moonshine?
What I get tired of is, there is little appreciation for subtlety anymore. Anywhere. You can't go to a movie without things blowing up onscreen every two minutes. Everybody's yelling at everybody on radio and cable TV, from the ESPN shout-fests to CNN's Nancy Grace.
Must we be smashed over the head with a sledgehammer each way we turn in life anymore?
Must everything devolve into Short Attention Span Theater?
If you want to zing Tuesday night's All-Star Game, here's where you go: Joe Girardi's managing. To be given a 34-man roster and still be exposed by failing to have a pinch runner at the ready for David Ortiz in the ninth inning was flat-out embarrassing. If Girardi's Yankees play in the World Series this October, all he has to do to learn why they don't have home-field advantage is look straight into the mirror.
Baseball made several tweaks to this year's game and still couldn't get it right: What's needed is smaller rosters, not larger ones, and stars like Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki and Joe Mauer actually still being in the game when it's on the line in the late innings.
Even commissioner Bud Selig was rhapsodizing earlier Tuesday about the days when Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente played the entire All-Star Game. Well, duh. That's how you juice this thing back to the level it once was.
Still, Tuesday night's game had some terrific moments. The best of which was Scott Rolen's intuitive read of a single to center and busting it all the way to third to spark the NL's winning rally. It was the kind of key play that too often was rendered meaningless during the Steroid Era as everyone sat around and waited for three-run homers.
No, other than Girardi's death-wish managing, the only folks who couldn't enjoy this, I'm sure, are the ones who complained that there still weren't enough things blowing up in Iron Man 2. Which, no, I didn't see. The first one was lousy enough.
Anyway, Gregg, I could go on from here, but my guess is I've lost you already, my friend. You're probably already salivating over Cowboys-Raiders.
Oh, one other thing: I don't completely disagree with everything you wrote in this whack-job of a piece. The Tiger Woods line? Excellent.
Posted on: July 13, 2010 8:39 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few things as we get set for the 81st All-Star Game:
-- National League pitching plans: Florida's Josh Johnson and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay will follow starter Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound. After that, manager Charlie Manuel plans to review the game situation, see where the AL lineup is and go from there. With lefties Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano and Carl Crawford hitting 7-8-9, you could see one of a couple of lefty relievers, Hong-Chih Kuo or Arthur Rhodes if the situation dictates.
-- AL pitching plans were unclear as for who would follow Tampa Bay's David Price to the hill. But in Price, Texas' Cliff Lee, Boston's Jon Lester and the Yankees' Andy Pettitte, the AL is loaded with lefties. Which could mean right-handers Justin Verlander and Phil Hughes will be interspersed with them.
-- Boston's David Ortiz on the legacy of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "Unbelievable. When you give a team that many dreams, that many possibilities to win, that's something you've got to respect no matter what."
-- This is how stacked the AL is: Mauer, last year's MVP, is hitting seventh. Last time he did that? "The minor leagues," Mauer said. His reaction to hitting seventh? "Where do you want to put everybody?" Mauer said. "Somebody's gotta bat down there."
-- The pressure is on Padres closer Heath Bell if he pitches late in a close game. San Diego has provided three of the past four losing pitchers: Bell last year, Chris Young in 2007 and Trevor Hoffman in 2006.
-- Atlanta's Omar Infante, the most unlikely of All-Stars, is having a ball. His favorite moments? Tuesday afternoon in NL clubhouse, and Monday watching the Home Run Derby on the field, holding his one-year-old son, taking as many photos as he could. As for the game? "It's very important," said Infante, whose Braves are in position to benefit if the NL can win home-field World Series advantage. "Everybody's psyched."
-- The turf is in good shape here in Angel Stadium. But it almost was in even better shape. The rock band U2 was scheduled to play Angel Stadium in early June, after which the contract called for new sod to be laid at Angel Stadium. Instead of a new playing surface, however ... well, Bono underwent emergency back surgery, U2 canceled its tour and the turf remains the same.
Posted on: March 22, 2010 7:31 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2010 8:57 pm
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A breezy and optimistic spring training for the Reds paused hard Monday when Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman was removed from his Cactus League outing against Colorado early because of a stiff lower back.
Chapman, a favorite to win the Reds' fifth slot in the starting rotation, said his back has been bothering him much of the past week -- though later he amended that and indicated that the issue just came up. He also said he has never before had back problems.
"We don't think it's anything serious," Reds manager Dusty Baker said following the Reds' 9-1 loss to the Rockies. "We took him out before it got any worse."
The Reds issued a statement later Monday that Chapman left Monday's game because of back spasms. He will be treated and re-evaluated later this week.
As long as it is a "little" problem, the Reds will breathe easy. Chapman, in competition with Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Justin Lehr for the final rotation spot behind Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, had allowed only one run in seven spring innings before Monday, striking out 10 and walking only two.
Coming in after Bronson Arroyo to start the sixth, Chapman mowed down Troy Tulowitzki (swinging strikeout), Miguel Olivo (pop to shortstop) and Melvin Mora (grounder to third) on just eight pitches -- six strikes.
But during a 31-pitch seventh, he suddenly changed gears and started throwing more sliders and change-ups than fastballs. And where his fastball ranged from 93 to 97 miles an hour in the sixth, it was mostly in the 91-93 m.p.h. range in the seventh. In his previous outing, he had touched 102.
"The warning signs were I didn't think he was attacking the hitters," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, who visited Chapman on the mound a couple of batters before he returned with Baker and Reds trainer Paul Lessard. "He was trying to get guys out with his change-up and slider.
"I wanted to remind him, 'You've got a good fastball. Use it.'"
Not long after that mound visit, Price and the Reds' staff noticed Chapman stretching on the mound. When Price, Baker and Lessard went to the mound at that point, Chapman at first wasn't too forthcoming.
"I guess guys in Cuba are taught not to say much or complain," Baker said of Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds on Jan. 11. "He really didn't have the same stuff. He really didn't have the same fastball, anything. We went out, and it was hard to pull it out of him."
Chapman, who wound up allowing four unearned runs, two walks, a wild pitch, a single and a double in 1 2/3 innings, was to be further examined by doctors later Thursday -- again, more precautionary than anything, the Reds hope.
As for how it may affect the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation if Chapman has to be shut down for a few days, well, let's say that's not first on the list of things Baker would like to think about right now.
"I don't know, man," Baker said. "Let's not speculate until we find out [if he has to miss time]."
Sunblock Day? Lovely day in the 80s in Arizona. Dare we declare that the cold stuff is past us and it's baseball weather from here on out.
Likes: Joe Mauer in Minnesota, long-term. ... Albert Pujols in St. Louis short-term, for now, and long-term later (it's gotta come eventually, right?). ... Vin Scully back at work. And his tremendous description of doctor's orders for him reducing his activity: "I'm supposed to cut back on dangling participles and I'm not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week, but otherwise, no." ... How's this for percentages: There were 13 people on the writers' side of the press box for the Reds-Rockies Cactus League game in Goodyear on Monday, and two of them are in the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Hal McCoy, now blogging on the Reds for his old paper, the Dayton Daily News, and Tracy Ringolsby, who's got a regular gig on the Rockies' pre- and post-game telecasts for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain. ... Reds media relations director Rob Butcher, one of the very best in the business, training for the Boston Marathon on April 19. ... Fine, fine production of The Beauty and the Beast at Calavera Hills Middle School over the weekend in Carlsbad, Calif. The kids weren't simply acting, they became the characters. The sets were terrific. The sound was exceptionally clean. The production was top-shelf. The costumes were Academy Award-caliber. Phenomenal enough that I'm going to have to get to know some of these folks. Oh wait ... was the costume director really my wife? And one of the crack backstage crew members really my daughter? Man, I need to get home more. ... Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band on Crossroads, currently running on CMT. Fabulous pairing.
Dislikes: The guy in front of me in the airport security line Monday morning who was so clueless that, as he was removing the change out of his pockets, his belt and other metal objects actually had to remove suspenders from underneath his shirt as well. He had absolutely no idea. Airport security basically had to guide him through everything as he held up the line for at least five minutes. It was Airport Security for Dummies, to be sure. ... Sure do hate to see Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas sidelined the rest of the way.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"When I left I wasn't thinking
-- The Hold Steady, Cheyenne Sunrise
Posted on: November 23, 2009 2:04 pm
Now, there are those of us who believe Mauer STILL should have won it even under those circumstances, given his historical batting numbers as they relate to catchers, the position he plays, his importance to the Twins and the way he limits opponents' running games.
But that would have been a more difficult argument.
As the Twins chased Detroit into September, that argument was pushed aside. By the time the Twins extended their season to game No. 163 for a second summer in a row, the AL MVP vote had become a no-brainer. In giving Mauer 27 of a possible 28 first-place votes, AL MVP voters, as they should have, easily recognized this.
But Mauer, who missed April with a lingering groin injury, is on an historic arc offensively while playing well the most important position on the diamond defensively.
In hitting .365 this season, Mauer won his third AL batting title, becoming one of just 10 major leaguers in history to win three or more batting crowns.
In compiling a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage, Mauer became the first catcher in history to lead his league in batting average, OBP and slugging.
He also became only the 13th player in AL history to do it, and the first in nearly 30 years, since Kansas City legend George Brett in 1980.
Of the 12 AL players to accomplish the feat, 10 are in the Hall of Fame: Brett, Fred Lynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, George Stone, Napoleon Lajoie (twice), Ty Cobb (three times) and Ted Williams (five times).
It is way too early to know whether Mauer will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown as well. But at 26, he's certainly off to a tremendous start. And we do know this: His decision to decline a football scholarship at Florida State a few years ago not only has turned out to be a brilliant decision by Mauer, but the entire state of Minnesota's gain.
Posted on: July 27, 2009 9:35 pm
Their season dangling in the balance with Monday's devastating news that starter Kevin Slowey will miss the rest of the season because of wrist surgery, the Minnesota Twins have expanded their trade talks to focus on starting pitchers.
Already searching for a middle infielder -- negotiations with Oakland regarding shortstop Orlando Cabrera have intensified in the past 24 hours, sources say -- and a set-up man, the Twins now are shifting gears again as they struggle to keep pace with Detroit and the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central.
Slowey's 10 wins lead the rotation even though he hasn't pitched in three weeks. Among those the Twins are expected to inquire about -- or have inquired about -- are Seattle's Jarrod Washburn and Arizona's Jon Garland and Doug Davis.
Meantime, the Twins, after nixing a couple of mid-level prospects the A's have asked for in exchange for Cabrera, have provided the Athletics with a list of young players they would trade for the shortstop. Though Cabrera got off to a very slow start offensively for Oakland, he has batted .339 since June 4.
Rookie pitcher Anthony Swarzak has been a huge help lately as Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins have struggled to reach the seventh inning in recent starts. But with the subtraction of Slowey, the Twins clearly are in a bind.
The Twins had fallen to four games behind division-leading Detroit entering Monday night's games and clearly are frustrated.
Following a tough weekend against the Angels in Anaheim, the three Twins' franchise players -- Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan -- told LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that it's time to make a move.
"Yeah, there's frustration," Mauer told the newspaper. "But I've learned over the last few years not to try to get my hopes up that we'll have something, then get disappointed."
"It's frustrating, very frustrating," Morneau said. "You hear about the future, the future. I don't know who gets to decide when that is or when they think that is. You have a core of a lineup that can compete with anyone in the league. One of the best closers in the game. Young starting pitching that might be missing one veteran guy to show them the way.
"It makes a difference to have someone like that."