Posted on: November 8, 2011 12:38 pm
Regarding all the industry buzz that has the Orioles in hot pursuit of free agent slugger Prince Fielder this winter?
It might be time to cool it.
Baltimore issued its first public policy statement on Fielder on Tuesday, and in his introductory press conference as the club's new general manager, Dan Duquette sounded like a man more interested in devoting resources to the farm than to Fielder.
"Everybody wants to look at established major league players," Duquette said when asked specifically about big-ticket free agents such as Fielder or pitcher C.J. Wilson. "My success in the free agent market has been more signing players who can compliment the team [once core players are in place].
"When you can sign a player who can get you over the top, that's the time, I think, when it's right to go into the free agent market, personally."
From their perch at the bottom of the AL East, where they went 69-93 and produced the worst pitching staff in the American League, the Orioles do not look like they are ready to go "over the top" anytime soon.
Duquette's strength is in scouting -- both domestic and international -- and player development. He did sign free agents Manny Ramirez (2001) and Johnny Damon (2002) when he was in charge of the Red Sox, though those Boston teams were much further along than the current Orioles.
Duquette added Manny to a Red Sox club that had finished second in the AL East at 85-77 in 2000, then added Damon to a club that was second at 82-79 in 2001. Three years later, his instincts were proven correct: The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and again in 2007.
Speaking in Baltimore on Tuesday, Duquette noted that when you think you're within a player or two of winning, or when you have a chance to sign someone who is "a good value for a long period of time, that's when you should go into the free agent market. I believe Orioles fans understand that."
Sure doesn't sound like an organization prepared to toss a blank check in Fielder's direction.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:41 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Boston is now four teams ago in his rear-view mirror but, nevertheless, Tampa Bay outfielder Johnny Damon is sorry to see Terry Francona and the Red Sox part ways.
"It's sad to see him walking away from the game right now," Damon said following the Rays' 9-0 stomping of Texas in Game 1 of the AL Division Series here Friday. "I love him as a manager. He stated he didn't have the clubhouse chemistry he once had, especially back in 2004 when we were able to do some wonderful things.
"To me, he's a Hall of Fame manager. He's always going to be remembered in Boston."
Posted on: June 6, 2011 9:31 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 9:46 pm
KANSAS CITY -- If Bubba Starling, the Royals' first-round pick in Monday's draft, follows the same path as Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon (this year's model), Billy Butler, Luke Hochevar, Aaron Crow and even Mike Moustakas, an already rich farm system will become even more fertile.
Mixed in among the 25 consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance was one significant recent false start, in 2003. The Royals that year had their only winning season in the past 16, and Tony Pena was named American League manager of the year. Beltran, at 26, was the center fielder.
By the middle of '04, Beltran had been traded to Houston and by the middle of '05, Pena had been fired.
The general manager is different now -- Dayton Moore instead of Allard Baird -- but the owner is still the same in David Glass.
"Everybody wants to sign good, young players long-term," Moore told me during a conversation shortly after the Royals made Starling their top pick. "We're no different in Kansas City. We've demonstrated that over the last three years by signing Zack Greinke, although we traded him, Billy Butler and Joakim Soria to long-term deals. Those have been our three most productive players over the last four years."
And in the Royals' defense, though they're short on pitching, their price for Greinke was high, including current shortstop Alcides Escobar.
"That's why you've got to have a great farm system," Moore said. "If you have a lot of good players, it's going to be hard to sign all of them long-term in the economy of today's game.
"John Schuerholz in Atlanta [the former GM and current president] signed Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones long-term, but he couldn't keep Rafael Furcal. He signed John Smoltz long-term but couldn't keep Tom Glavine, even though he tried.
"Our goal, by 2012, 2013, is to have the majority of our 25-man roster reflect home-grown talent. Hopefully, we can do it. We're on pace to do it. Then there's a pride factor -- they know the rookie ball hitting coach and manager, the know the coaches and managers all the way up."
Then, Moore says, if players decline long-term deals or leave via free agency, "they're not just saying no to the Kansas City Royals. They're saying no to every coach, instructor, scout and front-office person. That's a major split."
"That's what we're trying to do," Moore said. "I believe in the plan. We have to execute the plan."
For more on the MLB Draft: http://eye-on-baseball.blogs.cbsspo
Posted on: February 21, 2011 8:15 pm
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Good Manny Ramirez, not Bad Manny, is here (for now).
So, too, is Johnny Damon -- who waltzed out of camp after Tampa Bay's first full-squad workout Monday in a comical, crisp white T-shirt reading "johnny biceps".
Nothing like the warmth, smiles and sunshine of early spring.
And the unbridled optimism that goes with it.
Say what you want about Ramirez and Damon and how maybe Tampa Bay would be better off if this was, say, 2004. The Rays will counter by insisting there is a method to their Maddon-ness.
"There was a lot of energy out there. At first I thought it was attributable to [infielder] Ray Olmedo," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon quipped of the largest opening day spring crowd any of the Rays remember.
"I really did. Then, seeing all the signs, I knew they were more interested in Manny and Johnny. Seeing [fans] moving around, it was almost like an NFL practice.
"We're not used to that. But we love it."
Ramirez stopped and signed several autographs on his way off of the field. Then he did a round of interviews with the Tampa Bay televisions stations covering the first workout (and then he did one with us, which you'll see later in the week when we post our Tampa Bay Camp Report).
Damon spent some 30 minutes doing rounds of media interviews after the workout.
Which is all well and good. But these Rays think they can contend despite losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit to free agency, and trading Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.
And as such, they didn't bring Damon and Ramirez in to perform some sort of circus act.
"It really augments our lineup," Rays general manager Andrew Friedman said. "It adds to our depth. We have a number of young players we're counting on this year. It adds protection in the event of injury or poor production from one of our young players, it allows us to be able to shelter them a little bit more."
And, Friedman noted, it helps balance the lineup. Damon is a lefty, Ramirez swings righty.
"Both grind at-bats, both have experience in the division and, more importantly, both wanted to get back into the fray. Both missed playing in the AL East and wanted to get back.
"They're definitely going to make our team better. The question is, how much?"
Part of that, the Rays hope, is by filling the veteran leadership void left by the departures of Crawford and Pena.
"If our young players watch the way Manny prepares every day, I'd be thrilled," said Friedman, who noted that Ramirez was in the cage hitting a few mornings ago at 7:30. "If they watch the way he studies video, and what he does to get his swing right, and the amount of time he puts into it, and our young guys emulate that, I'll be thrilled."
Ramirez has lost 12 pounds from last year after battling leg issues.
As for Damon, Friedman said, "he's going to add a lot to front part of our lineup, whether it's in the one or two hole. The way he grinds at-bats, the value he adds on the bases. We still feel like he's got a lot left in the legs, in the way he takes care of his body."
Maddon intends to have spring training scheduled out for both veterans.
"I want to pay attention to their legs," he said. "I want to set up a schedule in advance that they know they're going to have, and not just 'I'm a little tired today' or "I felt a little something coming out of the box.' I want to avoid those moments."
On Monday, as the Rays kicked things off, the moments were all light-hearted and festive.
The "johnny biceps" T?
"Someone sent it to me," Damon said.
And how many times have you worn it?
"Once before," he deadpanned. "It matches [the shorts]."
Sunblock Day? Breeziest day yet in Florida, but still sunny and in the 80s.
Likes: Omar Vizquel still hanging around with the White Sox. ... Mary, the nice lady from Bemidji, Minn., who is a snowbird in the winter and works as an attendant outside the press room at Tampa Bay's camp in Port Charlotte. Her first year here, but her husband, a retired law enforcement guy, worked here last year and convinced her to join him at the ballyard. Nice people, and so cute. ... Bennett's Fresh Roast Coffee in Fort Myers. Best coffee house on the circuit. Phenomenal coffee and "hand-cut" donuts made on premises to rival Krispy Kreme's. Seriously. ... Carl Hiaasen's Double Whammy. Nobody lampoons Florida and its characters like Hiaasen, which makes it a perfect read for here. The county morgue is in a converted Burger King because it was the "only building in town with a walk-in freezer." And when the pathologist goes to examine a drowning victim, there's this: "The stench was dreadful, a mixture of wet death and petrified french fries."
Dislikes: Things still do not sound right in Justin Morneau's comeback from a concussion. ... Doing laundry in the hotel.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Like Miles Davis, I've been swayed by the cool
-- Gaslight Anthem, Miles Davis and The Cool
Posted on: August 24, 2010 11:14 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Just when you think they're all mercenaries who only care about the next whopping contract, along comes Johnny Damon thumbing his nose at Boston.
We already knew Damon to be an exciting, if aging, ballplayer. We already knew him to be one of the game's extraordinarily nice guys.
Now we know he's not a phony.
Nothing against the Red Sox, who are doing a marvelous job of hanging in there despite losing players to the disabled list so frequently this summer that Terry Francona has been reduced to playing guys who are unrecognizable even to their own mothers.
But Damon has been there, done that, and it did not end pleasantly.
Looking for work this spring, he and his agent, Scott Boras, suddenly did more for Detroit's image than the Renaissance Center ever did. Damon professed his love for the Red Wings and all things Detroit. Boras rhapsodized about how much Damon always has loved Detroit.
It would have been sickening -- if it weren't true.
How do I know? Well, I couldn't resist. I sat down with Damon in Lakeland, Fla., this spring and administered a quiz covering all things Detroit and Michigan. Not only did he good-naturedly play along, he did quite well.
Anyway, seven months later, Damon told the Tigers he wouldn't accept a deal to Boston because Detroit is where he wants to be. He individually talked to all of his teammates first to make sure they still wanted him around. He said he hopes to play again in Detroit in 2011, and he said he knows that if manager Jim Leyland reduces his playing time down the stretch, it could cost him money on the free agent market this winter.
Didn't matter. Damon didn't want to change his stripes. (And his chances of stepping into a pennant race in Boston wasn't exactly guaranteed, either).
Next time you become disenchanted with the modern athlete for whatever reason, remember Damon. Maybe you hated him when he was with Boston, maybe you hated him when he was with the Yankees. Perhaps you never liked him with long hair, or maybe you were angry when he chopped his locks.
Whatever. Bottom line is, Damon showed this week he is a man of principle.
Likes: Ah, San Francisco. Gorgeous summer day today. Hot. It actually reached 100. And that brought the crazies out (even more than usual). Walking between the Rasputin music store and Border's books, I passed a raggedy-looking man on the street grinning and holding up a homemade sign fashioned from a cardboard box reading, "Ass watching is a sport." When I walked back 30 minutes later, he was still at his post proudly displaying his sign. Meantime, John Fay, Reds beat man for the Cincinnati Enquirer, saw two older men walking down the street completely naked protesting, as Fay said, something. ... If the White Sox do get Manny Ramirez on waivers, he and Ozzie Guillen will be quite a combo. And Guillen always thought Frank Thomas was a handful. ... Great run along the Embarcadero on Tuesday morning down to AT&T Park. Love the atmosphere around empty ballparks early in the day before they come to life at night.
Dislikes: Still haven't caught up to the final three Friday Night Lights episodes from this summer. Looking forward to carving out some time to see them. ... School starting again. I know lots of parents eagerly anticipate the kids going back. Not me. I like having mine around.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"When that last guitar's been packed away
-- Jackson Brown, The Load Out
Posted on: August 24, 2010 2:34 am
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Posted on: August 24, 2010 2:29 am
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Posted on: August 24, 2010 2:26 am
Cody Ross: Who loves ya, baby?
SAN FRANCISCO -- Wanted or not, outfielder Cody Ross joined the Giants on Monday, arriving in the clubhouse at 6:10 p.m. and cracking his first base hit and scoring his first run for San Francisco about three hours later.
This keeps up, maybe the Giants really will want him.
The odd spot in which Ross finds himself is that the Giants already had five outfielders and the speculation is intense that they claimed Ross off of waivers solely to block NL West rival San Diego from claiming him.
When Florida didn't pull him back, Ross became property of the Giants. And San Francisco is on the hook for paying the remainder of his $4.5 million salary for 2010 -- approximately $1.1 million.
Ross, 29, grinned when asked whether he really feels wanted in San Francisco.
"When I heard, I knew the situation over here and how many outfielders were here, but that's something I can't control," he said. "I'm not going to try to play manager or GM. I'm just going to go all out and when they tell me what I need to do and when I'm going to play or where I'm going to play, I'll just do it. And I'll try to be a good teammate."
Likes: Nice pre-game tribune to the late Bobby Thomson and his famous home run -- The Shot Heard 'Round the World -- before Monday night's game in San Francisco. They replayed the clip on the big scoreboard (yes, complete with Russ Hodges' famous call, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!") and there was a moment of silence. The Giants, the franchise for whom Thomson hit the homer to win the 1951 pennant, had not been home since Thomson passed. ... Nice to see how healthy former infielder Aaron Boone is following open heart surgery little more than a year ago. Boone was here in his capacity as an ESPN broadcaster and looks great. ... No question Texas manager Ron Washington did the right thing in removing Rich Harden after 6 2/3 innings Monday despite the fact that he was no-hitting Minnesota. He had thrown 111 pitches and it wasn't too long ago that he came off of the disabled list. The guy has a history of arm trouble and you simply cannot crush him, even for a no-hitter.
Dislikes: I know it's a chance to play in meaningful September (and possibly October) games, but if Johnny Damon goes to Boston, he's the ultimate sellout. And I don't think he is. I think there's more depth to Damon than people think. ... Finishing Pat Conroy's Beach Music, and while his writing remains superb, the plot in the second half of this book unravels badly, in my opinion.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
" On the road again
-- Willie Nelson, On the Road Again