Tag:Toronto Blue Jays
Posted on: March 8, 2012 7:59 pm
 

Driving Florida's back roads with Maybin & Alonso

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Small world, baseball. So it's not a shocker that Yonder Alonso knew a few Padres when he was traded from Cincinnati.

He was teammates with three current Padres at the University of Miami -- catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Blake Tekotte and catcher Jason Hagerty -- on a Hurricanes team that was the No. 1 seed entering the 2008 College World Series.

But the best story is his acquaintance with center fielder Cameron Maybin.

"My first impression was, 'Geez, who is this guy?'" said Maybin, who first encountered Alonso when they were playing Florida travel ball as high schoolers.

Maybin was playing for the Midland Redskins, Alonso for the Florida Bombers.

When the two met, Maybin says, Alonso went 4 for 4 with three home runs.

"I still have the tape of that game," Maybin says.

Playing alongside Alonso for the Bombers: current Blue Jays catcher J.C. Arencibia, Reds pitcher Mat Latos (whom Alonso was traded for, ironically), Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia and Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay.

"They were sick," Maybin says.

The Twins drafted Alonso in the 16th round that year (2005), but he passed and went to the University of Miami instead.

"I needed it," Alonso said. "I wasn't ready for pro ball. I needed more baseball in me, and I needed to mature a little bit more."

Sunblock Day: Cool Thursday, but the wind stopped and that made all the difference. As predicted, the high was right at 60 degrees.

Likes: Chris Getz, vying for a job as Kansas City's second baseman. Good kid. He loved the fact that I was wearing a "Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band" hoodie in Royals' clubhouse (hey, it's been cold ... and he's from the Detroit area). ... Sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. Perfect combo... Spotting a Culver's Frozen Custard in Arizona. ... Old Town Scottsdale. You can't go wrong. ... The Jacuzzi at my hotel pool, which provides some pretty solid therapy for this doggone oblique strain that has been nagging at me (yes, spring training can be tough for writers, too!).

Dislikes: Clocks changing Saturday. Ugh. I like the idea of it being light later and later. Love it. But man, I hate giving up that hour of sleep Saturday night.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"We're gonna need each other
"So I'll drive while you sleep
"And when I get too tired you can take the wheel from me"

-- Steve Azar, Hard Road
Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:13 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:19 pm
 

Riffs from the Hall of Fame voting

The 2012 Hall of Fame election -- by the numbers, and with the skinny. ...

Elected

Barry Larkin, 495 votes, 86.4 percent: Many numbers tell the tale, such as Larkin becoming the first 30/30 (homers/steals) shortstop in history. But how about in 1988, when he led the majors with only 24 strikeouts in 588 at-bats?

Maybe next year (or the year after)

Jack Morris, 382 votes, 66.7 percent: Great chance next year (which will cause massive coronaries in Sabermetric community), but he could run smack into wall via overloaded ballot that includes Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

Jeff Bagwell, 321 votes, 56 percent: Start forging plaque after big jump from 41.7 percent last year.

In need of GPS

Lee Smith, 290 votes, 50.6 percent: A decade on the ballot and it's like he's trapped in a Republican debate. No traction.

Tim Raines, 279 votes, 48.7 percent: Criminally unsupported for guy who ranks second all-time in stolen base percentage (300 minimum attepts), though up 11 percentage points over last year.

Edgar Martinez, 209 votes, 36.5 percent: Fighting the designated hitter uphill battle. If you don't have 3,000 hits, it helps to have worn a glove at some point during your career.

Alan Trammell, 211 votes, 36.8 percent: Heading in the right direction after 24.3 percent last year, but still undeservedly playing the "bye" to the voters' "good."

Fred McGriff, 137 votes, 23.9 percent: CSI investigators -- or are those PETA reps? -- checking for pulse as Crime Dog's 493 career homers get no love.

Larry Walker, 131 votes, 22.9 percent: Even the Canadian exchange rate doesn't favor Cooperstown.

Mark McGwire, 112 votes, 19.5 percent: Big Mac Fan Club not allowing new members. Remarkably consistent from last year's 115 votes, 19.8 percent.

Don Mattingly, 102 votes, 17.8 percent: Just three more years left on the ballot. Hope Donnie Baseball's managerial stint with Dodgers outlasts that.

Dale Murphy, 83 votes, 14.5 percent: A Hall of Fame man, and even if he can't be in Cooperstown, I hope baseball somehow involves him more.

Rafael Palmeiro, 72 votes, 12.6 percent: Did this guy or his career really exist? Outside of wagging a finger at Congress, I mean?

Bernie Williams, 55 votes, 9.6: To those who support Bernie and Jorge Posada: How about we just put every Yankee who played between, say, 1996 and 2001, into the Hall?

No soup -- or future ballots -- for you

Juan Gonzalez, 23 votes, 4 percent: The Rangers had a homecoming ... and no Hall of Fame supporters showed up for Juan-Gone.

Vinny Castilla, 6 votes, 1 percent: Six votes?!?! Vinny had one Hall of Fame moment. That came near the end of his career when he walked into the stadium past me as I was arguing with a security guard who wasn't buying my press pass, stopped, grinned, then approached me in the clubhouse wanting the scoop ... and complimenting me for getting in the guy's face so spiritedly.

Tim Salmon, 5 votes, 0.9 percent: Not Cooperstown worthy, but easily could join Dale Murphy in the all-time good guys' Hall.

Bill Mueller, 4 votes, 0.5 percent: The guy won a batting title (AL, 2003), but I think somebody mis-read Mueller's moving receipts for Hall votes.

Brad Radke, 2 votes, 0.3 percent: I'm assuming the two who voted for Bad Brad are refugees who watched him, incredibly, win 12 consecutive starts while going 20-10 for an absolutely miserable Twins team in 1997.

Javy Lopez, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Had the Braves allowed him to catch on nights when Greg Maddux started, he may have earned two votes.

Eric Young, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Very cool. Had no idea Eric Young's mother was in the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Jeromy Burnitz, 0 votes: Yeah, but he'll always have that starting berth for the NL in the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston on his resume.

Brian Jordan, 0 votes: Coincidentally, no votes for the NFL Hall of Fame, either.

Terry Mulholland, 0 votes: No votes, but gets points for being part-owner of the Dirty Dogg Saloon in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Phil Nevin, 0 votes: On the other hand, his managerial career (Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens) is taking off.

Ruben Sierra, 0 votes: Whatever happened to the Village Idiot?

Tony Womack, 0 votes: The New York precinct refused to consider him following that game-tying, Game 7 double against Mariano Rivera to set up Luis Gonzalez's game-winner in the 2001 World Series.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:57 am
 

Beltran talks hot, Indians now in mix

Carlos Beltran continues to sort through interest from at least five clubs -- maybe more -- and hopes to make a decision by Christmas, sources with knowledge of the discussions say.

The Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays were all said to be "in the mix" on Wednesday, and talks were heating up. By Wednesday night, the Indians had joined them in serious talks with the free agent outfielder.

Beltran is said to have offers for both two and three years, with the dollars varying significantly. He earned $20 million last season in the final summer of a seven-year, $119 million deal.

At this point, the six-time All-Star appears to be weighing his preferred city (cities?) against average annual value (AAV) in yearly salary. The many American League clubs involved suggest that, at this point in his career, teams view Beltran more as a designated hitter than as an everyday outfielder.

While Beltran still prefers the outfield, one source close to him said Wednesday that he would be open to DH'ing part-time.

One team that probably would offer Beltran the most time in the outfield is St. Louis. The Cardinals have been aggressive all along, especially since Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. St. Louis figures to move Lance Berkman to first base and go with Allen Craig in right field, with Matt Holliday in left and Jon Jay in center field. Beltran could mix in both in center and right in a rotating Cardinals cast.

Beltran has intrigued the Blue Jays all winter -- enough, according to a source, that their pursuit remained unchanged after it was revealed this week that the Rangers had won the posting for Japanese free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. In other words, did the Blue Jays, who were believed to be knee-deep in the Yarvish bidding, up their ante after losing the pitcher? No, they've been aggressive all along.

In Toronto, Beltran projects more as a DH-type, because the Jays, of course, have Jose Bautista in right field and Colby Rasmus in center. As of now, they've got newly acquired Ben Francisco, Travis Snider or Eric Thames in left field. Beltran has played very little left field in his career.

The Red Sox have had an exceptionally quiet off-season, losing closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies and so far failing to add any significant pieces. They have been looking for a bat to lengthen their lineup, and with right-fielder J.D. Drew gone, Beltran makes some sense in Boston. Right field can be demanding in Fenway Park, however, with the configuration of the fence, and David Ortiz is back as the Red Sox DH.

Tampa Bay, on a tight budget, needs help at both first base and DH, where Johnny Damon got most of the at-bats last year.

The Indians have been scrounging around for ways to improve their offense all winter, and their late entry into the Beltran talks Wednesday added intrigue as the outfielder moves toward making a final decision. Cleveland has been a distant admirer before -- the Indians spoke with the Mets last July about acquiring him in a deal. Beltran had no-trade powers then and, eventually, approved a deal to San Francisco. The Giants talked about bringing him back early in the off-season but scotched that idea fairly quickly because of a tight budget.

Adding Beltran not only would give Cleveland another potent bat that it seeks, but also depth behind center fielder Grady Sizemore. Banged up severely in recent years, Sizemore has undergone five surgeries in the past two seasons, including one to fix a microfracture in his knee. The Indians are set at the corner outfield spots with Mickey Brantley and Shin Soo-Choo, and at DH with Travis Hafner.

Now 34, Beltran batted .300 with 22 homers, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage in 142 games last summer for the Mets and Giants. He's had serious knee issues in the past but was strong enough to produce an All-Star season in 2011.

The Rockies also were talking with Beltran, but earlier this week they signed former Minnesota Twin Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million deal.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:32 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 7:00 am
 

Rockies, Cards, Jays among those in on Beltran


The market for Carlos Beltran is heating up, with at least five clubs and possibly more seriously talking with the free agent outfielder. Among them, according to sources: The Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals and, as CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported earlier Tuesday, the Colorado Rockies.

At least two other unidentified clubs are said to be engaged in talks with Beltran, with most of the clubs talking multi-year deals.

The Blue Jays' emergence as one of the clubs is noteworthy in that Toronto is in rebuilding mode and general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made several moves this offseason already, notably acquiring outfielder Ben Francisco from the Phillies, closer Sergio Santos from the White Sox and catcher Jeff Mathis from the Angels. The Jays are set with Colby Rasmus in center field and slugger Jose Bautista, who finished third in this year's AL MVP voting, in right field.

Colorado has been surprisingly aggressive in the free agent market this winter and made a hard run at Michael Cuddyer, who late Tuesday night appeared to be closing in on ex-Twin status with Minnesota close to a deal with Josh Willingham. Willingham's deal, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Joe Christensen, is reported to be worth three years and $21 million. While the Rockies also talked with Willingham, multiple sources say that both Cuddyer and Beltran ranked higher on Colorado's wish list than him.

Beltran, 34, makes sense for the Cardinals, who are reeling in the aftermath of losing three-time MVP Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels last week. Most likely, Lance Berkman will move to the infield and play first base for the Cardinals and, given their current scenario, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday would play the corner outfield spots and Jon Jay would play center field.

In that arrangement, however, the Cardinals wouldn't have much depth and the middle of their lineup might be thin.

Beltran batted .300 with 22 homers, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage in 142 games last summer for the Mets and Giants. He has had serious knee issues in his past but came back in 2011 to produce an All-Star season.

It is not yet clear which other clubs are in on Beltran. The Giants earlier this winter all but declared themselves out of the running because they expect to cap their payroll at $130 million in 2012. General manager Brian Sabean talked like they would stay in touch with Beltran but would not extend a large offer.

Posted on: December 8, 2011 2:13 am
 

Fielder talks inch along in Dallas

DALLAS -- Waiting for some juice in the Prince Fielder talks?

Keep waiting.

"We've spent the past three days stuck in hotel rooms going through the flurry of teams that have come in and made their presentations, listening to teams talk about their interest levels, what they see and how Prince can fit into their organization as a player and contractually," Scott Boras, the agent for Fielder, said late Wednesday night. "We're taking all of this information, and I'm heading out to meet with Prince and discuss it and get an approach.

"And then we're going to begin furthering the process with teams."

Translation: Fielder isn't close to finding a landing spot.

The big first baseman declined the Milwaukee Brewers' offer of arbitration Wednesday, confident that there is a long-term deal awaiting him in the market. With all of the attention so far devoted to another slugging first baseman, Albert Pujols, Fielder's status has remained under the radar since the free agent signing period started last month.

The Brewers are maintaining contact with Boras, but they are not confident in their financial ability to retain him. Texas remains interested but on the periphery (for now), according to sources familiar with the Rangers' plans. So, too, does Seattle, whose general manager, Jack Zduriencik, was Milwaukee's scouting director when the Brewers made Fielder their No. 1 pick in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2002 draft.

There are those who believe the Cubs will enter the bidding, but all appears quiet on the North Side of Chicago for now (besides, the Cubs have been involved with Pujols so far). Some people think the Blue Jays will turn aggressive in Fielder's direction.

Boras maintains that the Pujols talks are not impacting those of Fielder, and that whatever decision Pujols ultimately makes will not affect Fielder.

"I just don't see teams other than the team that signs Albert -- that would be the only team I would think that would be impacted," Boras said. "The real issue is, does a team need a young, franchise core player? These players have so much value to them because they have value from the media content, they increase your RSN [Regional Sports Network] value tremendously, they also increase your attendance and they also allow ownership to retain ancillary players at a greater rate because those players want to stay on a winning team with a core player like that.

"It's very nice to hit in front of those kinds of players, and that attracts players. We saw in Milwaukee a great pitcher, Zack Greinke, let his original team know he wanted to go there and play. And that's because they had players like Prince Fielder there. And I think players sign long term to stay with those teams.

"There's an attraction value that comes with those players that help clubs retain the players they have or attract other ones.

"I just think there are few of them."
Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Diamondbacks' Towers shakes things up

It's not necessarily the path to the NL West title. But it was not surprising to see aggressive, first-year Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers strike a deal Monday as Arizona's tenuous hold on first place shrinks.

The Diamondbacks were absolutely pasted on their current trip by NL pennant contenders Philadelphia and Atlanta, dropping two of three to the Phillies and losing all three to the Braves.

Will Tuesday's acquisitions of shortstop John McDonald and second baseman Aaron Hill from Toronto reverse that trend? Let's just say a shift in the schedule, away from the two best teams in the NL, will be the biggest help.

But it's all hands on deck now as the Diamondbacks work to keep baseball's biggest surprise story going, and both Hill and McDonald should help.

In McDonald's case, Arizona is still trying to plug the hole at shortstop left when Stephen Drew fractured his ankle a month ago. And in Hill, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson now has another hand to play at second base in place of Kelly Johnson, whose fuel tank appears on "E". Johnson, since the All-Star break, is hitting .181/.246/.324.

Hill isn't exactly tearing it up (.225/.270/.313), and his OPS is second-worst in the American League (his .584 ranks 150th of 152 players with at least 400 plate appearances). But he's a better contact hitter than Johnson and hit a combined 62 homers for Toronto in 2009 and 2010. In Arizona's thin air and homer-friendly park, maybe Hill can run into a few.

The Diamondbacks need something, and quickly. Their 2-0 win in Washington on Tuesday snapped a six-game losing streak. The ugly corollary to that: When Sean Burroughs cracked his first homer since April 30, 2005 -- a two-run blast -- they were the Diamondbacks' first runs scored in 32 innings.

During their six-game losing streak, Arizona batted a combined .153 with only seven runs scored, three doubles, a triple, three homers, 17 walks and 55 strikeouts. Ugly.

This just after new acquisition Jason Marquis, acquired to help eat innings and serve as a veteran anchor in the rotation, blew out for the season with a fractured leg.

Things could have gone from bad to worse Tuesday when slugger Justin Upton, having a career year, left in the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch in the left elbow. Early reports -- a bad bruise, no break -- are encouraging, but if Upton is slowed, that will make things even more difficult.

As things now stand, once the Diamondbacks leave Washington following Thursday's game, 29 of Arizona's final 32 games are against NL West clubs (with a three-game set at home against Pittsburgh mixed in).

Will that help? Hard to say: Arizona is 23-21 against NL West opponents this season. What might help most is this: Arizona plays 19 of its final 32 at home, and the Diamondbacks are 36-26 in Bank One Ballpark so far this season.

Likes: Two bumper stickers I've seen recently. The first: "My Child Was Student of the Month at Pedro's Tacos." The second: "Whassup haters?" Love the first one. ... Cool summer in Southern California, but it's warmed up this week and I got out for a bike ride along the ocean Tuesday. And it was beautiful.

Dislikes: An earthquake in Washington, D.C.? What's next, a damn blizzard in Los Angeles?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"She wrote a long letter
"On a short piece of paper"

-- Traveling Wilburys, Margarita
Posted on: August 10, 2011 8:21 pm
 

Pirates in need of either air or allergy shots

I ran cross country for four years in high school. I was OK, not great, for a couple of reasons. One, I was smallish back then and not very strong. Two, hay fever clobbered me annually in Michigan, from August until the first frost in late September or early October. Ragweed pollen choked off my breathing passages, and there were days when it felt like I could get no oxygen into my lungs.

Sort of, I imagine, how the Pittsburgh Pirates are feeling these days.

For four months, the Buccos were one of the best stories in the game. Even Commissioner Bud Selig said that Pittsburgh's was the first score he checks every night. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Bucs were buyers at the July trade deadline.

Then, wheeze, wheeze. ...

Clint Hurdle's club fell into a 10-game losing streak that has all but asphyxiated Cinderella. At 56-60, the Pirates were 10 games behind Milwaukee. Steelers season again is on deck in Pittsburgh.

What happened?

Well, there are a lot of explanations, but those mostly are just accumulations of pieces of answers from over there and parts of answers from over here. Their pitching suddenly disappeared on them. Their bats went silent. The lowly Cubs and Padres swept them at home, socking the Pirates with their first winless homestand of six-or-more games in their 125-year history.

The Pirates were outscored by 45 runs during the 10-game streak.

Basically, the Pirates confirmed what many believed from the start: They're not quite ready to win yet.

Young legs and fresh arms are as important as ever in the game -- and, with the majority of steroids and greenies evidently expunged thanks to tighter testing, more important these days than at any time since the mid-1980s.

But young talent alone is not enough. Because among the many things the youngsters must develop is stamina -- both physical and mental -- for a 162-game grind.

The story of this year's Pirates is shaping up remarkably similar to that of last year's Padres, who also were the best story in the game until ... yes, until a 10-game losing streak knocked the wind out of them. Only difference was, the Padres skid started a couple of weeks later, on Aug. 26. Pittsburgh's started a month earlier, on July 29.

One common thread is poor Ryan Ludwick. The Padres acquired him last July 31 because they needed more production in the middle of their order. Pittsburgh dealt for him this July 31 for the same reason.

Now Ludwick is something of an unwilling expert on would-be contenders falling into 10-game losing skids and seeing their seasons crumble.

Though the losing streak wrecked their season, last year's Padres did gain a second wind, played in meaningful games all the way to the last day of their season and wound up with 90 wins.

These Pirates are only on pace for 77 wins, and the interesting thing now will be to see how they respond the rest of the way. This is an important stretch. General manager Neal Huntington has built a good nucleus of young players -- Andrew McCutchen, Neal Walker, Jose Tabata (who has been injured), Pedro Alvarez (who is having a miserable season). Pittsburgh is far closer to winning than it has been in a long time.

Still, what they need is some room to breathe, some room to grow. Some air.

That, or some allergy pills.

By my senior year, by the way, we won the league title. I contributed in a few small ways, scoring points here and there, but others did the heavy lifting. Still, it was a great ride and I made some lifelong friends while running over the trails and through the woods.

I still think about those days at this time of year, when school beckons and the baseball season shifts toward its final sprint. Sometimes the trails go uphill. Sometimes they disappear into the woods. The trick is in the persevering.

It would be a shame if things completely got away from the Pirates in 2011. This is an organization that has endured 18 consecutive losing seasons, a record for North American professional sports.

It won't be nearly the same as watching them fight for a spot in October, but if the Pirates can't climb back into the race, watching them battle for a .500 finish will still be pretty good drama.

Likes: Dan Uggla extending his hitting streak to 31 games. ... Sign-stealing controversies. There has been off-the-record chatter about those kind of capers in Toronto for years. It's amusing and entertaining. And my response is, if you think the Blue Jays are stealing your signs, then change your signs. ... The law in the great state of Michigan prohibiting public schools from starting before Labor Day. That's the way it should be everywhere. Summer doesn't end until Labor Day Weekend, does it? ... Here's to Jerry Garcia, who died 16 years ago Aug. 9.

Dislikes: The dancing woman in Cleveland behind the plate in that crazy Indians-Tigers game that ended at 2 a.m. the other night. Can't you just sit still and watch a ballgame? As if she wasn't distracting enough (I was home watching on television), she trended on Twitter. Now I can just see dozens of other wackos following suit looking for their own publicity. Please, no.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well the first days are the hardest days
"Don't you worry any more
"'Cause when life looks like easy street
"There is danger at your door
"Think this through with me
"Let me know your mind.
"Oh, oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?"

-- Grateful Dead, Uncle John's Band
Posted on: July 23, 2011 3:13 pm
 

Gillick unequivocally denies Cubs rumors

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Pat Gillick as the next president of the struggling Chicago Cubs?

If that's the new Hall of Famer's next move, he said Saturday here at the Hall, it's news to him.

Rumors of him possibly taking charge of the Cubs after this season started a few days ago with a Chicago radio station, far as Gillick knows, and the special assistant to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said "it's entirely not true."

"I don't know Mr. Ricketts," Gillick said of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. "I've never even met him."

Gillick said that he thinks current Cubs general manager Jim Hendry "has done a good job. They've had a lot of injuries. I've always found Jim to be very forthright."

As for his own future, Gillick, 73, said that he will not take another general manager's job.

However, he said he would consider a potential job as a club president.

"I'll take a look at it," Gillick said. "But as far as a lateral move, I absolutely would not do it. I love my situation with the Phillies."

A former GM in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, Gillick said that if executives were depicted on their plaques in a cap, he would choose that of the Blue Jays, where he took charge of his first big league club and cemented his reputation as one of the best in the game.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com