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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 332

post #9931 of 73652

ESPN Fantasy Baseball league????? 

Im So down. PM me with the details.

post #9932 of 73652

if anybody running a league pm me....dont wanna join a random public one 

post #9933 of 73652
Heading to AZ tomorrow night. Going to 7 games in 5 days. Can't wait. pimp.gif
post #9934 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Mike Rizzo's incredible offseason.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One of the most difficult things to do in baseball is keep a good team intact. Any number of factors from finances to free agency can fracture a team. To actually improve it and upgrade it at several key positions in one offseason can prove most difficult.

But that’s exactly what Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo did this past offseason. While other teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers might have acquired better and higher-profile players, Rizzo was surgical and precise in achieving his goals. When he was finally done, he had what I consider the best offseason campaign of any general manager.

Heading into the offseason, Rizzo had several objectives:

1. Find a center fielder/leadoff hitter
2. Find a starting pitcher to replace right-hander Edwin Jackson
3. Re-sign his free agents
4. Improve the back end of the bullpen
5. Replenish a thinned-out farm system

To achieve these objectives, Rizzo certainly had enough funds to make both the trade and free-agent markets available to him. But he also remained patient and shrewd, eventually acquiring all the parts necessary for the Nationals to actually improve a 98-win club. They should be heavily favored to reach and win the 2013 World Series.

Let’s take a look at how Rizzo accomplished these goals:

Using the trade market
It was a long courtship, but eventually Rizzo got his center fielder/leadoff man in Denard Span. Determined to fill the team’s most glaring need, Rizzo had targeted Span as far back as 2010. He wanted to upgrade the position with a less expensive alternative that would fit the team’s budget and its character.

Rizzo almost had Span last season, as he and Twins general manager Terry Ryan discussed a deal that would have sent Nationals closer Drew Storen to the Twins for Span. However, both Span and Storen suffered injuries, and the deal was never consummated. Instead, Rizzo waited.

So when a desperate Ryan knew he had to make drastic trades in order to improve his team’s starting rotation for the long haul, he sent Span to Washington in exchange for 2011 first-round pick and top pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Span, who turned 29 last week, was a significant acquisition because of his club-friendly contract ($4.75 million in 2013, $6.5 million in 2014 and $9 million in 2015). Span is a clear bargain when you realize that Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton all will make between $10 and $15 million per season for the next four years. When Span’s contract is up, the Nationals’ top center field prospect, Brian Goodwin, should be ready to take over the position.

Using the free-agent market
The Nationals had no interest in committing anything close to the four-year, $52 million deal the Chicago Cubs gave Jackson this past offseason. However, they knew they still had to somehow replace Jackson in the rotation. They were looking for quality while avoiding any long-term deal. As former GM Andy MacPhail used to say: “There’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract in baseball.”

Enter right-hander Dan Haren, who signed with Washington for a one-year deal worth $13 million. Haren won 12 games last season in the AL West, which should easily translate to at the least the same in the NL East with a team like the Nationals behind him. His past hip and back problems make him an injuy risk, but the Nationals boast one of the best medical staffs in baseball, and Haren’s one-year "prove it" deal will help motivate him to stay injury free. Some criticized his $13 million salary, but based on the market it was certainly a fair contract for the club and player.

Retaining personnel
Manager Davey Johnson made it very clear when the 2012 season ended that the club would be ready to win the World Series in 2013 if it could just re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche.

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Adam LaRoche had a monster season in 2012, hitting 33 homers with 100 RBIs.
In perhaps the most important move of his offseason, Rizzo signed LaRoche to a two-year, $24 million deal in early January. This after LaRoche’s representatives drew a proverbial line the sand, entering the offseason hell-bent on getting at least a three-year deal for LaRoche.

Indeed, LaRoche had a terrific 2012, hitting .271 with 33 home runs. He also won both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. However, Rizzo is known around the industry for being one of the best negotiators in the game. And while reports surfaced that several teams were kicking the tires on LaRoche, Rizzo continued to negotiate, and there were times that a third year looked necessary. That wasn't the case, and eventually LaRoche relented.

Truth is, the Nationals needed LaRoche more than he needed them because his left-handed bat in the middle of the order gives them proper left/right balance. The new CBA rules tying LaRoche to a draft pick certainly hurt his market and had a lot to do with him re-signing with the Nationals without a third year. But Rizzo and the Nationals’ patience definitely paid off, as they refused to bid against themselves.

Replenish the farm system
The Nationals will always be an organization built through scouting and development first. Having to trade so many prospects over the past couple of years was difficult but necessary. With added depth on the corners after re-signing LaRoche and trading for Span, Rizzo sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners in a three-way deal that included the Oakland Athletics, and reacquired top pitching prospect A.J. Cole from the A's, whom Rizzo had included in the Gio Gonzalez trade the year before. The Nationals' scouting department feels Cole’s upside is the same as Meyer's and essentially replaces him as their No. 1 pitching prospect.

An extra closer never hurts
The Nationals didn't "need" a new closer, but Storen's meltdown in Game 5 of the NLDS certainly raised some questions about the back of the bullpen. Furthermore, Tyler Clippard has thrown more innings (252) than any other reliever over the past three years, so he could use someone else to lessen the load. With former New York Yankees closer Rafael Soriano lingering on the free-agent market into January, Rizzo scooped him up with a two-year, $28 million deal.

After the deal was made, Johnson quipped: “I didn’t know we needed a closer.”

But credit this one to the Lerner family ownership group as well as Rizzo. They know with no innings-pitched limits on Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann this team is good enough to win the World Series.

This move was about an ownership and GM pushing their chips to the middle of the table. While the Detroit Tigers have decided to try to get by with rookie Bruce Rondon at closer, the Nationals went out and got the best reliever on the market. It's not hard to imagine an October scenario in which Soriano is the difference in a Detroit-Washington World Series.

Cards will have NL's best offense.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Every year it seems the New York Yankees put together a monster offense. They get on base (No. 1 in MLB in on-base percentage since 2008) and hit for power (No. 1 in both slugging percentage and home runs), so it's no big surprise that they've scored a league-best 4,234 runs over the last five years. Their 1,092 home runs during that span put them more than 100 dingers ahead of the Texas Rangers, who have the second-highest total among MLB clubs in the last five seasons. The Yankees more than have lived up to their "Bronx Bombers" nickname.

However, an interesting thing happens when you look at each team's offensive performance during those last five years and exclude the at-bats that have been given to pitchers, leveling the playing field between American League and National League clubs to a large degree. When you just look at the results each team has gotten from their hitters, the St. Louis Cardinals emerge as the Yankees of the NL.

Best bats
Excluding pitchers, these are the 10 best offenses in MLB over the past five seasons.

NYY 113
STL 112
MIL 108
BOS 108
TB 105
PHI 105
TEX 104
DET 104
LAA 102
ATL 102
The totals that include their pitchers' at-bats -- a .270/.338/.419 slash line, a .331 wOBA and 805 home runs -- don't stack up against New York's numbers, but eliminating those at-bats from players who are not paid to hit makes a big difference. Just focusing on the results from their position players, the Cardinals' team average jumps to .278 (No. 1 in MLB), their OBP jumps to .348 (No. 1, edging out New York's .347), and their slugging percentage jumps to .433 (No. 7).

That slugging percentage doesn't keep pace with the Yankees' .449 mark, but then again, the Cardinals don't play half their games in a park that was designed with home run derbies in mind. In fact, Busch Stadium annually grades out as one of the stingiest parks in all of baseball for home runs, depressing homers by about 9 percent since it opened. Yankee Stadium and its short right-field porch inflate home runs by 11 percent, for comparison.

Once you adjust for these park factors, the Cardinals' hitters have actually performed almost identically to the Yankees' hitters during this last five-year stretch. The Yankees' hitters' 113 wRC+ -- which adjusts overall offensive numbers relative to a team's home park and the average offensive levels of the league each team plays in -- is still No. 1 in baseball, but just barely ahead of St. Louis' 112, and both teams stand well ahead of the rest of the pack during that stretch (see table).

If we repeat this measurement after the 2013 season, it's quite possible that St. Louis will stand as the best overall offense of the last five years. While the Yankees' lineup looks like it's going to take a step back due to aging and injuries, the Cardinals' offense just continues to get better and better. In fact, there's a case to be made that St. Louis' 2013 lineup is one of its deepest and most impressive in recent memory.

The anchors of the team that posted a 107 wRC+ last year -- excluding pitchers, that number jumps to 114, tied with New York for No. 1 in baseball -- return, and while Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran are getting older, there are still some significant areas where the Cardinals offense could be even better than it was a year ago. For starters, Allen Craig played in just 119 games last year, so a full season from Craig could add an additional 100 or so plate appearances from one of the league's best hitters, many of which were given to an ineffective Matt Adams last year.

However, the biggest potential upgrade could come at second base. Last year, St. Louis' second basemen hit just .240/.309/.363, with only San Francisco and Colorado getting a lower OPS from the keystone position among NL clubs. Most of the Cardinals' at-bats at second base last year went to Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene, and Greene and Schumaker won't be back with the Cardinals for 2013. Descalso is still penciled in for some regular work at second, but in an ideal situation he'll spend most of his time as a defensive replacement and part-time player in 2013. The Cardinals are working with Matt Carpenter -- primarily a third baseman in his career to date -- on making the shift to second base in order to get his bat in the lineup.

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
A full season of Allen Craig would make the Cardinals' offense even more potent than in 2012. Carpenter has played a grand total of 18 innings at second base in his career, but the Cardinals had some success converting Schumaker to the position a few years ago, and they believe Carpenter has the physical skills to become adequate at the position as well. If he makes the transition, having a second baseman with a career 120 wRC+ would be a huge boon to St. Louis' already potent offense. Carpenter might not field the position well enough to be an every-day player at the start of the season, but if he hits and doesn't embarrass himself, it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup. St. Louis' other hitters are so good that second base is the only job he has a chance to win.

Having too many good hitters is a nice problem to have, and allows you to do things like experiment with a third baseman at second, but even with moving Carpenter around, the Cardinals still don't have room for all of their offensive talents. Oscar Taveras -- just rated by Keith Law as the No. 2 prospect in baseball -- is a prodigious hitting prospect who draws comparisons to the likes of Vladimir Guerrero, yet there is nowhere for him to play barring an injury. With Beltran and Holliday in the corners and Jon Jay locking down center field, the Cardinals don't have room for a hitter who destroyed Double-A as a 20-year-old last year and projects as an above-average major league hitter right now according to Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections.

The Cardinals have some pitching questions, and Rafael Furcal's continuing elbow problems highlight their lack of depth at shortstop, but St. Louis has the deepest group of offensive talent in the major leagues right now and the best hitting prospect in baseball sitting in its farm system waiting for an opportunity. They might not have a cool nickname based on their offensive prowess, but 2013 may very well signal the year when the sport begins to recognize that St. Louis is where the best offense in baseball resides.

MLB's best impact older players.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
What if you had been asked in 2003 -- following the greatest season since 1950 for aging hitters -- which position players in their prime would be the best bets to go into 2013 still going strong?

You probably would have predicted Derek Jeter, but Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada would have been in the same sentence. Ichiro Suzuki would have come to mind, but so would Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.

No matter who you picked, you would have been mostly wrong, and through no fault of your own. It's just the worst time in decades for older hitters.

In 2002, hitters in their age-37 seasons and up combined to produce 39.7 wins above replacement player, and that figure stayed above 30 wins as recently as 2007. Since then, it's cratered, and the 2012 figure of 3.5 total WARP for all age-37-and-up position players was the lowest since 1984.

The natural inclination would be to say drug testing, but it's come with a whole change in the offensive environment, with speed increasingly emphasized and DH-only types de-emphasized.

Things weren't much better for the old pitchers, who had a very similar peak with composite WARPs in the 30s from 2003-2005 but careened to a 12-year low of 5.3 in 2011 before a recovery to 13.3 in 2012. In the aggregate, 2011 and 2012 were the worst years for old players in almost three decades.

With Chipper Jones calling it a career, few elder statesmen of the game will make a major impact in 2013. Using the PECOTA projection system, let's look at the top hitters and pitchers for 2013 from the 38-and-older crowd.

Position players

Ichiro Suzuki, RF, New York Yankees
Opening Day age: 39
Projected stats: .289/.325/.378, 7 HR, 1.6 WARP

Is it weird to think the seven home runs would be a little disappointing after he hit five in 240 PAs after the trade, taking advantage of the short right field at Yankee Stadium? Either way, the power is just a bonus. Ichiro is still the most valuable old guy position player mostly because he doesn't run like an old guy yet.

Ichiro is projected to be worth 3.2 baserunning runs. The 16 other players who are entering their age-38-or-older seasons project to a combined -1.1 baserunning runs.

Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
Opening Day age: 38
Projected stats: .279/.336/.370, 8 HR, 1.2 WARP

Unlike Ichiro, Jeter's value is all in the bat. He's a negative baserunner and a very negative fielder, and he got no help in either area from the ankle injury. But the bat is good, and most importantly for a low-power guy, the BABIP has stayed consistently good (.347 in 2012, .354 career).

And with an old guy with a bat, you get milestone chases.

Jeter led the major leagues with 216 hits last year, giving him a second American League crown 14 years removed from his first and raising his career total to 3,304, which is 403 more than the closest active player, Alex Rodriguez. Assuming good health, Jeter will enter the all-time top 10, saying goodbye to Eddie Collins in April and Paul Molitor for ninth within a week after that.

Carl Yastrzemski, Honus Wagner and Cap Anson should be gone in rapid succession late in the season, and the only question is whether Jeter gets the 211 to push Tris Speaker from the top five this year.

Jim Thome, DH, free agent
Opening Day age: 42
Projected stats: .237/.346/.459, 12 HR, 1.1 WARP

This is all theoretical because Big Jim doesn't have a place to mash his taters, but sure enough, his remaining power when deployed correctly could make him almost as valuable as Jeter.

The funny part is how this position player list could have all been Yankees. When the Bombers wanted someone with no other skills to just stand on the left side and bomb, they went with Travis Hafner, projected for just 0.8 WARP in 339 plate appearances.

Top pitchers

Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, New York Yankees
Opening Day age: 38
Projected stats: 4.09 ERA in 195 1/3 IP, 2.1 WARP

He has been fantastically consistent even with the league switch in his five seasons in the big leagues, with hits per nine innings between 8.3 and 8.9 every season, BB/9 between 1.8 and 2.2 and K/9 between 6.7 and 7.3 after 5.7 in his debut. The ballpark switch makes this more impressive, and 2012 was his most valuable season.

R.A. Dickey, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Opening Day age: 38
Projected stats: 4.41 ERA in 224 IP, 1.5 WARP

PECOTA's souring on Dickey really takes root in the strikeout rate, where the National League leader in raw strikeouts is projected to drop from 8.9 K/9 in 2012 to 6.3 K/9, which is his career rate. No, the success was not out of nowhere in 2012, but the strikeout rate was.

Anyway, he still has a good shot at higher value, which is nothing new for aging knuckleballers. Phil Niekro averaged 7 WARP in his age-38 and 39 seasons, and either of those seasons would have easily led all pitchers last year. It would be new for the Blue Jays if Dickey is successful, as they've never had a 2-plus WARP pitcher over the age of 37 in their franchise history and just two who were exactly 37, Jack Morris in 1992 and David Wells in 2000.

Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Opening Day age: 40 and 43
Projected stats: Pettitte: 4.18 ERA in 138 IP; Rivera: 2.48 ERA in 53 1/3 IP. Both 1.5 WARP

OK, you might have guessed these guys would hold up pretty well.

As you can see, this is a pretty Yankees-centric group, but an aging roster hasn't stopped them before.

Scouting Taijuan Walker, Nolan Arenado.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Some observations from Monday's messy game between the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz.

• Seattle's top prospect, right-hander Taijuan Walker, threw two innings in support of Generic Starter, one good and one less so. He threw nothing but fastballs in his first inning of work, and tried to continue that in his second inning, leaving a 93 mph fastball about gut-high to Nolan Arenado, who was clearly looking fastball and hit it out to left-center, a clear mistake pitch that was compounded by Walker's predictability.

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AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Walker was messing around with a new curve against the Rockies.He started mixing in his other pitches after that, mostly a slow curve at 74-76 and a hard changeup, plus one curveball that came in at 82 and that I presume was the spike curveball he has been messing with on the side. A spike or knuckle-curve tends to come in at higher velocity and has a harder, sharper downward break, yet is nearly impossible to command -- Mike Mussina is the one major exception in the past decade or so. I don't know that I'd want Walker throwing a spike in games when it counts, although there isn't much harm to playing around with one in March.

• Speaking of Arenado, he did put a good swing on a ball in his next at-bat for a double to the gap in left-center. His stats through a week-plus of spring games have spurred talk that he'll break camp with the Rockies, as if 10 games in March can erase 140-plus games from the previous year, when Arenado took a step back as a prospect. Gabe Gross hit eight home runs one spring while I worked for Toronto, and hit only 40 in his entire major league career.

More to the point, good teams don't base major roster decisions off spring training performances, and Arenado should at least be asked to go to Triple-A, which would still be a promotion, and show both that his off year last year was a fluke and that the poor effort level he showed in 2012 is a thing of the past. It won't hurt the Rockies any to wait to start his service-time clock anyway.

• Carter Capps was sitting at 95-96 mph for the Mariners in one inning of work, and while it's not pretty -- he cuts himself off as badly as any big league pitcher I can remember seeing and comes way back across his body -- the stuff is sharp, including two breaking balls and riding life on that fastball. I don't know how long he'll last pitching like that, but he might be a right-handed hitter's worst nightmare right now.

• Stephen Pryor was a little disappointing for Seattle, working mostly 89-93, touching 95 once, with a fringy slider that was probably also suffering from the lack of strength behind the lesser velocity. The righty doesn't throw enough strikes to get away with that kind of stuff, unfortunately, but he's usually more in the mid-90s, where his below-average command is less of a problem.

• Colorado sent mostly its JV squad Monday, with starter Juan Nicasio, who might actually be in their major league rotation, pitching poorly because of below-average command. He was 92-94 with good tilt on his mid-80s slider, but didn't throw strikes and suffered for it -- although not as much as the fans suffered when he was followed by Miguel Batista.

• Colorado's Chad Bettis missed all of 2012 after shoulder surgery but is back at full strength now, although his velocity wasn't all the way there in Monday's outing. He showed a curveball in warm-ups, but during his inning of work he was mostly 90-91, touching 93 on his final pitch for a strikeout, with a cutter at 86-87. His delivery was still quick and compact and he hides the ball well, but it might be a while before he gets all of his strength back -- and there is always some concern after shoulder trouble that it won't return completely.

Breaking down Brett Jackson's new swing.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here are a few notes from Sunday's Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers split squad game at Hohokam Park in Mesa.

• There's been a ton of coverage of Brett Jackson's new swing, which makes sense as he'll have to make some significant adjustments if he's ever going to make enough contact to be an everyday player in the majors. I saw a little bit of Jackson's swing Sunday afternoon, and while it is different, I'm not sure how it's going to be better, especially for making contact.

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire
Jackson whiffed in 41.5 percent of his plate appearances in 2012.Jackson used to have a very short stride without much of a load, and his hands, which have always been quick, would always seem to start forward from a different position. Now, he's definitely more consistent, starting from a consistent spot with a slightly deeper load, but his stride is very long, leaving him with a wide base before he even gets his hands started, and producing a swing that looks unnaturally long for him. The stride doesn't get his weight transfer started early enough, and he tends to roll that front foot over through contact. Everything we liked about Jackson before, from the speed to the athleticism to the bat speed to the arm, is still present, but I wish I could tell you I thought this new swing would solve his contact problems.

• Javier Baez (the No. 31 prospect in baseball) hit behind Jackson and smoked a home run to left shortly after fouling a ball off his foot that looked like it might knock him out of the game. His at-bats were a little longer than they were in Arizona Fall League -- not that that's a high standard, but any sign of patience is progress for him.

• Edwin Jackson started for the Cubs and had his usual stuff but no command, resulting in an ugly line score, but nothing I'd specifically be worried about in the first week or so of spring training. If he's still pitching like this in the second half of March, we can worry.

• Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa threw an eight-pitch inning Sunday, working at 90-92 mph from a high three-quarters slot, throwing just one splitter at 80 mph (although it had good bottom) and a pair of short, slow mid-70s curveballs that didn't impress. There's deception here, as with a lot of pitchers who come from Nippon Professional Baseball, and that splitter should be a swing-and-miss pitch for him.

• Trey McNutt also threw for the Cubs, sitting at 92-94 mph but without much command. He looked heavier than the previous time I saw him, in the 2011 AFL, and while the stuff remains above-average to plus -- he flashed an above-average slider -- if he can't throw strikes, it won't matter what role he's in.

• On the Brewers' side, Johnny Hellweg threw two innings, hitting two batters while throwing 93-96 mph without much effort. His slider was mostly sharp at 83-85 mph, although I think hitters will pick it up early out of his hand, and he has to finish it out front to avoid throwing hangers in the low 80s that will run directly into left-handed hitters' bats.
post #9935 of 73652
Thread Starter 
A's owner must take a stand for new park.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
San Jose councilman Sam Liccardo wants the city to sue the San Francisco Giants, as Mark Purdy writes. From his story:

"The concern that seems to be broadly discussed is about litigation on behalf of the San Francisco Giants," Liccardo said the other day at his City Hall office. "But the San Francisco Giants should become concerned about the threat of a lawsuit by the city of San Jose."

Seriously? Yes, seriously. Liccardo says the Giants are not just standing in the way of San Jose's downtown reaching its full potential, they are costing the city real money.

"We have an independent economic analysis," Liccardo said. "And it documents that the fiscal benefit of a downtown San Jose ballpark -- and this is in conservative terms, with just the property taxes generated and the money that would go to public schools and to the county -- exceeds $30 million over 30 years. And any antitrust suit that the city might bring could mean treble damages."

In other words, if the Giants lost the lawsuit that Liccardo wants to file, the team could be liable for $90 million or more.

But what about the legal costs to San Jose and its citizens for filing the lawsuit? Liccardo has that handled, too.

"There are extremely qualified litigators, well-known attorneys, who are willing to take it on without a dime of cost to San Jose taxpayers," Liccardo said. "I've spoken with them. They would take it on a contingency basis."

And more:

So when will Liccardo bring his new lawsuit proposal to the rest of the council? That likely depends on [Athletics owner Lew] Wolff, who is a lifelong friend and former college fraternity brother of Selig. San Jose has taken Wolff's direction on all ballpark matters. And so far, Wolff has been reluctant to do anything that might upset Selig. Liccardo, an attorney by trade, wonders if Wolff might be getting angry enough to give Liccardo a green light.

"I'm happy to swing the hammer and pound the nail," Liccardo said. "There are others, who have a bigger stake in this, that are more reluctant. The A's ownership wants to find an amicable solution. But for the strong desire of Lew Wolff to play nice, I would be urging my colleagues to file suit right now."

To which I say: Then just stop talking about it and make it happen.

To say that Wolff has tried to play nice is being polite. To put it more bluntly: He has been Charlie Brown trying to kick a football that has been pulled away from him time after time after time.

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Wolff has been strung along by Major League Baseball, which formed a committee to study this issue so long ago that you might need carbon dating in examining some of the documents it has generated.

I've written here before that commissioner Bud Selig has quietly worked to build consensus on behalf of the Athletics to essentially force the Giants into conceding the San Jose territory, for a price.

But it's worth remembering that even if the Athletics got the OK to move today, it would be years before they would play their first game in San Jose. Wolff has a dream, and his biological clock is ticking (so to speak); the Athletics' need a game-changer, to push things along. If Wolff wants this to happen, he probably needs to stick his elbows out and start pushing. If there are lawyers ready to go with this thing, then they probably should get the paperwork in the mail … like, yesterday. Because waiting hasn't worked for Wolff yet.

Through the years, other baseball executives have noted that Major League Baseball is a very slow-shifting industry, and that there are two key factors to bring about change:

1. The loudest get the most attention.
2. Nothing generates more attention than lawsuits.

And at this point, what does Wolff have to lose?

Ryan and the Rangers

To put it simply: The reason the Texas Rangers gave Jon Daniels a new title the other day had more to do with assistant GM Thad Levine than it did with Nolan Ryan. Texas ownership wants to hold together the band that works under Daniels, and by giving Daniels the title of president of baseball operations, this creates some title space to promote Levine someday to general manager -- which is what's been done with David Forst in Oakland, and with Rick Hahn in Chicago.

But after 36 hours of speculation about Ryan's future, it's become evident that he's not happy with the shifting titles and perception. It seems like everybody in the Texas organization is working hard to say this isn't a big deal and that Ryan's status is unchanged -- except Ryan. And until he says himself that everything is hunky-dory, well, you can assume that all is not well.

It has been known for some time in other organizations that there is unrest in the Rangers' front office. Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News defines some of it here. Kevin's thoughts:

"Nolan's a baseball guy. He was a pitcher. He made his bones from a 27-year career. The guys on the other side are from the geek squad. They're guys who did not play the game. There has been somewhat of a resentment from the Daniels side, not necessarily for Jon, that Nolan gets so much credit. The weight of everything that has happened with the Rangers has been because of Jon Daniels and his group. Nolan has been very effective in his role with the Rangers. But most of the heavy lift has been done Jon's side, and there is a resentment from that side that in the national press and with the fans, Nolan get so much of the credit. Jon is smart enough to see through all that, and say this has all worked great, and we can make this work well. They have to do that. It's up to Jon at this point. He has to make amends with Nolan even though it wasn't his calling that did it."

Ryan wants to see what happens before making his decision, writes Evan Grant. He could leave soon, writes Randy Galloway, who has covered baseball in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for years.

Rondon's role

Bruce Rondon's schedule has been changed. If Rondon isn't the closer, then Phil Coke or Joaquin Benoit could be, writes John Lowe.

Jose Valverde is not regarded as an option. Rick Porcello could be an option.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. David Murphy takes a shot at guessing the makeup of the Phillies' roster.

2. Joey Votto is going to play for Canada.

3. St. Louis GM John Mozeliak thinks the Cardinals are being unfairly criticized for the handling of their shortstop situation. We talked with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the Cardinals' shortstop situation in Monday's podcast.

4. Some scouts watched Aaron Harang.

5. The Angels are looking to dress up the Big A.

6. Dusty Baker was forced to switch his lineup and wasn't happy about it.

Dings and dents

1. A dynamic reliever might not be available for the start of the season.

2. Phil Hughes is feeling better.

3. David Ortiz seems to be making some progress. The Red Sox are counting on him, as Gerry Callahan writes.

4. Luke Scott is being patient.

5. Scott Sizemore had X-rays.

6. A Mariners pitcher isn't taking chances with his sore hip.

7. Starlin Castro is nursing an injury.

Monday's games

1. Jeremy Hellickson was really happy with Monday's start.

2. The Mariners are wrecking everybody else in spring training games.

3. John Danks returned to the mound and he's glad it's over.

4. Tim Hudson was pleased with the work.

5. An Astros prospect got ahead of himself.

The fight for jobs

1. Dustin McGowan is in the mix for a job in the Toronto bullpen.

2. A rookie could earn a spot on the Indians' roster, writes Sheldon Ocker.

AL West

• Mike Trout showed plenty of speed, writes Jeff Fletcher.

• Kyle Seager is confident, not complacent.

AL Central

• All signs are positive for the Royals' rotation, so far.

• It's OK if Trevor Bauer is different, writes Bud Shaw, and it's better if he wins.

• Aaron Hicks listened to Rod Carew.

AL East

• The Orioles' Miguel Gonzalez is not taking one pitch for granted.

• The Red Sox are opting for a bat over a glove at shortstop.

• Daniel Bard will have to prove himself, writes Nick Cafardo.

• Yunel Escobar has landed with the Rays.

• Ken Fidlin takes stock of the Jays.

NL West

• Todd Helton talks about what he thinks he has left.

• Nolan Arenado's time is at hand, writes Woody Paige.

• A top Giants prospect hopes to make it to the majors this year, writes Henry Schulman.

• Brandon Crawford likes hitting in the No. 2 spot.

NL Central

• Gaby Sanchez is turning on the power.

• Clint Hurdle isn't concerned about the struggles of his starters, writes Dejan Kovacevic.

• Lance Lynn is working on his sinker.

• It's been an odyssey for Jim Henderson.

NL East

• Anthony Rendon tried to explain how he puts backspin on the ball.

• Optimism is growing in the Phillies' camp, writes Matt Gelb.

• Terry Collins wants Johan Santana to take the time he needs with his recovery.

• A Marlins outfielder is settling in.

Examining baseball's biggest issues.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Breaking down some of the biggest issues baseball faces today:

Issue at hand: Mike Trout gets $510,000 in his 2013 contract with the Angels.

Explication: Years ago, there was a tradeoff in collective bargaining between the union and Major League Baseball -- the union bartered for free agency and for salary arbitration for players with at least three years of service time, plus a handful who had just under three years of service time. The teams, on the other hand, have been left with the right to pay the youngest players -- those who aren't yet eligible for arbitration -- very cheaply. The youngest players have the right to try to barter for more money, as Evan Longoria did, but ultimately, the team holds the hammer in the first two years with all players. Everybody knows this is the case, and has been for many years.

After Miguel Cabrera helped the Marlins win the 2003 World Series, he got small raises for the next two seasons, to $320,000 and then $370,000. Craig Kimbrel made $590,000 last year after winning the Rookie of the Year in 2011. Cabrera is now worth tens of millions of dollars, and Kimbrel will start to make big bucks next year. That's the system.

So it makes almost no sense for Trout to refuse to sign his contract tender from the Angels for $510,000 and have a negotiation flare-up so early in his career. But that's what has happened, to the degree that his agent, Craig Landis, issued a statement. From Alden Gonzalez's story:

Trout's representative, Craig Landis, made it clear in an email that Trout's contract is "not the result of a negotiated compromise," adding that the salary "falls well short of a 'fair' contract and I have voiced this to the Angels throughout the process."

Landis' beef isn't with the Angels; it's with his player's union, which negotiated a system many years ago that stacked the deck against the youngest players to benefit older players.

There are worthy fights to pick. This is just not one of them, which is why even the best young players sign their first contract offers, rather than engage in some silly public spat. Trout's whole focus should be on continuing what looks to be an incredible career, and not over a financial scrap that will probably represent pennies over the course of his lifetime. He can't control his negotiations now, but soon enough, his day will come.

Jeff Miller finds the whole thing fishy. The Diamondbacks renewed the contract of Wade Miley, and there were no statements issued. Giancarlo Stanton is set to make $537,000, without any statements.

Issue at hand: Bud Selig calls for tougher penalties for players who test positive for PEDs. From The Associated Press story:

Selig wants a tougher penalty for first-time offenders.

"There's no question about that," he said.

Twelve players were given 10-day suspensions in 2005. Thirty suspensions have been announced from 2006 on, including just two 100-game bans -- to pitcher Guillermo Mota and catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. The penalty for Alfonzo was cut to 48 games because of procedural issues similar to the ones that led an arbitrator last year to overturn Ryan Braun's positive test for elevated testosterone before a suspension was announced.

Suspensions for positive urine samples announced in 2012 increased to eight, when Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal all tested positive for testosterone.

"We've made meaningful adjustments to our testing, and the time has come to make meaningful adjustments to our penalties," Selig said. "There is no question that there have been enough events that say to me the program is good, but apparently the penalties haven't deterred some people."

Explication: In the first days after the suspensions of Melky Cabrera and Colon last August, I asked Selig, in an interview in his Milwaukee office, about whether the time had come for tougher penalties. His response was (and I'm paraphrasing) that he was proud of baseball's system, and he indicated that he did not anticipate any changes to the newly signed labor agreement.

But since then, times have changed; the players are strongly signaling that they want tougher penalties, and it is smart for Selig to ride the wave of that momentum.

Issue at hand: Johan Santana rested a lot in the offseason to the point of annoying the Mets, and his regimen seems almost certain to affect his availability for the start of the 2013 season.

Explication: In the Mets' perfect world, Santana would've started the season at 100 percent and shut down hitters for three months, building some trade value by midsummer. That scenario was an incredible long shot to begin with, and even if Santana comes back and pitches effectively, the Mets would have to eat a ton of salary to trade Santana and almost certainly won't get more than a marginal prospect return -- think Grade C-minus prospects -- because there's just too much risk in him. Now the best-case hope for the Mets is that Santana's time in New York ends gracefully, with the left-hander able to make most of his starts. His legacy with the Mets is all but cemented: Ultimately, his production fell far short of what they hoped they would get in per-dollar return -- only one season of 30-plus starts, and one season of 200-plus innings. But Santana will always be remembered for being the first in organization history to throw a no-hitter.

The Mets' future dreams are tied to their pitching prospects, writes Joel Sherman.

Issue at hand: Rafael Furcal is not getting better. From Rick Hummel's story:

Furcal, who suffered a torn ligament in the elbow Aug. 30 and then was plagued by a bone spur this spring, said he began to feel worse the more he stepped up his throwing program the last few days.

"What do you want me to do?" Furcal asked, not really expecting an answer. "It's not getting better. I wish I could do whatever I could to make it better, so I could play."

Furcal has been shut down from throwing and even hitting. He last had competed in a "B" game on Thursday, taking several at-bats.

"It's very disappointing," Furcal said. "I tried to push it a little harder. We'd better back up a little bit because I feel more pain."

For now, Furcal will rest. Asked the $64,000 question, if he will be ready for the start of the season (April 1), Furcal responded, "I don't know. I wish to know if I will be ready. But you never know."

Explication: The Cardinals have a really good team, again, but they have necessarily have great safety nets in place -- or, for that matter, a very good first option, given Furcal's physical issues. They do have a lot of depth in their farm system, which puts St. Louis in a great position to pursue a shortstop during the season, whether it be someone such as Asdrubal Cabrera or Elvis Andrus or a Starlin Castro, if they become available. (To be clear, that's all speculation at this point.)

Issue at hand: Kyle Lohse, the best unsigned free agent, is not completely off the Texas Rangers' radar, writes Jeff Wilson.

Explication: The Rangers' rotation doesn't have as much depth as they had hoped to have, and Alexi Ogando has not looked good in camp. But remember, the Rangers passed on all the free agents attached to draft-pick compensation, from Nick Swisher to Michael Bourn, and if they sign Lohse, they'll lose their first-round pick -- a sacrifice which would be mitigated by the fact that they get an extra pick due to the departure of Josh Hamilton.

But it's hard to imagine the Rangers surrendering their pick for Lohse unless the deal they make with the pitcher is very team-friendly -- for more than one year, to justify the sacrifice of the pick, but for less than four years for a 34-year-old pitcher, at a relatively modest salary.

It's worth repeating, time and again: Lohse is really in a terrible spot.

• Brett Lawrie called out Russell Martin. From Brendan Kennedy's story:

Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie expressed his frustration Saturday with Russell Martin's last-minute decision not to play for Canada at the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

"For him to kind of do that right when we're about to take off, it's kind of annoying," Lawrie, a native of Langley, B.C., told the Star. He later described Martin's decision as "weak" and "not right" to Sportsnet radio.

Saturday's games

1. An Orioles pitcher had a really good day, Roch Kubatko writes.

2. R.A. Dickey felt good.

3. Tommy Milone's spring is off to a good start.

4. Drew Smyly put up zeroes.

5. Ubaldo Jimenez had a really bad inning.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Athletics are trying to determine where to hit their new shortstop in their lineup, writes John Hickey.

2. Don Kelly is showing some versatility. The Braves are looking for a left-handed hitting bench guy, and I wonder whether Kelly would be a good fit, if the Tigers don't keep him.

3. The Royals' payroll figures to be in the $79 million range, writes Bob Dutton.

4. At some point, the Twins will shut down Kyle Gibson.

Dings and dents

1. David Ortiz is still not playing.

2. Russell Martin is dealing with a shoulder issue.

3. Starlin Castro has minor inflammation.

4. Aramis Ramirez has a strained knee.

The fight for jobs

1. Brent Morel is facing an uphill battle, writes Mark Gonzales.

AL East

Nick Markakis is ready to go, writes Peter Schmuck.

Alfredo Aceves is hard to figure out.

Jose Bautista's plate passion will be monitored, writes Ken Fidlin.

Sean Rodriguez is getting his turn in the outfield.

AL Central

Victor Martinez is raring to go.

Miguel Cabrera isn't sure whether he's going to play first base or third base in the WBC.

Terry Francona wants the Indians to be aggressive.

AL West

Larry Stone is feeling a vibe from the Mariners.

Franklin Gutierrez is showing glimpses.

An Astros catcher shows how he breaks in his glove.

NL East

A Mets prospect has put together a highlight reel.

Pat Gillick believes the Phillies' window is still open.

Terry Collins hopes to be around when the Mets turn the corner.

Dan Uggla is off to a slow start.

NL Central

Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett are a good match, writes Michael Sanserino.

Michael Wacha has a high ceiling, as Derrick Goold writes.

Chris Heisey's head is up.

NL West

The Rockies intend to turn back the clock, writes Woody Paige.

Rafael Betancourt likes his new manager.

The Padres insist their team is not in financial stress. That question is being asked in the aftermath of an offseason in which San Diego did very little.

WBC decisions all about self-interest.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A player approached the manager of his major league team and asked for some guidance in deciding whether to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The manager carefully explained that he was not allowed to tell the player what to do and that it was the player's decision to make. But he added this, as a thought: "Who pays your bills?"

That's really how perspectives on the WBC are shaped, and what they come down to: Who pays your bills?

There is incredible irony in the narrative that players and teams should put aside their self-interest and participate in the WBC for the sake of growing the game. The event is a business venture, not a charity drive; it's all about self-interest, and who benefits depends entirely on your perspective.

If you're the manager of an AL team and you are being evaluated on wins and losses for your team, you don't want to risk losing a star player in exhibitions, for the sake of your team's business agenda -- and for the sake of your business agenda. If you're an executive involved in developing the sport in international markets, you want the stars to participate in the WBC because that helps your business agenda.

[+] Enlarge

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
David Wright will be participating in the WBC because there isn't any risk for him in playing.

If you are a player, you are asking yourself: What's best for me? In some cases, as with David Wright, you've signed your last big contract and there is zero risk in participating in the WBC -- so he's going. So is Shane Victorino, who just signed what probably will be his last significant deal. Justin Verlander's last big professional hurdle is to win the World Series, and sometime in the next 18 months, he could sign a deal that probably will set some sort of financial record for right-handed pitchers -- if he can stay healthy. So he's staying in the Tigers' camp, which is in his best interest as he endeavors to win a World Series, and set himself up for that last big payday.

Nobody is willing to make the sacrifices to make the WBC as great as it could be. If the WBC is of utmost importance, why doesn't MLB shut down all of the sport's business for weeks to ensure that players will be available to the WBC teams, as the NHL has done for the Olympics? (Of course, the NHL might be stopping that practice for the 2014 Games.) Because that would not be good for the financial health of spring training partners in Florida and Arizona.

Why isn't the sport shut down for three weeks in midsummer, when the players are in peak condition and the sports calendar is basically wide open? Because baseball owners wouldn't want to surrender prime home dates when kids are out of school.

How come this event isn't happening after the playoffs and World Series? There are a lot of reasons, including the players' desire to have time off, to rest and heal, in preparation for the upcoming season -- to put themselves in the best possible position to further their respective careers.

Everybody involved is making WBC decisions based on money and self-interest. And that's fine.

So nobody should expect the players or managers or general managers to sacrifice their self-interests for the sake of others when baseball owners and MLB executives aren't doing the same.

And let's not pretend the WBC is some sort of philanthropic effort designed to fuel the love for baseball worldwide. If it were, everybody would get to watch for free.

Another thing: Regardless of whether the WBC happens, the game of baseball is growing internationally. The greater concern for the sport should really be about building the sport at the amateur level in the U.S., as the general managers have discussed in their annual meetings.

The WBC has its challenges, as Tyler Kepner writes.

Either all stars should play in the WBC, like David Wright, or it should just go away, writes Joel Sherman. Jose Valverde pulled out of the WBC.


• Bruce Rondon, the Tigers' young closer candidate, struggled Friday, while Verlander was dominant, as John Lowe writes. The Tigers are starting to see the risks of lining up Rondon as the closer, writes Lynn Henning.

Rondon's numbers so far this spring:

Innings -- 2 2/3
Hits -- 3
Walks -- 4
Strikeouts -- 5

• I watched a lot of Roy Halladay's start against the Yankees on Friday, and it looks as if he is making progress toward getting back to something closer to what he's been in the past. The movement is there, and the repertoire of pitches, and his velocity is respectable, in the 88-90 mph range. I'd bet that with more time building arm strength, and with some regular-season adrenaline added in, his velocity should climb even more.

The past couple of springs have been miserable for the Phillies, but so far, it's coming together for them in 2013.

Phillippe Aumont is looking more and more comfortable, as Ryan Lawrence writes.

Tim Kurkjian, on Friday's Baseball Tonight podcast, related some interesting stuff he heard from the Phillies' players.

• Jon Daniels was promoted. This creates a line of succession, writes Gerry Fraley.

• The Yankees are 1-7 this spring and playing terribly, but as Reggie Jackson notes within this David Waldstein piece, it's a different time.

From the story:

On the other hand, if the 1977 Yankees had started out 1-7 and committed 12 errors in their last three games, as the 2013 Yankees have done, then George Steinbrenner would have made his displeasure known, in no uncertain terms, to the players, the coaches and the manager.

"Oh, he'd be in here bellowing," said Reggie Jackson, a star back then and a special adviser to the team now. "It's not like that anymore."

Today, Steinbrenner's son Hal, the team's managing general partner, prefers a more low-key approach. Some of the Yankees' mainstays, like Derek Jeter, are not in the lineup yet; none of the regular starting pitchers had taken the mound until Hiroki Kuroda did so on Friday; and many of the errors have been committed by minor leaguers who are just filling in.

• It almost goes without saying, but if Chris Perez is not ready to start the season because of his shoulder issue, then Vinnie Pestano will be the Indians' closer.

• Robinson Cano didn't want to talk about his contract situation, Mark Feinsand writes.

• Brian Roberts continues to have a great spring.

• Jose Reyes continues to say that Jeffrey Loria is not telling the truth.

The fight for jobs

1. Anthony Rendon won't break camp with the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore writes, but he impresses the heck out of rival evaluators. Davey Johnson used him at shortstop in Friday's exhibition, and you wonder whether it's possible that, as this season goes along, he eventually could be promoted and used in some sort of super utility role -- as Johnson used Kevin Mitchell for the 1986 Mets.

2. A Red Sox fan is trying to make the Red Sox, as Brian MacPherson writes.

3. Scott Kazmir continues to impress in the Indians' camp, writes Bud Shaw.

4. Julio Teheran had a great day in his effort to win the No. 5 spot in the Atlanta rotation.

5. Leonys Martin continues to play well, and Mike Olt continues to struggle.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Jon Niese will get the ball on Opening Day for the Mets, if Johan Santana can't go.

2. Todd Helton is playing today, as Patrick Saunders writes.

3. The Reds signed Mark Prior.

4. The Cubs are turning Steve Clevenger into a utlityman, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

5. A top prospect changed agents, as Juan Rodriguez writes.

Dings and dents

1. Injury issues are a concern in the Dodgers' outfield. Crawford fully expects to be ready by Opening Day.

2. The Rangers say Nelson Cruz is OK.

Friday's games

1. Gaby Sanchez had another good day.

2. Jarrod Parker was really efficient.

3. Jered Weaver made his Cactus League debut.

4. The Cardinals' Joe Kelly shook off some rust.

5. Chris Sale of the White Sox looked good.

6. Jeff Samardzija got his work in.

Dings and dents

1. Nolan Reimold was pulled from the game with a sore shoulder.

AL West

Brandon Moss will be looking to prove he's more than a one-year wonder.

The Mariners have been hitting a ton of homers.

AL Central

A Royals pitcher is looking to add a curve to his repertoire, as Bob Dutton writes.

Kyle Gibson is looking good, writes Tom Powers.

Aaron Hicks is off to a good start, writes Mike Berardino.

AL East

Red Sox fans should get ready for Jackie Bradley, writes Michael Silverman.

Desmond Jennings's focus is on getting on base more often.

Velocity doesn't mean much for Mark Buehrle, writes Ken Fidlin.

Brett Lawrie homered.

NL West

David Hernandez is ready for the WBC. Tyler Skaggs is narrowing his focus.

An important young player for the Rockies is learning patience.

Scott Proctor has been sober for four years.

NL Central

A Brewers pitching prospect is standing tall, writes Tom Haudricourt.

NL East

Michael Wuertz is trying to salvage his career, with the Marlins.

Jason Heyward is working on bunting for hits.

The maturation of Billy Hamilton.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is very good at what he does, an executive with an old-school background but with an eagerness to absorb new-school thought. And as I watched young speedster Billy Hamilton take batting practice in the Reds' camp here Wednesday, I thought of something Melvin said last year, in reference to Carlos Gomez: Sometimes the speed guys take a little more time to develop.

Hamilton surged his way toward the big leagues last season, racking up a record 155 stolen bases between high Class A and Double-A, compiling a .410 on-base percentage and generating speculation about whether the Cincinnati Reds might promote him for some specialty duty in September and the playoffs. Hamilton is 22 years old and earned his place as the No. 30 overall prospect on Keith Law's top 100 prospects.

But he also is a player who only started switch-hitting in the past couple of years, and he is still learning. On Wednesday, he hit in a group that included Brandon Phillips, with first-base coach Billy Hatcher serving as the BP pitcher, and with hitting coach Brook Jacoby and manager Dusty Baker watching from behind the batting cage. There were lessons imparted.

Hamilton's right-handed swing was crisp, quicker, with a direct path to the ball, and when he hit a hard grounder through the middle, one of the coaches who was watching laughed and said something to Hamilton about the fizzing sound the baseball made as it cut through the grass.

But when Hamilton stepped in to hit from the left side, well, the response was different. His swing had a loop, which seemed to start with his tendency to drop his back (left) shoulder. Hitting left-handed, he repeatedly fouled the ball off into the top of the cage or hit looping fly balls to left field.

Hatcher fired the ball inside, which is exactly what major league pitchers will do the first time they face Hamilton, except with a lot more velocity. Hamilton is rangy and thin, and pitchers tend to challenge smaller hitters inside, challenging them to show they are strong enough to fight off fastballs that crowd them.

After Hamilton's first series of swings as a left-handed hitter ended, Baker stepped from behind the cage and, with his consistently positive demeanor, used his hands to demonstrate the place where Hamilton needs to get to: Rather than having his hands curl inside, Baker encouraged him to take a direct, downward path to the ball.

Hamilton kept hitting fly balls, and twice more Baker gestured to him to encourage him to attack with his hands going on a slightly downward plane. When Hamilton's batting practice was over, Baker and hitting coach Brook Jacoby approached him again and chatted briefly, and Hamilton walked away nodding his head. Lessons given and heard, in one batting practice session in late February. There is still plenty of time before the end of spring training, and you hear stories about how driven Hamilton is, with a healthy and necessary dose of competitive arrogance. He is taking in so much this spring, learning how to play the outfield at the same time he is perfecting his swing.

Hamilton may or may not be the fastest player in the game, and he might be the sport's best base stealer. But there is work to be done with his swing. As Doug Melvin said, sometimes speed guys take a little more time. So far this spring, Hamilton is 1-for-8 with four strikeouts.

Hamilton came into spring training looking to improve, as he said.

Another Reds outfielder, Ryan Ludwick, is prepared to have a good year, writes John Fay.

Gattis turning heads

Atlanta Braves outfield/catcher prospect Evan Gattis has opened the eyes of one rival NL evaluator -- although there are no jobs available in the Atlanta outfield, and Brian McCann is expected to be their starting catcher again, after he comes back fully from his shoulder surgery. McCann and the Braves have agreed to table any contract talk until after the year is over, and the full expectation within the industry is that McCann is probably going to move on from Atlanta after this season.

The NL evaluator: "Gattis has been really impressive. You get to the game early and watch him take BP and it's better than the Uptons or Heyward -- he has that much power. He's looked good in spring training, but it's really early and he played winter ball so he has something of a head start. All of that being said, he's definitely a prospect and he's going to impact the Braves in 2013. He cannot play third base and, having seen him in the minors, he isn't very good at first. He's not a bad outfielder and he's actually not a bad catcher, either. He continues to improve behind the plate and I could see him getting an opportunity there with Atlanta."

At age 26, Gattis is not your typical prospect. He was set to go to Texas A&M out of high school, but issues with anxiety and drugs forced him to quit the game for a few years. The Braves drafted him in the 23rd round in 2006 out of University of Texas-Permian Basin, and his journey to the cusp of the big leagues has been anything but typical.

More on collisions (see yesterday's column)

If a talented young outfielder -- say Mike Trout, or Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras -- repeatedly ran headlong into fences in pursuit of fly balls, what would his manager and general manager tell him?

Stop running into fences. And why? To avoid the risk of injury.

If the Rays' David Price had 120 pitches through seven innings on Opening Day and a runner reached base to start the eighth against him, would Joe Maddon walk to the mound and ask him to work to 140 pitches, to save that particular run? No, he wouldn't. And why? Because the team would value assuring the health of the pitcher over the effort to prevent that particular run from scoring.

If David Wright or Joey Votto started making a habit of leaping over the railing in pursuit of foul pops, what would their managers tell them? Stop doing it. Because getting that one out is not worth losing the player from the lineup for an extended period of time.

This is why some club officials don't understand why that cautionary line of thinking shouldn't extend to catchers and blocking the plate, because is the injury risk really worth it in attempt to register one out in one game in one season?

David Ross doesn't want to ban home plate collisions, as Brian MacPherson writes. Terry Francona disagrees with Mike Matheny, writes Paul Hoynes. Mike Scioscia is not sold on the idea.

More on PED penalties

Brad Ziegler explained on our podcast the other day how the players are talking about two tiers of penalties, according to the severity of the violation, as they consider increasing the penalties for PED violations. Michael Weiner, the head of the Players Association, talks about that within this piece.

Mark Teixeira became the latest player to speak strongly about the cheaters, as Pete Caldera writes.

Dings and dents

1. Phil Hughes may not be ready for the start of the season.

2. Will Middlebrooks had a big scare.

3. Starlin Castro is dealing with a hamstring thing.

Wednesday's games

1. Jake Arrieta struggled to throw strikes.

2. Dan Haren shook off some nerves.

3. Brandon McCarthy was back on the mound. The most anxious person in the park was his wife, writes Bruce Jenkins.

4. Ned Yost was happy with a couple of his pitchers.

5. Johnny Cueto was glad to be back on the mound, as Hal McCoy writes.

6. Ryan Vogelsong took the mound with something weighing on his mind.

7. The Brewers' Chris Narveson had a good day.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Justin Masterson, the Indians' Opening Day starter, will be looking to avoid the disastrous inning.

2. White Sox GM Rick Hahn is looking to build depth, writes Mark Gonzales.

3. Don Mattingly doesn't really see Aaron Harang as a bullpen guy.

4. Mike Trout is about to become the sport's most underpaid player, writes Jeff Fletcher.

5. The Braves' TV deal is changing.

6. Alexi Ogando is struggling, which might affect the Rangers' plans, writes Gerry Fraley.

The fight for jobs

1. A Tigers' youngster is making a strong impression, as Lynn Henning writes.

2. The Cardinals' Matt Adams is making his case.

3. Daric Barton is at a crossroads in his career, as Susan Slusser writes.

AL West

• A couple of young Seattle pitchers are growing up fast.

• Bud Norris knows the value of comic relief, writes Brian Smith.

• Change is good, say some Rangers.

AL Central

• Max Scherzer says he's ready to go. I talked to him recently and asked him to name a pitcher from another team whom he liked to watch work, and he talked about Josh Johnson, and the angle he creates -- everything going downhill.

• The Twins can thank Ronald Reagan for one of their prospects.

AL East

• The Yankees are fed up with Joba Chamberlain, writes Joel Sherman.

• A member of the Blue Jays got a push from a friend, writes John Lott.

• Kelly Johnson looked comfortable in left field. Before the Rays signed him, they asked if he would be able to move around -- and, as we know, creating roster flexibility is one of the things that Tampa Bay does really well.

NL West

• The Rockies' Tyler Chatwood is trying to make a big step to the big leagues.

• Eric Young Jr. gives the Rockies options on offense and defense, writes Troy Renck.

• Don Mattingly is pleased with Hanley Ramirez's extra work at first base.

• The Padres are finally able to test a new shortstop, writes Corey Brock.

NL Central

• A.J. Burnett's switch in preparation paid off, writes Bill Brink.

• A top prospect reminds Mike Matheny of another highly touted St. Louis pitcher.

NL East

• Wally Joyner is helping Domonic Brown tap into his power, writes Matt Gelb.

• Mike Adams is rarin' to go, writes Jim Salisbury.

• A Marlin has some serious juggling skills, writes Clark Spencer.

• A new Marlins shortstop is drawing praise for his glovework, writes Joe Capozzi.

Gonzales shuts out Hogs, wows scouts.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here's a summary of some prominent draft prospects I scouted during the weekend in Arizona.

• Gonzaga lefty Marco Gonzales threw a shutout Friday afternoon, punching out nine with no walks against Arkansas, one of the best teams in the country, at one of the Royals' minor league fields in Surprise.

Gonzales was 87 mph to 91 mph, mostly 89-90 mph, working in the lower half of the zone all day. He showed a plus changeup at 77-79 mph, more on arm speed than on action, and an average curveball at 75-77 mph that varied from straight downers to ones with some two-plane break. He threw all three pitches for strikes and used both off-speed options to get hitters out, using the curveball more often his third time through the Arkansas lineup. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Colorado native is an outstanding athlete -- he took a great BP when I saw him with Team USA last summer -- who repeats his delivery well, but he offers very little projection and might end up pitching with a 45-grade fastball when he's going every fifth day.

• His counterpart for Arkansas, junior Barrett Astin, worked almost all day with his two-seamer at 88-91 mph, with good tail and sink to try to generate ground balls. The righty did flash a few other pitches, including a cutter/slider at 84-86 mph and a below-average curveball at about 80 mph, but he was a one-pitch guy, and as long as that's the case, he'd project as a reliever or less in pro ball.

• Razorbacks second baseman Dominic Ficociello played in his first two games of the season this weekend after missing the first two weekends due to an oblique strain, also switching to a new position after he spent the last two years playing first. Ficociello's swing looked long in most of his at-bats, although he did make some solid contact on Thursday against Arizona State freshman Brett Lilek (who threw very well), including a nice adjustment to a fastball away in his first at bat.

Ficociello, who is 6-4, has long arms and seems to be trying so hard to keep his hands inside the ball that it's creating an awkward path where he's long to the ball and short through contact. At second, he looked like an athletic kid trying to learn a new position, one for which he's unusually tall -- Cal Ripken Jr. is the only player 6-4 or taller to play regularly in a major league middle infield. He'll likely improve at second given time, but I think third base is probably the best long-term option for Ficociello to stay in the infield. The bottom line for him now that he's off first base is that he has to show he can hit, and show at least a little power.

• University of San Francisco starter Alex Balog has had a little early helium, but his outing in Tucson against the University of Arizona in front of a lot of scouting directors and cross-checkers was a major setback. Balog was 88-91 mph and both the fastball and his 81-84 mph slider were very flat, resulting in hard, early contact on both pitches.

He did show four pitches in total, including a below-average changeup at about 81 mph and a more promising curveball at 76-78 mph that at least showed some tight rotation, but he couldn't get any plane and Wildcats hitters teed off on him early -- his line (7 IP, 4 R, 3 K, 3 BB) could have been worse, but umpires appeared to blow two safe/out calls on the bases, both in San Francisco's favor. If the velocity bounces back and he gets more tilt on that slider, which he did flash a couple of times in the 83-84 mph range, he'd be interesting due to his size and athletic build.

• There are popup guys every spring, players who weren't on the radar the previous summer or fall but who make giant leaps with newfound velocity or other previously unseen skills. In Calvin Drummond's case, though, it's the situation that makes him a popup guy. Suspended by the NCAA for using a banned substance (allegedly from an over-the-counter product) while he was at the University of San Diego, the right-hander transferred to Arizona Christian, an NAIA school, but found out the suspension would be enforced there as well.

Drummond has been drafted three times now, by Milwaukee, Washington and Oakland, and was eligible one other time during junior college. He's now a fifth-year senior at Arizona Christian, where he's only throwing bullpens for scouts -- but they're impressive, 92-97 mph the other day with an above-average or better breaking ball, according to scouts who attended. The righty has a super-high leg kick and a very long step-over stride with great arm speed as well. He'll have to answer questions about the PED suspension and about other concerns, such as why he declined to sign a pro contract on three occasions. That said, the raw stuff is pretty special and a team looking to save money on one high pick could cut a deal with Drummond that would allow them to shift a few hundred thousand to another selection.
post #9936 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Appel, Ervin continue to solidify stock.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We're still three months away from day one of the 2013 MLB Draft, but this weekend emphasized both the strengths (college arms) and weaknesses (hitting, period) of the '13 class.

Let's start by looking at the pitchers.

Coming off a start that some scouts said was his best effort since enrolling at Stanford, Mark Appel had a lot to live up to, and he did just that. The senior right-hander struck out 14 hitters in a complete game shutout of Texas, walking just one. Over his last two starts, Appel has gone 18 innings with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 27 to 2.

"What's impressed me more than anything is how efficient he's been" an NL scout said. "Last year was good, but there were times when he chose to get cute instead of attacking hitters. So far this year you can tell he's more confident in his stuff so you get results like this."

• Sean Manaea and Indiana State had all three of their games wiped out thanks to snow in Eastern Kentucky. He'll take on Mercer next weekend in the Terre Haute Classic in Indiana.

• Chris Anderson and Tony Rizzotti weren't on many radars to begin the year, but both have put themselves into first-round consideration with their early performances.

Anderson, a junior at Jacksonville University, was facing a Texas Christian lineup that will more than likely be the most difficult he'll face all year, and he responded beautifully. The right-hander gave up just one earned run over his nine innings of work while striking out 13 and walking one. Anderson's fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90's, and he also showed a plus slider.

Rizzotti, a junior at Tulane who transferred from TCU, was also strong in his start against Alabama, pitching seven shutout innings and faning 10. The 6-foot-4 right-hander sat 93-95 with his fastball, and like Anderson, his slider looked like a big-league offering.

On the other end of the spectrum, two arms with high praise coming into the season continued their struggles this year.

Ole Miss right-hander Bobby Wahl had command issues over the summer with Team USA, and they've continued into his junior year. Wahl gave up nine hits and three walks in his five-plus innings against Florida Atlantic, and struggled to hit spots with both his fastball and curve.

Keith Law was in Orlando to see Jonathon Crawford last weekend and didn't come away terribly impressed. Crawford wasn't very impressive this weekend, either. Once again, he was slider-heavy and sat in the lower 90's with his fastball. He only gave up two runs in his six innings of work against Miami (Fla.), but did surrender 11 base runners, three of them by walk while striking out only three.

• Although he's not eligible for the draft until 2014, N.C. State's Carlos Rodon deserves a mention. The left-handed hurler was close to unhittable -- again -- against Florida Atlantic, striking out 16 over his seven innings of work. Rodon will be the prohibitive favorite to go first in the next year's draft.


High-school baseball is starting to pick up as well, and Grayson (Ga.) HS center fielder Austin Meadows had a formidable first opponent in Cullman (Ala.) HS and right-hander Keegan Thompson.

Meadows went 2-for-4 with a double and an intentional walk, while Thompson -- who is much more projection than finished product -- struggled to throw strikes and was 88-90 in his five innings of work.

• J.P. Crawford of Lakewood (Calif.) HAS also started his year, going 1-for-3 with a walk. After a solid fall season, Crawford has now passed Oscar Mercado as the best shortstop prospect in the class because of his offensive upside, even if Mercado is more likely to stick at shortstop at this point.

• It's a light year for college bats, although there have been a few standouts in the early weeks, one of them being San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant. Bryant had a big weekend, hitting two homers and three doubles, while also stealing two bases.

The question most seem to have with Bryant is where he will end up defensively, and on Friday night we saw all 6-foot-5, 215 pounds of him playing center field. That's not a likely long-term landing spot, but it's not inconceivable that we could see Bryant in a corner spot, likely right field.

"(Bryant) got some good jumps out there, and he's obviously got the arm strength" a scout at the Hughes Brother challenge in Wilmington, N.C., to watch Bryant said. "I would give him every chance to play third, but if he can't play there it is nice to know he's got other options than first base."

• North Carolina's Colin Moran was a hot name coming into the year, but so far the results have been a bit mixed. The left-handed hitting third baseman has an impressive on-base percentage of .511 on the year thanks to a near 25 percent walk rate, but his double on Saturday was his first extra-base hit of the year. With many believing that Moran will have to move across the diamond to first, the power numbers are going to have to show up if he's going to be a high selection in June.

• A huge summer in the Cape Cod league put Samford center fielder Phillip Ervin on the map, and he's backed that up with a solid start to his junior season. Ervin hit two homers against Purdue over the weekend, and he now has six on the season. Some scouts worry about his diminutive frame -- he's listed at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds -- and the fact that he plays in a very hitter-friendly park, but in a year where impact bats are few and far between, his stock could soar as the numbers go up.

Dodgers make correct closer call.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the Los Angeles Dodgers retained reliever Brandon League in October by guaranteeing him $22.5 million over three years, with the chance to earn an additional $10 million in incentives, it was a move that was largely panned in the baseball world.

League is a good-but-not-great reliever in a world where expensive multiyear contracts for nonelite relievers almost invariably end poorly for the team. Over the past four seasons, League's 3.51 ERA is nearly identical to that of Matt Belisle (making $4.1 million this year for Colorado) and Brandon Lyon (with the Mets for one year and just $750,000).

Why? Because League saved 37 games with the Seattle Mariners in 2011 and has earned the closer label. The excessive money may not bother the obscenely wealthy Dodgers as much as it would other teams, but general manager Ned Colletti compounded the decision by declaring that League would be the team's closer in 2013 despite the presence of the undeniably more talented Kenley Jansen.

[+] Enlarge
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
General manager Ned Colletti guaranteed Brandon League $22.5 million over three years and named him the closer.

This thinking is par for the course at Chavez Ravine. Last year, Javy Guerra began the season as the closer even though he is inferior to Jansen, and he lost the job to Jansen, who lost it to League when he had to miss a month with a cardiac issue.

While it's unclear if the Dodgers actually think League is better than Jansen, what is clear is that they are better off with League in the ninth and Jansen in a setup role.

It's long been a sabermetric principle that managers shouldn't preserve their best relievers for the ninth inning with a lead, because it's often not the most important moment in a game. There's clearly more danger in a reliever trying to hold down a one-run lead with two on in the eighth against the heart of a lineup than on a closer starting a clean inning in the ninth against the 7-8-9 hitters, but reliever usage doesn't reflect that.

The reason why is that it takes the right circumstances to make it work. For example, if a team has an established veteran closer -- think a Jonathan Papelbon type -- telling him he's being moved to the eighth can be seen as a demotion. If a club has only one above-average reliever, it's understandably going to be difficult for a manager to keep him out of the ninth for long if the closer is blowing games and the media is breathing down the skipper's neck.

The Dodger combo of Jansen and League just so happens to be perfectly situated to make this work, even if it seems odd to keep the better pitcher away from save chances. Jansen is a young player who did well as a closer but hardly had the standing to be untouchable. If not for that missed time, we might not be having this conversation, because League was terrible in his first weeks as a Dodger and posed no threat to Jansen otherwise.

However, after some side work with Dodgers coaches Rick Honeycutt and Ken Howell, League allowed just one run in his final 21 games, converting all six save opportunities in Jansen's absence. When Jansen returned Sept. 20, manager Don Mattingly chose to work him back in slowly as League's setup man. (He was still excellent, striking out 13 in 8 1/3 innings.)

That sequence of events is what led Colletti and Mattingly to determine that Jansen should continue to set up League, though it's probably more of a happy accident in the "it wasn't broke last September, so don't fix it" vein than it is any indication that the team is suddenly thinking especially sabermetrically.

League's Leverage Index
Brandon League has allowed a much higher OPS when the pressure is on.

Year Low Medium High
2010 .481 .721 .745
2011 .512 .536 .716
2012 .586 .633 .671
Whether it was on purpose or not, it makes sense. League can be a solid reliever -- perhaps more than solid if the mechanical change means he can maintain that excellent September performance -- yet he's also a flawed one. Using Baseball Reference's Leverage Index, we can see how he has performed over the past three years in situations deemed as low, medium and high leverage (see table).

In each of the past three seasons, League has been hit harder when the most pressure is on. Jansen, by comparison, has continued to blow away batters no matter whether the situation is tense (.465 career OPS against in high-leverage situations) or less critical (.452 career OPS against in low-leverage situations). He has also been effective against both lefty and righty hitters, unlike League, who has shown a massive platoon split over his career, limiting the tactical situations a team would want to use him in the first place.

It's clear that Jansen is the man the team should want on the mound in the most critical situations, and while it may seem counterintuitive to have a reliever who performs better in lower-pressure situations as the closer, it's important to remember again that bases empty in the ninth inning is often less important to winning a game than two on and one out in the eighth.

There's no question that Jansen is the more effective reliever, a statement that even League would probably agree with, and he may yet end up back in the ninth if League's inconsistent history returns. Yet as long as League can hold things together as the closer, Jansen will provide the Dodgers one of baseball's most dangerous bullpen weapons in the most important situations -- even if he's not the one actually collecting the saves.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
March, 5, 2013
Mar 53:34PM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe Colorado Rockies would love to add a starting pitcher, and ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney tweeted late last month that they had "checked in" with the Rays about righthander Jeff Niemann.

While the deal appears to be on the backburner for now, it could still happen, Patrick Saunders speculates in Tuesday’s Denver Post.

Niemann missed the majority of 2012 due to injury, but owns a career 4.08 ERA over five seasons and has three years of double-digit wins. Saunders there are “health issues” involved in completing any deal and the trade could involve Rockies lefty Christian Friedrich , who had a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts as a rookie. Friedrich, however, has been slowed early in camp by a stiff lower back, which could delay any deal.

The Rockies have a surplus at catcher and could consider Ramon Hernandez as trade bait in an effort to improve a staff that had the worst ERA in the majors (5.22).Tags:Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays, Christian Friedrich, Jeff Niemann
If the injury to Ramirez lingers
March, 5, 2013
Mar 52:47PM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAramis Ramirez is traditionally a slow starter, never more so than in 2012 when he posted a .214/.261/.381 slash line in April.

The Brewers decided to have Ramirez to play in more spring training games in an effort to reverse the trend, but the plan has backfired. According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ramirez expects to miss seven to 10 days of camp with a sprained left knee suffered Saturday on a slide into second base.

With four weeks until Opening Day, Ramirez has plenty of time to deal. But if the injury lingers, it could open up some at-bats at third base for Alex Gonzalez, who has been phased out at shortstop in favor of Jean Segura.

Another option is Taylor Green, who is currently playing for Canada in the WBC. It also could provide an opening for a roster spot for Bobby Crosby, the former AL Rookie of the Year who last played in the majors in 2010 and signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee this winter.Tags:Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee Brewers, Aramis Ramirez
Hochevar could be trade bait
March, 5, 2013
Mar 52:13PM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintA rotation spot is far from a guarantee for Luke Hochevar, who saw himself move down the Kansas City Royals’ depth chart following the offseason acquisitions of James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis and the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie.

Hochevar and Bruce Chen are the primary competitors for the fifth spot and both are scheduled to pitch Tuesday against an Oakland split squad . Luis Mendoza also is in the mix.

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star says numerous opposing scouts are likely to attend Tuesday’s game because other teams believe the Royals will look to trade one of the fifth-starter candidates prior to the end of spring training. Kansas City could use an extra outfielder, and a starting pitcher – even a back-of-the-rotation guy – normally brings back something in return.

The 29-year-old Hochevar stumbled to an 8-16 record with a 5.73 ERA last season and saw his walk-per-nine innings ratio rise to 3.0.Long odds for McGowan
March, 5, 2013
Mar 51:30PM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintManager John Gibbons says Dustin McGowan remains in the mix to be the Blue Jays’ long reliever, but the injury-plagued righthander is facing long odds, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star.

McGowan, who missed all of last season with an assortment of injuries, was scheduled to pitch off the mound for the first time in more than a year. The 30-year-old McGowan has primarily been a starter and won 12 games back in 2007, but he has no chance of cracking a spot in the restocked rotation that now includes R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle.

McGowan is competing with Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jeffress, Aaron Loup, Brad Lincoln and J.A. Happ for the final two bullpen spots. Lincoln was originally expected to be a starter at Triple-A Buffalo, but the Jays instead want him to remain as a reliever, giving McGowan even more competition.Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, Dustin McGowan
Tigers looking for a closer?
March, 5, 2013
Mar 512:46PM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAmong the most scrutinized players in all of spring training is Bruce Rondon, the untested reliever who is being given every reasonable chance to be the next closer for the Detroit Tigers.

It has been a bumpy road so far for the 22-year-old from Venezuela with the 100-mph fastball. In four Grapefruit League outings, Rondon has allowed five hits, three earned runs and five walks while striking out six in 3 2/3 innings. In a move that will undoubtedly be portrayed as a caution flag, the Tigers announced Monday morning that Rondon will skip his next exhibition outing and instead throw a session in the bullpen to work on his mechanics.

Danny Knobler of reports Tuesday the Tigers are “already pushing hard” to find a closer on the trade market.

Finding a closer at this stage of camp is difficult, but the Tigers do have a surplus of starting pitching and could look to deal Rick Porcello. After trading for Joel Hanrahan, Boston could be willing to deal Andrew Bailey, but Knobler says the Tigers have yet to contact the Red Sox as of Tuesday morning.

Another possibility is free agent Brian Wilson, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery.

If Rondon can't do the job as the successor to Jose Valverde, manager Jim Leyland has veterans Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel as in-house candidates. None of those choices appear to thrill Leyland at this point.

Tags:Brian Wilson, Detroit Tigers, Phil Coke, Bruce Rondon
Roster spot for Allen?
March, 5, 2013
Mar 512:24PM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintReliever Cody Allen is the only rookie likely to land on the Cleveland Indians' Opening Day roster, reports Sheldon Ocker of the Akron-Beacon Journal.

The 24-year-old Allen was called up in July and was 0-1 record and 3.72 ERA in 29 appearances last season, walking 15 and striking out 27. Allen has not allowed a run in three Cactus League innings with four strikeouts.

Prior to camp, there was some talk that 23-year-old Danny Salazar, who began 2012 at “high” Class A and ended up in Double-A, had the best chance of landing in the majors this spring, but Ocker claims “nobody is pretending that he will make the big jump to the majors without a stop at Triple-A.”Tags:Cleveland Indians, Cody Allen
Calling the shots in Arlington
March, 5, 2013
Mar 511:31AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe buzz around Texas Rangers camp in recent days has CEO Nolan Ryan as the possible odd man out in a front office shuffle.

The Rangers named Jon Daniels president of baseball operations Friday, paving the way for assistant general manager Thad Levine to eventually become the GM, and for A.J. Preller, senior director of player personnel, to continue in a prominent role.

Ryan has lost a little authority in the process, and that makes sense, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor of “As much as Ryan has done for the Rangers, JD has made the vast majority of key moves that helped the Rangers advance to the World Series two of the past three seasons,” Taylor says.

With that in mind, the change of titles could result in little change in the way the Rangers do business in the short term. ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney says the Rangers made the move to keep a bright young mind in the fold:

Buster OIney
Front office tension?
"To put it simply: The reason why the Texas Rangers gave Jon Daniels a new title the other day had more to do with assistant GM Thad Levine than it did about Nolan Ryan. Texas ownership wants to hold together the band that works under Daniels, and by giving Daniels the title of president of baseball operations, this creates some title space to promote Levine someday to general manager -- which is what's been done with David Forst in Oakland, and with Rick Hahn in Chicago. But after 36 hours of speculation about Ryan's future, it's become evident that he's not happy with the shifting titles and perception. It seems like everybody in the Texas organization is working hard to say this isn't a big deal and that Ryan's status is unchanged --except Ryan. And until he says himself that everything is hunky-dory, well, you can assume that all is not well."

Tags:Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels
Extra at-bats for Soto
March, 5, 2013
Mar 511:03AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintReds first baseman Joey Votto waited until the last minute, but finally decided Monday that his surgically repaired left knee had progressed to the point where he would be able to play for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

With Votto away from camp for the time being, prospect Neftali Soto could be in line for some extra Cactus League at-bats. Soto, whose path to the big leagues has been blocked by the presence of Votto, started at first base Monday against Arizona and is hitting .278 this spring.’s Tyler Emerick says the Reds are trying to figure out a path for the 24-year-old Soto to advance to the majors. One option is moving him to third base, where he played 96 minor league games in 2009 before moving across the field. Soto hit just .245 with 14 homers for Triple-A Louisville in 2012, but battled back spasms for a good portion of the year.Tags:Cincinnati Reds, Joey Votto
Will the Mets seek pitching?
March, 5, 2013
Mar 510:23AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe New York Mets have not been happy with the progress of Johan Santana, and general manager Sandy Alderson even declared Saturday he was disappointed that the former Cy Young Award winner did not arrive in camp in better shape.

That, of course, didn’t go over well with Santana, and a daily saga is playing itself out in Port St. Lucie. The latest twist, courtesy of Andy Martino of the Daily News, says the Mets privately concede “there is almost no chance” that Santana avoids the disabled list at the beginning of the season.

With Santana sidelined, Jonathon Niese is the likely starter for Opening Day against the Padres on April 1.

Martino adds the Mets are not expected to look outside the organization for starting pitching, even though Santana has issues and free agent signee Shaun Marcum is coming off an injury-plagued season. Jeremy Hefner, who had a 5.09 ERA in 26 appearances last season, is the frontrunner for the open rotation spot. Other internal choices include Colin McHugh and Jenrry Mejia.

The Dodgers are believed to be shopping a starter such as Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly, but the Mets have no real incentive to make such a deal since it will be difficult to remain in contention in either case.Tags:New York Mets, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese
Wainwright's contract talks
March, 5, 2013
Mar 59:47AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe St. Louis Cardinals would like nothing better than to work out a long-term deal with ace righthander Adam Wainwright, who is entering the final season of a six-year, $36 million.

The two sides decided last month to put their negotiations on hold, but the pitcher and the club and the pitcher are believed to be on good terms. Wainwright's agent Steve Hammond has returned from a 10-day trip to Israel so negotiations with the Cardinals could resume soon, tweets B.J. Rains.

The 31-year-old Wainwright, owner of an 80-48 record with a 3.15 ERA, has one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball and will be looking for a big raise. Cole Hamels of the Phillies (seven years, $153 million) and Matt Cain of the Giants (eight years, $140 million) each signed highly lucrative extensions in the offseason, but each is a few years younger than Wainwright.

And as we saw with Albert Pujols, the Cardinals do not hand anyone a blank check. Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright
Still a high price for Lohse
March, 5, 2013
Mar 59:15AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintWe are four weeks away from Opening Day and Kyle Lohse remains on the free agent market. With the clock ticking, has Lohse lowered his demands? Not necessarily.

According to Ken Rosenthal of, one team in contact with Lohse says agent Scott Boras is still asking for “three years and a ‘big’ AAV.” As in average annual value, which translates to big bucks.

If Boras can get another of his clients, Rafael Soriano, a two-year, $28 million with Washington, it seems logical he is still seeking something in that $14 million annual range.

The Texas Rangers have been mentioned as a leading suitor for Lohse, but Richard Durrett of says it doesn’t seem worth giving up a draft pick for the righthander at this point. The Rangers would have to surrender the No. 24 pick in the 2013 draft and the pool money that goes with it if they sign Lohse.Tags:Kyle Lohse, Texas Rangers
If Crawford isn't ready..
March, 5, 2013
Mar 59:01AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe Los Angeles Dodgers are playing it safe with outfielder Carl Crawford, Crawford, who had hoped to make his Cactus League debut last Thursday, but ended up flying to LA to have his surgically repaired left elbow checked by a team doctor.

Crawford hasn't played a game for the Dodgers since being acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a blockbuster deal last August, but GM Ned Colletti remains optimistic Crawford be ready for Opening Day, reports Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times.

If Crawford opens the season on the disabled list, the Dodgers are likely to use a platoon of veteran utility players Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston in left field. If Crawford’s problems persist, they could consider trading from their starting pitching surplus in search of an outfielder.

Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly all have been mentioned as possible trade bait.Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Carl Crawford
Rangers interested in Porcello?
March, 5, 2013
Mar 58:28AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments4EmailPrintThe Texas Rangers would like to add a starter and the Detroit Tigers are one of the few clubs with a pitching surplus. That has prompted the Rangers to inquire about the availability of righthander Rick Porcello, says's Adam Rubin.

The competition for the fifth starter race in Texas took a significant turn Sunday when lefthanded prospect Martin Perez suffered a broken forearm when he was struck by a line drive. Perez could be out for at least two months.

Left-hander Robbie Ross and right-hander Randy Wells are two of the candidates for the fifth-starter spot.

With an opening at the back of the rotation, the Rangers could have a greater incentive to sign free agent Kyle Lohse. But agent Scott Boras reportedly is looking for a three-year deal, and the Rangers might view Porcello as a less-costly alternative.

By working out a trade instead of signing Lohse as a free agent, the Rangers would avoid giving up a draft pick. The Rangers would surrender the No. 24 pick in the 2013 draft and the pool money that goes with it if they sign the righthander.

The Tigers have the flexibility to move the 24-year-old Porcello following the re-signing of free agent Anibal Sanchez.Tags:Texas Rangers, Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Second base battle in Oakland
March, 5, 2013
Mar 58:04AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintIf Scott Sizemore is to win the open competition for the second base job in Oakland, he not only has to outplay Jemile Weeks, but the needs to stay healthy.

The latest setback came Sunday when Sizemore suffered a left hand bruise against Colorado when he was hit by a pitch from Tyler Chatwood. X-rays revealed no broken bones, but Sizemore might have trouble swinging a bat for a couple of days, says's Jane Lee.

Sizemore was expected to be the A's starting third baseman last year but suffered a season-ending injury in spring training. He was 1-for-10 this spring before singling in his first two times up Sunday.

After hitting .303 as a rookie in 2011, Weeks entered 2012 as one of Oakland's building blocks but struggled so mightily (.221 BA) that he was sent to the minors. Weeks is off to a fast start in Cactus League play with six hits in his first 11 at-bats (.545), including a pair of doubles.Tags:Oakland Athletics, Scott Sizemore, Jemile Weeks
Kazmir's timetable
March, 5, 2013
Mar 57:53AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe next step in Scott Kazmir’s comeback is an appearance Wednesday in a minor league “B” game for the Cleveland Indians, where his goal will be to work on secondary pitches, reports's Jordan Bastian.

Kazmir, who has not pitched in the major leagues since 2011, is competing against Carlos Carrasco, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and David Huff for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The fact that the 29-year-old Kazmir is proceeding with caution might indicate that he is behind the rest of the pack. But if the lefthander shows signs of progress, the Tribe could be more than willing to have Kazmir start the season in the minor leagues and see what happens from there.

Kazmir had five straight seasons of double-digit wins, but his career tailed off drastically after being traded from the Rays to the Angels.
post #9937 of 73652
Anyone have MLB '13 The Show yet?

Came out today.

Here's the thread.

Has info & vids.
Edited by GotHolesInMySocks - 3/5/13 at 3:27pm
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #9938 of 73652
Originally Posted by GotHolesInMySocks View Post

Anyone have MLB '13 The Show yet?

Came out today.

Here's the thread.

Has info & vids.

post #9939 of 73652
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

Heading to AZ tomorrow night. Going to 7 games in 5 days. Can't wait. pimp.gif
WBC or spring training? Or both?
I head out Friday morning for the WBC
post #9940 of 73652
Team USA tied the White Sox? Tied...The White Sox. Promising bunch.
post #9941 of 73652
Originally Posted by mr jordan04 View Post

WBC or spring training? Or both?
I head out Friday morning for the WBC

I'm going to 3 spring training games and all 4 of the WBC games at Chase. Never been to Chase before so I'm excited about that.

Have you been to ST before? It's my 4th time in a row and it's a blast. Have a good trip man. pimp.gif
post #9942 of 73652
Where you sitting at chase? I'm in the 2nd row behind the dugout pimp.gif
post #9943 of 73652
Nice. My boy got the tickets so I don't remember exactly but we're behind home plate, 2nd deck I think.
post #9944 of 73652
Jonathan Schoop with a 3-run moon shot. Netherlands up 5-1 against Cuba. Andruw Jones was pumped haha
"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye

"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye

post #9945 of 73652
Andruw Jones smokin.gif
"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye

"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye

post #9946 of 73652
Andruw was feeling it. Netherlands with the upset win. Simmons making great plays already kid is gonna be very good for Braves

Mexico lost they should have won Sergio Romo blows the save smh now they play USA
post #9947 of 73652
CARDS LOCK UP ALLEN CRAIG FOR 5 years........nice!!!!

Dude is easily a 300+,30+, 100+ guy if it weren't for random injuries. Missed an entire month and still got 90+ rbi and hit .400 risp
post #9948 of 73652
Astros will still suck but I still can't wait to watch them.
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
post #9949 of 73652
Originally Posted by RetroBaller View Post

Astros will still suck but I still can't wait to watch them.
Those 10:30 west coast start times, shall be intriguing.
post #9950 of 73652
Spain looking sloppy early, but most of these guys are from Cuba they're like the Cuban B team. Some of them are on the team cause they're married to Spanish women or their parents are Spanish citizens, that's crazy but awesome.
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
post #9951 of 73652
Mariners dropping Teal for Cream and Gold in 2014?

I do love Cream color Jerseys though
post #9952 of 73652
I've been watching so much WBC this last week. I love this ****
post #9953 of 73652
Originally Posted by Ballerific703 View Post

I've been watching so much WBC this last week. I love this ****

Games have been awesome so far. Italy putting in work grin.gif .

USA vs. Mexico, first pitch any minute now.
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #9954 of 73652
Originally Posted by macbk View Post

Originally Posted by Ballerific703 View Post

I've been watching so much WBC this last week. I love this ****

Games have been awesome so far. Italy putting in work grin.gif .

USA vs. Mexico, first pitch any minute now.

Man the DR team has been stroking this tourney
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
post #9955 of 73652
USA about to go down to Mexico mean.gif
Dickey getting lit up early laugh.gif
post #9956 of 73652
Jimmy Rolllin's is bad. Dickey getting smacked.
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #9957 of 73652
I need that Team Mexico Fitted pimp.gif
post #9958 of 73652
I know it's barely Spring Training on the timeline, but this may be a sign of things to come from Dickey. I thought he severely overachieved last year.
post #9959 of 73652
AGon was born in us but plays for Mexico mean.gif
post #9960 of 73652
Meanwhile, Gallardo with a groin injury is pitching extremely well. Gonzo with a shot to right center smokin.gif
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