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."
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.
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.
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.
• Mike Trout showed plenty of speed, writes Jeff Fletcher.
• Kyle Seager is confident, not complacent.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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.
Larry Stone is feeling a vibe from the Mariners.
Franklin Gutierrez is showing glimpses.
An Astros catcher shows how he breaks in his glove.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brandon Moss will be looking to prove he's more than a one-year wonder.
The Mariners have been hitting a ton of homers.
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.
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.
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.
A Brewers pitching prospect is standing tall, writes Tom Haudricourt.
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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.