Sunday, February 27, 2011

Edward Donald "The Duke" Snider 1926-2011

During the summer of 2007, I visited the exhibit The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 located at the Museum of the City of New York. In it I saw first hand the effect that players such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider had on their fans and the city of New York. Listening the song Talkin' Baseball by Terry Cashman also brings back memories of a baseball past that I can only see through newspaper articles and news footage.

So when I heard that one of the famed trio of the Golden Age of New York City centerfielders and member of the famed Boys of Summer, Duke Snider passed away at the age of 84, well I felt that had to write something.

Duke Snider was born Edwin Donald Snider September 19, 1926 in the city of Los Angeles California, growing up in the South Central area of the city. Snider was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers straight out of Compton High School, where Snider was an athletic standout in the sports of baseball, basketball and football. After serving a tour of duty in the Navy from 1944-1946, Snider began his major league career.

Snider debuted with the Dodgers on April 17, 1947 joining a talented team made up with such outstanding players like Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo. This era is considered to be the Golden Age of New York Baseball. The page for the Museum of the City of New York's exhibit The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 describes it as so:

The decade between 1947 and 1957 was the golden age of baseball in New York City. With three major league teams—the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the New York Giants—at least one of whom played in the World Series every year except 1948; two National League teams in an intense rivalry each season; and seven landmark subway series, New York was the undisputed baseball capital of the nation.

From 1947, until they left Brooklyn in 1957, the Dodgers won six National League pennants (1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956) and winning their only World Series in Brooklyn in 1955. The man known as the "Duke of Flatbush" was a main component of these teams. Snider was a seven time All Star and finished in the top ten of MVP voting six times. Snider continued playing with the Dodgers as they moved to his home town in 1958. He has the distinction of being the last player to get a base-hit at Ebbets Field and the first player to get a hit at Dodger Stadium.

Snider helped the Dodgers win their second World Series in 1959 against the Chicago White Sox. Snider's contract was sold to the New York Mets in 1963 and after a brief return to New York City, Snider's contract was sold to the San Francisco Giants in 1964. Snider would retire in the same year after the Giants released him. Snider would be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1980, joining fellow New York Centerfield Greats Willie Mays (1979) and Mickey Mantle (1974).

Former Los Angeles Times staff writer Mike Kupper describes Snider's career as so:

Snider hit 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons and during the 1950s led all major leaguers in home runs, 326; runs batted in, 1,031; runs scored, 970; and slugging percentage, .569. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .295 and 407 home runs, 389 of them as a Dodger, still the team record. He is the only player to have twice hit four homers in the World Series, matching his 1952 feat in '55, the year the Dodgers won the Series and he was named major league player of the year by Sporting News.

Snider remained in baseball as a broadcaster for the San Diego Padres (1969-1971), Montreal Expos (1971, 1973-1986) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1991), as well as, being a hitting coach for the Montreal Expos (1973-1974).

Having been child in New York City during the 1970's, I would hear the stories about New York's Golden Era of Baseball on baseball telecasts and be envious that I was born too early to have experienced it. Going to the areas of Flatbush and Harlem where the former Ebbets Field and Polo Grounds existed I find it hard to believe that there were major league stadiums erected there once upon a time ago. Another component of the magical era has gone to rest. The Duke has gone to the big ballpark in the sky, joining the Mick in a fabled homerun contest. May the Duke of Flatbush rest in peace.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for the Duke Snider obituary written by Mike Kupper from the Los Angeles Times website dated February 27, 2011
- Click Here for the Duke Snider obituary written by Richard Goldstein from the New York Times dated February 27, 2011
- Click Here to access the Duke Snider page from the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown's webpage
- Click Here to access the transcript of Duke Snider's induction speech given at the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown on August 3, 1980
- Click Here to access the virtual exhibit of The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 provided by the Museum of the City of New York

California Dreamin' 2011 Part II

It seems that the fortunes of the two teams that play within the aura of the city of Angels have diminished. Where both the Angels and the Dodgers have been aggressive in the free-agent market in years past, this offseason marked one of muted activity for both teams. Stealing the headlines in Los Angeles was the impending divorce of the McCourts: Frank and Jamie, as well as the retiring of Joe Torre as manager of the Dodgers. In Anaheim, the headlines noted the inability of the Angels to sign or trade for one big name player for the second straight year. Both managers, 1st year skipper Don Mattingly of the Dodgers and veteran manager Mike Scioscia have their hands full with their respective teams. (For my views on the remaining California teams read the first part of my post California Dreamin' 2011 Part I)

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

After missing out of the Roy Halladay. Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee sweepstakes the last two seasons, the Angels are looking weaker, older and slower compared to division rivals the Oakland A's and Texas Rangers. The Angels' season was defined by the injury to first base slugger Kendry Morales due to landing wrong in a home plate celebration thereby breaking his leg. The team's offense was abysmal ranking 25th in batting average compared leading the league with a .285 batting average in 2009. The offense looks to be somewhat improved with the addition of outfielder Vernon Wells who came over to the Angels from the blue jays for Outfielder Juan Rivera and catcher Mike Napoli (who was then traded to the Texas Rangers). Where the trade made little fiscal sense for the Angels (the Angels are responsible for $81 million of the remaining $86-million dollars if Wells decides not to opt out after this season) on the field it improves the team. The outfield takes on a much more improved look with Rookie Peter Bourjos in center and veterans Torii Hunter and Wells in the corner. Bobby Abreu will now DH on a full-time basis replacing Hideki Matsui who signed in the offseason with the Oakland A's.

The main key for the Angels is the return of first baseman Kendry Morales. Morales anchors the infield of Howie Kendrick at second, Erick Aybar at shortstop and Alberto Callaspo at third. Catcher Jeff Mathis will play behind the plate until prospect Hank Conger is ready.

The strength of the Angels lies with their starting rotation. Jared Weaver, Ervin Santana. Dan Haren and Joel Piñeiro make up one of the best front four in the American League and can only get better if dissapointing left-hander Scott Kazmir can actually deliver on the hype of his potential.

Though the bullpen is weakened by the loss of Brian Fuentes to the rival Oakland A's and the departure of long time Angels reliever Scot Shields, the Angels made strides by signing Masanori Takahashi (formerly of the New York Mets) and Scott Downs (formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays). It seems like the team will open with hard throwing Fernando Rodney as the closer but if he fails to deliver, look for Scott Downs to step in.

Mike Trout is seen as the can't miss prospect for the Angels this year.

I believe the Angels can be a threat in the AL West if all of their pieces remain healthy and productive. As I said earlier, I believe the key will be how Kendry Morales recovers from his leg injury. The Angels have stated that they will start him slow this spring and see how he progresses.

The Los Angeles Dodgers

As much as I love Don Mattingly, I find it hard to believe that the Sporting News predicts that he'll win the National League Manager of the year award. This is a team that really hasn't improved much in the last two years since the splash made with the arrival of Mannywood to Dodger Stadium. The franchise is known more for the marital discord of it's co-owners and the retiring of legendary manager Joe Torre. Now I'm not saying Mattingly can't win manager of the year. But let him win a few games an stumble in a few others before we crown him NL manager of the year. The man has his hands full.

Offensively the team has issues. The biggest issues is whether or not franchise player Andre Ethier will bounce back from an injury plagued 2010. Ethier has admitted to coming back too soon from his pinky injury and it hurt the team rather than helped it. Fellow outfielder Matt Kemp is one of the brightest players in the game and needs to continue to improve his game to benefit the Dodgers. The signing of Tony Gwynn Jr., also helps Kemp since I believe Gwynn has better range in center possibly allowing Kemp to move to one of the corners. Jay Gibbons provides stability in the outfield off of the bench.

The biggest offensive move was the signing of free agent Juan "Bluribe" Uribe from the rival World Champion San Francisco Giants to a 3-year $21 million dollar deal. Uribe is slated to play second base but with an infield of older veterans like Casey Blake and injury prone Rafael Furcal, his versatility at playing multiple positions will be invaluable to the Dodgers. James Loney is somewhat of a disappointment since the power numbers that were expected of him have yet to develop though with 88 RBI he can drive his fair share of runs. 

Behind the plate, veteran Rod Barajas takes over full-time duties with Dionner Navarro returning to the Dodgers from Tampa.

The strength of the team lies in it's rotation. Joining Clayton Kershaw (who was picked by Sporting News to be the 2011 NL Cy Young Award Winner), Chad Billingsley and Hideki Kuroda (1-year $12 million dollar deal) will be mid season acquisition Ted Lilly (3-year $33 million dollar deal) and Jon Garland (1-year $5 million plus incentives). Vicente Padilla also returns as a possible sixth starter and/or long relief man though his status is in jeopardy due to a possible injury.

The bullpen is somewhat of a question mark for the team. I believe the key to the team's success lies with closer Jonathan Broxton, who needs to find his dominant form after struggling and losing his closing job to setup man Hong-Chi Kuo. Kuo provided a suitable replacement for Broxton but the team would benefit more by having a tandem of Kuo and Broxton at the top of their respective games. 

The big free agent relief signing for the Dodgers came in the form of Matt Guerrier (3-year $36 million dollars) who had four straight season with Minnesota of 70 or more appearances. He'll solidify a middle relief corps that consists of Carlos Monasterios, Ronnie Belsario (if he can ever straighten out his immigration/visa issues), Ronny Troncoso and rookie Kelly Jansen. 

I think the Dodgers have a chance to success in a very competitive division. Though I think they lack the proven pitching of the Giants and the offensive pop of the Rockies, if they stay healthy, the Dodgers might be able to make Mattingly's first season as manager a success. If not, they might not improve from the 80 wins they put up last year.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Do Teams Keep Passing on Orlando Cabrera

I've had this conversation numerous times with friends of mine and I finally decided to something. My friend Barry, who is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, says he wishes Orlando Cabrera would have stayed in Boston post-2004. There is no denying that Cabrera was an important part of the magical 2004 Boston Red Sox team. After coming up with the Montreal Expos in 1997, Cabrera played in Montreal for almost eight seasons, coming to the Red Sox in a pivotal four team trade.

In case there are you who aren't familiar with the trade, the Boston Red Sox sent Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton to the Chicago Cubs. The Minnesota Twins sent Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs sent Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris to the Montreal Expos. The Chicago Cubs sent Justin Jones (minors) to the Minnesota Twins. The Montreal Expos sent Orlando Cabrera to the Boston Red Sox and into the history books as being a member of the 1st Boston Red Sox team to win a World Series since the 1918 team.

So why was he not resigned? Why did the Red Sox let an important cog to their team sign a three-year deal with league rival the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? The same can be asked about later teams who either traded Cabrera (to the Chicago White Sox for Jon Garland and to the Minnesota Twins for minor leaguer Tyler Ladendorf) or let him walk in free-agency (Chicago, Minnesota and Cincinnati). It seems to me that a player with a career .274 batting average and since 2001 has played in 160 or more five times and in 150 or more games eight times can be a productive member of any team. So why does he keep moving around.

It seems that the issues comes from management. I found a forum page from the Royal Rooters of the Red Sox Nation page. On this forum page, a few of the comments weigh in on a some points that could have led to the Boston Red Sox passing on signing Cabrera after the 2004 season. Many have to do with his extra-curricular activities. I won't go into some of them since they seem to be somewhat out there and somewhat salacious. Here is the link to the forum page What caused the Sox to walk away from Orlando Cabrera. Now I am not advocating this point of view in any way, shape or form. I'm just passing along what I've found and I'll let you make any judgments.

Maybe it was a case of going after a better shortstop in Edgar Renteria (which as we know had a horrible 2005 in Boston and was traded to the Atlanta Braves after the season). Looking back now, the move proved valuable to the Red Sox since they received two draft picks from the Angels for signing Cabrera which are now in the form of Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury. In Chicago, Cabrera had arguments with official scorers, managers and calling out of teammates in radio interviews which I can see rubbing people the wrong way both on the bench and in the front office. But it still doesn't answer the question. Why can't Cabrera stay on from more than a year or two with a single team.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this. Maybe it is just a case of Orlando Cabrera being the kind of player that gets traded to a contender for the playoff push and/or he's a player that gets signed to play shortstop for one year until a prospect is ready to take his position. Will he play out the entire season with the Cleveland Indians or will he be traded mid-season to a contender. Anyone out there have a differing point of view on why this is the situation with Cabrera? Any ideas?


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access What caused the Sox to walk away from Orlando Cabrera from the webpage
- Click Here to access Tom Fornelli's article Orlando Cabrera Feels Neglected from's webpage dated May 28, 2008
- Click Here to access Mark Potash's article Orlando Cabrera Isn't The Sox' Problem from the Chicago Herald-American weblog dated September 8, 2008

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's Going to Happen to Miguel Cabrera

With the first full day of workouts at Spring Training sites across Arizona and Florida, one face is missing from the Detroit Tigers camp in Lakeland, Florida. Franchise player Miguel Cabrera has yet to report to camp and according to the Associated Press article Cabrera misses Tigers' first full-squad practice Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is quoted as saying: "Miguel is not going to be here today nor will be here for the next couple of days,". The reason for his delay? It has to do with Cabrera's drinking problem.

Let me say up front, I am not trying to be judgmental with this post. Far from it. I can say that working in a bar I somewhat feel responsible for how bad people get when they drink. I work in an industry that profits from those who drink, regardless if they drink responsibly or not. I am not here standing on a soapbox when I wonder what's going to happen with Miguel Cabrera. He has had a history with his drinking that some would say has hampered his ability to perform on the field.

During the end of the 2009 season, the Tigers and the Minnesota Twins ended the season tied for first and needed a tie-breaker to decided who would win the American League Central. 12 hours before the game was to start, a 911 call went out from the Cabrera household by his wife which led to Cabrera being detained at a local police station until Tigers GM Dombrowski picked Cabrera up. There was apparently an argument and an altercation due to Cabrera's coming home late after a night of drinking. This led to an apology to his teammates for being drunk on a weekend while the Tigers were trying to hang on to the lead in the AL Central and a promise to get the necessary help in combating his problem.

After spending three months in an outpatient treatment program for alcoholism during the 2009/2010 offseason, Cabrera was quoted in January 2010 as stating: "My drinking was a problem, and I feel good without it. I feel like a new man,". Cabrera claimed that since the day of his arrest on October 3, 2009, he was alcohol free. By March of 2010, Cabrera's tone in reference to his situation seemed to change. In reference to the media's portrayal of his situation, he was quoted as saying: "You guys write in the paper 'alcoholic,' that's not right, I don't know how to explain, but it's not an alcohol problem.". Cabrera arguably had his best season in 2010 coming second to the Rangers Josh Hamilton in the AL MVP vote (Cabrera finished 4th in the 2009 AL MVP vote). Here we are in February of 2011 and things seem to have gone full circle for Cabrera.

Cabrera was arrested last week on charges of suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and resisting arrest when he was found in his car by a Deputy in Fort Pierce, Florida. Though, he was just sitting in his car with the engine running on the side of the road, Cabrera apparently took a drink from a Scotch bottle in front of the Deputy. The police described Cabrera as being uncooperative, yelling out "Do you know who I am, you don't know anything about my problems" and cursing at the police while resisting which led to his resisting arrest charge. The full police report is located at the following SBNation site: Click Here. Getting back to my original point in the title of this post: What's going to happen to Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera is in the 4th year of his 8-year $152 million dollar contract with the Tigers. It seems unlikely that the team will cut ties with their franchise player. While Tigers Manager Jim Leyland seems to have taken the stance that Cabrera's problems with alcohol is not a problem, it is. We're dealing with adults here and let's be honest, adults let loose at times. We all have stress in our lives regardless if we make $22 million a year or $22 thousand a year. The issue is not how we release our stress but what steps we take to do so responsibly. I'm sure the teams have resources available to players like taxi service to and from Spring training sites and team hotels to ensure the players get to and from places safely. The players just need to utilize them to avoid situations like Cabrera's. When you get to Cabrera's level of having gone through an intervention, then things change.

By taking Leyland's tact of nothing being wrong is like placing a finger in a leaking dam with 20 other cracks leaking water and expecting the leaks to go away. I believe that Tigers GM Dombrowski says it best when talking about Cabrera:

We have an issue here that needs to be addressed and helped -- and we're going to help him. We fully support him in trying to get help. But it also can be tough help sometimes.

Its like I tell people in the bar, you can promise to help people all you want but in the end, if the person in question doesn't help themselves the help is wasted. Does Miguel Cabrera really want help? Only he can answer that question. I believe there are many things in this world that we can't control. We can control our drinking. I don't think there is someone holding Miguel Cabrera down forcing liquor down his throat. For whatever his reasons, he's doing it to himself and only he can stop it before he puts his career in the garbage. All he needs to do is look at the example of Josh Hamilton to see what can happen when you allow yourself to throw your career away. There is hope for Cabrera.

I believe that fellow Venezuelan and teammate Carlos Guillen (in statements made to puts Cabrera's situation in the proper perspective:

Yeah, I'm worried about him, because he's got a lot of talent. He's got the potential to be a Hall of Famer one day. Sometimes you have people around you that are not good for you. You think they're your friends, but they're not really friends.

Hopefully Miguel Cabrera can come to realize that for himself before its too late for the sake of his career.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Tom Gage's article Tigers GM: 'We have an issue,' no date set for Cabrera's return from The Detroit News website dated February 17, 2011
- Click Here to access the Associated Press article Cabrera misses Tigers' first full-squad practice from the Florida Times Union website dated February 19, 2011
- Click Here to access the ESPN News Service article Miguel Cabrera faces DUI charge from dated February 19, 2011
- Click Here to access the Associated Press article Miguel Cabrera puts issues in past from dated March 2, 2010
- Click Here to access the Associated Press article Tigers' Cabrera treated, says life is good from dated January 22, 2010
- Click Here to access the ESPN News Service's article Cabrera apologizes to teammates from dated October 6, 2009

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Albert Pujols Contract Saga

I heard the news yesterday on the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols not being able to reach an agreement on a new contract for the 2012 season and beyond. Since they were not able to reach consensus on a new contract, Pujols will not negotiate with the team during the season. Pujols says that he doesn't want his contract status to be a distraction to his teammates during this season. I don't know about you, but if I declined to sign the reported 8-year $200-million dollar deal ($25-million per year) I think that would be something of a distraction.

To be honest, I'm not sure where I stand on this. Like Justin and I spoke about yesterday. Alex Rodriguez's contract with the New York Yankees in 2007 was for 10-years $275-million dollars and the fact that Albert Pujols is (IMHO) the best player in the game, it stands to reason that he would want a contract either on par with A-Rod's if not better. On the other hand, $25-million a year isn't a shabby piece of cash. In the end, we're all debating amounts of money, that unless we are extremely lucky, will never see in our lifetimes. Does it mean Pujols is wrong?

As I said with the Derek Jeter contract situation a few months ago, there's nothing wrong with wanting to get paid what you are feel you are worth. We all do it when we ask for a raise and if we don't get said raise, we leave our job for a newer higher paying job. Granted the amounts between us and Pujols are astronomical but the basic idea is the same. At the same time, can the St. Louis Cardinals pay Pujols $30-million per year and be able to put a competitive team around him on a yearly basis? As it is they are in the hole for $17-million per year through 2016 (with a team option for 2017). Add to the mix that ace Adam Wainright is entering free agency after this season (the club holds a $9-million option for 2012 and a $12-million option for 2013). What do the Cardinals do. If the Cardinals don't resign their franchise player, who can.

Rob Neyer of SBNation reports in his post On Trading Albert Pujols For Another Slugging First Baseman on Ken Rosenthal's suggestion that the Cardinals can trade Pujols to the Yankees for their first baseman Mark Teixeira since the Yankees may be the one of the only teams that can pay Pujols the 10-years $30-million dollars that apparently he is looking for. Aside from the simple pleasure I would gain from hearing the Boston Red Sox fans moan about this move, it is an amazing scenario from a Yankee fan's perspective.

Rosenthal also mentions Ryan Howard as a potential trade chip for Pujols. The baseball world was put on it's ear with the rumor of a potential trade last Spring Training between the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols, one for one. I compared both players against each other in a post from last season Pujols vs. Howard and I stand by my same point of view from last season. If I'm Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., I make the deal without hesitation. Knowing now how much of a shrewd negotiator Amaro is with his signing of Cliff Lee this past offeason, anything is possible. But realistically, can the Phillies sign Pujols for $30-million a year.

Pujols was quoted as saying "I want to be a Cardinal forever. That's my goal." I believe he is sincere in his statements and I think the Cardinals and Pujols get a deal done. I believe both sides need each other. Pujols will go down as one of the all-time greats of the game and deserves to be side by side in the Cardinals pantheon of greats alongside Stan Musial, only if he plays his remaining days in St. Louis.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Jayson Stark's article Albert Pujols Speaks dated February 17, 2011 from
- Click Here to access Rob Neyer's article On Trading Albert Pujols For Another Slugging First Baseman dated January 15, 2011 from

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Andy Pettitte Retires

The Baseball world was aflame today with the news that Andy Pettitte had decided to retire. Almost as soon as the news was made official, arguments on whether or not Pettitte is a Hall of Famer have started. Before I go into that debate, let me throw out some statistics for Pettitte.

In a 16-year career with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros (1995-2010) Pettitte is a career 240-138 with a 3.88 ERA in 493 games (479 starts). According to the twitter post of the Yankees PR Department, in the Postseason, Pettitte is a major league leading 19-10 with a 3.83. ERA in a major league high 42 starts including the memorable 1-0 duel against John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. Pettitte also ranks first in postseason starts, innings pitched with 263 and is tied for second (with Roger Clemens) in strikeouts with 173 (John Smoltz is first with 199)

In 13 seasons with the New York Yankees, Pettitte went 203-112 with a 3.98 ERA in 2,535.2 IP with 1,823 K in 405 games, of which he started 396. In terms of Yankees franchise history, Pettitte ranks second in strikeouts and starts, third in wins, fourth in innings pitched and eight in total appearances (405)

In his 3 seasons with the Houston Astros, Pettitte went 37-26 with a  ERA in 84 games, of which he started 83. His best season with the Astros was the 2005 in which the Astros made their first World Series. Pettitte went 17-9 2.39 ERA in 33 games started. 

So where does Pettitte stand in the debate for the Hall of Fame. I believe the main issue for some of the voters will be Pettitte admitting to using the banned substance Human growth hormone (HGH) in 2007 (For injuries sustained to his elbow in 2002 before HGH was banned). Some won't vote for him on that basis alone. But for those who would choose to disregard that (like I probably would if I had a vote) then things get trickier.

There's no denying Pettitte's value to the teams he played for especially in the postseason. I can see the arguments being made comparing Pettitte to Jack Morris and Curt Schilling in terms of how their postseason performances help their Hall of Fame chances. In addition, Pettitte's 240 wins has him tied for 55th All-time with Frank Tanana and Pettitte ranks ted for 13th (also with Frank Tanana) as a left-handed pitcher puts him at which places him in very exclusive company (just behind the likes of Hall of Famers Carl Hubbel 253 and Herb Pennock 241). But does that make him a Hall of  Famer?

Honestly, I don't know. For as good as Pettitte was, he's is seen as being a pitcher that was never the "Ace" of the staff, he never won the Cy Young award (though he did ranks in the top 5, five times) and though I think reaching the magical number of 300 wins will become harder to reach as the years go by, 240 is not 300. Mike Mussina with his career record of 270-153 with a 3.68 ERA in a 18-year career is a marginal candidate (at best according to some voters)

I believe that if Pettitte is to get into the Hall of Fame players like Mussina and Schilling have to do favorably with the voters. If these players get a good numbers of votes and continue to rise as the years move forward, then I think Pettitte has a good shot. If Mussina and Schilling start slow with the votes and (I doubt it will happen) get less than 5% of the vote thereby losing their eligibilty for Hall of Fame consideration, the Pettitte is in trouble. I truly believe that Pettitte matches up well with both Mussina (in terms of win/loss) and Schilling (Postseason influence on body of work) that their success or failure with the Hall of Fame voters will reflect on Pettitte. But we have five years to debate the facts.

As a Yankees fan, all I can say is thank you Andy Pettitte for all of your years of service to the team I root for and follow. You came through big for us when needed and you will truly be missed.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for Andy Pettitte's career statistics from Baseball

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dismantling and Rebuilding of the Tampa Bay Rays

After winning two American League titles in the last 3 years and a trip to the 2008 World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays have been dismantled but there is hope for the Tampa Bay faithful. Before I go into the current state of the Rays, let me recap the players that have left the Rays:

- Juaquin Benoit (RP) to the Detroit Tigers
- Carlos Peña (1B) to the Chicago Cubs
- Carl Crawford (LF) to the Boston Red Sox
- Jason Bartlett (SS) to the San Diego Padres
- Rafael Soriano (RP) to the New York Yankees

The Rays also made an 8-player trade with the Chicago Cubs during the beginning of January. Here are the details on that trade: the Rays sent starting pitcher Matt Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez and another minor leaguer to the Cubs for prospects pitcher Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, catcher Robinson Chirinos, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and outfielder Sam Fuld. For more information of the prospects received by Tampa Bay in the trade, read Steve Slowinski's article A Look at the Matt Garza Haul: Archer, Lee, Chirinos, Guyer and Fuld from

So what does this mean for the Rays. Here's the bad news first. The positions of 1B, LF, SS, 8th inning reliever and closer are seriously depleted. In dealing Garza, Rays traded their number two starter leaving a big hole after number one starter David Price. But no need to fret, there is hope of the horizon.

- Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez
It was made official today: The Rays have signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. As it was reported by Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times in his article Introduction of Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon 'an exciting day' for Tampa Bay Rays:

Ramirez, who will make $2 million, is expected to be the full-time designated hitter. Damon, who will earn a base salary of $5.25 million, will likely be the primary leftfielder and potential leadoff hitter; Manager Joe Maddon said he hasn't set settled on a batting order yet.

I know there are those fans of the Rays that have doubts about Ramirez. The footage of his antics in Boston are readily available and it seems as if he has not been the same since his 50-game suspension for the usage of performance enhancing drugs, but don't forget, Ramirez is considered to be one of the best right handed hitters in the history of the game. Will Ramirez be the dominating force he was when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers? Probably not, but I think Manny is still good enough to hit between .280 and .310 with 30-40 HRs and 100 RBI. I believe that Ramirez will help to fill the hitting void that was left with Carlos Peña's departure. Maybe the change of scenery and a return to the division where he put up career numbers will do him good.

In terms of Damon, we all know his deficiencies in terms of his arm strength but after seeing him play on the Yankees from 2006-2009, I can say that Damon is a solid player who will play everyday if you let him and his demeanor is perfectly suited for the Tampa Bay Rays. Will he play everyday? I don't believe so, but Damon will provide insurance and guidance for super prospect Desmond Jennings, who is slated to take the place of Carl Crawford. If Jennings' performance is not up to what is expected of him this season, Damon can be plugged into any position in the outfield and he is still a threat on the base paths providing opportunities for run scoring by sluggers Longoria and Ramirez. I think in terms of both Damon and Ramirez, the positives outweigh the potential negatives.

- Casey Kotchman
The Rays have also signed first baseman Casey Kotchman formerly of the Seattle Mariners. I believe that Kotchman will platoon at first with Dan Johnson who was resigned by the Rays during the winter meetings in December. In 414 at-bats, Kotchman hit .217 with 9 HRs and 51 RBI. Kotchman had 90 hits (20 2B/1 3B/9 HR) with 57 strikeouts and 35 walks. His OPS was .616 (.280 OBP/.336 SLG). Kotchman's strength lies in his fielding abilities and as Ramirez will do with his hitting, Kotchman will help fill the defensive void left behind by Peña's departure.

- Reid Brignac
I believe that super utility player Reid Brignac will become the everyday shortstop. Having played at the majority of his games at second and short, Brignac will be paired with second baseman Ben Zobrist to shore up the middle infield for the Rays.

- The Bullpen
I think this is the area where the Rays have helped themselves out the most. Granted, it'll be hard to replace Benoit and Soriano was arguably the best 8th inning and closer combo in baseball last season. But the bullpen was shored up somewhat with the signings of fireballer Kyle Farnsworth (3-2 with a 3.34 ERA, 55 hits, 61 strikeouts and 19 walks for a WHIP of 1.144 in 60 games with the Kansas City Royals and the Atlanta Braves) and Joel Peralta (1-0 with a 2.02 ERA, 30 hits 49 strikeouts and 9 walks for a WHIP of 0.796 in 39 games with the Washington Nationals last season).

Farnsworth and Peralta join a bullpen that already includes J.P. Howell, Jake McGee, Andy Sonnanstine, Cory Wade, R.J. Swindle and Mike Ekstrom. I'm not sure if Tampa's bullpen can match those of division rivals Boston and New York but even after losing Benoit and Soriano, I think the Rays bullpen can be consistent enough to help keep games close.

- The Prospects
Based on's recent Top 50 prospect list, the Rays have the following players in the top 50:

- #2 Jeremy Hellickson
- #11 Desmond Jennings
- #27 Matt Moore
- #47 Chris Archer

As I mentioned earlier, Jennings is seen as the heir-apparent to Carl Crawford in the outfield. From what I've read, Jennings is deemed to be a five-tool player similar to Crawford with better patience at the plate. Matt Diaz of Roto-Hardball describes Jennings as so:

While Jennings has a long way to go to reach Crawford's big league status, Jennings has shown throughout his minor league career to be a more ideal lead-off hitter than Crawford. Jennings has a career BB% of 10.6% (1831 PA), compared to Crawford's minor league career (5.4% in 1855 PA). With Jennings ability to hit for a high average and the ability to be patient and take walks, he will have tons of opportunities for SB's.

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson has seen some limited major league experience. In 10 appearances (of which 4 were starts), he went 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA. He gave up 32 hits with 33 strikeouts and 8 walks for a WHIP of 1.10 36.1 innings pitched. It is believed that Hellickson will move into the starting rotation joining David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis.

It is also believed that there will be some limits placed on Hellickson similar to those placed on Yankees starter Phil Hughes this past season. Matt Diaz of Roto-Hardball describes it as so:

Look for the Rays to monitor Hellickson's 2011 workload a bit. He has never gone more than 152 innings in his minor league career, so expect somewhere from 150-170 innings out of Hellickson in 2011. Likely to pitch out of the 5th spot in the Rays rotation, Hellickson could win 10-13 games while posting solid ERA, WHIP, and K totals. He is one of the early favorites for AL Rookie of the Year.

Do I think the Rays can will 96 games like they did last season? No, I think it'll take some time for the new players and the prospects to gel around stalwarts Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and David Price. Will they be at the bottom of the American League East? No, I still believe that the Rays are better than the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. I think the Rays will provide some tough challenges for both the Red Sox and the Yankees and compared are better than most of the other teams in the American League. Maybe if the gelling takes place faster than expected and Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon have comeback seasons the Rays can contend for the Wild Card this season. Otherwise, 2012 would be a more realistic goal for a rise to the top for the Rays.