Showing posts from January, 2020

Grandy Man Retires

Curtis Granderson  brought down the curtain Thursday on a darned good big league career. The well liked lefty power hitter steps aside after 15-1/2 seasons, 344 homers and a mountain of good will. The three-time all star enjoyed his most productive seasons in New York -- four each with the Yankees and Mets -- and ranks with David Cone and Daryl Strawberry in the small circle who starred for both New York teams. He's likely proudest of being honored as the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner and receiving the Marvin Miller Man of the Year four times. His record of community service and leadership among his peers is second to none. What's next for the Grandy Man ? Always great with the media, he could be headed for a broadcasting job, or perhaps public service or political office. Regardless, expect him to maintain his career-long motto , "Don't think. Have fun!"

Stays by the Bay

Pablo Sandoval reupped with the Giants on Wednesday. The veteran infielder, who flopped so badly after jumping to the Red Sox as a 2015 free agent, has been a valuable bench player since returning to San Francisco in the middle of 2017. His productive 2019 season -- with 14 homers and 23 doubles in under 300 at bats -- ended early when he needed Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow. Reportedly "ahead of schedule," the Venezuelan native needs to make a quick impression in the Cactus League. With the dramatically different Gabe Kapler taking over as manager this year, and Sandoval on just a minor league contract with a big league camp invitation, nothing is guaranteed for Kung Fu Panda. On the other hand, a veteran pinch hitter who capably backs up Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt at the corners has value, even in an analytically driven organization.

If Your Birthday is January 29th...

Image share it with the White Sox 1st baseman Jose Abreu . The Cuban-born slugger has been a model of consistency since coming to Chicago -- averaging 30 homers, 102 RBI and a batting average in the .290s. Notably, his 179 career homers are already the most for any player born on this date! Turning 33 today, Abreu recently reupped with the Sox, now surrounded by a talented young core that's expected to bring the club back to contender status. Also on today's cake and candles list: Hank Conger , who spent seven seasons as a backup catcher with the Angels, Astros and Rays. As with many who played behind the plate, he's gone into coaching and will spend 2020 coaching in Korea, the country from where his parents emigrated. Mike Aldrete  spent 10 years in the majors, bookended by the '86 Giants and '96 Yankees. His second San Francisco season was his best, when he batted .325. But he never again posted numbers as impressive. Steve Sax was part of that long li

Outfielders on the Move

Two more veteran outfielders will be wearing new uniforms in 2020, thanks to deals announced Mondayu.  Nicholas Castellanos brings his big bat (and questionable glove) to Cincinnati on a four-year $64 million free agent deal. While the Pirates, after looking all winter for a trade partner, send Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for a pair of prospects. Both deals will disappoint third parties -- the Cubs, where Castellanos impressed over the final third of 2019, tightened their budget and hinted they couldn't afford him moving forward. And the Mets, seeking an upgrade in center field, didn't want to dig into their nearly empty farm system to send talent back to Pittsburgh. We'll see whose decisions pan out as 2020 gets underway.

Ready for Replacement?

The A's appear to be moving closer to a deal that will enable them to build a new Oakland ballpark. San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Susan Slusser quotes A's president Dave Kaval saying "get the shovels ready." It's about time. In baseball, there are classic parks, such as Fenway, Wrigley and Dodger Stadium, modern/retro marvels Yankee Stadium, PNC and Camden Yards, and a strong middle class symbolized by Kauffman Stadium and Rogers Centre. Then, there's the one whose shot clock should have run out years ago -- the Oakland Coliseum. Never a perfect venue, it was one of the lesser multi purpose parks when it became home to the Raiders and A's in 1968. It hadn't changed much when I was there in 1993 to snap this. But the last 25 years, after replacing its pleasant center field area with the awful hulking "Mount Davis," combined with the ravages of time, the park no longer suited any bigtime pro sport. The Raiders, unable to squeeze

Weekend Special: Triple Decker

The bullpen design is one of the most features of Citizens Bank Park. Below Ashburn Alley, the concourse that runs above and beyond the outfield, are the stacked bullpens: the visitors in the top area -- closer to the taunts and boos of the local fans -- with the home team a bit insulated on ground level. This image is from the Phillies/Reds game last June 9th.

Signing of the Week

Slow week on the free agent front: the lone prominent name coming off the boards was Marcell Ozuna . After two seasons of declining productivity with the Cardinals, the 29-year old outfielder grabbed a one-year contract with the Braves -- which gives him a chance to boost his value so he can re-enter free agency in a stronger position next winter. (He's seen here last June 14th against the Mets in New York.)

If Your Birthday is January 23rd

Image share it with Addison Russell . The Cubs shortstop had his best year in 2016, when the Wrigley Boys erased their 108-year championship drought. But he hasn't blossomed into stardom the way teammate Kris Bryant did. And a suspension for domestic abuse soured his reputation and led to the Cubs non-tendering him this winter. He remains unsigned. Jeff Samardzija has been a run-of-the-mill pitcher with the Cubs and Giants. What else would you call an 80 - 104 record over parts of 12 seasons? The Giants will be happy to shed his five-year $80 million dollar contract at the end of 2020. Maybe he should have followed his football dreams -- he was a star wide receiver for Notre Dame. Wily Mo Pena has a catchy name, but never became the star some expected. The lefty power hitter was the big piece who went from the Yankees to the Reds for Drew Henson (yep, another player torn between football and baseball). But save for his age 22 season when he blasted 26 home runs for Cincinn

Inevitable... for All the Right Reasons

The only question about Derek Jeter entering Tuesday was whether or not he'd receive 100% of the votes for the Hall of Fame. We learned last night that his name appeared on all but one every Cooperstown ballot. 99.7 percent support, one smartaleck short of perfection. Don't worry, it won't taint the reputation of the greatest Yankee shortstop of all time and one of the five best ever to play the position in 150 years of major league history. What struck me was how grounded and mature he always seemed. How this kid with the New Jersey grandparents dreamed of being a Yankee and willed himself into becoming a legend -- the last position player in franchise history to wear a single digit number. It was as if the baseball gods suggested, "Save 2 for this guy." The remarkable baseball instinct, the leadership, the innate ability to deliver in big moments, that's what we'll remember about The Captain. And congratulations to Larry Walker... who'll e

Feels He's Disrespected

Like anyone who roots or plays for the Rockies, Nolan Arenado was unhappy with the way their 2019 season played out. After signing a mammoth seven-year $234 million extension a year ago, he posted his usual stellar numbers, including hitting a career-best .315. But the rest of the roster failed to live up to its part, and Colorado won just 71 games and finished fourth in the NL West. Results like that -- especially for a team that made the post-season a year before -- often lead to changes. A trade to shake up the roster, perhaps a big free agent to beef up the lineup. But the Rockies have had a quiet off-season -- which apparently wasn't to Arenado's liking. While the club seems open to moving the five-time All Star for the right package, that hasn't upset him as much as the lack of new faces. Monday, he unloaded, telling the Denver Post  he feels "disrespected" by the club's inability to improve its roster. That's not the first time he's spoke

In Demand

Dusty Baker had several interviews last fall when several teams were looking for new managers. All of them came up short. Despite leading four clubs to the post-season, most recently the Nationals, the openings -- save for fellow veteran Joe Girardi with the Phillies -- went to "new age" candidates, devotees of analytics and other modern techniques. Things have certainly changed in just three months. In the wake of the Astros sign-stealing scandal, three jobs suddenly became vacant, and 70 year old Dusty suddenly became a hot property. He's interviewing today (Monday) with the Astros; reports say the Mets are also interested in him. Three weeks before spring training, Baker could be the biggest name making news in baseball.

Weekend Special: Tap the Plate

From September 6th, 2019 at Citi Field: Jeff McNeil of the Mets gets ready to lead off the bottom of the 1st inning against Zach Eflin of the Phillies.

Hello, Goodbye

Paul McCartney's words provide a perfect title in the wake of Carlos Beltran having to step down as manager of the Mets before he ever managed a game. Worse, it's less than four weeks from the opening of training camp. Now, let's play my favorite game show of all time, Password . First clue, 10 points goes to Carol Burnett: "Research." Civilian partner answers, "Dilgence." Bell goes off, Allen Ludden awards the team 10 points. The Mets get no points for not vetting Beltran more thoroughly. If there's smoke, there's often fire. And there's been smoke coming out of the Astros dugout since other teams wondered what went on during the 2017 season; and some of the "tech" being used to cheat. Once Beltran's name surfaced publicly, his credibility was gone -- as was some from those who brought him into the Mets organization. One more game show reference: from Jeopardy , the category is sports. The answer is "2020." B

Age is No Obstacle

So the bidding war for Josh Donaldson ends in a stalemate between the NL East rival Nats and Braves -- the power hitting 3rd baseman is now a Minnesota Twin. Fresh off a comeback season with Atlanta at age 33, with 37 homers, close to 100 RBIs, first rate defense and strong leadership, you knew the nine-year veteran was going to be in demand. The surprise was -- in this age of analytics as well as evidence that players peak by age 30-- Donaldson landing a free agent contract worth up to $100 million. It's the biggest contract ever given to a player that old. Sure, he's likely to be a force with the 2020 Twins at age 34. But then he'll turn 35... 36... and 37...

If Your Birthday is January 15th...

Image share it with one of baseball's 2019 breakout stars, Mitch Garver . The Twins catcher won the Silver Slugger Award at his position, belting 31 homers for the AL Central champs. And with yesterday's news that Josh Donaldson had signed with Minnesota, he'll be in the middle of an even more potent lineup. Also on today's cake and candles list: Matt Duffy , who looked like a star in the making with the 2015 Giants, before his career was stalled by injuries. Matt Holliday was a seven time all star with the Rockies and Cardinals. The lifetime .299 batter retired after the 2018 season with 316 home runs. Bobby Grich was also a perennial in baseball's mid-summer classic. The six time all star was a rare slugging middle infielder during the '70s when he starred for the Orioles and Angels.

Tarnished Star

Monday was a day of shame for major league baseball. How else would you define the actions by the Commissioner -- who, after a lengthy investigation over sign stealing, suspended Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a year, took away the club's two top draft picks for the next two years and fined the organization $5 million -- in the wake of a sign stealing scandal that ranks near those of Pete Rose's gambling and the 1919 White Sox attempting to throw the World Series. Minutes after that news broke, Astros owner Jim Crane advanced the story by firing both Hinch and Luhnow. In Jack Webb-ese, those are "just the facts, ma'am [and sir]." Now baseball has to take further steps to best assure we don't see a repeat of this. It's fine to eliminate access to any kind of in-game video for players and other on-field personnel. In a time of rapid advances in technology, you want to see a harsh message that clearly states: You. Won'

The Geese Are Already Working Out

This weekend's record-setting 70 degree warmth in the northeast brought a lot of us outdoors. The neighborhood ballfield was occupied Sunday afternoon -- as a large flock of geese were in formation. All they needed was an old fashioned skipper (a "head goose?") to lead them through their stretching. 70 and sunny -- that's the kind of weather we dream about for opening day in the northeast and midwest. Usually, it's 20 degrees colder, windy and damp. Still, aren't we allowed to dream?  It's just a month before pitchers and catchers start reporting to camps in Florida and Arizona. And frankly, while this was a cute sight, I'd rather see the real thing.

Weekend Special: Eddie Rabbit Weather

Yankee Stadium: June 20th, 2019. The late country pop star topped the charts with "I Love a Rainy Night." Catchy song, but unwelcome on a night that's supposed to mean baseball.

St. Lou to St. Pete

Thursday's top baseball story was the Cardinals/Ray trade sending Jose Martinez  and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay for prospect Matt Liberatore. Martinez, whose glovework leaves something to be desired-- for proof, the Cards used him at DH in eight of their 10 interleague games least season -- goes for Liberatore, a 6 foot 6 lefty (and 2018 first round pick) who mostly throws in the low 90s. The other player heading to the Trop, Arozarena, profiles as a fourth outfielder, strong on defense and an above-average base runner. But scouts appear skeptical about his upsite as a hitter. Does this signal that the Cardinals are more confident in resigning the still-free agent Marcell Ozuna? There's also buzz that Liberatore could be the kind of young talent who could beef up a potential package that could persuade the Rockies to send Nolan Arenado to St. Louis. The deal also appears to give the Rays a surplus at 1st base/DH, where Martinez joins Ji Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Austin

Still Available

With the big ticket free agents off the market, who's still available? Nick Castellanos, with a big price tag and big questions about his defense. Josh Donaldson, who seems to be waiting for the Nationals and Braves to stare down each other. Marcell Ozuna, who hasn't proven he's a premium outfielder deserving a premium contract. Cameron Maybin has flown under the radar this winter. Off arguably his most effective big league season as one of the Yankee "replacements," he showed the skills to of an ideal fourth outfielder. Solid defense, a live bat and clubhouse leadership should position the soon-to-be 33 year old as the best value among those still unsigned. 11 homers, 17 doubles and a .285 average in just under 300 at bats. Touted as a future star ever since he arrived in Detroit at age 20, and then the key piece heading to Miami in the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis trade, Maybin found his comfortable place as a Yankee part-timer. After all the big check

If Your Birthday is January 8th...

You share it with Elvis Presley , whom I'm sorry to say wasn't much of a baseball fan. Football, horseback riding and the martial arts were his sports. But that doesn't mean there isn't anyone of note (or sport) sharing January 8th with the King of Rock and Roll. For starters, there's  Jason Giambi , who rocked 440 home runs over 20 major league seasons, seven as a Yankee. There's also Hall of Fame relief pitcher Bruce Sutter, 1940s star Walker Cooper, the well-traveled Jeff Francoeur, original Met John DeMerit, smooth fielding Mike Cameron and the often injured Carl Pavano. But can any of them sing "Hound Dog" or "Viva Las Vegas?" There is also a legend born January 8th, who artistically links baseball and rock and roll: Anthony Gourdine, yes, Little Anthony of the Imperials is a huge baseball fan. Classic songs such as "Tears on My Pillow," "Hurt So Bad" and "On the Outside Looking In" earned his induct

The Newest Nat

While Eric Thames won't directly replace the departed Anthony Rendon, the former Brewer will bring a solid power bat to Washington -- at a surprisingly low price. Now 33, the lefty swinger is coming off a 25 homer-season with the Brew Crew (and 72 over three years in Milwaukee), and can easily slide into a 1st base platoon with fellow veteran Howie Kendrick. Monday, he landed a one-year $4 million contract for 2020, with a mutual option that could tack on another year. With so much money tied up in aces Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, Thames will beef up the Nationals lineup, without further bloating the club's payroll.

A Splash of Summer Sunshine

Entering our first work week of the new year, with much of North America grey, damp and chilly, this image should stir up all the joys of summer. And as soon as we pass the holiday season, we can really start counting the days until pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona. Unlike last year, we've already had big free agent signings and a few interesting trades. Now, we're five weeks -- give or take a day -- from spring training. The days will oh-so-slowly get longer. And we'll begin to dream. Dream about home runs and strikeouts and pennant races. New faces and old favorites. Baseball never goes away.

Fleet Feet

Luis Urias avoids a Jason Vargas pitch during the July 23rd Mets/Padres game in New York.

Suspended Until June

Domingo German  received his punishment on Thursday for a domestic violence incident last September. And it's a severe one -- 81 games, a half-season, (a sentence that began when he placed on paid leave in mid-September) which will sideline the Yankees breakthrough pitcher through June 4th. And not just out of major league games, but Grapefruit League play, as well. He will able to practice with the club during spring training, but in no activity open to the public. There's also a fine, counseling and a substantial donation to a women's charity. This is the farthest thing from getting off easy. After winning 18 games last season, he will be off the Yankees radar for the first 63 games of 2020. Sure, the Yankees have beefed up their rotation with the free agent signing of Gerrit Cole. And having Jordan Montgomery back and healthy after 2018 Tommy John Surgery will help. But erasing an 18-game winner weakens any team. It will be interesting to see how Yankee fans (and h

If Your Birthday is January 2nd...

Image share it with one of baseball's brightest young stars, Fernando Tatis Jr of the Padres. In 2019, limited to just 80 games by a delayed call-up and a season-ending injury, he belted 22 homers, hit .317 and posted on OPS of .969. OK, he's got a few things to work on -- cutting down 110 strikeouts in a half-season would be a good start. But when you talk "upside," there are very few players with his level of potential. Also on today's cake and card list: Edgar Martinez , the Mariners Hall of Fame DH. A .312 lifetime hitter with a career on base percentage of .418, he checked off all my boxes as to whether he belonged in Cooperstown. Fortunately, the writers finally got it right in his 10th year on the ballot. David Cone stands in a very exclusive circle. He starred for two New York teams -- twice leading the NL in strikeouts a Mets and famously tossing a perfect game as a Yankee. The Kansas City native is now a member of the Yankees television team.

Happy New Year!

The Mets' Pete Alonso and the Athletics' Mark Canha team up with you a Happy New Year and a great decade to come!