Showing posts from January, 2021

If Your Birthday is January 29th...

Image share it with the White Sox 1st baseman  Jose Abreu . The Cuban-born slugger and 2020 American League MVP has been a model of consistency since coming to Chicago -- averaging 30 homers, 102 RBI and a batting average in the .290s. Notably, his 198 career homers are already the most for any player born on this date! Turning 34 today, Abreu is the seasoned veteran leading a group of budding stars that went 35-25 in the 60-game season -- and returned to the post-season for the first time since 2008. Also on today's cake and candles list: Hank Conger had a seven-year run 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 that

Goodbye, City Life!

Recalling the theme to Green Acres when New Yorkers Oliver and Lisa Douglas left the Big Apple for Hooterville... Time to focus on a pair of pitchers whose New York days came to an end on Wednesday: Two pitchers, with a combined total of 13 New York seasons, are heading elsewhere. After seeing the Yankees trade for Jameson Taillon and sign Corey Kluber Masahiro Tanaka  read the handwriting on the wall and returned to Japan, re-signing with his former team the Rakuten Eagles. While never becoming the ace the organization hoped, he turned in two terrific and several very good seasons, before slumping last summer. His price tag might have also been a detriment to re-upping with the Yankees. Recent performance suggested that the now-32 year old wasn't worth anywhere near his previous $22 million salary. The Mets then parted company with their homegrown lefty. There'd always been big expectations for Steven Matz , especially after his sparkling 6-0 debut during the second half of t

Three More off the Board

In the busiest day of this sluggish off season, three big free agents landed big new deals. The lead story was a reunion, as the JT Realmuto and the Phillies each got most of what they wanted. The catcher, widely regarded as the best in the game, is also now the highest paid at his position... ever. A five-year $115.5 million contract pushes him $100,000 a season past what Joe Mauer got on an annual basis from the Twins. And the Phils hold onto a two way player who's been their best overall hitter in the two seasons since arriving from Miami. Then, two of the top shortstops found new homes. Andrelton Simmons  heads from Anaheim to Minneapolis where the four-time gold glove winner takes over as the Twins new regular. A fundamentally sound hitter, the Curacao native has hit over .280 three of the last five years -- and runs counter to trends by not striking out a lot. In his worst season, he whiffed just 67 times, or about a third of what we'd expect from Judge or Stanton. He

Traded from New Y0rk to B0ston

Adam Ottavino 's two-year run in pinstripes ended on Monday, when the Yankees and Red Sox completed their first trade in six years. Easily recognized for wearing Zero on his back, the Brooklyn, New York native signed with his hometown team in the winter of 2019 and turned in five terrific months as a bullpen setup man. But a September slump was a bad sign. And during the 60-game season, he never found his stride, and quickly fell out of Aaron Boone's circle of trust. As Brian Cashman continues fine tuning his roster -- maybe we need a new term, TV's and FM radios tune digitally now, no one is fiddling with a dial like a safe cracker -- Ottavino's $9 million salary looked like an albatross in the plan to upgrade without going past the luxury tax threshold.  Finally, the Yankees found a trade partner -- a surprising one. The Yanks shipped off Ottavino to the Red Sox, tossing in another native New Yorker, mid-level pitching prospect Frank German, for salary relief. While O

Bronx Bound

The Yankees continued to roll the dice on rehabbing pitchers, with Sunday's trade for Pirates righthander  Jameson Taillon . A former high draft choice who appeared to be emerging into stardom in 2018, the Texas native was felled by arm problems the following season which led to his second Tommy John surgery. For a rebuilding club like the Pirates, this former second overall draft pick was a bad risk -- or, looked another way, the four prospects they received from New York were a better gamble than holding onto a pitcher with a bad medical chart and just two years of remaining club control. With a 2021 salary under $3 million, Taillon is another lottery ticket whom Brian Cashman hopes pays off behind Gerrit Cole, a bunch of kids and fellow question mark Corey Kluber. Of course, like Kluber, he could also turn into the 2021 version of Troy Tulowitzki, who made it through five games with the 2019 Yanks, before his season and career crashed after another injury. After a thorough check

Remembering Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron , who broke Babe Ruth's longstanding home run record with grace and dignity, died Friday morning at age 86. The one man that Muhammad Ali said he idolized “more than myself,” was a hero as the Braves helped break down barriers. When the major leagues came to Atlanta in 1966, racial equality was more a goal than reality. The Alabama native was a son of the old, ugly South, having grown up in the era of Jim Crow segregation. But as the best player on the team, Aaron's leadership on the field and in the community made it clear that baseball was part of the New South. On April 8th, 1974, he crushed an Al Downing pitch to center field at the old Fulton County Stadium. Number 715 , despite death threats, despite hate, despite a foolish idea that some records ought not be broken. And he added 40 more round tippers before retiring two years later. The Braves' greatest player was more than just a slugger. A superb all-around talent, he batted .305 over his 23 seasons, and

If Your Birthday is January 21st...

Image share it with  Jake Cronenworth . The runner-up for 2020's National League Rookie of the Year, the Padres infielder hit .285 -- boosted by a scorching month of August, with a .356 average featuring 16 extra base hits, 17 RBIs and 20 runs over 31 games. Chase d'Arnaud , the older brother of the Braves hard-hitting catcher, has played parts of seven seasons in the majors. A utilityman known mostly for his versatility, I caught him in action during 2016 when playing for Atlanta. 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

Destination: Toronto

The baseball world woke up to surprising news this morning, with George Springer signing with the Blue Jays. According to Jon Heyman of WFAN and MLB Network, it's a six-year deal worth $150 million -- the longest and most lucrative deal of this sluggish off-season. Along with moving from the AL West to AL East, he becomes the key veteran presence on a Toronto club loading with up-and-coming talent: Dante Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Junior, Cavan Biggio and Teoscar Hernandez.  The challenge facing Springer is how he becomes the mentor, the Yoda, the savvy veteran who'll provide on-field leadership and a strong clubhouse presence. ( My image is from a Yankees/Astros exhibition game at West Palm Beach in March 2019 .)

Another Free Agent Finds a New Home

Jon Lester takes that Chicago to DC flight and joins the Nationals on a one-year deal. Now 37, he brings World Series rings from the Cubs and White Sox as he slips in just after Patrick Corbin in Washington's projected rotation.  Along with helping the Nats chase their second title in three years, he's also aiming for a personal milestone -- he enters 2021 seven victories shy of 200, a win total that could make Lester a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. Lester's decision also continues the exodus from Wrigley Field -- as he follows team president Theo Epstein, the man who brought to him to Chicago, and Yu Darvish out the door. ( My image of Jon Lester is from the Cubs/Mets game in New York on July 1st, 2015 .)

The Meaning of This Day

  On this day we celebrate the life, legacy and lessons of Doctor Martin Luther King, is there better symbol in baseball than the statue of brotherhood that stands just outside Brooklyn's MCU Park? The one depicting teammates Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, two men stronger by working together -- the ultimate on-field respect.

Back in the New York Groove

DJ LeMahieu is rockin' his new contract Ace Frehley style. He's back with the Yankees -- reports say it's a six-year deal worth $90 million.  After two near-MVP seasons -- and becoming, in 2020, the first player in the modern era to win batting titles in each league -- the Yankees wanted "The Machine" back. And LeMahieu felt likewise. It just took more time than expected to reach agreement.  

Running Out of Patience

With the Yankees seemingly playing a game of chicken with DJ LeMahieu, each side trying to outlast the other in negotiations, another Yankee free agent remains in limbo. Masahiro Tanaka 's contract ran out at the end of 2020. While a partially torn tendon held him back from being the ace the Yankees dreamed of, he's been a reliable second starter. But at age 32, how much does he have left -- and how much will Brian Cashman or any GM be willing to pay for it? While Tanaka has gone 78 - 46 in the Bronx, what can be expected the next three seasons? The new wrinkle in our tale spins from the recent trade of countryman Yu Darvish to the Padres. Along with the Mets and White Sox, San Diego has made the boldest moves this off-season. It's also five hours by air closer to Japan than New York. Plus, Larry Rothschild, Tanaka's pitching coach when he first arrived with the Yankees, now holds the same job at Petco Park. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal says that besides holding sim

Wayback Wednesday: Spring Training 2011

From March 8th, 2011: Cole Hamels of the Phillies faces Randy Wynn in a spring training game at Clearwater, Florida. After a shoulder injury limited him to just one start with the Braves during the 60-game season, the 15 year veteran remains unsigned.  And while Phillies and Rangers fans have fond memories, it's been five years since his last really effective season. Now 37, is he worth a low-base contract loaded with incentives? Or even a minor league deal with an invitation to a big league camp? Can any organization measure how many pitches are left in his arm? Could he be "the crafty lefty" that the Yankees had as CC Sabathia's career wound down? Might a reunion with the Phillies make sense -- especially since Cole and his family make their off-season home in the Philadelphia area? Can you envision Hamel serving as Yoda for a young staff on a club ready to break through, such as the White Sox?  Cole Hamels won't draw the biggest headline in the remaining weeks

The Giants Became a Big Time Franchise...

...on this date in 1993, when the group led by Peter Magowan saved the Giants franchise for San Francisco. Losing money and tempted by an offer to move to the Tampa Bay area, the supermarket magnate, who'd grown up a Giants fan in New York, purchased the team and began the process to return it to prominence. A process that was centered around building a waterfront ballpark that was an instant classic.  It's been through several names, but should be credited to Magowan, who got out of the terribly flawed and inconvenient Candlestick Park and into the venue that, after 20 years, remains one of baseball's best. Masterfully taking advantage of its location, the park not only has sluggers planting balls in the bay, but has fans extending the game experience into the water!  

Washington Arrival

It's been a turbulent time in Washington: politicians coming and going, same for quarterbacks on the local Football Team. Now, a new bat arrives for the Nationals. In a move that didn't draw a lot of attention when local headlines were dominated by politics and playoffs, Kyle Schwarber 's arrival could prove a positive move for the upcoming season. The strikeout-prone, defensively challenged bopper agreed to a one-year deal with the Nats, worth $10 million. Not a lot of money in today's baseball, and a short commitment that protects the franchise should be turn into Jayson Bay 2.0. A little surprising that Schwarber didn't sign with an AL team, where his limitations as a fielder suggest he'd be an ideal DH. But give credit to Washington for rolling the dice, when other teams (perhaps the Yankees, Astros and Blue Jays) didn't step up to the table. Following a week when the Mets' trade for Lindor and Carrasco grabbed the biggest headline, the Nats make a m

Remembering Tommy Lasorda

No one ever enjoyed being a Dodger more than Tommy Lasorda. The onetime Brooklyn pitcher and  effervescent  manager of two LA World Championship clubs in the '80s, passed away late Thursday night at age 93. A successful pitcher in the Dodgers farm system, where he won 66 games for Triple A Montreal between 1950 and '54, things didn't go as well with the big club. Tommy never won a game in eight Brooklyn appearances -- and was sent back to the minors in June 1955 to make room on the roster for Sandy Koufax, a move that he often joked about. Tommy later appeared with the Kansas City A's, but in his heart, he never left the Dodger organization. After his playing days, he worked his way up the L.A. system as a scout, then manager, before joining Walter Alston's coaching staff and succeeding him in 1977. All told, Lasorda spent 71 years with the Dodgers and was even able to travel to Texas to attend last fall's World Series -- where he watched the franchise win its f

Mets Make a Deal

No apostrophe; no Monty Hall.  Finally, the blockbuster deal that shakes up the baseball world. Thursday, the Mets send two a pair of young and promising shortstops, Andres Giminez and Amed Rosario, along with two recent high draft picks, to the Indians for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco.  Exciting news for Mets fans, a sad development for Cleveland. In New York, there's delight that new owner Steve Cohen was serious about spending big money to improve the team. In Ohio, the fans feel betrayed after the Paul Dolan group shed talent before having to pay top dollar -- without getting maximum return. Just 27, the switch-hitting Lindor is a four-time All Star winner a year away from free agency. He joins Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, JD Davis, Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil in a powerful lineup. He also brings a pair of Gold Gloves to firm up a defense that too often was the Mets weak link. And his outgoing personality will quickly make him "The Face of the Franchise,"

If Your Birthday is January 7th...

Image share it with Alfonso Soriano , the speedy, power hitting native of the Dominican Republic batted .270/.500 slugging percentage with 412 home runs and 1,159 RBI across 16 seasons. This seven-time All-Star is the most recent player -- and one of only four ever -- to have a 40/40 season. Then, on September 22nd, 2006 with Washington, he made his own unique place in history, becoming the first ever to reach 40 home runs, 40 stolen bases and 40 doubles in one season, making him the only member of the 40-40-40 club. A quick question: if he hadn't been traded for Alex Rodriguez just before the start of the 2004 season, would Sori have been even more successful, playing alongside Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera? Would the Yanks have won more than the one championship they did with A-Rod? Brayan Pena , the Cuban-expat catcher spent a dozen years primarily as a backup. He's since moved into managing, spending 2018 and '19 in the Tigers system. Ozzie Albies , the Braves'

Mid-level Signing

While the big free agents remain on the market, one of those lower-tier "value" players was snapped up on Tuesday. Robbie Grossman , whose big league career began in Houston with subsequent stops in Minnesota and Oakland, inked a two-year deal with the Tigers, worth at least $10 million. A lifetime .252 hitter with modest power, he could profiles as a fourth outfielder and not a star. But signing him for just money, Detroit GM Al Avila positions himself to move Grossman at this or next year's trade deadline for the kind of young players the Tigers need as their rebuild continues. ( My   images are from the Astros/Orioles game on July 31st, 2013 at Camden Yards, and the A's visit to Yankee Stadium on August 31st, 2019 .)  

A Tuesday Throwback

Looking back 10 years, here's one of Jason Giambi 's Bronx homecoming.  From the Yankees/Rockies game on June 26th, 2011 -- he looks fondly toward that cozy right field corner, but wasn't able to reach it on this afternoon. Giambu went 0 for 4, striking out twice, as Colorado lost 6-4 . Giambi, who slugged 440 homers during his 20 big league seasons, turns 50 on Friday.  


As our drought of winter baseball news continues, I did catch one noteworthy item over the weekend. Phil Hughes announced his retirement . This probably shouldn't have come as a surprise -- he hadn't pitched in the majors since 2018. Hughes didn't have many regrets. How could he, after playing for a dozen seasons, including being a vital bullpen cog for the World Champion 2009 Yankees? He had success as a starter, winning 18 for the Yankees when they moved him into the rotation the following season, and 16 two years later. But the Californian was dogged by injuries. A shoulder problem wrecked his 2011 season, while 2013 went off track from a bad back.  Moving onto the Twins as a 2014 free agent, Phil won 16 before injuries and ineffectiveness took him down. In his post on social media, Hughes took pride in his accomplishments, and thanked his teammates, coaches, trainers and "countless others." While his career is shifting from ballplayer to dad, he'll always

Happy New Year 2021

 Ohio-born legends Mike Schmidt and Paul O'Neill wish you the Happiest of New Years.