Stop me if we’ve seen this headline a few times.
“Roy Oswalt Could Sign This Week”.
From Ben Nicholson-Smith @ MLB Trade Rumors comes this lil’ batch of updates:
There’s an expectation that Roy Oswalt will agree to sign with an MLB team this week, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Rangers, Orioles, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers have all been linked to the free agent right-hander in recent weeks. We’ll keep track of today’s Oswalt rumors right here with the most recent updates up top:
- Baseball officials are convinced Oswalt will sign with the Rangers, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The right-hander has given teams indications that he prefers the Rangers over other clubs. “I would be shocked if he doesn’t go to Texas,” one of Crasnick’s sources said. “A team is going to have to greatly outbid Texas to keep him from going there.”
- The Rangers could use Oswalt now that Neftali Feliz is on the disabled list. The Orioles are known to be seeking pitching and their division rivals, the Red Sox, have endured the struggles of Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard. Phillies starters are dealing with injuries and the Dodgers actually made Oswalt an offer earlier this year.
Bobby Valentine is said to be a solid strategist in the dugout, which could be a refreshing change from the asleep-at-the-wheel Terry Francona, who by most accounts had lost control of that clubhouse.
(Not a knock on Tito, he is one fine damn manager…it just happens now & then, even to the best of them).
And he is a winning manager.
So what’s not to like, right?
Simply put, Valentine reportedly has as much of an ego-driven personality as anyone you have ever met and is much more interested in himself than the team he’s managing.
Instead of “Bobby-V,” he should be known as “Bobby-Me!”
But how can a manager be successful on the field if he doesn’t care about winning?
Oh, but I never said that the man doesn’t want to win. He does, if for no other reason other than to highlight his “legend in his own mind” status.
This isn’t to say we should discount what he has accomplished on the diamond and in the dugout.
After all, he is the only foreigner to win the Shoriki Award for contributions made to Japanese baseball. And they do love him there. Hell, a free section of the team’s stadium has been christened the “Bobby Seats,” and a street near the stadium is named “Valentine Way.”
But they were far more impressed by (and enamored with) his larger-than-life persona, as a refreshing change to the normally stoic, serious-minded Japanese culture.
Despite this obvious love, he was not asked back.
Then he had a shot to land a gig managing the
Florida Miami Marlins about eighteen months ago and one had to think he was a front runner on that one.
I mean, Valentine has had a long-running friendship with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and seemed to have the job nailed down.
Still, when he didn’t get the job, instead of taking the high road, he blasted his friend on national TV.
“If this is a major-league process, I hope I’m never in the process again,” Valentine said on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. “It’s very disturbing, confusing and it was insulting at times, but it’s over.’
The Marlins reportedly balked at his demands for control over personnel decisions and decided to go in another direction…one that included another stint by the ultra cool but also ancient Jack McKeon.
Now comes this, courtesy of D.J. Short @ Hardball Talk:
When Bobby Valentine was originally hired as manager of the Red Sox, it was suggested that ownership went over the head of newly-hired general manager Ben Cherington to make the call. This led to all sorts of speculation that Cherington was already marginalized and that he would have a difficult time building the ballclub that he wants to build.
That’s an extreme view, of course, but this piece by Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globesuggests that a power struggle could already be emerging in regard to key roster decisions.
“A wedge appears to be forming between new manager Bobby Valentine and new general manager Ben Cherington on the best way to employ Daniel Bard, starter or reliever, and the best place to employ shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias, Fenway Park or Pawtucket.
Valentine reportedly told scouts from outside the Sox organization he wants Iglesias, not utilityman Mike Aviles, as his starting shortstop. The Sox manager believes Iglesias is ready to play in the majors, which runs counter to the organization’s belief that Iglesias, who is batting .200 this spring with one extra-base hit, is greener than Fenway’s fabled Wall with the bat.
Valentine has been lukewarm, bordering on openly cynical about Bard’s conversion from setup man to starter, a centerpiece of Cherington’s team-building blueprint, and a report, citing an anonymous Sox staffer, said Bard would be returning to the bullpen when the games begin for real.”
Reasonable baseball people disagree on things like this all the time, so we could probably find similar situations with all 30 teams right now. You know, one manager wants the top prospect to make the team while the GM would prefer to delay his service time and pick the non-roster invitee with the out-clause in his contract or the player who is out of options. This is everyday baseball stuff.
The potentially troubling part is that Valentine might feel that he doesn’t have to agree with Cherington if John Henry and Larry Lucchino have his back.
It’s still way too early to make any judgments about whether this will be a successful marriage, but it will be very interesting to see how these particular situations play out.
This could all be much ado about nothing.
But considering the man at the center of it all, it most likely isn’t. The Red Sox would do well to get their house in order before the season gets underway or the drama in 2012 can make the sausage of FAIL from last year feel a pleasant memory of days gone by.
By ‘Duk (@ Yahoo! “Big League Stew”)
Hours before he was set to start a game against theBaltimore Orioles, Boston pitcher Erik Bedard(notes) was served papers at Fenway Park as part of an ongoing child support dispute with an ex-girlfriend.
What made a routine legal process of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court noteworthy and weird, however, was the man delivering the documents. Not only did lifelong fan Tom Cabral proudly wear a Yankees shirt for his meeting with Bedard, he also bragged on his public Facebook wallthat his timing was intentional as Bedard would be pitching later that day in a key game for the AL wild-card chase.
Honestly, you couldn’t even make this stuff up for the pages of The Onion.
“The Red Sox were very cooperative,” Cabral told The Post. “They asked me if I could serve these tomorrow because he was starting tonight. My position was, my client [Bedard’s ex-girlfriend Courtney Roberts] wants it served today, and that’s what I have to do.” […]
“When I walked in I was like, I’m a Yankees fan, but I’m not trying to (give you a hard time),” Cabral [right, looking an awful lot like Louis CK] said. “I told him that and said, sorry, I’ve got to do this. But he said it was no problem. I handed him the copies of all the documents and he signed them.
“(The Red Sox) legal department was joking with me about it … they were saying, ‘That’s why you’re so adamant about doing it today … you’re a Yankees fan.'”
According to the Post, Roberts is seeking more support for the daughter she and Bedard had together because his annual salary has risen since they first signed an agreement in 2006. Only Bedard can say for certain if the papers affected his performance, but his first start since Sept. 3 was not a good one: The oft-injured pitcher lasted only 2 2/3 innings in a 7-5 loss to the Orioles that did not allow the slumping Red Sox to creep any closer to the AL wild-card title.
But regardless of cause, Bedard’s performance and the game’s result surely must have pleased superfan Cabral, who posted several Facebook updates during his unique work assignment. After reading them, it made me ask this question: Has the general public ever sided more with the served than the server in a child support case?
This story might actually be a first, in so many more ways than one.
What’s the one guaranteed way to make a Red Sox fan cry? According to Alec Baldwin in this New Era Cap Company commercial, it’s to burn precious Fenway Park tickets in front of them. And, judging from John Krasinski’s usually calm voice have a hint of panic, Baldwin’s evil plot is true.
New Era Cap Company has been running a series of commercials featuring the Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry between these two men, showcasing the pranks they pull on each other. Krasinski shaved a Red Sox sign into Baldwin’s dog, while Baldwin bought some precious screen time at a Yankees game to feature Krasinski in his underwear. The list goes on, but the battle really blazes in this new video.
Which one of the New Era Cap Company ads do you like best? More importantly, are you team Baldwin or team Krasinski?
One player the Yankees have scouted heavily is Yu Darvish. And there is strong belief around the game that the top starter in Japan will, indeed, be posted this offseason and come to the States.
“He is coming, period,” one personnel man said.
The Yankees have had sour experience with high-profile Japanese pitchers Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, whose five-year contract finally expires this year. And the last can’t-miss Japanese pitcher to come to the majors, Daisuke Matsuzaka, was hardly a bonanza for the Red Sox.
So you wonder if there will be greater financial caution with Darvish this winter or will the hunger for pitching motivate teams to bid. I will say this, I have not sensed that the Igawa experience will take the Yankees, for example, out of the Japanese marketplace.
Darvish is certainly attractive as a pitcher. He is 6-foot-5, 25 years old, pitches at 93-94 mph with the ability to touch higher than that and is known for having an inventive and competitive spirit on the mound. He is 15-3 with a 1.59 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 158 innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
September is around the corner, that time of year when baseball fans pretend to care about that little sport called football. The pennant races and wild-card chases don’t look too dramatic right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of reasons to remain excited about the final five-plus weeks. Like these 10.
1. Justin Verlander’s pursuit of awesomeness.
Like phenom Dwight Gooden in 1985 or defying-his-age Nolan Ryan or painting-the-corners Greg Maddux or unhittable Pedro Martinez, Justin Verlander has become appointment viewing in 2011. He had another superb effort Monday night, pitching seven innings of three-hit, one-run baseball, beating the Rays to run his record to 19-5, lower his ERA to 2.28 and lower his opponents’ batting average to .185.
We’ll dig into this a little deeper at some point, but isn’t it time to start thinking of Verlander’s season in terms of all-time dominance? For example, let’s start by checking all pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings since 1901 with a WHIP below 1.00. That gives us a list of 147 pitcher-seasons. A lot of those seasons came in the dead ball era, when offense was scarce and low ERAs and few baserunners common, so let’s use only those pitchers with an ERA+ (which adjusts for era and home park) of 150 or better.
That cuts the list down to 96 seasons. Of those, only 20 allowed opponents to hit .200 or less. Verlander is one of those 20 right now. He probably has six starts remaining. I recommend you watch them.
2. The Phillies’ pursuit of regular-season history.
With their 10-0 shutout against the Mets on Monday, the Phillies improved to 82-44, a pace of 105 wins. Only two National League teams since 1910 have won 108 games — the 1975 Reds and 1986 Mets — and the Phillies would have to go 26-10 the rest of the way to match that achievement. It’s a longshot, especially with Jimmy Rollins out for a couple weeks and Charlie Manuel likely backing off a bit on the workload of his starting pitchers, but only 14 of those remaining 36 games are against teams currently with a winning record, so it’s possible.
3. The pursuit of MVP awards.
Last year’s MVP announcements were anticlimactic, as Joey Votto received 31 of 32 first-place votes and Josh Hamilton received 22 of 28. The 2009 announcements were anticlimactic, as Albert Pujolswas a unanimous selection and Joe Mauer received 27 of 28 first-place votes. This year’s races are not only up for grabs, but up for grabs among several candidates in both leagues. In the NL, Ryan Braun,Prince Fielder, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Shane Victorino will all have their supporters. In the AL, Jose Bautista will stake his numbers against likely playoff performers Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia. And don’t discount Verlander, although a starting pitcher hasn’t won since Roger Clemens in 1986.
4. Young players pursuing their big league dreams.
The most intriguing possibility may be Diamondbacks right-hander Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in the June draft. Would they throw him into the heat of a pennant race? Besides Bauer, however, we may see names such as Yankees slugger Jesus Montero and left-hander Manny Banuelos; Nationals right-hander Brad Peacock, who has a 167/44 strikeout/walk ratio between Double-A and Triple-A; Cubs center fielder Brett Jackson, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2009; Reds catcher Devon Mesoraco; and Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin. We may also see a lot more of previous call-ups such as superstud of the Angels Mike Trout and the Braves’ Julio Teheran.
5. Michael Young’s pursuit of his second batting title.
Young was vilified in the offseason when he initially balked at being moved from third base to designated hitter, asking the Rangers for a trade in early February. Unable or unwilling to move Young and his $16 million salary, the Rangers and Young were stuck with each other. Both made the best of an uneasy situation, as Young has started 61 games at DH, 27 at third base, 26 at first base and 13 at second base. He’s had one of his best seasons at the plate, hitting .338, second in the AL to Adrian Gonzalez’s .343. He also surpassed 2,000 career hits, with 3,000 suddenly looking like a possibility. Long maligned by statheads for being overpaid, overrated in the field and a beneficiary of a favorable home park, it’s also time to appreciate Young as a guy who never misses a game and a pretty nice guy to have on a ball club.
6. The pursuit of answers from Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa.
Are we seeing the final days in St. Louis of the two Cardinals icons? Pujols hits free agency and the Cardinals may decide to part ways with La Russa after 16 seasons. You won’t get much in the way of sound bites from either guy, but it’s a storyline that will be unavoidable.
7. Jose Valverde’s pursuit of “perfection.”
The Tigers closer has a 2.72 ERA and he’s walked 30 hitters in just 56.1 innings. He even has four losses. But he has somehow walked that tightrope and not blown a save opportunity all season.
8. A.J. Burnett’s pursuit of a postseason rotation slot.
Right now, the Yankees know CC Sabathia will start Game 1 of their postseason. But who starts Game 2? When the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, Burnett was actually that guy and he responded with a stellar outing in Game 2 of the World Series, after the Yankees had lost the opener.
Burnett has been terrible of late, making it appear likely he won’t make the Yankees’ postseason roster, let alone the rotation. As for the No. 2 guy, rookie Ivan Nova has won nine of his past 10 starts, with a 3.48 ERA. Stay tuned.
9. Stephen Strasburg pursues a return to the majors.
So dominant as a rookie a year ago, Strasburg is rehabbing from last summer’s Tommy John surgery and a September call-up looks probable. I can’t wait for him to make it back.
10. The Diamondbacks and Giants pursue NL West title.
Lest we forget, we still have one dramatic race going — at least for now. Can the Giants make the playoffs to defend their title? Can the Diamondbacks become the underdog of October? The key dates: Sept. 2-4 in San Francisco and Sept. 23-25 at Arizona.
ESPN’s Buster Olney talks waivers in his latest blog post, and I can’t help but join in.
- The Twins are currently seven games out in the AL Central. If they slip further from contention, Olney wonders what will happen if they place outfielder/designated hitter Jason Kubel on waivers later this month. He projects currently as a Type B free agent. I wonder if the draft pick alone would compel a non-contending AL team to make a claim, with less than a million bucks remaining on his contract after August.
- Olney sees such a scenario as possible for Rays reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who profiles as a Type A. He could see the Blue Jays jumping in for the draft picks, though I imagine the Rays would keep him for the same reason.
- Would Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez or Padres closer Heath Bell make it to an NL contender? Or would Type A status again factor in? Olney sees the A’s pulling back Josh Willingham rather than dumping his contract, probably because he’s a Type A currently. I wonder if Willingham would accept an arbitration offer though.
- Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena is a good candidate to be moved as a salary dump, with half of his $10MM due in January.
- Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez is expected to clear waivers, with over $38MM left on his deal through 2014. Just to play devil’s advocate: Wandy is a bargain this year with just $2.27MM remaining, so it’s possible one contender could decide they can stomach three years and $36MM from 2012-14, and make a claim.
- Guys like Carlos Quentin and Jeremy Guthrie would be claimed, but dealing them in the offseason probably makes more sense.