Siberian Baseball

Thursday, December 28, 2006

News out West

Barry Zito to the Giants?

Hmm, didn't see that one coming. Too bad there's not much left on that team at first blush.

I'll have to stew on this a bit, but I'm surprised at this to say the least. Must really love the Bay, huh?

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Friday, December 22, 2006

The quick rundown

Two off-the-field stories today - Dontrelle Willis was reportedly stopped for a DWI and Ken Griffey Jr. has a broken hand.

The 24-year-old Willis was stopped for allegedly urinating in the middle of the street while he left the Bently running. The kicker is that the police first started paying attention to him when he double-parked the car in Miami Beach.

Bummer, but not a huge deal, especially if he keeps his nose clean in the future, eight?

Griffey will be in a cast for three weeks after breaking is hrowing hand at home, but the team is staying quiet on the details until Junior gives them the OK to release those.

For now, I think Reds fans are just happy it's a hand and not another leg problem.

On a personal note, I hope there's some crazy story behind this.

Ballplayers never seem to be injured in any normal way. If I had to pick, I'd like to see a Wii-related injury.

(Photo from

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Big day for pitching

Good info piece by Jerry Crasnick on today about the guys who'll be in contract years this year and the prohibitive bets about whether they'll sign this year or hit the free agent market next off-season.

Say what you will about Christmas coming earleir and earlier each year, this is really getting out ahead of the curve on this one. A 2007-2008 off-season article before 2007 is really staying on top of things.

If the Cubs don't shell out the cash to resign Carlos Zambrano, they're officially back to the usual swing of bad ideas, decisions and luck. Then again, if the agents for Zambrano don't mug these guys in the parking lot, they're not doing their jobs right.

Honestly, I think Zambrano should be paid whatever the hell he wants, just because he dumped Scott Boras. Let's try and make this a trend, shall we?

* Brad Radke has officially called it a career in Minnesota. More on this once I gather my thoughts. It's all so sudden, I don't even know how to react...

* Also on the radar for everyone should be the Rangers signing Eric Gagne. He passed his physical and is on his way. It's strange that such a dominating arm was essentially scrap heap material this year, although the injuries have really limited him the past two seasons.

He was the terrifying closer in 2004 and now he's an interesting arm, but not generating the level of heat the Barry Zito and the rest of the free agent pitchers are.

Maybe he needs new entrance music? Something more Canadian? Just throwing things out here.

(Odd sidenote: The Rangers reissued a new jersey for manager Ron Washington so that Gagne could keep his number 38. That's pretty cool. )

(Photo from

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now that the dust has settled, let's look at Mr. Hunter

Whew, what a busy, busy baseball season, hey Minnesota?

Went by pretty quickly and got pretty exciting at the end, wouldn't you say?

Now that we're safely away from October and the holidays are right around the corner, can we go back to taking a serious look at Torii Hunter and what he's bringing to the table this year?

Just for the quick refresher, Hunter got off to a so-so start (causing Frankie to drop him in our fantasty league and then curse his name ever two weeks after that) before flying under the radar, taking a bit of heat for his performance and turning it on down the stretch.

All of this is difficult to judge from seats in the Metrodome, as they can find the most skewed stats to make all of the Twins look like world-beaters... well, except for my buddy Rondell. Still, Hunter seemed to do well for the most part, assuming there were no runners on base for him to ground into a double play with.

Before it became clear that the playoffs weren't a total pipe dream, the calls for Hunter to move along were gaining some steam and then everyone seemed to forget in September.

Then came October.

Then came one of those that plays.

Hunter charges in on a ball hit to center and for reasons known only to him, he dives in for it as it slices away from his outstretched glove. This happens a few years to the day after he'd made basically the same mistake in the playoffs against the Yankees.

The difference? No one seemed to question his abilities after the first mistake - That's Hunter, he's a hard-nosed kind of guy. He was just being aggressive and got burned this time - as they have after this one.

The questions linger - and Twins brass has been pretty poitical about it - regarding the team picking up the option on his contract this offseason and the impact the stretch run had on that decision. They said Hunter is a quality outfielder, so the option was a no-brainer. I'm betting July would have brought a different answer.

Still, there had been a lot of questions from fans about whether he'd lost a step or just made a dumb play. In the days after the Twins were swept by Oakland, the talk radio lines were flooded with armchair GMs who were positive that Hunter's mind told him he could make that play, while his legs just didn't have the spring to play center anymore.

They seem to forget that the same outfield was covered in the 80s by a man who didn't look like he'd be competitive in horseshoes much less pro baseball, but the question was clear: Has Torii Hunter lost it?

It's hard for me to say - I didn't grow up watching him, so I don't have a solid frame of reference like I did for Ryne Sandberg, but there were times this season where I'd see him make a play and think, "That's it?"

He seemed to be a few short steps ahead of the ball, not the Hunter I'd seen on Web Gems and had learned to keep an eye on. Is he better than most center fielders?

Hard to say, but he'd have to be a top free agent this year if he was coming out now instead of next year. I think the key to Hunter's value will come this year as he continues to work against time at a position that demands speed.

Look around at other players who have had to adjust with Exhibit A being Nomar Garciaparra.

While he's long been known as a first-ball hitter, he began to struggle in Boston and Chicago when the bat speed began to drop a bit and the reflexes became just a hair slower. There were games where he seemed to actively ignore better advice to the contrary when it came to taking a pitch or two.

Hunter was pressing with the bat last season, trying to carry a team that already had two bigger bats in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Known for his Spiderman routine at the wall, there were a few dicey moments where Hunter seemed caught in the middle on hard hit fly balls.

Am I saying he's worthless as a center fielder? Not by a long shot. Am I saying he need to start adapting his game to play safer angles and accept that, like all players, as he ages, he's losing speed? Without a doubt.

How Hunter handles this upcoming season where fans with even intermediate memories will be putting him under a microscope will speak volumes about what to expect as he enters the back half of his career.

This will be difficult for the face of the Twins as he has to accept a supporting role as someone to drive in runs, dial back the power on his swings and look to make smarter plays in the field.

Hunter can still be a vital part of the organization, he's just no longer in a position to be the big dog at the Metrodome anymore.

(Photo from


Just putting this out there

You feel that?

That low rumble? Almost like the ground is shifting under superagent Scott Boras?


Seth Mnookin over at Feeding the Monster has put together a great recap of the past 72 hours in the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing process which basically outlines how Boras is screwing himself as we speak.

My favorite part is how Boras is backpeddaling on his $100 million demand:

Scott Boras is insisting that he did not say that Matsuzaka should receive $100 million; he merely said that’s what pitchers in today’s market are receiving. (Pretty much everyone who saw the press conference thought he said that’s what Matsuzaka should get.) Boras also stressed that Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman.

There's no way this ends well for Boras if the deal doesn't get done - not that it'd be a picnic for the Red Sox to lose out, either - but you have to hand it to the front office for pulling a West Wing and marching right into the lion's den and making a PR mess for Boras and company.

Two days and counting...

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It was a joke, I swear

I was only kidding, Minnesota Twins management - by using two players like Jeff Cirillo and Jeromy Burnitz, I was saying those would be bad signings this offseason.

Still, today the Twins are set to announce a one-year deal with the man most likely to be confused with an STD.

So let's break this down so we don't have to come back to this later:

The 37-year-old Cirillo batted .317 in 112 games with three homers and a whopping 23 RBI last year. This of course, clears the way to slot Jason Kubel in as a backup to get more experience and move Rondell White into left field.

I can't see how this will fail.

I'm all for "change of scenery" moves and trades made to jumpstart a failing career, but you know how I was talking the other day about adding a big bat to the lineup in the DH spot?

Three home runs does not a big bat make. Not even close.

Cirillo has been a solid player for the Brewers for many years, but as the showcase bat in a lineup? Not so much.

Most AL teams would kill for a one-two punch like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on a bopper to either protect those two or to serve as a bigger catalyst in the lineup.

Not the Twins, though. They're more than happy to push whoever will sign for under $2 million a year into the on-deck circle.

How is this not a subject worth debating about for hours on SportsCenter? You have the AL MVP and the batting champ on a playoff team which has made the postseason in four of the last five years and the brass brings in Jeff Cirillo as the calvary?

It's practically a crime against humanity.

(Photo from the Associated Press)

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Two for the road

Hitting the Internet this morning and saw that the Cubs have reportedly signed Jason Marquis to a three-year deal for roughly $20 million, just furthering the belief that Jim Hendry has confused his MLB '06 - The Show roster with the actual Chicago Cubs roster.

This is all very strange and disorienting to me.

It's like moving the furniture around on a blind dog. did the math and it's $272.5 in new contracts, not even taking into account Lou Piniella's deal. It's like some bizarro Brewster's Millions plot.

Aside from another arm in the rotation - See? See? They're finally figuring this out! - Marquis brings hatred for the Cardinals who left him out of the post-season last year. Let's hope he uses this as motivation and not as a moment of clarity that maybe he's not big league material.

(Sidenote: The stories of Hendry being told to take it easy as he makes two signings in a few days from his hospital bed makes it so I don't know whether to be excited for 2007 or worried for the poor guy's health. These are the kinds of stories that are told months from now if the Cubs are doing well, or, more likely, are snickered at by Bill Simmons in a Page 2 column. It could really go either way.)

* Why should Twins fans be angry this morning?

This link, right here.

Rondell White, boo bird bait in a town where I hear the least amount of heckling per capita than any other sports town, is being "courted" by the Twins to be their every day left fielder.

Let me break that down to hit all the important parts:

Rondell (third on the depth chart in left / no home runs as a DH prior to the All-Star Game) White is the top candidate for the starting left fielder's spot in Minnesota next year.

While he seems like a nice enough guy in post-game interviews, let's not forget that this is the man Twins fans wanted to kill to start the 2006 season. While he struggled, hacked and grounded out his way to an .081 batting average, the team nearly drowned before finding new life and making a surge to the division championship. If you needed to point to one guy who was at least indicative of the team's awful play - if not largely responsible for it - White was at the front of that line.

I file this along with Nick Punto's stunning second half. Yes, it's great to get above-grade production from guys in your lineup that weren't supposed to be very good. Now, revisionist history says that White turned things around down the stretch and was a vital cog to the team as it pushed for the playoffs.

What a bunch of bullshit.

The trick is not looking at your roster on paper in the winter, seeing the Punto that turned it on in the stretch run and standing pat. Same with White. Here's a guy who was brought in to do one thing - Hit the baseball - and he found new and amusing ways to stink up the joint on a nightly basis.

While quality, good-value players aren't falling off trees just waiting to sign up here, there's a baseline of talent that the Twins organization needs to maintain with solid young players and a better than they look core of pitchers.

Why you'd let this slip away as Johan Santana, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau enter their primes is beyond me. A new ballpark is right around the corner and I haven't heard a (serious) peep about breaking out the cash for a big-name bat yet.

Hell, at this point, I think the Twins fans would be happy with a middle of the road guy versus overpaying for the Jeromy Burnitzes and Jeff Cirillos of the world, but it'd be nice to at least hear that the Twins were in the running for someone, even if it's not true.

(Image from

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Week's end wrap up

I was really excited Thursday morning after a big night of moves in the hot stove league. Better yet was Steve Phillips chasing Barry Bonds around like Carl Monday, asking who he was talking to, if he was staying with the Giants and if he was jacking it.

Bonds told him his testicles were too far gone to even consider the last option. Not really, but in the television of my mind it was awesome.

The biggest, but least shocking moves were today, with Andy Pettitte going back to the Bronx and bringing rumors of a return of Roger Clemens with him. Bonds is also returning to San Francisco where he'll be hated the least.

Other big moves:

Jason Schmidt - Dodgers - Headed to the Dodgers, the biggest free agent arm (tied with Barry Zito this year) undercuts the Giants and helps Los Angeles which has a much better rotation on paper now (Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Schmidt, Randy Wolf and any number of arms looking to take over the five spot.)

Being able to beef up your team while draining a division rival is a nice bonus, but these moves put the Dodgers as the early favorites in the NL West next year.

To his credit, Drew has defended himself a bit to the media, but given that it's Boston, this could get ugly in a big way. We'll see what happens, but this could be a train wreck right out of the gates.

Seriously, you can't trust LA, but who else is going to step up? In other words, business as usual in the NL West.

JD Drew and Julio Lugo - Red Sox - Here's what worries me. Five words in 20 years: The Curse of Johnny Damon. Expect JD Drew to get a lot of face time with Joe Buck's kid and AJ Pierzinski if this becomes a story line of my future nightmares.

Bad attitude and injury prone? Where do I sign?

To his credit, he's defended himself to a point, but it's still Boston and it's not out of the realm of possibility that this could be a train wreck out of the gates.

As much as I'm skeptical of Drew, I like the Lugo signing.

Not as much as I'd like Damon and Orlando Cabrera, but still...

(The best part of the Cabrera Era was screaming, "Welcome to the O.C., bitch!" every night.

Ted Lilly - Cubs - Please, oh please can we get at least a half-powered Bronson Arroyo factor here?

He was 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA in 32 games for the Blue Jays last season.

I can't lie, I was awake after I turned off the TV the other night asking over and again if Ted Lilly was worth $10 million per year. My gut reaction is no.

Hope it's worth hospitalizing a GM over, but this deal isn't as exciting as it should have been. Yes, Cubs front office, we get it, you're trying to win now. There's still no need to try and spend 15 years worth of surplus cash in one mediocre off-season for talent.

Mike Piazza - A's - It's about time, huh? Maybe they'll give him Frank Thomas' old locker.

Freddy Garcia - Phillies - I'm with Frankie on this one who sent me an e-mail when this signing was confirmed. In an off-season where Lilly gets $10 million per, the White Sox give away a very, very durable pitcher for peanuts?

I thought this would be a move to bring Aaron Rowland back, but was surprised when he was left out east.

Still waiting to get word back on whether or not Kenny Williams is still a genius. That said, I'm getting a Billy Beane vibe off Willaims still where no matter how ridiculous the signing or free agent drop is, you can't help but wonder what he's up to.

This is a direct turn around from the Williams we were given in Moneyball where he was emasculated and painted as too dumb to grasp the finer points of a simple multi-player swap.

More from Frankie on this subject can be found here.

Joe Borowski - Indians - This guy keeps finding work and he always seemed like a good enough guy, but I can't help but wonder how he keeps signing contracts.

He's never very good, but never very bad, either. I think this is indicative of the season Cleveland can expect next year.

Gil Meche - Royals - Good for you, Royals!

Aren't they cute everyone? Yes, they are! Yes, they are!

Cute little ballclub you got there, KC...

For more of the same, jump over to where Jayson Stark has a similar breakdown, but with, you know... facts and stuff.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Perfect Storm

Have I mentioned my lack of respect for LaTroy Hawkins lately? How he's become the punchline for nearly all of my struggling reliever/whiplash candidate jokes? How I mused to get a sick feeling whenever he'd enter a game on the North Side and I was always a little disappointed to see him come in because in any video game I'd trade his ass for a bag of used baseballs the first chance I got?

Yeah, I guess it's come up once or twice.

Hawkins signed a new deal today for what is reporting to be one year and an undisclosed sum in - are you ready for it? - Colorado.

Oh, sweet Jesus, this could get ugly quick.

While he had surprisingly good numbers in his last full season in Chicago on the road at Coors Field (the Rockies only mustered batting averages and on-base percentages of .143 against him) things got a little worse when he made the jump to San Francisco where in eight games he allowed an on-base percentage of .500, slugging of .667 and batting average of .333 - it's also worth nothing that he didn't face many batters in this time frame to be fair, seeing only six at-bats - but that's still less than stellar for limited work there.

Looking at his career numbers and taking into account moves from and back to the American League, it appears that Hawkins has probably hit a plateau and is on the downswing for any number of reasons.

His career numbers slimmed down to hit a low point in the year before his acquisition by the Cubs (his ERA shrunk from the eights in limited use in 1995 and 1996 to the two-three-four range before ballooning again in Baltimore last season with a 4.48 ERA in 60 appearances.

So, while a trip back to the NL might help a bit, expect Coors to take that edge off in the mile-high air.

Not quite sure how much he'll help, but at least it's a one-year deal with a mutual option. Keep that in mind, Rockies fans.

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