Articles By Charlie Miller
The voting is in and MLB has tallied up America’s wishes for the starting lineups for the All-Star Game next week. Managers Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Ron Washington of the Rangers have selected their reserves.
While fans clearly see this as a popularity lineup (despite Bud Selig’s attempt to convince us otherwise with the whole World Series home-field shenanigans), not a real All-Star lineup, we seldom agree with the voting results. And, we can’t say that we always agree with the managers either.
We like to select teams that would give us the best chances of winning a real game in view of this season’s performance. We think that should be what an All-Star Game is about.
So, here are Athlon Sports All-Star teams for 2011 — based on production, not reputation.
These are 34-man rosters with every team represented. And we like to emulate real teams as much as possible so we have setup men and closers in the bullpen.
(Stats are current through July 3.)
Starters and batting order
SS Jose Reyes, New York
Maybe the biggest no-brainer in either league, Reyes leads the NL with a .351 average and leads shortstops in most every major category expect RBIs. His 120 hits and 65 runs are dominant.
CF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
Currently in the top three in all triple crown categories, Kemp leads the discussion for MVP honors. His defensive focus has been renewed this season as well.
LF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
Among players with enough at-bats to qualify, Braun leads leftfielders in OPS and average. Braun easily leads leftfielders in hits, home runs, RBIs, runs and even stolen bases.
1B Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
The MVP candidate is leading the NL in RBIs and is just one off the pace in home runs. He’s third in OPS and is batting .296.
DH Matt Holliday, St. Louis
Falling just shy of enough plate appearances to qualify, Holliday is a tad higher than Braun in average and OPS, but way short in homers, ribbies and runs.
RF Lance Berkman, St. Louis
The Yankees declined a $15 million option on Berkman, who is still in the MVP talk this season. He’s moved to first base in Albert Pujols’ absence, but spent most of the season in right field. He has 58 RBIs and a .999 OPS.
C Brian McCann, Atlanta
Clearly deserving to start this season, not because he was the hero last the 2010 game, but because he leads NL catchers in home runs (14), RBIs (47) and OPS (.907).
2B Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee
Leads NL second basemen with an .839 OPS and 57 runs.
3B Placido Polanco, Philadelphia
Polanco is third in most offensive categories, but he has been the catalyst for the NL’s best team all season. He’s hit second, third and fifth in the lineup. The former Gold Glove second baseman will also serve as out utility man off the bench.
C Miguel Montero, Arizona
The rising Arizona star leads NL catchers with 21 doubles and 37 runs.
1B Todd Helton, Colorado
Recently played in his 2,000th game as a member of the Rockies. Enjoying a fine comeback season that has been relatively injury-free.
1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Tough to leave the reigning MVP off the team, especially when he’s been hitting over .300 all season and has reached base via hit or walk in all but seven starts through June.
2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
Phillips has scored 52 and driven home 45. His Gold Glove defense would come in handy late in a close game.
3B Aramis Ramirez, Chicago
In a down year for NL third basemen, Placido Polanco, Chipper Jones and Chase Headley all received attention. Ramirez owns the best OPS at the position and is second in runs, RBIs and average.
3B Chipper Jones, Atlanta
Okay, a) this is a sentimental pick in Jones’ finals season; b) it gives the NL a second third baseman if Polanco is the backup at second, and; c) Jones has been clutch, hitting .409 with runners in scoring position.
SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
Leads NL shortstops with 50 ribbies and plays spectacular defense, but falls way short of Reyes.
SS Starlin Castro, Chicago
The youngster should have many All-Star appearances — and even starts — in his career, but for now he’s a pinch-runner and may get in an inning on defense.
OF Mike Stanton, Florida
The Marlins’ representative is the young Stanton, who leads the team in home runs and tied with Gaby Sanchez for the team lead in RBIs and OPS.
OF Andre Ethier, Los Angeles
He had a torrid April that included a 30-game hitting streak, and leads rightfielders with a .320 average.
OF Hunter Pence, Houston
Pence is hitting .318 and we must have an Astro on the team.
OF Justin Upton, Arizona
The home fans should enjoy watching the rising star and offensive leader of the Diamondbacks
SP Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta
His recent 1-hit shutout of Baltimore cemented his position as our starter. He’s 11-3 with a 1.89 ERA after 15 starts.
SP Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
The steady perennial Cy Young candidate has completed 15 of his first 51 starts with the Phillies. He’s 11-3 this season and his 2.44 ERA is second in the senior circuit.
SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
He may get third billing on his own team behind Halladay and Cliff Lee, but Hamels has a 0.94 WHIP with 110 whiffs in 116 innings.
SP Cliff Lee, Philadelphia
Could manager Bruce Bochy just run out Philadelphia pitchers for the entire game? Yes, and would probably do quite well. Prior to his loss to Toronto on Sunday, Lee tossed three complete game shutouts in which he allowed just 10 hits and five walks. In 42 innings in June, he gave up one run (0.21 ERA).
SP Tommy Hanson, Atlanta
Hanson is fourth in the league with a 2.62 ERA.
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
With a borderline ERA at 3.23, Kershaw is fourth in the league with a 1.06 WHIP and leads the senior circuit with 138 Ks.
SP Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco
Vogelsong — not Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner — has been the most consistent starter this season. He leads the Giants with a 2.13 ERA (0.2 shy of enough innings to qualify for the league lead) and Cain is his only teammate with a better WHIP.
SU Tyler Clippard, Washington
The league leader in holds, Clippard has 57 strikeouts and has 40 hits plus walks in his 46 innings.
SU Jonny Venters, Atlanta
Venters would be the key lefty in our pen. He has dominated over 51 innings with 54 whiffs and has allowed just 48 hits and walks.
CL Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh
The Pirates’ closer has been perfect in 24 save chances and has a 0.97 WHIP.
CL Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
No National League rookie has ever recorded 20 saves prior to the All-Star break. Kimbrel has 24 and counting. He sports an impressive 1.12 WHIP.
CL Heath Bell, San Diego
Bell has blown just one opportunity this season and saved 24 games. This may be his last All-Star appearance in a San Diego uniform.
CL Huston Street, Colorado
Tied for the league lead in saves, Street has blown just two and even has one hold.
Athlon's 2011 All-Star Game Snubs
1. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay
A master with youngsters and at convincing players to believe in themselves and their team.
2. Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels
His teams are aggressive and will play the game at a high intensity. Not afraid to make mistakes.
3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
Has an old-fashioned, gut-it-out style and teams that take on that persona. Can win with less.
4. Terry Francona, Boston
Proven he can lead good teams; had trouble motivating teams with less talent.
5. Tony La Russa, St. Louis
Rubs just enough players the wrong way not to be higher on the list. But he wins.
6. Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia
Won’t wow anyone in an interview, but his players always play hard for him.
7. Jim Leyland, Detroit
Old-school baseball leader will protect his players to no end. Guys always know where they stand with him.
8. Rod Gardenhire, Minnesota
Well versed in the “Minnesota Twins Way” dating back to Tom Kelly. Good fundamentals and few mental mistakes — not talent — are hallmarks of his teams.
9. Bud Black, San Diego
Has proven he can win with low expectations.
10. Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Still learning and finding out that winning in New York isn’t as easy as Joe Torre made it look.
11. Dusty Baker, Cincinnati
Good winning track record, but not exactly a pitcher’s manager.
12. Buck Showalter, Baltimore
Buck does things Buck’s way. Has prepared teams to be winners, but never actually managed his own winner.
13. Ron Washington, Texas
Rocky start in Texas, but proved he could take a team to the Series last season.
14. Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox
Never know what you’re get with Ozzie. Sometimes good; sometimes bad. Mostly good.
15. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
Maybe the best fit in Pittsburgh since Jim Leyland.
16. Jim Tracy, Colorado
Calm, stoic and in need of good players.
17. Kirk Gibson, Arizona
Too early to tell, but indications point to a bright future at the helm.
18. Ned Yost, Kansas City
Got a raw deal in Milwaukee; needs to be given time in K.C. (just like the young players).
19. Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee
The jury hasn’t even begun to deliberate, but we like his pedigree and the fact that the Brew Crew is winning.
20. Manny Acta, Cleveland
Has enjoyed short-term success in Washington and now Cleveland; most teams prefer long-term success.
21. Jim Riggleman, Washington
Always says yes to jobs, but rarely No. 1 on teams’ lists.
22. Edwin Rodriguez, Florida
Players seem to respect coaches and front office more than E-Rod.
23. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta
Popular choice to succeed Bobby Cox in Atlanta, but didn’t exactly prove himself in Florida.
24. Eric Wedge, Seattle
May not be given many more chances.
25. John Farrell, Toronto
Much like most of Toronto’s team: Unknown.
26. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers
Very little about the Dodgers has improved under his watch; then again, the organization is in turmoil from the top down.
27. Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs
Probably won’t be in uniform much longer.
28. Brad Mills, Houston
Will probably suffer same fate as most managers with mediocre players.
29. Terry Collins, New York Mets
Not a good fit in Anaheim or Houston. Certainly not in New York.
30. Bob Melvin, Oakland
Midseason fill-in trying to earn a job in 2012.
With the 2011 Major League Draft final, let’s take a look back through history at the top picks at each slot 1-50. There are some Hall of Famers on the list, but some had to be left out. And there are a few slots that make you scratch your head and ask, “Who’s that guy?”
Dennis Eckersley, Cleveland, 1972
Became a Hall of Fame closer with Oakland after a 150-win career as a starter. The Indians received Bo Diaz and Rick Wise from Boston among others for Eck in a 1978 trade.
Carlos Beltran, Kansas City, 1995
Rookie of the Year for the Royals; too bad they couldn’t afford to keep him.
Cal Ripken, Baltimore, 1978
Seven shortstops were drafted ahead of Cal in 1978, including Buddy Biancalana, Lenny Faedo and Rex Hudler. Evidently, the Orioles thought more of Robert Boyce, Larry Sheets and Edwin Hook, who were drafted ahead of the Iron Man.
Tom Glavine, Atlanta, 1984
Five high school hurlers were selected ahead of Glavine, including Greg Maddux. Glavine wore his draft slot number on his back for 305 major league wins with the Braves and Mets. An Atlanta legend.
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia, 1995
Two years before taking Rollins at No. 46, the Phillies grabbed Scott Rolen with the same number. Give Rollins the edge here due to loyalty to the franchise. He has meant more to the Phillies than Rolen. The Brewers nabbed Yovani Gallardo here in 2004. He may replace Rollins on this list someday.
Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburgh, 2003
So, what did you expect? Gerald Laird? Jed Lowrie? You find a better guy.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati, 2002
There were no good options at No. 44 until Votto showed up in 2002. He rewarded the Reds with an MVP in 2010 and likely will win another.
Bob Knepper, San Francisco, 1972
Knepper won 47 games for the Giants before being traded to Houston for Enos Cabell. I guess the Giants wish they had taken Eckersley with this pick, you think?
Dennis Leonard, Kansas City, 1972
As tempting as it was to put Mookie Wilson here, we just couldn’t ignore Leonard’s 144 wins for the Royals during their glory years in 1970s. The three-time 20-game winner played his entire career in Kansas City.
Fred Lynn, Boston, 1973
Two years later, the former USC star would be named Rookie of the Year and MVP for the AL champion Red Sox. Oddly enough, every season from 1980 until his retirement after 1990, Lynn hit below his career average.
Huston Street, Oakland, 2004
Street earned the 2005 Rookie of the Year award. He was traded with Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holliday after the 2008 season. How’d that work out for ya, Oakland?.
Don Baylor, Baltimore, 1967
Baylor played 511 games over six seasons with Baltimore, getting some MVP votes in 1975. He was then a part of six-player deal just prior to the start of the 1976 season that brought Reggie Jackson to Baltimore. Baylor was named MVP in 1979 with the Angels.
David Wright, New York Mets, 2001
Of the 37 players drafted ahead of Wright, 14 have yet to see time in the big leagues. His 175 home runs and 682 RBIs are second to Mark Teixeira’s 293-947 among players drafted in ’01.
Frank Viola, Minnesota, 1981
Sweet music won a Cy Young in 1987, helping the Twins to the World Series championship. Mike Scott won a Cy Young in 1986 helping the Astros to the playoffs. Adam Jones of Baltimore may trump both in a few years.
Johnny Bench, Cincinnati, 1965
In the first draft ever, the Reds called Bench’s name in the second round. Bench holds the distinction of being the first Hall of Famer drafted. Among the seven catchers selected ahead of Bench were Ray Fosse, Gene Lamont and Ken Rudolph. Twenty years later the Montreal Expos would call Randy Johnson’s name at No. 36.
Johnny Damon, Kansas City, 1992
Economics lesson: In six seasons with the Royals, Damon played in 803 games, scored 504 runs and racked up 894 hits and made a total of $7,089,000. In one season with Oakland he played in 155 games, scored 108 runs, with 165 hits, and made $7,100,000.
Mark Gubicza, Kansas City, 1981
Gubicza won 14 games for the 1985 champion Royals and won 20 in 1988. After making 327 starts for Kansas City he ended his career with two forgettable starts for the Anaheim Angels in 1997.
Dave Burba, Seattle, 1987
Somehow Burba managed to win 115 and lose only 87. That seems better than Milt Wilcox’s 119-113 career record. Those were the best choices.
Dave Magadan, New York Mets, 1983
Magadan made history with eight consecutive hits to begin the College World Series. Actually received some MVP votes in 1990 after hitting .328 for the Mets.
Greg Maddux, Chicago Cubs, 1984
Perhaps the best pitcher of his generation, the Professor won 355 games and logged more than 5,000 innings. He won four consecutive Cy Young awards from 1992-95, and finished in the top five another five times.
Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia, 1971
The Hall of Famer hit 548 home runs for the Phillies with three MVP awards over an 18-year career. He anchored a lineup that won five division titles, two pennants and the 1980 World Series.
George Brett, Kansas City, 1971
Two Hall of Fame third basemen were drafted back-to-back in 1971. Brett is Mr. Royal — with three batting titles, 3,154 hits and a .305 lifetime average. He was the heart and soul of the best teams in franchise history.
Lee Smith, Chicago Cubs, 1975
Smith made closing look excruciating and painful, but he mastered it to the tune of 478 career saves. He had just 180 saves for the Cubs before a trade to the Red Sox for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi.
Vida Blue, Kansas City Athletics, 1967
Of his 209 career wins, 124 of them came with the A’s. He was named MVP and Cy Young winner in 1971 and was a mainstay in the rotation that won three straight World Series titles from 1972-74.
Alan Trammell, Detroit, 1976
Two shortstops were selected ahead of Trammell in 1976. Neither reached the major leagues. Trammell played 2,293 games, all for the Tigers. He hit .419 in the 1984 postseason with three home runs, nine RBIs and seven runs in eight games.
Bill Buckner, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1968
Forget about the error and remember the 2,715 hits over a stellar 22-year career. Buckner had 837 hits in 773 games for the Dodgers prior to being traded to the Cubs in a deal that brought the Dodgers Rick Monday, the first player ever drafted in 1965. Buckner was then dealt to the Red Sox in a trade for Dennis Eckersley.
Terry Mulholland, San Francisco, 1984
Mulholland played for 11 different teams in a 20-year career that lasted until he was 43. He went from front-line starter to lefty specialist. I suspect Chad Billingsley will make this list here by 2015.
Mo Vaughn, Boston, 1989
Mo was one of the most feared hitters in the American League for a short period of time. Owns an MVP and was a member of three All-Star teams. Jacoby Ellsbury is right on his heels.
Craig Biggio, Houston, 1987
Two years earlier the Cubs drafted Rafael Palmeiro in this slot, and although Palmeiro has huge numbers, he wasn’t half the gamer that Biggio was. Biggio made the All-Star team as a catcher and second baseman, and owns 3,060 hits, 668 of them doubles.
Rick Sutcliffe, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1974
After winning Rookie of the Year with a 17-10 mark for the Dodgers in 1979, two years later Sutcliffe was dealt to the Indians for Jack Fimple, Jorge Orta and Larry White. Oops. He later won a Cy Young with the 1984 Cubs.
Mike Mussina, Baltimore, 1990
Mussina narrowly missed winning 20 games five times before accomplishing that feat in his 18th and final season. He rewarded the Orioles with a 147-81 mark over 10 seasons, then dissed them by signing a huge deal with the Yankees. He made 21 postseason starts, but never won a ring.
Roger Clemens, Boston, 1983
However tainted you may believe Clemens’ record is, he won seven Cy Young awards, an MVP, finished third in Cy Young voting another three times. He retired with 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, 46 shutouts and a 3.12 ERA. In 34 postseason starts, he was 12-8, including 3-0 in eight World Series starts.
Willie Wilson, Kansas City, 1974
The New York Mets are certainly rooting for Ike Davis to take over this slot one day, but for now it’s Wilson. The speedy center fielder stole 521 bases from 1978-87. He owns a batting title and finished fourth in MVP voting in 1980. At age 36, he stole seven bags in a six-game ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Roy Halladay, Toronto, 1995
Drafted in the same slot as Phillies teammate Cole Hamels, Halladay is among the career leaders for active pitchers in several categories. He owns two Cy Young awards and has finished in the top 5 another four times. His average season since 2002 is 16-7 with a 3.02 ERA.
Lance Berkman, Houston, 1997
A Texan through and through, Houston made the former Rice star the No. 16 pick in 1997 and promoted him to the big leagues in July 1999. Enjoying a resurgence with St. Louis this season, the five-time All-Star has a lifetime .410 on-base percentage.
Jim Rice, Boston, 1971
Between 1975-86, the consistent Rice averaged .307-31-110 with 95 runs (excluding the strike-shortened 1981 season). He won just one MVP, but was in the top 5 six times. In 1978 he had 406 total bases.
Don Gullett, Cincinnati, 1969
For whatever reason, the No. 14 slot isn’t very strong. Lots of above average candidates, but no Hall of Famers. Tino Martinez, Tom Brunansky, Derrek Lee, Jason Varitek, Jeff Weaver and Jason Heyward made the short list. But Gullet enjoyed the most success with his original team. He was the ace of the Big Red Machine in 1975-76 before signing with the Yankees as part of the first-ever free agent class in 1977. He appeared in four World Series with the Reds, the first at age 19 in 1970.
Manny Ramirez, Cleveland, 1991
Before “Manny Being Manny” became popular, Ramirez played eight seasons with the Cleveland Indians, hitting 236 home runs with 804 RBIs. He never won an MVP, but finished in the top 10 for eight consecutive seasons.
Kirk Gibson, Detroit, 1978
The former Michigan State star receiver was drafted into baseball by his home-state team. In 12 seasons with the Tigers, he hit 195 home runs and batted .273. But stats don’t show the impact that Gibson had on his teams. He won the 1988 NL MVP with modest numbers (.290-25-76). Billy Wagner, Nomar Garciaparra and Jay Bruce received consideration here as well.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh, 2005
Until McCutchen was drafted, Greg Luzinski (aka The Bull) was the best here. McCutchen is the centerpiece around which the Pirates are rebuilding.
Mark McGwire, Oakland, 1984
Although it’s unfortunate that Big Mac has become synonymous with the Steroid Era, it’s difficult to ignore his 583 homers, 363 of which came in an Oakland uniform.
Kevin Appier, Kansas City, 1987
The righthander spent 13 of his 16 seasons with the Royals, with whom he earned 115 of his 169 wins. He logged more than 200 innings eight times, and had 10 seasons of double-digit wins.
Todd Helton, Colorado, 1995
The former backup to Peyton Manning and closer at the University of Tennessee, Helton has become the face of the Colorado franchise. He is Mr. Rocky.
Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox, 1989
The Big Hurt terrorized American League pitchers for 16 seasons in a White Sox uniform. He made his major league debut 14 months after being drafted, then played eight seasons before posting his first sub-.300 batting average. He had back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and ’94, and finished his career with 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs and 1,494 runs.
Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh, 1985
Two of the greatest stars of this generation (Bonds and Derek Jeter) share this slot. Bonds’ numbers are absolutely off the charts (as is his hat size). Seven MVPs — four consecutive — 2,558 walks, 762 home runs and 2,227 runs. He was walked intentionally 120 times in one season. And in his pre-bulked-up days, he won eight Gold Gloves and stole more than 500 bases.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, 2005
Mark Teixeira, Dale Murphy and Dwight Gooden all have strong cases, but Braun has become the face of a franchise and is committed to Milwaukee through 2020.
Dave Winfield, San Diego, 1973
Winfield made his major league debut a few weeks after the draft and 3,110 hits, 465 home runs and 1,833 RBIs later he’s in the Hall of Fame. In seven full seasons in San Diego prior to bolting for New York via free agency (when have we heard that before), he averaged .284-22-88 with 19 stolen bases.
Robin Yount, Milwaukee, 1973
Four years later the Brewers drafted another shortstop in the third slot, and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor became a teammate of Yount’s for 15 years in Milwaukee. During their time together, the two combined for 4,736 hits. Yount gets the nod with two MVPs and spending his entire career with the team that drafted him.
Reggie Jackson, Kansas City Athletics, 1966
Jackson owns four home run titles and five strikeout titles, but Mr. October electrified crowds in Oakland, New York and L.A. He was at his best when the lights were the brightest. In 27 World Series games, he batted .357 with 10 home runs. Just what were the Mets thinking with Steve Chilcott at No. 1?
Alex Rodriguez, Seattle, 1993
As tempting as it was to go with Ken Griffey Jr., who energized baseball fans in Seattle; or Chipper Jones, who has spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, and most of those seasons in the postseason; the best overall player is Rodriguez. And there is no argument here. A-Rod is among the best to ever play the game.
Well, there you have the best players drafted at each lot, 1-50. In case you’re wondering which team seemed to be the best at spotting talent over the last 47 years, the Kansas City Royals placed seven players on this list. But of course, that is far from a reliable evaluation given that the Giants get credit fro drafting Bob Knepper and the Brewers get no credit for Paul Molitor when counting from this list.
For what it’s worth, the Yankees, Cardinals, Angels and Rangers — franchises that participated in all 47 drafts — did not show up at all. Thurman Munson at No. 4 (Yankees), Ted Simmons at No. 10 (Cardinals), Frank Tanana at No. 13 (Angels) and Mark Teixeira at No. 5 (Rangers) were close calls.
Every year at draft time, we are reminded just how inexact the science of projecting major league really is. Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62 round by the Los Angels Dodgers, presumably as a favor to Tom Lasorda. Wasn’t there a scout somewhere that saw something in Piazza that looked like a potential major leaguer? Keith Hernandez was drafted in the 42nd round back in 1971.
And most baseball fans know that Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round (402nd overall) in 1999. So for all the players drafted outside the first few televised rounds of the MLB draft, take heart. The 13th can be a lucky number. In every year of the draft save 1975, some player drafted in the 13th round has reached the majors. Here’s our Top 13th Round Draft picks of All-time. Only players who signed the year they were drafted in the 13th round are included.
1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis, 1999
2. Jim Thome, Cleveland, 1989
3. Steve Finley, Baltimore, 1987
4. Jack Clark, San Francisco, 1973
5. Juan Pierre, Colorado, 1998
6. Lenny Dykstra, New York Mets, 1981
7. Jason Bartlett, San Diego, 2001
8. Matt Lawton, Minnesota, 1991
9. Rod Beck, Oakland, 1986
10. Danny Cox, St. Louis, 1981
11. Mike Stanton, Atlanta, 1987
12. Troy O’Leary, Milwaukee, 1987
Jorge Posada is batting .165. He’s a DH. Of the 13 DHs in the American League with enough plate appearances to qualify, he’s 13th in average and on-base, 10th in slugging and 12th in OPS. Has he earned the respect of fans and teammates? Absolutely. Has he earned the right to be given the benefit of a doubt by his manager? I think so. Does Posada deserve for his manager to come and talk to him about his role? Yes. But should Posada expect to determine his own place in the batting order? No way.
Judging by his reception when announced as a pinch hitter the other night, Yankee fans are obviously proud of what Posada has done for the past 15 years. And they should be. He’s earned that.
But Joe Girardi is paid to give his team the best opportunity to win the American League East division. It’s a tough division, and the Yankees can’t afford to give away games. This team needs more from its DH than a .165 batting average.
I understand that Girardi has few options right now. With Eric Chavez injured and Andruw Jones hitting a whopping .220, it’s not like he has a clear decision. But the point is that the Yankees lineup is Girardi’s decision.
About this time last season, there was an aging DH in the American League whose average had dropped to .200. He was benched, and over the last 20 days of May, he had just 21 plate appearances. That was future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, who recognized his role, didn’t complain and soon retired.
Now I’m not suggesting that it’s time for Posada to retire. He seems to have a fire that Griffey had lost by the time he returned to Seattle, not to mention better skills at this point. Clearly, what Posada has accomplished for the Yankees since 1997 has earned him a special place in the game. But it has not earned him the right to decide when and where he plays.
By Bruce Herman
April 15, 2011
Close-Up on Closers
Tony LaRussa says if chooses to go another way from Ryan Franklin, who’s blown three saves in four appearances, the way he’ll go is Miguel Batista, who has one more career save (41) than years he’s been on earth. Earth to LaRussa: You have Jason Motte.
34-year-old Matt Thornton is seeing his first real chance at closing slipping away, and young Chris Sale has been unhittable one day, hapless the next. Ozzie Guillen says he will now consider Sergio Santos, who’s been effective, but has zero high-leverage experience.
Scott Downs has been activated by the Angels, but while he could close later in the season, he’s well down the pecking order for the foreseeable future.
Gotta think it can’t be too long before Buck Showalter turns to Koji Uehara to save a game. Kevin Gregg has been underwhelming.
I’d predict that Joe Nathan, who squandered yesterday’s lead, would be given a temporary respite – except that Matt Capps replaced him and dished up a walk-off homer.
Playing for Keepers
A prospect to consider if you’re focused on the future:
Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners: Growing pains are inevitable for a 22-year-old who’s already done a lot of growing (6-foot-7, 260 pounds), but the two strong starts merit attention. I consider Pineda the top pitching prospect in the game, and he seems to be at the right place in the right ballpark at the right time.
The fantasy impact of recent transactions:
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (to DL): The big winner here during Hamilton’s extended absence is Julio Borbon, who was teetering on losing his job to David Murphy. Now there’s room for both. Still-promising Chris Davis was recalled, but it’s hard to see where he fits.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers (to DL): Declared to be out more than a month and chirping about possibly retiring. Furcal gives way to Jamey Carroll who, you might be surprised to learn, is hitting .299 over the last 365 days.
Chris Snyder, C, Pirates (off DL): Ryan Doumit goes back to being the fourth outfielder and third catcher. Jason Jarmillo was optioned.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles (to DL): Cesar Izturis and Robert Andino share time – to no great effect.
Rajai Davis, OF, Blue Jays (to DL): It’s time for Corey Patterson to have his annual three-week hot streak.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (to DL): No natural heir, but Jerry Hairston Jr. gets some run.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers (off DL): George Kottaras will now play once or twice a week.
Joe Mauer, C, Twins (to DL): You and your batting average category want no part of Drew Butera or Steve Holm.
The Friday Sweep
A broad brush of fantasy-relevant notes:
Among the surprising (and impactful) batting order adjustments in the early going:
• Jimmy Rollins to third: One whole RBI so far. How’s that working out?
• Stephen Drew to cleanup: Small sample, but he’s 6-for-13 with 5 RBI there.
• Chase Headley to second: Was just moved, but career OPS in that spot is .520.
• Andrew McCutchen to third: Pegged for 30-plus steals, but as a middle-of-the-order guy, he’s tried only one and was thrown out.
The Giants are pondering switching out Aubrey Huff (to first base) and Brandon Belt (to right). Neither is swinging up to expectations, but the impetus is defensive…Jason Bay, whose return has been pushed back another two weeks, is a glacially slow healer. Between his last year’s concussion and this year’s oblique, he’ll not have played a game in nine months…Zack Greinke should be ready about the same time as Bay, but Grady Sizemore is just a few days away…A.J. Burnett still hasn’t taken a loss in 13 April starts dating back to 2008…League stat leaders include Yunel Escobar in AVG (.438), Alex Gordon in runs (11), Jorge Posada in homers (5) and Sam Fuld in stolen bases (7). Wow.
Houston — We’re told this is one of the more improbable National Championship games in the history of the sport. We have two teams that lost a combined 18 games in the regular season — the most ever in a title game. We have a No. 3 seed that went .500 in the Big East and a No. 8 seed that lost five games in the 11th-rated conference, according to the RPI.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe this is what we should have expected. Not back in late January or early February, when UConn and Butler were struggling, both looking like teams that would have trouble winning a game in the NCAA Tournament — if they even got that far. But maybe we should have expected this matchup when the Field of 68 was announced. By that time, both of these clubs had hit their stride, with UConn winning five games in five nights en route to an amazing Big East title and Butler capturing the Horizon League Tournament title on the home court of top seed Milwaukee with surprising ease, 59–44.
Should we be surprised when the best player in America, UConn guard Kemba Walker, has his team in the national title game? Should we be surprised when the defending national runner-up is back in the title game, even with the loss of its best player, Gordon Hayward.
We are surprised, but we shouldn’t be.
- by Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Athlon Sports offers up its official predictions for the 2011 Major League Baseball season.
National League East
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals
National League Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Houston Astros
National League West
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies*
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
NLCS: Philadelphia over San Francisco
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis
2. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee
3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado
4. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati
5. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado
6. Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia
7. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida
8. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
9. David Wright, 3B, New York
10. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles
NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
2. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
3. Josh Johnson, Florida
4. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia
5. Ubaldo Jimanez, Colorado
6. Brian Wilson, San Francisco
7. Tim Hudson, Atlanta
8. Matt Cain, San Francisco
9. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee
10. Roy Oswalt, Philadelphia
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Cincinnati
2. Brandon Belt, San Francisco
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
4. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta
5. Jonny Venters, RP, Atlanta
American League East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees*
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
American League Central
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians
American League West
1. Texas Rangers
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Seattle Mariners
ALCS: Boston over New York
1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit
2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas
3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
4. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota
5. Carl Crawford, OF, Boston
6. Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York
7. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Boston
8. Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota
9. Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas
10. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston
AL Cy Young
1. CC Sabathia, New York
2. David Price, Tampa Bay
3. Jon Lester, Boston
4. Felix Hernandez, Seattle
5. Justin Verlander, Detroit
6. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
7. Dan Haren, Los Angeles
8. Clay Buchholz, Boston
9. Mariano Rivera, New York
10. Trevor Cahill, Oakland
AL Rookie of the Year
1. J.P. Arencibia, C, Toronto
2. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City
3. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS, Minnesota
4. Kyle Drabek, SP, Toronto
5. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle
Athlon Sports 2011 World Series: Boston over Philadelphia
With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox have a lineup that can score with anyone. And the Sox pitching is clearly deeper than New York's. Philadelphia may have one of the best rotations assembled in several years, but there are holes in the lineup, especially up the middle.
Contracts that make sense from the team’s perspective. Examples of owners spending cash wisely.
Jose Contreras, RP, Philadelphia
Contract: 2 years, $5,000,000
The White Sox and Rockies thought he was washed up a year ago, but the Phillies found a perfect role (setup man) for the former starter.
Carl Crawford, OF, Boston
Contract: 7 years, $142,000,000
In the prime of his career, he’s one of the most explosive offensive players and defensive outfielders wrapped into one. Seven, $161M would have even made sense to us.
Johnny Damon, OF, Tampa Bay
Contract: 1 year, $5,250,000
Since 1998 Damon’s lows are 141 games, 605 plate appearances and 81 runs. He has been durable and a valuable member of every clubhouse.
Scott Downs, RP, L.A. Angels
Contract: 3 years, $15,000,000
We agree with the Angels’ assessment that Downs hasn’t hit the “setup man wall” yet. He’s more than just a lefty specialist. Lefties hit .152 last season, and righties (.243) weren’t much better.
Adam Dunn, DH, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 4 years, $56,000,000
Finally, Dunn has the role he was made for — DH. Apparently, he has accepted the role, but only time will tell. A seven-year average of 40 HRs, 101 RBIs, 107 BBs, 180 Ks. That’s only going to get better at the Cell.
Jon Garland, SP, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 1 year, $5,000,000
In 2009 Garland made six starts for the Dodgers, going 3–2. L.A. scored just one run in the two losses and three in the no-decision. Of course, his recent injury kills this for the Dodgers, but Garland didn’t pose an injury risk when he signed.
Kevin Gregg, RP, Baltimore
Contract: 2 years, $10,000,000
Gregg has given up just one home run to the 34 batters he has faced in his career at Camden Yards. In some setup/closer combination, Gregg and Koji Uehara should combine for 45 saves.
Ramon Hernandez, C, Cincinnati
Contract: 1 year , $3,000,000
Both Hernandez and the Reds were happy to repeat last year’s deal. Now if he can just repeat his production. We say he will.
Orlando Hudson, 2B, San Diego
Contract: 2 years, $11,500,000
Playing for three different teams in three seasons, he’s averaged .284 and 29 doubles while winning a Gold Glove. Perfect fit in San Diego; pitchers will love his defense.
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, San Francisco
Contract: 2 years, $22,000,000
Huff the magic slugger was the poster child for bargain in 2010 when he made just $3,000,000 and became the leader of the Giants. But Huff has proven himself over time to be a run producer and a terrific clubhouse guy.
Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Contract: 3 years, $37,500,000
Konerko gave the Sox a hometown discount, which helped them sign Dunn. He’ll be only 37 in the final year of the contract, and he’s been durable — having fallen short of 600 plate appearances only three times since 2000.
Hiroki Kuroda, SP, L.A. Dodgers
Contract: 1 year, $12,000,000
Kuroda won 11 times in 2010, and left three games ahead last season and ended with a no-decision. The Dodgers were shut out in six of his starts. So the unlucky righthander takes a $3 million pay cut to stay in L.A.
Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia
Contract: 5 years, $120,000,000
The Phillies instantly became the NL favorite for the next couple of years. There’s little risk with Lee in five years, and he ranks among the best in the majors. Now the Phillies must hope their offense doesn’t get old too quickly.
Russell Martin, C, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 1 year, $4,000,000
Now that he’s healthy, expect a resurgence from Martin as the everyday catcher in the Bronx.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS, Minnesota
Contract: 3 years, $9,250,000
Nishioka won a batting title in Japan’s Central League last season and won a Gold Glove at second base in 2005 and at short in ’07. But all that’s expected of him in Minnesota is to play the game the Minnesota way, which is fundamentally sound and with great effort. He’ll be a hit with the Twins’ players and fans.
Carlos Peña, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Contract: 1 year, $10,000,000
After hitting just .196 last season in Tampa, Peña couldn’t generate interest in a multi-year deal. But he still drives in runs and should thrive at Wrigley in another contract season. The slick fielder will cash in next season.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Detroit
Contract: 2 years, $10,750,000
Peralta raised his average 13 points after Aug. 22, and made just three errors in 44 starts at short for the Tigers.
Manny Ramirez, DH/OF, Tampa Bay
Contract: 1 year, $2,000,000
While there is always baggage and other negatives associated with Manny, it doesn’t take too much offense to be worth two mil. And Manny appears to be on a mission to prove himself worthy.
Mariano Rivera, RP, N.Y. Yankees
Contract: 2 years, $30,000,000
Very quiet, uneventful negotiations reflect Rivera’s mound demeanor. Most teams would have paid more, but he would never leave N.Y.
Miguel Tejada, SS, San Francisco
Contract: 1 year, $6,500,000
We don’t believe Tejada has enough left to be an everyday shortstop, but he still hits well enough to justify $6.5 million.
Koji Uehara, RP, Baltimore
Contract: 1 year, $3,000,000
In 21 save situations last season, Uehara had 13 saves and six holds. None of his 14 inherited runners scored, and he struck out 11 per nine innings while walking just one per nine.
Javier Vazquez, SP, Florida
Contract: 1 year, $7,000,000
He’s averaged 32 starts, 204 innings and 200 hits over his 13 seasons. His career ERA is more than a half-run lower in the National League.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis
Contract: 2 years, $16,000,000
Our value matrix actually shows his value as $15,390,000 for two seasons. But pitching coach Dave Duncan should coax the extra $610,000 worth of value out of the veteran.
Kerry Wood, RP, Chicago Cubs
Contract: 1 year, $1,500,000
After a brief, but highly effective, stay with the Yankees, Wood took a 90 percent pay cut coming back to Chicago.
Hey, everybody. What a Super Bowl, huh? Assuming Charlie Sheen passed out in the guacamole, he missed one heck of a show. …
Talk about sitting on top of the world. My Packers just won the NFL championship, pitchers and catchers report this week, and Cameron Diaz is feeding me popcorn as I’m typing. …
MVP Aaron Rodgers credits Kurt Warner with helping him get ready for the big game. Warner’s first words of advice? Don’t let your wife show up with an Elvis haircut. …
I’m hearing Steelers coach Mike Tomlin fired up one heck of a pre-game speech. Well, except for the part about “Let’s go out there and fall behind 21-3!” …
Packers wideout Jordy Nelson had a handful of balls slip through his hands, leaving him second to Christina Aguilera for most drops in the game. … Interesting national anthem by the lovely and talented Ms. Aguilera. Would that be considered a wordrobe malfunction? …
Then there’s Greg Jennings, who caught two touchdown passes. I haven’t seen a Packers wide receiver run such deceptive routes since Max McGee avoided Vince Lombardi in the hotel lobby. …
President Obama was pulling for the Bears in the NFL championship game and picked the Steelers to win the Super Bowl. Let’s all hope he’s got Germany in the next world war. …
So it’s official: The Packers are the kings of the blocking-and-tackling world. Now comes the exhaustive task of planning a victory parade through the street of Green Bay. …
Ben Roethlisberger, when asked how the Steelers could have lost the game: “Three turnovers for one thing.” Plus, he was distracted by the blonde with the big guns sitting at the 40. …
The NFL and the players’ union met for two hours the day before the game. Not that things are looking bad on the labor front, but the only thing they agreed on was that Jerry Jones could use another chin tuck. …
Updated: Monday Feb. 7, 2:23 P.M.
DH Vladimir Guerrero and the Baltimore Orioles reached a deal this week. Should Guerrero perform close to the way he did last season, he'll be a nice trading chip to a contender by midseason. The best value in the top 10 is clearly Mariano Rivera. The following chart ranks the free agents and projected new teams for unsigned free agents for 2011. Years, $/Year and Totals are our projections for new contracts. Some 2010 Salary figures are rounded and all dollar figures are in millions.
|1||Cliff Lee||Phillies||5||120.00||9.00||Phillies' coup just pushed Cole Hamels to a fourth starter.|
|2||Carl Crawford||Red Sox||7||142.00||10.00||The prize position player of the free agent class. Crawford will turn 30 next August and scored 110 runs ad drove in 90.|
|3||Mariano Rivera||Yankees||2||30.00||15.00||Unlike Derek Jeter, Rivera is still performing a premium level. He's a bargain at $15 million. What a classy guy.|
|4||Jayson Werth||Nationals||7||126.00||7.50||Werth is coming off career highs in slugging and OPS, and turns 32 in May. But Nats will regret this one by 2014.|
|5||Victor Martinez||Tigers||4||50.00||7.70||Terrific signing for 2011 and 2012, but Tigers will regret the last two years of this deal, especially if they don't win now.|
|6||Rafael Soriano||Yankees||3||35.00||7.25||Has proven to be an elite closer when healthy. We had him valued at three years, $37 million — as a closer.|
|7||Adam Dunn||White Sox||4||56.00||12.00||It will be interesting to see how Dunn accepts a full-time DH role.|
|8||Paul Konerko||White Sox||3||37.50||12.00||Konerko, Dunn and Carlos Quentin won't provide much defense, but they'll be mashing all summer.|
|9||Adrian Beltre||Rangers||5||80.00||9.00||The career .275 hitter has topped .300 twice: .334 in 2004 and .321 in 2010, both contract years. Rangers beware.|
|10||Derek Jeter||Yankees||3||51.00||22.60||Jeter is no longer an elite player — offensively or defensively. But these negotiations were all about saving face.|
|11||Vladimir Guerrero||Orioles||1||8.00||5.50||Looks and acts like he's 39.While $8 million seems above market, $3 million is deferred.|
|12||Aubrey Huff||Giants||2||22.00||3.00||The poster child for bargains in San Francisco just cashed in big.|
|13||Carlos Peña||Cubs||1||10.00||10.13||Averaged dipped below the Mendoza Line, but he's excellent defensively and still drives in runs. His average will rebound.|
|14||Hiroki Kuroda||Dodgers||1||12.00||15.43||Seems to lose games even when putting up decent numbers. Will stay on the West Coast.|
|15||Jake Westbrook||Cardinals||2||16.00||11.00||Pitching coach Dave Duncan has always been enamored with this guy.|
|16||Carl Pavano||Twins||2||16.50||7.00||After a disaster signing with the Yankees in 2005, Pavano led the AL with seven complete games in 2010.|
|17||Joaquin Benoit||Tigers||3||16.50||He was an integral piece in the Rays' bullpen. May end up closing for Detroit.|
|18||Magglio Ordoñez||Tigers||1||10.00||17.80||Has made just shy of $82 million over the past five years. Now reality will set in.|
|19||Derrek Lee||Orioles||1||8.00||13.25||All significant offensive numbers dropped in 2010 — except whiffs and grounded into double plays.|
|21||Orlando Hudson||Padres||2||11.50||5.00||O-Dog was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove for the Dodgers in 2009. But his salary topped out at $6.25 mil in 2008.|
|23||Manny Ramirez||Rays||1||2.00||18.70||Manny brings a potent bat to the Rays' lineup when his head's on straight.|
|24||Johnny Damon||Rays||1||5.25||8.00||Damon has a string of 15 seasons of at least 140 games. The Rays were the only team offering steady playing time.|
|25||Hideki Matsui||A's||1||4.25||6.00||Swing has slowed down and Oakland is not a good park for him.|
|26||Brad Hawpe||Padres||1||3.00||7.50||From 06-09 he averaged .288-25-93 with a .902 OPS. At 32, he can find his stroke again, but better suited for the AL.|
|27||John Buck||Marlins||3||18.00||2.00||Swatted 20 homers, but walked just 16 times. Doubtful he can maintain his .281 average.|
|28||Jorge de la Rosa||Rockies||2||21.50||5.60||Should pitch himself into bigger money in a few years.|
|29||Juan Uribe||Dodgers||3||21.00||3.25||Although he doesn't look the part, he's above average at three infield positions and is cool in the clutch.|
|30||Scott Downs||Angels||3||15.00||4.00||Lefties hit .152 last season and righties (.243) weren't much better.|
|31||Jose Contreras||Phillies||2||5.00||1.50||White Sox and Rockies thought he was done, but Phillies found a role as a setup man. The third year is a team option.|
|32||Ramon Hernandez||Reds||1||3.00||3.00||Both Hernandez and the Reds happy to repeat last year's deal and production.|
|33||Miguel Tejada||Giants||1||6.50||6.00||Declining skills but showed he could still play a little short. Tejada was Giants' next option after Uribe.|
|34||Jon Garland||Dodgers||1||5.00||4.70||Provides a veteran presence for the Dodgers' staff. The big ballpark is perfect for him.|
|35||Jhonny Peralta||Tigers||2||10.75||4.85||Strong second half gave Tigers confidence he can still contribute. The third year is a team option for $6 million.|
|36||Jim Thome||Twins||1||3.00||1.50||The 40-year-old's OPS of 1.039 was stellar, but almost .400 higher against right-handed pitching.|
|37||Brian Fuentes||A's||2||10.00||9.00||Pretty good deal for the A's as Billy Beane attepts to bolster his bullpen.|
|39||Lyle Overbay||Pirates||1||5.00||7.95||Overbay has a three-year average of .259-17-67, which is below average for a first baseman.|
|40||Jon Rauch||Blue Jays||1||3.50||2.90||May not be a closer, but can be an intimidating presence on the mound. A bargain at $3.5 mil.|
|41||Austin Kearns||Indians||1||1.30||0.75||Made $8 million in 2009. Doubtful he'll see that number again.|
|43||Frank Francisco||Rangers||1||3.63||Accepted arbitration, so negotiations must be close.|
|44||Arthur Rhodes||Rangers||1||3.90||2.00||Turned 41 in October, but he was instrumental in Reds' division title in 2010.|
|45||Lance Berkman||Cardinals||1||8.00||14.50||Cardinals' outfield defense could be atrocious.|
|46||Marcus Thames||Dodgers||1||1.00||0.90||His five-year 162-game average is .254-33-83. He's coming off career highs in average and OBP.|
|47||Grant Balfour||A's||2||8.00||2.05||The Australian with the unfortunate surname was a key part of both of the Rays' division titles.|
|50||Matt Guerrier||Dodgers||3||12.00||3.15||Can pitch every day, but three-year deal is risky.|
|51||Edgar Renteria||Reds||1||2.00||10.00||Talked of retirement. The everyday grind wears on him, but he's a good fit with Paul Janish.|
|52||Koji Uehara||Orioles||1||3.00||5.00||Performed well in the closer role down the stretch.|
|53||Pat Burrell||Giants||1||1.00||9.00||Pat the Bat became Pat the Whiff in the postseason, but may be the best value of the offseason.|
|54||Javier Vazquez||Marlins||1||7.00||11.50||The durable Vazquez started 327 games from 2000-09, winning 128 with more than 2,000 strikeouts.|
|57||Jesse Crain||White Sox||3||13.00||2.00||It seems half of his appearances have been in extra innings.Sox pen needs a lot of help.|
|58||Adam LaRoche||Nationals||2||16.00||6.00||Nats must have patience with notorious slow starter.|
|59||Miguel Olivo||Mariners||2||7.00||2.00||Can throw, is durable and but won't display 20-home run power in Seattle.|
|60||Pedro Feliciano||Yankees||2||8.00||2.90||Tough on lefties, but can't get righthanders out.|
|61||Kerry Wood||Cubs||1||1.50||10.50||Wood took a 90% pay cut.|
|62||Chris Capuano||Mets||1||1.50||Missed all of 2008-09, but five of six starts in September were solid. Will enjoy pitching at Citi Field.|
|63||Chris Young||Mets||1||1.50||6.38||He could earn $4.5 million if he meets all his incentives; would be a sweet deal for Mets who desperately need pitching.|
|64||Kevin Gregg||Orioles||2||10.00||2.00||In four seasons as full-time closer he's averaged 30 saves, closing 82%, with a 1.295 WHIP and 3.79 ERA.|
|66||Jason Frasor||Blue Jays||1||2.65||Accepted arbitration and will combine with Rauch and Dotel for setup/closer trio.|
|67||Jeff Francoeur||Royals||1||2.50||5.00||Kansas City may be the last chance to revive his career.|
|68||Ty Wigginton||Rockies||2||8.00||3.50||Made 86 starts at first, 36 at second and 19 at third; hit 22 homers.|
|69||Yorvit Torrealba||Rangers||2||6.25||0.75||Too much gets by him, but he can still throw a little and he hit .271 last season.|
|70||Bruce Chen||Royals||1||2.00||Yes, he's still in the league, and it was Chen — not Greinke — who led the Royals with 12 wins.|
|71||Vicente Padilla||Dodgers||1||2.00||5.03||Started Game 2 and Game 5 for the Dodgers in the 2009 NLCS as well as Opening Day 2010; now he's a sixth starter.|
|73||Andruw Jones||Yankees||1||2.00||0.50||Anything left in the tank? Ha has another million-plus in incentives, so we say there is. Good deal for Yankees.|
|74||Jerry Hariston||Nationals||1||2.00||2.13||Nice "intangibles" player. Will help the Nats.|
|75||Cesar Izturis||Orioles||1||1.50||2.60||Can pick it at short, but gets the bat knocked out of his hands.|
|76||Dan Wheeler||Red Sox||1||3.00||3.50||With a sub-1.00 WHIP over the past three seasons, the right-handed Wheeler is tough on lefties.|
|77||Dennys Reyes||Phillies||1||1.10||2.00||Hard to believe he's only 34 in April. A classic lefty-only guy.|
|79||Rich Harden||A's||1||1.50||6.50||Easy risk for the A's.|
|81||Jeff Francis||Royals||1||2.00||5.75||Expect an incentive-laden deal.|
|82||Rick Ankiel||Nationals||1||1.50||2.75||Great arm, athletic, has some pop, but nowhere near an everyday player.|
|83||Matt Stairs||Nationals||1||1.00||0.70||Minor league deal for aging pinch hitter.|
|84||Brandon Webb||Rangers||1||3.00||8.50||Offseason reports of velocity and command were not promising, but this is a low-risk venture for the Rangers.|
|85||Adam Kennedy||Mariners||1||ML||1.25||Minor league deal. Had .400 OBP in eight September starts, but slugged just .231.|
|87||Miguel Cairo||Reds||2||2.00||0.50||Great attitude, accepts tough roles. Nice two-year bargain.|
|88||Kevin Correia||Pirates||2||8.00||3.60||The Pirates are shopping at the bargain stores.|
|89||A.J. Pierzynski||White Sox||2||8.00||6.75||Aging vet must accept backup role.|
|91||Brad Penny||Tigers||1||3.00||7.50||Penny could earn another $3 million incentives.|
|92||Rod Barajas||Dodgers||1||3.25||0.50||Doesn't throw well anymore. At age 35 he expects to be Dodgers' primary catcher.|
|93||Chan Ho Park||Japan||Closed the season with a strong September. Career in the States may be over.|
|97||Jason Giambi||Rockies||1||ML||1.75||Former MVP didn't draw much interest.|
|100||J.C. Romero||Phillies||1||1.35||4.25||Just completed a three-year deal that he could only dream about now.|
|102||Melvin Mora||Diamondbacks||1||2.40||1.28||His 2010 salary was his lowest since 2002, but he earned a slight raise.|
|103||Aaron Harang||Padres||1||4.00||12.50||Padres hoping a move to Petco Park from Cincinnati will be the medicine his career needs. Doubtful.|
|NR||Hisanori Takahashi||Angels||2||8.00||1.00||Released by the Mets in November, the Angels believe they have their lefty specialist.|
|NR||J.J. Putz||Diamondbacks||2||10.00||3.00||Worst bullpen in the majors in 2010 in dire need of help.|
|NR||Eric Hinske||Braves||1||1.45||1.00||Braves like his veteran presence — and his production.|
|NR||Melky Cabrera||Royals||1||1.00||3.10||Incentives could push this as high as $1.25 million.|
|NR||Matt Diaz||Pirates||2||4.25||2.55||Braves didn't tender him, so Pirates found a platoon partner with Garret Jones in right field.|
|NR||Scott Olsen||Pirates||1||0.50||1.00||With another $2.5 mil incentives and a club option for $4 million in 2012, Olsen should be motivated.|
|NR||Jack Cust||Mariners||1||2.50||2.65||Hitting stroke shouldn't play well at Safeco.|
|NR||George Sherrill||Braves||1||1.20||4.50||Lefties hit .192 last season; righties .427.|
|NR||Gerald Laird||Cardinals||1||1.00||3.95||Will back up Yadier Molina for about 35 games.|
|NR||Russell Martin||Yankees||1||4.00||5.05||Expect a resurgence from Martin.|
|NR||Henry Blanco||Diamondbacks||1||1.00||0.75||Enters his 14th season by joining his ninth team. Thrown out 43% of base stealers in his career, 50% last season.|
|NR||Randy Choate||Marlins||2||2.50||0.70||Tossed 44.2 innings in 85 games; definition of situational lefty.|
|NR||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1||2.50||5.18||Jays waived him, claimed by A's, non-tendered, now back in Toronto. Just business.|
|NR||Xavier Nady||Diamondbacks||1||1.75||3.30||Low budget, low expectations.|
|NR||Jeremy Accardo||Orioles||1||1.08||1.08||Injuries limited Accardo to 6.2 innings for Blue Jays in 2010.|
|NR||Matt Albers||Red Sox||1||0.88||0.68||Induced 11 double plays in 172 ABs against righthanders last season.|
|NR||Tony Gwynn||Dodgers||1||0.42||0.68||Gwynn leaves his dad's old team.|
|NR||Dioner Navarro||Dodgers||1||1.00||2.10||Will split time with Barajas.|
|NR||Wil Nieves||Brewers||1||0.78||0.70||Coming off a career-high 3 homers, but average dipped to .203.|
|NR||Tsuyoshi Nishioka||Twins||3||10.00||Japan||Nishioka won a batting title in Japan's Central League in '09 and won a Gold Glove at second in 2005 and at short in '07.|
|NR||J.P. Howell||Rays||1||1.10||1.80||Missed all of 2010 after May shoulder surgery.|
|NR||Joel Peralta||Rays||1||0.93||Enjoyed a nice summer in Washington with a 0.796 WHIP.|
|NR||Matt Treanor||Rangers||1||0.85||0.75||Back for another season as backup in Texas.|
|NR||Chin-Ming Wang||Nationals||1||2.00||2.00||Didn't pitch in 2010 after nine bad starts in 2009.|
|NR||Bill Hall||Astros||1||3.25||8.53||At 31 there should be something left in the tank, but he's not good defensively at second base.|
|NR||Takashi Saito||Brewers||1||3.00||3.20||Just more proof the Brewers want a title now.|
|NR||Bobby Jenks||Red Sox||2||12.00||7.50||Saves totals have dropped and WHIP has increased every year since 2007.|
|NR||Octavio Dotel||Blue Jays||1||3.50||3.25||Blue Jays will give him every opportunity to close.|
|NR||Craig Counsell||Brewers||1||1.40||2.10||Provides a solid veteran presence on Brewers bench for a team trying to win now.|
|NR||Kyle Farnsworth||Rays||1||3.25||4.50||This is the Rays' answer to rebuilding their bullpen?|
|NR||Dustin Moseley||Padres||1||0.90||Yankees were 5-4 in his nine starts last season.|
|NR||Ryan Rowland-Smith||Astros||1||0.72||0.44||Will Compete for fifth sport in the rotation. Not a good sign for Houston fans.|
|NR||Jose Veras||Pirates||1||1.00||0.55||Whiffed 54 in 48 innings, but was non-tendered by the Marlins.|
|NR||Chien-Ming Wang||Nationals||1||1.00||With 0 major league hits, Wang has a Silver Slugger clause in his deal.|
|NR||Jay Gibbons||Dodgers||1||0.65||0.65||Played for Newark in Indy league in 2009, but slugged .507 in 80 PAs for Dodgers last season.|
|20||Andy Pettitte||Retired||—||—||11.75||Pettitte announced his retirement.|
|22||Hisashi Iwakuma||Japan||—||—||Japan||Oakland was unwilling meet Iwakuma's demand for dollars. He'll be back as a free agent next season.|
|38||Freddy Garcia||Diamondbacks||2||11.00||1.00||Made just 23 starts from 2007-09, but returned from injury to start 28 games and go 12-6 for the White Sox.|
|42||Russell Branyan||Mariners||1||5.00||1.50||Can still rake.|
|48||David Eckstein||Royals||1||3.50||1.00||He keeps getting it done and inspiring teammates and fans.|
|49||Bengie Molina||Orioles||1||3.70||4.50||A lot of teams could use a veteran presence behind the plate.|
|55||Jermaine Dye||Retired||1||4.80||DNP||Received inquiries from multiple teams, but no real offers.|
|56||Kevin Millwood||Diamondbacks||1||4.00||12.00||Days of milk and honey are over as his five-year, $60 million deal expired.|
|65||Orlando Cabrera||Cardinals||1||2.00||2.02||How much will teams play for solid defense and above-average situational hitting? Mr. Showalter?|
|72||Chad Durbin||Phillies||2||10.00||2.13||Had 15 holds and blew just one opportunity. At age 33, he's got plenty left.|
|78||Troy Glaus||Angels||1||1.30||1.75||Should find a suitor at home in SoCal.|
|80||Reed Johnson||Yankees||1||1.00||0.80||Underrated, could be a terrific fourth outfielder.|
|86||Joe Beimel||Rockies||1||0.90||0.85||Since 2007 he's logged just 216.2 innings in 296 games. Always a market for lefties.|
|90||Gregg Zaun||Blue Jays||1||0.60||1.90||Will turn 40 just after Opening Day; old for a catcher.|
|94||Felipe Lopez||Mariners||1||0.70||1.00||Attitude issues could cost him a job.|
|95||Brian Bannister||Padres||1||0.70||2.30||Over three seasons, he's 23-40, 5.58 ERA in 81 starts.|
|96||Justin Duchscherer||Orioles||1||2.00||After missing all of 2009, he made just five starts last April before being shut down.|
|98||Erik Bedard||Mets||1||0.50||Incentives, incentives, incentives.|
|101||Doug Davis||Padres||1||0.70||4.25||Got into the seventh inning just once in eight starts.|
Before teaming with Marv Albert on Turner Sports’ coverage of the NBA, Steve Kerr had enjoyed success on the court, first as a member of a Final Four at the University of Arizona and later as a five-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs. Drafted in the second round in 1988, Kerr went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA and retired in 2003 as the league’s all-time leader in three-point field-goal percentage for a season (.524) and a career (.454). He then worked as an NBA game analyst for TNT, left the network to become president of basketball operations and GM of the Phoenix Suns, resigned from the Suns and rejoined Turner in 2010. Kerr will also be part of the expanded coverage of this season’s NCAA tournament. He spoke recently with Jerry Kavanagh.
Q: The last time we spoke, in 2005, you had just left Turner Sports for the Phoenix Suns. Now, you are back with Turner. Just wondering how the transition back to the broadcast booth has been.
Kerr: It’s been great. It’s much easier this time around because of the experience I had the first time. It feels like riding a bike. I’m just jumping right back on. I love working with Marv Albert. He’s the voice of the NBA. So, to work with him is awesome. It’s just been fun to get back to this side of things, where you still get the fun of covering the league and seeing friends on the road, but having a better lifestyle and a better home life.
Q: You have been part of some great casts in your career: a Final Four team at Arizona, five NBA championships with Michael Jordan and the Bulls and Tim Duncan and the Spurs, and president and GM of the Steve Nash-led Suns. And now you’re reunited with Marv. It seems like a rewarding career but also a lot of fun.
Kerr: Oh, it’s so much fun. I always relate Marv to playing on great teams because it’s the same dynamic. When you play with great players, it’s just a lot easier to slide in and do your job and know your role. I feel the same way with Marv. He’s so good at what he does, and it’s just a matter of reading and working off him. We’ve developed a really good relationship and a good synergy on the air.
Q: I once asked him about his all-interview team and where he ranked you. He said not first team; maybe third team.
Kerr: (laughing) That sounds like Marv.
Q: Do you miss the competition on the court?
Kerr: I do. I played, basically, as long as I possibly could, so I don’t have any regrets at all. I don’t wake up thinking, “Man, I wish I was still an NBA player.” But I miss the camaraderie of going to practice and being on the bus with the guys and traveling. That’s one of the great things about pro sports: You get to hang out with your buddies every day. I miss that part of it, and the competition goes right along with that.
Q. And the striving for a common goal?
Kerr: When you’re trying to accomplish something with a group of guys, it’s pretty rewarding. I got back to that with the Suns in a different capacity, but I still felt that competitive fire and loved it, especially when we won (laughing). But I’m fine stepping away from it, especially at this time in my life with my kids at the ages they are: high school and junior high. It’s kind of relaxing now to jump out of the fire.
Q: Are your kids playing?
Kerr: My older son is a senior in high school and he got a scholarship for basketball to the University of San Diego. My daughter is a volleyball player. She’s a sophomore. And my younger son is not really into sports. He’s into other stuff. He’s a seventh-grader. It’s great. I’m home five days a week with this Turner job most weeks. It’s really nice after being on the road so much in the last few years.
Q: What’s the No. 1 story in the NBA these days?
Kerr: The obvious one is the [Miami] Heat. The Heat will be the No. 1 story the entire year, whether they win the championship or not. They’re the big story, and they should be.
Q: Anything else?
Kerr: Everything else sort of plays off the Heat. Boston and the Lakers loaded up after the Heat did what it did. It was almost like an arms race. Orlando makes a big trade in large part because of Miami’s presence in the East and what they were doing. The best teams are all responding to Miami. And then you’ve got some really good teams that are trying to climb back in. San Antonio is a great story; Dallas as well with the consistency that both teams have shown over the last decade. And they both look like championship contenders this year when a lot of people felt like they might have fallen off the map.
Q: Any sleeper teams?
Kerr: It depends on how you’re measuring things. As far as winning a championship, I don’t think there are any sleepers. But as far as just having successful years and teams to look out for, I think Chicago…everybody suspected they would be good, and I think they’re proving that they’re going to be even better than what people thought. The combination of Noah and Boozer and Rose is really a foundation for a potential championship team, and that’s exciting.
Q. What about teams on the rise?
Kerr: Oklahoma City is trying to get to the next step, which is always a more difficult one than the first step, which is just getting to the playoffs. The expectations are higher and they have to rise to the challenge and prove that they can get to that next level. New York has been down in the dumps for so long, and what Amare Stoudemire has done there to kind of revive the city’s love for the Knicks is another great story.
Q: Do you have any game-day rituals? How do you prepare for a telecast?
Kerr: We always have a production meeting in the morning. We talk about the telecast. There’s obviously plenty of preparation and reading that goes on before that. I’m on the internet all week and watching League Pass. I’ve got a pretty good handle on things before the telecast. But that day, I usually have the same routine: I go to the production meeting and then I go get a workout, grab lunch, go over my notes for a couple of hours, and then head over to the arena – nothing very exciting (laughing).
Q: You will be part of the new broadcast deal for the NCAA basketball tournament. How will that work?
Kerr: It’s a partnership with CBS and Turner. The tournament this year will be on four different channels: TNT, CBS, TBS, and truTV. The production will be a collaborative effort between CBS and Turner. You’ll see some of the usual Turner faces, like Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson. They’ll do studio stuff. Marv and I will be a team for some NCAA games. And there will some crossover along the way. I may end up doing a game with some of the CBS guys, and vice versa. It’s a brand-new venture, and I’m thrilled. I love college basketball. I’m excited about joining the tournament. It’s one of the great sporting events in this country.
Hey everybody. Brilliant game-day strategy by Bill Belichick. Who knew he was going to look past the Jets so he could focus all his attention on the Patriots’ 2011 season opener? …When asked why it took so long for the Pats’ offense to click, tailback BenJarvis Green-Ellis said he could only speak for himself. It took him until the third quarter to sign a pre-game autograph for a fan. …
They’ve beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on back-to-back weekends. So what happens if the Jets keep rolling and win the Super Bowl? The network suits are already planning a reality TV show for Rex Ryan: Dining with the Stars. …You’ve got to love the Rexster. If the big lug winds up working the crowds at those endless Super Bowl press conferences, they may have to play the game on Monday night. …Jets-Steelers and Packers-Bears. Whoa. Talk about a couple of great conference championship matchups. I haven’t been this excited since Nordstrom’s canceled my wife’s credit card. …
The wind-chill factor is expected to be minus-20 degrees in Chicago for Sunday’s game — minus-25 if you count Jay Cutler’s personality. …
Ex-Raiders coach Tom Cable has filed a grievance with the league office claiming Al Davis owes him $120,000. If I’m Cable, I wouldn’t sweat it. I’m sure Al will have Jimmy Hoffa hand-deliver a check any day now. …
What were the odds? Vince Carter scored his 20,000th career point against the Knicks on the same day his man scored his 30,000th. …Carmelo Anthony says he plans on being a Nugget for the entire week. When asked what he planned on doing next week, Anthony said he was taking them one lie at a time. …Then you have the Knicks. Sure, they’re an exciting, high-scoring, fast-paced team and all, but come on. When Walt Frazier is your best defensive player, you’ve got issues. …
It’s almost February, sports fans. That means it’s almost time to almost start caring about college basketball. …Just kidding. I love my college hoops. It’s almost as entertaining as watching Bruce Pearl trying to talk his way out of an NCAA investigation. …
Cam Newton is leaving Auburn early to enter the NFL draft, saying it’s always been his dream to play in a league where you can extort money legally. …
Brett Favre sent in his retirement papers to the league office the other day. Well, sort of. Actually, he jotted a note on the other side of that $50,000 check to Roger Goodell. …
If I sound a little more excited than usual today, it’s because valets and butlers report to spring training in less than a month.
Nice to be back with you, sports fans. The Chiefs lost their playoff opener to the Ravens, their NFL-record seventh straight playoff loss since the early ’90s. Things got so bad that fans began chanting “Let’s go Royals!’’ early in the fourth quarter. …
Las Vegas handicappers have installed the over/under at three for the number of wedgies that will be given in the pile during the Ravens-Steelers game. …
Brett Favre, who played for the Falcons and Packers, has been invited to throw out the ceremonial first pass at a cheerleader before this weekend’s game at the Georgia Dome. …
Meanwhile, on the NFL coaching carousel, the Broncos have asked for permission to interview New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams so they can ask him why he thinks he’d make a good coach when he can’t spell his own name. …
Rex Ryan says this weekend’s Jets-Pats matchup is all about Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. Couldn’t agree more. Whatever coach does a better job of tackling the buffet at Golden Corral wins. …Actually, I was thinking it was all about Rex Ryan, Rex Ryan, maybe a little Bill Belichick, and Rex Ryan. Not to mention Rex Ryan. To say nothing of Rex Ryan or, you know, Rex Ryan. …
This just in. The Cubs, in an effort to be only two starting pitchers short, have acquired right-hander Matt Garza from Tampa Bay. …
Nice effort by the Saints in their loss at Seattle. I figured they were in trouble when Danny Abramowicz dropped that touchdown pass in the second quarter. …
Is it just me? If Andrew Luck wants a degree in architectural design that badly, why can’t he take the cash and hire the profs to be in his posse? …
Congrats to Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven for being voted into the Hall of Fame. I hear next year’s group of candidates is thin once you get past Barry Larkin and Mark McGwire’s dermatologist. …
Manny Ramirez is still looking for a job, but it’s not because he isn’t ready to play. He’s in the best shape of his career after spending the offseason trying to get a comb through his hair. …
The Rockies have signed Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to deals totaling more than $210 million. Thus their new marketing slogan: There’s no “I’’ in team, but there is an ATM.
Athlon Interview with outgoing WNBA president Donna Orender
Donna Orender succeeded Val Ackerman as WNBA president in 2005. Only the second president in the 15-year history of the league, Orender saw increases in attendance and television ratings during her tenure. She guided the WNBA through a number of successful business ventures, including an extension of its television contract with ABC and ESPN and a marketing initiative that introduced company logos on player jerseys. A former collegiate (Queens College in New York City) and professional (WBL) player, Orender spent 17 years with the PGA Tour before joining the WNBA. She resigned from the league on December 31 and will launch Orender Unlimited, an independent marketing, media, and consulting firm. Orender spoke with Jerry Kavanagh just two days before leaving office.
Q. Are congratulations or condolences in order for you this week in your last days on the job?
Orender: I’m not sure why you would say condolences.
Q. You’re leaving the WNBA after more than five years as its president. There must be some mixed emotions.
Orender: I’m doing it on my own terms. I think that’s great. I’ll miss it. It’s fantastic.
Q. You had a unique perspective, as a former collegiate and professional player, that the leaders of other pro sports leagues do not share. Did that give you any special insight in dealing with the players and the teams?
Orender: I do look at the business in its totality. I could very easily put on my competitive hat and see from the basketball side or the athletic side of the business and I could see it from the business side. And I think what it enabled me to do was to have credibility, which enabled me to bring both sides closer together. Which, surprisingly, you will find in sports doesn’t happen as often as it should.
Q. Why is that?
Orender: I think that if you’re a coach, if you’re in charge of the performance end of the business – that’s what you get paid for, that’s what you get rewarded for – then that’s your 100 percent focus. Ultimately, the quality of the product will drive the business. But in this day and age, the business side and the sports side are much more in lockstep.
Q. Did you share ideas or questions or problems with presidents and commissioners of other sports leagues?
Orender: Actually, I have. Yes.
Q. Can you give me a recent example of something you discussed?
Orender: When there were issues of ownership, expansion…things like that, there would be others that I would talk to about it.
Q. President of a pro sports league is a limited membership. There have been just two presidents in the history of the WNBA. What are the immediate and long-term challenges for your successor?
Orender: I think there’s a good stable base. And I think that much like every other sport, we continue to build on that base. I think exposure to the game is the biggest opportunity. I never worried about the quality of the product. It started early. I could probably say that when it started, it wasn’t the best basketball in the world. But today it is a phenomenal competition played by incredible athletes all put together in a very electric, energetic environment geared toward families. And it’s just a question of getting people in the arenas that really feel and experience the great quality that’s there.
Q. The UConn women’s team has achieved a remarkable measure of success. That’s good for all basketball, not just women’s teams.
Orender: Of course. Listen, any program that can achieve that level of excellence should be applauded. This is a culture that’s about driving results. This is a program that’s all about results, in the most positive of ways.
Q. Tell me something about the WNBA that would surprise basketball fans.
Orender: It’s probably the speed of the play. The points per minute are almost on a par with the NBA. The free-throw percentage is higher than the NBA.
Q. In your blog on December 3, you wrote, “In fitting basketball parlance, the game plan calls for a timeout to be followed by a new set of plays that I had drawn up many years ago that are now ready to be put into the rotation.” What did you mean by that?
Orender: I looked at my career, and there were certain kinds of things that I wanted to do. And there comes a time when you say, “Hey, OK, it’s time to do them.” I happen to really enjoy people. I think the fans of the WNBA really got that. I’ve spoken all over the country, and I would like to continue to develop that aspect of my career, which is speaking to… whether it’s corporate, women, kids, groups all over the country, motivational, inspirational kind of educational talk. So, it’s time to do that. I can only do so much of that with the WNBA. I’d like to write a book, and, so, that takes some time. And I really have an interest in some other areas that I would like to continue to develop. And, so, the timeout is to try to re-engage with my family. I’ve been on the road for a long time now, and so I will try to do that.
Q. Are you still going to be affiliated in some way with the WNBA?
Orender: No, but I’ve always had this philosophy that you can leave physically a place, but the parts will always stay with you and, so, I think I take a large part of the WNBA with me. And judging by the amount of outreach I’ve had – and I haven’t even gone yet – I can fairly expect that I will continue to have some interaction.
Q. What would a highlight reel of your presidency include?
Orender: Probably sitting in the stands with a big smile on my face, surrounded by wonderful fans also just beaming with joy at being able to be connected and participate in such a wonderful experience.
Q. Anything else?
Orender: I can rattle off a lot of the business metrics that our team has achieved over the last six years, and I remain incredibly proud of being able to, you know, push the ball down the court for this league.
Q. What are some of those business metrics?
Orender: Four years of attendance growth, incredible ratings growth and development on ESPN television, the development of a broadband product that I think is truly having a revolutionary impact on televised sports in general. I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud of our CBA and the way that we negotiated our labor agreement that resulted in six years of prosperity, you know, certainty as it relates to our players.
Q. Any regrets?
Orender: You know, just that I wish I could have gotten done more, as any Type-A driven personality would say. I wish I could put 30 hours into my 24-hour days as opposed to 27 or something crazy like that. But no. No regrets.
Q. What more needs to be done?
Orender: Just as I said, you know what I mean? It’s like, every touch, every meeting, every sales opportunity… you know, if I had 10 of those, I wish I could have made 15, you know what I mean? I always feel — no matter what I’m involved in — I always feel an urgency to move forward, drive the bar higher, touch people in a way that’s meaningful, and create something that, you know, is difference-making.
Q. Is there an athlete that you most enjoy watching?
Orender: You know, listen, I am a sports lover. I always have been. I have a great appreciation for talent. You know, watching talent. And, so, I wouldn’t limit myself to one or two. I would tell you that there are many, many athletes that I enjoy watching.
Q. No one player above another that you single out? Or make it a point to watch this game or this player?
Orender: What game is that?
Q. There’s no one who is in town or on [TV] that you think, “I’ve got to go see that player or that game?
Orender: I wouldn’t single anybody out at this point in time. I have a great appreciation for a wide variety of sports. I do have to say this, though, coming from Jacksonville at this point in time, I’m very intrigued to watch the success of Tim Tebow (laughing).
Q. You were a player yourself at Queens College in the 1970s. A lot of changes in the game since then.
Orender: The athletes are bigger, they’re stronger, they’re faster on a more pervasive basis. I would match Annie Meyers Drysdale up to any athlete today in terms of her quickness and speed. And they’re playing the game starting at a much younger age and their skill development is more advanced. So, I would tell you, like in any other sport, the greats of any era probably can compete with the greats of any other era. Because when you’re an exceptional athlete, you’re an exceptional athlete. That said, I just think that the athletes today, and the game today, are a lot quicker and a lot more physical.
Q. Orender Unlimited, your new company: What’s the plan for that?
Orender: My view of the world is that there are endless possibilities, and I’ve been fortunate in my career to have many, many, many experiences. And, so, therefore, if you provide value to companies, within companies, projects can help elevate and help them reach their objective. And Unlimited is such that, you know, it could be. Having had the good fortune to have experience in film media, having launched and created the entire digital business for the PGA Tour, whether it’s in the sponsorship area, strategy…whatever, I also have a big interest in golf and women, creating inspirational, educational programming, and I’ll be working on developing that as well. And I hope to be able to sit on a couple of corporate boards and bring my expertise and experience to that endeavor as well. So, it’s an evolving kind of plan at this point in time, incorporating kind of the things where I think I can bring the most value and, truthfully, the things that I like to do the best.
As the son of John McKay, the legendary football coach at USC and the first head coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rich McKay grew up around the game. He was a high school quarterback in California and Florida and a ballboy for his father at Tampa Bay. Later on, he earned his undergraduate and law degrees, respectively, from Princeton and Stetson. Rich McKay was a practicing attorney in Tampa before taking the job of general manager with the Buccaneers in 1993. During his 10-year tenure with the Bucs, McKay hired Tony Dungy as head coach and built a team that won the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. He joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2003 as president and general manager and saw the team advance to the NFC title game in his first season. McKay spoke recently with Jerry Kavanagh.
Q. What has been the biggest surprise of this NFL season for you?
McKay: I would say it is some of the teams that probably have not performed as well as I thought they would. I looked at some of those teams, like the Cowboys, and thought they were really going to be a force to be reckoned with. But every year I think that about certain teams, I realize how much injuries play a part and how quickly the league can change. So, every time I get surprised by certain teams’ success or lack of success, I remind myself that I shouldn’t be surprised.
Q. The way the NFL is structured, a team can turn it around pretty quickly or drop precipitously.
McKay: Absolutely, and that’s the way you want the league to be. The word parity…sometimes people give it a negative connotation; I’ve always thought of it in a positive light because it truly means that even if your team hasn’t had success for three years, that doesn’t mean that in the next two years it can’t have a lot of success. That’s how close the margin is, and that’s a good thing for our sport.
Q. You’ve got parity in the NFC West, where a 7-9 team made the playoffs.
McKay: People view that as a negative. But usually that’s very cyclical. Those things can change quickly. I remember how good the Rams were just a few years back. And the 49ers were the dominant team in the ’80s and into the ’90s, so those things go in cycles.
Q. What has been the key to the Falcons’ success this season?
McKay: I think Mike Smith and his staff have done a really good job of staying with the plan and being very basic in our approach. And we’ve been very consistent. We’ve been consistent on offense, defense, and special teams. And when that happens, you tend to win football games.
Q. The Falcons have home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. Given the Falcons’ record at home, how much of an advantage is that?
McKay: Home field in this league matters a lot. It always has, and it should. Since coach Smith’s been here, I think we’ve only lost three or four home games. So it matters a lot. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it. Winning at home can become a habit. You begin to expect it and to expect good things to happen. That’s a positive because I’ve been in situations when it wasn’t so good, like in my early days in Tampa, where you expected to lose. What happened was, you literally waited for a bad play. And when it happened, then all the players kind of got that expectation in their mind that, “Oh, oh. Here it comes.” And then you lost the game. I think you can have the inverse of that, and that’s what we’ve got going on right now.
Q. There’s a comfort level, too, isn’t there, in playing at home? You don’t have to travel. The players get to sleep in their own beds…
McKay: No question. All of that matters. We’re all creatures of habit, and those habits are easier to keep in sync at home than they are on the road.
Q. You have spoken about reseeding the teams for the playoffs. It seems particularly appropriate now, but that’s not going to happen this year..
McKay: It’s something that’s been discussed before in the league. I wouldn’t say it’s my issue as much as it’s been an issue raised by a number of teams. Jacksonville, I think, submitted two different proposals on it. I think eventually it’s something we should go to. But it’s still got a little ways to go.
Q. How would it work?
McKay: The four division winners are now automatically seeded one through four. In the most recent proposal, the division winners automatically get in the playoffs. So, you are not devaluing the division winners. But only the first two seeds are automatically guaranteed those seeds. And after that the teams are seeded based on record.
Q. What’s the point of reseeding?
McKay: The purpose behind the proposals was to keep more games relevant later in the year and potentially to deal with the [current] situation, where the team with the much better record is going to go on the road. We’ll see. I think people get concerned about devaluing what are division championships. I think that it’s something that will certainly be debated this year. But as it usually does in this league, it will take time to get that thing passed.
Q. Let’s get back to parity. How does a team maintain a continuous atmosphere of winning when the NFL, by its very system (schedule, draft, salary cap, etc.), works against such sustained success?
McKay: Very good point, Jerry. You’re absolutely right. The system is designed to…not necessarily to prevent you [from winning] but to make it difficult for you to win on a continuous basis because of the narrowness and the margin of winning. And so it does work against you in that sense.
But what you have to give your fan base the feeling of is, No. 1, that you’re going to do everything necessary to try to get your team to be the best it can be. And No. 2, that you’re going to try to also win off the field. That is, that you’re going to represent everything that’s supposed to be good about being an NFL city. And by that I mean that your players have got to get out in the community, they’ve got to do the right thing, and they’ve got to touch the fans, not just on the football field but off the field. And I think that when you do those types of things, then when you do have those down years, you’ve built up enough equity that the fans are willing to hang in.
Q. By the way, speaking of off the field, I like that commercial with the Falcons on the school bus. I didn’t see you in it, though. Are you on the bus?
McKay: No. In fact, I was out of town. I decided that I’m better not in that commercial, given my lack of rhythm. [Team owner] Arthur [Blank] is a huge supporter of the Play 60 initiative and the anti-obesity campaign. It married up well with what we’re trying to be about, and so it was nice that we were associated with [the commercial].
Q. You grew up in football and have been around the sport from an early age. What’s the best decision you have made in the game?
McKay: Wow! Now, there’s a hard question. I would say it’s the hiring of certain people. I think it always gets down to people. Hiring Tony Dungy in the [Tampa Bay] franchise and the situation we were in was probably the best decision I could have made for the franchise at that time. That was probably as big a decision as I’ve made. There were plenty of draft picks along the way that I’m real proud of and others that I’m not. But when you’re charged with hiring a coach, that’s an important decision. In essence, that coach ends up becoming the CEO of your franchise and has great impact on your winning and on the perception of your franchise locally.
Q. The last time we spoke, a few years ago, you talked about stocking your roster with draft picks and free agents. I realize that every team needs both, but you said, “You are much better served to develop your own [players], let them understand what your culture is, and then pay them and extend their contracts than to go out and buy the talent in free agency.” Does that still hold true?
McKay: One hundred percent. I’m more committed today than whenever I told you that. Building that culture and raising those athletes within your culture is a lot easier than bringing players in who’ve had success at [other] teams and then trying to fit them into your schemes and into your culture. Look at Pittsburgh and New England. Those are two examples of franchises that have won continuously and have done it by drafting their own and developing their own and keeping their own.
Q. You are chairman of the NFL Competition Committee. Does the game itself and/or the NFL need any changes?
McKay: The game’s in a really good place right now. I think the numbers speak to that. You can never do enough on the player safety side. And I think we will always, and should always, focus on that end, even to the extent of facing public criticism from either ex-players or the media.
Q. Is enough being done to insure the safety of the players?
McKay: I think it is, but you have to continually work on that issue. If you look over the last 15 years, there have been an awful lot of changes made to try to make the game safer and to try to limit the player from any type of unreasonable risk of injury. But I don’t think we should accept where we are. We should keep pushing and make sure we look at every instance in which a player is potentially put into a place that presents an unreasonable risk.
Q. And yet there is talk of an 18-game regular season in a sport that is so debilitating.
McKay: There is, and I’ll leave that to those at the league office and the union who are talking about it. But I think there are things you can do that deal with the whole system and don’t just focus on the two [additional] games but the whole system that goes into the training, the offseason, and everything else. Because those elements all go into player safety. It’s not just the games.
Q. Is there an offseason? It doesn’t seem like there is an offseason anymore.
McKay: (laughing) I don’t know. If you ask some of the people who work here, I think their answer might be that there isn’t much of one.
Q. Jerry Jones just recently said, “Basically, the [economic] model that we have does not work.” He also said that he did not think that a lockout would be disastrous for the game. Do you think there will be a lockout next season? If so, would it be disastrous for the game?
McKay: I say “No comment” to both questions, and I leave it to people with a pay grade much higher than me.
Q. OK, you don’t want to speculate about a lockout, but do you have any predictions about the postseason and the offseason?
McKay: No predictions, Jerry. I’m not a predictor.
Q. Everybody’s a predictor.
McKay: (laughing) Behind closed doors I am.
Q. What are you reading these days?
McKay: I’m into the latest James Patterson. Whatever the latest James Patterson is, he’s on my Kindle and I’m reading him.
Q. Kindle, huh?
McKay: I can’t remember which one it is, but I’ve been all over and into that kind of genre, if you will, lately. I haven’t been as much into serious books. I probably need to get back to do a little more serious reading.
Q. I’m glad you have some time to read. It seems so many people now don’t have time to do anything but work.
McKay: The interesting thing me about me from a reading standpoint is that I’m a late-night reader and I’m an airplane reader. We travel so much during the season, and that gives me the best opportunity to read.
Happy New Year everybody. Great news. Tiger Woods says he’s going to turn over a new fig leaf this year. …
Nice effort by the Big Ten on New Year’s Day. In the aftermath of the disaster, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State have been transferred from the Leaders Division to the Laughingstock Division. …
So another NFL regular season is in the books. Not that, you know, they shouldn’t bother with the playoffs, but Bill Belichick has already prepared his Lombardi Trophy acceptance speech: “Um, thank you.” …NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced today that, due to technical difficulties and the Pats’ dominance, there will be no darkhorses in this year’s playoffs. …
Big news out of the Bay Area. According to a source he once tried to strangle, Tom Cable is history as the Raiders’ head coach. …So why would they dump the Cable Guy? Apparently, Al Davis wasn’t comfortable finishing 8-8. He’s hoping to return to the glory days of 4-12. …
There’s been much celebration over the recent coup by Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro. Certainly, signing the top free agent pitcher this winter after trading for two of the top starters in the majors last year is reason to celebrate. But let’s not go overboard.
This isn’t the best rotation ever assembled. Not even in recent memory. The Atlanta Braves’ foursome of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery easily top the Philly Phour. At the same times of their careers, Maddux was easily superior to Halladay, Smoltz better than Oswalt, Glavine better than Lee and Avery even getting a slight edge over Hamels. Obviously, Hamels has a golden opportunity to have a better career than Avery, but at age 24 with 55-28 record, no one knew Avery’s arm was about to fall off.
However, at the time the two staffs were assembled, the Phillies can boast they were more decorated. But when the four Braves came together for the first time in 1993, their ages were 23, 26, 26 and 27. The ages of the four Phillies are a more mature 26, 32, 33 and 34. So at the time of assembly, the Phillies look pretty good, but they also have a combined 23 more years in age.
The point is that in the next few years of pitching together the Braves became a dominant staff entering its prime. The Phillies’ staff window is closing much more quickly than they would like to believe.
So let’s take a heat off this staff. The Phillies are clearly the team to beat in the National League in 2011. But the offense is what must perform. Subpar seasons by Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will have this team struggling to score as losses will mount. Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins cannot carry this team without the two heavy lifters in the middle. And if Rollins is done as an elite player — which many observers believe — the lineup is not as deep as it appears.
The Phillies are our favorites to win the National League in 2011. But this is an old team with potential problems. But there doesn’t seem to be another choice in the NL.
Peter Gammons has been covering sports since 1969, when he began a distinguished career in journalism at the Boston Globe. Last season was the 38th consecutive World Series that he has worked. Gammons is on-air personality at the MLB Network, where he provides analysis and commentary on the games as well as breaking news on baseball. He is also a contributor to Baseball America.
Gammons was a baseball analyst for ESPN and a writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He covered the NHL, college basketball, and Major League Baseball for Sports Illustrated between 1976 and 1990. Gammons was honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing, voted on by the BBWAA, and presented during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2005. He has earned National Sportswriter of the Year honors in 1989, 1990, and 1993 from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and was awarded an honorary Poynter Fellow from Yale University.
Gammons spoke recently with Jerry Kavanagh.
Q. I remember the Hot Stove League when it took place only at a time when you really needed a hot stove. That is, in the dead of winter. Now, it seems to start the day after the World Series and to end on the first day of spring training.
Gammons: I actually wrote a column about this when Marvin Miller was up for the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately the Veterans Committee did not put him in. Part of my point was, not only did he make the players a ton of money, but he also made the owners a ton of money. I started covering the Red Sox in 1972. I remember working offseasons when I would make a couple of calls, check in, and see if anything was going on, and then go cover college basketball at night. It [MLB coverage] was not a year-round thing. After the winter meetings [back then], essentially there was no media baseball until the trucks left for spring training.
Q. What changed everything?
Gammons: What happened was, the [Andy] Messersmith [free agent] decision came down in January of 1976 and we had that wild ’76 season. I guess they got the basic agreement at the All-Star Game, but every player was a free agent — could have been a free agent. But once they started free agency at the end of that year…actually they had like a free-agent draft that I remember in New York. It put baseball on the front pages of sports pages year round, and it completely changed the business of baseball.
Q. And changed it for the better?
Gammons: You could see the incremental attendance rises and the revenue rises every season. As it turned out, it’s been [a] really good [development] for the game. It drives us all crazy now that there’s Twitter and some Japanese utility shortstop signing with the Twins gets more mentions than Alan Trammell had in his career. It gets a little absurd, but at the same time, it promotes the business. So, Marvin Miller made the owners a lot of money.
Q. The baseball writers used to change beats during the winter, didn’t they?
Gammons: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I was working at the Boston Globe, and even then it was a wild baseball town. So, you’d go check in every once in a while, see what was going on. But it was college basketball and college hockey or something else. But now, some of these poor guys have to work, like, 18 hours a day 360 days a year. But, again, it’s good for the business because you’re talking about it and promoting it.
Q. And now there’s more competition to break news. It seems like the reporters are on call 24 hours a day.
Gammons: [Sports Illustrated’s] Tom Verducci had a great line to me a couple of weeks ago. He said that this whole thing about Twitter warfare is intramurals. Really there are only a few people who are trying to scoop one another for the belt. It’s got to the point of absurdity at the same time. It’s fun. I put the little Twitter thing on and watch and scroll down as the day goes along.
Q. And now, is everybody covering rumors?
Gammons: It gets a little crazy. Sometimes you get rumors that are just absolutely absurd. But that’s always been that way, one way or another. There are just more out there now. You read, “The Orioles discuss such and such a pitcher.” I said to somebody at the winter meetings, “You might as well put, “The Orioles discuss balancing the budget.” They can discuss anything.
Q. The coverage now is year round, isn’t it, of baseball and the business of baseball?
Gammons: I thought the economy would affect attendance and revenues far greater than it has. There is just so much attention focused on baseball year round that they’re able to keep revenues… I think again this year they were up just a little bit, so they set another record.
Attendance was down a little bit but revenues were at least flat, which is pretty remarkable when you consider the cost of tickets and what’s happened to the economy.
Q. It’s been an interesting offseason so far, starting with the two big acquisitions by the Red Sox.
Gammons: It has been. The Red Sox knew they had some contracts coming off, and some of their television ratings were down, so they knew that they had to do something. It’s always hard to plan, but they were able to do what they wanted to do, which is very unusual.
Q. And the signing of Cliff Lee by the Phillies, not the Yankees. Was that a surprise?
Gammons: I thought the great thing about Cliff Lee, and again I don’t mean to be dating myself, but my first year covering baseball was the first strike. I think Bud Selig and I are the only two people left from that 1972 spring training strike. But to watch what players gained by free agency…I thought the Cliff Lee story was great. He didn’t say, “I don’t want to play in Texas.” What he said was, “You know what, this is the right the players have earned. This is the right that I’ve earned from performing X amount of years in the major leagues. I can play where I want to play and live in a clubhouse for 10 or 12 hours a day with whom I want.” I thought that was the best part of the story. He basically did what he wanted to do.
Q. And still make a comfortable living.
Gammons: Making millions of dollars to do it at the same time. A good friend of mine lived with him for a couple of years in the minor leagues. And he always told me that [Lee] just wants to be in situations that he really likes. His idea of a fancy car is a pickup truck. And that’s about it. He takes his kid fishing. I thought it was too bad that some people in New York took it that he was dissing in New York. I don’t think it was that at all. That Phillies team is one of the most likable groups of people in all my years covering baseball.
Q. What makes them so likable?
Gammons: They have so much personality. Jimmy Rollins is constantly going. Chase Utley is the bellwether of integrity and playing hard. Ryan Howard is a great guy. Plus, Lee wants to play with Roy Halladay. I understand that. Halladay has replaced Greg Maddux as the pitcher all other pitchers want to pitch with. The ironic part, and Billy Beane made this point, is that Philadelphia is actually tougher than New York. It’s a good point. It’s about the teammates. He wanted to play with those guys. I like to hang around with my good friends, too. I just don’t make $120 million to do it.
Q. Now fans are wondering what the Yankees’ counter move might be. They’re not really planning to go with Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova in their rotation, are they?
Gammons: Well, they might start with Ivan Nova. They’ll wait. Brian Cashman has done a great job developing his farm system. He’s at the point where he can do what Boston did with Adrian Gonzalez: trade away three top-of-the line prospects for a star player. Now, in December, we can say that such-and-such a player will never be available, but…come June, the Yankees will be in position to go and get him. If A.J. Burnett comes back, and I think he will, the Yankees will have Sabathia and Burnett and a very good bullpen. They’re still going to score a ton of runs. So, they can be right in there and then throw out everybody they have to throw out to get that pitcher they need. I think someone will show up on the radar by then.
Q. Now that we have seen some of these big player moves, is there another story you are following closely this winter?
Gammons: I think the next story is the continuation of this last season. I think 2010 was finally the season in which fans finally got to turn their backs and say, “Enough is enough. I don’t want to hear about steroids again.” And I think that was part of the fascination. It was also a great pitchers’ year, which all of a sudden showed the game had changed. There was, what, the fewest runs per game since 1992.
Q. Anything else you are following?
Gammons: Even more so, the fascination with young players. Jason Heyward was a national figure on opening day when he hit the home run for the Braves in his first at-bat. And then Mike Stanton came along [with the Marlins]. Buster Posey became the cult hero in San Francisco. And the whole Stephen Strasburg phenomenon. If I’m not mistaken, every one of his starts in the minor leagues and the major leagues was on national TV. And I think that’s going to continue this year. People want to cleanse themselves of the old and move forward and say, ‘O.K., these guys signed under drug testing. This is what we want for our game. We don’t want to hear anything more about the past.’ Who is going to be what Michael Lewis called “the new young thing?”
Q. Buster Posey seems like a throwback player.
Gammons: Oh, he is. He’s a great kid. I went down and spent a day for the MLB Network during the Instructional League with Bryce Harper. I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t met him. We had done a great deal of publicity. Here was a guy who was able to graduate from high school after his sophomore year, went to a junior college in Nevada (and, by the way, maintained a 4.0 average even though he knew the reason he was there was to be the No. 1 pick in the country). I couldn’t believe what a throwback person he was. It was a delightful day. He loved the game so much, and kept asking me to tell him stories about this guy or that. I asked him what player he wanted to be like. He said, ‘George Brett.’ I thought, ‘How many 17-year-olds have any idea who George Brett was.’ And then I asked him what player he would like people to compare him to. He immediately said, ‘Chase Utley.’ Maybe this is a great thing for the game, just as the NBA about eight years ago started a whole new generation of players. Maybe this is exactly what baseball needs—all these young guys. You can’t find much nicer people than Posey, Heyward and Stanton.
Q. Fans are always ready to root for a guy who hustles.
Gammons: Oh, absolutely. I was on a San Francisco radio station every week. And it just amazed me that callers wanted to talk about “Posey mania.” I love that! San Francisco’s a great baseball town. At the same point, Posey became the focal point of a team that made a pretty dramatic run to win the World Series. I found it very interesting that a guy making $450,000, the
minimum, became the toast of a city whose glory was made of Willie McCovey and so many others.
Q. At the start of the 2006 season, you wrote, “Baseball would survive by being baseball.”
Gammons: Baseball bounced back from 1919 and the Black Sox. It bounced back from the strike in 1981. And I must say that during that winter of 1994-95, I wondered if it would bounce back. But it did. Now it’s gone from, what, a $1.5 billion industry to around an $18 billion industry, without any salary cap or anything else. The game always survives and people go back to it. That’s why I say we’re kind of in the middle of this story because this year will be the year when fans will say let’s move on to all these young players. I’m not trying to throw dirt on Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. That’s not really the point. The point is, baseball has developed a whole new base of young players. That Strasburg phenomenon was unbelievable. It’s too bad he got hurt, but he’ll be back in 2012. To be continued.
Q. Billy Beane once told me about your talents as a bird dog. What young players are coming along that we should be aware of?
Gammons: Jesus Montero, the Yankees’ catcher. If he can catch as well as Victor Martinez, he’ll be a star because he’s going to really hit. He should be great.
Q. Who are some other players to look for?
Gammons: There’s a young outfielder with the Rangers named Engel Beltre. It’s going to be another year, but he might be a great player. I can’t wait until he and Josh Hamilton are playing together. And I would say another would be Eric Hosmer, a first baseman, with the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City has a lot of really good players about to come. He and Mike Moustakas, a third baseman, will both be stars.
Q. Is there a breakout team for 2011?
Gammons: I think Oakland’s going to be the breakout team. I think their pitching is SO good. If I’m not mistaken, they set a record for most quality starts by pitchers 26 years and under, And with the added offense and with the defense that Billy has put together, I think they’re going to be a real threat to win the west. It is amazing how Billy keeps reinventing himself. He’s like the Curt Schilling of general managers. About every five years he’s completely different.
Q. Quality starts and pitch counts seem incompatible now.
Gammons: True. The reason that works is because those young pitchers on the A’s pound the strike zone, which is what Billy’s always preached anyway. People talk about Nolan Ryan and no more pitch counts and all that, but the average pitch count of a Rangers’ starter in each of the last two years in the minor leagues has actually decreased. The whole principle of stop fooling around and dodging around the strike zone… throw strikes and be aggressive is what has completely changed the whole Texas pitching makeup. It’s not being left in for 130 pitches, it’s just throw the ball over the plate.
Q. There’s such an emphasis on pitch counts now.
Gammons: A couple of games, Nolan Ryan went over 200 pitches. Now, Nolan was the strongest man I’ve ever seen. I covered Luis Tiant’s great Game 4, 173-pitch performance against the Reds in 1975. But pitchers are raised differently .When they’re in college, they pitch once a week. When they come into the minor leagues, they pitch every fifth day. It’s a different strain on their arms.
Q. But there are relievers who pitch only one inning every other day.
Gammons: I know. Relief pitchers who can go four to six outs have suddenly become really valuable. That sounds silly, but how many closers have four- to six-out saves? It’s minimal. It’s almost more important to get the outs in the seventh and eighth innings. To come into those jams and get out of them requires more stuff. You get the veteran guy who can go out and start a clean ninth inning. It’s tough [for the closer], who is the last step to winning a game. But at the same time, the difficulty is much greater pitching in the seventh and eighth innings. They’re always pitching with me on base.
Q. I had a conversation with Mike Marshall, who is so derisive about today’s specialists. When he pitched in his best years in the 1970s, he was the middle man, the setup guy, and the closer.
Gammons: Yeah. He’s an amazing character. It’s unfortunate that he’s been forgotten. He once had 106 appearances in one year. That’s just amazing.
Q. Bud Selig has brought up the notion of expanded playoffs. How do you feel about that?
Gammons: I’m for it if they can shorten the season. I kind of like the idea of having two wild-card teams in a playoff to get into the playoffs, which really takes away from the wild-card team and makes first place more important. I’m all for that. And if the small-market team keeps the carrot of the playoffs in front of them longer, I’m all for that. I just don’t want to see them drag this out to Thanksgiving. We were really lucky this year with the weather, but there were a lot of years where we would have been dancing between snowflakes on November 6, or whenever the World Series was supposed to end.
Q. I want to leave you with this: You once told me that David Halberstam was your favorite non-fiction writer. I happened to mention that to Halberstam a few years ago. He had the highest praise for you. In fact, he said that maybe you should be the baseball commissioner. He also said that if someone were to spend a week with you, observing what you do, he would not have to go to journalism school.
Gammons: (laughing) Well, that’s very kind. I do believe that he’s the greatest journalist that ever lived. His ability to draw broad subjects together … he tied together about nine generations of wars and maybe understanding. Not only Asia, but the Middle East. Amazing! A great man. Such a tragic thing that he died. It’s so sad because he was a model for every one of us. And such a gentleman. What memories. I remember standing next to him in center field at a Bruce Springsteen concert in Fenway Park. The rest of us were scruffily dressed for a rock concert. David wore a bowtie with a blue blazer and a white shirt. It was hysterical.
Q. O.K., thank you for that little-known fact.
Gammons: He also wore the same blazer and tie when he went to the Chicken Box in Nantucket to see Little Feat with me.
Happy holidays, everyone. God bless Mr. Scrooge and God bless Tiny Tim Lincecum. …
News flash: Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he’s incensed by Cliff Lee’s decision to sign with the Phillies, calling it bad for checkbook baseball. …Lee, by the way, got $120 million over five years, moving him ahead of Cher’s plastic surgeon on the list of America’s highest-paid employees. …
The Lions won a roadie the other day at Tampa. I only mention it because, the last time they won a game away from Detroit, the parking lot was filled with chariots. …
I see where Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said on Twitter that the U of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium field was “unplayable’’ for Monday night’s game. Interesting. Well, it would be interesting if anyone cared what punters had to say. …
The UConn women won their 88th straight game the other day, tying UCLA’s men’s team for the longest ever in college hoops. Apparently, UConn coach Geno Auriemma celebrated by sucking on a lemon. …Auriemma, in case you missed it, says nobody would care if UConn had tied a women’s record, not one set by John Wooden’s Bruins. Actually, truth be told, I still don’t care. …
Hey, everybody. I’m in a great mood today. Why? It’s the holidays, the only time of the year when I can crank up my Burl Ives’ Greatest Hits CD without people looking at me funny. …
Amazing how the story lines never end for the Vikings. A blizzard caused the Metrodome roof to collapse over the weekend, sending tons of snow and Jimmy Hoffa crashing to the turf. …
I don’t get it. Jets strength coach Sal Alosi trips Dolphins DB Nolan Carroll on the sideline and everyone’s making a federal cast out of it. It’s New York, people. Carroll is lucky Alosi didn’t swipe his wallet, too. …
Classy gesture by Cam Newton to thank God, his parents and the NCAA’s short-sighted investigators during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. …
Talk about an awkward moment. Michael Vick agreed to give Cowboys running back Tashard Choice an autograph Sunday night, but only after making sure Choice wasn’t handing him a subpoena. …
Manchester U invited the Chilean miners to attend a practice and a game in England this week. About half accepted the offer. The other half said they’d rather be trapped underground again than watch soccer. …
The axe finally fell on Josh McDaniels in Denver. Not sure if he’ll ever be a head coach again. So far, he only has one offer on the table: running the Patriots’ video department. …
Major news flash: I’ve decided to join the 21st century, so you can find me on Twitter. Now if only I could find me on Twitter. …
The biggest story to come out of baseball’s winter meetings? The Cubs, hoping to continue a rich tradition at Wrigley Field, signed a .196 hitter for $10 million. Next up on their offseason must-do list: Hiring John Rocker as their P.R. director. …
The bowl season begins this weekend. What’s that? You’re right. There’s no beginning, middle or end to the bowl season. …
In case you’ve misplaced your scorecard, there are 35 bowls on the docket — 36 if you count the one Texas assumed it would be in. …
Do not adjust your picture. Coaching neophyte Joe Paterno will be coaching against retiree-waiting-to-happen Urban Meyer in the Outback Bowl. …
I see where Dr. James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, including “Beware of the groupies in New York,” were auctioned off the other day for $4 million. …
The Browns were in the game at Buffalo on Sunday until Jake Delhomme threw a late interception. But then, isn’t every team in the game until Delhomme throws a late interception? …
Maybe it was too much to think that Mike Shanahan could undo years of damage in Washington just because he was the new sheriff in town. Maybe it was ridiculous to think that order would immediately be restored.
It certainly seems foolish now that the Redskins (5-7) are a mess – again – complete with embarrassing performances, high-profile controversies, and now even a player suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. All that’s missing is for Dan Snyder to step out of his owner’s box and run some interference.
Then the circus will really be back in town.
Even without that, though, Shanahan has his hands full with a hapless team that somehow has managed to be just as bad as the 2009 edition — even if their record is going to end up slightly better. Injuries have ravaged their offense and controversies are taking apart their chemistry piece by piece — whether it’s the benching of quarterback Donovan McNabb because of his conditioning, or the ongoing saga of Albert Haynesworth, their $100 million suspended man.
Actually, it all was on display in the Redskins’ 31-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday, a do-or-die game that could have gotten them back to the fringe of the playoff chase. Instead, their effort was questionable and their performance was disastrous. Before they opened their eyes they were down 28-0. Before it was over, they had turned over the football six times.
McNabb played well, but he’s done nothing this season to make anyone think he has a long-term future in Washington — except for the fact that he signed a much-ridiculed, five-year, $78 million contract extension. That came a week after he was benched for Rex Grossman — Rex Grossman! — in the final two minutes of a winnable game because of Shanahan’s concern about his “cardiovascular endurance.”
That was a remarkable takedown of a franchise quarterback that had cost the organization a ton in both contract and trade, and certainly opened up questions about whether Shanahan and McNabb were ever — or could ever be – on the same page. Those questions seemed to be answered by his contract extension — until it was revealed he could be cut after the season and the Skins would owe just $3.75 million, which led to even more questions about the Redskins’ future plans.
And then there’s big Albert Haynesworth, who has been a thorn in Shanahan’s side since the minute he took over as coach and decided he wanted to run a 3-4 defense. Haynesworth didn’t like it and the two have been battling ever since as Haynesworth continued to collect his sizeable checks.
At least he continued to collect them until Tuesday, when the Redskins suspended him without pay after things got so bad that Haynesworth went to Redskins GM Bruce Allen and said he would no longer talk to Shanahan. That came after Haynesworth missed a practice the previous week with what the team called an “illness” and apparently missed a team meeting, too. He reportedly even got into a heated exchange with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and, as a result, was inactive against the Giants.
John King is CNN’s chief national correspondent and the anchor of the hour-long John King, USA, which runs Monday through Friday at 7 P.M. eastern time and addresses the topical issues of the day. The show launched in March of this year. Prior to that, King was the host for CNN’s Sunday news program State of the Union with John King. King joined CNN in May 1997 and became chief national correspondent in April 2005. He served as CNN’s senior White House correspondent from 1999 to 2005.
His work has taken him across the country and around the globe, where he has interviewed heads of state and men in the street to report on breaking stories and features both national and international in scope. King spoke recently with Jerry Kavanagh.
Q. Your show is fast-paced and efficient. How and when does a typical day start?
King: No two days are the same, but most of them start before I go to bed. I look at some emails and send others to the staff. There are always some bouncing balls in play that you have to follow up on for the next day. I wake up and usually do my first couple of hours from home. I’m still old-fashioned in that I get the newspapers off the driveway. I also go on line and read a few others and look around at some of the political websites, and swap messages among the staff. I try to work out in the morning before I get to the office.
Q. So, even when the show is over, you’re always looking ahead?
King: I try to unwind a little bit, but if you’re trying to book a guest, you want to get those calls in early or in advance. We usually spend about a half hour after the show with a quick postmortem and then look ahead to the next day. But it’s a long day and we try to get everybody out the door.
Q. The research into a subject’s background can sometimes reveal interesting or unpredictable results. Any serendipitous revelations that resulted from your own research?
King: When you have a familiarity with people, that’s proof of smart legwork. With a lot of the best work that gets you a good interview or story, everybody wants to focus on the last piece of it. But it’s the first piece or the third piece that often gets you to the last piece. And it’s by doing the research that you know those little anecdotes. Maybe you have a mutual friend or grew up in the same place. Maybe you have shared interest in some activity. Those can help, of course. People are more willing to talk to someone who they think they might have a connection with or who they think is well informed. If you are just calling around randomly for an interview… hey, good luck. Part of that is common sense and part of it is just good street smarts to try to learn a little bit. The key is to get them to engage in a conversation with you. Once you start to develop a relationship of trust, maybe you’ll get there.
Q. Walter Mears, who won a Pulitzer Prize covering politics for the AP, took you aside when you were 24 years old and covering the Michael Dukakis campaign and told you to remember one thing: “You’d rather get it second than get it wrong.” That’s a lesson that still applies in this world of Twitter and blogging, when the competition to break news is greater than ever.
King: The competition to break news IS greater than ever. I like competition. I like the pace. I’m a high-energy, high-adrenaline person, but there’s no question that you need to be more disciplined and even more careful because there are a lot of things out there in the social networking/internet universe that are not journalism as I define it. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. They just don’t abide by the same rules that I do.
King: Some of it is speculation. Some of it is gossip. Some of it is sometimes right, but not sourced the way you or I feel an obligation to do our jobs. So, you have to be more careful. The more complicated things get, the more back to basics you need to be. If you have simple, clearly defined rules by which you do your job, whether it’s a slow day or an ultra-high-speed day, those rules will serve you well.
Q. Fact-checking is sometimes taken for granted.
King: Yes, or people Google something quickly and see one thing that supports them and think, “Well, there. I checked.” That can be dangerous. So you have to make sure that you yourself understand. That’s why we check twice or thrice or four times, when necessary, on a sensitive subject. It’s one of the things that if you’re teaching or mentoring young people, to remind them that if it’s too easy, it might not be right. The internet is a great tool, but you have to realize that there are vulnerabilities. The first thing that pops up in a search engine is not necessarily a fact.
Q. Mother Teresa said, “Facing the media is more difficult than bathing a leper.” That was a saintly woman talking. Is it really that tough?
King: (laughing) I hope not. Look, I think it’s our job to be tough sometimes when the issues are hard. It’s our job to ask questions that sometimes make people uncomfortable. But it’s also our job to be fair and to be fair-minded and open-minded. Sometimes the relationship is adversarial by nature, and that tension is a necessary part of the equation. But it’s a shame when there are people out there who view us as the enemy.
Q. Ari Fleischer said, “The media’s job — and they’re the first to acknowledge it — is to find conflict wherever conflict can be found and to write about it, to highlight it.”
King: That is part of our job, but it’s not the only thing we do. We should be very open to human-interest stories. We should be very open to explain our stories. There are a lot of hard things before us: Where should the World Cup be? What does that process look like? What about this big deficit-reduction commission and the tough choices that it would force not only on politicians but maybe on the American people. Explaining things like that is very important.
Q. What about conflict?
King: I cover politics, and politics is about conflict. It’s about the conflict of ideas and the conflict of personalities. Sometimes it gets pretty feisty. Conflict does sell. It gets people’s attention. Conflict for the sake of conflict is a waste of time. But conflict about a big idea or issue is a good thing to have.
Q. Tom Brokaw said, “It’s all storytelling, you know. That’s what journalism is all about.” I know that you are a big sports fan. What's the most interesting story in sports to you these days?
King: I’m a Patriots fan, so I paid a lot of attention to Monday night’s game [with the New York Jets]. I’m a Boston guy by trade, so I have my obsessive watch on the offseason in baseball. And I’m a Wizards season ticket holder even though I’m a Celtics fan. It’s been interesting to watch the Gilbert Arenas comeback and John Wall’s rookie season. I connect them on purpose because to me that’s the interesting part of the story: Can this veteran who’s under a cloud find a way to have a productive playing relationship with this high-energy kid who clearly has a lot to learn about the NBA but is a star in the making? I love that.
Q. On your show you get directly to the heart of a story and discuss three or four big topics that concern the American people. What sports topics would you like to address?
King: I think the culture of sports is interesting. We’ve talked about doing some sports and decided against it. I do have a huge interest in sports and talk every now and then of dabbling into some sports journalism, just for fun and to learn more.
Q. Who would be on the panel?
King: I like competitors, which is why I’m a Derek Jeter fan even though I’m not a Yankee fan. A couple of years ago at the NBA All-Star game I had a great conversation with Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Chris Paul, and Steve Nash. We were breaking down Barack Obama’s basketball game. It was a treat. So, I could see myself sitting down with the distinguished gentleman Bill Russell and the outspoken contrarian Charles Barkley. Bill Walton’s always a fascinating guy to talk to because he’s a student of politics as well as a student of sports.
Q. What would you discuss?
King: I always wonder what the older guys think about the commercialization and the bigger money in sports nowadays. I’ve always admired Steve Grogan, the quarterback of the Patriots who never had a good offensive line and took a beating every weekend but came every day to play. I admire the tougher, older-generation guys, I guess. But it wouldn’t be one constant panel. You’d have to switch it, depending on the topics.
Q. It could be lively.
King: Russell’s an interesting guy. He didn’t give autographs and he wasn’t very friendly with the media for a lot of his career. It cracks me up to watch the Red Sox on NESN because there’s Jim Rice, sitting at the desk doing the postgame, and Jim Rice throughout his career, all he did was snarl and bark at reporters. It proves that all of us can have second and third chapters in our lives.
Q. The language of sports seems to pervade every aspect of our lives. Is there a sports metaphor that most closely describes the state of U.S. politics today?
King: Sure. I don’t know which party to assign which to, but you could say the Democrats are the Red Sox and the Republicans are the Yankees. The fact that they just plain hate each other and reflexively think the other guys are bad. And that’s a bad thing. Politics is sports because there are winners and losers. There are campaigns that are like seasons. In the end, after a long slog, somebody wins the most votes. It’s like winning the most games. So there are some useful parallels and, therefore, some occasions when borrowing the sports language is appropriate.
I do think one of the problems with our business right now is that we overdo it. You have to keep score in sports every day. You score every day in politics and you demean the process and the people in it sometimes. We’re guilty of that sometimes.
Q. Frank Deford said, “Sports is the easiest thing to write. It’s wins and losses and there are characters. Guys who write politics basically write sports now. They don’t write about issues and important stuff. They write the game of politics.” Who are the big winners in today’s game of politics? It does not appear to be the American people.
King: No, and that’s why we should not treat it as a game. Because whether social security survives and what needs to be done so that it’s there, not just for you and me but for our children, is not a game. Whether the federal government should stick to its guns and implement the Obama healthcare plan as passed or whether it needs to go back and tweak that in some way is not a game. There is a big debate now about taxes. There’s going to be a debate about whether gays can serve openly in the military. They’ve punted the issue of immigration reform for 10 years now in Washington. And no matter your position on the issue, look at the demographics of the country. It is a huge and consequential and important issue and it is not a game.
Q. What do you suggest?
King: To come at it from a sports perspective every time cheapens the process and demeans the product and ultimately insults the consumer, which is the American people. That’s why when there is a vote today on a certain issue, you can cover that in the first couple of paragraphs or the first couple of seconds [on the air] in a sports metaphor. Sometimes it’s irresistible; sometimes it’s appropriate. But we owe people more than that, and if we don’t give it to them we’re insulting their intelligence. There are too many huge, consequential things at stake.
Q. I’ve asked you this before: If you could secure an interview with anyone in sports, past or present, living or dead, who would it be?
King: Ted Williams.
Q. What’s the first thing you’d ask him?
King: (laughing) I could sure use some help with the curveball.
Q. That’s the same response you gave me a few years ago.
King: I’m laughing because Larry King just gave what I thought was a spectacular farewell interview in the Los Angeles Times. They asked him if he could do one interview, who would it be. And Larry said, “God.” And if he had just one question, what would it be? Larry said he would lean over to God and say, “I need your answer on this one because there’s a lot riding on it: ‘Do you have a son?’”
Q. God’s a big sports fan.
King: God’s involved in sports. Apparently for a long time, he’s rooted against the Cubs. That’s all we know.
Q. Usually athletes point skyward and attribute their success to God. But an NFL receiver a few weeks ago blamed God when he dropped a pass.
King: You should talk to Wolf Blitzer about that. Wolf’s from Buffalo. It’s one of the Buffalo Bills’ guys who had the ball in his hands and dropped it. He said, “The big guy obviously didn’t want me to catch that touchdown.”
Q. What’s the most pressing issue facing sports today?
King: I think the risk globally for all sports today is of a disconnect with people who don’t have money. I grew up a blue-collar kid in Boston who for a buck or three got into the bleachers at Fenway Park. I think that’s a $30 ticket now. Sports is the great equalizer in our society. The richest guy in America and the poorest kid can root for the same team just as passionately. And if professional sports become so economically out the reach of the little guy, that’s a shame. It’s big business now, and big business requires big revenue. All of the owners should worry about losing their connection with the average guy on the street who can’t afford it.
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