Riding the Pine…

“You can’t have a bogus call in a tight game like that. I didn’t do anything to deceive the runner. It was a [expletive] call. I think [the umpires] favor the Yankees. The umpires suck up to them. They are the cream of the crop.”
–Orioles reliever Steve Kline, after he was called for a balk last week (San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Four games, that’s my whole career. That’s two-thirds of an inning if I’m lucky, if I get somebody out… They’re coming down hard on me a little bit, just trying to make a point. I think it’s because I might have said fudge cookies too many times on the field. But that’s the story of my life.”
–Kline, on the four-game suspension he got for screaming at the umpires after the balk (Baltimore Sun)

No quotes this week from Ozzie Guillen, which is always disappointing. I am a huge Steve Kline fan. He was a stand up guy with the fans. The only problem was his emotions. He always wore his heart on his sleeve, and he would often get into trouble. I do still love the fact that he gave Tony Larussa the finger in a game.

What is wrong with the IOC? They have decided to drop baseball and softball from the 2012 Olympic. I don’t understand this move since baseball is becoming one of the more internationally popular sports (ok, may not in Europe, but everywhere else). “I think they’ve made a big, big mistake,” said Tom Lasorda, the former Dodgers manager who guided the U.S. team to the gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. “Baseball is played by all countries now, and softball, too. I think that’s really going to hurt the Olympics. I don’t want to knock the other sports, but I think this is a big mistake.” This was also the first time a sport was cut from the Olympics since 1936. The IOC now has to select 2 new sports to take the place of baseball: golf, rugby, squash, karate and roller sports. Thank God squash and Karate have already been rejected. I wouldn’t mind seeing golf (being structured like the World Golf Championship), but not at the expense of baseball. At least baseball will be include in the next Olympics, and will be up for reinstating for 2016. For the complete article, go here.

Lou Pinella was about to make a bold move with his pitching. He was going to use his relievers for the first 3 innings of a game and have the starter come in during the 3-4 inning. He wants his young staff to see what it is like to pitch deep into games. The Devil Rays have also talked about doing this with the Minor Leagues. I think in the minors this would be a good idea. Pitching late in the game is completely different than the first couple of innings. Could you imagine as a hitter seeing a hard throwing closer your first at bat, then an off speed reliever next, then finishing with a starter that typically has 2-4 good pitches. It would be pretty difficult.

The Rumors
The Mets may move players depending on their status this month; if they fall off, look for them to possibly be sellers…One person who could be moved is Tom Glavine…The Cubs are said to be in the same boat as the Mets…One player that the Cubs could move is the recently demoted Corey Patterson; the Cubs aren’t gauging the interest, but would listen to offers…Eddie Guardado’s name is popping up a lot; the Nationals, Red Sox, and Yankees are interested…The Red Sox are also looking Shigetoshi Hasegawa of the Mariners, Danny Kolb of the Braves, Danys Baez of the Devil Rays, and Ricky Bottalico of the Brewers…Kevin Millar has denied that he has demanded a trade, but sources say his agents are checking into potential suitors…Jay Payton, recently designated for assignment, will be moving to Oakland in a deal that will bring reliever Chad Bradford to Boston…The Nationals are dead set on acquiring Guardado and OF Preston Wilson; The Rockies are looking to move the free agent to be…The Rockies are talking about using Byung-hyun Kim in the rotation and going with 6 men; this would show case a starter for trade and end once a trade is made (Joe Kennedy or Shawn Chacon)…The Pirates want to move some of their potential free agents; the only players that should draw interest are Kip Wells, Mark Redman (who may get an extension), and Matt Lawton…Lawton is drawing interest from Dodgers…Los Angeles is also looking at Wilson, Juan Encarnacion, Randy Winn, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Mark Kotsay…The White Sox want to sign Frank Thomas to an extension…The White Sox are still interested in Jason Schmidt, but the Giants are saying they will not trade him; some are saying he will be on the South Side within 2 weeks…The Marlins are looking at Jeremy Affeldt of the Royals…Bret Boone will end up on a new team by the end of next week; his preference is the Twins…Matt Morris has stated that he will be looking for a big contract; he feels he gave a discount to the Cardinals on his last 2 contracts, so he won’t accept one this time.

An interesting rumor involving current players has Bronson Arroyo moving to the closer role while Keith Foulke is out. Arroyo has struggled recently as a starter, so the change might help. Another possibility is the Red Sox calling up prospect Jon Papelbon to close. Papelbon is pitching well at Double A, but throwing a rookie into a high stress closer role in a big market would kill the kid’s career (IMO, but that is because he is on my minor league roster so I don’t want to see him get screwed up early). He is in a different situation than Huston Street (he became the closer in a small market while the team was struggling). What will end up happening is Mike Timlin will get a bulk of the saves, while Curt Schilling will be handed a few as he comes back from the ankle injury.

Manager Hot Seats: The usual suspects: Dusty Baker, Lloyd McClendon, Joe Torre, Lou Pinella…Jim Leyland has said he would like to manage again, but close to home; the Reds a definite possibility.

The week that was:
I’m skipping a weekly recap since it won’t matter who is hot for next week. My recommendation for starting players next week is to start everyone who plays 4 days, unless you have a stud player (ex. Albert Pujols). There are no 2-start pitchers, and some pitchers won’t make a start at all. Watch the pitchers that will have one start.

Trades
The Red Sox trade Ramon Vazquez to the Indians for Alex Cora – This was just a switch of back up infielders. Personally, I think the Red Sox got the better end of the deal, since Cora was a starter. Cora’s season last year (w/ the Dodgers) may have been a fluke, but he can play 162 games (or there abouts). He also would be a good platoon partner for Mark Bellhorn.

Rookie Watch:
Jeff Francoeur will get a chance to play with the Braves; he is considered one of the top hitting prospects in baseball…Zake Duke pitched a solid debut; look into him for the second half (especially if the Pirates trade a starter)…Rickie Weeks needs to be picked up in all leagues…

Injury Watch:
Many players will be back after the All Star Break: Erik Bedard of the Orioles and Nick Johnson and Ryan Chuch of the Nationals have begun rehab starts…Curt Schilling will be back with the Sox this weekend, but as a reliever/closer rather than starter…Derek Lee’s shoulder injury is not as serious as the Cubs feared; he may not play this weekend (or the All Star game), but should be fine for the second half…Josh Beckett will miss his second start this week after leaving Monday’s game with back problems; the Marlins haven’t quite said what is wrong (oblique strain or intracostal strain), but will decide about the DL this weekend…Carl Pavano should only be on the DL for the minimum…Keith Foulke will be out at least 6 weeks to have his knees cleaned up; knee problems are supposedly the latest cause for his struggles…Jaret Wright just had his 75th day on the DL; this invokes a clause that allowed the Yankees to buyout the final year of his contract, saving the team $3 million.

The All Star Breakdown
With the All Star game being played Tuesday, I thought I would do what everyone else has done and give my opinion of the rosters and who missed out.

The AL
C – Jason Varitek (Boston) – Varitek is a solid choice here, with only Jorge Posada as a viable option.
1B – Mark Teixeira (Texas) – I was very happy with this pick. If Tino Martinez would have won, I wouldn’t have watched the game.
2B – Brian Roberts (Baltimore) – Again, another good pick. Roberts have been the best second baseman in the game.
3B – Alex Rodriguez (New York) – Arguably the best hitter in the game. No brainer.
SS – Miguel Tejada (Baltimore) – The fans did a good job voting this year.
OF – Johnny Damon (Boston), Vladimir Guerrero (Los Angeles of Anaheim), Manny Ramirez (Boston) – A pretty good outfield.
DH – David Ortiz (Boston) – Another solid pick. The position (if you can call it that) was weak after Big Papi.

Overall, the fans picked one of the better All Star teams that I have seen. No real name players (other than A-Rod, I was think more like Sosa or Jeter), no one who hasn’t played a game (like I was scared of with Bonds for the NL).

Pitchers – Mark Buehrle (Chicago), Bartolo Colon (Los Angeles of Anaheim), Jon Garland (Chicago), Roy Halladay (Toronto), Kenny Rogers (Texas), Johan Santana (Minnesota), Danys Baez (Tampa Bay), Justin Duchscherer (Oakland), Joe Nathan (Minnesota), Mariano Rivera (New York), BJ Ryan (Baltimore), Bob Wickman (Cleveland) – Some of the pitchers were selected because their teams needed a representative (Baez, Wickman, Duchscherer). Some others were selected by reputations (Santana, and also his strikeout total). One was selected by his peers (Kenny “Don’t get in my way” Rogers). Overall, not too bad. I would have switched Duchscherer with Rich Harden or Huston Street and Wickman with Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia. The starter should be Halladay or Buehrle.

Reserves – Ivan Rodriguez (C, Detroit), Paul Konerko (1B, Chicago), Mike Sweeney (1B, Kansas City), Alfonso Soriano (2B, Texas), Michael Young (SS, Texas), Melvin Mora (3B, Baltimore), Garrett Anderson (OF, Los Angeles of Anaheim), Scott Podsednik (OF, Chicago), Gary Sheffield (OF, New York), ICHIRO (OF, Seattle), Shea Hillenbrand (DH, Toronto) – I would have taken Posada over Pudge, but he is the lone Tiger. Travis Hafner is a better choice than Konerko or Hillenbrand. I would have taken Jeter or Carlos Guillen over Young. Anderson was probably the worst addition to the team, when Hideki Matsui and Torii Hunter are going to be sitting at home. Podsednik was added as the “Final Man” by fans.

The NL
C – Mike Piazza (New York) – A name recognition vote. It should have been Ramon Hernandez here.
1B – Derek Lee (Chicago) – I am in complete agreement on this one (as much as it pains me as a Cardinal fan).
2B – Jeff Kent (Los Angeles) – No one else compares.
3B – Scott Rolen (St. Louis) – I don’t think Rolen deserved to make it. He wasn’t playing well, and he missed significant time with his shoulder injury. His name carried him here this year. The sad thing is, there haven’t been too many other solid third basemen.
SS – David Eckstein (St. Louis) – The weakest position, tied with catcher. No one else means as much to his team as Eck.
OF – Bobby Abreu (Philadelphia), Jim Edmonds (St. Louis), Carlos Beltran (New York) – Abreu deserves this more than any other player. Edmonds has been streaky, and his web gems got him in. I see Beltran like Denzel Washington: Washington didn’t deserve the Academy Award for Training Day, but got if for being snubbed for his better movies. Beltran should have gone last year, but he made this year for that error. I would have rather seen Miguel Cabrera and Brian Giles start.
DH – TBD – It should be Pujols.

Here is where names won in some positions. Overall, it could be worse. I never thought I would see Eck in an All Star game, let alone starting.

Pitchers – Chris Carpenter (St. Louis), Roger Clemens (Houston), Livan Hernandez (San Francisco), Pedro Martinez (New York – Not Playing), Roy Oswalt (Houston), Jake Peavy (San Diego), John Smoltz (Atlanta), Dontrelle Willis (Florida), Chad Cordero (Washington), Brian Fuentes (Colorado), Jason Isringhausen (St. Louis), Brad Lidge (Houston), Billy Wagner (Philadelphia – Replacing Martinez) – I don’t think Larussa could have done a better job with the pitching. All of the above have done well (Fuentes is questionable, but they needed a rep). Oswalt was the NL “Last Man,” but he deserved it anyways. The starter will be Carpenter, but Willis could be worthy too.

Reserves – Paul Loduca (C, Flordia), Albert Pujols (1B, St. Louis), Luis Castillo (2B, Florida), Felipe Lopez (SS, Cincinnati), Cesar Izturis (SS, Los Angeles – Not Playing), Jimmy Rollins (SS, Philadelphia), Aramis Ramirez (3B, Chicago), Moises Alou (OF, San Francisco), Jason Bay (OF, Pittsburgh), Miguel Cabrera (OF, Florida), Luis Gonzalez (OF, Arizona), Andruw Jones (OF, Atlanta), Carlos Lee (OF, Milwaukee) – Pretty good reserves. As I said above, Pujols should be the DH. Carlos Delgado is having too good of a year to be passed over, but that’s life.

My pick is the NL 9-7. No extra innings.

The Home Run Derby
I think this is a joke. I watch the derby every year, but, like the NHL skills competition, it has no meaning. I could hit some home runs if a BP coach was tossing everything over the plate (ok, not really, but I can dream). Adding the international aspect to it makes it that much worse. Since Matsui wasn’t selected, ICHIRO is going to have to represent Japan (I bet they are thrilled). Instead of the watching this, everyone should watch the Futures Game on Sunday instead (A minor league player representing each Major League team in a US vs. the World competition. This is where to find your future fantasy players, like Miguel Cabrera and Rickie Weeks).

Links
RotoChamps can take care of all your fantasy needs.
Zach Selwyn of Extreme Dodgeball talks about Baseball Memorabilia.
Patrick is a hot rod. Check he column to see who thinks this.
Slayer thoughts on the a NL central team in the playoffs – “Yup, I’m calling it now. No Wild Card from this division. Prove me wrong guys, Prove me wrong!” Don’t prove him wrong. I don’t need to hear about the Cubs in the playoffs.
Nick always seems like he is just a head of me in getting columns up – but not this week. His newest column should be up soon.
The Forums

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