Riding the Pine

“There’s no doubt about it, we really flat-out stink. I look at this game and I don’t say I’m mad, but it’s not the same thing I had been watching all year long. It’s crazy…Baserunning, bad pitching. If I named what I was disappointed about, we might be here all week. The entire week was disappointing. Even the game we won, I was disappointed. I have to let them know that if we continue to play like this, good luck. I will take the blame, but good luck with it. They will not give it to us. We have to fight for it and show up and play for it…If we continue to play like that, well, they better make a reservation for a little vacation in a couple of weeks. If we continue to play like that, I don’t think we deserve to have a chance. Not that we won’t have a chance, I’m saying that we don’t deserve that. We’ve really played lousy baseball.”
–White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, on his team’s struggles (Chicago Sun-Times ).

The Cardinals have clinched home field advantage for the playoffs. They have done this before any other teams have clinched their division or wild card. The other magic numbers are:
Atlanta – 5
Padres – 5
Angels – 6
White Sox – 8
Yankees – 9

Wild Cards
Astros – 8
Indians – 8

There are reports going around about another deal that was done, but a team attempted to change later on. Like the Red Sox/Rockies fiasco, the Royals had agreed to send 1B/DH Mike Sweeney and some cash to the Angels for 1B Casey Kotchman. That looks like a great deal for both teams. The Angels get a power bat that they have missed, move a prospect that they were not high on, and could get Darin Erstad off of first base. The Royals get one of their last veterans out, unload a massive contract, and get a good prospect in return. The Royals decided at the last minute that they wanted another prospects and didn’t want to send the money. I know the Royals are a budget conscience team, but getting the bulk of Sweeney’s contract off the books would help them sign someone who could help (but we all know they would bring in another Jose Lima). Kotchman is still a good prospect, and even if they didn’t want him, the Red Sox or Mets would have given up something to get him. If I were a GM, I would be sick of these teams backing out of deals or trying to change the conditions of them.

More on the Rafael Palmeiro front: Palmeiro said at his appeal hearing that teammate Miguel Tejada gave him a liquid vitamin that caused him to fail the test. The Orioles have tested the vitamin and it is not on the ban substance list. Palmeiro, who was asked by the organization on to come back this season, has not been in the clubhouse since the accusation has been leaked. The Orioles were worried about an altercation between the two had Palmeiro returned. His days in Baltimore are definitely over, as may be his career.

The Rumors
While the Red Sox and Mets would like a Manny Ramirez for Carlos Beltran deal, Beltran said he may invoke his no trade clause to prove he can play in the pressure of New York…Wade Miller’s Boston career is over; the team will not bring back the injury prone pitcher…With the possible departure of Johnny Damon, the Red Sox will look to see what it takes to get Juan Pierre and/or Corey Patterson…Greg Maddux has announced he will return to the Cubs next season…Jason LaRue is seeking a 3 year extension from the Reds; the catcher is signed through next season…The White Sox plan to dump Orlando Hernandez; if he can clear waivers, the Nationals and Marlins have expressed interest…The Tigers are one of the teams that will actively pursue free agent AJ Burnett; some fear he could be another large contract mistake…Dodger manager Jim Tracy is pushing the front office to sign free agent to be Jeff Weaver; the front office has no plans of signing him and say that his rotation spot is Edwin Jackson’s to lose…The Yankees could be interested in Torii Hunter if they don’t sign a free agent CF; the Twins will be willing to move him, but it may take a bit to do it…The Mets are reportedly looking for a catcher (Ramon Hernandez), a first baseman (Lyle Overbay), and a top notch closer this off season…The Cubs had a scout checking out a recent Braves-Phillies game; the scout was watching SS Rafael Furcal and closer Billy Wagner…The Pirates are working on a long term deal with Jason Bay, to avoid his arbitration years…The Rockies are looking for veteran bullpen help, specifically a closer…The Devil Rays are expected to pick up closer Danys Baez option for next season, only to try to trade him…Alfonso Soriano has told the Rangers he wants to stay with the team…Mark Teixeira is seeking a contract extension from the Rangers; he wants either a 3 year deal (to avoid arbitration) or a 10 year deal (3 for the arbitration years, then 7 more, which he believes is the going contract for a superstar).

Manager Hot Seats: Ozzie Guillen may not be back next year for the White Sox; he has said he wants to leave as a winner, but his comments are not sitting well with management…The leading candidates for the Pirates managing position are interim manager Pete Mackanin, Jim Leyland, Kent Tekulve, Art Howe, Ken Macha, and Jim Tracy…Many are beginning to speculate that Brian Cashman will leave the Yankees’ GM position; he would draw interest from Washington, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Seattle, and Cincinnati…Diamondback Scouting Director Mike Rizzo will draw interest from a number of teams looking for a general manager, including the D’Backs…The Reds have said they will bring back GM Dan O’Brien but not interim manager Jerry Narron.

The Week that Was:
The Good
Barry Bonds – Well, Bonds is back on the field, and all is right with the universe. Love him or hate him, he puts fans in the seats. On many message board people have debated the importance of Bonds. Many don’t like him; but most also agree he is one the best hitters of our era. Everyone just needs to remember that he has never failed a steroid test. He admitted he used a clear substance and a cream for arthritis, but no one has given any proof that what he took was actually a steroid. He has also passed 2 drug tests this year (and remember Mike Morse failed a steroid test 2 years after taking them). Bonds has continued his torrid pace, hitting 4 homers in 8 games. Some think he could pass Babe Ruth this season since he only need 7 more. I could see it happening if he keeps getting pitches, but I think after 2 more homers, he will be getting walked again.

Gary Sheffield will be the DH for the rest of the season…Chris Carpenter got it handed to him again; he gave up 9 earned runs in 6+ innings Friday…Greg Maddux is 2 wins from 15 for the season…The Rangers are 11 home runs away from setting a Major League record…

The Bad
Nothing like having your fantasy teams collapse in the playoffs…The Reds will have their first home winning season since 2000…The Brewers need 6 wins in their last 10 games to have a winning record…

The Ugly
Travis Hafner has homered in 6 straight games…Jose Contreras pitched a complete game 3-1 victory over the Twins; he has solidified a rotation spot for the playoffs…Jimmy Rollins is in the middle of a 28 game hit streak…

The Rookies
Willy Aybar of the Dodgers is solidifying a spot with next seasons club… Catcher Dioner Navarro is done for the season with wrist and shoulder surgeries…Felix Hernandez has had 2 straight bad outings; he will be starting next season for Seattle, no matter how much he struggles now…Brandon McCarthy gave up 1 run on 4 hits against the Twins; Guillen is thinking about using the rookie in the playoff rotation… The Tigers signed first-round pick Cameron Maybin, the 10th overall pick in June’s amateur draft; He hit .662 as a senior at T.C. Roberson High in Asheville, NC…

The Injuries
Jason Schmidt’s season may be in jeopardy; after possibly missing his last start, Schmidt felt a tweak in his shoulder during warm ups but decided to pitch anyway…Albert Pujols will be getting some time off for the next 2 weeks; the will be used just enough to stay sharp…Rich Harden’s target date to return is September 27; that date is still in question since he hasn’t thrown a real bullpen session yet…Troy Glaus is having serious knee problems, but his playing won’t make it worse; look for him to get some rest until the end of the season…Keith Foulke will likely announce his season is over; he is expect to have surgery on his other knee…Ken Griffey Jr is also done for the season; he is having surgery on his knee and butt (due to a seeping scar from a past ligament surgery…Brian Roberts will miss significant time; he needs Tommy John surgery…Pedro Martinez will be shut down if the Mets are eliminated by his next start…

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