Friday, December 31, 2010

My last post for 2010

I guess it is appropriate that I am in San Francisco for the last day of 2010.
For all time, 2010 will be associated in baseball with the Giants and their unlikely title.

It was a good year to be a Giants fan... just ask my dad.
It was a good year to be a Rangers fan.
It was a good year to have Roy Halladay on your fantasy team.
It was a good year to be Joe Mauer or Adrian Gonzalez's accountant.

And it was a super fun year to write this blog.

There might be some changes in 2011 as I try to make Sully Baseball a little more ambitious.

But as 2010 goes, the readership grew in a much faster pace than I could have imagined and I thank you all for that.

So this post makes it 1,086 updates for the year... just about 3 a day.
Look for more in 2011.

Happy New Year everyone.
Let's hope 2011 is another great year for baseball.

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Ron Kittle - Another random card found in my old closet

Rummaging through my old closet, I found this gem from the 1989 Topps Traded Series. Ron Kittle, the 1983 Rookie of the Year, had three tours with the White Sox. One with the horrible SOX across the chest uniforms and the last one with the traditional pinstripe Sox uniform.

This card has him with the totally forgettable cursive C hat after his brief turns with the Yankees and Indians.

I have yet to meet a White Sox fan my age who doesn't LOVE Ron Kittle. The main reason I included Kittle in my Home Grown vs. Acquired White Sox entry was his special place in the hearts of Sox fans. It could be that he helped homer the Sox to the unexpected 1983 West title as a rookie. It could be that he was a humble midwesterner playing for a midwestern team. The fact that he wore glasses made him seem less like an athlete and more like a regular guy who could hit one out. It could be that he was one of those old fashioned right handed sluggers who was swinging from his heels, struck out a lot but could launch it when he got a hold of one.

Whatever the reason, mention his name to a White Sox fan my age and watch for the inevitable big smile.

We should also think about players like Ron Kittle as this Hall of Fame vote will be announced. No, I am not saying the Kitty Man belongs in Cooperstown. But let's take a name that is on the ballot. Just a random name... Oh let's say MARK McGWIRE.

Like Kittle, McGwire exploded onto the scene as Rookie of the Year and helped slug his team to the post season (McGwire did it in his second year.). And McGwire also hit a ton of homers and struck out a lot. By the time Kittle was 28 years old, injuries began to catch up with him. Same with McGwire.

The injuries eventually were too much to overcome and Kittle played his last big league games on August 13th when he played both ends of a double header. He homered off of Mike Henneman that day.

When McGwire was in HIS early 30s, he recovered from his injuries and suddenly became the greatest power hitter of all time and in the Hall of Fame discussion.

Kittle never made a million dollars a season.
McGwire made $11 million his final season alone and earned over $70 million in his career.

Can you imagine if Ron Kittle had injected Lord knows what into his body? If his body were able to recover from his injuries... if his line drives went a little further... if his 20 home run seasons became 30 home run seasons... if he piled up homers into his 30s...

Maybe people would have brought HIS name up in a Hall of Fame discussion. Maybe he could have been cashing $10 million checks.

But then again, nobody looks at HIS stats with suspicion. Memories of HIS home runs are positive.

Nobody questions the validity of his 7 homers that reached the roof top of old Comiskey Park.

Ron now does motivational speaking and now does something super cool.

He makes benches.

I am not kidding, these are cool.

The seats? Made of bases.

The backs? Made with bats connected by baseballs.

And you can design the benches to have which ever team and which ever players you would want to honor.

You can have the benches shipped to you... or if you live close enough, Ron Kittle will deliver it

How unbelievably awesome is that? Having Kittle show up with the new bench!

And no doubt he would be HAPPY to talk about the past.

So I salute you Ron Kittle.
You showed us all terrific home run power and you did it right.

No wonder Kittle will always be loved in the South Side of Chicago.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Rays proposed stadium... or Jabba the Hutt's sail barge?

Well if the Rays build this, they should only hope to have as big and lively a crowd as Jabba's crew. Just beware of R2 units shooting light sabers from their head. They can bring the party down in an awful hurry.

Either way, they should hire the Max Rebo band.

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Rolando Roomes - Another random card found in my old closet

Going through the same box of baseball cards in my old closet, I pulled out this "Score" rookie card for Cincinnati Reds outfielder Rolando Roomes.

Let's face it, he had one of the coolest names in baseball. Shouldn't someone whose name has an alliteration as well as a bad ass first name like Rolando be a star? The P.A. announcer should relish saying his name every time he comes to bat. "Rolannnnnnnndoooooooo Rooooooooomes!"

Alas, it didn't work out that way.

Roomes is one of only four players to be born in Jamaica to play in the big leagues. Chili Davis and Devon White came before him. Strangely enough Justin Masterson was the fourth. I don't think of him as a Caribbean player.

Unlike the baseball crazed Caribbean nations of Domincan Republic and Puerto Rico or Cuba, Jamaica is a cricket first country. And Roomes was indeed a cricket player.

He was a right handed power hitting outfielder with some speed. First of all take a look at him in the picture. In the 1980s, THAT is what right handed power hitting outfielders looked like. LEAN. They weren't built like Andre the Giant.

He came up through the Cubs system, blossoming in 1987 with Pittsfield. By 1988 he was in Wrigley. He played in April and September with the club, but was used mainly as a pinch runner. In the off season he was sent packing to Cincinnati for Lloyd McClendon.

He played in that awful Reds season that was plagued by the Pete Rose investigation. Roomes made the most of his situation, however. Ken Griffey Sr, Paul O'Neill and Eric Davis all had injury issues and Roomes managed to play in 107 games. And he did well enough to have Score baseball cards declare him a "Promising Rookie."

His best moment came on May 26th when he returned to Wrigley Field. In the 7th inning, Roomes hit an RBI double off of Jeff Pico to give the Reds the lead. But John Franco let up a game tying double to Gary Varsho in the 9th.

Undeterred, Roomes faced Calvin Schraldi in the 12th inning and hit a 2 run homer to give the Reds the lead for good. He seemed determined to win that game in Chicago.

Oddly Schraldi was in his FOURTH inning of relief. It was a strange decision for the Cubs manager to leave Schraldi in for four innings... until you realize that the Cubs manager was none other than Don Zimmer.

By the way, Schraldi was brought into the game after Pico was pinch hit for. Who was the pinch hitter? Lloyd McClendon. It all comes full circle.

Roomes played for the 1990 Reds as well, but sadly for him was let go and signed with the Expos before their push for the World Series.

He never played in the big leagues again after the 1990 season.

But he had a card.
And that card was in my old closet.

Where ever you are, Rolando Roomes, I hope you are enjoying life... and playing cricket.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sully Baseball Honors... Luis de los Santos

Going through my old baseball cards tucked away in my parents house, I stumbled across one for Luis de los Santos. Chances are you never heard of him, and don't feel bad if that is the case.

But I believe this obscure player, a native of the Dominican Republic who grew up in New York and was drafted by the Royals a few picks ahead of Tom Glavine, is worth honoring for a few reasons. One of those reasons reflects what was truly unfair about the steroid era, but I will get to that later.

First of all, while he never made it as a big league hitter, he was a terrific AAA hitter. He became part of that mysterious and ultimately frustrating category of players too good to stay in the minors but can't quite figure out major league pitching. For three straight seasons he was one of the leading hitters at AAA Omaha, winning the American Association MVP in 1988.

He had three cameos in the big leagues. He played briefly for the Royals in 1988 and 1989 and had a cameo with the Tigers in 1991. He didn't exactly light the big leagues on fire and wound up playing in Independent Leagues and elsewhere.

He was partially affected by a log jam of good hitters in Kansas City. Remember in the late 1980s, the Royals still had the aura of being an elite team. Between 1976 and 1985, they made the post season 7 out of 10 seasons, winning the 1980 pennant and 1985 World Series.

And by 1988 they seemed ready to make another run at it. The team still had George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Frank White, Willie Wilson and Bud Black from the World Champion squad. But they also had new stars like Kevin Seitzer, Danny Tartabull, Jeff Montgomery and of course Bo Jackson.

And to show how different baseball was then, they also had one of the highest payrolls in the game.

With that much talent on the big league roster, there wasn't a lot of room for de los Santos to play. If he had been traded as a prospect to a less talented squad, he may have had the opportunity to play every day. But there was no moving George Brett off of first, who had another batting title in him.

So instead de los Santos stayed at Omaha for 4 straight seasons, piling up hits and driving in runs, waiting for a spot to open up on the big league club that never did.

He wound up in Detroit briefly in 1991 and missed the 1992 season. By 1993 he was in the Angels organization, still hitting well (he batted .311 at AAA that year) but he never got the call to come back to the show again.

After the 1993 season, he began a global odyssey playing baseball in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Italy. In 2002, as a 35 year old he played 50 games for AAA Rochester, but never got the call from the Orioles.

And as far as my limited research has gone, his playing career ended in 2002 with the Mexico City Reds.

So what does de los Santos have to do with steroids?
When people talk about what harm did the steroid era do and what difference does it make if they were getting a competitive edge, I can't help but think of players like de los Santos.

Here was a guy who was obviously a good hitter but he also had unimpressive power numbers. He never hit more than 6 home runs for the season in AAA. His highest slugging percentage at AAA was .416. So while he got hit after hit (and drove in 87 runs in 1988 despite only hitting 6 homers) he didn't have the eye popping stats that would prompt someone to keep him in the big leagues. And certainly not one to move a George Brett or Kevin Seitzer to the bench.

And he was doing this in the early 1990s, the infancy of the juiced era. It was also the post collusion period where baseball salaries were starting to skyrocket. Imagine the choices he could have made. Imagine the thoughts and temptations that could have gone through his head.

"I am a good hitter, but nobody is interested in a first baseman with no power. If I could just add some home runs to my game, I could stick around on a big league roster and become a millionaire many times over."

Of course he could have thought that.
And I bet he was starting to see some teammates and other players starting to try stuff out. Remember we know Canseco was using the stuff in 1988 and no doubt people were asking in the work out rooms "What is Jose doing differently?"

Canseco was the AL MVP in 1988 the same year de los Santos was the American Association MVP. No doubt Luis would rather have Canseco's trophy, and his respect around the league and his bank statement.

And yet his home run and power numbers stayed the same.

How many Luis de los Santos couldn't find a big league job during the steroid era because they were playing with their natural gifts rather than enhancing them with hormones meant for cows? How many other good hitters never got past AAA while they saw players with a worse sense of the strike zone but bigger biceps get prolonged shots in the big leagues.

We'll never know.
I am sure when de los Santos was globe trotting playing in leagues so obscure that I can't find the stats for them he was watching the inflated bodies and pay checks of the players back in America. I wonder how many of them were teammates of his in the Royals and Tigers farm system.

One side note. In 2000, nine years after his last big league cameo, Luis de los Santos surfaced in the Mexican League as a member of the Saltillo Saraperos. While he never hit more than 6 homers nor slugged higher than .416 professionally in his 20s, he suddenly hit 25 homers and posted a .632 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.050 as a 33 year old.

I am not saying anything. I am just listing the stats.

And I am still saluting you Luis.
You deserved a real shot in the big leagues.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tampa Bay—a place to move a team to, and from - My Latest for The Hardball Times

In my latest article for The Hardball Times, I take a look at the two different perceptions of Tampa Bay as a baseball location:

An ideal untapped revenue producer that was destined to lure an existing franchise...
And a misguided Major League location that just isn't going to work.

There seems to be no middle ground on the Sun Coast.

To read the article, click HERE.

Tampa Bay fans fans can send hate mail to

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Sully on What's on Second: The Radio Hour

Seamheads, the wonderful site of terrific baseball writers, has an in depth baseball discussion every week called What's On Second. Tonight's show features yours truly.

Michael Lynch, Dan Schlossberg and Jess Coleman and I discussed Hall of Fame, the value of wins and where will the next 300 winner come from.

You can listen to the show HERE.


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I can't be the only person who liked the trident Mariners hat

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Mariners and part of me will always love the trident hat. There is something so simple and perfect about it.

The trident brings about the image of the sea and they didn't take the obvious route of putting an S on the hat. It is totally a 1970s look without being 1970s outrageous.

It was such a cool hat and one that could have survived the test of time, but they ruined it after the 1979 All Star Game.

After hosting the 1979 All Star Game, the Mariners put the stupid star around the trident and changed the angle. Now it didn't even look like a trident anymore. Just a weird ass M with points on it.

No more simplicity.
No more coolness.

This didn't even scream single A Florida State League.

This looked like the official logo of a Continental Basketball League team.

And let's face it... they looked stupid on the uniform.

This batting practice jersey worn by "Mr. Mariner" Alvin Davis looks like he has a makeshift Sheriff's badge on.

There's nothing cool about this look. And the Mariners stunk year in and year out.

When Davis wore these duds in 1986, if someone asked "Why is there a sat around the trident M?" the correct answer would be "because 7 years ago they hosted an All Star Game.

That's kind of sort of sad.

Now to be fair, the "star trident" hat is not the worst hat in Seattle major league history. That honor would belong to the grotesquely busy Seattle Pilots hat. In their lone year of big league existence, the Pilots had the block "S", the strange yellow line underneath it and the piece de ugly resistance: The yellow leaves on the brim of the cap.

Jim Bouton went from wearing the proud Yankee pinstripes to this laughably ugly cap. It was worth it to have Ball Four.

But back to the Mariners and the awful "Star Trident" hat.

I remember going into Twins Enterprises in Boston around 1982. I used to love wandering around Twins Enterprises because they had replicas of all the jerseys and old time hats everywhere. Today you could simply browse on line and see all of that merchandise, but in the early 80s you needed to go in person. And it was just an awesome place.

But I remember some poor schmuck working there whose job it was to take a giant stack of Mariners hats with the simple awesome trident on it, rip off the trident and replace it with the star trident.

Even then, I knew it was wrong. They were taking something cool and making it lame.

Eventually the star trident needed to be replaced and the Golden S.

It was a step up from the "star trident" but they should have gone back to the original awesome trident.

And worse yet was the attempt to call the the "M's."

Just because it is written on the practice jersey doesn't mean anyone will actually use the nickname of the nickname.

A great opportunity was lost to keep the trident.

Eventually the team adopted a different color scheme and the winning began with an S hat, no more bright yellow, and no more "M's" on the uniform.

The Mariners have found their look and they are sticking to it.
It's a good look.
I'm not saying they should change back.

I just think it is sad that we never got to see the Mariners in the playoffs ONCE with the trident hat.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas gift for Padres fan: Optimism

This Christmas, some baseball fans should already be pessimistic about their teams chances in 2011.

The Pirates are obviously not going to be good and their losing season streak will no doubt reach a shameful 19. The Royals waved the white flag with the Greinke trade. The Mets and Cubs are a year away from a massive relief of bad contracts expiring. The Diamondbacks should have another year wandering in the desert. And the Nationals will probably stink again even though they seem to think they are on the verge of contending.

You would think that I would throw the Padres onto the scrap heap of hopeless teams, especially after dealing Adrian Gonzalez and inevitably sending Heath Bell packing before Opening Day.

But I can’t. I think there are too many reasons to be optimistic in PetCo Park, and I don’t just mean the ability to get a decent seat.

First of all, they are still LOADED with pitching talent. Mat Latos looks like he will be an All Star for a while. Clayton Richard looks like a steal from the White Sox. And even though Jon Garland has skedaddled and taken his 200 innings with him, there are other options. Aaron Harang has come to town and while he has been kind of lousy the last few years, he is moving from the hitters haven of Great America Ballpark to the pitcher paradise of PetCo Park.

Also Tim Stauffer, Cory Luebke or even young Simon Castro could step in and fill out the back of the rotation.

And their 2010 bullpen was a never ending parade of effective arms. Whenever I saw the Padres play (and as a West Coast resident I saw them A LOT) they always pulled out some reliever that I hadn’t heard of before but had some sickeningly good numbers.

Seriously, besides the biggest baseball fans or residents of the Gaslamp District, who the hell heard of Ernesto Frieri, Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica, Joe Thatcher or Ryan Webb? If Heath Bell is dealt, ONE of those guys could step in and pitch the 9th.

And if Bell is dealt, Padres GM Jed Hoyer seems to be pretty good at actually getting useful players in return. Clayton Richard came over in a deal for a broken down Jake Peavy. Casey Kelly, brought over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, could be in the pitching staff this year. Gonzalez also yielded Anthony Rizzo who could fill in at first base and Raymond Fuentes who could be in the outfield by 2012.

Take note Pittsburgh. Just because you trade expensive players doesn’t mean you have to dump them for no value in return.

And I think some of the moves they have made have made the team better. Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson are a terrific middle of the infield and should be an improvement defensively. And Brad Hawpe is just a season removed from being an All Star. The Padres don’t need All Star production from him… just hit well enough to not have first base be a hole.

And in the light of what happened in 2010, many of the young Padres experienced meaningful games in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. If they went 2-8 between August 26th and September 5th instead of 0-10, they would have been playing in the playoffs. As it were, they won 90 games and lost the Division to the eventual World Champions.

And the Giants will inevitably take a slight step back in the wake of their World Series title, the Diamondbacks are rebuilding, the Dodgers are a mess and who knows what will happen in Colorado. The NL West isn’t the AL East with super powers gobbling up super stars.

And what else did the Giants championship teach us? With a good pitching staff, you don’t need to be an offensive powerhouse to win. The Giants upgraded their offense from “A FEMA level disaster” to merely “terrible” and look where they ended up.

If Bell could fill in a hole or two in the line up and the young pitching takes advantage of the ballpark and the improved defense, they could have a winning season. And in the NL West, a winning season could mean contention in September.

And what else can you ask for in September than meaningful games. So be optimistic this Christmas morning, Padres fan. You may not have the sexiest team, but you do have reason to look forward to 2011.

Go ahead and have images of National League West titles dancing in your head.

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I hope everyone's December 25th is terrific

I will say Merry Christmas to all of my readers.

I will also say Happy Holidays.

And if either one of those statements offend you, then that is a YOU problem.

No matter what your religion is, or no matter if you even follow a religion, I hope your December 25th is filled with joy, happiness or at least some kick ass Chinese Food.

A few years ago, I suggested we celebrate the birth of Rickey Henderson on December 25th. It's a great event that people of all faiths can agree on.

I stand by that.

Have a wonderful day.
I know I will.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Manny to the Yankees? Another Christmas gift for Red Sox Nation

Could it be?
Seriously... could the Yankees be finally saying to the world "WE ARE RUDDERLESS!"?

The Yankees are potentially thinking about bringing in Manny Ramirez?

Why not just tell Andy Pettitte to stay home?

Why not tell Derek Jeter "We think the clubhouse has been too peaceful"?

Could the Yankees be reverting back to all of their awful late 1980s, early 1990s habits of bringing in people that are recognizable instead of addressing their needs?

How can they POSSIBLY spin their interest in Manny Ramirez as anything other than "Hey! We got a player fans have heard of! And a former Red Sox player to boot! Hey! How about that? We're the Yankees and we get stars!"

The Steinbrenner Yankees have always had a mild obsession with bringing in players who have beaten them in October. From Don Gullett to Randy Johnson, the notion has always been "If you can't beat 'em, BUY em!"

And they thought that Cliff Lee was going to be the next name on the roster.
But he's gone. And so is every other potential big impact pitcher. (Unless you consider Joe Blanton to be awesome.)

The Yankees need pitching depth. BIG TIME. Yeah they can use outfield depth, but do you know what? There are never a shortage of outfielders looking for a job. Hell, Jermaine Dye has been looking for one for over a year. He's a former World Series MVP. And unlike Manny, he hasn't left a series of teams in his wake saying "It's just not worth dealing with this crap!"

But here we are. It could just be an internet rumor... but there's something about it that doesn't seem far fetched. That the need to make an off season splash to off set the Cliff Lee humiliation is there. And a move to counter act all of the "Red Sox have passed them" talk.

Bringing in Rafael Soriano would be a good solid move to upgrade their bullpen depth. But does bullpen depth put the Yankees on the back page?

Manny does.

The symbolism of taking ANOTHER 2004 Red Sox player and putting him in Pinstripes would have some allure. Alan Embree, Mark Bellhorn, Johnny Damon, Mike Myers and Doug Mientkiewicz all played with the Yankees after winning with the '04 Red Sox. (So did Ramiro Mendoza, but who are we kidding? He was a Yankee in Red Sox clothing!)

Why not Manny?
Well, first off 2004 was six years ago.
Manny was 32 then. He'll turn 39 in 2011. And the days of guys getting BETTER in their late 30s have ended. Manny has already been caught and guess what? His bat has slowed down.

I of course LOVED Manny when he was with the Red Sox, but as I wrote in my Dodgers piece for The Hardball Times, he is like a trip to Las Vegas. It is super fun at first but by the end you find yourself thinking "Oh God, this HAS to stop or else something terrible will happen."

So the Yankees will get all the headaches of Manny without his amazing bat.

And remember, Manny is a spoiled little kid who gets what he wants because his butt has been kissed. It was kissed by the Indians who wanted to develop a big star and get their team back to respectability.

It was initially kissed by the Red Sox because his signing was a counter reaction to the Yankees brining in Mike Mussina. So they had a new superstar to coddle. And later his butt was kissed because they knew they had a potential championship combo if only he stayed happy.

And the Dodgers kissed his butt because they had the first real draw to Chavez Ravine since Mike Piazza was traded.

So plop him into Jeter's clubhouse and see what happens.

You will get the symbolism of trying to erase the past while the problems of the present are left unchecked.

It's the whole bringing in Ken Phelps to a team where there is nowhere to play him all over again.

As I said before, it probably won't happen. But the fact that we have to say "probably" shows how bad the off season has been for the Yankees.

How great is this for Red Sox fans?
The idea that the Yankees could be doing essentially what Isiah Thomas did with the Knicks! Just bringing in big names for the sake of getting a headline.

OK, the Knicks are a harsh example. But what if they are the Mets? Bringing in recognizable names only to see it blow up in their face!

They won't be able to resist making a big move before spring training. And having Andy Pettitte come back isn't a big move. That's avoiding a loss.

Carl Pavano isn't coming back.

But there are no more big names left... except Manny.
No other names that would get anyone's attention... except Manny.

They may not be able to resist it.
And what a beautiful sight that would be.

It would be worth it to see if he would take a leak in Monument Park during the game. What wonderful symbolism that would be.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Green from the Teal - Giving the Florida Marlins some credit

It is easy to trash the fish for their cheap ways. But right now they are looking to make the NL East very very interesting in 2012.

The Marlins are indeed the strangest franchise in all of American sports. On the surface they look like a classic Quadruple A team like the Royals and Pirates. They trade veterans for prospects, turn those prospects into big league players and when they ask for too much money, ship them off for more prospects.

Along with playing in a football stadium that isn't designed for baseball and having it be either too hot or too rainy, the inability for Marlins fans to get emotionally attached to any player is as big a reason to why they have had trouble drawing over the years.

And yet there is something so different about the Marlins as compared to Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

First of all they can have winning seasons. The Marlins played their first game in 1993. The Royals and Pirates have combined for two winning seasons in that stretch, both by Kansas City. The Marlins have had 6 winnings seasons in the same stretch.

And of course they remain the only MLB franchise to have never lost a post season series. They are 6-0 in October, winning it all in 1997 and 2003.

This little franchise that could has as many World Series titles as the Mets, the Cubs, the Indians and the Phillies. They are one World Series title behind the Orioles, who have a history of putting consistent winners on the field during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

One thing they do better than Pittsburgh and Kansas City is they actually get VALUE back when they make trades. When I wrote the Home Grown vs. Acquired post for the Marlins, their home grown talent was minimal. But the players they picked up from other clubs were the backbone for their winning teams.

And I'm not just talking about the Pudge Rodriguezes and Moises Alous and Kevin Browns of the world who came in, won a ring and split.

Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Derek Lee, Brad Penny, Anibal Sanchez, Carl Pavano, Dontrelle Willis and Ricky Nolasco were all picked up and blossomed in Miami.

But their spending habits have been laughable. In 2006 their opening day payroll was $16 million... or $4 million less than what the Yankees paid Jason Giambi. The fact that Joe Girardi almost led that team to a winning record was all he needed to win Manager of the Year that year.

In 2008 they spent $22 million on players and had a winning season.
Imagine if their payroll went from "Laughable pathetic" to merely "Small." They probably could have won the Wild Card.

With the Players Association trashing their payroll and forcing the Marlins to spend a little bit, a refreshing picture is starting to emerge in South Florida that has nothing to do with LeBron James.

The Marlins are moving into their new tax payer sinkhole in 2012. And for the first time in their history, the Marlins will have a ballpark to call their own instead of feel like they are crashing on the Dolphins couch.

Miami fans will be able to know they will have decent seats, they won't be rained on and it won't be stifling with humidity.

In other words there will be an incentive to actually GO to the game.

And unless the Marlins trade off a lot of salary between now and 2012, guess who will be under contract and wearing teal?

Hanley Ramirez.
Josh Johnson.
Ricky Nolasco.
Anibal Sanchez.
Mike Stanton.
Gaby Sanchez.
Logan Morrison.
Chris Coghlan.
Chris Volstad.

That's a decent core with an MVP candidate, a Cy Young candidate and some good young pitchers and hitters.

And with Ricky Nolasco signing an extension this year to go along with Hanley Ramirez's extension and Josh Johnson's pact, the Marlins will have three solid players entering their 7th year with the team when they go into the new ballpark.

That's enough time to attach some emotion to a player.

Add to that the new revenue and the fact that Miami, with its many transplanted Northeasterners to go along with the Latin population, should be a baseball haven. And with some money, big free agents should want to live in the low taxed, glamorous Miami lifestyle playing in a low pressure environment.

By 2012 the Phillies juggernaut may be slowing down.
Jimmy Rollins will be a free agent and the Cliff Lees and Roy Halladays and Ryan Howards would all be deeper into their 30s.

2012 could also be the time that Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are ready to shine in Washington. And the Braves are continuing to build on their strong core.

By then a young Marlins team with a burst of energy in the new ballpark and some more money to spend might just be ready to make their move.

And with their post season good fortune, they might indeed win another World Series title. (How would THAT sit with the Cubs and Indians fans of the world?)

So I give you credit, Marlins. You are operating in the Cleveland Indians mold from the mid 1990s. Put together a talented core and by the time you have a new ballpark and new fans filing in, give them a good product.

And before long, who knows? Maybe the Marlins will be one of those teams that people say "It isn't fair. They always out bid other teams on free agents!"

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Celebrity sighting of the day: Rickey Henderson

I was driving to the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto today with my wife when she asked me to drop her off and finish her Christmas shopping. There was no parking left so I circled the mall as she ran in and bought her last few gifts.

While orbiting the parking lot, I saw a Latino couple walking across the street towards the mall. Walking with them was an African American man who was dressed well. And there was no mistaking who it was.

It was Rickey Henderson.
The greatest lead off hitter in baseball history... the Hall of Fame spark plug of the 1989 World Champion A's was walking towards Neiman Marcus.

If I were walking around, I'd ask for his autograph. I had my camera with me, so I would have asked for a picture. But I was in my car, so I couldn't do ANYTHING... EXCEPT roll down my window and behave like a horse's ass.

"Hey Rickey!" I yelled.

Rickey turned at me with a huge grin on his face, giving me a wave. He didn't strike me as someone who would shy away from attention.

I tell you what DID strike me. Rickey looked terrific. He is in great shape and I bet could make 12 big league rosters as a reserve outfielder.

I said "You should still be playing."

He replied "I know."

He's awesome and always has been.
And no doubt went into Crate and Barrel and said "Rickey needs a gift receipt."

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm really looking forward to playing with Adrian Gonzalez. Wait, what did you say?

This picture was taken at the exact moment that someone informed Orlando Hudson that he signed a contract with a rebuilding team.

Don't worry O-Dog. Play well in 2011 and you'll be traded to a contender by August 1.

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Instant replay for balls and strikes... my latest for The Hardball Times

Get ready for the hate mail from baseball purists. Not only am I in favor of Instant Replay in my latest for The Hardball Times but I say technology should be used to call balls and strikes more accurately.

I just posted it and already the comments are piling up.

Enjoy the article HERE.

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Zack Greinke helps complete the Gary Sheffield trade

I started thinking about Gary Sheffield when Zack Greinke arrived in Milwaukee yesterday. Let me explain.

There was a telling moment in Zack Greinke's introduction to the local press. He said "The main reason I wanted to get out" and he stopped himself with a smile and made a correction "I mean preferred to get out of Kansas City..." and he continued.

The first statement was the correct one. He wanted out of Kansas City, the once proud baseball city that was home to one of the true marquee franchises of my youth. Now it is the Pittsburgh of the American League. The team that is there to develop players for other teams while perpetually piling up prospects for a pennant run that never comes.

All the while people complain that their lack of success comes from their small market and revenue, all the while teams with smaller revenues consistently make the post season.

So you can't blame Greinke for wanting to get out of that purgatory and the Royals dealt him when his value was still high and teams that wanted Cliff Lee were craving a consolation prize.

But after reading Tim Brown's article on Yahoo Sports, I lost a little bit of respect for Greinke. He won the Cy Young in 2009 with his slider being his best pitch. And when the Royals stunk as they have every year he pitched in KC, he didn't throw the slider as much making sure his arm was good and strong to whatever contender he landed with.

Sorry but the Royals drafted him, made him a millionaire many times over and didn't give up on him when his anxiety disorder made him leave spring training in 2006.

The Royals stood by him as he had to leave baseball for psychological reasons. A team could have said "This clearly isn't going to work. His head is all messed up."

They didn't. They let him work out his issues and let him back in to be in the position to go from "a head case" to "elite ace."

The Royals deserved a little more than "I'll save my best stuff for the winner." And the other contenders in baseball deserved to face Greinke at his best as the Royals could have played spoiler down the stretch.

He checked out. And I guess it was karma that he was dealt to Milwaukee.

Remember all of those years ago when Gary Sheffield was playing for the Brewers? He was a future superstar playing with future Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. But he hated playing in Milwaukee and wanted out and supposedly made errors on purpose to hasten a trade out of town.

He was shipped off to San Diego (and then Florida, and then Los Angeles, then Atlanta, then the Yankees, then Detroit, then the Mets...) and put together a career that at least deserves to be part of the Cooperstown discussion. (And somehow he managed to circumvent the whole steroid stigma despite being as involved in the BALCO accusations as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi.)

So one star dogged it to get OUT of Milwaukee.
And today one dogged it to get traded TO Milwaukee.

In a way I guess Greinke was a player to be named MUCH later in the Sheffield trade.

It shows how far the Brewers have come that they are considered to be a destination for someone wanting to win NOW!

Now if a star will play at half speed to get traded TO the Royals then Kansas City fans could call it even.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Brewers Statement: We are NOT Kansas City (nor Pittsburgh for that matter)

When the Royals traded Zack Greinke to Milwaukee the other day, there was a beautiful symbolism to the move that wasn't lost on me.

Greinke wasn't dealt to New York. Forget the spin of "He couldn't handle New York." Neither the Mets nor the Yankees have the prospects to have pulled off the trade.

He wasn't dealt to the Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, Angels or Dodgers.

The Royals, a small market club that ships off all of their stars, sent him to Milwaukee, another small market club that used to ship off all their stars.

Instead of sending Prince Fielder packing and looking to rebuild, the Brewers are going for it and adding a Cy Young contender.

And with that trade, the Brewers are doing something I've been urging the Pirates to do for a while and will pretty soon may encourage the Royals to do the same thing.

Go all in and give your fans a reason to be excited.

There is a reason I am bringing up the Pirates in this post about the Royals and Brewers.

From when the Wild Card era began in 1994 until the end of the 2006 season, the Pirates, Royals and Brewers combined for 34 losing seasons out of 36.

Only the 2003 Royals got their nose over .500 ith an 83-79 season.

And those three teams became the symbol of everything unfair with baseball. Their revenue was so much lower than the big spenders... how could they POSSIBLY compete?

This of course ignored the fact that low revenue teams like the Marlins could win the World Series twice in that stretch. And ignoring the fact that contraction worthy teams like the Twins and the A's could be playoff regulars. And the Expos, despite having no owner nor ANY fanbase managed to contend into September in 2002 and had a winning record in 2003.

Those three teams kept building for a future that would never arrive.

And the mantra of Brewers owner and commissioner Bud Selig (no conflict of interest there) was to change the economics of the game to help teams like his own.

Well, a wonderful thing happened to the Brewers: The Seligs sold the team.

Sometimes that's what you need. A change at the top could lead to changes in the whole culture of the team. Remember how the Red Sox couldn't win the World Series all of those years? From the mid 1930s to 2002 they were owned by the Yawkeys.

2 years after they sold the team, they were the World Champs.

After years of putting a losing club on the field under the Seligs, the Brewers finished at .500 in 2005, their first season under Mark Attanasio's ownership.

By 2007 they had a winning record and contended into September for the first time since 1992.

And in 2008, they did what would have been unthinkable just a few years before and would be sacrilegious in Pittsburgh and Kansas City: They dealt away one of their major league ready prospects for a veteran who was on the verge of free agency.

And even if Matt LaPorta turns into a good player for Cleveland... and even though CC Sabathia bolted town the second the season was over... it was the right move for the Brewers.

Sabathia pitched his heart out in his cameo for the Brewers. And when he pitched a complete game on the last day of the season, propelling the Brewers into the playoffs for the first time since 1982, he did something that no prospect could EVER do:

He gave Brewers fans too young to remember Harvey's Wallbangers or the great start of 1987 an actual awesome baseball memory of their team.

And guess what happens when you give fans a wonderful feeling about rooting for their team?

You build a FAN BASE!
You get excitement for your team instead of apathy!

Young kids in Wisconsin experienced a thrilling season and even a post season win at home in the Division Series. There isn't the hum drum "What's the point of watching them. They NEVER win" attitude.

And those fans who experienced the fun of 2008 have added hope in 2011. A new manager, a powerful lineup (with or without Fielder) and a rotation that now features Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke.

Meanwhile the Royals got more prospects and continue to promise their fans that happy days are just around the corner.

The Brewers aren't playing that game, at least not now.
They are going for it and saying to their fans "We want you to have more good memories of your team."

All it took was a change in attitude (and getting the Seligs out!)

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Will by NL Central pick be once again a year early?

This September I pointed out that I am not very good at picking who will actually win the NL Central, but I AM good at figuring out that the consensus pick will probably fall short.

In 2009 everyone and their cow was picking the Cubs to win.
I picked the Reds. The Cardinals won (I picked the Cardinals for the Wild Card.)

In 2010 everyone and their moose was picking the Cardinals to win.
I picked the Brewers. The Reds won.

But with Zack Greinke going to the Brewers, I can't help but wonder if the Brewers and their solid rotation and terrific line up, should be considered to be the favorites in a very winnable NL Central.

And would my pick be a year premature?
Am I the baseball predicting equivalent to that show Early Edition?

There's only one way to test it:
I am going to pick the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the 2011 NL Central.
If the Brewers win in 2011 and the Pirates win in 2012, I will be FREAKED OUT!

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