The Red Sox parted ways with popular manager Terry Francona, enraged team owner John Henry somehow seriously injured himself slipping on his yacht -- and the offseason action is just getting started. The stunning September collapse of one of baseball's three supposed superpowers won't soon be forgotten. But Red Sox people and their Nation are trying hard to recall that they appeared en route to 100 wins at the start of September before their brutal month undid all that was right.
New Angels outfielder Vernon Wells surely will return from his groin injury and lift his .183 batting average from below the Mendoza line to something more befitting the high-priced major leaguer that he is. But whatever he does do, the trade that sent Wells and much of the hefty amount left on his contract from Toronto to the Angels was still the Holy Grail of trades for the Blue Jays and the best move made this winter by any team. In a shock to everyone in baseball, the Angels -- apparently desperate to add a big bat after failing to sign Carl Crawford -- took all but $5 million of the $86 million to go on Wells' deal. Originally the teams announced that the Angels were taking the whole contract. That proved to good to be true for the Blue Jays, though not by much very much.
The release of the All-Star ballots this past Tuesday is a perfect opportunity to determine who April's All-Stars have been. The picks below are based entirely on this year's performances and contain absolutely no adjustment based on the likelihood of a player actually making the All-Star team come July, yet the starting nine is comprised entirely of former All-Stars (the one exception is the 10th man, the American League's designated hitter). Still, there are a few surprises below, particularly among the runners-up. If you're tempted to cast your actual All-Star votes now, we ask that you put that ballot away for another couple of months and instead focus on the veracity of this one.
No one escapes his past and his capabilities. Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island was a decent film; as a work in the line of the man who made The King of Comedy, it was a travesty. Manny Ramirez was a strong hitter this year, good for a .409 on-base average and 45 extra-base hits in 104 games; because of who he is, the world has him figured as cashed out.
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Here on the outskirts of Phoenix is one of the rare treasures of baseball, Ken Griffey Jr., he of the 630 home runs, every last one believed to be legit, and counting. He is fitter than he was last year -- eight or nine pounds to the better, a Mariners person said, and he looks even better than that -- and his knees finally feel fine after two straight years of pain, underperformance and surgery. He is also almost as entertaining in the clubhouse as he is on the field, riffing on anything and everything that comes to mind. (His hot topic on this day, while watching Nomar Garciaparra call an end to his career on MLB Network, was how he won't call a press conference when he retires. "I'll send a fax,'' he said.)
In the run-up to the winter meetings, which begin on Monday in Las Vegas, I'm going to resurrect a feature I've done sporadically in the past, "GM For a Day." It is exactly what it sounds like: I take over a team and outline what I think needs to be done. (Note that no one has ever hired me based on these pieces.) With 30 teams and probably five columns before next Monday, I won't get to everyone, but expect three or four more of these in the days ahead.
In the final week of spring training, when Joe Torre was still getting used to his new shade of blue, he looked out over the field at Angel Stadium before an exhibition game and was reminded why he wanted to be a manager in the first place. Scattered around the field were about half-a-dozen players under the age of 25, either taking batting practice, fielding ground balls or shagging flies. "It's the fun part," Torre said. "It's watching young talent develop and grow. It's looking in the eyes of young players and sensing when they reach the point that they come to the ballpark knowing what to expect, what to do."
The Cubs come into the postseason with a team that makes for a study in contrasts when it comes to its assets: a broad and deep collection of hitters to attack the other team's pitchers, balanced against a stars-and-scrubs pitching staff that runs perhaps no more than six men deep before trouble arises.
Today we will look at dollar values earned for hitters through the All-Star break for mixed formats. Next week we will do the same for single format and for pitchers. A few weeks back, your not-so-humble pundit advised not to put much credence into such entities as dollar values unless you were privy to the system utilized to generate the numbers, so we will begin with a value tutorial.
Better than most sports fans entrusted with selecting an All-Star team, MLB's voting public is particularly adept at getting the rosters right. Through a sensible melding of objective statistics and subjective adjustments for bigger-than-the-game storylines -- like, for instance, a future Hall of Famer making his final tour around the league -- baseball fans have always struck a fine balance between the new and old when it comes to who appears in the Midsummer Classic, and it's the most respected of all the All-Star games because of it.
The All Star Game used to generate a lot more interest than it does now. The advent of inter-league play and dish network has taken much of the steam from the mid-summer classic. Years ago seeing an NL pitcher, like Steve Carlton, face an AL slugger like Reggie Jackson, was a novelty. These days players move around much more often and also face the other league in inter-league play. There is nothing new anymore.
The Los Angeles Dodgers orchestrated a campaign to get Russell Martin elected as the National League's starting All-Star catcher. The push included a rally at Dodger Stadium, promotional T-shirts and bilingual stickers emblazoned with VOT FOR RUSSELL! and VOIX POUR LE RUSSELL!, a gimmick that might have helped lift Martin past Paul Lo Duca of the New York Mets -- Martin led by 120,000 votes as of Sunday -- but certainly cut into the high school French teacher support. Of the four French words on the sticker, two were misused. Not to go all Flaubert on your derri�re, but voix, as vote, works only as a noun. And to insert an article before his name and call him Le Russell implies, like the Donald, there is something pompous about a player who does not have an ounce of pretension on his 5' 10", 210-pound frame. Martin is the good-natured son of a Franco-Manitoban mother and an Anglophone Quebecer father, a bilingual 24-year-old who learned his baseball in the middle-class district of
Carl Crawford, LF, Devil Rays, Age 25 (NR last year) Crawford seems like he's been around forever, having become a big league regular at age 20, but he's still just 25, and may have some further room for power development. He's also one of the more likely major leaguers to take a run at 3,000 hits, as he's even-money to have cleared the 1,000-hit barrier by the end of this season. Plus, he's perhaps the best baserunner in the league, and one of the few left fielders that might be worthy of Gold Glove consideration. So there's a ton to like here, but at the end of the day a .327 career OBP from a corner outfielder is too much to overlook.
Few teams improved more from a fantasy standpoint than the Dodgers last season, with Nomar Garciaparra, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin leading the way. The strength of this team, however, remains a pitching staff that's strong enough to have a starter the quality of Brad Penny in rumored trade talks.