Spring Has Sprung
The Weekend Blog is a new feature that will run on Saturdays and Sundays. Be sure to check back throughout the weekend to stay abreast of our latest posts.
Miguel Cabrera won his arbitration case, the first time a player has gotten the better of his team this year. The 24-year-old third baseman, who hit .339/.430/.568 last season, will earn $7.4 million in 2007 (vs. $472,000 in 2006). Cabrera received the third-highest payout ever awarded in arbitration, trailing only Alfonso Soriano ($10M) and Andruw Jones ($8.2M).
It's too bad the Marlins and Cabrera seem to be at odds with each other. Cabrera is an Albert Pujols-type talent and should be taken care of in a similar manner. Pujols and the Cardinals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a seven-year extension after the slugger's third season. Pujols earned $7M in 2004, $11M in 2005, and $14M in 2006, and he will receive $15M in 2007, and $16M in 2008-2010 with a club option for $16M in 2011 (or a $5M buyout if not exercised).
I wonder what Pujols would be worth in today's market? Can you say "partner?"
It's funny how the off-season plays out sometimes. Players like Jason Marquis and Jeff Weaver obtain what some might call ridiculous contracts, while others settle for much less than they're worth. One example of this would be Ronnie Belliard, who just signed a one-year, minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, according to a press release I received from the Nats' media department this morning.
- Rich Lederer, 2/18/07, 12:20 a.m. PST
In 2006, Belliard hit a combined .272/.322/.403 with 30 doubles, 13 homers and 67 RBI in 147 games with Cleveland and St. Louis. Acquired by St. Louis on July 30 in exchange for Hector Luna, Belliard earned a World Series ring as he started 14 of the Cardinals' 16 post-season games at second base.
Those numbers certainly appear good enough for a two or three-year deal at about $3 or $4 million per year. So what happened? Well, Belliard isn't a pitcher. While the market for pitchers exploded (again) this off-season, the market for position players - outside of Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells - did not take a huge jump.
The 31-year-old second baseman does not find himself in an enviable position (pun not intended). The Nationals already have Cristian Guzman (returning from injury) at shortstop with two years remaining on a four-year, $16.8 million contract. They also have former shortstop Felipe Lopez at second base. In an ideal world, the Nationals would simply eliminate Guzman, the weakest of the three players, but he still has $8.4 million on his contract and zero trade value.
The leaves Belliard to battle for a back-up position and hope for an injury to Guzman or Lopez. But he also has a fight on his hands for two backup infield spots with Bernie Castro, Joe Thurston, Jose Macias, D'Angelo Jimenez, Tony Womack, Josh Wilson, Tony Batista and Kory Castro.
It should be an interesting (ugly?) spring for the Nationals.
Carlos Zambrano's arbitration case is scheduled for this Tuesday. The Cubs are looking to compensate the fiery righty $11.025 million for his 2007 services while Zambrano would like $15.5 million. To the extent that one must look after their own monetary self-interest, I understand where each side is coming from but it is hard to understand Chicago's longer-range strategy here. How did it get to this point? You do the drunken sailor thing all off-season with the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis and then when it comes time to address your 25-year old horse, you tighten the purse strings?
- Marc Hulet, 2/18/07, 11:29 a.m. EST
Since 2003, Zambrano has been one of the very best in baseball. He's the type of player you want to lock up pre-arbitration, the way the Cards did with Pujols, the Indians did with Grady Sizemore and the Twins did with Johan Santana. Offering a young player a lucrative pre-arb contract, financial security for life, in exchange for a below open-market pricetag is a great way to stockpile talent affordably while forging goodwill with your players. The Cubs are either blind to this phenomenon or they drastically undervalue the great Zambrano.
Save for four years in Philadelphia for college, I am a lifelong metropolitan Boston resident and a longtime sports fan. As such, I am no stranger to the Dan Shaughnessy mail-in. Put simply, Dan's a lazy jerk. He deliberately insults readers, players and anything else you can think of with regularity. He seldom has any insight to share. Dan's also probably the wealthiest and most well-known Boston sportswriter, a sad commentary indeed on the state of sports journalism. Dan gets a rise out of people, which gets him airtime on local sports radio and television, which theoretically sells papers for the Boston Globe. Although given the paucity of papers the Globe sells these days, maybe it turns out Dan is as dilutive to the Globe's brand as The Globe is to the New York Times's brand.
- Patrick Sullivan, 2/18/07, 12:47 p.m. EST
Today's offering from The Curly Haired Boyfriend (Carl Everett's name for Dan and probably his greatest contribution as a Red Sox) has Shaughnessy on display in all his hacktastic glory. There's an introductory, elitist shot at Ft. Myers.
Position players are scheduled to "report" Tuesday, and their first workout is supposed to be Thursday at the minor league complex at the dead end of Edison Road in this godforsaken town.
And far be it from me to defend Curt Schilling and his love of microphones, but the irony of Dan Shaughnessy calling another a "Blowhard" is just too rich to ignore.
We have rejoiced in the retirement of Keith Foulke and we won't sleep until the Sox make a decision on the 2008 contract extension for the Big Blowhard himself, the inimitable Schill.
And then there's the old CHB standby, the reader alienation jab.
This Sox talk is enough to fill the sports hole for the nightly news at 6 and 11 and keeps the fan-boy bloggers breathlessly e-mailing one another 24/7. Our local baseball team is finally filling the void left in the wake of the Patriots' stunning loss at Indianapolis four weeks ago today.
All of this, mind you, is just a lead-in for Shaughnessy's favorite target, Manny Ramirez. There are almost too many displays of unprofessionalism and personal contempt to display here but I will lay out a few of the highlights below.
There's been no word from Camp Manny since he curiously quit in the middle of the crucial Yankees series at Fenway in late August.
In case you are wondering, Dan is referring to the five-game sweep the Yanks laid on Boston when the AL East was still a race in 2006. The funny part about Shaughnessy's mentioning of this series is that Ramirez was the only guy on the team to show up for the "crucial series" in question, hitting .727/.850/1.455 over the five games.
Nothing from Manny's teammates who loathe his attitude but bite their tongues and say nothing in the hope that Manny will return and post his customary .320, 35, 110.
Just trust Dan. He knows Manny's teammates "loathe his attitude" and there is no evidence required and Dan would appreciate it if you would kindly stop asking questions. Back to Dan-O's fan alienization routine.
But he also has a propensity to shut it down, and we never know why. And please, don't be a stooge and attempt to perpetuate the farcical theory that Manny was too wounded to play last September. Every man in the Sox clubhouse knows what went down; teammates simply wouldn't say anything on the record, lest they risk "losing" Manny.
The amazing part of the Manny-fan relationship is that most Boston baseball customers, who are normally critical and discerning, have lost their minds when it comes to Mr. Ramirez. The timeless rules and standards don't apply. Manny can hit. It's a joy to watch him hit. And it's pretty clear that he's incapable of offending the sensibilities of most Sox fans.
Said another way, "I have a press-pass and you don't and I know things that you can't and Manny is lazy and that's just how it is."
And then there's the grand finale, a jab with a tinge of racism mocking Manny's intelligence.
Can't wait for that Manny Moment when he sees Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time and asks teammates, "Hey, who is that Japanese guy and why is he wearing Johnny Damon's number?"
Well Dan, you've altogether parted with any sense of professionalism or even civility. But hey, maybe Around the Horn will ask you to be a regular next season.
Keith Foulke's retirement announcement took just about everybody by surprise, including his new team the Cleveland Indians. The Indians signed Foulke this past off-season, despite his declining numbers and injuries, to a one year, $5 million contract (with an option for 2008 at $5 million). In all honesty, the last time he was effective was 2004, when he saved 32 games for Boston and posted a 2.17 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 83 innings. Knee injuries sapped him of his effectiveness the previous two years.
- Patrick Sullivan, 2/18/07, 4:52 p.m. EST
What this does now to Cleveland is it thrusts Joe Borowski into the closer's role. Borowski, for those of you who are not overly familiar with him, is somewhat similar to former Cleveland Indians closer Bob Wickman (now with Atlanta). Borowski does not throw hard - he works in the upper 80s with his fastball and also features a splitter and a slider - but he has solid command.
The former 32nd round draft pick has experience as a closer and he saved 33 games for the 2003 Cubs and 36 games with the surprising Marlins of 2006. However, last season Borowski walked 33 batters in just under 70 innings, which is not a good sign. He is headed over to the American League where there is one more powerful hitter to worry about in the lineup.
The other affect Foulke's retirement has on Cleveland is that the team has one more spot available for the glut of bullpen hopefuls. Jason Davis, who is out of options, is more likely to stay in Cleveland now as a long man. Veteran Roberto Hernandez will likely slide into the setup role vacated by Borowski. Newcomer Aaron Fultz should secure the LOOGY role on The Tribe. When healthy the last three years, Matt Miller has put up solid numbers and should have the inside track on a spot. Rafael Betancourt, a rare mainstay in the Cleveland bullpen the past three years is almost assured of a spot as well.
That leaves one spot, should Cleveland go with a 12-man rotation, for Tom Mastny (three options remaining), Fausto Carmona (one), Rafael Perez (two) or Fernando Cabrera (one). Perez could have the inside track if the Indians want a second lefty in the pen. Veteran Cliff Politte was also recently signed to a minor league deal.
The 2007 spring bullpen battle may not be quite as cutthroat as we expected, but Cleveland should still have a relatively successful staff even without Foulke.
Speaking of the Washington Nationals, as Marc Hulet discussed in the second bullet point above, has anyone - including GM Jim Bowden or manager Manny Acta - taken a close look at their starting rotation?
- Marc Hulet, 2/18/07, 6:42 p.m. EST
John Patterson, at $850,000, is the highest-paid pitcher on the staff. He has thrown more than 100 innings in a season once yet has already been named as the Opening Day starter. The candidates for the other four spots include such notables as Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, Joel Hanrahan, Shawn Hill, Mike Hinckley, Mike O'Connor, Beltran Perez, Tim Redding, Billy Traber, and Jerome Williams (who had one of the lowest K/BF rates of any pitcher in the minors last year).
As Tim Kurkjian detailed a few days ago in an article for ESPN The Magazine, "the top nine potential starters won 11 major league games among them last year." Good luck Nats fans. There is almost zero chance that your team will lose fewer than 100 games this year.
- Rich Lederer, 2/18/07, 10:28 p.m. PST