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Tag:Craig Counsell
Posted on: October 26, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Free-agent postion rankings: Thin crop at 2B

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans


For all free agency moves, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

Second base is hardly a marquee position -- there are some good players at the position, but at its core, it's a position of deficiencies. Second basemen generally aren't good enough defensively to play shortstop, or hit well enough to be a third baseman or outfielder. That's not to say there aren't some great players who play the position like Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, but it's not a marquee position, and it's even less so in this free agent market.

Brandon Phillips1. Brandon Phillips: If the Reds were to decide against exercising Phillips' $12 million option, he'd certainly be in demand. But that's not happening. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has said he's planning on picking up Phillips' option, while Phillips prefers an extension. Phillips has said the Reds simply picking up the option on his contract would be a slap in the face -- but maybe one day I can be slapped in the face for $12 million. Phillips said the Reds won't get the "homeboy hookup" (otherwise known as the "hometown discount") in any extension talk. So while Phillips will be in a Reds uniform on opening day, the end of the season and beyond, that may be a question.
Possible teams: Reds

Jamey Carroll2. Jamey Carroll: Yep, Jamey Carroll is number two on this list -- which should tell you as much as you need to know about the remaining 11 names on this list. Carroll is a fine player, but nothing more than that. He hit .290/.359/.347 for the Dodgers this season and hasn't hit a home run since 2009. He did put up a .383 on-base percentage as a leadoff man, something that could make him much more attractive to potential suitors. Carroll could be a good second baseman (or shortstop) for somebody, but he's not exactly the type of player that's going to turn around the team or get a fanbase fired up.
Possible teams: Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies

Jerry Hairston Jr.3. Jerry Hairston Jr.: Hairston is one of the more versatile players in the game and also had a very good postseason, so good that someone may consider him an everyday player. Hairston played second, third, shortstop, left field and center field last season, but started each of the NLCS games at third base. He played 45 games for the Brewers and 75 for the Nationals in 2011, hitting .270/.344/.383 with five home runs overall.
Possible teams: Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Mets, Royals

Ramon Santiago4. Ramon Santiago: Santiago could play shortstop as well, increasing his value. This year was the first year he played mostly second base, starting 40 games at second and 22 at shortstop for the Tigers. Still, he doesn't exactly project as a first-division starter at either spot. He hit .260/.311/.384, not too far off his average in his 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Tigers and Mariners. He's most likely a utility infielder at this point in his career.
Possible teams: Twins, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Padres, Dodgers

Mark Ellis5. Mark Ellis: Ellis certainly earned brownie points for teams watching from afar when he gracefully stepped aside for the arrival of second baseman Jemile Weeks in Oakland and was then traded to Colorado. Ellis, a good defensive second baseman, struggled offensively in Oakland before the trade but hit quite a bit better in Colorado (imagine that). Ellis is likely to return to Colorado.
Possibile teams: Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers

Aaron Hill6. Aaron Hill: The Diamondbacks have options for the next two seasons on Hill, but there's close to zero chance the team will pay him $8 million for next season. Still, Arizona has expressed interest in bringing back Hill, whom the Diamondbacks got in a change of scenery trade with the Blue Jays. Hill hit .315/.386/.492 with two homers in 33 games for the Diamondbacks after hitting just .225/.270/.313 for the Blue Jays.
Possible teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Cardinals

Aaron Miles7. Aaron Miles: After his disastrous turn in Chicago, Miles has rebounded pretty well the last two seasons. For the Dodgers in 2011, Miles hit .275/.314/.346 in 136 games. Miles will be 35 next season. The Dodgers have expressed some interest in bringing him back. Miles made $500,000 last season and should get a little bump, but don't look for anyone giving him a long-term deal.
Possible teams: 
Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals

Jack Wilson8. Jack Wilson: Wilson finished last season with the Braves, playing shortstop and third base. he played mostly second base for the Mariners to start the season, but that was because the team had Brendan Ryan at short. Wilson, who has never had much of a bat, may be entering the stage of his career where he can serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at any of the infield positions.
Possible teams: White Sox, Royals, Brewers, Dodgers, Cardinals

Carlos Guillen9. Carlos Guillen: Let's just say Guillen will take a pay cut in 2012 after his four-year, $48 million contract with the Tigers has run out. In those four seasons, the Tigers got a .266/.345/421 hitter with 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases. At 35 in 2011, Guillen hit .232/.265/.368, playing second base and first base in just 28 games.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rockies, retirement

Kelly Johnson10. Kelly Johnson: Johnson was the other half of the Blue Jays-Diamondbacks underachiever swap. And like Hill, he responded well in his new home, hitting .270/.364/.417 in 33 games in Toronto, while hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 homers in 114 games with Arizona. The Blue Jays are likely to offer Johnson arbitration, so he can take it or hit the free agent market. He's likely on the borderline between Type A and Type B, if a Type A, he'd almost be forced to take arbitration because his value on the free agent market would take a huge hit if a team had to give up a draft pick. But the class of second basemen is so weak, he may be able to go anyway. It's an interesting situation.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Royals, Dodgers

Nick Punto11. Nick Punto: Punto hit .27 8/.388/.421 in a bounce-back year for the Cardinals, but was limited to just 166 plate appearances, so take that with a grain of salt. Punto's no longer an everyday player (if he ever really was), but is instead a utility player and there's always a place for that. He does add defensive value at most spots he plays, so there will be some demand.
Possible teams: Cardinals, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Padres

Craig Counsell12. Craig Counsell: After the NLCS loss to the Cardinals, the Brewers utility man said he wasn't whether he'd return for a 17th season, but he'd certainly listen to offers. "When you're hitting .170 and you're 41 years old, you question yourself, there's no doubt," Counsell told me after the Brewers' loss to the Cardinals. It's a good question. He's had a very good career, but he did hit just .178/.280/.223 and tied a big league record with a 45 at-bat hitless streak.
Possible teams: Brewers, Diamondbacks, retirement

Jose Lopez13. Jose Lopez: The Marlins out righted Lopez to the minors in July, before calling him back up in August. With the Rockies and Marlins in 2011, he hit a combined .216/.245/.373.He did hit .273/.296/.597 with six home runs in 32 games (16 starts) after being called back up. He played third, second and first base. An All-Star in 2006 with the Mariners, Lopez will likely sign a minor-league contract to get into camp with someone, but he's no team's idea of an answer to any question other than who is on the travel roster for a split squad game.
Possible teams:
Nationals, Dodgers, Padres, White Sox, Royals, Mets

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:38 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 6



By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- You always see the images of the winning team's clubhouses at the end of a series, but never the losing side. What flows like the champagne on the other side is hugs. Players hug each other, at times going down a receiving line of hugs. Each of the Brewers on Sunday hugged it out as the team realized its 2011 season was over.

There were kids -- from Prince Fielder's sons, to Jerry Hairston's -- they got hugs too. There were tears, from players, from sons. And there were hugs.

But still, there are smiles. A group of players realize their season is done, but there are worse ways to end a season than in the playoffs. 

Full playoff coverage

"Ultimately we fell short of our goal, which is disappointing, but in due time we'll be able to look back and appreciate our accomplishments," Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun said.

There was little bitterness, just acceptance that defeat was earned and the other team will be moving on to the World Series.

"Really, no knock on our defense, no knock on our pitching, but they flat-out beat us -- period," Hairston said. "We ran into a hot team, a great team. They deserve to be in the World Series, no question about it. They deserve it, they won it. Once you get to the final four, just about anybody can kick in and win the whole thing. They deserved to represent the National League in the World Series."

Also overheard after Game 6:

• Robin Yount, Brewers Hall of Famer, on losing to the Cardinals: "I was hoping to get a little playback for '82, but we didn't get it. I'm still bitter about that series."

• Tony La Russa on allowing himself to digest this incredible run the Cardinals have put together: "No. Because one of the keys is you can never allow yourself to look back because that's a distraction. We remind ourselves, even today we went around different players, it's always about maintain your edge the next game you play. Even if you for a minute do either one, look ahead or look back, you lose an edge. The guys were just absolutely relentless about today, today, today, last game of our lives."

• Albert Pujols on advancing to the World Series:  "It's awesome but your goal is to win it. Nobody talks about second place. Everybody talks about who wins it. That's going to be our main goal."

• Cardinals closer Jason Motte on Adam Wainwright's injury this spring: "It was a terrible loss. But as a team, we knew someone had to step up and do the job, get us some innings. It was an up and down season, but it wasn't just when Adam went down. Albert was hurt, Berkman, Holliday ... you name it, guys have been hurt."

• Shaun Marcum in the team's pitching in the playoffs: "One of the things that got us here was consistency, we were able to be consistent almost all year long and hand the ball over to the bullpen all year long. And aside from the starts by Yovani (Gallardo) and the one by Randy (Wolf), we didn't do a very good job of that. But we've got to give those guys credit, they're not the top-scoring offense in the league for no reason."

• Nyjer Morgan on the postseason: "It sucks when you get down and then when we swing the bats and then they put more (runs) up. Sometimes the game's going to go like that. Dr. Freeze came along at the wrong time and started chilling people's bats out, man. We've just got to keep our heads up, but looking back at it all, 101 wins, a franchise record, and a bunch of men in here that went to battle every night for the last eight months, you can't say enough about that. Everybody did what they were supposed to do, but they fell short."

• Morgan on Prince Fielder returning: "I'm hoping so, mang. Plush can't spit on that one, I'll leave that for the agents and everybody else to talk about that one. Of course I want the big man to come back, but I hope he does, but that's not for me to speculate on that, but, you know, T Plush wants my boy back."

• Brewers owner Mark Attanasio: "You can see the way Tony La Russa managed against us with a lot of urgency, you know, I'm going to view that as a sign of respect. If he brings his closer in with a six-run lead, he realizes we've scored six runs against them before. I think he's showing us respect for that. It's bitter-sweet part -- the bitter part is it's very, very hard to lose when you get this far with a team this good, but as bitter as that is, I'm proud of these guys."

• Attanasio on the Cardinals: "We and the Cardinals compete very hard, there's a lot of extraneous commentary, but I think you saw a very toughly played series -- what did we play 24 times? I guess 13 times we were on the wrong side of it -- 13-11. You give them credit, they played great."

• Attanasio on missing their shot at a World Series: "(General manager) Doug (Melvin) and I don't look at it that way. My goal has always been to build a long-term winning tradition here. I think we're off to a great start, especially being in the playoffs two times in the last four years. I'm not looking at 1982, I'm looking at right now. We've been in the playoffs the last two years and that's what we're trying to build in Milwaukee. And importantly, the whole country, including other athletes, are seeing what we're trying to do here. This is a great place to play. I think this is going to help us recruit ballplayers and we're not looking at this as our last shot."

• Brewers utility man Craig Counsell on his future: "I want to get away from it a little bit and then we'll sit down and make a decision. I've always said I'll play until they say no. You question when you're hitting .170 and you're 41 years old, you question yourself, there's no doubt. There's still that tug that you've got a great job and you love coming to work every day, so we'll think about it a little more in the winter."

• Ryan Braun on watching the World Series: "I doubt it. I'll probably get away from baseball for a while."

• Braun on the being called out on a play at first in the fifth inning of Game 6: "I don't know if it was necessarily a turning point our not. It's a tough play for an umpire -- I was safe -- but I'm going to give Albert credit, he made a great play on that. I don't think it was a turning point, but it seemed indicative of everything that happened this series -- they clearly played better than us, but every play went their way, every call went their way and I think when you end up winning games and winning a series, you look back and there are always things that go your way. When you lose, you look back and feel like everything went against you. That's just how the game works sometimes."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:32 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 2:47 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 4

Francisco Rodriguez

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers' bullpen has been a strength since the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez, but a bullpen is a strength you don't really want to rely upon, especially in a postseason series.

Coming into Game 4, no Brewers starter had gone more than six innings in the NLCS and only once -- in Game 1 of the NLDS -- had a Brewers starter done it in the postseason. In the first three games against the Cardinalds, the Brewers bullpen had pitched 11 innings to 15 by the starters.

Now, there's been plenty of rest in between and there are enough arms to get it done, but it's not exactly a good sign when relievers are pitching that much. In Game 4 Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was finally about to use his bullpen just like he wanted it -- Rodrigue in the eight and closer John Axford in the ninth, simple as that.

That was due to the performance of Randy Wolf, as the veteran left-hander threw seven innings, allowing just two runs and none after the third inning of MIlwaukee's 4-2 victory over St. Louis.

NLCS Coverage

Wolf, actually, was the first starting pitcher in this series to go into the seventh inning -- and he breezed through his last inning, finishing the day having allowed six hits, striking out six and walking one. He threw 107 pitches, 74 for strikes and retiring the final six batters he faced.

"There's no way I could put into words of just the intensity that's there every inning," Wolf said. "You know how important every out is. You know how either team, if they have an opportunity to score, how good they are at taking advantage of that opportunity."

• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on using his bullpen: "We had a chance to win today. This is October. This is not the season where when this series is over you have to play for another 20 days or something. It's real simple. This is the end of the season for these starters, too, so they are probably not as strong. Go as far as you can, as long as you can and we have plenty of bullpen help."

• Wolf on Matt Holliday's second-inning homer: "Off the bat, I first thought i was a foul ball, and then I saw the ball staying fair, i thought it was going to be a fly-out. But you know, he's one of those guys that has brute strength. He's just a big, strong guy, and you know, I think all three of us, me, George (Kottaras) and Matt, we were all kind of surprised that went out. But he's a strong enough guy. It's like trying to pitch to Brian Urlacher. He's a beast."

• Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig on Wolf: "We jumped on him early, and then he went away from his change up and started going to his curveball. That made it tough on us and we just didn't adjust."

• Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on the decision not to pinch-hit for Wolf in the sixth: "There was a lot going on there. You know, really, if we decided -- we decided that if we had a great opportunity with Wolf's spot, that we would probably hit for him. But how it came up, really, if we were going to do that, probably we were going to have to also hit for George. So you go through (Jonathan Lucroy) and then use a pinch-hitter. If we used Corey (Hart), they would have walked him, left-to-lefty and probably to face Nyjer (Morgan). There was a lot going on. They had some options. They had (Octavio) Dotel down warming up. They had a lot of options, and we did, too.

"I don't know why we decided to leave it as is. We already were up a run, which had a lot to do with it (and) felt good with George facing Arthur Rhodes and putting it in play and at least getting us one run. And he did a good job there."

• Craig Counsell on Jerry Hairston Jr.: "Every time he comes up, his at-bats are so solid. He's been a great addition. I don't think anybody anticipated him playing that great a role, but I know he's impressed everyone in here, that's for sure."

• Hairston on the team's loose attitude: "You know what, we are a loose bunch of guys. Even when we were getting beat pretty good in Game 2, we were still kind of loose. They just caught fire and really beat us pretty good, and I think one of the guys said we need to score two touchdowns to get back in the game. That's the type of team we have to be, we have to be loose, because, you know, I think it was in late August or early September, we tried to tone it down and we lost three or four games in a row, and we said, you know, we can't be that way. We have to go out there and have fun. No disrespect to any team, but we have to go out and have fun and enjoy ourselves, and we've been doing that and we've been successful."

• Hairston on the Brewers' breaking their eight-game playoff road losing streak: "Eight? Oh, like in '82? Come on man. I guess we can blame them for most of those losses, right? They were a great team, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor. Listen, that was a long time ago. We felt that we had been a pretty good road team the last six weeks of the season and we felt our team really started to get complete. We felt we could play anywhere."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:07 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:10 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 3

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has repeatedly said he doesn't like to intentionally walk batters -- but he ordered three free passes in Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, two to Albert Pujols. All three worked.

"I think when it really makes sense, we'll do it. I don't want to just put him on to put him on. You saw we put him on with a guy on third base. Next thing you know, it's second and third instead of first and third. They get a base hit there, they are scoring two runs instead of just one," Roenicke said. "We are going to pick our spots where we think we need to do it. If it comes up, you know, where it makes sense, then we'll try to put him on. But you know, he's scary when he's hitting everything, and we make good pitches and he's still hitting them. He's done a lot of damage to us."

Pujols had hits in both at-bats in which the Brewers threw to him.

Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman was asked if he would pitch to Pujols right now: "Maybe. It would just depend on match ups. I don't think anybody thinks as highly as I do in terms of where he ranks in the history of the game, I think he's probably the greatest hitter ever -- doing it in this ballpark and in this era. It's a worldwide game, you have players from all over everywhere," he said. "That being said, I'm having a hard time walking anybody to get to Matt Holliday. This guy's won a batting title, he's been an LCS MVP. So, you might get him a couple of times, but you better be careful, because if you keep doing it, he's going to make you pay."

Holliday was 0 for 3, so he didn't. He has three hits in the series, but all three have been singles. 

Other things overheard after Game 3:

• Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter on Albert Pujols: "I was very fortunate to watch this guy play of rate last nine years. And when you are that type of player at that level, the expectations from you, me, I'm sure his family, his kids' friends, I mean, anybody that's out there, the expectation levee for what he's supposed to do is unbelievable. That being said, he continues to amaze me every single year. Every year, you can't believe the things that he does, the games that he has, the pressures that he deal with, distractions that he deals with.

"Coming int this season, free agent, how much money he is going to get, best player in baseball, is he going be here? Is he not going to be here? And he comes in, just like the same old Albert, and works hard in spring training, starts off a little slow, everybody is questioning whether or not it's because of his contract situation. No, he continues to grind, he continues to play and continues to do the things that amazes every single one of us every single day. So what he's doing now, does that -- it's him. That's who he is. He's an exceptional player, exceptional hitter. He's got the mind of stone. Nothing bothers him no matter what the situation he's in -- and that's what makes him great."

• Brewers infielder Craig Counsell on the Cardinals bullpen: "They've struggled with their bullpen, but they've got guys in the roles they want them in now. They've turned the corner."

• Mark Kotsay on Chris Carpenter: "He didn't have a feel for his curveball. He left some pitches on the plate that we took advantage of. But he made his pitches when he had to, got out of a couple of jams ... it was interesting that Tony took him out there with the pitcher's spot coming up in the fifth, but Tony (La Russa) obviously knows Carp, he knows his bullpen and he did a great job."

• Cardinals third baseman, and Missouri native, David Freese on Stan Musial's pre game appearance: "It's unreal. Every time Stan Musial comes around the clubhouse, we take time to go say hi to him. And when he gets on the field, whether it's tonight or opening day, all of the guys that are in the Hall come out and join him. It's just special to be a part of."

• Carpenter on Octavio Dotel and Arhtur Rhodes: "I think Doti and Arthur have brought a lot of confidence to some of these younger guys to not care; to go out, not be concerned about what's going to happen. Let's go out and give it our best and see what happens. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't, and we'll go get 'em the next day."

• Tony La Russa on Yovani Gallardo: "He's got all of the pitches. We got him before he got sharp, but he's the real deal and he showed it. We had a couple of great chances to add, which normally come back to haunt you, but our pitching staff prevented that. But let me tell you, he's a handful, and he's every bit as good as a No. 1 starter is supposed to be."

• Gallardo on his start: "I think I was off the whole game, to be honest with you, even after the first. The four innings after that, I was struggling putting the ball where I wanted to."

He was then asked if it was any pitch in particular: "A little bit with every pitch. I'd hit my spot, and then the next one would be up in the zone, or not even close."

Corey Hart on the Freese double in the first inning: "It just kind of carried off, but I still had to go after it. I knew I was close to the track. It was like his home run [in Game 2] the other day, it just kept going. He's a strong kid."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 8, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:55 am
 

Four clinchers for Brewers' Counsell

Craig Counsell

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- You know in the movie Forrest Gump where the titular character keeps showing up in some of the biggest points of recent American history? Well, Craig Counsell may be a little like Forrest Gump.

Friday night he was there again in Game 5 of the NLDS when Carlos Gomez scored the winning run on Nyjer Morgan's 10th-inning single and it was the fourth time in his career he had been on the field for a walk-off winner in the final game of a postseason series.

The first, of course, was in 1997 when he scored on Edgar Renteria's single to give the Marlins a 3-2 victory in Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians.

Craig Counsell

The second came in 2001 as a member of the Diamondbacks when Arizona beat St. Louis in Game 5 of the NLDS. Counsell was on deck when Tomy Womack's single scored Miguel Bautista to send Arizona to the NLCS -- "I was on deck, so I was the first one to get the hug on that one," Counsell said.

 

The third was later that fall, when Counsell was on first base after being hit by a pitch when Luis Gonzalez singled in Jay Bell to give Arizona a Game 7 victory over the Yankees.

 

"It's good fortune," Counsell said. "To just be a part of four games like that -- that's the point of it. To be a part of, play in, those four games -- you can look at that and be pretty content with your career."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:46 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 9:28 pm
 

How I learned to accept the "Beast Mode"



By C. Trent Rosecrans


MILWAUKEE -- Three times I've started a blog post about how much I dislike the Brewers' "Beast Mode" celebration. I was all set to maybe do it again. But then, Craig Counsell (of all people) turned me around.

I'm not sure I've seen Counsell do the "Beat Mode" (seen above) and I'm not sure I will. It's just not his style. And that's exactly why he convinced me it's OK -- because it's not forced, it's just something the Brewers do as a part of genuine joy. It doesn't matter that the Rangers had their claw and antler first or that the Diamondbacks tried out their silly snake. All of those are OK, or at least according to Counsell.

Counsell refused to call himself "old school" or anything else (although Nyjer Morgan does call him "uncle" because he's older than the rest of the team). He didn't give out labels or talk about playing "the right way" or anything else.

"I think a lot of teams are doing something. The Rangers did it. For me, it's a high-five to the dugout," Counsell said. "It's a high-five, a fist-bump -- from a distance. It's just the dugout giving the guy on the base a high-five. 

"I understand why it's getting attention and you expect it to. I think it's a harmless thing and it's just fun."

He also said it's genuine. The Brewers do this because they enjoy playing together, they cheer for each other and this is the way they show it.

"We have players who like to show their personality, we have players that play better when they show emotion and you don't take that away from them," Counsell said. "I suppose if you want to get really deep, I guess society is leaning toward showing more emotion, but I don't feel I'm old school, new school or anything."

So bring on your "Beast Mode" or your "Cobra' or your "Claw and Antler" -- I don't care. If it's fun for you, it's fun for the crowd, then it's fun. And that's what this is all about, right?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 8:45 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 11:33 pm
 

September Storylines: Swan songs for players

Oswalt

By Evan Brunell

Note: Through Thursday, the Eye on Baseball team will be churning out two September Storylines per day.

The 2011 season could mark the end of the line for many players in the game -- some of whom will walk away of their own choosing and some who will be forced out. There will be legends and scrubs alike hanging up the cleats. Here's a look at the top nine players that could be bidding farewell to their playing career after the season.

A generation of shortstops: We're gonna start this list out by cheating immediately and count eight players -- yes, eight -- as one on the list. This season could be the end for a cadre of shortstops who, over the last two decades, have been responsible for significant playing time at the position. Orlando Cabrera, Craig Counsell, Rafael Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada and Omar Vizquel could all choose to hang up their cleats. While none of these players appear to be viable starters in 2011, it's still a significant chunk of history to lose. Between these players, 61,355 plate appearances headed into Monday's games have been earned by these shortstops. Between these players alone, they are responsible for just over 102 full seasons of playing time, assuming 600 plate appearances a year.

It's unlikely that all these players will retire, especially since someone will have to occupy a starting or bench spot. Losing eight shortstops currently holding starting or backup positions would create a major depth void, and teams simply don't have enough resources to fill the gap. Several Dominican Republic newspapers believe Tejada will retire, while Counsell's retirement is a virtual lock.

Here's the breakdown of plate appearances per player through Sunday's games and their debut season:

Orlando Cabrera: 8,213 PA, 1997
Craig Counsell: 5,450, 1995
Rafael Furcal: 6,557, 2000
Alex Gonzalez: 5,935, 1998
Julio Lugo: 5,338, 2000
Edgar Renteria: 8,990, 1996
Miguel Tejada: 9,035, 1997
Omar Vizquel: 11,837, 1989

Roy Oswalt (pictured): Oswalt has made reference enough times to retiring after the season that one has to take the threat seriously. Oswalt rejuvenated his career last season and has been a capable pitcher for Philadelphia this year and is just 34 years old. If he wanted to, he could net another strong contract, but has struggled with back problems all year and has been held to just 17 starts on the season. If Oswalt decides he doesn't have anything left to play for, he'll just go back to his ranch and bulldozer that was a gift from Astros owner Drayton McLane.

If he does indeed retire, he'll do so as one of the best pitchers of the '00s, tying for fifth in the decade for wins with 137 and 10th in ERA with 3.23, a mark that jumps to fifth when you remove relievers from the equation.

September Storylines
To come:
      • Can Jose Reyes stay healthy?
      • Which minor-leaguers can make an impact?
    • A look at the postseason races
Jorge Posada: It's doubtful that the Yankee great will retire. Instead, he's likely going to move on to another team, but he could also end his career having played for just New York and as the best catcher in franchise history since Thurman Munson. In his first year as full-time DH after 14 seasons behind the plate, he's progressively earned less and less playing time the longer the year has gone on thanks to an anemic .244/.322/.407 line. At age 40, no team will live with Posada behind the plate and there are only so many DH jobs to go around. Posada will be in the same spot as several other players toggling between coming back for another year or retiring in jockeying for jobs. A down-and-out DH isn't exactly in demand, especially during a time where the DH is increasingly being used to give players in the field a break as opposed to sticking someone in DH the entire season and leaving him there.

Vladimir Guerrero: Vlad the Impaler looked like he might be done after the 2009 season, but hammered 29 home runs for Texas last year (albeit mostly during a scorching-hot first half), which earned him another starting job this season. But in Baltimore, the wheels have completely fallen off, with the 36-year-old hitting just .277/.307/.390. Guerrero is a lost cause in the field, so is limited to DH these days. He's clearly not doing a good job of it and could elect to walk away as one of the greatest Expos in franchise history and 446 career home runs through Sunday. Guerrero didn't sign until mid-February, adamant on getting a full-time job and an $8 million salary. He won't come close to those guarantees again and may elect to pack it in. The demand for Guerrero, especially after the year he's had, figures to be tame.

J.D. Drew: Drew isn't the only outfielder that many in the game would recognize that could retire, as Magglio Ordonez could also hang them up. But Drew's had a more prominent role, first becoming a lifelong villain in Philadelphia for spurning them in the draft, later signing with the Cardinals. Drew also has had a productive career, despite being injury-prone and has a World Series ring (2007, Boston) to show for it. The 35-year-old isn't the type of person to hang onto a baseball career as long as he can, and would absolutely walk away to be with family. Even though he's had a lousy year in which he lost his starting job to Josh Reddick, he wouldn't lack for job prospects if he decided to return. But given his reputation in the game as a passive player disliked by fans, with injuries constantly sidelining him and more money than he will ever need, Drew could walk away.

Tim Wakefield: Tim Wakefield has had a long and storied career, but is reaching the end of the line. He's failed in six straight instances to grab career win No. 200. Some of these games, he's deserved to come out with a win, but the last two years have been a struggle for him -- especially the second half this season -- and the Red Sox may opt to cut the cord. If that happens, Wakefield will retire, even if he feels like he could return for another season or two. He's also just eight wins away from the all-time Red Sox wins record, a mark that looked sure to fall two years ago but he's collected just 10 wins these last two seasons while losing his role as a permanent starter. When Wakefield retires, he will take his knuckleballer with him, leaving the late-blooming R.A. Dickey as the only knuckler in the majors. Wakefield's retirement is dependent more on Boston's interest in bringing him back.

Javier Vazquez: Vazquez was cryptic about his retirement plans to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, telling the paper that he has known for some time whether this will be his final year or not, but is declining to reveal his answer until after the season.

"Something I've always wanted to do is when I retire to do it on my terms," Vazquez, who has three children, of which the oldest is 8, said. I've never wanted to retire because I couldn't pitch anymore. I want people to say, 'He retired, but he could have kept pitching,' not, 'It was already time for him to retire.'" Vazquez has turned his season around since an awful beginning, posting a 2.53 ERA over his last 75 1/3 innings. Given that, plus the lack of free agent starters, Vazquez may be able to net another sizable contract, but it appears as if he's ready to go home at the age of 35.

As the Sun-Sentinel reports, if Vazquez does retire, he will do so having amassed the the second-most strikeouts by a Latin pitcher, behind just Pedro Martinez. In addition, the righty will probably pass Christy Mathewson for 29th all-time.

Jim Thome: Thome isn't the only slugging first baseman that could hang up his cleats -- Jason Giambi may also call it a season. But there's no doubt that Thome has had the more storied career, recently knocking his 600th home run and heading back to Cleveland in a deal, rejoining the team he came up and had his glory years with. Thome is hitting .238/.347/.477 on the year with 13 home runs in 251 PA, so he could easily find work next year if he wanted to. But with No. 600 out of the way, a return to Cleveland in the books and a current age of 41, Thome could decide to hang it up, even if he would do so without a World Series ring.

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Posted on: August 19, 2011 9:56 am
 

Pepper: Replay helps, but is hardly perfect



By C. Trent Rosecrans

See, now that's how replay's supposed to work -- maybe.

A day after the Yankees were the victim of a bad call (and worse replay) in Kansas City, the umpires in Minnesota went to the video once again for a Justin Morneau two-run homer in the first inning.

However, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't agree.

"In my opinion, and this is what I told them: 'If one replay shows it could be fair and one replay shows it could be foul, and no one is really positive, how the heck do you change it?'" Gardenhire told reporters (via MLB.com). "I don't get that. They told me they saw a view on TV. But I could show three views right here where the ball disappears behind the pole. It just depends on the camera angle."

While I'm all for expanded replay, we must keep in mind it's not going to solve all of baseball's problems -- and the last two days have shown that.

Fair or foul? You be the judge (Yankees broadcast, Twins broadcast). It sure looked foul to me, but I understand the argument. It's what the NFL calls "incontrovertible visual evidence" and I'm not sure it's there. It's something to keep in mind, even with replay, humans are in charge and the chance for human error is always great, no matter what tools are at our disposal.

Hanley on hold: Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez may not return this season, Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post speculated. Ramirez sprained his left shoulder on Aug. 2 while chasing down a fly ball. Ramirez hasn't played since. He had surgery not he same shoulder following the 2007 season.

Quade safe?: Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has been supportive of embattled manager Mike Quade and when he talks to the media during a homestand starting today, it's expected he will support his manager. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Little slugger: I wrote about Indians infielder Jack Hannahan's son the other day, but if you missed it, go here. Anyway, Louisville Slugger sent the youngest Hannahan a bat with his name, birthday and birth weight on it. A cool gesture for Johnny Hannahan, whose dad also uses Louisville Sluggers. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Hanson on hold: Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson won't return from the disabled list on Tuesday as previously scheduled. The Braves aren't sure when they'll get him back from shoulder tendinitis, but it may not be too long. It looks like rookie Mike Minor will stay in the rotation, at least through Tuesday. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Congrats?: Brewers infielder Craig Counsell was believed to have dodged setting the record for most consecutive at-bats without a hit recently when he snapped an 0-for-45 skid one hitless at-bat before the record set by Bill Bergen in 1909. However, the Elias Sports Bureau went back and found that Bergen's went 0 for 45, meaning Counsell and former big leaguer Dave Campbell tied Bergen for baseball's longest streak of futility. Campbell achieved the feat in 1973 while with the Padres, Cardinals and Astros. The original 0 for 46 mark was from Joe Dittmar, who had researched it as a piece on Bergen for the Society for American Baseball Reaserach in 1997. Dittmar went back to check his work and saw that he was off by one and Elias was right. So, congrats Counsell and Campbell, or probably more accurately to Bergen, who is no long alone with his streak. [New York Times]

Confidence is key: Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion said his belief in himself has been able to get him through another difficult year. It looked as if Encarnacion might be the odd man out when the Jays were set to promote Brett Lawrie at the end of June, but since Lawrie broke his hand and his call up was delayed. Since June 28, Encarnacion has hit .325/.414/.580 with nine home runs and cut down his strikeouts to 25 with 22 walks over that time. He's also been helped by being taken off third base where he's struggled throughout his career with consistency -- making the really difficult plays and botching the easy ones. [Toronto Star]

Please stay Rays: St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster said Thursday that he has a "detailed plan" to keep the Rays in St. Pete, but refused to disclose any details. The city clerk said she knew nothing about it, but Foster claims it exists. Don't get too excited about this plan, though, while he didn't spill any beans, he did "clarify" that his "detailed plan" may not include a new stadium. [Tampa Tribune]

Hold on: The Nationals' Tyler Clippard has a pretty good shot at breaking the holds record this year. If you can't quite remember who currently holds it, you're forgiven -- it's not like we're talking about Babe Ruth's home run record (I kid). Clippard got his 32nd hold last night and has a decent shot at breaking Luke Gregerson's record of 40 set way back in 2010. [Baseball-Reference.com]

M.C. Doc Halladay?: Rapper Game references Phillies ace Roy Halladay on his new album. That's all. Just found it interesting and liked the mental image Dave Brown gives of Halladay at the Source Awards. [Yahoo's Big League Stew]

Making dad proud: The other day I teased Reds scouting director Chris Buckley about the team's pick of his son, Sean, in the sixth round. Another team official was there and rightfully noted, "nepotism picks comes in the 40s, not the sixth round." They're right -- and early in his career, Sean Buckley is proving him right. Buckley has 13 home runs already in short-season Class A with the Billings Mustangs, including one that cleared the batter's eye in center field. [MiLB.com]

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com