Tag:Pepper
Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:43 am
 

Pepper: McKeon praises Ozzie; Moneyball ripped



By Evan Brunell

Ozzie: The dominant story Monday night and today is obviously Ozzie Guillen, who was released from his contract after Monday night's game.

It looks as if Guillen is headed to the Marlins to become their skipper, and that's just fine with outgoing manager Jack McKeon, who plans to retire (again) from managing. Guillen served under McKeon back in 2003, so the octogenarian has familiarity with the former White Sox infielder.

"I like Ozzie," McKeon told MLB.com. "I think he's a very, very intelligent manager. I think he was a very smart player. I think he'll do well. He's done well. I think he's a good man. I like him. He's a good baseball man."

McKeon continued, praising Guillen's ability to interact with players.

"I liked the way he was able to control the players, especially the Latin players," McKeon said. "He wasn't afraid to jump on them and encourage them, but also try to help him. He wasn't worried about being their friend. He'd tell it like it is. And that's Ozzie. That's what reminds me of another guy [Jack McKeon]. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

In a separate story, the Chicago Tribune wonders whether Guillen moving to the Marlins could open up a Carlos Zambrano deal to Florida. Zambrano and Guillen are close friends, and the Marlins are looking to jack up payroll and raise fan interest heading into a new stadium and a new identity. It's certainly feasible -- the Marlins will have money to spend and a desire to upgrade the pitching.

Ripping Moneyball:
Honestly, I'd rather not even waste time giving Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone publicity for this, but here goes: the two White Sox announcers ripped Moneyball despite not having read the book or seen the movie to CSNChicago.com. Credibility: out the window.

Hey, it's totally OK to rip things you disagree with. But to rip something with zero knowledge is ludicrous. (And no, being familiar with the "concept" of it or hearsay does not count.) Billy Beane isn't a perfect GM and he's made his share of mistakes, but that doesn't nullify the basic idea of Moneyball, which continues to be sadly unnoticed these days instead of the popular narrative of "Moneyball is about poor teams who love statistics and OBP and hate everything else!" Why are we still doing this in this day and age?

Oh, and according to Harrelson, playing like a kid is way better than putting up good statistics.

"You take Mark Buehrle, he has never lost his childlike qualities. That’s one reason he can go out there and throw an 86 miles-per-hour fastball and still compete and win."

Uh-huh. Or maybe Buerhle is really good at commanding the ball and inducing weak contact.

Nahhh.

Ted Williams movie? Could a movie be made about Ted Williams? Given the wealth of content of the Hall of Famer's life, a movie about Williams would be entertaining. John Underwood, who was a friend of Williams and wrote for years at Sports Illustrated, is developing a treatment he hopes can turn into something. With the success of Moneyball at the box office and Broadway wrapping up a play about Vince Lombardi, the time might be right. (Washington Times)

No charges: Juan Carlos Oviedo, a.k.a. Leo Nunez, will not face charges in the Dominican Republic for falsifying his identity. Given Oviedo came forward with the admission and cooperated with officials, he is getting a free pass. Only time will tell, though, if MLB will allow Oviedo back for 2012. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Moved
: Phil Hughes admits he isn't pleased with pitching out of the bullpen for the Yankees. The righty has struggled through a difficult year for the Yankees, with a recent back issue prompting the move to the 'pen. Even if Hughes would understandably prefer to start and although it depletes the Yanks' thin rotation, Hughes has a chance to make a major impact in the bullpen in October. In 2009, he was a lockdown reliever setting up Mariano Rivera. (MLB.com)

Signed: Omar Infante has agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Marlins, worth $8 million. In his first year with the Marlins after coming over from Atlanta in the Dan Uggla deal, he hit .279/.317/.385 in 574 plate appearances. (MLB.com)

Returning: The Reds want to bring closer Francisco Cordero back, and he's pleased to hear that. There is a $12 million option on the closer's remaining deal, and it's not clear whether or not Cincy will pick the option up. A return for Cordero isn't surprising following a solid season in which he notched 35 saves. (MLB.com)

Back to Washington: If Jonny Gomes has his way, he'll be back with the Nationals after coming over from Cincinnati in a trade. Gomes hasn't quite impressed, but could be a strong bat off the bench for Washington next season. Gomes for his part says he would probably accept arbitration if the Nats offered it and believes the team will be "friggin' good." (Washington Post)

Where's Coco?
Coco Crisp wouldn't mind returning to the Athletics, but Oakland's free-agent machinations will depend on the outcome of the A's prospects of building a new stadium in San Jose. The A's will have competition if they want to bring Crisp back -- two sources say that San Francisco is expected to make a run at Crisp. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Looking ahead: Joe Mauer can't wait to put 2011 behind him, as the year represented a disappointment for both the club and Mauer, struggling with injuries and poor play. "You always want to do well when you put the uniform on," Mauer told MLB.com. "For me, my biggest goal is just to come back and be healthy. It's been a frustrating year. I haven't been healthy. Hopefully, we can do that as a whole. I'm talking about myself, but this whole room, we've kind of got the same thing going [with injuries]. My No. 1 goal is to just get healthy and just get ready for next year."

Lost season: Peter Moylan, a reliever for the Braves, missed months with a back injury. Finally back, Moylan got lousy news once more as he'll need surgery for a torn rotator cuff and labrum, which will be his third major surgery in four years. Moylan will miss about six months worth of time, so may not be ready for Opening Day. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:15 am
 

Pepper: From afterthought to MVP candidate

Michael Young

By C. Trent Rosecrans

I'm not sure I'd vote for Michael Young for the American League MVP, but I sure would have to consider the Rangers veteran if I had a ballot in the AL -- and that's a far cry from where Young started the season.

Remember going into spring training? Young had no home on the diamond and reportedly wanted a trade from the only team he's played for as a big leaguer. At 34, he seemed to be anything but what his surname suggested and of declining skills, not to mention he was a man without a position. The team signed Adrian Beltre to take over at third base, displacing him once again. Young had been moved off shortstop to make room for Elvis Andrus after previously being moved from second base. And now the team had another third baseman and it seemed there was nowhere for Young.

Instead, Young has wound up playing everywhere. In addition to 68 starts as the team's DH, he's made 39 starts at third base, 36 at first base and 13 at second. He may be the team's MVP -- with V standing for both valuable and versatile. He played in all but two games this season, and produced. He's hitting .338/.380/.477 -- all improvements over last season -- along with 11 home runs (down from a year ago), 104 RBI and a MLB-best 209 hits.

"People want to talk MVP? It's ridiculous if they don't consider Michael Young," Rangers manager Ron Washington told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I'd like someone to tell me a utility player who does what he does… When it all started, nobody thought he'd be able to get playing time."

The AL MVP vote could be one of the toughest in recent years, but Washington's right, Young should seriously be considered.

Rockies to be aggressive in offseason: The Rockies were many people's pick to win the National League West, or at least the wild card. Instead, the team has limped to a 71-87 record so far, 21 games behind the surprising Diamondbacks. Colorado has money to spend and will look for several upgrades in order to be competitive in 2012. [Denver Post]

Sayonara Kuroda? Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda said there's a 50-50 chance he returns to Japan next year. Kuroda is 13-16 with a 3.17 ERA this season. [MLB.com]

Rasmus blames Cardinals: Colby Rasmus hasn't played well since going to Toronto, and for that, he's blaming the Cardinals. The 25-year-old center fielder has as much talent as anyone, but his head seems to continue to get in his way. Maybe Tony La Russa was right… [National Post]

Pinch-runner paying dividends: Tyler Greene isn't playing much shortstop for the Cardinals, but he's still making his mark on the bases. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Stadium holding back A's: The A's still hope to get a new stadium in San Jose, but if they do they'll likely hold back on spending -- because the stadium wouldn't be ready for at least three years, and the team would want to build toward opening strong in the new stadium. At least, that's what the agents for Josh Willingham hear. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Extending DatDude: Reds general manager Walt Jocketty will meet with the agents for second baseman Brandon Phillips in New York this week to talk about an extension. Jocketty has already said the team would pick up Phillips' $12 million option for 2012. [MLB.com]

Sanchez hopeful: Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said he expects to be ready for opening day in 2012. Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery in August. [San Jose Mercury News]

Homecoming: You think it's bad when you see minivans with a kid's name and number on the back? I know I'd be embarrassed if if my mom had "Trent" and "CBSSports.com" on the back of her car. Or even if she wore a t-shirt with that around town. Well, imagine how embarrassed Reds rookie Devin Mesoraco felt when his mother distributed more than 700 t-shirts with his image and name on it for Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. [OMGReds.com]

Maybin wants to stay in San Diego: Cameron Maybin has apparently found a home in San Diego. When asked if he was open to signing a long-term deal with the Padres, Maybin said "100 percent." You can also find out where he buys his shoes. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

If you don't hit does it matter where you hit? The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano isn't happy about batting seventh most of the season fo rthe Cubs. Shouldn't he be more upset with him putting up the type of production that makes him a seven-hitter? [ESPNChicago.com]

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Posted on: September 23, 2011 10:19 am
 

Pepper: Kemp is NL's most valuable

Matt Kemp

By C. Trent Rosecrans

They were wearing KEMVP shirts in Los Angeles on Thursday night -- and it's hard to argue with them.

In a season where there was little to cheer for at Chavez Ravine, Kemp's amazing 2011 season was something that never seemed to disappoint. And in the last home game of the season on Thursday, Kemp did nothing to disappoint -- with his mother in the stands, Kemp went 4 for 5 with three doubles and his 36th home run of the season.

And don't look now, but Kemp still has a shot at the triple crown -- he leads the league with 118 RBI, five ahead of Ryan Howard, he's just one homer behind Albert Pujols and he's third in batting average at .326, trailing Ryan Braun (.330) and Jose Reyes (.329).

He's also fourth in on-base percentage (.403), second in slugging (.582) and first in OPS (.985).  He also leads in total bases (335), runs (109), second in stolen bases (40) and second in hits (188).

If you like more advanced stats, according to Baseball-Reference.com, he leads in WAR (9.6) and OPS+ (171).

You may say his team stunk and he doesn't deserve the MVP -- but doesn't that make what he did more valuable? As bad as the Dodgers' season has been, they're still above .500 at 78-77 after last night's victory over the Giants. Andre Ethier had a nice run earlier in the season, but he's hardly been in the MVP discussion along with Kemp, while Braun has had Prince Fielder and Pujols has Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. Jose Reyes' team has a worse record and Justin Upton can't match his stats. Kemp's not only the best player in the National League, he's also the most valuable.

Historic collapse: No, I'm not talking about the Red Sox or Braves -- it's the Pirates. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, with a little help from the folks at Elias Sports Bureau, writes that in the modern age of Major League Baseball (otherwise known as "since 1900"), no team  has fared worse after being in first place at the 100-game marker. The Pirates have gone 16-40 since holding first place at 53-47 on July 25. The Pirates' .286 is by far the worst, with the 1977 Cubs coming second. That team was 60-40 through 100 games and then went 21-41 the rest of the way. You never want to be better than the Cubs at being bad.

Like his stature, Timmy likes his deals short: San Francisco's Tim Lincecum tells the San Francisco Chronicle  that he doesn't want to sign a long-term deal that would buy out his future free-agent years. Lincecum is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

Master storyteller: One of the great joys of this job is to meet some of the great personalities in this game. With broadcasters, most of their best stories come off the air -- and nobody has more and better stories than Vin Scully. Check out this story about Scully and Don Zimmer. [Los Angeles Times]

See you in San Jose?: Could the A's be the biggest beneficiary of the change in Giants ownership? They could be, and Mark Purdy, who broke the initial story, explains. [San Jose Mercury News]

Ichiro not ichi?: Ichiro Suzuki will likely have his streak of 10 years with at least 200 hits broken this week, and next year he may not be leading off. Mariners manager Eric Wedge is not committing to Ichiro batting in his customary leadoff spot next season. [Seattle Times]

Runs in the family: Raul Lopez, the father of the guy who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, got a souvenir of his own on Wednesday. [New York Times]

Ax mustache spray: Brewers closer John Axford made this fake commercial. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

How about the American League MVP?: Forget Curtis Granderson on Adrian Gonzalez or Justin Verlander, Robinson Cano says that if he had a vote, he'd vote himself. He doesn't. [ESPN New York]

MVP improves: Last year's NL MVP, Joey Votto, says he did "more with less" this season than he did in 2010 when he won the league's MVP. Looking at his numbers -- and the absence of Scott Rolen in the lineup -- it's tough to disagree. If I had any quibble is it'd be that he did about the same with less. Either way, Votto was impressive and has established himself as one of the game's best. [MLB.com]

Oswalt not done: Although the 33-year-old Roy Oswalt had hinted at his retirement, his agent now says he's not considering hanging them up after this season. It may have something to do with Oswalt looking around at the weak free agent pitching market and seeing he'll get paid. [MLB.com

Porter interviewing again: If the Marlins were dating, they'd just about have to put out for Bo Porter by now. The Nationals' first-base coach is scheduled to interview for the Marlins' manager job soon, the Washington Post reports. Porter interviewed midseason last season when the team fired Fredi Gonzalez and then again after the season. Porter is among the candidates to take over in Washington, too, MLB.com reports

NL dreaming: White Sox starter Mark Buehrle says he's intrigued by the thought of pitching in a new league. Buehrle lives near St. Louis and has mentioned that he'd like to pitch for the Cardinals. Add him to Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia and you'd have a pretty good rotation. Of course, the Cardinals do have other financial concerns this offseason. How about Cincinnati? It's a little longer drive to his home, but the Reds rotation could certainly use the veteran. [MLB.com]

Celebrate good times: The Astros announced their plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary season in 2012 with six different throwback uniforms they'll use next season -- including the famous rainbow jersey, one of the best in the history of the game. [MLB.com]

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Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:33 am
 

Pepper: Moneyball the talk of baseball

Scott Hatteberg

By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the Moneyball movie, I've gone from skeptical to excited to disappointed to indifferent to cautiously optimistic -- and I still haven't seen it.

It's all anyone's talking about, of course, even though we do have two good races going for the wild card right now, the tale of a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs is apparently more interesting because Brad Pitt is involved. Pitt, who usually graces the cover of supermarket checkout magazines, is even on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. I don't expect to see him on the front of Baseball America, but I wouldn't be shocked if he were.

Or at least those of us with keyboards. I've heard reviews all over the board -- from those too close who go against the grain and hate everything to those who are indifferent and those who loved it. I've heard people named in the book (and movie) who thought it was awful and a complete work of fiction and others who show up as characters who say it does a great job of showing what it was like. It just goes to show that perception differs much more than reality.

One of those who says good things about it is Scott Hatteberg, who is played by Chris Pratt in the movie (both are pictured above, with the real-life Hatteberg on the right).

"It caused the hair to rise on the back of my neck," Hatteberg told Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto.

When I covered Hatteberg, he was one of my favorite guys to interview because of his insight to the game -- and his outside interests. I ran into him at a Wilco concert once and we'd often talk music and movies. He's also extremely intelligent and while I used to say I could see him as a manager (and still could), now he's working in the A's front office and I could easily see him as a general manager.

Hatteberg's one of the reasons I want to see the movie, with the portrayal of scouts as simpletons relying on outdated methods to judge players and the oversimplification of saber metric principals as reasons I'm skeptical. 

The scene in the preview with David Justice having to put money in a Pepsi machine is the one that makes me cringe the most -- it's total fiction, as Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News points out in this handy true-false scorecard on the movie -- and makes me wonder if I'll be one of those watching just to point out inaccuracies as opposed to just sitting back and trying to enjoy the movie as a whole. Sometimes that's tough -- any time I see a press conference where reporters start clapping usually make me hate just about the best of movies. A little knowledge on a  subject can help when enjoying a movie, but more info can totally ruin it.

Either way, I guess they'll get my money and isn't that all that matters?

Just a touch: One of the biggest differences between the movie and the book is that Paul DePodesta didn't want his name used, so instead there's a fictionalized character, Peter Brand, who plays the DePodesta part. While Jonah Hill doesn't resemble DePodesta physically, his character hits the nail on the head, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke writes.

Monty got a raw deal: Even if it appears NotDePodesta was portrayed well in the movie, its main villain, Grady Fuson is not portrayed accurately, according to Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The foil for Billy Beane in the movie, Fuson -- now back with the A's -- is portrayed as a bit of a dope and dinosaur. In the movie, Beane even fires Fuson, when in fact Fuson was hired away by the Rangers, something that Beane was not happy about at the time.

Strange: The Dodgers are a mess, but that may not preclude them from making some big waves in the offseason, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. If the Dodgers are in play, that suddenly makes them a team to watch for either of the two big free agent first basemen, Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. The team could also look to lock up Matt Kemp.

So fast, so numb: Of the 30 teams that have won at least 100 games from 1980 to 2010, only four have won the World Series -- the Yankees in 1998 and 2009, the 1986 Mets and the 1984 Tigers. Of those 30, only 11 made the World Series.  Since 1986, three teams with fewer than 88 wins have won the Series -- the 2006 Cardinals (83), 2000 Yankees (87) and 1987 Twins (85). The Phillies (98) and the Yankees (95) are the only two teams with a shot at 100 wins this season. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Sitting still: Blue Jays rookie Brett Lawrie won't play again this season after breaking his right middle finger on Wednesday. Lawrie suffered the injury before Wednesday's game, fielding ground balls. [MLB.com]

Binky the doormat: Cubs manager Mike Quade says he thinks he'll be back in 2012. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Departure: Although unlikely to return to the Orioles, Vladimir Guerrero wants to return in 2012, and beyond. Guerrero would like to play "two or three" more years, he told the Baltimore Sun. Guerrero is three hits away from all-time Dominican hit-leader, Julio Franco, who has 2,586 hits. He's also just one homer away from 450.

Finest worksong: Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire says the team's communication has been a key feature to its offense. The team has stressed that players need to be in the dugout talking after at-bats instead of going straight to the video room. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Endgame: Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez will explore free agency, even if the Cubs pick up their part of the $16-million mutual option, which is unlikely anyway. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Moral kiosk: Marlins president David Samson tried to help the victim of a traffic accident while on his way to the team's new park on Wednesday. Samson was lauded for his attempts to help the victims, but he deflected any praise. [Miami Herald]

Everybody hurts: Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes was scratched from his scheduled start against the Rays on Wednesday and the rest of his season is in doubt. An MRI revealed his back spasms were actually inflammation from a herniated disk he first suffered in 2004. Hughes may be done for the season, but the team hopes he can return as soon as this weekend. [New York Post]

Hairshirt: The new Marlins logo received "mixed" reviews, according to the Miami Herald. That sounds generous. My favorite comment from my twitter feed was that it looked like someone "vomited Skittles." Former Marlin Dan Uggla was asked about his opinion of the new logo and said he wasn't a big fan. When asked more specifically what was wrong with it, he answered "everything."

The one I love: While the Marlins are going in a totally new direction for their new logo, the Blue Jays are apparently going back to the past for their new logo. Don't expect too many complaints (although there will be some, it's the internet, there are always complaints). [The Score]

New test leper: Because of MLB's relation with the Dominican winter league, Manny Ramirez will not be eligible to play in his native land this winter as he'd hoped. [ESPN.com]

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 9:53 am
 

Pepper: Mets might change Citi Field dimensions



By Matt Snyder


A common refrain since the Mets moved into Citi Field is that the outfield dimensions cost the team loads of home runs in each given season. Notably, it's been discussed how many homers have turned into doubles for David Wright by several different New York reporters. Only Kauffman Stadium (Royals) and AT&T Park (Giants) have been worse for home runs this season and Citi Field ranked 27th in homers last season.

Two areas in particular that have drawn malign are the height of the left-field wall (why not have it the same height as the center-field wall?) and the well in right field (where it says "Modell's"). It feels like changing those two things would make it a pretty average ballpark for hitters.

Well, changes could be on the horizon, and not-so-small changes at that.

“If we do something, it won’t be subtle,” general manager Sandy Alderson said (NYTimes.com Bats blog), noting that changes are not definite but the Mets are looking hard at several different options.

“We’re not looking necessarily to gain an advantage with respect to home runs versus visitor’s home runs,” Alderson said (NYTimes.com Bats blog). “But at the same time, I think there is some sense that the park is a little more overwhelming to a team that spends half its time there, as opposed to a team that comes in for three games, doesn’t really have to alter its approach or think about it too much and leaves.”

I tend to agree with him. All things equal, I'd much rather have my team playing in a league-average ballpark instead of an extreme-hitter or extreme-pitcher park. Not that it definitely determines the fate of your ballclub -- it doesn't -- but if either pitchers or hitters collectively believe they're getting screwed for 81 games, it's hard to keep a positive mentality for the whole season.

'Fan' is short for 'fanatic:' A Yankees fan had the task of serving Red Sox starting pitcher Erik Bedard with child support papers Tuesday and relished in it. He wore a Yankees shirt and bragged on Facebook that he intentionally served Bedard on a day of his start (Big League Stew). Bedard went out and gave up five hits and four runs (though only one was earned) in 2 2/3 innings. Let's hope this fan never accuses any player of lacking professionalism, or else we've got a nice case of hypocrisy working.

Lincecum endorses Kershaw: The NL Cy Young vote is going to be quite competitive, with Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy and some Phillies likely garnering most of the votes. Two-time winner Tim Lincecum believes the winner should be Kershaw. “Just with the numbers he has, he’s leading in a lot of categories, to put up a 20-win season is huge, especially with the team he’s got. He’s done a magnificent job with his year," Lincecum said after losing to Kershaw again (Extra Baggs). The two aces have squared off four times. Lincecum has a 1.24 ERA in those outings, but Kershaw has won all four.

Harwell's glasses are back: In Tuesday's Pepper, we passed along the story that a statue of late, great Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell had been stripped of its glasses. Well, the replacement set of frames is back at home (Detroit Free-Press). Let's hope these stay there for a while.

Aramis' swan song: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was traded to the Cubs in July of 2003. He played on three playoff teams, in two All-Star games and solidified a position that hadn't been locked down since Ron Santo manned the hot corner. The Cubs have a $16 million option for 2012 on Ramirez and he has repeatedly said he wants to stay, but the feeling apparently isn't mutual. When asked if he believes this is his last run with the Cubs, he replied (Chicago Tribune): "Probably. There's a good chance. I'm a free agent and I don't know what's going to happen. But it looks like I'm going to hit the market."

Movie Night! "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was a huge hit in the 80s, and it includes a scene in Wrigley Field. It's only fitting that Wrigley's first "Movie Night" will be showing the Matthew Broderick film October 1 (Chicago Tribune). Bleacher seats are $10, while lawn seats are $25. That's steep for a movie that hit theaters in 1986, but would the novelty of sitting on Wrigley Field's playing surface be worth it? You make the call.

No ERA title for Cueto: Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was already suspected to be ruled out for the season, and now he's even admitting as much (MLB.com). With the Reds out of the race, this wouldn't normally matter, but Cueto had a shot at leading the league in ERA. His 2.31 mark currently trails only Kershaw (2.27). The problem is that Cueto has only thrown 156 innings. In order to qualify for an ERA crown, a pitcher must have thrown at least one inning for each game his team has played. So once the Reds play game 157, Cueto falls off the ERA standings.

Rockies love Tracy, kind of: Rockies manager Jim Tracy is signed through 2012 and his job is safe at least through the length of the contract. "Jim is signed through next year, and we'd love to have him be manager here for much longer than that. But I have gone into the last year of my contract here more than you could imagine," general manager Dan O'Dowd told The Denver Post. So that sounds good, right? Well, depends upon the point of view. He's not offering a contract extension, and you'll notice the comment about going into the last year of a contract. So it sounds like O'Dowd likes Tracy for now, but he's giving himself a chance to change his mind by the end of next year. And he has every right to do that.

Watch those Nats: If you relish in the failures of the Nationals, you better enjoy it while you can. I've preached all season that the proverbial corner would be turned soon, with a great young base of talent and lots of money available for free agents. Speaking of which, expect the Nats to be hot after All-Star starting pitcher C.J. Wilson -- who is a free agent after this season -- this coming offseason (MLB.com via Twitter).

Saito can't get healthy: Brewers reliever Takashi Saito has been excellent this season, sporting a 1.90 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Of course, he's only thrown 23 2/3 innings due to a series of injuries. Now he's dealing with a calf injury (MLB.com).

More roadblocks for McCourt: One of the ways embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt plans to get out of his financial mess is to sell the TV rights to Dodgers games for future seasons. Well, Fox holds the Dodgers' TV rights through 2013 and has a problem with McCourt trying to negotiate a deal immediately (LATimes.com).

Johan's progress: Mets' ace Johan Santana continues to work his surgically repaired shoulder back into shape. After throwing a three-inning simulated game Saturday, he's now slated for two instructional league games (Oct. 1 and Oct. 7). (ESPN New York)

Happy Anniversary: On this day 15 years ago, Vladimir Guerrero hit his first career home run (Hardball Times). He now has 449.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 10:32 am
 

Pepper: Crawford apologizes to Red Sox fans



By Matt Snyder


With the Rays climbing to within two games of the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race, it's going to be a fun final two weeks for baseball fans. Some interesting perspective on the drama comes from current Red Sox and former Rays' left fielder Carl Crawford.

Crawford played nine seasons and 1,253 regular-season games for the Rays. He's easily the best player in the history of the young franchise at this point, but he walked this past offseason for a seven-year, $142 million deal and signed with the Red Sox. And he's now having the worst season of his career, from an individual standpoint.

In a diary entry for ESPN.com, Crawford notes that hears the boos from "haters" when the Red Sox visit Tampa Bay and that those fans need to realize he's going to be coming back for six more years. Two more entries of note:

"If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated. I definitely wouldn't want to lose to those guys and watch them get into the playoffs while we go home. That would just be devastating to me."

And ...

"I want to end the diary saying something to the fans of Boston. I just want to say I'm sorry for the year I've had. You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that. Hopefully when we get into these playoffs, I can be the real Carl Crawford that I know I am. We'll see."

I love seeing that kind of accountability from someone who could easily just blow everyone off and count his millions.

Ironman: Speaking of the Rays, Johnny Damon has now tied Pete Rose and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Hank Aaron with an impressive streak. Damon has now played in at least 140 games in 16 different seasons, making it a four-way tie atop the all-time record book (TampaBay.com). Does anyone doubt Damon can do it again next year and set the record? I sure don't.

More from Damon: This is funny, and true. Damon points out that Red Sox fans have to root for the Yankees now. “They’re going to have to root for them if they want a chance at the postseason,” Damon said (BostonHerald.com). “They couldn’t root for me when I played in New York. Now they have to root for the whole team.” Man, how much are Yankees fans relishing this?

Happy Birthday: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan turns 68 Monday (Hardball Times). The two-time MVP is widely considered the best second baseman to ever play the game (and was also a broadcaster for years, but we'll leave that alone, being his birthday and all ... )

While we're here: Speaking of Joe, he just led the world's largest chicken dance. Check it out (via Big League Stew):



Sigh: Tigers manager Jim Leyland says he isn't an "on-base percentage guy." (MLB.com) Look, Leyland knows a lot more about baseball than I do, which is quite an obvious fact. But that doesn't mean he can't be wrong about certain things. I just don't understand what it is with the so-called "old-school mentality" that prevents people from grasping that OBP is the percentage of times batters don't make an out. I don't get how you can not be an OBP guy. You go to the plate with a bat. The main object is to not make an out. It's very, very simple. Leyland, thankfully, doesn't say he likes batting average, but instead slugging. Slugging percentage is much more important than average, but OBP is much more important. Think about it. Even if you're just churning out singles and walks over and over, you're still scoring runs. Slugging is very important, too, which is why OPS has gotten more and more run in recent years.

Humbled Ozzie: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently made a trip to the Negro Baseball League Museum in Kansas City and came away with a renewed appreciation for everything he has. "It’s so different, and sometimes you shake your head at what these guys went through all this stuff for baseball to be better now than then," he said (Chicago Tribune).

Shoot him up: Phillies slugging first baseman Ryan Howard has bursitis in his left ankle, and he'll have a cortisone shot to help him deal with the issue the rest of the season. (MLB.com)

Johan 'felt good:' Mets ace Johan Santana threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday and he "felt good." (ESPN New York)

Johnson wants Wang back: Chien-Ming Wang has been a bit inconsistent in his return to the hill this season, but he's shown flashes of being solid -- like in his quality-start win Sunday. It will be tough to squeeze into the Nationals' rotation next season, especially if they land a free agent like C.J. Wilson, but current Nats manager Davey Johnson says he'd bring Wang back. "As far as I'm concerned, he's a keeper," Johnson said (MASN Sports).

Don't rush: Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa underwent Tommy John surgery June 3, but he's looking to be back by opening day of next season. That wouldn't be unheard of, but it would be just 10 months after a procedure which typically has a 10-14 month recovery period. So it would certainly be a quick recovery. Jim Tracy, his manager, wants De La Rosa to be patient. “I told him (De La Rosa) about Dr. Jobe and the importance of following the program and don’t try to deviate,’’ said Tracy (DenverPost.com). “Don’t try to speed it up. If you do that and you follow the program and you don’t try to speed it up, you’ll feel like you have a bionic arm. Because it will completely heal and you’ll basically have a brand new elbow.

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Posted on: September 16, 2011 10:12 am
 

Pepper: Beltran wants Giants to upgrade offense

Beltran

By Evan Brunell

Wanted: more offense -- Carlos Beltran has enjoyed his time in San Francisco, but it could only last a few months.

The free-agent outfielder told the San Jose Mercury News that playing for the Giants would be fantastic with its pitching staff, plus the returns of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez should boost the offense next season. But that's not enough.

"I believe there should be a little bit more than that," he said, referring to the offense.

But where should the team upgrade? Catcher, second base and third are spoken for. Aubrey Huff will be in his final season while Brandon Belt is ready to play full-time, so split first base and left field between the two players. If Beltran comes back, that's right field sewed up. That leaves shortstop, with no real internal candidate, and center field.

Of course, Jose Reyes has gotten a lo of attention as the marquee free agent, but the Giants will have to pay a pretty penny for Reyes' services. In center, the team might as well keep Andres Torres if its next-best option is Coco Crisp, although Grady Sizemore could be attractive if the Indians decline their club option.

But the Giants have to worry about money, too. They have $80 million committed to just six players next year, one of which won't be playing for the team in Aaron Rowand. To resign Beltran and bring in another top-flight hitter to please Beltran? That's pushing it.

"You want to be in a lineup where you are around players that will make the lineup better, you understand?" Beltran said. "Right now we have missed a leadoff batter here, and that's huge. That's something, to me, they should address that area, before me."

Weak Central
: Jim Leyland has a lot of expletive-filled thoughts as to the AL Central being so weak, the Tigers' accomplishments may be hurt. “You're looking for something to take something away from them,” Leyland complained to MLive.com . “I don't want to talk about that. That's [expletive]. That's total [expletive]. Let me remind you of something. It was three months ago, two months ago, that the [expletive] Cleveland Indians were the talk of baseball. Everybody was saying they were pretty [expletive] good. Now, all of a sudden, because we beat them they're [expletive]? That's not fair. That's unfair.”

Moving to right: Carlos Gonzalez will be the team's right fielder next season, Rockies manager Jim Tracy says, citing Gonzalez's arm as the reason why. He's already made the move and has 12 assists in just 34 games. (MLB.com)

Staying in Japan? Phenom Yu Darvish is re-thinking whether or not he will come to America for 2012,. His team, Nippon Ham, is eager to post Darvish and reap the profits but Japan's best pitcher is unsure the time is right to make the leap. (NPB Tracker)

Humidor time: The Rockies love everything about their Triple-A franchise...except the fact that it's a launching pad for hitters, robbing pitchers of development time. As a result, a humidor will be installed next season. (Denver Post)

The story of Trayvon: Seattle's newest outfielder, Trayvon Robinson, had a tough upbringing with a home in south-central Los Angeles, split between warring gang factions and attending the high school featured in Boys N The Hood. It's a feature well worth reading. (Seattle Times)

Setback: Dodgers ex-closer Jonathan Broxton has suffered a setback in his recovery from an injured elbow. Broxton will become a free-agent and will have to look around for a one-year deal to rehabilitate his value. (MLB.com)

One year later: A year ago, a baseball bat pierced Tyler Colvin's chest. What could have been a serious incident has now passed and Colvin is back in the majors -- albeit struggling. (MLB.com)

Jays resurgence: Part of Toronto's resurgence has been the successful adding of young players both inside and outside of the organization. More help is on  the way as indicated by the Jays making the minor-league postseason with five of seven teams. But will Toronto make its move in the offseason or wait for more help to arrive? (Canoe.ca)

No diamond: The city of Detroit has nixed an offer from Chevrolet to preserve the diamond at Tiger Stadium, which is mostly demolished these days. Why did the city do that? Because it's trying to keep the space open for significant redevelopment, which the city would jump at to improve its flagging revenues. (Detroit Free Press)

Still playing: Aaron Cook won't retire, but the Rockie who receives his final start in Colorado on Wednesday also certainly won't be back. (Denver Post)

Morgan or Sandberg? Reds announcer Marty Brennaman believes that Morgan was the better second baseman than Sandberg, which the author terms a "controversial" topic. Really? (Chicago Tribune)

Still playing: Amir Garrett, who was picked in the 22nd round of the MLB draft, hopes to play basketball as a freshman this winter after being declared ineligible by the NCAA. Garrett signed a $1 million deal with the Reds and is expect to join the team after college basketball is over. (Eye on College Basketball)

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:17 am
 

Pepper: Finally a worthwhile 'Moneyball myth'



By Matt Snyder


In the past few days, "Moneyball" reviews have been all over the Internet, as advanced screenings are currently taking place. It's a veritable mixed bag. Some reviews have the movie an Oscar contender, others tearing it to shreds, while most are in between. I haven't seen the movie yet, but one area where people aggravate me already is bemoaning how, basically, it's not a documentary. Simply put: It's a movie. Of course it's going to take liberties and be just as much fiction as fact. It says "based on a true story," not "true story." I'm sorry is Jonah Hill doesn't even come close to physically resembling Paul DePodesta, for example. Hollywood doesn't have to cast clones.

Anyway, there have been critics for years of the book. You'll often hear someone say something like "Moneyball doesn't work" or try to explain the "myth of Moneyball." Sometimes it almost seems like the person is taking great pride is taking down some huge establishment.

One of the loudest complaints is that the A's had a trio of aces in the pitching staff, so it wasn't that hard to make the team around them good. It's fair, but it discounts the shift in offensive philosophy. But it's understandable. And it's not like Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez -- the anchors of the 2002 offense -- weren't stars. They were.

But this all still ignores the massive disadvantage in payroll the A's had against the likes of the Yankees -- and the 2002 A's won 103 games.

On that front, I finally saw a "myth" about Beane's 2002 ballclub that was worthwhile and made sense -- thanks to Jeff Fletcher at BayBridgeBaseball.com. Yes, that payroll was really low. But a lot of it had to do with how baseball's system is set up. Namely, because of young players being under club control for years and then arbitration-eligible for a few more years, there was some pretty damn good talent making relatively low salaries in '02.

Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito combined to go 57-21 with a 3.05 ERA. Zito won the Cy Young. The three aces made $1.97 million combined. For comparison's sake, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox finished second in Cy Young voting that year and he made $14 million.

There were several other young players that made far less money than players they were outperforming and that happens every year. The A's just happened to have a handful of them. So I guess I've finally found a "Moneyball myth" I support.

Mo in center? Mariano Rivera has a simple request of manager Joe Girardi. Before he retires, Rivera would like to get a shot in center field. Rivera reportedly claims he's a "viable" center fielder and wants to play a game there (a whole game?). Yeah, that ain't happening. But Girardi has said he'd consider putting him out there for one batter in a meaningless game. Oh, and one more stipulation: “[It would be against] a guy who hits ground balls or strikes out a lot,” Girardi said (NYTimes.com).

GM already in place? It would seem that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is doing his hiring backwards. About a week and a half ago I bemoaned Ricketts' giving a contract extension to his player personnel director before hiring a general manager. Well, now Ricketts is set to give a similar extension to scouting director Tim Wilkin (SunTimes.com). Yes, outgoing GM Jim Hendry loved both of these members of his staff, but he's gone now. Is it possible Ricketts already has an agreement behind closed doors with his next GM, which makes these extensions OK? If not, it seems like he's severely limiting himself in his GM search. Think about it this way. If you started a business, would you hire all the mid-level employees before your CEO? Or would you hire your dream CEO and then work with him on hiring the underlings?

Great family story: The Marlins recently promoted prospect Matt Dominguez for his major-league debut. His father is a copy editor for the Los Angeles Times, and he wrote a story about the experience of seeing his son play in the bigs. (LATimes.com)

Jocketty staying put: Just as I noted in Wednesday's Pepper, the rumor that the Cubs were going to grab GM Walt Jocketty, manager Tony La Russa and first baseman Albert Pujols doesn't have much merit. Jocketty isn't going anywhere (Cincinnati.com).

Poor Dunn: This is interesting. Baseball-Reference's blog ran two posts that kind of sum up how futile White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn's season has been. He's hitting .162 with 160 strikeouts. If he gathers a few more at-bats, there's a chance he ends up with more strikeouts than his batting average points. That has only happened one time in history when a hitter got more than 35 at-bats. And it was last season: Mark Reynolds. The same blog also compiled a list of the worst full-time players of the last 50 years, and Dunn checks in at 20th.

Still chugging: Rockies starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, 36, is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.18 WHIP since being picked up by the Rockies this season, and he wants to come back for them in 2012 (DenverPost.com). Remember, he was on the verge of retiring before the Rockies grabbed him.

Hanson improving: Injured Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson threw a 44-pitch side session Wednesday and felt fine. Another big step comes Thursday, as he'll see how his hampered throwing shoulder reacts (MLB.com). If anything big happens, we'll certainly be updating with a stand-alone post on Eye On Baseball. Hanson could be the difference between a first-round exit or going deep in the playoffs for the Braves.

Gracious Votto: Reigning NL MVP Joey Votto has emerged as an elite baseball player and he says that he owes "90 percent" of his success to his old coach back in Canada (Fox Sports Ohio). This isn't surprising. Votto is one of the most humble and classy players in baseball.

Happy Anniversary: Since 1980, the following All-Stars made their respective major-league debuts on September 15: Fernando Valenzuela (1980), Randy Johnson (1989), Cliff Lee (2002) and Rickie Weeks (2003). (Hardball Times)

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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