Oct 30

Free Agency Frenzy About To Begin; Mets Expected To Sit

The foul pop-up wasn’t even caught by Pablo Sandoval, when the question was already being asked: Will the Giants keep their free-agent third baseman?

Sandoval is one of several dozen players who became eligible for free-agency this morning, a list that includes Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Nelson Cruz, Hanley Ramirez, Melky Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jonny Gomes. None of whom will likely play in Flushing this summer.

Of course, there is always Chris Young.

Michael Cuddyer has been linked to the Mets, but his asking price might be too steep to plug him into left field. He made $10.5 million last season, and I don’t see the Mets going that high. Especially since the Mets aren’t expected to add more than $10 million in payroll over the winter.

Here’s the list of free agents:

Catchers

John Buck, Angels
Ryan Doumit, Red Sox
Gerald Laird, Braves
Russell Martin, Pirates
Wil Nieves, Phillies
A.J. Pierzynski, Cardinals

Humberto Quintero, Mariners
David Ross, Red Sox
Geovany Soto, Athletics

First Basemen

Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
Corey Hart, Mariners
Lyle Overbay, Brewers

Mark Reynolds, Brewers

Second Basemen

Mark Ellis, Cardinals
Rafael Furcal, Marlins
Kelly Johnson, Orioles
Ramon Santiago, Reds

Shortstops

Clint Barmes, Pirates
Asdrubal Cabrera, Nationals
Stephen Drew, Yankees

Jed Lowrie, Athletics

John McDonald, Angels
Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers

Third Basemen

Alberto Callaspo, Athletics

Jack Hannahan, Reds
Chase Headley, Yankees
Pablo Sandoval, Giants

Outfielders

Norichika Aoki, Royals
Emilio Bonifacio, Braves
Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays
Endy Chavez, Mariners
Nelson Cruz,Orioles
Chris Denorfia, Mariners
Jonny Gomes, Athletics
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners
Scott Hairston, Nationals
Torii Hunter, Tigers
Reed Johnson, Marlins
Ryan Ludwick, Reds
Mike Morse, Giants
Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays
Nate Schierholtz, Nationals
Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees
Josh Willingham, Royals
Chris Young, Yankees
Delmon Young, Orioles

Designated Hitters

Jason Giambi, Indians
Raul Ibanez, Royals
Victor Martinez, Tigers
Kendrys Morales, Mariners

Starting Pitchers

Scott Baker, Rangers
Chris Capuano, Yankees
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
Kevin Correia, Dodgers
Gavin Floyd, Braves
Jason Hammel, Athletics
Aaron Harang, Braves
Roberto Hernandez, Dodgers
Kyle Kendrick, Phillies
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees
Jon Lester, Athletics
Colby Lewis, Rangers
Francisco Liriano, Pirates
Paul Maholm, Dodgers
Justin Masterson, Cardinals
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mets
Brandon McCarthy, Yankees
Jake Peavy, Giants
Ervin Santana, Braves
Johan Santana, Orioles
Joe Saunders, Orioles
Max Scherzer, Tigers
James Shields, Royals
Carlos Villanueva, Cubs
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
Edinson Volquez, Pirates
Chris Young, Mariners

Right-handed relievers

Matt Albers, Astros
Burke Badenhop, Red Sox
Matt Belisle, Rockies
Jared Burton, Twins

Joba Chamberlain, Tigers
Jesse Crain, Astros
Jason Frasor, Royals
Luke Gregerson, Athletics
Kevin Gregg, Marlins
Jason Grilli, Angels
Joel Hanrahan, Tigers
Luke Hochevar, Royals
Casey Janssen, Blue Jays
Jim Johnson, Tigers
Matt Lindstrom, White Sox
Nick Masset, Rockies
Jason Motte, Cardinals
Pat Neshek, Cardinals
Chris Perez, Dodgers
David Robertson, Yankees
Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers
Sergio Romo, Giants
Tim Stauffer, Padres
Koji Uehara, Red Sox
Jose Veras, Astros
Jamey Wright, Dodgers

Left-handed relievers

Joe Beimel, Mariners
Phil Coke, Tigers
Neal Cotts, Rangers
Scott Downs, Royals
Zach Duke, Brewers
Tom Gorzelanny, Brewers
Rich Hill, Yankees
Andrew Miller, Orioles
Franklin Morales, Rockies
Joe Thatcher, Angels

Oct 29

Who Really Cares About The Ratings?

Word is the ratings for this World Series have been among the lowest ever. Probably because San Francisco and Kansas City aren’t marquee franchises.

Funny, but hasn’t Major League Baseball’s biggest argument for revenue sharing was to give the “small market’’ teams a chance at being competitive?

The Bay Area is a substantial market, but the Giants aren’t the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs or Red Sox, the so called glamour teams.

All along, MLB has been clamoring for competitive balance and when they get it, the gripe is nobody is watching.

Major League Baseball isn’t happy about this pairing, and FOX Sports isn’t happy. And, the fans of tomorrow and the elderly fans aren’t happy because the games are on too late.

Hopefully, somebody is enjoying this Series. Ratings? I don’t care about ratings. All I know is I am watching.

Oct 28

What Game 6 History Will Be Made Tonight?

A classic World Series is usually defined by seven games, but that can’t be without a Game 6. One way or another, it ends after Game 7.

Gone is the sense of urgency, of desperation, of finality, by the team trailing entering Game 6. The feeling the game could turn on any play hangs like a cloud over the trailing team.

FISK: Best game ever?

FISK: Best game ever?

Many of baseball’s most dramatic moments were born in a Game 6.

I have put together a list of the most compelling Game Sixes in World Series history.

Note: For this list, a Series must go seven games, which excludes Toronto’s 1992 championship over Philadelphia, which, despite ending on Joe Carter’s walk-off homer, lasted six games.

These are only World Series games, and to make the list, I must have watched the game.

IF IT STAYS FAIR:  One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Fisk’s game-ending homer in the 12th inning as Boston beat Cincinnati, 7-6. Fisk’s homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

Fisk’s moment delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park.

THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared to the Fisk game as the Cardinals twice were one strike away from elimination, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.

The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs.

Local boy, David Freese, tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth and won it with a homer in the 11thinning.

The game-turned-heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER:  Another moment etched in time is the ball that squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series. Down to their last out, the Mets rallied for three runs to beat Boston, 6-5, with the game-winner coming on Mookie Wilson’s dribbler through Buckner’s legs.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, and overcame a three-run deficit to do it.

That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Keith Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER:  One of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.

The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then routed the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW:  That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt to keep the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.

HAIL, THE RALLY MONKEY: I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.

Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game-ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win, then won Game 7.

ORIOLES STAY ALIVE:  The Orioles faced elimination when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

This was Roberto Clemente’s World Series, which was noted for playing games at night for the first time.

Who knows what history will be written tonight?

 

 

Oct 21

This Series Could Be Special

For as long as I have loved baseball, first as a Little Leaguer with an active imagination, and then as a journalist covering the game I was not good enough to play on the major league level, the World Series always held a special place for me.

I remember bits and pieces of the 1969 Series, but confess I was shocked like most of the country. I admit to playing hooky from school to watch the 1970 Series, but maybe it served me right because I pulled for the Reds.

searchMy favorite Series was the 1975 Red Sox-Reds. Although disappointed in the outcome, it was compelling because of it went seven and Game Six was arguably the best game in history. There was Bernie Carbo’s game-tying homer; Carlton Fisk’s game-winner; and Dwight Evans’ game saving catch.

One of the great stories coming from that Series was Pete Rose telling Fisk something along the lines of, “this is a great game, isn’t it?’’

Next up was Twins-Braves with the classic Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7. If not the Fisk game, maybe this was history’s best.

I covered all the Yankees’ titles under Joe Torre, but the most dramatic of them was one they lost, in 2001, to Arizona. Go figure, perhaps the worst throw of Mariano Rivera’s career was after fielding that bunt in the ninth inning of Game 7.

A lot of historic homers were hit in that Series, but my favorite moments the fans chanting Paul O’Neill’s name; the bald eagle Challenger scattering the Yankees before the anthem; and George Bush throwing a ceremonial pitch perfect strike.

Each Series has its defining moment or story line, and I can only imagine what it will be this year.

Some match-ups are more compelling than others, but Giants-Royals – regardless of what ESPN says – will be a Series worthy of our attention. There was actually a Sports Center lead-in actually daring to ask if these teams “deserved,’’ to be there.

The fact is, baseball itself bears responsibility for the appearance of an “unworthy’’ match-up because it tampers with the integrity of its season with interleague play and the unbalanced schedule forcing teams to run different courses to the finish line.

However, these teams, based on being a wild-card entry, each played an additional game. They took on all comers – each having to beat the team with the best record in their league.

They also play the game the way it should be, with pitching, defense, timely hitting and solid bullpens. Both can also hit the long ball when needed, but neither survive by the homer, which is refreshing.

I believe this one has the capability of going seven, which defines “classic,’’ to me. Both teams have reason to believe they can be considered a team of destiny.

I can’t wait to find out which one.

Oct 20

Manning’s Record Brings Baseball’s Shame To Forefront

Like many, I tuned in last night to see Peyton Manning break the career touchdown pass record, which got me to wondering which record is more impressive, the home run or the touchdown pass?

It also got me to think if Barry Bonds was as gracious as Manning was, that he might be considered beloved instead of as a churl. Manning singled out his coaches and teammates – both in Denver and Indianapolis – but with Bonds I can’t forget the image of him in the Giants’ clubhouse with a big screen television and leather recliner by his locker.

There was also the time shortly after joining the Giants he walked into a pitcher’s meeting and said to his new teammates, “I took you deep … I took you deep … I took you deep.’’

Then, there are the steroids.

There is no disputing Manning holds the NFL’s passing record, one that required help from all his teammates.

But, what is sad is baseball’s most cherished record is forever tarnished. Many won’t acknowledge Bonds is the career record holder, and instead favor Hank Aaron. I am among this group.

So, on a night when the sports world should’ve rejoiced in Manning, baseball tradition again took a beating.

And, that’s sad.