Powell Sniffs Around The Nats

Posted in Baseball at 7:02 pm by

Says Ben Schwartz,

I have no problem with Colin Powell buying into MLB baseball. I wish George W. Bush still was a baseball owner, so let’s hope it starts a trend.

(most of the photos of retired General Powell on Google Image Search are pretty dull, so instead, here’s a gratuitous snapshot of Sgt. Slaughter and Jim Cornette, at least one of whom would make an excellent owner of a baseball club. Lots of good stuff available if you type “Corporal Punishment”, however).

Carlos D.’s Green Light = The End Of NY’s Love Affair With Mr. Koo

Posted in Baseball at 4:48 pm by

The Newark Star Ledger’s Don Burke on the oft-replayed moment from the Mets’ 6-3 loss to Florida on Sunday.

Dae-Sung Koo still doesn’t know all that much about baseball here in the United States. But his education is an ongoing process and the Korean reliever learned a very important lesson yesterday.

Grooving a 3-0 fastball to Carlos Delgado is a mistake in any language.

Brought in specifically to face the Florida Marlins first baseman, Koo threw one right down Main Street and Delgado nearly hit it all the way to South Beach. His three-run homer in the seventh inning erased a one-run Mets lead and helped the Marlins avert the sweep with a 6-3 victory.

“I didn’t expect him to swing at it,” the reliever said. “Most of the batters in Korea and Japan don’t swing.”

Of course, Koo isn’t in the Far East anymore. And, as he found out the hard way that when major-league hitters see a fastball that’s just begging to be hit, they usually oblige.

“That was about as grooved as you can groove one,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

“I’m employee No. 25,” Delgado said when asked if he knew he had the green light. “I follow orders.”

(Delgado, center, congratulates reliever Todd Jones, left, on a) staying straight, b) not engaging in sex outside of marriage and c) earning his 8th save, not necessarily in that order).

In Koo’s defense, even the screamers doing the game for Fox Sports Miami were predicting that Delgado would take the 3-0 pitch (presumably neither of those guys should be relieving for the Mets, either). I’m not sure if Mike Difelice has learned how to say ‘don’t throw one right down the middle to Carlos Delgado” in multiple languages, but had Koo walked the bases full, we’d probably be hearing about it today as well.

The Bergen Record’s Steve Popper submits that the Mets are haunted by Delgado’s decision to spurn New York’s offer and instead sign with the Marlins, while the Times’ Charlie Nobles wonders along with the rest of us when Carlos Beltran will return to the starting lineup. (Maybe tuesday, maybe not.) Meanwhile, Newsday’s Jon Heyman is puzzled as to how Kaz Matsui managed to talk his way into yesterday’s game.

When Mets writers were looking for Jerry Manuel in an apparent attempt to uncover the story of how a man without a pulse might be hired to manage again (just a joke; the low-key Manuel would make a better hire than the no-key Art Howe), Manuel got a colorful heads-up from a Mets reliever who didn’t like their early reviews.

“Hey,” Roberto Hernandez yelled, “the rats are looking for you.”

Hernandez either has the idea that “rats” and “reporters” are synonymous or tried to reassert the clubhouse caste system, which still places reporters several pegs below relievers, even mediocre ones.

Anyway, we “rats” have to hand it to Hernandez. He still throws cheese (sorry, couldn’t resist), as does Bell, a nice surprise, and all their mates aren’t yet forming the disaster area everyone figured.

The Mets returned home relieved after the trip’s 0-3 start, and one thing to cheer is not playing the Braves in the next 37 games. You can say great things about the new, improved Mets, but everyone knows who’s the daddy in that relationship.

The Mets still turn to goo against Atlanta, responsible for the ugly part of this 3-4 trip. About Atlanta, Cliff Floyd conceded: “I think we’re thinking about it, and I think they know we’re thinking about it. It’s not that we’re waiting for something to happen. But when it does, we say, ‘Oh, –, here we go.’”

Funny, that was my very reaction to Matsui being back in the lineup after an eight-day hiatus. Matsui replaced Miguel Cairo, who had three hits, three runs and two steals in Saturday night’s victory (a good month for Matsui), after finally telling Randolph he was good to go.

Previously, Randolph said Matsui had described a less-than-perfect health situation. But once Matsui finally understood that Randolph wouldn’t play him until Matsui assured him he was perfectly fine, Randolph penciled Matsui back into the lineup.

Matsui and Randolph may understand each other now, but the game still confounds Matsui. When he failed to catch Matt Treanor’s pop-up, it was such a sophomoric miscue that Randolph wrongly figured it must’ve been part of some ingenious strategy to swap Treanor for the faster Alex Gonzalez, whom Matsui forced at second.

“I think he let it drop to change the runners,” Randolph guessed. Not in this lifetime. “I completely lost it in the sun,” Matsui said.

In any language, or in any culture, Matsui continues to play like garbage.

Another Clemens Start Wasted, Astros Sink Futher Into Oblivion

Posted in Baseball at 4:25 pm by

A day after winning their first away series of the season, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park with Roger Clemens on the hill, and true to form, provided no run support whatsoever for the 7 time Cy Young Award Winner, succumbing to the lowly Reds, 9-0. Clemens (7 K’s, 2 earned runs, 4 hits over 7 IP) saw a 2-0 deficit turned into a 9 run margin as John Franco and Russ Springer combined to face 8 batters and retire just one. Captain Fucko saw his ERA rise to 7.36 ; Springer , 8.62.

Cincy’s Aaron Harang (4-1) struck out 10 in 7 scoreless innings.

Morales Feasts On California League Pitching

Posted in Baseball at 2:35 pm by

This jet-lagged correspondent caught Kendry Morales homering in his U.S. pro debut for Rancho Cucamonga last weekend, and the LA Daily News’ Joe Haakenson reports that the young slugger has yet to cool off.

Kendry Morales is making a good first impression on the Angels’ organization. Going into Sunday’s game, Morales was hitting .343 with two homers, seven RBI and a .571 slugging percentage in eight games at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He struck out only four times in 35 at-bats.
How soon the 21-year-old Cuban defector rises through the ranks of the organization remains to be seen.

“It’s a daily evaluation of him,” said Tony Reagins, the Angels’ director of player development. “The coaching staff, the rovers, the front-office staff will see him as much as possible to see when is the right time to move him. Right now, there’s no timetable.”

Reagins would not rule out Morales reaching the big leagues this season.

“Anything could happen in this game,” he said. “If he shows progress that warrants him being here, he’ll be here. But to say it’ll be next month, or in two months, I don’t know if that’s fair to say.”

Morales (above) has been playing first base for the Quakes, but he also can play third base and the outfield. His biggest adjustment has been off the field.

“He does things fluidly and has power to all fields,” Reagins said. “But he’s still getting acclimated to the States. The language barrier is something he has to get comfortable with. He speaks almost no English. It’s just a different environment for him.”

The Hammers Are Going Up

Posted in Football at 12:36 pm by

Courtesy of former Brighton/Spurs striker Bobby Zamora’s 57th minute goal, West Ham United are back in England’s top flight after a two season exile, beating Preston North End 1-0 earlier today in Cardiff.

Rumors that Michael Jackson will commemorate the event by rush releasing a single of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” are not only untrue, but the joke is older than dirt, too.

Davidoff : Nippon Professional Baseball Cool Towards WBC

Posted in Baseball at 11:30 am by

In Sunday’s Newsday, Ken Davidoff writes that Japanese baseball officials aren’t yet sold on the idea of MLB’s World Baseball Classic.

The NPB’s concerns are: 1) Money, of course. The Japanese professional teams think Major League Baseball wants too big a piece of the pie, believed to be 35 percent. A person sympathetic to MLB countered that the 10 Japanese teams would make more, per team, than the 30 MLB clubs, and that MLB, assuming far more risk, should get far more in return.

2) Timing. The Japanese team would begin practice in the second week of February, and if it did well, it could be together until the March 20 final. That would devastate NPB’s spring training, which it regards more seriously than MLB does its own. The Japanese clubs place a premium on team harmony.

3) Personalities. Key Japanese officials simply don’t seem to care for either Selig or Archey. And the wide cultural void as to what constitutes a negotiation has caused further tension. The Japanese generally don’t enjoy the “give and take” of an American-style negotiation. Ideally, a mutually acceptable solution is found at the beginning, and that hasn’t happened.

Of course, Japan could look petty, and perhaps even cowardly, if it declined to play. So the NPB would have to pin the blame on MLB.

With Japan around or not, we just don’t see how this whole idea – brilliant in theory – plays out. If you’re Selig ally Fred Wilpon, for example, how do you explain to your ticket-holders that you’re pushing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to exert themselves physically for contests that have nothing to do with the Mets’ playoff run? If you’re Randy Johnson and you’re racing the clock to reach 300 career victories, do you really want to make a “withdrawal” from your finite pitch account to help win an exhibition game?

If Only His Mom Tried This Hard, “GLOW” Would Still Be On The Air

Posted in Boxing at 11:00 am by

From the NY Times’ Ben Sisario.

In Tuesday’s season finale of “The Contender,” NBC’s boxing reality show, Sergio Mora defeated Peter Manfredo Jr. in seven rounds, winning $1 million. But viewers were treated to a pummeling of their own during the blow-by-blow commentary, as Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard repeatedly called for a sequel.

“I know the fight’s not even over yet,” Mr. Stallone said roughly 15 minutes into the bout, “but I gotta start thinking about a rematch.”

“I think it’s natural, Sly,” Mr. Leonard replied. “Rematch is natural.”

Given the show’s absence from NBC’s recent presentations of its fall lineup, were their calls for a rematch a coded appeal to television executives to give the show a second chance? Mark Burnett, who created “The Contender,” insists they were not.

“It was just natural exuberance from Sly and Ray – the fight was so close,” he said in a telephone interview late last week, adding that he expected to announce another fight this week and that a rematch of the two fighters is a strong possibility. “You’ve got to remember,” he said, “we don’t consider ‘The Contender’ to be in the reality TV business. We’re in the boxing business. Our business plan all along was to continue along with these fighters.”

Olney’s Journalism Tips For Sabean

Posted in Baseball at 12:23 am by

ESPN’s Buster Olney on Brian Sabean and the Giants GM’s complaints about recent media scrutiny of Barry Bonds.

On Friday, he told reporters that the coverage of Bonds has been “absurd” and “National Enquirer-type” over the past few months, taking aim specifically at MLB.com and ESPN. “I understand why, but the frustrating thing is there’s a season going on and other storylines,” said Sabean. “It’s reached an all-time low — it’s not journalism in any form. We’re all having to respond to non-stories and non-issues that are fabricated, contrived, you can paint whatever picture you want ¦ The absurdity is that all this attention is being paid to someone not in uniform.”

Too bad. Because now we know Brian Sabean could never be a good news editor. See, you have to have some degree of toughness to do that job.

If Sabean was tougher, he wouldn’t whine about the messengers. He’d take his beef about specific stories right to the source of some of the information: Barry Bonds. The reason why MLB.com, in particular, has had some Bonds stories is that Barry Bonds trusts the reporter, Barry Bloom. If Sabean has a problem with some of the information going through MLB.com, he could simply confront Bonds. The guess here is that he won’t be doing that any time soon.

If Sabean was tough, he wouldn’t go after Bloom, a reporter who is just doing his job; Sabean would go after the guy who ultimately oversees the company for which Bloom works. Sabean might’ve heard of him: His name is Bud Selig. The guess here is that Sabean won’t be doing that any time soon.

I attended the winter meeting when ESPN discussed the idea of assigning a reporter to Bonds daily this season. There was no discussion of knee infections or IV bags or crutches at the time. It was all about chronicling Bonds’ pursuit of Aaron’s record. The estimate was that he would probably break the record in May of 2006. We talked about interviewing peers, rivals, and retired players about Bonds. And we talked about steroids, of course; that’s now a part of the story that will follow Bonds right into history.

Since then, the story has taken a right-hand turn. The story didn’t end; it veered. Pedro Gomez continues to report, aggressively. And because the Giants haven’t had control of Bonds’ regimen — for years, actually — it’s gotten inconvenient for Sabean and other club executives. That’s why he is attacking the messenger and has become a news editor.

Maybe they didn’t teach Sabean the meaning of the word ‘fabrication’ in the ombudsman classes he apparently took: To concoct, in order to deceive.

That’s a pretty strong accusation, and it’s absurd. He is suggesting that Gomez is simply generating stories with his imagination, based on no factual information. That would be like saying that Sabean’s failure to sufficiently stock the Giants’ bullpen last year was because of some secret desire for the Dodgers’ to win. Ridiculous, and irresponsible, and he should know better. Sabean’s claim that stories have been fabricated is a fabrication, in itself.

The guess here is that Bonds will be back, reporters will once again flock to Giants’ games, ticket sales will increase — Ka-Ching — and Sabean won’t complain about the buzz swirling around his team.


Heyman On The Mets’ Amateur Draft Plans

Posted in Baseball at 9:58 pm by

from Jon Heyman in Sunday’s Newsday :

Omar Minaya and his execs have seen St. John’s reliever Craig Hansen (above) so much, you’d think it’s a done deal at No. 9. But some insiders suspect the Mets are watching the local product (Glen Cove) partly for positive press and might take Florida prep outfielder Andrew McCutchen, 6-7 Wichita State righthander Mike Pelfrey or University of Miami third baseman Ryan Braun instead. USC catcher Jeff Clement is moving up but might go to Milwaukee (fifth) or Toronto (sixth).

One scout is convinced the Mets will take Pelfrey (above) after Minaya saw him in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. “The Tigers [picking 10th] are absolutely sick. He was throwing 95, 96 all game,” the scout said.

Mets VP of player development and scouting Gary LaRocque’s draft power has been diminished. The problem isn’t first-rounders (burgeoning star David Wright offsets all the misses) but rounds two and down, which have produced little.

The night after the Red Sox punished Yankee pitching to the tune of 17 runs and 27 hits, it was crucial that the Pinstripes received a solid outing from Mike Mussina (above). It figures then, that Moose exited after just 3 innings and 3 home runs allowed, two of ‘em on bombs by David Ortiz, another by the suddenly resurgent Edgar Renteria. After serving up a pair of first inning HR’s to Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield respectively, David Wells, seems to have settled down, though no 4 run lead is safe with the 2005 version of the Sultan Of Sloth on the mound.

With both teams’ starting pitching woes, I’d call the Red Sox and Yankees the AL’s premier softball sides, though such a dubious honor do a disservice to this year’s Rangers…and Texas have some serious pitching, with the oft-maligned Chan Ho Park (above) finally contributing.

The Old “Throw Your Glove At A Ball In Play” Trick

Posted in Baseball at 4:12 pm by

As the D-Backs and Padres continue to put distance between themselves and the rest of the NL West, the trailing clubs keep finding new ways to lose. Rather than recap the bizarro last few innings of last nights Arizona/LA game, I’ll let Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Weisman do it for you.

(Javier Vazquez, remained in the game for offense)

The Dodgers have staked Jeff Weaver to a 3-0 lead early in today’s contest in Phoenix. Weaver is looking more and more like Jeff Jarrett gone hackey-sac, and I apologize in advance if Michael Corcoran already made that observation in one of his columns. If you’re a Mets fan not quite sickened enough by today’s defeat at the hands of Carlos Delgado and the Marlins, you’ll note that Jason Phillips’s batting average is nearly 30 points higher than that of Mike Piazza, their slugging and on base percentages are pretty close…and the former is earning about $15 million less than the latter.