Minor League Umpiring Strike Ends

Posted in Baseball at 2:56 am by

From the New Britain Herald’s Ken Lipshez.

The Rock Cats were notified early Tuesday that the striking minor league umpires union had ratified a new six-year collective bargaining agreement and will return to work on or before Monday’s game.

The new pact increases salaries by $100 per month and daily meal-money allowance by $3 a day. The union – Association of Minor League Umpires – rejected a similar deal a month ago. Salaries in the Eastern League average out at about $12,000 over the 5½ months of the season, according to the umpires.

Umps had said their salaries previously averaged $15,000 at Triple-A, $12,000 at Double-A, $10,000 in full-season A-ball and $5,500 in rookie leagues.

As part of the new deal, per diems rise $3 to $28 at Triple-A, $25 at Double-A and $23 at Class A. They will rise gradually to $40 at Triple-A in 2011, $35 at Double-A and $30 at Class A.

In the meantime, the incalculable damage done to the careers of Delmon Young and Tim Ireland won’t be redressed.

Life & Death Of A Rip City One-Tracker

Posted in Basketball at 2:49 am by

Jason Cohen forwards the following item from Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith which ran on Monday :

The Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA’s most repressive regime, appear to be becoming more so with a new media policy that includes tape recording interviews between reporters and players. Not surprisingly, the dysfunctional Blazers already have had to apologize to the Portland Oregonian for getting quotes wrong in their transcript.

Commissioner David Stern, during a media session last week in San Antonio in which no member of his staff thought to record the questions and answers, was asked about Portland’s new policy, unheard of in the NBA, and responded: “I haven’t had the opportunity [to see the policy], but I think they ought to have some discussions with the Chinese government to see if they can align their policies.”

Stern joked he would “love to muzzle everyone in this room and have you print exactly the story that we’d like.” But he added, turning serious, that he was proud of the NBA’s media access, which is a conduit to its fans, and that it disappoints him when one of the teams doesn’t pursue that goal.

Of course, Stern said, “I don’t know all the facts. I read it in a newspaper, which is inherently unreliable.”

Have we got the funniest commissioner, or what?

In a completely unrelated note, Blazers GM John Nash was relieved of his duties yesterday. The Oregonian’s John Canzano figures it’s just as well, as Nash didn’t have nearly enough autonomy.

I asked Nash often about the team’s three-headed management team, and he usually said something like, “This franchise isn’t run unlike a lot of others. This is my job. I’m part of this.” And maybe some of that is true, but anyone who has observed the sociological experiment going on at One Center Court knows there is only one other show like this on Earth.Even that one has a ringleader.

This is one of those days I wish we could call in investigators, tape off the franchise with yellow crime-scene tape, and dust for fingerprints. I suspect we’d find that Nash’s prints would show up sparingly. He overruled scouts and drafted Sebastian Telfair two years ago, for sure. Best we can tell, he pulled the trigger, too, on signing free agents Steve Blake ($1 million salary), Joel Przybilla ($1.6 million) and Juan Dixon ($2.5 million).

That is, he had the juice to make the little moves. And you know, he jabbed with the best of them. But it’s haymakers — the knockout moves, for crying out loud — this franchise needed most during this era. And those were noticeably absent. Someone always stood in the way.


Waechter Lives, Dies By The Splange

Posted in Baseball at 10:31 pm by

Every wonder where new pitching innovations come from? Me neither. Fortunately, Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times is the inquisitive type. (link lifted from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory).

When Doug Waechter was warming up to pitch in Boston on Thursday, he didn’t have a good feel for the split-finger fastball he had debuted in his previous start.

He fidgeted with his grip until it felt comfortable and ended up somewhere between how he holds the ball for a splitter and how he holds it for a changeup, with his index finger on the side of the ball and his middle finger on a seam.

From that, the “splange” was born.

“I just figured I’d compromise. I decided I’d grip it right in between and let it rip,” Waechter said. “I’d never even thought about it before. It was one of those things that just comes to you.”

Waechter figures he threw the “splange” about eight times Thursday, including several to Boston slugger Manny Ramirez, and usually with good results. It isn’t as hard as his fastball, and it dropped dramatically out of the strike zone.

He plans to throw more “splanges” again tonight when he starts against the Orioles. “It worked, so I might as well stick with it,” he said.

Waechter may have invented the pitch, but manager Joe Maddon took credit for the name. Pitching coach Mike Butcher was working the other direction, trying to call it a “chitter,” but Maddon liked the sound of “splange.”

Sadly for the Devil Rays, the spalnge wasn’t working too well on Tuesday night, Waechter’s record falling to 0-4 in a 7-5 loss to Baltimore. Miguel Tejada hit his 14th HR of the season in the O’s 3 run 5th.

As long as Mets fans are allowed to moan endlessly about the price paid for Victor Zambrano, consider the cost of Kris Benson ; Ty Wigginton, 12 HR’s and 39 RBI’s in the season’s first two months. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Wigginton had any long-term future to speak of in New York, but he’s not doing badly considering where he was at a year ago.

Detroit’s Best Team In A Dogfight (With Apologies To The North Shore Animal League)

Posted in Baseball at 10:00 pm by

Yankees 6, Tigers 6 (top of the 11th)

With the Pistons headed for a likely exit and the Red Wings long since adjourned to the golf course, the Tigers’ insane start to ’06 rightfully takes center stage, and tonight’s encounter with the Highlanders hasn’t lacked for drama. Detroit came back from deficits of 5-0 and 6-1, as I-Rod’s remarkable career resurrection continues unabated ; Pudge (3-5, 3 RBI’s) hit a solo HR to left off Aaron Small in the 3rd, and his retrieval of a Fernando Rodney wild pitch in the top of the 9th was a possible game-saver ; Rodney tagged out Robinson Cano at the plate. At first glance, it appeared as though Cano got in under the tag, but replays revealed his left foot popped up slightly just prior to making contact with the dish. For all the occastions in which umpires are slaughtered in this forum and everywhere else, let it be noted that Tim Tschida make a terrific call.

Diamondbacks 7, Mets 2

Nothing like a couple of days in Flushing to make Eric Brynes look like an All-Star. The cause of animal over-population aside (I could go on about Chris Cotter all night), there’s not much to say here. Miguel Batista pitched a decent game for the Snakes (CG, 9 hits, 2 earned runs, a solo HR allowed to Jose Valentin), Conor Jackson should’ve already rendered Tony Clark someone else’s first baseman, Alay Soler was horrible, Darren Oliver just fine in relief….and Lastings Milledge (above) not only had a double in his 3rd big league at bat, but he’s got a huge gold crucifix that’s sure to create serious glare problems on a summer day.

CSTB’s Greatest Hits : Mets’ Promo Dept. In The Doghouse

Posted in Baseball, Dogs at 7:10 pm by

Though the big story for most is Lastings Milledge making his big league debut against the Snakes, the duo of Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez have reminded us that this evening marks the New York Mets’ 2nd Annual Dog Day (night?) at Shea Stadium, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the North Shore Animal League.

The following item appeared on CSTB last August 18.

(they don’t care where the money is going…though perhaps they should)

On the surface, the New York Mets’ announcement that tomorrow night (Saturday, 8/20) is “Dog Day In The Park” at Shea, seems like fun-fun-fun for everyone. Canine fans of Jose Offerman, Gerald Williams and Braden Looper, can accompany their human guardians to Shea’s Picnic Area, where free Snausages will be offered to the dogs (Looper, however, has to buy his own).

There’s just one catch, however. Some of the proceeds from this event are being given to Port Washington, NY’s North Shore Animal League, the venerable non-profit organization that touts themselves as “the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption center.”

CSTB has tried over the past several days to find out a little more about NSAL. Remarkably, very few persons in the tri-state area’s animal rescue and/or animal rights community were willing to speak on the record, one woman citing NSAL’s alleged “$50 million war chest against litigation”.

John Contino (above) of New York’s Mighty Mutts, however, did not mince words in his characterization of NSAL :

“If i didn’t pick up a thousand animals with a NSAL tag on it, I didn’t pick up one. They simply don’t care who they adopt to. “

They claim that they’ve placed over 33,000 animals a year in homes…that they refuse 3 out of every 10 applications.” Contino, by contrast, says he approves adoption requests by fewer than 10 percent of those wishing to take home a rescue dog.

Then again, Contino doesn’t have a massive fund-raising apparatus to maintain, nor could an individual animal lover have anything whatsoever to gain by bringing thousands upon thousands of stray puppies and kittens into the NYC area and leaving other rescue organizations to deal with the aftermath of unwanted, unspayed or unneutered pets who’ve been abandoned.

I adopted a cat from NSAL in 1985. The process was slightly less arduous than buying a pack of gum.

Said Contino earlier today, “…if they (NSAL) were put out of business, New York City would be a better place.”

Vescey, D’Antoni Shoot The Messenger, Shit All Over The Message

Posted in Basketball at 6:41 pm by

So much for that Shawn Marion-to-Chicago rumor (one that was picked up by San Diego’s XEPRS today — hey, they’ve got the internet on computers)

From the New York Post’s Peter Vescey :

Despite how often Mike D’Antoni mocks reports that the Suns would entertain trading Shawn Marion this summer to Chicago or anywhere else, clueless reporters continue the stupid speculation.

“I don’t blame the Bulls or any team for wanting Shawn,” the Suns coach stated last week to a roomful of Phoenix media. “But how would we replace everything he does for us? It makes no sense whatsoever, especially with Amare coming off two surgeries!”

The Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy allows the Celtics’ Danny Ainge to take a bite out of the private-workout scene.

Depending on who is talking, University of Texas all-around center LaMarcus Aldridge and perimeter-oriented Italian big man Andrea Bargnani have the inside track on the top pick, held by Toronto.

Mark Bartlestein insists that his client, Adam Morrison, is the top guy. Tyrus Thomas, the raw LSU freshman forward, has passed through this territory. His agents, Brian Elfus and Mike Siegel, withdrew their invitation to a Thomas workout from the representative of one mock draft purveyor for pairing their athlete with the Celtics at pick No. 7.

But these agent-governed workouts appear to be increasing. Elfus and Siegel, who have yet to send their client on any individual team workouts – much less allow him to work out against another player – have indicated that their client will only work out for the top three teams.

It™s a good thing that in the event Thomas does indeed fall into the Celtics™ lap, Ainge already knows enough to make a decision.

œSometimes workouts can be tiebreakers, he said. œBut what™s becoming more and more bogus is that the agents are putting in more and more restrictions. Guys with late first-rounders want their guys to work out against guys (projected for) the lottery, and guys in the lottery don™t want to work out against guys who are expected to go lower.

œThere are guys you really want to see and a secondary group of guys you want to see if they hold up. But it™s a big thing trying to convince the agents that we™re serious about their guys. It™s gotten worse, but we™re prepared.

I don’t know what you were listening to several years ago, but those guys in Bristol were down with LCD Soundsystem a long time ago. (link ripped off from Basketbawful)

Dodgers Active Gagne, Reliever To Stay Inactive

Posted in Baseball at 5:38 pm by

Following a successful rehab stint with the PCL’s Las Vegas 51′s, Dodgers closer Eric Gagne has been moved from the disabled list. Since Gagne never served his two game suspension from 2005 — a ban related to his being on the Dodgers bench while on the DL — today’s move enables the Canadian to do the time while there’s no chance he’d be used before Thursday. Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Wiseman says this renders MLB’s punishment “meaningless”. Personally, I think A.J. Pierzynski should get a couple of days on top of this, just for living on the same continent as Gagne.

A day after Steve Henson hinted the Dodgers might be interested in DC’s Alfonso Soriano, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal proposes Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford as a likely target of Ned Colletti.

Rival clubs can do the math: The pending return of center fielder Rocco Baldelli from the disabled list will give the Rays five legitimate outfielders in the majors or at Triple-A.Baldelli, Crawford and Joey Gathright all are 25 or under.

Triple-A outfielder Elijah Dukes, one of the game’s most underrated prospects, ranks fourth in the International League in on-base/slugging percentage.

And Delmon Young, one of the best hitters in the minors, will return on June 19 from his 50-game suspension by the I.L. for throwing a bat that hit a replacement umpire in the chest.

By the off-season, at the latest, the Rays figure to entertain offers for at least one of those outfielders in their quest to stockpile young pitching.

Continuing on the Southern California tip, I’m happy to share the following :

1) Despite the noble efforts of neighborhood moralists, Reseda’s Frisky Kitty “has nine lives.”
2) Despite the passage of time, Kiss’ “I Was Made For Loving You” still occupies a prominent place on the jukebox at Barney’s Beanery.

Mets Promote Milledge, Place Nady On The DL

Posted in Baseball at 4:11 pm by

From MLB.com :

The New York Mets today placed outfielder Xavier Nady on the 15-Day Disabled List and recalled outfielder Lastings Milledge (above) from Norfolk (AAA) of the International League.

Nady underwent an appendectomy this morning at approximately 5:30 a.m. at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Xavier should be able to resume baseball activities in 7-10 days.

Clearly, the Mets have no interest in winning the International League this year.

In all seriousness, with Cliff Floyd suddenly coming alive over the past two weeks and Jose Valentin saving what’s left of his career, who’d have imagined Xavier Nady — drilled in the ribs last night  — would suddenly make way for Milledge?

Stephon Yearns For An MSG Urn

Posted in Basketball at 4:01 pm by

…and presumably, Larry Brown would settle for his death. From the New York Post’s Marc Berman. (link courtesy Jon Solomon)

While Knicks captain Stephon Marbury declined to discuss the ongoing Larry Brown saga, the star point guard from Coney Island was very clear about his own future, saying he wants to “die a Knick.”

“I want to be a Knick, I want to die a Knick,” Marbury told The Post in an exclusive Memorial-Day interview.

“If I ever was to be cremated, I’d want my ashes sprinkled on top of the Garden.”

“Playing here has always been my dream,” Marbury added. “I want to be in New York more than any place.”

He believes the current roster is playoff material, tons better than 23-59.

“I hope that every player on this team comes back next season,” Marbury said.

“I honestly mean that. Every player. I think we have a great team. I think it will be so much different next year.”

Replies Jon, “if the entire team returns, Marbury’s chances of dying a Knick should go up (as I assume Tommy Hoops will kill him.)”

Davidoff : Clemens Signs With Houston

Posted in Baseball at 3:54 pm by

(The Rocket, realizing that you can buy a lot of eye black and hair frost for $10 million)

From Newsday’s Ken Davidoff : (link courtesy Maura Johnston)

Roger Clemens is making yet another comeback with the Houston Astros, Newsday has learned. An announcement is expected as soon as today.

Clemens, 43, has signed a one-year deal that is believed to be worth about $3.5 million per month, which will probably equate to about $10.5 million for the season, depending on when exactly he returns to action.

(UPDATE : quoted by ESPN.com, Astros GM Tim Purpura has denied the Newsday report, claiming the situation is “status quo”. And who amongst us doesn’t love Status Quo?)