As managers trot out one prospect after another, and painstakingly
analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly of their prospective teams,
fans anxiously tap their collective feet, counting down the days until
the regular season kicks off. The long and dreary days of spring
training can be just as monotonous for fans as it is for veteran
players practicing the “wheel” play or hitting the cut off man for the
umpteenth time. So, whenever there’s a chance to break up the toil with
some fun, or manufactured excitement, players and fans alike get a
Giddy is exactly how many baseball fans felt today when the Yankees
squared off against the Pirates in what would normally be just another
Grapefruit league game. What made this game different was a small
lifelong Yankee fan wearing the # 60 in honor of his 60th birthday.
Leading off for the Bronx Bombers was none other than comedian Billy Crystal,
or the Yankees “Designated Hebrew” (DH) as he likes to call himself. It
was a perfect moment of levity and anticipation that makes these
ultra-long days of spring barely bearable for the baseball fan.
To his credit, Crystal actually got ahead in the count, 3-1, against Pirates lefty Paul Maholm.
He even hit a foul chopper down the first base line. But then Maholm,
making sure not to be the butt of jokes for the rest of spring
training, bared down. He threw two 88 mph fastballs, that the 60 year
old comic swung over, “strike three, yer out!”. The fans rose to give
him a standing ovation, while Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez
retrieved the ball as one more birthday gift, a gift this life-long
Yankee fan will probably hold as dear as any of his many entertainment
While this moment might not ever be as memorably odd as 3 ft. 7 in. Eddie Gaedel stepping in the batters box for the St. Louis Browns; or Grandstand Manager’s Day, where thousands of fans got to manage the St. Louis Browns for a game through raised placards; or the White Sox’ infamous Disco Demolition Night, legendary major league baseball team owner Bill Veeck (the greatest baseball promoter of all-time) would have been proud.
Bill Veeck Would Have Needed Weight Watchers
On the opposite spectrum of odd promotions, the Pittsburgh Pirates have
announced that they will designate certain seating sections this
season, “All You Can Eat”
sections. So, as Pirate fans gear up to endure a record tying 16th
straight losing season, they can anesthetize themselves on all the hot
dogs, hamburgers, nachos, or ice cream that they want. And if you’re
health conscious, don’t worry, you can even chow down an unlimited
amount of Salad. Ugh!
***Below are You Tube links for anyone who missed Billy Crystal’s Yankee AB:
Exclusive Interview w/ NY Post Writer Joel Sherman at 12:00 PM Sunday!
If you want to start out your Super Bowl Sunday the right way, join us
at 12:00 PM (2/3/08) on BASEBALL TALK Radio with your hosts Carl the
Cabbie & Dugout Joe. Our guest will be acclaimed author, journalist
and the NY Post’s baseball writer, Joel Sherman.
Joel became the Post’s New York Yankees’ beat writer in 1989 and has
been a columnist with the Post since 1996. He is the author of “Birth of a Dynasty”,
the ultimate retrospective on the 1996 Yankees and the beginning of the
Yankees’ latest great run that began in the mid-1990’s. If you have a
question for Joel or want to discuss anything baseball, call in between
12:30-1:00 PM at 646-478-4570. We promise you’ll get on!
If you want to listen live, or even if you wake up too late and miss
the live interview, you can always hear it any time you like by
clicking on the link below:
(Click Above To Listen)
The routine mantra of most GMs is, “never give a starting pitcher more than a five year deal”. The thinking being that the proclivity for injury in that time span is just too high. But, if there’s one exception to that rule, it is probably Johan Santana– the best pitcher in baseball.
SI.com and FoxSports.com have just confirmed a deal between the Twins and Mets for Johan Santana. The Mets now have a 72-hour window to come to terms with Santana on a contract extension. It’s believed that the Mets would like to sign the left handed 28-year old pitcher to a five-year deal, while Santana is seeking a six or seven year deal. If you consider that Barry Zito, who is ten months older than Santana, received a seven year deal from the Giants last season, Santana is almost a lock to receive the same length of contract. It is also highly unlikely that the Mets would agree to this deal if they weren’t willing to meet Santana’s contract demands.
While the nuts and bolts are being fastened, Mets’ fans should expect to pop the champagne cork by this Friday at the latest. While the names of the players going from the Mets to the Twins hasn’t been confirmed, USA Today is reporting that the quartet heading to Minnesota will be, OF Carlos Gomez, SP Deolis Guerra, SP Kevin Mulvey, and SP Philip Humber. Jon Heyman of SI.com mentions that there has been talk of substituting swing pitcher Jorge Sosa for Humber, and there have been rumors that the the Mets’ top prospect, OF Fernando Martinez could still replace Gomez. However,giving more clout to the USA Today report is the news that the Mets did call Gomez back to the states the other day even though his winter ball team was in the midst of the Caribbean World Series.
If the Mets indeed have dealt Guerra, Gomez, Mulvey, and Humber and we were to use the Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospects list as a barometer, then the Mets would be dealing their # 2 (Guerra), # 3 (Gomez), # 4 (Mulvey), and # 7 (Humber) prospects for the right to sign the best pitcher in baseball to a deal that should be the richest contract ever signed by a pitcher. The contract will probably end up looking something like 7-years/$150 Million.
Once the deal is finalized, the Mets will enter the 2008 season with a rotation that will be hard for the rest of the AL East to compete with:
# 1- Johan Santana
# 2- Pedro Martinez
# 3- John Maine
# 4- Oliver Perez
# 5- Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez
So, rejoice Mets’ fans, it’s almost time to celebrate. Get ready to don your # 57 jerseys, break out your “You Gotta Believe” signs, the Mets just got a WHOLE lot better, and Santana-Mania is about to hit the Big Apple!
Carl the Cabbie
How much is an all-star RHSP, a solid switch-hitting corner OF, and a
gimpy CF who is on the better side of thirty worth in today’s market.
Well, if you consider wunderkind GM Billy Beane the Alan Greenspan
of baseball, the answer is 11 prospects. To be more accurate, that
would add up to 3 Gold Star prospects, 3 Blue Chip prospects, 3 Above
Average prospects, and 2 Average prospects.
In the space of one month, Billy the bean counter has not only
rebuilt the A’s farm system with legitimate prospects, he has acquired
one of the toughest things to acquire in baseball—lefthanded starting
pitching. Of the 11 players acquired in these three deft deals, 4 of
them are LHSP, 2 of which are Gold Star, top of the line prospects.
Breakdown of Trades
Dan Haren Deal
Twins GM Bill Smith might want to study this deal when negotiating
the bounty he is seeking in return for Johan Santana. If we simply go
by Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospects list, Beane traded his ace pitcher for the Diamondbacks’ # 1 (outfielder, Carlos Gonzalez), #3 (left handed starting pitcher, Brett Anderson), # 7 (outfielder, Aaron Cunningham), and # 8 (first baseman, Chris Carter) prospects, plus two average left handed starting pitcher prospects (Greg Smith and Dana Eveland).
way to look at it is that Beane traded an all-star RHSP, who has three
financially controllable years left on his contract before he hits
free-agency, for what will likely be the A’s starting RF in 2009
(Gonzalez); a LHSP (Anderson) that should be a member of the A’s
rotation by 2010; their possible fourth OF (Cunningham) by 2009; their
possible 1B or DH (Carter) by 2010; and two LH pitchers (Smith and
Eveland) who could compete in 2008 either as back-end starters or long
This trade by Beane is another feather in his cap when you consider
that by the time the A’s are good again, Haren will be a free-agent, a
free-agent that the A’s would never have been able to afford.
Nick Swisher Deal
This deal might end up even better for the A’s than the Haren deal.
While Swisher is a solid, young switch-hitting OF/1B with good power,
what the A’s received fromm the White Sox for him is astonishing. In a
three-for-one steal, the A’s received the White Sox’ three
top-prospects. Though this trade occurred before Baseball America’s
2008 Top Prospect compilation, OF Ryan Sweeney (Baseball America’s # 1 White Sox prospect in 2007), LHSP Gio Gonzalez, and RHSP Fautino De Los Santos almost assuredly would have topped the list.
Gonzalez (the Sox’ 2004 # 1 pick) might be ready to contribute as soon
as 2008. After having been dealt to the Phillies for Jim Thome in 2005,
he was traded back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia in 2007. Only 21 years
of age, Gio dominated the Southern league last year in his second
season at Double-A. If he continues to improve, he should join fellow southpaw Brett
Anderson in the A’s rotation by 2009.
While almost every scout who has seen them agrees that Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los
Santos were the White Sox’ top two pitching prospects, some feel De Los
Santos could be even better than Gonzalez. De Los Santos dominated
A-ball opponents in 2007 and though not as experienced as Gonzalez,
many scouts feel he could arrive in the majors in a hurry, possibly as
a member of the A’s rotation in 2009.
The caveat to this trade could be OF Ryan Sweeney. The left handed
hitting 23-year old could end up being a better overall player than
Swisher, albeit less power. In 2007 Sweeney probably possessed the best
throwing arm in the entire White Sox system, and is a far superior
defensive outfielder to Swisher. In his last two seasons in the
minors, he finally started to show some power and because of his short
compact swing, his .289 career minor league average should translate
well in the majors. Sweeney has a good chance at being the A’s fourth
outfielder in 2008 and could contend for the starting CF or LF job in
Mark Kotsay Deal
At the rate Billy Beane is going, he could pass Ricky Henderson on the
all-time “steals” list sometime soon. After letting Andruw Jones walk,
the Braves needed a CF so badly that they decided to part with their
2005 # 1 pick, relief pitcher Joey Devine,
for a 32-year old left fielder whose best days are behind him. Just to
make sure the trade was lopsided enough, the Braves threw in A-ball
prospect, RHP Jamie Richmond.
Kotsay’s bum back has been so bad the past two years that he’s missed a
total of 139 games in that span. Besides grabbing a young power
throwing right handed reliever who could turn out to be the perfect
set-up man to Houston Street, Beane saves a nice chunk of change,
$3-million, for the 2008 season.
While Devine struggled with his confidence through a rough 2006, he
was absolutely dazzling in 2007 in Double and Triple-A. Don’t be
surprised if the 24-year old Devine ends up as one of the best set-up
men in the AL when 2008 is all said and done.
By the time 2010 or 2011 rolls around, when Dan Haren is looking for
the highest bidder on the free-agent market, and Nick Swisher is
spittng sunflower seeds on the bench as the White Sox DH, and Mark
Kotsay is looking into his first coaching job, the A’s should be ready
to contend again.
With probable deals for Joe Blanton and Eric Chavez on the way, the
A’s farm system will be bulging with top prospects. In three years, if
things work out for Beane and his scouts, the A’s could be the giant
once again looking down at the rest of the AL West. And we can all look
back at the winter of 2007-2008, and say that was the year Billy the bean counter
built a new beanstalk.
Amount Billy The Bean Counter Saved A’s For 2008
Mark Kotsay- $3-Million (A’s pick up $5-million of his salary)
Dan Haren- $4-Million
Nick Swisher- $3.5-Million
*Subtract approximately $2-Million for the 11 prospects
Approximate Total Savings For 2008- $8.5-Million
If you want to listen to an insightful round table discussion about the Mitchell Report with three baseball pundits, join BASEBALL TALK w/Carl the Cabbie & Dugout Joe. Click below to listen:
The Astros signed Kaz Matsui, the best 2B on the market. The Halos shocked the monkey when they landed good guy Tori Hunter, the best CF on the market. The Tigers never even let Pudge Rodrigueztest the waters, taking the best catcher off the market. The Red Sox
gave the rest of the league about a week before re-signing Mike Lowell,
the best 3B on the market. Are you getting the drift? 2008 is shaping
into the weakest free agent market since the days when the likes of Steve Kemp and Ed Whitson ruled the roost.
It’s so bad this year that even the few good relievers out there
have almost completely disappeared. Heck, as a fan you know it’s bad
when you find yourself kicking the kitchen table because your team
missed out on signing a 38-year old middle reliever who has barely
pitched half a season over the last three years. That’s exactly what I
did when I heard the Tampa Rays gave Troy Percival a two year/$8 million deal.
Thankfully, for some teams they had the foresight to look to the Far
East to bail them out of this bear market. While this latest class of
Japanese ballplayers might not include a Daisuke Matsuzaka or Ichiro Suzuki,
they do offer their new clubs solid resumes at a decent value. As for
the teams that missed out on the Seven Samurai, it might be time to
start drooling over Carlos Silva and calculating how many Silva
dollars to throw his way. Here now is a look at the five Samurai that
will be joining the majors in 2008.
Scouting The Seven Samurai
OF Kosuke Fukudome (Cubs)–
The 30-year old Fukudome is the top talent in this year’s Japanese free
agent class. While the Padres and White Sox were in on the bidding, the
Cubs, desperate for a lefthanded bat, won out. They will reportedly
give him $48-million over 4 years to be there new right fielder.
Many scouts project Fukudome to to put up similar production to Hideki Matsui, but with less power. Over his nine year career for the Chunichi Dragons, Fukudome had a .305 career average, a .397 OBP and a .543 SLG. In 2006 he was the Central League batting champ with a .351 average. While Fukudome averaged 21
home runs a season for Chunichi, Japanese hitters traditionally lose
power when they come to the majors because of the bigger stadiums.
As long as Fukudome can handle the NL left handers he will be the
Cubs’ starting right fielder and probably bat sixth in the lineup. If
he should struggle against southpaws, he’ll probably end up in a
platoon with right handed hitting Matt Murton. There’s always the possibility that he could play some center field also if youngster Felix Pie is still not ready, though he’d be a below average man in the middle.
.290 Avg. 18 HR 90 RBI
At His Best At His Worst
JD Drew Luke Scott
SP Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers)–
The Dodgers have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to
scouting the Far East. When they signed Hideo Nomo to pitch for them in
1995, *Nomo became the first Japanese citizen to pitch in the major
leagues. Nomo and his tornado windup were an instant success. Since
then La La Palooza has been hit and miss in the forays into the
Japanese market. In 2002 they signed left handed pitcher Kaz Ishii. He
pitched three mediocre years for them before a brief stop at Shea on
his way back to Japan. In 2006 the Dodgers hit the jackpot again though
when they signed Japanese reliever Takashi Saito. Saito has turned out
to be one of the best closers in the NL over the past two seasons.
In 2008 they will be trying to hit the lottery again. The right handed
Kuroda has reportedly agreed to a contract that could be worth
$30-million upwards for 3 years. Kuroda passed on similar deals from
the Mariners and Diamondbacks for the right to pitch at pitcher
friendly Chavez Ravine.
The 32-year old Kuroda has a 103-89 record in 11 seasons for the
Hiroshima Carp of the Central League. Like Fukudome, his best season
was in 2006 when he went 13-6 with a 1.85 ERA in a 189.1 IP. Fukudome’s
career ERA is 3.69. While Kuroda is not an overpowering pitcher like
Dice-K, he possesses great control- 42 BB in 179.2 IP in 2007 and 21 BB
in 189.1 IP in 2006. He throws in the low-90’s and like most Japanese
starters has at least four pitches in his arsenal. Along with his
fastball, he relies on a forkball, a slider, and a screwball. Scouts
project him as a middle of the rotation guy who should net production
somewhere between a Brian Bannister and a Joe Blanton. The Dodgers plan
on slotting him in as their fourth or fifth starter (depending on the
health of Jason Schmidt).
14 Wins 3.80 ERA 190 IP
At His Best At His Worst
Joe Blanton Jeff Suppan
RP Masahide Kobayashi (Indians)– In this day and age of
specialization, the bullpen has become more important than ever before.
Almost every team seems to be on the look out for some relief pitching.
The Angels were the first to discover the boon that Japanese relievers
offered to MLB bullpens, when they signed Shigetoshi Hasegawa in 1997.
But, it wasn’t until the new millennium that teams really started to
dabble in the Japanese bullpen market. While there were some misses,
the payoff from the hits was significant enough to continue the
investment.The Mariners struck gold with dominating closer Kazuhiro
Sasaki in 2000. The Padres hit pay dirt with Akinori Otsuka in 2004.
When the Dodgers signed Takashi Saito in 2006, they got maybe the best
closer in the NL. And then last season when everyone was guffawing over
Dice-K and Kei Igawa, the Red Sox quietly brought in one of the best
left handed relievers in baseball when they signed Hideki Okajima.
This year the benefactors of the Japanese bullpen market could very
well be the Cleveland Indians. When the Tribe signed the right handed
33-year old closer of Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines to a very
reasonable 2-year/$6.25 million contract, it marked the first time the
Indians have signed a Japanese ballplayer. As one of only three
relievers to ever save at least 200 games (227) Kobayashi is one of the
best closers in the history of Japanese baseball. He is the only
Japanese pitcher to ever record seven straight seasons of at least 20
His arsenal is made up of three pitches. He throws two fastballs in
the low 90’s and likes to use his two-seamer to get right handers out.
But, his best pitch, his out pitch, is a hard slider that he can throw
for strikes with precision. In 2007 he had 27 saves and a 3.61 ERA,
though his lifetime ERA is much lower (2.79). The Indians will most
likely use him as a co-setup man with Rafael Betancourt. But, if Joe
Borowski should struggle, don’t be surprised if Kobayashi turns out to
be the one putting the Ki-Bosh on lineups in the ninth inning.
6 Wins 2.60 ERA 1.25 WHIP
At His Best At His Worst
Scott Shields Luis Vizcaino
RP Yasuhiko Yabuta (Mariners)– If the Indians don’t turn out to
be the greatest benefactor of the 2008 Japanese market, then the Royals
might very well be. The right handed 34-year old Yabuta was Kobayashi’s
set-up man on Valentines’s Chiba Lotte club. The Royals gave him a
similar deal to Kobayashi. 2-years/$6 million. Some of you might
remember him for his great run in the 2006 World Baseball Classic
(WBC). In a tie game against the U.S. he struck out Alex Rodriguez to
end the seventh-inning. In the eighth he got Chipper Jones on a weak
grounder before striking out Johnny Damon and Derek Lee. Royals’ new
manager Trey Hillman will certainly remember Yabuta as his Hokkaido
Nippon Ham Fighters regularly faced Chiba Lotte in the Japanese Pacific
Yabuta was Bobby Valentine’s favorite setup man, and was named the
Pacific League’s best middle reliever after going 4-6 with 4 saves, a
2.73 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP in 62.2 IP. Since converting to the bullpen in
2004, he has a 2.80 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 250.2 IP.
In the tradition of many Japanese pitchers, Yabuta has a very
deceptive delivery and throws a tank-load of pitches. He hits between
88-92 mph on the gun and also throws a change-up, a slider, and likes
to use a split-fingered fastball on left handed hitters. He will most
likely replace David Riske as the Royals main setup man.
5 Wins 2.75 ERA 1.20 WHIP
At His Best At Worst
Chad Qualls Matt Wise
RP Kazuo Fukumori (Rangers)– At 31-years old, Fukumori is younger
than both Kobayashi and Yabuta, but he’s also the biggest question
mark. He has been the closer for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of
the Pacific League for the past three seasons. In 2005 when he saved 11
games with a 3.57 ERA, Fukumori’s skill level seemed to be ratcheting
upward. In 2006 he had his best season to date when he saved a career
high 21 games while posting a dominant 2.17 ERA. But, last year
Fukumori’s suspect control did him in and he ended with a 4.75 ERA and
only 17 saves before his season was curtailed by bone chips in his
If latest reports are true, then the Rangers aren’t gambling too
much on Fukumori, offering him a 2-year deal worth around $3 million.
Fukumori doesn’t throw especially hard (88-90 mph range), but does have
a funky delivery and a pretty good split-fingered fastball. He will
slot in somewhere at the back-end of the Rangers’ bullpen and possibly
become their sixth or seventh inning guy.
4 Wins 4.25 ERA 1.40 WHIP
At His Best At His Worst
Jason Frasor Jason Grilli
OF Kazuhiro Wada (Free Agent)– The biggest problem for Wada in
his search for a MLB team is his age. Wada will be 36-years old next
summer and it’s highly doubtful anyone will sign him. But if they did,
they would get a .317 career hitter who in 2005 won the first Pacific
League batting title (.320) by a right handed hitter since 1993. Wada
was a member of the Japanese team in the 2006 WBC and is a former
teammate of Kaz Matsui. He has hit over 30 HR three times and hit .315
last season for the Seibu Lions. He would probably make a very good
fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter for a year or two.
.300 Avg. 5 HR 30 RBI
At His Best At His Worst
So Taguchi Jason Lane
RP Kazuhisa Ishii (Free Agent)– Remember him Dodger fans. Ishii
pitched three season with LA before spending a year with the Mets on
his way back to Japan. Overall, he turned out to be a fairly effective
left handed starter albeit a wild one. In his four year MLB career he
was 39-34 with 4.44 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP and almost as many walks as
Since 2006, Ishii has been pitching for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of
the Central League. He’s still Only 34-years old and coming off a 2007
campaign where he had his best BB/IP ratio ever (2.65 BB/9 IP). Okay,
so he’ll never be Greg Maddux, but with the dearth of good left handers
in the majors, somebody might just want to give Ishii another chance.
12-10 4.50 ERA 160 IP
At His Best At His Worst
Oliver Perez Kaz Ishii
want to be a star during your water cooler conversations at the office, a good way to remember all these new Japanese names is to tune in to
the 11/25 installment of our radio show, BASEBALL TALK w/Carl the
Cabbie & Dugout Joe.
Enjoy the rhythmic rendition of the special Japanese free agent song,
sung by none other than Carl the Cabbie. To listen click below and
then press play on the 11/25 show.
And remember, BASEBALL TALK is on the air every Sunday at 12 Noon :
* While Hideo Nomo was the first Japanese citizen to play in the major leagues (1995), pitcher Masanori Murakami
was the first Japanese born player to play in the major leagues.
Murakami, who shares the same birthday as Carl the Cabbie (May 6th)
pitched for the San Francisco Giants from 1964-65.