Blogging Baseball: All-time baseball highlights and real-time commentary

Archive for December, 2008

Dock Ellis, 2 Other Former Pitchers Pass On

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

                         Dock Ellis

Righthanded starter Dock Ellis, who pitched for 5 teams during his 10 year Major League career, was one of 3 pitchers to pass away in recent days.  Also dead are former Houston closer Dave Smith, who saved 216 games over a 13 year career and who passed away on Wednesday and 5 year veteran Nick Willhite.

Ellis passed away Friday at the USC Medical Center in Los Angeles after   battling a liver ailment.  He was best known for his civil rights activism, for giving up a mammoth Reggie Jackson homer which hit off of the Tiger Stadium light tower 520 feet from home plate in the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit and for drilling Cincinnati Reds’ Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen in succession in the top of the first inning in a May 1, 1974 game while with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Ellis retired in 1979 having compiled a career mark of 138-119.

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick notes;

Ellis suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and was placed on a list to receive a liver transplant in May. The Los Angeles Times wrote that Ellis had no health insurance, but received help paying his medical bills from friends in baseball.

Bill Scaringe, an agent who represented Ellis after he retired, said Ellis worked for years in the California department of corrections helping inmates transition from prison back to the community. He also ran a drug counseling center in Los Angeles.

“It’s very disheartening,” Scaringe said. “Dock was such a likeable person — very gregarious, very outgoing. I would set up personal appearances for him, and after like 30 seconds, people were like relatives or neighbors. Dock was very easy to talk to. He was just a pleasure to be around.”

Dock Ellis, gone at 63 years of age.

The Pat ‘the Bat’ Phillies Era Appears at End

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

  Pat Burrell     Pat Burrell   Pat Burrell

Power-hitting free agent leftfielder Pat Burrell, a fixture in the Phillies lineup for 9 seasons appears headed for different surroundings following the signing on Saturday of lefthanded hitting leftfielder Raul Ibanez.

Burrell, who clubbed 251 homers in his 9 season career, all with the Phillies, was also a prolific strikeout victim going down on strikes 1,273 times in that span.  His greatest seasons were in 2002, when he hit 37 homers, drove in 116 run, hit .282 but struck out 153 times, and 2005 when he hit 32 homers, drove in 117 runs and hit .281 but struck out 160 times batting 5th behind 1st baseman Ryan Howard in Howard’s rookie season.

Philadelphia Daily News writer Paul Hagen wrote a great piece on Burrell’s years with the Phils which I am excerpting here;

 ”I kind of had a feeling there was a strong possibility, you know, that I wasn’t in the cards,” Burrell said during a lengthy phone conversation over the weekend. “At the same time, I hadn’t heard anything from the team.

“I’m disappointed. I can’t lie about that. But I can’t say I’m upset about it, either, because when I think about my time there I have nothing but good things to say. The city, the fans, have been behind me from the very beginning. That’s the hard part, especially with respect to what happened last year, with us winning the whole thing. It was very meaningful to me to be a part of something like that. But you have to move on.

“You know, there’s a business [aspect] to this sport. And as a player you’d better learn to accept that or else it’s going to be pretty frustrating for you. I was aware that, most likely, the team was going to go the other way. At the same time, I thought there was a chance I might be back.”

He’s still just 32 years old. He hit 33 home runs last season. Only three righthanded hitters in the National League  (Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and St. Louis’ Ryan Ludwick and  Albert Pujols) had more. While he rarely shared himself with the media, he was immensely popular with his teammates, who respected his toughness and work ethic. And he was consistent in talking about how much he enjoyed playing in Philadelphia and that he would love to return.

On the other hand, he recognized that he was making $14 million and doesn’t run as well as he used to and routinely came out of games for a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner in the late innings.

So after he doubled against the wall to lead off the bottom of the seventh against Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the World Series - the score was tied, 3-3, at the time - the realization of what it all might mean started to hit him when Eric Bruntlett trotted onto the field to run for him.

“I was coming off the field and I started looking around and thinking, ‘This might be it.’ At the same time, here we were possibly about to win the World Series,” he said. “On a personal level, I remember hitting the ball and thinking it was way over the fence. Then getting a chance to be on second with nobody out and [Shane] Victorino up, I thought we were going to get [Bruntlett] over and we were going to get him in. That’s kind of where I was at.”

That’s exactly what happened. Bruntlett went to third when Victorino grounded out to second and scored what proved to the winning run when Pedro Feliz singled.

During the chaos in the celebration that followed the second world championship in franchise history, Burrell remembered club president Dave Montgomery seeking him out.

He embraced the city in a way few professional athletes have. And the city, in return, returned the emotion. Sure, there were boos when he fell into a prolonged slump. Overall, though, the fans were often more supportive than might have been expected.

Burrell ranks 3rd on the list of all-time Phillies career homer leaders in back of Hall of Fame 3rd baseman Mike Schmidt (548 HRs) and outfielder  Del Ennis (259 HRs).

After the 2006 season when Burrell slumped to a .258 BA while still belting 24 HRs and driving 95 runs batting behind Howard in his [Howard’s] 58 homer, 149 RBI season, there was much trade discussion and about finding a more capable #5 hit to protect the big first baseman.  But various different variations of the stats showed that   Burrell performed more than capably as protection for Howard.

In 2007, Burrell followed with the same type of season (30 HRs, 97 RBIs, 120 strikeouts, but 114 walks and a .256 BA) as 2006, although he caught fire in the 2nd half as one of the leaders as the Phillies charged from 6 games back to overtake the Mets for the 2007 NL East title.

In 2008, Pat ‘the Bat’ roared out of the box and amassed 24 HRs by the end of July while batting between ,275 and .280 throughout before going into a deep slump in August in September only hitting 7 more homers and seeing his average slump from .271 at July 29 to .250 at the end of the regular season.   He had a fine Division and NLC series going 9 for 30 with 3 homers, including 2 homers, 4 RBIs in the 6-2 division series winner over the Brewers.  Burrell went cold in the World Series going 1 for 14, but his hit was a big one, the leadoff double in bottom of the seventh which resulted in pinch-runner Bruntlett scoring from second on Pedro Feliz’s single as the Phils won the rain-pro-longed 5th and decisive game of the series.

As Bob Hope would affectionately sing; “Thanks for the memories…”  Despite Raul Ibanez’s seeming more consistent bat, Pat ‘the Bat’ Burrell will be missed.    

Phillies Re-Sign Moyer, Sign Free Agent Chan Ho Park

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

            Jamie Moyer     Chan Ho Park

The Phillies announced late on Monday evening that they re-signed 46 year old veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer to a 2 year, $13 million deal, reward for his 16-7, 3.71 ERA, 33 start season in 2008.  Moyer was a critical cog for the 2008 World Series champion team, including his big 6 1/3 inning effort in the Phils’  5-4, World Series game 3 win.

The Phils also solidified their starting pitching corps and/or their bullpen by acquiring of free agent former Dodger Chan Ho Park in a 1 year, $2.5 million deal – subject to the team physical.

In addition, an AP report noted that the Phils were also buoyed by news;

All-Star second baseman Chase Utley said he is recovering well from hip surgery and hopes to be ready for opening day.

The report also went on to say;

He is 35-21 with a 4.33 ERA in 74 starts since the Phillies acquired him from Seattle in August 2006, and the Souderton, Pa., native has 246 career wins.

“I’m sure if you ask Jamie, he’ll say that he will play out a few more contracts,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday. “I know on paper it probably says this is his last contract, but it will be fun to see how it plays out.”

Amaro is confident Moyer will find a way to win at an age when some players are in their second decade of retirement. Moyer depends on pinpoint control and offspeed pitches.

“If his stuff does go backward, he’ll try to figure it out and how to pitch through it,” Amaro said. “That’s the beauty of Jamie Moyer.”

Possibly the oldest player to receive a guaranteed multiyear contract, Moyer would earn $20 million over the two years if he pitches 190 innings and makes 31 starts each season.

He will receive base salaries of $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons, and he can make an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses each year: $250,000 each for 150, 160, 170, 180 and 190 innings pitched.

In addition, his 2010 base can escalate by up to $4.5 million: $250,000 each for 150 innings and 23 starts, and $500,000 each for 160, 170, 180 and 190 innings, and 25, 27, 29 and 31 starts.

The initial club press release on the Moyer re-signing noted;

He allowed three runs or fewer in 14 straight starts, from June 6 through Aug. 21, becoming the first Phillie to do so since 1967.

Since being acquired by the club on Aug. 19, 2006, Moyer has gone 35-21 with a 4.33 ERA in 74 starts, with the Phillies going 46-28 (.622) in his outings.

MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on the Park signing;

In his 15th Major League season in 2008, Park went 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 54 games with the Dodgers. In five starts, he went 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA. Park owns a career 4.34 ERA as a starter, and a 4.44 ERA as a reliever.

Going into 2009, the Phillies know Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Joe Blanton will fill three spots in the rotation with the fourth… being filled by 46-year-old Jamie Moyer… The fifth spot could see Kyle Kendrick in the rotation again, but he could get competition from Park, J.A. Happ and prospect Carlos Carrasco, who posted a 1.72 ERA in six starts for Triple-A in 2008.

Wood Passes Indians Physical; Burnett, Yanks do $82.5M 5-Year

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

      Kerry Wood       A.J. Burnett

The Cleveland Indians and free agent former Cub starter/closer Kerry Wood consummated their 2 year deal upon Wood’s successfully passing the club’s physical.  There was concern about Wood’s long history of injuries.

MLB’s Anthony Castrovince reports;

What the Tribe saw in Wood was a player who not only fit their need for a prototypical hard-throwing closer but also fit their clubhouse culture and quest for leadership.

“We get the best of both worlds with Kerry,” general manager Mark Shapiro said.

And the Indians officially got him Saturday.

On Friday, Cleveland received the results of the physical Wood took here, and on Saturday the Indians announced that they had signed the right-handed Wood to a two-year contract worth $20.5 million. The contract includes an option for 2011 worth $11 million that vests if Wood finishes 55 games in either ‘09 or ‘10. Otherwise, it is a club option.

Meanwhile, the Yankees further bulked up their starting rotation after signing lefthander CC Sabathia with the acquisition of free agent former  Toronto Blue Jays righthander A.J. Burnett, pending his passing a Yankees team physical. 

Alhough Burnett’s 18-10, 231 strikeouts in 2008 were impressive, his career record prior to last season was lackluster although his career ERA is sub-4 at 3.81 .  Burnett, like Woods, has an injury record going DL several times with elbow and shoulder woes.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports;

Burnett entered the free-agent market with a “buyer beware” tag because of past injury problems, and exited it counting the riches the Yankees will provide him over the course of the next five years.

AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker outlines the deal’s terms and Yankee hopes for Yahoo sports;

The New York Yankees… agreement with free agent A.J. Burnett on $82.5 million, five-year contract.

Burnett’s agreement, which averages $16.5 million annually, was confirmed by the office of his agent, Darek Braunecker.

“I can sense the excitement and the confidence that’s spreading around the entire organization about what we’re getting done and what we may get done still,” Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said earlier Friday, before Burnett’s decision became known. “A rising tide lifts all boats, and the confidence and the excitement right now among the team and the organization is contagious.”

Burnett joins a rotation that also includes holders Chien-Ming Wang and  Joba Chamberlain.  New York is hoping to re-sign Andy Pettitte

With their deal for leftfielder Raul Ibanez in the hopper, the Phils continue competing with the Yanks in pitching to sign 35 year old free agent Dodger veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe while continuing to pursue Chan Ho Park and hoping to re-sign 46 year old veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer.

Burrell Era Ends, Phillies Acquire Free Agent Ibanez

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

           Pat Burrell      Rul Ibanez

The Phillies will have a new face, lefthanded hitting Raul Ibanez, in leftfield when the 2009 season opens as the Pat Burrell era seems at an end.

The 36 year old Ibanez, formerly with the Seattle Mariners, comes to the Phils pending club physical, taking over for the 32 year old righthanded hitting Burrell who had been a fixture in leftfield since 2000.

Aside from the age differential, Ibanez brings a more consistent bat with some power, less strikeouts and, over the last 4 seasons, more RBIs.  His lifetime BA is about 40 points higher than Burrell although Burrell’s OBP and SLG are slightly higher.

Associated Press writer Joann Loviglio outlines Ibanez’s contract terms and some of his 2008 stats for Yahoo sports;

Ibanez will receive a $2 million signing bonus, payable this year, a $6.5 million salary next season and $11.5 million each in 2010 and 2011.

A left-handed hitter, Ibanez batted .305 against lefty pitchers last season and .288 against righties.

Ibanez drove in 100 or more runs during each of the last three seasons in Seattle.

The presence of another lefthanded bat in an already lefty-loaded top of the lineup poses some challenges for manager Charlie Manuel. 

Meanwhile the Phillies continue in hot pursuit of 35 year old free agent righthander Chan Ho Park as well as with their free agent veteran 46 year old lefthander Jamie Moyer.

AP’s Loviglio also reports;

Philadelphia agreed to one-year contracts with infielder Eric Bruntlett ($800,000) and right-hander Clay Condrey ($650,000).

Utility player Bruntlett seems slotted to spell 2nd baseman Chase Utley who is rehabbing after hip surgery and may not be ready to start the season.

Inquirer Staff writer Todd Zolecki notes nostalgically;

Pat Burrell had hoped to make a few more memories with the Phillies next year and beyond.

Instead he learned yesterday his final memories will be his leadoff double off the left-center-field wall in the seventh inning in Game 5 of the World Series - which led to the winning run in the series-clinching game - and leading the World Series championship parade down Broad Street.

If he had to go, there could not be a better way.

PS on Cubs, Padres, Phillies and Peavy: Danger of Trade Rumors

Friday, December 12th, 2008

On Wednesday, the San Diego Padres imposed a Thursday deadline on any possible trade, or multi-team trade deal regarding one of baseball’s best pitchers Jake Peavy and the Chicago Cubs.

Well, the deadline came and went and Padres general manager Kevin Towers nixed any talk of this particular rumored deal on Thursday evening.

Therefore, thank goodness that Jason Marquis will not bring his inconsistency to the Phillies and Kyle Kendrick or JA Happ won’t be leaving the Phillies so fast.

The Phils are still left looking for the guy to spell their rehabbing All Star 2nd baseman Chase Utley and still seek alternative solutions to possible losses of both leftfielder Pat Burrell and veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer to free agency.

I have tried, during Blogging Baseball’s 3 plus years of existence, to stay away from over-investing in trade rumors.  One can look like true baseball maven or big-shot over blogging about all of the trade and acquisition rumors and can make a blog site just on one trade rumor and all of its machinations if one over-invests. I prefer not to go there. Unless one is paid to blog about trade rumors, it seems a economic use of times.

The bottom-line: The deal ain’t made until it’s done.