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Archive for January, 2009

Only Howard Left as Werth, Dobbs and Durbin Sign Deals

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

       Jayson Werth    Chad Durbin    Greg Dobbs

Last Saturday, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock announced that the Phillies and pinch-hitter extraordinaire and sometimes 3rd baseman  Greg Dobbs inked a 2-year, $2.5 million deal.  Yesterday, sources indicated that outfielder Jayson Werth has a 2-year, $10 million deal and and that middle reliever Chad Durbin is on-board with a 1-year deal worth $1,635,000.

MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez describes Dobb’s 2008 season:

Greg Dobbs finished the 2008 season with just 226 at-bats, less than half of what a full-time major league player usually accumlates over the course of a 162-game season. Yet Dobbs’ .301 batting average, nine home runs, and 40 RBI played a pivotal role in the Phillies’ second straight National League East championship, which they parlayed into a playoff run for the ages, during which the utility infielder and pinch-hitter extraordinaire went 7-for-14 at the plate.

Dobbs and the Phillies agreed to a contract that will pay the utility infielder $2.5 million over 2 years, buying out his first 2 years of arbitration and giving one of the unheralded stars of the 2008 championship team some financial stability.

For the record, Dobbs doesn’t expect his role to be much different from what it was last year, when he led all major leaguer pinch-hitters with 22 hits and was second with 16 RBI.

With Pedro Feliz, back from off-season surgery, as the starting 3rd baseman and newly signed veteran lefthanded hitting Raul Ibanez seemingly noe a fixture in leftfield, Dobbs’ role seems once again to be as a back-up, sometimes late-inning replacement in leftfield and as a pinch-hitter.

AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston reports his source’s disclosure of Werth’s deal, gives background on the rightfielder’s 2008 season and recalls Durbin’s 2008 season:

Werth’s deal was disclosed by a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is subject to a physical. Werth will receive a $1 million signing bonus, $2 million this season and $7 million in 2010.

He hit .273 with 24 home runs and 67 RBIs for the World Series champions, and would have been eligible for free agency after the season.

Durbin went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in a career-high 71 appearances last season, his first with the Phillies. He led NL relievers in innings (87 2-3) and appeared in six playoff games.

“Chad came to Philadelphia and in his first season of being a full-time reliever helped solidify what we believe to be one of the best bullpens in baseball,” assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said.

                   Ryan Howard

With 7 of 8 players avoiding arbitration hearings, only 1st baseman Ryan Howard remains on the Phils’ arbitration docket.  On Tuesday, the slugger who hit 48 homers and drove in 146 runs in 2008, has hit 177 homers in 4 seasons but has struck out 692 times in that span asked for a raise from $10 million (2008 arbitration award) to $18 million. The two sides are $4 million apart as the Phils offered $14 million.

Hamels, Madson, Victorino, Phillies Make Deals, Avoid Arbitration

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

        Cole Hamels    Ryan Madson     

             Shane Victorino       Joe Blanton

Ace lefthander Cole Hamels, MVP winner in both the NLCS and the World Series, reliever Ryan Madson, who saw action in 11 of the Phillies 13 post-season games, centerfielder Shane Victorino, along with Joe Blanton, who went undefeated with the Phils including 2 post-season wins — all inked deals with the World Champions avoiding arbitration hearings.

Hamels, who went 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA in the regular season and established himself as the club’s ace winning 4 post-season games including 1 World Series win and 6 great innings in the decisive 5th game, led the way inking a 3-year, $20.5M deal with the Phils.

AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston describes Hamels’ deal, his reaction to it and summarizes Hamels’ season for Yahoo sports;

The deal avoids an arbitration hearing and keeps the 25-year-old Hamels in Philadelphia through the 2011 season. Hamels went 4-0 in the postseason with a 1.80 ERA as the Phillies claimed their first championship since 1980. He won the first game in three playoff series and took the MVP award in the NL championship series against the Dodgers.

Hamels, who lives in Philadelphia year round, said he still gets goosebumps every time he watches the World Series highlights video and believes the roster is still good enough to contend for years.

“If I’m able to go out there and repeat, I think it’s just going to make it a really nice, sweet time for this baseball city,” Hamels said.

Reliever Ryan Madson, who was 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 76 games and finished the season as primary set-up man for perfect 48-48 closer Brad Lidge, reached agreement with the Phillies on a 3-year, $12M deal.  AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi outlines  the deal with Madson and Phillies GM Amaro’s thoughts;

“Ryan has emerged as a quality setup reliever and big game pitcher,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “We’re very happy that he will be part of our bullpen for at least another three years.”

The deal calls for Madson to receive a $1 million signing bonus, $2 million this season, $4.5 million in 2010 and $4.5 million in 2011. He would have been eligible for free agency after next season, and the deal is unusual because many of agent Scott Boras’ clients opt to become free agents before agreeing to long-term deals.

He can earn $1.5 million annually in performance bonuses if he becomes a closer: $150,000 each for 30, 35, 40 and 45 games finished; $200,000 each for 50 and 55, and $250,000 each for 60 and 65.

Popular centerfielder Shane Victorino, one of the heroes of the Phillies World Championship run, inked a deal for 2009 worth $3.125 million.  The Ticker news service  recaps Victorino’s season;

Victorino hit a grand slam home run in the National League Division Series against Milwaukee and a game-tying homer in Game Four of the NLCS against Los Angeles.

Victorino, originally a sixth-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 1999, hit .293 with 14 home runs, 58 RBI and 36 stolen bases in 146 games last season, his fourth with Philadelphia.

In addition, mid-season acquisition strarter Joe Blanton also came to terms with the club on a one-year deal worth $5.475 million.  Blanton, it will be recalled, won 2 of his 3 post-season starts (the 3rd - a no-decision) and was the first pitcher in decades to homer in the World Series.  AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum recalls the scene for Yahoo sports as Blanton homered amidst the Phils’ 10-2 World Series game 4 win;

Blanton shut his eyes, swung and became the first pitcher in 34 years to homer in the Series.

Still unsigned are power-hitting 1st baseman Ryan Howard, outfielder  Jayson Werth who clubbed 24 homers, had 67 RBIs and hit .273 and reliever Chad Durbin — all potential arbitration cases.  Howard is on record asking for $18 million in arbitration.             

Youkilis, Red Sox Ink $41M, 4-Year Deal

Monday, January 19th, 2009

                        Kevin Youkilis

5 year veteran 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis and the Boston Red Sox inked a four-year, $41 million deal 3 days ago.

Youkilis had a break-out season in 2008 hitting 29 homers, driving in 115 runs and hitting .312 in 145 games for the BoSox batting clean-up behind either Mike Lowell, who was often injured and used as DH in 2008, or  David Ortiz who was either injured or slumping for a large part of the season and who is generally the DH.  

The AP report notes:

The 29-year-old gets a $1 million signing bonus, $6 million this year, $9,125,000 in 2010 and $12 million in each of the following two seasons. Boston has a $13 million option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.

Youkilis…. made just four errors in 125 games at first base, where he won a Gold Glove in 2007, then switched to third when Mike Lowell was injured.

Youkilis holds the major league record of 238 straight games at first base without an error, a streak that ended last June.

He finished third in AL MVP voting in 2008, behind Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau.

“Kevin has been a mainstay for us and a big part of our major league club through a lot of successful seasons and a big part of our future and we solidified that with this move today,” general manager Theo Epstein said.

Youkilis, who first achieved fame in the noted baseball book, ‘Moneyball,’ made his debut in Boston’s magical 2004 season, capped off with the first Red Sox World Series title in 86 years. However, the next season was the most trying of his career, as he was shuttled between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Youkilis boasts a career .289 BA and got 2 doubles in 9 AB in Boston’s  2007 World Series triumph and hit 3 homers in the ALCS as the Red Sox rallied from a 3 games to 1 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians.

2008 Hall of Fame Inductees: Jim Rice Finally In, Rickey Henderson

Monday, January 19th, 2009

                    Jim Rice      Rickey Henderson

Hello again, Baseball fans.  Been away from baseball blogging again for the past six days doing double-duty on 2 Israel blogs reporting on Operation Cast Lead which is now temporarily in cease-fire mode.  Those interested can follow the war news here and here.

After years of frustration, last Tuesday Baseball writers finally chose former Boston Red Sox veteran leftfielder for 16 seasons Jim Rice.  They chose 25 season veteran journeyman outfielder and base-stealing specialist Rickey Henderson in his first attempt to make the Hall.

Rice, who followed and had to fill the shoes of all-time Boston leftfielding  Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, was part of the Red Sox teams which went to the World Series in 1975,  losing to Cincinnati who had won 108 games, and in 1986 losing to the New York Mets who also won 108 games.   In 1986, the BoSox had come painfully close to winning their 1st World Series title since the infamous “Curse of Ruth,” before 1st baseman  Billy Buckner muffed an easy 3rd out ground ball in the 6th inning as Boston went on to blow a 3 games to 2 lead and lose the series in 7 games.

Rice hit 382 career homers, drove in 1,451 runs, scored 1,249 runs, collected 2,452 hits and carried a career .298 batting average.  He and  Fred Lynn made up as potent a one-two offensive punch as you could find in 1979 each hitting 39 homers and combining to drive in 252 runs.  But despite all of that power, Boston finished 3rd in the the AL East that season.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum notes that:        

Yaz was the last leftfielder voted to Cooperstown (1989) until Henderson and Rice got the call Monday. Henderson scooted in on his first try, Rice in his 15th and final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

Henderson, who holds both the MLB career stolen base record with 1,406 and the modern-day single season record of 130 set in 1982 with the Oakland Athletics actually stole 100 or more bases in each of 3 seasons — 1980, 1982 and 1983 — all with the Oakland A’s.

Henderson collected 3,055 hits in his 25 seasons hitting 297 homers and carried a lifetime .279 batting average.  He played in both the 1989 and  1993 World Series with the Oakland Athletics in ‘89 going 9-19 and hitting .474 and with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 going 5-22.

AP’s Blum further notes;

The pair will be inducted into the Hall during ceremonies July 26 in Cooperstown. They’ll be joined by former New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, elected posthumously last month by the Veterans Committee.

Gordon will be depicted on his plaque wearing a Yankees cap. He played seven of his 11 seasons in New York, winning four of his five World Series championships and the 1942 AL MVP award.

An exhibit on the class of 2009 will open in Cooperstown this spring, Hall president Jeff Idelson said.

One piece of memorabilia that’s missing is the home plate Henderson crossed when he scored his 2,246th run, breaking Ty Cobb’s career record. Henderson said he and San Diego Padres chairman John Moores went out to the field the following day and dug up the plate as a keepsake.

Free Agents: Smoltz to Boston, Lowe to Atlanta, Hoffman to Brewers

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The past few days have seen 3 major free agent pitcher signings with veteran 41 year old starter/closer John Smoltz going to the Boston Red Sox in a 1 year, $5 million deal, with another possible $5 million in incentive bonuses based on time on the active 25-man roster, and 35 year old veteran starter Derek Lowe going to the Atlanta Braves, Smoltz’s old team, in a 4 year, $60 million deal.  All-Time saves leader closer Trevor Hoffman agreed to a 1 year, $6 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman provides more background on the Smoltz’s deal with Boston and  leaving the Braves for Yahoo sports;

After playing all 20 of his major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves, the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves is starting over at age 41 with the Red Sox.

“I’m as determined and I’m as focused as I’ve ever been,” Smoltz said Tuesday. “The uniform has changed. The desire won’t change.”

“They were taking a different direction and, for the most part, left me with really no options,” Smoltz said. “Atlanta will always be my home. I’ve raised four children there and built a school. That won’t change.”

But, he said, “we were way apart.”

The Red Sox were much more aggressive in trying to sign Smoltz than the Braves were in wanting to keep him.

Smoltz’s actual numbers in 20 Major League seasons is 210-147 with 154 saves racked up as a closer for 3 seasons (2001-2004), 53 complete games, over 3,000 career strikeouts and a career ERA of 3.26.  He was 24-8 with the Braves in 1996, his only 20 win season.

Smoltz joins a talent-laden Boston starting rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield with young starters Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden waiting in the wings.  Smoltz could also be utilized in a set-up role for All Star closer Jon Papelbon.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reports on the Lowe, Braves deal;

Lowe agreed to terms on a four-year, $60 million contract with the Braves, a person familiar with negotiations said. The deal will be finalized after he takes a physical this week.

In terms of dollars and magnitude, it’s the biggest free-agent pitching acquisition for the Braves since Greg Maddux signed a five-year, $28 million contract with Atlanta after the 1992 season.

There is always risk in signing a 35-year-old pitcher to a four-year contract, but Lowe has been one of baseball’s most durable starters since moving from Boston’s bullpen to its rotation in 2002.

The sinkerballer averaged 15 wins, 208 innings and nearly 34 starts over the past seven seasons, and with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season he was 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings. 

Did the Braves overpay? That argument could certainly be made, and it wouldn’t be the first time a team paid more than expected for a Boras client.

The only other reported offer for Lowe was a three-year, $36 million proposal by the New York Mets, although Boras said that was never formally made and was well below market for the pitcher.

Boras wouldn’t say if other offers were made, only that there was interest from several teams including the Philadephia Phillies.

Because the Braves don’t give no-trade clauses in contracts and have missed the postseason for three years, it was believed they might have to pay more than contending teams that give no-trade clauses.

If the Braves achieve their goal of returning to the postseason, they can lean on Lowe, who’s 5-5 with a save and a 3.33 ERA in 21 postseason games (10 starts), including 4-1 in his past eight.

For Boston’s 2004 World Series champions, he was 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four postseason games, with decisions in three series-clinching wins.

MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom reports on Trevor Hoffman’s deal with the Brewers and his career with the San Diego Padres;

“He brings to our club the closer we need for us to continue our pursuit of a World Series,” [Brewers] general manager Doug Melvin said.

The 41-year-old righty, who had pitched for San Diego since 1993, has 554 saves in 930 relief appearances over his 16-year career.

Hoffman went 3-6 with a 3.77 ERA and 30 saves in 34 opportunities last season. The six-time All-Star can earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses based on games finished.

MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy notes the possible impact on the Brewes of acquiring Hoffman;

With one big move, the Brewers might have strengthened both their bullpen and their starting rotation.

Assuming that all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman passes his physical and finalizes the one-year free-agent contract both sides agreed upon Thursday, the Brewers have their closer for the upcoming season and thus have filled their most glaring need five weeks before the start of Spring Training.

Hoffman would remove any doubt about the closer’s role. That would move Seth McClung [from] closer to his wish for a spot in the starting rotation — giving the Brewers five viable arms there — while at the same time allowing the team to more cautiously develop Carlos Villanueva as a reliever in a seventh- or eighth-inning role.

Before the Brewers landed Hoffman, both McClung and Villanueva were being considered for the ninth-inning vacancy. Instead, the Brewers were poised to add Hoffman, who is 46 saves shy of 600 for his career.

“Trevor’s excited about a new beginning in Milwaukee,” Thurman said. “The Brewers were aggressive in pursuing him, and that ultimately made a big difference in his decision.”

Hoffman, for all of his MLB record 554 saves, has shown inconsistency in clutch situations in recent years. 

In the 2006 All Star game, Hoffman was 1 out from saving an NL victory before giving up 3 straight hits, two of them for extra-bases, and 2 runs in an 3-2 AL win.

Down the stretch of the 2006 season, Hoffman suffered another lapse in consistency in the clutch as the Padres and the Dodgers fought for the NL West crown in a mid-September game in Los Angeles.

Leading the Dodgers by 9-5 in the Dodger 9th inning, the first 2 Dodgers up in the inning homered to cut the lead to 9-7.  Enter Hoffman.  The record-setting closer’s first 2 pitches also resulted in homers as the Dodgers tied the game and went on to win it in the 10th inning.

In 2007, Hoffman again came up short - twice, against the streaking Colorado Rockies giving up the winning run in 13 innings, and in a loss 2 days before against the Milwaukee Brewers in 11 innings.

Eagles to Play for NFC Championship, Superbowl Spot

Monday, January 12th, 2009

                      Eagles

Yes, this is a baseball blog; to paraphrase Rush Limbaugh; “All Baseball, All the time.”

But we can’t live in a total one-sport vacuum when another major Philadelphia sports team advances, as the Eagles did in the post-season on Sunday with a 23-11 win over their turnpike rival New York Giants can we?

The Birds, left for dead just before Thanksgiving with a 5-5-1 record in the regular season, reeled off 4 wins in their finaL 5 games and prospered pummelling the Dallas Cowboys in the regular season final. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Eagles’ major competition for the NFC Wildcard spot, were beaten by the Oakland Raiders enabling the Birds to ascend into the post-season.

The Birds then knocked off the Minnesota Vikings to move on to the Meadowlands.

The Eagles and Giants played to a near-standoff for 3 quarters as quarterback Donovan McNabb scored a 1 yard touchdown to go along with David Akers field goals. The Giants got 3 field goals from John Carney and recorded a 2nd quarter safety as McNabb was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.  The Birds led by 13-11 after 3 quarters.

Giant quarterback Eli Manning could never quite get uncorked as he struggled with a swarming Eagle defense as each quarterback coughed up 2 interceptions.  The Giants were inside the Eagle 20 yardline 5 times and converted 3 field goals to show for it.

But after Carney missed a 47 yard field goal attempt, the Eagles took over on their 37 yardline and reeled off a 10-play drive culminating in a McNabb 1 yard TD pass to make the score 20-13.

After the Giants failed to convert a 4th and 2 on their 48 yardline, the Eagles took over possession.  After running back Correll Buckhalter was thrown for a 1 yard loss, McNabb connected with flanker DeSean Jackson for a 48 yard completion on the 2nd play of the possession placing the Eagles at the Giants’ door at the 1 yardline.  The Birds failed to convert on 3 downs and Akers then booted a 20 yard field goal.

The teams traded possessions and the Giants turned the ball over twice.  The game ended with McNabb falling on the football twice.

Way to go Eagles!   They must be celebrating again Big-Time back in Philly.  Onto the NFC Championship game with the Arizona Cardinals and onto the Superbowl — Hopefully, finally a Superbowl win to go along with a World Series Crown.