Worst free-agent deals ever (cont.)
Carrying Jackie's Torch
That is the excellent title of a fascinating book by my former Newsday colleague Steve Jacobson that chronicles the experiences of the courageous men who followed Jackie Robinson after he broke the color barrier. We are reminded time and again that it wasn't always easy for these players either. Great stories from men such as Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Al Jackson and Ed Charles, who are heroes, as well, fill Carrying Jackie's Torch, which would make a great Father's Day gift.
On Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday, Major League Baseball earned its first A- from Richard Lapchick's racial report card. Although it was still disheartening to hear that only 8.2 percent of major leaguers are African-American, the lowest figure in about two decades.
The percentage of African-American stars is higher, with Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Torii Hunter, C.C. Sabathia and the emerging Uptons (Justin and B.J.) among the 8.2 percent. And MLB has been taking steps to rectify the falling numbers, beefing up its RBI program for inner city baseball and opening a baseball academy in Compton, Calif., while planning several others. However, it will still take a while for those efforts to impact the numbers.
Around the Majors
Nice, low-risk pickup by the Brewers to sign Jeff Weaver to a minor-league contract. If he isn't in the majors by June 15, according to sources, he can opt out.
It appears that top Braves outfield prospect Jordan Schafer was felled by MLB's new tip line. Someone -- it is believed it was another player -- called in a tip regarding Schafer's HGH usage, and MLB's new investigative arm nabbed its first user. I never believed a tip line would work, but I have to admit that MLB's idea turned out to be a worthwhile one.
Apparently, what upset Jim Leyland so much was the Tigers swinging at so many first pitches late in their 11-0 defeat to the White Sox. Can't blame him.
Kevin Youkilis, who was 14-for-28 in the ALCS last year and beat Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt on a homer the other night, is doing a superb job filling in at third base for injured Mike Lowell without complaint. And you know he'll do a superior job once back at first base, where he won a Gold Glove last year.
Clint Barmes, who has struggled since supposedly injuring himself while carrying meat after a hunting trip with Todd Helton in 2005 (yes, it was that long ago), is making a nice comeback now (he's 6-for-11 so far) and could get a shot at significant playing time at second base.
No one had a better week than lawyer Rob Saunooke, who parted way with Jose Canseco. Now Saunooke will spend time trying to get the $500,000 in legal fees that he says Canseco owes him. Good luck there. I hear book sales aren't exactly brisk.
While Moises Alou may be as close as 10 days away for the Mets, that four-to-six week estimate for Pedro Martinez's hamstring appears to have been a very optimistic scenario.
Mets outfielder Angel Pagan (.381 so far) has earned more playing time with his superb start. Pagan, a favorite of the front office, could find himself in a four-man outfield rotation once Alou returns. Carlos Beltran would miss less time than the others, but Mets people appear to like the way Cleveland's four-man rotation works.
Manny Acta is treated like returning royalty by some members of the Mets front office when he comes back to Shea as Nationals manager -- a little awkward considering he's managing the competition. Imagine how great they'd think he is if his team didn't have the worst record in the league at 4-10 (tied with the Tigers).
It's not fair to say Dusty Baker "dwelled too much on death threats,'' as fine Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti said in an otherwise excellent column about how Baker, who returned to Wrigley Field on Tuesday night as Reds manager, didn't do a first-rate job in the Windy City. But otherwise I agree. Like many before him, Baker wasn't great there. And that has nothing to do with death threats.
By the way, Kerry Wood looks like he's coming back nicely from all those high pitch counts inflicted upon him. Saving a 9-5 win against Baker's Reds seemed like poetic justice.
That Ubaldo Jimenez looks like he has a future.
One of the great things about Extra Innings, MLB's TV package, is that you get to hear Vin Scully every night. He's still the best at what he does.