Sabathia to Angels? It could happen (cont.)
While it may be tough to outbid the Yankees, who almost certainly will pursue Sabathia (new boss Hank Steinbrenner has said as much) in an out-of-control bidding war, the Angels could still hold something of a homefield advantage for the California native. Although folks close to him suggest that he's become more open-minded toward all locales after loving Milwaukee a lot more than he expected, and a recent report by Newsday's Ken Davidoff suggested that Sabathia has at least delayed breaking ground on the dream home he'd been planning in Orange County, Calif.
Even so, it's possible that the Angels may still provide Sabathia's best chance to go home, since it's hard to imagine the Giants, Sabathia's hometown team (and first choice, according to one person close to Sabathia) taking another free-agent pitching plunge only two years after the Barry Zito debacle, and almost as questionable whether Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who has spent a season complaining about revenues and cost, making such a stratospheric free-agent expenditure.
Most baseball insiders have been assuming that the Yankees, who may shed $88 million from their current $210 million payroll, will see their revenues skyrocket in a new stadium and have an obvious drastic need to resurrect their crumbling rotation, are the odds-on favorites to land Sabathia, who has pitched so well in Milwaukee that he's inserted himself into the Cy Young discussion after only 10 weeks. But the Angels could steal Sabathia if they are so inclined.
After the Yankees, who are sure to undergo an extreme makeover in the wake of their dreadful underperformance, the Angels may be the most interesting team to watch this winter. Moreno, who may be the best owner in the game and is said by one baseball economist to be "printing money'' in Anaheim, is such a marketing genius that he has most folks convinced that his team plays in Los Angeles. So maybe he can convince Sabathia to give up a chance at Yankee riches to join what might be a super team in his home state.
Around the Majors
In what was surely a slap at longtime GM Brian Cashman, Hank the Yank told the Associated Press that he's upset enough about the team's bad year to remake the Yankees' front office with an advisory committee at the top of the hierarchy. One thing Hank the Yank didn't mention and is known by everyone within the organization is that he really isn't running the team. His quieter brother Hal is.
Making matters worse for Hank has been the rise of Joe Torre's Dodgers. The Dodgers appear storming toward a playoff spot now, and they'll get a big boost if Rafael Furcal (hitting .365 before getting hurt) and Takashi Saito can return soon. Furcal's agent Kinzer said he may only be a few days away from taking the field. Furcal and the Dodgers were close to doing an extension when he was diagnosed with the herniated disk that has kept him out for more than half the season. Saito is expected back this weekend.
The Marlins will undergo an interesting makeover this winter. With no fewer than 18 players eligible for arbitration, GM Larry Beinfest and his people will have to work even more magic to retain several key pieces while deciding which ones to trade away or let leave. A hurdle was cleared in their fight for a new ballpark when a judged ruled that it was OK to spend those public monies on a stadium, but that won't necessarily cause Marlins ownership to loosen their purse strings this winter.
OK, I was wrong about the Astros. With their schedule and their current play, they are very much in the race.
It'll be interesting to keep an eye on Brewers manager Ned Yost, who at least hasn't been getting ejected from games this September.
Gabe Kapler, who's hitting .301, is a big Brewers loss after suffering a muscle tear behind his shoulder. Of all GM Doug Melvin's great pickups, Kapler may be the biggest surprise of all.
Billy Wagner's press conference to announce his Tommy John surgery was heartbreaking. Who'd think a man with a $43 million contract could elicit so much sympathy?
Mets manager Jerry Manuel mentioned that struggling reliever Aaron Heilman has been suffering from knee tendonitis since the spring, and that that may have adversely affected his performance. But one NL scout has a different theory. That scout said that Heilman is better as a starter, when he is throwing his sinker in the 88-91 range rather than trying to throw 95 as a reliever. The Mets have never seen Heilman as a starter. So he could be seen as trade bait this winter. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are among many teams to have inquired about Heilman.
David Ortiz tells the Red Sox media that his elbow still isn't 100 percent.
Ortiz is a tough guy. But how about Albert Pujols, who has played through elbow problems all year?
Congrats to the Rays, who won two big games in Boston, surprised the Red Sox and maybe even themselves, too. And when they officially make the playoffs and crack open the champagne, they are one team I could stand to hear crowing about how they "shocked the world.''