Separating contenders from pretenders; notes around majors (cont.)
Around the majors
The Nationals have settled on right-handed phenom Stephen Strasburg from San Diego State. The $50 million asking price won't be met. But for what it's worth, I asked two executives who they'd rather have -- Strasburg or Erik Bedard (a free agent-to-be who could get around $50 million in my estimation), and neither hesitated for a second. It's Strasburg by a mile. Then again, as one pointed out, "But Strasburg isn't a free agent."
The best chance for Strasburg to get the $50 million would have been for him to slide all the way down to the Yankees. But a Yankees official acknowledged, "We've got no shot at him."
Alex Rodriguez is due back May 8 or 9, depending on how things go this week. To be exact, that's four or five days after the release of the book A-Rod, by SI's Selena Roberts, which is out today.
The Kirk Radomski book, Bases Loaded, isn't bad, either. But it's pretty funny how he credits himself with saving the health of the players for whom he provided steroids. His reasoning? If he didn't sell them the 'roids, someone else far less knowledgeable and compassionate might have been MLB's great steroid supplier, which would have endangered the health of the players. Radomski also suggests he didn't make much money selling steroids. Yeah, sure. He did it for the pure joy. This is one delusional cat who should thank his lawyer, John Reilly, and the prosecutors every day. He did acknowledge their work on his behalf in the book.
Jeff Brantley, former Ranger and current broadcaster, told radio's Chris "Mad Dog" Russo that while he didn't know anything about the pitch-tipping allegation in the A-Rod book, Brantley believes Texas teammate Randy Velarde tipped off A-Rod. When Velarde was on first base, he thought he could tell what A's catcher Ramon Hernandez was calling (Velarde and Hernandez were once A's teammates), and Brantley said Velarde would signal A-Rod. Danny Knobler of CBSsports.com looked it up, and A-Rod was 6-for-11 with four home runs when Velarde was on first and Hernandez catching.
Two Rangers people did tell me A-Rod was often calling pitches for his own pitchers, though. (Apparently, he didn't think the Rangers catchers could handle it.) And Rangers manager Buck Showalter said that, as well, on Michael Kay's radio show on ESPN-1050. Showalter (who said he didn't know about pitch tipping to opponents, and said he would have stopped it if he had) said he told Rodriguez to stop calling their pitchers' pitches, by the way.
Oliver Perez's performances thus far have really annoyed his Mets bosses (no surprise there). But indications now are that he will land on the disabled list. No one previously said a word about any knee trouble, but he appeared in the clubhouse Sunday with an ice pack on his knee. His real issue is above the neck, though, Mets higher-ups believe. In speaking about Ken Takahashi, who got out of Perez's last mess, one Mets official noted that at least "he competed." Ouch.
So Sheffield allegedly has "edge," according to Mets GM Omar Minaya. Was that manifested in him throwing balls away on purpose in Milwaukee, griping about the salaries of teammates in Los Angeles, calling Joe Torre a racist, allegedly sending cash to steroids dealer Victor Conte or nearly two decades worth of whining over personal slights? If that's edge, who wants it?
GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees can't seriously consider Pedro Martinez or Paul Byrd until they're pitching somewhere. Another GM said either pitcher would likely "need a month" once they sign on to get into pitching shape.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander is showing signs of getting it back together. After Verlander was hit hard by the Angels earlier this year, one executive said, "The guy throws 97 and has a wicked hook. He has the best stuff in the league. He should be better than this." Tigers insiders say Verlander tends to take a know-it-all position and is resistant to suggestion. But he is no dummy and perhaps he is learning.
More and more, Cliff Lee -- from 22-3 last year to 1-4 this year -- looks like July trade bait.
The best-case scenario for Brandon Webb, who gets another MRI this week, is to be back sometime in June.
Any day I run into Torii Hunter is a good day. So Sunday was that.
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