Thoughts from the season's first weekend (cont.)
Matt Kemp seems to be giving his A game, which is quite good. He had a big spring, and he's off to a huge start. Perhaps new Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is good for him.
Mattingly told me he didn't blame the Dodgers at all for trading his son Preston shortly after he was named manager. I thought maybe they didn't want the appearance of a conflict of interest, but Mattingly had a different take. He said it wasn't working and he appreciated the Dodgers giving his son a fresh start. Unfortunately, Preston, a former first round draft choice, was released by the Indians this weekend.
The Rays made a good deal to guarantee $12.6 million and four years to righthander Wade Davis, and get three team options thrown in. The one thing a player wants to avoid is team options, and three of them are far too many. Fausto Carmona got one of those deals. Of course, at the moment, Carmona has a 30.00 ERA after giving up 10 earned runs in three innings in his season debut.
Matt Treanor, a new Royal, hit a walk-off three-run home run to give the Royals a 12-9, 13 inning win and three wins in four games over the Angels. Treanor was acquired because Jason Kendall is still recovering after offseason elbow surgery. Good pickup.
The Angels' Scott Kazmir continues to worry folks by being hit hard. He isn't close to the same pitcher he used to be. There was talk in Tampa that he succeeded all on natural ability and wasn't the hardest worker around. But perhaps the fears of the scouts just finally caught up; not many little guys last as a star big-league pitcher.
Tim Lincecum is one little ace who shows no signs of slowing down. Giants GM Brian Sabean told the San Jose Mercury News he wasn't anticipating talking to Lincecum about a multiyear deal during the middle of the year. But he also didn't rule it out. Lincecum is worth whatever they give him.
The Giants' defense looks weaker than last year, with Miguel Tejada carrying his spring problems into the season, and Aubrey Huff manning right field with the surprise ascension of ballyhooed rookie Brandon Belt. Good for Huff for being willing to go to right field, but he's going to need some work out there after playing mostly first base in spring.
Barry Zito is no better than a No. 5 starter now (though he is technically the No. 4 man in the Giants' rotation because they don't want to tax Madison Bumgarner's young arm). But he should get credit for his toughness. Within days of suffering enough pain from a car accident on Sunset Boulevard that he had to go to a hospital and receive an MRI, he was on the mound for his scheduled start.
Matt Garza, who looked bad most of spring, whiffed 12 in his Cubs debut Sunday (while allowing 12 hits and no walks in a weird line).
Jaime Garcia, who was brutal all spring for St. Louis, pitched the first shutout of the year, 2-0 over the Padres.
Matt Holliday's absence could impact free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. David Freese served as Pujols' lineup protection, though Lance Berkman would seem to be the most likely choice.
St. Louis has a "weird'' defense in the words of one scout. That scout noted that they are great defensively at catcher (Yadier Molina) first base (Pujols) and centerfield (Colby Rasmus), and much less than that in several other spots. Their defense has cost them early.
It was a surprise to see Red Sox manager Terry Francona drop Carl Crawford all the way down to the No. 7 spot in the batting order for the third game of the year. Francona, a serial defender of his top stars, usually avoids quick demotions like that.
It was interesting to see Yankees GM Brian Cashman say the Mets' approach to the oft-used reliever Pedro Feliciano was "abusive,'' in that the Yankees already committed $8 million to Feliciano and teams usually avoid those sort of claims. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said he disagreed but said Feliciano's usage played a role in the Mets not offering him a new deal, in effect acknowledging his new bosses wouldn't necessarily disagree with Cashman. Warthen, a serial truth teller, is absolutely right. Sandy Alderson's band ruled out Feliciano due to a major league leading number of appearances -- 266 -- over the past three seasons, during each of which Feliciano pitched in more games than any other hurler in baseball.
One baseball source said Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox have an agreement on the dollar amount of Gonzalez's extension, and while one other source insisted that the Red Sox still wanted to see Gonzalez play several straight games before absolutely finalizing the deal, everyone in baseball sees an agreement being finalized and formalized in coming weeks. Reports in December indicated it would be for $154 million over seven years on top of Gonzalez's $6.3 million 2011 salary, bringing the total to just over $160 million, and it is expected that will be in the ballpark. Boston had to wait until after the season began to avoid Gonzalez's extension affecting their luxury tax obligation, just as they had to a year ago when Josh Beckett was given a $68 million, four-year extension shortly after the 2010 season began. The Yankees are the only team firmly in luxury-tax territory while the Red Sox and Phillies are the only other teams that could be affected. Red Sox owner John Henry has been outspoken about his distaste for Boston's revenue sharing obligation, to the point where he was fined $500,000 for enunciating his displeasure and revealing their exact obligation publicly.
Bud Selig wouldn't commit to retiring on Dec. 31, 2012, saying, "that is my goal,'' and "those are my thoughts today'' -- two less than definitive statements -- at a recent sports business symposium in Miami sponsored by IMG. People close to Selig, including his wife, Sue, expect him to keep working beyond that date assuming he remains in good health (he turns 77 this summer). Selig also revealed MLB expects revenues to top $7 billion this year. Baseball people also seem confident a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached before there's a work stoppage. The current CBA expires at the end of the season.
Sources indicate Chuck Greenberg resigned as CEO of the Rangers after club president Nolan Ryan gave the ultimatum to the team's main owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson that either Greenberg had to go or he would. Well, of course, there was no question who would go at that point. Ryan, so revered in Texas he could probably be governor if he wanted, was annoyed at Greenberg's hands-on approach to baseball matters despite being a baseball neophyte (and also about the same outspokenness that irked the Yankees. too). Interestingly, it was only by swaying Ryan to his side did Greenberg win control of the team in the first place. He also promised Ryan a small stake in the team (believed to be 1.5 points) in addition to a salary that is estimated to be between $6 million and $9 million. But their association only lasted eight months at the helm of the Rangers. Through a spokesman, Ryan declined to comment.
The Padres are hopeful ace Mat Latos won't be out too long with bursitis in his right shoulder. Latos' bigger issue is an immaturity that has alienated much of the Padres clubhouse, one person familiar with their clubhouse environment said.
Condolences to the family of Lou Gorman, the GM and architect of the 1986 Boston Red Sox, one of the most memorable teams ever for their heroics and ultimately heartbreak. Gorman's Mets and Red Sox teams both drafted Roger Clemens, and Clemens became the biggest star of that '86 team. Gorman was a very gentle and kind man, and he will be missed.