Results tagged ‘ Jose Contreras ’

Foul Balls; And 2010 Forecasts: NL East

Before we
wrap up the National League forecast, the Denard Span incident this afternoon
in Tampa (he hits his own mother with a foul ball – and she is wearing one of
his uniforms at the time) called to mind three equally unlikely events with
players and fans and balls flying into the stands:

1. August
17th, 1957. Richie Ashburn, who got to the Baseball Hall of Fame largely by
virtue of his ability to keep fouling off pitches he didn’t
like, until he got one he did like, fouled one off into the stands
at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It struck – of all people – Alice
Roth, the wife of the sports editor of the newspaper The Philadelphia Bulletin. They
had to carry Mrs. Roth (and her broken nose) off on a stretcher. While
they were so doing, Ashburn, who was still
at bat and still fouling pitches off, hit Mrs. Roth with another foul
ball.

2. Of
course, on June 17th, 2000, Chuck Knoblauch of the New York Yankees picked up a
ground ball and threw it wildly towards first base. It instead hit a fan
sitting behind the dugout, breaking her eyeglasses. The fan, of course, was my
mother.

3.
And perhaps the unlikeliest of the events: After Span got hit, the Associated
Press was reminded of the Bob Feller incident (reminded by Bob Feller, of
course). On May 14, 1939, when the Hall of Fame flamethrower was still just 20
years old, he threw a pitch at Comiskey Park which some member of the White Sox
fouled into the seats – striking Feller’s mother. May 14, 1939 was, of course,
Mother’s Day.

Now to
finish up the NL:

ATLANTA is
the obvious sleeper, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. If Troy Glaus and
Jason Heyward produce as Atlanta expects them, Bobby Cox will have a
competitive final year. If they exceed expectations (and Heyward gives off the
vibe of a Pujolsian, From-Day-One-Superstar) the Braves might actually air out
the division. The rotation gets a little sketchy behind Hanson and Jurrjens,
and there is little or no room for injury (if Glaus gets profoundly hurt or
Heyward is Jordan Schafer
, Eric Hinske and Omar Infante will be playing nearly every
day). And of course it would not be the Braves without another new closer.
Here, updated from its first appearance in this space last summer, is the Bobby
Cox bullpen honor roll:

1. Joe
Boever, 1990

2. Mark
Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990

3. Mercker
and Juan Berenguer, 1991

4.
Alejandro Pena, 1991-92

5. Jeff
Reardon, 1992

6. Mike
Stanton, 1993

7. Greg
McMichael, 1994-95

8. Brad
Clontz, 1995

9. Mark
Wohlers, 1995-98

10. Kerry
Ligtenberg, 1998

11. John
Rocker, 1999

12.
Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000

13.
Rocker, 2000-01

14. Steve
Karsay, 2001

15. John
Smoltz, 2001-04

16. Danny
Kolb, 2005

17. Chris
Reitsma, 2005

18. Kyle
Farnsworth, 2005

19.
Reitsma, 2006

20. Ken
Ray, 2006

21. Bob
Wickman, 2006-07

22. Rafael
Soriano, 2008

23. Manny
Acosta, 2008

24. John
Smoltz, 2008

25.
Soriano, 2008

26. Mike
Gonzalez, 2008-09

27.
Soriano, 2009

28. Billy
Wagner, 2010.

If FLORIDA
could make just two starters out of Anibal Sanchez, Nate Robertson, Andrew Miller, Sean West,
Ryan Tucker, Rick Vandenhurk, and Chris Volstad, the Marlins might be the
favorites. By mid-season this could be the most potent offense in the league,
because all Florida needs to produce seven house-wreckers in a row is for one
of the following three kids to live up to his promise: Logan Morrison, Gaby
Sanchez, Mike Stanton (if the Heyward-esque Stanton explodes to big league
quality, you put him in the outfield, you put the fabulous Chris Coghlan back at second or third,
and move either Jorge Cantu or Dan Uggla to first). Florida’s biggest question
mark is the bullpen, where Leo Nunez may or may not succeed.

All that
can be said about NEW YORK is: Sigh. I love the people who run this club, from
the ticket takers to the owners. But this year the wheels could fall off even
worse – and farther – than last. I think Jason Bay is a legitimate power
source, and I thought Jeff Francoeur a steal, but that begs the question of
what the Mets now expect from the guy who is still their top offensive
prospect, Fernando Martinez. If Bay, Beltran, and Francoeur are to be the
outfield for awhile, why is Martinez still there? Plus, the silence
about Beltran is ominous. The
ominousness of Daniel Murphy’s bat is silent. And there is nothing – nothing -
dependable in any of the three categories of pitchers, except for Johan
Santana, Pedro Feliciano, and Frankie Rodriguez, and the latter is just another
closer now. It is absolutely plausible that by June 1 the only questions will
be whether or not to give Ike Davis a taste of the majors, whether or not to
start screwing up Jenrry Mejia the way the Yankees messed with Joba
Chamberlain, and if some Japanese team will take Luis Castillo off their hands.

I’m not
the only person who believed Buster Olney’s story about PHILADELPHIA and Ryan
Howard – if not the plausibility of a swap for Pujols, then at least internal
musings about his decline against lefthanded pitchers and his decreasing
success against breaking pitches. When you are chewed up and spat out by Damaso
Marte, you are not exactly still in the same league as Pujols, or Adrian Gonzalez
for that matter. I’m a little suspicious of the assumed improvement in putting
Placido Polanco in at third (he’s 34, he fell off appreciably last year, he is
moving to a tougher position). Raul Ibanez seems to represent that Sword of
Damacles hanging over any team trying for three in a row (if you haven’t had a
significant position player injury in the first two seasons, you’re going to
in the third). I am not sold on the
rotation (Blanton, Contreras, Moyer, Kendrick – two of these guys must do well),
and the bullpen looks to be sketchier than a year ago.

There are
ways WASHINGTON can suddenly stop being a last-place team (the Ian Desmond
decision was superb – it needs to be followed by similar decisions involving Drew
Storen and Stephen Strasburg, and maybe new limbs grown by Jordan Zimmermann
and Chien-Ming Wang – quickly). Also, I think he’s a quality individual, but
the retention of Jim Riggleman as manager – after ten seasons that have produced
only one finish better than third (a weak second for the Cubs in 1998) – makes
little sense here. Unless Mike Rizzo is thinking of Pat Listach or Rick
Eckstein as a future big league manager, respectability for this club is going
to be the time it takes them to swap out Riggleman plus
the time it will take to break in his
replacement. Why not skip the first step?

DIVISION PREDICTIONS:
I’ll take the long odds that the Braves’ breaks fall the right way and Cox goes
out with a winner in a tight race over the Phillies. The Marlins will hit a ton
but waste the brilliance of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco by using 11
different fifth starters and half a dozen closers. The Mets will have their
nightmare collapse and be wondering if they can unload not only Castillo, but
maybe Beltran and Reyes, too. They will finish a few games ahead of the
Nationals – but only a few.

Tillman1967.jpg

LEAGUE PREDICTIONS: As mentioned, I like the Braves, Reds and the Rockies for the division titles. The Wild Card would seem to be a battle between the Phillies and the Giants – I really like San Francisco’s rotation, and I really do not like Philadelphia’s chances of getting through another season without physical calamity. So let’s assume the Rockies finish with the best record – they should handle the Giants, and the Braves’ experience should make them favorites over the Reds. An Atlanta-Colorado NLCS? I think the Rockies win that one, as much as I’d be rooting for the man I always greet as the guy the Braves once traded to the Yankees for Bob Tillman, who had been traded to the Yankees for Elston Howard, meaning Coxy was as good as Elston Howard….

Jim Thome And Other Personnel (Fifth Update)

Vin Scully just announced on the Dodger broadcast that the team has obtained Jim Thome from the White Sox for a player to be named later. If they’ve dropped somebody from the roster, Thome would be playoff eligible. Every Blue player and fan would be happy, except, presumably, James Loney. The Chicago Tribune says the price is infielder James Fuller (24 years old, in A-ball, not much of a resume) and the Sox included some money to pay off the last month of Thome’s current deal.
Half an inning later, Vin waxed poetic about how nice it would be to see the Thome trade posted on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard when his producer instead showed a shot of Jon Garland in the Arizona Dugout. “He is being told he has just been traded to the Dodgers.” Again, with the option present to make him playoff-eligible, one assumes LA will clear roster space tonight (one would not be advised to invest heavily in the roster security of Charlie Haeger, James McDonald, or maybe even Juan Castro).
Meanwhile in Denver, the Rockies have announced they’ve gotten Jose Contreras from Chicago in time to put him on the post-season eligibility pile.
At some point in his long and varied playing career, White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams probably witnessed an on-field special promotion night performance of “Captain Dynamite.” It is hard to imagine today, but this gentleman would get into a box which also contained some explosives (and, honestly, if they’re in the box with you, exactly how many, and how powerful, do they really need to be before you begin to think this is a bad way to make a living?).
And then they’d blow up the box.
Captain Dynamite would then stagger to his feet, and wobble back to his trailer, no doubt shouting “Somebody answer the damn phone,” as he did.
The point of the act, of course, was that while one assumed Captain Dynamite knew what he was doing, even the realization that he probably had long since maximized the bang-for-the-buck without getting himself killed, did not take away any of the guilty thrill. It was the threat inherent in the performance that kept Captain Dynamite going, and self-detonating.
This brings us back to Kenny, who according to various reports (here’s Jon Heyman’s) spent the day after his White Sox washed out here in New York, advising other GM’s that he had waivers on most of his veterans and was willing to move them all, whether before or after tonight’s post-season roster “deadline”: Thome, Contreras, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Octavio Dotel, and Scott Linebrink. After their embarrassingly flaccid performance at Yankee Stadium, during which they sank to 6-and-19 on the road, some members of the Chicago traveling party hinted to me that Williams would either get rid of anybody he could, or at minimum, use the threat of a fire sale to try to wake up his guys. Hitting coach Greg Walker had already met with his batters and warned them to start compiling smart AB’s, or lose playing time. Manager Ozzie Guillen was greeting old friends with variations on the announcement “We stink.”
As noted above, Thome went to the Dodgers, waiving his no trade clause as he did. He and Dotel become free agents in a month, Dye has a “mutual option” for twelve million, Contreras was thought to have little return value (a 5.42 ERA is not automatically considered a liability in Colorado), Linebrink is owed nearly eleven million over the next two years, and Konerko has a year to go, owed twelve mill. And while each of the hitters might spark up a contender’s line-up, Dotel looked like a mop-up man during a game in Boston, and Linebrink turned a close game into a laugher in just a handful of batters yesterday in the Bronx. For the White Sox, hopefully the scare will be effective, because the likelihood of a salary off-load seems pretty low.
ELSEWHERE:

Absolutely fascinating that the Mets, who deliberately kept some of their prospects in the minors even as gaping holes opened in their line-up, were the first out of the box to announce an intriguing September call-up. He’s catcher Josh Thole, who after hitting .300 in the Florida State League, improved that to .328 in the Eastern League. Take a look at his numbers and one will jump out at you. There may not be much power there, but in 384 at bats, he struck out only 34 times. Hard to guess how much they’ll play him in preference to Brian Schneider and Omir Santos, but I don’t think they called him up the first day of roster expansion (and announced it the day before) to have him warm up pitchers between innings.
In a sense, Arizona actually made a critical September call-up last week – but didn’t realize how critical. Daniel Schlereth, still considered the closer of the future, returned to the D’Backs  just in a time to watch the team’s only two veteran relievers exit, suddenly. Jon Rauch went to the Twins, and Chad Qualls was lost for the year with a dislocated kneecap. There seems no reason not to give Schlereth save opportunities or at least 7th or 8th inning duty over the last month. Juan Gutierrez might be Qualls’ successor (on the slim resume of two save opportunities) but it is unimaginable that an Arizona team driven by ex-Player Development guru A.J. Hinch would rather see if Gutierrez can claim the job for next year rather than Schlereth. If you’ve been trying to figure out what the Snakes are actually going to do, don’t bother scour those who cover the team. As usual, the obvious question (“Hey, A.J.? Who closes if you lead 4-3 in the ninth tomorrow?”) seems to have eluded everybody until about 9:30 eastern time when Nick Piecoro finally blogged that Gutierrez would get the first call, but he might also work in Schlereth. And Esmerling Vasquez. And Blaine Boyer. And Clay Zavada. The Arizona radio guys said it would be Gutierrez, maybe Zavada against lefties. There was much more in the Arizona websites about Luis Gonzalez’s new job in the front office. Sigh.

As it happened, Arizona used Boyer in the seventh inning while trailing 3-2. Then Justin Upton homered to tie it, and in came first Schlereth and Vasquez in the eighth in crunch time, and each pitched effectively. Vasquez continued through the ninth, and after Arizona went up in the 10th it was Gutierrez, working an almost effortless inning for the save.

Meantime, the Marlins managed to sneak Cameron Maybin into playoff-eligibility by bringing him back from New Orleans, and DFA’ing reliever Luis Ayala. Maybin hit .319 and cut his K’s to 58 in 298 at bats in New Orleans, and who memorably batted a gaudy .500 in the last eight games after his late-September call up last year. An update here: turns out Maybin actually isn’t a September call-up. Florida DFA’d pitcher Luis Ayala tonight and added Maybin before the midnight deadline and would thus be post-season eligible.
One last note. Can’t remember anybody who thought the Yankees didn’t rip off the Pirates last July when they stole Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh for “some minor leaguers.” The third of them, Daniel McCutchen, made an effective big league pitching debut Monday, joining Russ Ohlendorf (11-9, staff leader in wins) and Jeff Karstens (flashes of brilliance, then crap, then injury) on the Pirate roster. It means
that outfielder Jose Tabata, the high-upside crapshoot of a prospect, doesn’t even have to succeed for this to indeed be a ripoff – for Pittsburgh. Nady may never play again, and nailing Thome on a ground out on Sunday lowered Marte’s ERA to 10.57.
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