MLB Trade Deadline 2008

Well, it’s now the end of non-waiver trades in MLB.  Some surprising moves were made.  The biggest being the end of the “Manny-Era” in Boston.

Manny Ramirez, the mercurial OF for the Sox, was shipped off to the land of granola (all fruits and nuts), while the Sox got Jason Bay, and the Pirates got a bevy of prospects.  This was the block buster of the day, and perhpas the season, trumping even CC Sabathia going to Millwaukee. 

Manny had to go.  He had quit on the team, supposedly to “punish management,” which made him expendable not only to the brain trust, but to his teammates as well.  I doubt even Big Poppi could defend Manny after his antics the past few weeks.  So now Manny is Joe Torre’s problem with the Dodgers in LA.  Can’t wait to see how Manny and Larry Bowa get along.  Yes, the Sox gave up alot to get rid of Manny, they’re paying his salary, and gave up Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss as well.  The Dodgers gave up Andy Laroche, and another prospect to the Pirates, who sent their star OF Jason Bay to Boston.

I actually kind of like this deal.  The Sox get Bay, who is under contract for next year, and get rid of Manny, his antics, and the headache.  The money really isn’t an issue, as they’d have been paying it if Manny had stayed.  The Dodgers get a HoF hitter to help bolster their line up, and don’t have to pay him. The Pirates really make out on this deal.  They get four players, trim their payroll slightly, and get set for having a solid team for the next 4-5 years.  This makes up for them getting ripped off by the Yankees in the Nady/Marte deal.

The Yankees meanwhile picked up Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth.  This is an intriguing deal, as the two were exchanged straight up.   With Jorge Posada going down for the season (and perhaps longer, depending on his surgery), the Yanks were in the market for a solid all round catcher. The Tigers have been fading a bit, and seem to be very comfortable with Brandon Inge at catcher.  In return for Pudge, the Tigers got a much needed reliever, one that had become expendedable in NY, and was finally getting his act together.  Expect Fransworth to close some games the rest of the way for the Tigers. 

The Brave’s actually dealt Mark Teixeira.  Yes, this means that the Brave’s are surrendering this season and next.  The Angels make out good with this deal, as Teixeira is a big time upgrade at 1B over Casey Kotchman, offensively and defensively.  The Braves do get younger, and Kotchman is cheaper, and under contract for the next few years.  The Halos will be very, very tough down the stretch, and in the post season. 

Strangest deal was Junior Griffey going to the White Sox.  this one makes very little sense to me.  Other than giving Junior a shot at a ring (which he deserves), thsi doesn’t make much baseball sense.  The White Sox are set at the corner OF poisitons (Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye), and Junior isn’t all that great in CF anymore, and hasn’t played there regularly in years.  The DH slot isn’t much of an option either with Jim Thome entrenched there.  I understand that Junior and the White Sox GM (whose neame escpaes me ATM, Ken Williams?), have a relationship going back a while, but even still.  This one seems to be just about giving a bone to Junior.

And that was about it.  The two earlier trades for pitchers, Sabathia to Milwaukee, Rich Harden to the Cubs, weren’t deadline deals, though were significant.  As ESPN called it, this was a “dud line.” 

I was suprised that certain players did not get moved.  Jack Wilson from the Pirates, Brian Fuentes from the Rockies, Jeremy Hermidia from Florida, were all rumored to be going.  None of them moved.  I was more surprised that the Brave’s didn’t deal Jeff Francouer.  I would have thought he had all but worn out his welcome in Atlanta.  He may yet go, but probably not untill the off season.  Some talked about guys like George Sherrill in Baltimore, but I doubted he would move, not after the Bedard trade which brought him to Baltimore, unless a team really overwhelmed the O’s with an offer.  Dealing may not yet be done, but any deal will involved players needing to clear waivers before being traded.

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First Military Execution in 50 years is approved

Today, President Bush approved the death penalty for Pvt. Ronald Gray, convicted of multiple homicides and rape in the late 1980’s.  Military detah penalties are fairly rare, even in times of war.  The Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), allows greater latitude for giving out the death penalty, but it usually takes extreme situations for it to come into play.

Ronald Gray was convicted of 2 murders, and 5 rapes in North Carolina State court.  He then faced a Military Courts-Martial for his actions against three other women, including two service women.  He was convicted on all counts, and the panel unanimously reccomended the death penalty.

The appeals process works differently for military court-martials.  His sentence must be approved by his command (the 82nd Airborne in this case), the Army Military Court of Review, the Secretary of the Army, then finally the President.  The Secretary of the Army must submit to the President a request for approval.  The Supreme Court may intervene, but declined in this case.  Today, the President, after consultation with the Attorney General (not a requirement), approved the death senetence.

Full story here:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0708/12129.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/07/28/military.execution/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,392982,00.html

Patterson Speaks to the State

In an unusual move, Gov. David Patterson took to the airwaves, asking stations to carry his 5 minute speach on the State’s economy.  Not sure how many stations actually did, my guess is most, as they all have 5pm newscasts now, but I watched it on Capital News 9 here in the Albany area. 

It was a short, and fearful speach.  He was not off base in his assessment though.  Due to declines on Wall Street, and the banking crisis, the State of NY is facing a $5billion shortfall in the budget.  It’s so bad, that the Governor has even contemplated asking the Federal government to help bail the State out.  It has not hit that point just yet.

Instead, Patterson is looking to make some moves here in NY at first.  State agencies will be facing budget cut backs.  While this may not mean immediate layoffs, it will mean hiring freezes, except for critical positions, and reduction through attrition (retirements, resignations).  It also means that the Governor will be recalling the Legislature into session on August 19th for a special session to deal with the budget crisis.  Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos had already planned on recalling the Senate for a session to deal with the Property Tax Cap issue, so it will be up to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to get his ducks in a row and show up.

A lot of these proposals will depend on how they are implemented.  Unfortunately, I think that most cuts will happen in the wrong places for the wrong reasons.  The State unions are extremely powerful, and are very protective of certain positions and agencies.  Some agencies are already at effectively skeleton crew levels, and others which should be prioritized, will suffer cuts that will in the end hurt the State more than it will help.  This is not say that cuts can’t, or shouldnt be made.  But they have to be properly applied.

What happens in August, with the recalled Legislature, should be interesting at the least.  Somehow, I have the nagging suspicion that the Assembly will scuttle any meaningful reforms, or budgetary adjustments.  Any initiative will be watered down to the point of being nothing more than a dog and pony show.  But we shall see.

Can you tell it’s an election year?

Well, the politial hoopla never seems to end, does it?

On the national scene, we have the NYT showing again how biased it really is, rejecting a counter point Op-Ed by John McCain to one published by the Times from Barack Obama.  It’s not the rejection itself that’s a problem, we should expect this sort of nonsense, but the rationale as to why it was rejected.  “It (McCain’s piece) should ‘mirror’ Barack Obama’s.”  Eh?  “Mirror Barack Obama’s?”  Essentially, what the Times was asking of McCain, was to effectively parrot Obama’s Iraq position, and the position they endorse.  Ideological hegemony, NYT style.

Then there’s Obama’s “Triumph of the Will” speach in Germany.  Does no one else see the similarities between Obama’s speaches and Hitler’s Nuremburg rallies?  No, I’m not comparing Obama to Adolf, that’s just absurd.  But it that sort of personal charisma, and people swooning because he sounds good that should worry people.  There’s sound and fury, but no subatance people.  It scares me to see how eailly swayed and at time guillible the American people are.

In the State of NY, some things just aren’t going away.  Remember Trooper-Gate?  Well, four Spitzer appointees are under charge from the Public Integrity Commission.  Two have already cut deals, while former Pressman Darren Dopp, and former State Police Suprintendent Felton Spencer are fighting the charges (sort of).  It may be a matter of time before criminal charges are filed against Dopp, and possibly others in their role in the use of State Police for political puroses, then leaking confidential information to the press.  Of course, the shiftless Times-Union will not even face a whiff of charges over thier role in this.  Typical.

These charges come on the heels of Joe Bruno’s retirement from the NYS Senate to take a private sector job.  Joe walked away first from re-election, then from the Senate entirely.  The fact was he was burned out from the politics, and the personal vendettas and vitriol thrown at him, compounded by the death of his wife.  But even once he had sailed off inot the sunset, he still can’t escape the Spitzer dirty tricks scandal. 

On an even more local level, Mike Conners (Albany Co. Comptroller), released a scathing report on the financial practices of the Albany County DA’s office.  The focus revolved around the petty cash fund of the DA’s office, and the lax practices involving it.  Naturally David Soares (Albany County DA) was upset at some of the accustaions.  But Soares is already in trouble, from his lack of attention to local criminal investigations, preferring the national spotlight, and his bungling of the Spitzer Trooper-gate scandal.  If an even mediocre challenger to his post arose, he’d be bounced from office.

2008 MLB All Star Game

Wow.  A late night, 15 inning affair, one that had several people sweating bullets like it was 2002 again.

I think the happiest people in the park when Justin Morneau scored were Terry Francona, Jim Leyland, and Bud Selig.  Not just that the AL had won, but they were saved from having to make some really rough decisions if the game went into a 16th inning.  A brief recap first though…

Scoring was hard to find this year.  It was quite clear that the pitchers, from both the AL and NL, were out to win this game.  Matt Holliday got the scoring going with a solo HR in the 5th, which was followed by a another run in the 6th on a Lance Berkman Sac Fly.  MVP JD Drew got the AL back with a 2-run HR in the 7th.  Things got a bit ugly in the 8th when Jon Papelbon took the mound for the AL.  After some highly misinterperted comments got some typical NYC press coverage, the crowd got on Pap bad.  With the crowd chanting for Mariano Rivera, and a run of “over rated” chants, Miguel Tejada singled, stole second, and got to third on Dioner Navarro’s throwing error.  IMO, the crowd had an effect that inning.  I think that Navarro let the crowd get to him a bit, and he rushed his throw to second trying to get things quieted a bit.  Instead, he threw the ball into CF, which allowed Tejada to score on an Adrian Gonzalez Sac Fly.  As a side note, even Derek Jeter thought the crowd was “off” waving at them dismissively at one point.  Bet that doesn’t make the NYC papers.

Down 3-2, Grady Sizemore of the AL singled in the 8th, and then stole second uncontested.  With two outs, PH Evan Longoria (the fan vote 10th man), hit a ground rule double, scoring Sizemore.  Score tied 3-3.  Mariano River came in in the 9th, and worked almost 2 full innings, trying to get the win, and had to work out of a jam to preserve the 3-3 tie.  Things just got wild from there.

Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook had a bases loaded, no out jam, and got out of the inning unscathed.  Poor Dan Uggla.  He had a rough couple of innings, including back to back errors.  Yet neither error hurt the NL.  But Uggla couldn’t make up for the errors at the plate, going down twice more in the game.  Fast forward to the 15th inning..

Things were getting real tight in the 15th.  Scott Kazmir pitched the inning for the AL.  He wasn’t supposed to pitch at all, having thrown over 100 pitches on Sunday.  Then again, neither was Brandon Webb for the NL who had done the same, and pitched the 14th for the NL.  Kazimir was the last pitcher for the AL.  The NL only had Brad Lidge left.  Kazimir got a 1-2-3 15th for the AL.

Clint Hurdle brought in Lidge for the 15th.  He had some trouble, and ended up with a bases loaded, 1 out situation.  With the infield and OF “in,” Michael Young stepped up to the plate.  He hit a short fly ball to RF Corey Hart (the NL’s fan vote 10th man), who threw home as Justin Morneau tagged from third.  Morneau got in just ahead of Brian McCann’s tag, giving the Al the 4-3 win.

As Morneau tagged up, both managers were sweating bullets, along with Commissioner Bud Selig.  They were all out of players, pitchers and position players.  Every one on both rosters had been used.  Had the game gone to the 16th, Terry Francona was going to face a tough decision: Try to get 1 more inning out of Kazmir, and risk over using him, or got to a position player.  Clint Hurdle was facing a similar situation with Brad Lidge.  According to MLB.com, JD Drew was up to pitch for the AL, and David Wright for the NL.  Wouldn’t that have been interesting.  Yet Justin Mornaeu saved them from having to make those choices.  Francona was so elated I thought he was going to kiss Jim Leyland, who he’d obviously been consulting closely with on the matter.  And I haven’t seen the eternally grumpy Jim Leyland that happy since he won the World series with the Marlins.

So, thanks to a basic, fundamental baseball play, we were saved from seeing either another tie (which Selig said would not happen), or seeing position players tossing BP in the 16th.  And the crowd that remained, which I’d estimate at about a third of those who showed up originally, got to see an exciting play to end the game.

Now the good, bad, and ugly from the broadcast.

The good:

The tributes with the Hall of Famers.  It’s always fun to see the living HoF’ers gather together.  All that talent, all those memories, all those great players.  And it was the last All Star game at Yankee Stadium, which made it just a bit more special than in past years.I really liked how they broke the HoF’ers down by position, and introduced the All Star starters at each position after them. 

The tribute to Bobby Murcer.  Murcer passed away a few days ago, and was a well liked player and broadcaster.  I always liked Murcer, first as a player, then as a broadcaster.  One of the few Yankees I can say that about.  It’s too bad it was only one short bit about half way through the game.  He deserved a bit more than that IMO.

The game itself was a classic.  What more could one ask for?  You had everything happen.  Great pitching, cluth hitting, spectacular and awful defense, and close plays.  It would have been nice if they could have gotten it over in 9, but the excitement never ended in the extras.

Josh Groban singing “God Bless America.”  One of the better renditions I’ve heard in quite a while.  Usually these are just fluff additions to get non-baseball viewers to tune in.  But Groban didn’t mail in his performance, and in fact excelled at it. 

The Bad:

The Yankee ass kissing by Joe Buck.  Why didn’t Fox just cut to the chase and have Michael Kay do the broadcast?  Nobody kisses Yankee ass during a broadcast like Kay.  Though Yogi in the booth was worth while.  But still, Joe Buck could have been a bit more impartial, and not just keep sucking up to the Yankees.  the Steinbrenner comments alone made me cringe.

Too much Yankee this and that.  Yes I get it.  It was Yankee stadium.  It was the last All Star game there.  But there should be a limit.  I didn’t mind the Yankee HoF’ers throwing out the ceremonial first picth, that was to be expected.  But the crap with Steinbrenner bringing out the balls, and the constant cuts to the Monuments, just got annoying. 

Ken Rosenthal.  Ugh.  He’s awful.  Terrible even.  While no Rex Hudler, he’s still an rotten reporter and broadcaster.  He should be nicknamed Captain Obvious, as he’s rarely, if ever, insightful, or provides any sort of in depth analysis or information.

The Ugly:

Sheryl Crow siging the National Anthem.  Yikes, was that bad.  I’ve seen good, bad, and ugly performances of the National Anthem, and this one was ugly.  She couldn’t even keep her own timing.  Her voice was off, her guitar was slightly out of tune.  And she kept changing the time of the music, and threw herself off at least twice.

The Yankee partisans in the crowd.  I already mentioned what happened in the 8th with Papelbon on the mound.  The stupid crowd nearly cost the AL the game.  I get booing Red Sox players.  I expect that, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Yet the crowd went “one step beyond” in the 8th.  Even the Yankee players and Joe Girardi made it clear they thought the crowd was out of line.  Jeter waved at the crowd dismissivley, and Girardi looked like he was apologizing to Terry Francona at one point.  So, the NY press got the crowd fired up over nothing (which everyone except the NY press agrees on), and nearly cost the AL the game. 

So, here’s to next year.  St.Louis should put on a good show.

Three Players the Red Sox should pursue

With the trade dead line at the end of the month, we all turn to speculation as to who will go where.  We’ve already had one major deal, the Brewers trading for CC Sabathia of the Indians (a good all aorund deal IMO).  So, I thouoght I’d step into Theo Epstein’s shoes for a moment, and talk about who I’d go after this season.

1. Ken Griffey jr:  The biggest name I’d go after.  With Big Poppi David Ortiz out for who knows how long, the So need a game changing bat.  Griffey still has it, and I think would hit well in Fenway, having a bit of a revitalization.  It would mean that Manny can DH full time, and save his hamstring.  This would probably mean shipping Coco Crisp to the Reds, but that’s OK.  This would also give Junior his best shot at a ring ever, and he deserves one after all he’s done.  That and if Ortix does come back, it gives Francona a lot of maneuverability with his line up. 

2. Jack Wilson:  The PIrates SS is on the block, and the Sox could really use him.  Julio Lugo has been so terribly inconsistent, both at the plate and in the field, that he’s just short of becoming a liability.  Jack Wilson is better offensively, better defensively, is cheaper, and is under contract for another two years IIRC.  This would free up Lugo to be traded for a pitcher, and give Jed Lowrie a bit more seasoning in AAA.

3. Brad Henessey:  The SF Giants’ pitcher is a swing man.  He can relieve and start, filling a role vacated when Julian Tavarez was sent packing.  He’s not the lights out 8th inning guy everyone talks about, but his role as longman would free up other pitchers for later use, reducing the strain being put on guys like Delcarmen, Hansen, and Okajima.   Now with talk if Justin Masterson being moved to the bullpen in AAA, this is even a better move, allowing a guy like Chris Smith to get more time and work at Pawtucket.

 

A note on a rumor that was running around on ESPN last night.  Supposedly, the Sox worked out Barry Bonds.  Don’t get any thoughts beyond this though.  Yes, he wouldn’t cost the Sox anything to get (he’s a free agent), and would hit well in Fenway, but the baggage that comes with him isn’t worth it.  I doubt that anyone beyond John Henry and company have even seriously considered this move.

The Final AS Vote (MLB)

Well, the voting for the final two AS roster spots is open.  You can vote for one player for each league.  And do so here.

IMO, the American League should be a no-brainer.  Evan Longoria (3B-Tampa Bay), is the obvious choice.  A string, and probably odds on, rookie of the year candidate, he’s playing outstanding ball for the surprising Tampa Bay Rays.  Brian Roberts (2B-Baltimore), and Jermaine Dye (OF-Chicago) are worthy of consideration, but Longoria just ousthines both of them.

The NL ballot is trickier.  Only Aaron Rowand is the obvious weak candidate, the others pretty much neck and neck.  I went with David Wright.  There are legitimate arguments to be made for Burrell, Carlos Lee, and Corey Hart.  All are valid candidates.  But given what the Mets have gone through this season, and how Wright has more or less kept his mouth shut and played great ball, I gave him the nod.

Voting time is short, so vote now.