Prince Fielder was plunked by a heat seeking 80 mph fastball in spring training today by the Bay Area flamethrower, Barry Zito. I think this is the first moment I’ve truly felt baseball is REALLY starting. There’s something about the competitiveness of this incident that makes it feel like they are starting to care about the games. The retaliation beanball was for a choreographed team celebration after Prince hit a walkoff in the 12th inning of a game in early September last year (pictured above). It pretty much killed the Giants season as they were holding onto a very slim playoff hope. I guess they still had a chip on their shoulders about it. There was no previous bad blood between the teams, and that’s what makes this one of the greatest parts about baseball. Most sports when you retaliate for anything you get called for a foul, whether it’s a technical in basketball or an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the NFL. The only sport you can really retaliate in is baseball. A sport that is built on traditions and history, never forgets a time when the team was slighted or given a cheap shot. Zito and the Giants didn’t forget when Prince strolled to the plate today. Zito helped them get some of those pent up feelings out in one pitch for things that happened long ago. It’s cool that a team can feel some kind of revenge 6 months after the fact, even if it was during a spring training game. I didn’t really see it as showboating in the walkoff, but I guess this is a sport that pitchers get mad when hitters stroll to first admiring their homers going out of the park. It’s not the Lebron and company doing their sideshow pregame. Regardless of how meaningless it is in the scope of things, I love how one beanball got me excited about the upcoming season!
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The Rockies started off slow just as anybody would start off an ice cold Coors in April, but just after the All-Star break the Rockies have powered their way close to a .700 record turning that blue bottle label white hot indicating it’s time to pound! The Rockies have pounded the ball and surprised us with some decent pitching as well. The Rockies took the wild card lead back by one game today, and they truly look like the force they were in their last playoff run in 2007. The Rox 2.0 just picked up Jason Giambi, who arrived in Colorado today. They have added him as a pinch hitter plus a sub for Helton to keep that always troublesome back of his from acting up. Giambino made his first NL atbat of his career tonight that netted a bases loaded RBI walk. He knows he’s not a major piece, but feels he can help them out with his experience saying “There is no small role when you’re in a pennant race.” The Rockies also added Jose Contreras from the White Sox for a minor league pitcher yesterday who should fill in nicely for injured starter Aaron Cook. He should get his first start this Saturday. The move from AL to NL has been very kind to many pitchers that were performing at a much lower level (See Smoltz).
Their closest competitors are the Giants, which I unfortunately don’t see them hanging in there. I hope they can pull it out, because they have great pitching that would be fun to see in the playoffs. They still can’t consistently score runs though. They never really filled that hitting void that everyone was talking about for the months leading up to the trade deadline. It feels like they just have big holes in their lineup where you decide, they won’t score this inning before they even bat. They were shut out tonight, which could have been Hamels brilliance, but it could just as easily been that they don’t have that many good hitters. Freddy Sanchez and his continually delayed return could help a little, but they need some more power. He wasn’t the guy they should’ve gone for at the trade deadline. Penny just signed with SF, and just like the cases mentioned earlier going from the AL to the NL should treat him well or at least descent. Zito is quietly throwing up lots of zeros on the scoreboard. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t pitched to the level of his contract, but this is a start.
The Braves and Marlins are the next closest teams to them, but seem to have trouble playing any better than .500 ball as both teams have been just above or below there all season. I think the Wild Card winner should be a good 8 games over .500, at least we’ll hope that’s the case! Tim Hudson made his return tonight for Atlanta, and pitched pretty well. That has to help the Braves chances if he can stay healthy. He’s always been a big competitor, and should give them everything he can. I do like the makeup of the Braves, but they’ll need their pitching to step up especially Lowe. I just saw that Hanley left the game tonight in Florida with some more of that hamstring tightness he seems to have a lot of. They can ill afford to lose him, and if they do you can kiss goodbye to the wild card spot.
Ultimately I think it’s the Rockies spot to lose, since they have been consistently playing better than the other teams in the hunt over the second half of the season. I don’t care if the Giants swept them in a series, and they lost a couple more. They could have broken the spirits of the Giants, but now I believe it’s just a minor stumble as they are now back in first. Another reason I attach myself to the Rockies, is because they have some former A’s players on their team. With the addition of Giambi, it’s too hard to resist picking them. Carlos Gonzalez homered tonight, and he’s heated to white label hot over the last month! I hate second guessing things, but I wonder if we should have kept him over trading for Holliday. We’ll have to see how Brett Wallace turns out to answer that one, on another post.
There are a lot of bad contracts for baseball players every year, but there are a few of them that must have had Ray Charles reading them over before they were inked in. In making this list, I decided to make a couple of parameters. The contract has to go through at least next season. The entire body of the contract has to be bad. For example, you really can’t argue against the $18 million Derek Jeter is due to make next year as being overpriced. If you look at how great the first seven years of his contract were for the Yankees, I’m sure there would be no hesitation in a do-over situation. You could say that someone like Eric Chavez would qualify as he’s due to make $11 million next season, and he has only played 418 games over the last 5 years of his 6 year contract. But on the flip side I can understand why they picked him to build a team around him at the time. He was never on the DL and won six straight gold gloves averaging nearly 25 HR’s and 100 RBI per season. So really when they signed him, it wasn’t quite as ridiculous as it looks. Here are a few of the ugliest contract situations in the MLB right now.
It’s hard not to ignore the third Blue Jays since they have been under the Riccardi regime, they seem to like to cut contracts short. BJ Ryan, who is now out of baseball is owed $10 million next year. I guess they shouldn’t sign pitchers at the ripe age of 30 to five year deals coming off their first and really only good season of their career. They also dumped Frank Thomas last year and nobody wanted to pick up the tab on him either. They were scared of Alex Rios and his outrageous contract, but were lucky enough to get bailed out by the White Sox earlier this week. Come to think of it, just based on these three horrific contracts, how is JP still running things across the border!?! Must be some kind of Canadian loyalty or a forgive and forget kind of thing. Vernon Wells is about as ridiculous as it gets! He’s owed $23 million in 2011 and $21 million in 2012. He isn’t a good defender, and isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball. He has a no trade clause as if anyone would want to take on that money. Wait, maybe the White Sox will!?!
Sorry Tony, but your Cubbies have a few monster contracts on the list. Soriano is tough to top as he’s due to turn 34 this off-season, and the Cubs owe him $18 million annually through 2014. He was a 40-40 guy when they signed him, but he was turning 31! It’s tough to justify giving him 8 years, and he may prove me wrong but since they signed him he’s been more of a 20-20 guy, and you can definately get that for cheaper. Milton Bradley is owed $9 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011, for having half a good season in Texas before they signed him. Zambrano and Ramierez could be killers at the end of theirs, but we’ll see since they’re still doing well.
It’s impossible to avoid Barry Zito’s contract in San Francisco. He’s going to get about $19 million for the next four years, and it’s the most widely criticized contract among the baseball world. If anything, you just hope the Giants learned their lesson after this one. They really didn’t though as they overpaid for Renteria this offseason, but not to the extent of Aaron Rowand’s deal that is in place. Rowand is going to make $12 million annually for the next three years. He did come off a great season, but since going to SF he hasn’t really showed that he was worth the money. I think he was on the over-rated side defensively to begin with. Yeah, he made some amazing catches, but overall he isn’t anything that special to warrant that much money.
My favorite team to hate, the Angels, and Gary Matthews ugly contract will always makes me smile as long as it exists. He’s got two years left for nearly $12 million a year. He hitting a solid .250 in his Angels career and is holding down the fourth outfielder spot. Fuentes contract isn’t ridiculous, but personally I would have gone for something cheaper as he’s owed $10 million next year. At least his contract is a short one. Carlos Lee gets an honorable mention. He’s still a solid hitter, but how long can it last? He’s going to make $18.5 million annually for the next three years. He can’t run the bases or play in the outfield, so once he stops hitting it will look ridiculous. He looks to be on the road to being the next Travis Hafner, but at least the Indians only owe him $13 million annually over the next three years. As we wave goodbye to the steroid era (At least, I think) and the gross over spending on contracts for players on PED’s, I think lists like mine will shrink. If it doesn’t, we can blame it on GM’s like JP Riccardi!
We all know the Giants’ strength, pitching, and we all know their weakness, hitting. Pretty straightforward, right? The question is, which will prevail as SF heads down the stretch in a tight race for the National League Wild Card berth. At the start of this post, the Giants and Colorado Rockies were tied for the Wild Card spot. However, by the time we’re done here, it looks as though the Rockies will have a one game advantage. Though, since the Giants have been the frontrunners for a long stretch prior to this, many have posed the question whether they can hang on or not. Typically, when you’re nine games over .500, you’re talking about winning the division. But the Dodgers don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, so Giants’ fans are left focusing on the Wild Card.
Tim Lincecum appears to be getting more and more unhittable with each start. Matt Cain has always showed potential, but lacked run support. This year, though, he’s finally turned the corner, and the offense has seemingly turned it with him – for his starts at least. Problem is, after that you’re looking at Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez. Johnson may only get worse as the year goes on. He’s currently sideline with a strained left shoulder, which doesn’t bode well for a pitcher in his 40s. He’s already slated to be out longer than originally anticipated, so we won’t see the Big Unit until next month at the earliest. Despite throwing the first no-hitter in 30+ years for the Giants, SF fans will be the first to say they don’t exactly go in expecting a W when Sanchez is on the mound. He’s had his moments, and he looked great when he put those moments together for 9 full innings 10 days ago. Tonight, he went 6 innings giving up 3 earned runs. That is even considered a great game for him. Then there’s Barry Zito. I don’t want to kick a guy while he’s down, so I’m going to refrain from talking about Zito for the rest of his career presumably.
On the offensive side, Pablo Sandoval is having a well-documented breakout year, but when you look down the rest of the order, it looks very Athletic-like, numbers-wise. It’s not like there’s really any veteran players who are due to break out any time soon either. The offense is, and most likely, will be anemic for the remainder of the year. Therefore, it seems logical that they need to trade for a bat. They have two young pitchers who could net the offensive help they need, but the front office seems pretty locked in on Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, so they don’t appear to be going anywhere.
I think the only move that makes sense would be to acquire one more veteran pitcher who can turn it on down the stretch. It’s often assumed that the Giants have two guaranteed wins each time through the rotation: Lincecum and Cain. Problem is, they almost have three guaranteed losses each round with Zito, Sanchez, and Johnson fill-in, Ryan Sadowski. I know what you’re saying. “Sadowski has a 1.00 ERA!” But, go look at Vin Mazzaro’s stats. Tell me their first three starts don’t look identical, and then look at what Mazzaro’s done since then. Ok? Ok.
Basically, the Giants will be LUCKY to play .500 ball the rest of the way. I project them winning 7 of every 15 games, and quite frankly, that won’t be enough. BUT, they are locked in a playoff race, and at this point in the season, that’s all a team can ask for.