Death from Above – Bird with a Gun – Condor Cannon

David Ortiz, Seeking to Prove He’s More Insecure Than Most High School Girls, Lashes Out at Reporters Following Loss.

A meltdown following the second game of 2010 spells a long season for Ortiz.

Well that didn’t take long. 

Following a 6-4 loss to New York on Tuesday night the Boston Red Sox found themselves sitting at 1-1 and on pace for a .500 season; clearly it was time to hit the panic button. Former slugger and current decrepit designated hitter David Ortiz, who went hitless in the first two games of the season, was asked by reporters following the game whether he was concerned about his slow start after last year’s disastrous meltdown (Ortiz hit .185 with one HR and 18 RBI’s last April/May). Apparently the question struck a nerve, and Big Papi responded with Dickens-like eloquence: 

“Good…you guys wait ’til [expletive] happens, then you can talk [expletive]. Two [expletive] games, and already you [expletives] are going crazy. What’s up with that, man? [Expletive]. [Expletive] 160 games left. That’s a [expletive]. One of you [expletives] got to go ahead and hit for me.” 

Even if I can’t correctly identify all of the expletives listed above (s-word, s-word, f-ing, mother-effers, f-word, f-ing, s-word ton, mother-effers?) the gist of Ortiz’s comments is quite clear: don’t judge me by two games. 

He’s right of course. Seven at-bats is an extremely small sample size, and if Ortiz played in San Diego or Kansas City this minor slump would be a non-issue. Unfortunately Ortiz doesn’t play for the Royals, he plays for the Red Sox in one of the largest media markets in the sport. As a player in New York or Boston you’re under the microscope 24/7, which Ortiz should realize entering his 8th season with the Red Sox.

If Ortiz had just brushed off the questions, or laughed at his own expense, it’s unlikely we would still be talking about his slow start today. But by lashing out at reporters, Big Papi revealed what many in the media speculated last year…that the end is near. Ortiz is no longer the 40-50 home run threat he was when he first arrived in Boston and unless he rights the ship soon, both physically and mentally, Big Papi’s days in Beantown might be numbered with Mike Lowell waiting in the wings.

Love ’em or hate ’em the Red Sox sure know how to make things interesting.

Let’s Get Bedarded in Here: Are the Mariners Crazy to Bring Back Erik Bedard?

There's nothing wrong with being Canadian. There's lots wrong with being Erik Bedard.

It’s really not much of an exaggeration to say that Seattle could sign a convicted murderer (or Richie Sexson) and the team would get a better response from their fans then they will if the Mariners bring back Erik Bedard. He’s not exactly what you would call a “fan favorite”.   

Though it’s probably not possible for one player to cripple a franchise, Bedard did his best during his two-year stint in the Emerald City. When he wasn’t on the disabled list with yet another arm injury (no one is calling him soft, no one) Bedard was struggling to last five or six innings on the mound in a pitchers’ park. And let’s not even get into all the players that were traded to pry him away for Baltimore (although we should briefly mention Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and George Sherril). When you look up “unmitigated disaster” in the dictionary Bedard’s mug will be staring right back at you (assuming your dictionary has pictures–I realize it’s not in everyone’s price range). Seattle has made tremendous strides this offseason to repair the damage done to the franchise by Bill Bavasi, are they risking it all bring back a jinxed/hexed/Canadian/cursed player?  

Well, no. This time around is a bit different from Bedard’s first go-round with the Mariners. He’s not expected to anchor the pitching staff, we’ve got Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee for that (thank you Jack Zduriencik). Bavasi also isn’t around anymore, which means we aren’t going to grossly overpay for his services (I’d guess a 1 year/$1 million dollar contract with incentives) and since Bedard isn’t a free agent this time we don’t have to give up any prospects that would inevitably haunt us. 

Let's hope Bedard makes the most of his shot at redemption in Seattle.

It sounds like because of his offseason arm surgery Bedard won’t be able to pitch until the second half of the season, making this deal very similar to the one Boston had last year with John Smoltz (let’s hope we have better success). If he his able to come back and pitch efficiently after the All-Star break and the Mariners are still in the thick of the playoff hunt, this signing could pay major dividends. It’s easy to forget because of all his injuries, but when Bedard is on the mound he is one of the top left-handers in the American League (5-3, 2.82 ERA, 90 K’s in 83 innings last year). Seattle has great pitching at the top of their rotation (Hernandez, Lee, Ryan Rowland-Smith) but there are plenty of question marks after that (Doug Fister? Jason Vargas?) and a healthy Bedard could potentially give the M’s one of the best staffs in baseball.

Let’s try and forget all we know about Erik Bedard and welcome him with open arms as a player that has the ability to help guide Seattle back to the postseason. After all, he owes us…big time.

Bud’s Top Ten Players for 2010 (Part 1)

Aroldis Chapman is set to become a household name in 2010.

As a dual member of baseball’s brain trust and the sportswriting community, I am often approached by strangers on sidewalks or in stores who ask questions like: Why do you use so many commas in your writing? What are your thoughts on Cliff Floyd’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy? Did you ever take any courses on grammar or the English language? Why do people think Dane Cook is funny? And of course, which ten players are you most looking forward to watching in 2010? Well, I can provide little insight on most of their queries (Floyd did hit 34 HR’s 2005 for what it’s worth), so here is a look at Bud’s Top Ten Players for 2010 in some particular order:  

10.) Aroldis Chapman: Genetically engineered by Cuban scientists (think Ivan Drago or Yao Ming) to become the greatest left-handed pitcher of the 21st century and beyond, the 21-year-old Chapman might not throw a pitch in the majors next season, but the hype surrounding him is reaching New Moon levels. As a lefty who consistently throws in the high-90’s, Chapman could be a long-term impact arm for whatever team (Blue Jays, A’s, Angels, Red Sox or Yankees) ponies up the cash for him. How Chapman fairs in the minors in 2010 will go a long way in determining whether he’s worth the $20-25 million he’s likely to get (which he will of course mail back to Castro to support the resistance) or if he’s just another overpriced bust.  

9.) Alex Rodriguez: With Kate Hudson by his side in 2009, A-Rod captured his first World Series title and performed like a king in the postseason despite a nagging hip injury–but now she’s gone. While his body might be fully healthy in time for 2010 his heart will likely still be on the mend, and many baseball pundits wonder if he will be able to perform at last year’s high level without the flaxen-haired feline by his side. He’s on pace to reach 600 HR’s next season and could make a legitimate push for his fourth MVP with an absolutely stacked Yankees lineup, but can Alex do it with a heavy heart? I just don’t know. 

You've Gotta Love This Guy!

8.) Ken Griffey Jr:  My Seattle Mariners bias aside, Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the greatest all around players in the history of baseball and should receive a fond farewell everywhere the M’s play this year, ala Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001. This is the last time fans will be able to see the sweetest swing in baseball and the smile so big and bright that it brought joy to millions around the world. Is that a bit of an exaggeration? Not if you are from the Pacific Northwest it isn’t, the “Kid” will always have a special place in our hearts. Hopefully the Mariners can send Junior out on a high note…perhaps with a trip to their first World Series ever?  

7.) Joe Mauer: Coming off the greatest offensive season ever by a catcher last year, Joe Mauer is poised for even bigger things in 2010 (like dating Scarlett Johansson, curing polio and signing a billion dollar contract—seriously, pay him whatever he wants Minnesota). Mauer captured the AL MVP award last year despite missing a month of the season and the sky is the limit for Minnesota’s 26-year-old savior as the Twins move into their brand spankin’ new stadium. With Justin Morneau protecting him in the lineup and having all of this offseason to recover from nagging injuries, will Mauer make another run at hitting .400 in 2010? If he can stay healthy and continue to hit home runs in bunches, Mauer needs to be mentioned in the same breath as Albert Pujols and Adam Everett as one of the best hitters in baseball. Yeah, he’s that good.  

Will 2010 be Felix's last season in Seattle?

6.) Felix Hernandez: Though it seems like he’s been around longer than Methuselah, Felix Hernandez won’t turn 24 until April and has already established himself as one of the top right-handed pitchers in baseball. Hernandez narrowly missed out on capturing the Cy Young award last year (19-5, 2.49 ERA, 217 K’s) and will have even more incentive to perform in 2010 with free agency looming. If the Mariners aren’t able to sign King Felix to a long-term contract sometime soon the team may be forced to move him at the trade deadline in order to recoup their losses. Can you imagine the bidding war for Felix between the Yankees and Red Sox? I think New York would throw in the Statue of Liberty if it brought Hernandez to the Big Apple. Please don’t go Felix, please! 

Coming Soon: Players 5 through 1!

Mets Finally Snag a Big One: New York Signs Jason Bay to Four-Year Deal.

Jason Bay certainly has talent at the plate, but the Mets still have plenty of holes left to fill in they want to catch Philadelphia.

After a relatively low-key beginning to the offseason the New York Mets took a major step towards reestablishing themselves in the NL East on Tuesday, signing free-agent slugger Jason Bay. Along with Matt Holliday, Bay was one of the most prized bats in a fairly weak free agent crop and should be able to help an anemic Mets’ offense that was one of the worst in all of baseball during the 2009 season. The deal is reportedly worth $66 million over the next four seasons, with a vesting option for 2014.    

Despite the fact that Bay hit 36 home runs last season there seemed to be little real interest around the league for the 31-year left fielder. The economy is partly to blame, with many teams cutting payroll and avoiding big name free-agents, but Bay’s defensive ability has also been scrutinized–a problem that may be exacerbated in spacious Citi Field. Although he still possesses good speed (13 stolen bases last season) and plate discipline, Bay is increasingly becoming a one-dimensional player, making teams hesitant to commit a long-term contract to someone who hits for power and contributes little else. The Red Sox originally looked like the frontrunners to resign Bay but after acquiring Jon Lackey and Mike Cameron last week, it became clear that he was no longer part of their plans for 2010. The Seattle Mariners were also rumored to be a player in the Bay sweepstakes (he played his college ball at Gonzaga in Washington) but the team traded for a left fielder in Milton Bradley and weren’t likely to meet his salary demands regardless. New York was always the logical destination for Bay, but does that mean it’s the right move for both sides?   

Will a return to the National League benefit Jason Bay and the Mets?

A top-tier power broker, Bay won a Silver Slugger award for his work at this dish in 2009, hitting .267 with 36 longballs, 119 RBI’s and 103 runs. Although he struck out a career-high 162 times last season, Bay coaxed 94 walks out of opposing hurlers, which led to a healthy .384 OBP. Bay benefited from playing in a strong Boston lineup last year, but showed his ability to thrive in the clutch, hitting .360 with runners in scoring position. He should be an immediate upgrade for the Mets as their cleanup hitter, protecting number three hitter David Wright and helping to set the table for Carlos Beltran and the rest of New York’s lineup. The team hit a league low 95 home runs last year (led by David Murphy’s 12) and at the very least, Bay should allow them to reach triple digits in long balls for 2010. With a healthy Jose Reyes, Beltran, Wright and Bay anchoring their lineup, the Mets will have a strong lineup on paper, but the team still needs to add more depth (first base, catcher, right field) if they want to match the Phillies firepower in the NL East.  

While Bay was one of the best players available this offseason, his signing doesn’t come without some question marks. The Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field, is one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in baseball with deep power alleys and lots of foul territory. For Bay, whose primary value comes from his ability to hit the ball out of the park, this might prove to be a difficult transition from Fenway’s short porch in left field (though Citi Field is easier on right-handed pull hitters than other batters). Moreover, Bay will have to cover a much more expansive outfield than he did in Boston, though the Mets claim his defense suffered from the Green Monster. With the deal likely to reach five years and $80 million dollars the Mets must believe that Bay is a good fit for their lineup and park (especially in the last few years of the deal when he’s 35 and 36), or the team is once again just throwing cash at a problem and hoping it goes away.

Has that ever worked?

The Sun Never Sets on the Yankee Empire: New York Trades for SP Javier Vazquez.

Will Vazquez's second go-round in pinstripes end better?

After the Cliff Lee-Roy Halladay megadeal and Boston’s signings of Jon Lackey and Mike Cameron, the New York Yankees were relegated to the back-page of baseball’s offseason news. Well, that was short-lived. In a move made to bolster a rotation that dropped off significantly after C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettite last year, the Yankees sent outfielder Melky Cabrera and two pitching prospects to the Atlanta Braves for Javier Vazquez and lefty reliever Boone Logan.  

Vazquez, who pitched for New York in 2004, is coming off the best season of his career after finishing 4th in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Vazquez is eligible for free agency after the season, and the Braves had a surplus of starting pitching that made him expendable, especially considering the $11.5 million he was due to make in 2010. Arguably the most underrated pitched in the N.L. last year, Vazquez compiled a 15-10 record to go along with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts. While it’s unrealistic to expect him to pitch that well next season, Vazquez is still going to be the best fourth starter in any rotation in baseball, and will allow the Yankees to shift either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen. New York proved last season that it’s possible to win a World Series with a three-man rotation, but the addition of Vazquez is worth at least a few wins in the regular season and that’s something that can’t be overlooked with the Red Sox continuing to wheel and deal in free agency.  

The Yankees are hoping that Javier Vasquez enjoys more success than in his first tour of duty with the team in 2004, a season in which he struggled with injuries (14-10, 4.91 ERA) and ultimately ended with him allowing two home runs to Johnny Damon in the 7th game of the ALCS, giving Boston all the momentum they would need to complete their epic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit. Vazquez has been less than stellar in his limited postseason appearances (1-1, 10.34 ERA in four games) and his manager with the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen, famously stated that Vazquez wasn’t a big game pitcher. Obviously the Yankees are familiar with Vazquez’s track record but this move was made for the 162-game regular season, not the playoffs, as the team will likely lean heavily on their big three (Sabathia, Burnett, Pettite) in October once again. 

The Braves hope that "The Milkman" will help them challenge the Phils in the NL East.

The Braves acquired a talented switch-hitting outfielder in Melky Cabrera with this deal, and also shed nearly $9 million from their payroll, money which can be used to go after a corner infielder (hello Troy Glaus). The 25-year-old Cabrera performed well last season for the Yankees (.274-13 HR’s-68 RBI’s-10 SB’s) but never quite lived up to his potential and didn’t seem to be a part of the team’s long-term plans. Still, he’s a cheap and solid option for Atlanta’s outfield, and there is some optimism that he can continue to improve. The Braves also received two young pitchers from New York, lefty Mike Dunn and hard throwing right-hander Arodys Vizcaino. Dunn is a solid reliever who could fill the role of the departed Boone Logan, and Vizcaino showed promise as a 19-year-old last season, registering a 2.13 ERA and striking out 52 in 42 1/3 innings. With a rotation that includes Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, Atlanta could afford to part with Vazquez and the team got a good haul in return. 

Another day and another domino falls in what has become one of the most exciting offseasons in recent memory. If the Red Sox felt content after signing Lackey and Cameron last week, they don’t anymore, as New York filled out their rotation with a quality arm and continue to look like the team to beat in 2010. Atlanta adds a solid bat to their outfield and free up cash to pursue another player as they try to build a team capable of challenging the Phillies for NL East supremacy. With plenty of quality free agents still available (Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, Johnny Damon) the hot stove will continue to sizzle and make these cold winter months a little more bearable. 

Baseball: the gift that keeps on giving.

Changing of the Guard: Do the Red Sox Recent Acquisitions Make Them the Team to Beat in the AL East for 2010?

John Lackey has the heart of a warrior. Will it be enough to propel Boston past New York?

The Boston Red Sox came into this offseason in a foul mood. Not only were they swept from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Angels, but their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, returned to baseball’s limelight by capturing the World Series on the strength of stars Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia—players that Boston had at one time targeted through free agency or trades. To make matters worse, the Yankees had already pulled off one of the biggest moves of the offseason, acquiring talented center fielder Curtis Granderson in a trade with the Tigers. Clearly Boston was feeling the heat in a never-ending arms race with New York, and it didn’t take long for the Red Sox to respond in turn. In the span of two days they acquired John Lackey, the best free-agent pitcher on the market, and Mike Cameron, a defensive virtuoso, to fill the void in left field. Both players will play important roles for Boston in 2009, but will they make the Red Sox the best team in the AL East?   

The addition of Lackey gives Boston one of the deepest pitching rotations in all of baseball, with a talented trio at the top and a number of serviceable arms at the back of the rotation. Lackey received staff ace money from the Red Sox (5 years/$82.5 million) but will probably be the third starting pitcher in the rotation behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester (Killer J’s? J-Cubed?). Though hampered by injuries in 2009, Lackey still went 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 139 strikeouts against only 47 walks. He is mainly a groundball pitcher but can be susceptible to the longball (he allowed 26 home runs in 2008), which may prove to be an issue with the Green Monster out in left field. Despite the fact that Lackey might not be in the same class as pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, he has a strong postseason track record (3.12 career playoff ERA) and past success against AL East foes (25-15, 3.62 ERA vs. New York, Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay). After getting burned last year by the John Smoltz experiment the Red Sox were eager to acquire a dependable arm (Lackey has a .590 career winning percentage) and now have one of the most formidable starting fives with Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Clay Bucholz (though be may be traded for an additional bat) and either Dice-K or Tim Wakefield. In terms of pitching, Boston certainly has the talent to compete with the Yankees; do they on offense?  

Mike Cameron has some big shoes to fill in left field.

While Mike Cameron will be an upgrade defensively over Jason Bay in left field (or centerfield, depending on where Terry Francona decides to play Jacoby Ellsbury), he will be hard pressed to match Bay’s 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s. The 36-year-old Cameron hit .250 with 24 HR’s and 70 RBI’s last season, but also chipped in 32 doubles and 75 walks which led to a .342 OBP (vs. Bay’s .384 OBP). With the perpetually disappointing J.D. Drew in right, Boston won’t exactly have a murderer’s row in the outfield, and may lose even more ground to the Yankees’ big bats (New York outscored Boston by 43 runs in 2009). As questions continue to swirl around the health of Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz continues to age at the speed of light, the Red Sox are still at least another bat away from usurping the Bronx Bombers, and that’s assuming that New York doesn’t make any more moves (they did).

So, while the signings of Lackey and Cameron have improved the Red Sox’s pitching and defense, New York is still clearly the team to beat in the AL East. The Yankees have done nothing but improve this offseason after winning 102 games in 2009, and with a healthy A-Rod and the newly acquired Granderson the team could be a juggernaut in 2010. Boston is moving in the right direction, but unless they want to spend another postseason watching the Yankees raise a World Series trophy, general manager Theo Epstein had better continue to work the phones…New York isn’t going anywhere soon.