Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Farewell to the Hammer

This is one of those wacky blogging mornings where I just keep finding stuff. A lot to read about, so let’s get after it…

The final act of the Blalock era appears to be in the rearview mirror …I don’t see how they pick up his option, so that is that…

They ran out of time, ran out of hope and ran out of imaginary excuses to protect Hank Blalock’s Texas Rangers career Tuesday night.

When Blalock revealed before the game that his throwing shoulder has been bothering him since Friday, when the third baseman expressed surprise that it had been announced that he missed Monday’s game because of a stomach ache, and when Blalock had to be placed — again — on the disabled list Tuesday, the implications became ominous.

No, the veteran won’t be getting traded this week in exchange for somebody’s hot young pitching prospect.

No, carpal tunnel syndrome apparently wasn’t the last of Blalock’s boundless physical issues.

And, yes, most ominously, his career with the Rangers, a seven-year run that included two All-Star games, could well be over.

He was trade bait. And what team is going to be in the market now for a third baseman who can’t throw?

By the time Blalock will be eligible to return from the disabled list, Thursday’s
major league non-waivers trading deadline will have passed.

An announcement was made during Tuesday’s win over the Seattle Mariners that Blalock has been given an injection and will be re-evaluated in 10 to 14 days. With little to show for his work at third base over the past two seasons, except for X-rays and rehab assignments, Blalock’s career at that position appears to be done.

"I think it’s too early to say that," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels countered Tuesday. "It’s concerning. We’ll just see how it plays out."

If Blalock does return to capable health — a long shot, based on his recent medical history — his prospects of rejoining the starting lineup would seem to be in jeopardy.

Rookie Chris Davis already has a two-fisted grip on the Rangers’ first base job. Davis could be moved temporarily to third base, but why would the Rangers do that, unless they plan to exercise a club option that would pay Blalock $6.2 million in 2009?

And on what wishful grounds would they base that decision? Blalock has played only 89 games in two seasons.

Meanwhile, the Angels are the best team in baseball, and they now add a big bat …and a bad teammate…

Teixeira will bat third, play first base and wear No. 25 for the Angels tonight in Fenway Park after the Atlanta slugger was acquired Tuesday for first baseman Casey Kotchman and double-A pitcher Steve Marek, a relatively small price for one of baseball's elite players.

"He's like, 'Forget it, we want to win,' " Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said of Reagins. "He came after me over the winter, and now Teixeira. He's very aggressive. I can't say that's a bad thing. It's a great thing.

"A lot of people wanted that extra bat in the lineup. You got it. Believe me, you got it. There aren't many players who hit like this guy. All I can say is, wow!"

Teixeira, 28, hit .283 with 20 home runs, 78 runs batted in, 63 runs and 27 doubles in 102 games for the Braves. A two-time Gold Glove winner, the switch-hitter ranks fifth in the National League in walks (65) and sixth in RBIs.

He will also be a free agent this winter, so there is no guarantee he will remain in Anaheim.

But in convincing owner Arte Moreno to suppress his aversion to rental players, and in seeking to improve a team that already has baseball's best record (66-40) and a double-digit division lead, Reagins made his intentions for this season very clear: He's all in.

"Our goal is to win a world championship," Reagins said. "The team is playing well, but being able to add a player like Mark Teixeira makes us that much better. . . . I don't view Mark as a rental player. I view him as a player who can impact us significantly."

Gerald Laird needs a hug …he doesn’t know if he is coming or going…

Gerald Laird is the Texas Rangers’ starting catcher, a statement that has been made on a number of occasions the past two seasons but always with a caveat.

For now.

He entered spring training as the starter, but he had to fend off Jarrod Saltalamacchia until the final week before securing the job.

That lasted all of a month before Saltalamacchia forced his way onto the roster with a hot start in Triple A. The solution was to play Laird two days, followed by two for Saltalamacchia.

That lasted until June, when Laird pulled a hamstring and went on the disabled list. He came off it Saturday and was handed the starting job for the stretch run.
For now.

Visit any Web site that tracks rumors as baseball’s trade deadline nears, and Laird is a player who is coveted by a number of teams. Major league sources have confirmed that the Rangers have been contacted about Laird’s availability.

But he isn’t letting the talk bother him. He’s been in this spot, not knowing his future with the Rangers, and understands there’s nothing he can do until he lands on the transaction wire.

"I just play the game," Laird said. "Wherever I end up, I end up. I can’t control it. You can’t worry about it. Right now, I’m a Texas Ranger."

The deadline for teams to make a trade without players having to pass through waivers is 3 p.m. Thursday. Business will start to pick up today and early tomorrow.
Laird’s name, though, has been on the radar for a few weeks, even while he was rehabbing his hamstring. The New York Yankees were the first to show interest, and now the Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers have entered the picture.

General manager Jon Daniels declined to mention which teams have contacted the Rangers, and he also refused to mention specific players discussed.

No player — Hank Blalock, Vicente Padilla, Eddie Guardado, Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden all have made turns through the rumor mill — will be shipped out without a significant piece in return.

"Fifty percent or more of what you read is inaccurate," Daniels said. "We’re getting a number of calls on some guys, but I’m not inclined to trade guys just for the sake of it."

Perhaps that’s one reason Daniels later said the Rangers might not make any move before the deadline. A source said the Rangers aren’t shopping the 28-year-old Laird, either.

Laird wants someone to clarify his position with the organization. Is he their starting catcher only until they find the right deal, be it this week or in the off-season? Or is he the Rangers’ catcher of the future instead of Saltalamacchia, Teagarden or Max Ramirez?

"It’s tough to take," he said. "I’m given a job, I’m playing well, and then the job gets taken from me. Now, I’m playing good and I’m in trade talks again, but they don’t want to get rid of me.

Oh, and the Rangers won, despite 5 errors ….

The Rangers won an ugly 11-10 game over Seattle on Tuesday night with Vazquez starting at third base. They are 38-19 this season when Vazquez starts.

How charmed are the Rangers with Vazquez? He made three of the Rangers’ five errors Tuesday. He also had four hits and four RBI, including the game-winning, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"I’m glad I got a chance to do something to win this game," said Vazquez, who beat the Mariners with a walk-off homer earlier this season. "It would have been a tough one leaving today with a loss. I’m just glad I’m not in that situation right now. The bottom line is we won."

The Rangers should get more of a chance to see their lucky charm in action, now that Hank Blalock has gone back on the disabled list. Vazquez will be the primary starter at third.

He wanted to be anywhere but there Tuesday. He made errors in the third and fourth, but the miscues didn’t look as if they would matter as the Rangers built a 9-3 lead after five innings. Seattle, however, closed it to 9-8 in the ninth, and then benefited from another Vazquez error.

His wild throw to first on a Jamie Burke single allowed two runs to score and gave Seattle a 10-9 lead. Vazquez, however, had a chance for redemption in the bottom of the inning.

With runners at second and third and one out, he doubled to right-center to end the game and bring the Rangers within 5 1/2 games of Boston in the American League wild-card race.

"He might have been involved in a lot that went on in that ballgame, but in the end, he did exactly what we needed him to do," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He got the big hit, and we ended up scoring the ... but we couldn’t slow their bats." run. We put up runs early Vazquez had company in the defensive struggles as the Rangers set a season high for errors.

In games I attended last night, The Dodgers and Giants squared off in a debate of which team had less power

Nothing, it seems, is too off-the-wall for the Dodgers in their pursuit of first place in the National League West.

On the same night they used a journeyman starting pitcher who had nearly twice as many major league losses as wins, the Dodgers benefited from a blooper-reel play by San Francisco left fielder Fred Lewis on the way to a 2-0 triumph Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Lewis bobbled Casey Blake's sixth-inning double, the ball momentarily falling on top of the padding atop the wall down the left-field line before the outfielder retrieved it and fired to shortstop Omar Vizquel, whose relay throw to home plate beat James Loney for what appeared to be the inning's final out.

But the umpires conferred and ruled the ball hit the padding and rolled into the stands, meaning it was no longer in play. Lewis was charged with an error and both baserunners were awarded an extra base, Loney trotting home from third with the Dodgers' second run.

"It was on top of the wall when I picked it up," Lewis said. "Nobody touched it. It didn't touch a fan or nobody. It makes you want replay in baseball more and more."

Said Vizquel: "I've never seen that, not even in highlights."

That was more than enough cushion for fill-in Dodgers starter Jason Johnson, who pitched six scoreless innings and combined with two relievers on a five-hitter for the team's league-leading ninth shutout. It was Johnson's first major league victory since May 28, 2006, with the Cleveland Indians.

Can MB3 handle every down?

There will be absolutely no change in Barber’s style of play, no quarter asked, none given.

A man of few words, he still managed to make that clear this week.

"Do you pace yourself when you write an article?" he countered with a smile after I’d asked him if he would do that as a starter. "Or do you bring everything you have every time?"


The Cowboys loved using Barber as a hammer last year, especially at the goal line
and in the fourth quarter to help put teams away. Fans adored his hell-for-leather approach and clamored for him to be named the starter.

Now, with Jones long gone, they will get their wish.

"He’ll be our feature back, certainly, because you’re talking about rookies as backup players," coach Wade Phillips said. "He took that role in the last ballgame, obviously, and had a successful game. We think he can carry the load for us."

He did that against the Giants in the Cowboys’ 21-17 playoff loss, getting his first start of the season and responding with 27 carries for 129 yards, matching his season average of 4.8 yards per tote. He also chipped in his longest run from scrimmage with a 36-yarder.

Yes, he also was able to do little in the fourth quarter, but that seemed more a product of the offensive line wearing down than it did him.

With a stiff-arm like a battering ram and a helmet-down, leg-churning style, Barber could see 80 percent or even more of the running plays this season, depending on how quickly rookie running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice develop as change-of-pace alternatives.

Nor do the Cowboys seem concerned that with an increase in carries, Barber’s physical style might lead to injury.

"His style is certainly very physical, but it seems to be more physical to the guys he’s playing against rather than him," Phillips said. "He didn’t get banged up really, as far as having a lot of injuries, even with the number of carries he had last year for us. And when we gave him the ball more, he produced more as we went along.

"I think he’s just really a strong runner. He runs with his pads down, and he’s explosive, certainly. He keeps running after the first hit. But he does dodge people, too."

It’s just not his favorite move.

"Playing every down, will he be trying to run over everybody? I think he may use more stiff-arms or take a little different route instead of trying to run through everybody," running backs coach Skip Peete said.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Cowboys are well aware that the NFL — with a few exceptions such as LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota — has mostly moved away from the single-back approach to one similar to what the Cowboys had the last two seasons with Julius Jones and Barber.

The rationale is that few backs can hold up under the pounding that running backs take during the course of a season.

Ironically, Barber hasn’t had the chance to be the featured back before this season, not even at the University of Minnesota where he split carries with Laurence
Maroney, now with New England.

"This is something he’s always wanted," Peete said. "He’s going to get the majority of the work, but I’ve always thought if you have something fresh coming at you constantly, it puts more pressure on the defense.

"We have a couple of young guys that we’ve brought in who are both good backs. They’re different in styles and present a little different look for defenses to stop."

The Rockets have added Ron-Ron? …wow, the Rockets on paper look really impressive. I wonder if they can finally stay healthy?

The Houston Rockets are close to an agreement to acquire Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings, two people familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press.

The Rockets will give up guard Bobby Jackson, who played for the Kings from 2000 to 2005, and another player -- probably rookie forward Donte Greene, according to two NBA people who confirmed the deal but spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

The Houston Chronicle first reported details of the trade on its website Tuesday night.

Artest's long-anticipated move out of Sacramento probably can't be announced yet because Greene, acquired by the Rockets on draft night last month, signed a contract with Houston on July 14. A player can't be traded within 30 days of signing a contract, according to league rules.

Now, on to the story that has me happy/confused/sympathetic/pleased all at the same time: Kenny Cooper is not sold

According to a 3rd Degree source close to the transfer negotiations, Clark and Dan Hunt have rejected the transfer offers from Rosenborg and Cardiff City for FC Dallas’ star striker Kenny Cooper Jr. Rosenborg had the lesser of the two offers, reported to be in the $3 million US range, with Cardiff coming in at $4 million US. Cooper had previously asked for permission from FCD to travel to both clubs to give them a look over, but he has been denied permission to visit both clubs by the Hunts.

Previously the MLS league office had accept both transfer numbers, but the Hunts held final authority on any transfer with Cooper. Cooper had agreed to personal terms with Rosenborg, reported to be a base salary near $600k with incentives reaching over $1 million US per year, but had rejected Cardiff’s opening offer.

FC Dallas has made an opening offer to Cooper in an attempt to keep him happy and in Dallas long term, but that offer was rejected by Cooper’s agent Lyle York. The Hunt rejection of the two offers most likely means Cooper will be staying in Dallas till at least this winter when he might be sold to any new suitors if he can’t reach agreement with FCD before then. It would most likely take something with a base salary in the DP range, or at least very close to it, to keep Cooper in Dallas long term.

Cooper makes about 80k with FC Dallas. So, they have elected not to sell him where he could make way more than that, and now they must figure out how to make him happy to play here. I would think it must start with a big raise, but this is actually quite interesting. Do they pay him way more? And is there any price that will make him not want to play in Europe?

Bacsik featured in NY Times

A group of Columbus Clippers is playing poker in the cramped clubhouse at Harbor Park, their bodies hunched over a table and the cards pressed to their faces. None are recognizable, except the one with the bald pate and blond goatee. That is Mike Bacsik, a journeyman pitcher better known as the man who gave up Barry Bonds’s 756th home run — the one that broke Hank Aaron’s career record.

It has been almost a year since Bonds, the former Giants slugger, made that memorable jaunt around the bases at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Aug. 7, almost 12 months since Bacsik unleashed an 84-mile-per-hour fastball that was supposed to change his life forever.

“If you pitch in the big leagues, you’re going to give up a home run,” said Ryan Perry, Bacsik’s childhood friend. “He just happened to give up the most famous one.”
Instead of fading away as another undistinguished player, Bacsik, a former Washington Nationals pitcher, will remain a footnote in baseball history, joining the likes of Ralph Branca and Al Downing as pitchers linked to a significant event.
Almost immediately, Bacsik saw the benefits that could come from the role he played in Bonds’s achievement: card shows, autograph signings, public appearances, maybe even a future career in the news media. The hourglass counting his 15 minutes of fame was flipped the second Bonds connected, and it has not stopped, even though the grains of sand are dwindling.

“People associate him with the home run now,” said Chris Schroder, a reliever with the Clippers. “So, obviously it has opened up some doors financially. I know he does stuff, but I don’t think he’s done near as much as he thought he was going to.”
There is a reason for that. As the anniversary of Bonds’s record-breaking home run approaches, neither man involved is in the majors. Bonds, the embattled slugger, is not playing this season — seemingly exiled after a remarkable career tainted by controversy. Last fall, he was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges related to his testimony in a federal investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.

Bacsik, meanwhile, is in the minors, where he has scratched out a living for most of the last 13 years. After pitching in a career high 29 major league games last year, Bacsik has spent this season with the Clippers, the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate.
Through Sunday, he was 7-4 with a 4.76 earned run average in 31 relief appearances. During the last few months, he has struggled to locate his pitches and has watched fastballs he intended to throw on the outer edges of the plate drift toward the middle, much like the one that Bonds redirected into the outfield stands last summer.
Against the Norfolk Tides on Saturday, Bacsik gave up three runs and five hits in one and a third innings. But for all of his struggles, Bacsik, 30, says he does not want to walk away from the game, even though he is almost certain he will not be pitching in the Nationals’ organization next season.

“They’ve moved on, which has let me know that I need to move on,” he said. “It’s a mutual feeling. But I love this game and I think I will only give it up after nobody gives me a chance.”

Bacsik seems to have other options. He had tried to carve out a career as a media personality long before he had entered the public eye. He regularly appears on The Ticket, a sports radio station in his hometown, Dallas. During the playoffs last year, he was a studio analyst for ESPN.

In the aftermath of the Bonds’s home run, Bacsik became a pseudo-celebrity. He faced the nation in front of a phalanx of cameras and reporters hours after delivering that fateful pitch.

Other Links:
The Anti-Fan

A Lord of Dogtown is released

Dan Hinote’s wacky wedding

St. Louis Blues forward Dan Hinote got married last weekend to Amy McCarthy who, like her famous sister Jenny McCarthy, is a former Playboy model.

(Along with being the first NHL player to be drafted from West Point and having his name on the Stanley Cup, marrying Playboy eye-candy has to count as some sort of testosterone-soaked hat-trick.)

Ah, but this was no ordinary wedding -- it was a theme wedding, held at the Keystone Ranch in Colorado in front of 400 guests wearing 1950s-era clothing. Yes, attendees were asked to show up in costume. As Penny Parker of the Rocky Mountain News reveals, inviting Jenny McCarthy and her boyfriend Jim Carrey to your theme wedding is a recipe for goofy fun:

Fargo Re-enacted



fickle said...

No love for L.D. Bell and UTA's own Ryan Roberts?

Bill Mullen said...

About time you paid respect to the lovable huggable hammer. Oh, wait. Nevermind. Babyarm...

Ryan Cantrell said...

It really is sad that Hank has fallen to this state. The feel good story of the better-than-average player who wanted to stick it out in Arlington his entire career is certainly going to end.