“Welcome Back Day”

Yesterday must have been “Welcome Back Day” but no one let me in on that. Is this the latest of the Hallmark Card Co.’s holiday inventions? If so, Curmudgeon Central never got the memo. Nonetheless, here are some “Welcome Backs”:

    Welcome back, Dontrelle Willis. Yesterday morning I read that he pitched six and a third shut out innings against the Rangers (a good hitting team) and at one point retired 17 hitters in a row. That got him his first major league win since September 2007. Here is hoping that whatever therapy he is undergoing for anxiety disorder has progressed to the point where he has his life back in order. Willis seems to be a genuinely nice person; last year buried deep in the minor leagues and not pitching well even at that level, he remained upbeat and accessible to the fans there. Welcome back…

    Welcome Back, David Ortiz. Last night, he hit his first home run of the 2009 season. All the biographical information related to “Big Papi” says that he is 33 years old; up until last night, he had been swinging the bat as if he were 73 years old. One home run is not exactly the hitting productivity that Red Sox fans expect from their DH making $13M for the season, but perhaps last night is the jump-start that Ortiz’ 2009 season needs. If he is poised to go on a streak that puts him back on track for his normal run production stats for a season, the Sox upcoming opponents – Blue Jays, Mets Twins – might not be happy to see him come to the plate. Welcome back…?

    Welcome Back – to ESPN – Keith Olbermann: Yesterday, I read in USA Today that “KO” will return to ESPN to do a radio program for an hour every Friday. There are many accounts of how and why ESPN and Olbermann parted ways. One excellent account is in the book, ESPN: The Uncensored History by Michael Freeman. Let me say in summary that the parting was far closer to The Gunfight at the OK Corral than it was to a group of folks sitting around a campfire singing Cumbaya. I always liked Olbermann on SportsCenter and I very much enjoyed his segments with Dan Patrick on Patrick’s radio show. Some folks are put off by Olbermann’s politics; I will not find it difficult to ignore any such distractions when I listen to him comment on sports. Welcome back – to ESPN…

Since I alluded to Keith Olbermann’s politics above, I need a disclaimer here. I really try to keep politics out of these rants as much as I can – - other than my absolute disdain for the people who make up the Congress of the United States. However, yesterday I also read about a political gambit that has the word “FAIL” written all over it. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-mon, recently named President Bill Clinton to be a UN Special Envoy to Haiti. Said Secretary Ban:

“I am confident that President Clinton will bring energy, dynamism and focus to the task of mobilizing international support for Haiti’s economic recovery and reconstruction.”

Good luck with that. More likely, some future UN Secretary General will name former US President, Chelsea Clinton, to be a Special Envoy to Haiti with the same set of objectives…

Three MLB teams may be wondering why they did not get a gift yesterday as a celebration of “Welcome Back Day”. Consider:

    Atlanta Braves: They signed pitcher, Kenshin Kawakami, to a 3-year contract worth $23M. At the moment, he sports a 2-5 record with a 5.73 ERA. In his seven starts, he has only amassed 37.2 innings during which he has allowed 42 hits and walked 19 batters.

    Chicago Cubs: They signed outfielder, Milton Bradley, to a 3-year contract worth $30M. Bradley recently had an eight game hitting streak; that’s the good news. Overall, this year – including that hitting streak – he is batting .193 with 4 HR and 9 RBIs. Bradley has also served a suspension already this year and had a short stint on the DL.

    Cleveland Indians: They signed pitcher, Kerry Wood, to a 2-year contract worth $20.1M. In the role of the Indians’ closer, Wood has a 1-2 record with 6 saves and an ERA in the stratosphere at 7.71. As of this morning, his WHIP is 1.86.

According to a website called “letsgomets.vox.com”, the NY Mets’ payroll for 2009 is $138.2M. The team has certainly not skimped on expenses. Earlier this week, someone on the business side of things in the Mets’ organization had to be wondering what he had to do in order to get his money’s worth here. In a single game, the Mets committed five fielding errors AND they had a runner called out on an appeal play – negating a run scored – because the runner failed to tag third base while coming around to score. Oh, and he did not miss that bag by only an inch either…

Lost in all of the cutesy remarks about whether or not Manny Ramirez was trying to get pregnant while taking that female fertility drug is the question of how the LA Dodgers set themselves up to pay Manny Ramirez $25M for this season. Let us reset the story back to last November. Ramirez and Scott Boras had forced a trade out of Boston with the provision that the Dodgers would not exercise the team option for the final two years of his existing contract at $20M per year. Ramirez had been brilliant for the final three months of the season plus the playoffs in LA. Nonetheless his age, his quirkiness and his behavior while forcing the Red Sox to trade him generated no other teams having sufficient interest in him to bid for his services in the $20+M range.

Somehow, Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt studied all of this and took it to mean that he needed to bid against no one else and offer a contract worth $25M this year with a player option for next year at $20M. Really? Would Scott Boras really have let Ramirez sit out a season having helped him walk away from a guaranteed $40M in Boston with Ramirez at age 36? Just a suggestion here, but I do not think Frank McCourt ought to go to Vegas to play in any high stakes cash poker games…

Finally, a comment from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel:

“Reportedly, thousands and thousands of social security checks are sent to the deceased every year. I believe the Pittsburgh Pirates got one just the other day.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Rich  On May 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    The way the Dodgers keep winning may be incentive for them to extend Manny’s suspension. They have the best record in baseball.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On May 21, 2009 at 3:26 pm


    When the LA press corps gets itself into high gear to try to drum up interst in Manny as the MVP this year – - and you know they will – - it will be important to see just how badly the Dodgers did without him. I fully expect them to be in first place – - absent the loss of two starting pitchers to injury in the next three days – - when Manny comes off suspension.

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