Baseball news seems to be at the forefront today and the injury to Albert Pujols – - supposedly one that will sideline him 4-6 weeks – - is one item about which there can be huge speculation. Recall that it was a wrist injury that changed Nomar Garciaparra’s career arc from a Hall of Fame player to a role player. Pujols’ career arc is certainly one that has the Hall of Fame in sight – - and now comes a wrist injury. Suppose Pujols comes back on 1 August; that will give him two full months in the 2011 season to demonstrate the degree of his recovery. And then, he will be a free agent this winter…
I am on record as someone who thinks that Albert Pujols is the best all-around player in baseball today and the most valuable commodity out there. Absent any injury, his contract numbers would be enormous this winter. They will still be eye-popping numbers but might be tempered by the way he hits once he is back from his rehab. It will be interesting to follow his stats in August and September.
A possible beneficiary of Pujols’ injury is Prince Fielder who will also become a free agent this winter. Absent any “injury-concerns”, baseball GMs needing a power-hitting first baseman would likely have ranked Fielder as the second-best free agent out there this year. Fielder’s “weight mangement issues” may now be mitigated a bit in the minds of baseball GMs if – - I said IF – - Pujols returns in August and seems to have lost some power or bat speed.
Lest anyone misinterpret the above, I wish Albert Pujols only the best and the speediest of recoveries and that he demonstrates exactly no diminution of skills upon his return. However, I will not be the only person watching with interest to see if that is the case.
Speaking of big-time power hitters who signed big free agent contracts, Manny Ramirez is sort of back in the baseball news. The LA Dodgers signed Manny to a $42M deal a couple of years ago and part of that deal was that Manny would get deferred payments. On 30 June, the Dodgers owe him $8.3M as the first installment of $25M of deferred compensation over a three-year period through 2013. Talk about a free agent signing that missed the mark…
That payment to Manny Ramirez at the end of this month compounds the cash-flow crisis for the LA Dodgers. Financial folks have been saying for about a month now that the Dodgers would be unable to meet their payroll on 30 June absent an influx of cash. The Commish has just put the kibosh on a long-term TV deal between the Dodgers and a FOX cable outlet on the West Coast. The Commish says the deal undervalues the TV rights and therefore is not in the interests of baseball and that about 40% of the up front payment to the Dodgers would go directly to the McCourts to settle their divorce, pay off house mortgages that are in default and pay off their lawyers in their huge divorce case. The Commish argues that this would not be a benefit to the Dodgers and therefore is not in the best interests of the game. Obviously, Frank McCourt does not agree and you can bet there will be legal action forthcoming.
The Dodgers’ franchise is a mess. As of this morning, the Dodgers’ attendance this year for home games is down 8,870 patrons per game as compared to last season. That is the single largest drop in average attendance for any MLB club. [In fact, the Dodgers’ drop in attendance is more than double that of the Mets who have the second largest drop in average attendance between 2010 and 2011.] The team on the field is not embarrassingly bad but it is certainly not electrifyingly brilliant either. The financial condition of the Dodgers is more than precarious. The PR atmosphere surrounding the Dodgers’ ownership is probably best described as “toxic”.
One other power-hitter signed to a free agent contract last year has seriously disappointed his new club. The Chicago White Sox signed Adam Dunn to a 4-year contract worth $55M last winter. In 63 games this year, Dunn is hitting .178 with 7 HRs and 29 RBIs. That contract is not nearly as bad as the one the Cubbies gave to Alfonso Soriano (7 years and $135M), but those contracts are both irritants to baseball fans in Chicago.
Speaking of the Cubbies, recall that last year when the Cubs and the White Sox played, Carlos Zambrano and Derrek Lee got into a shouting match in the dugout during a game that required teammates to get between the two men. That led to a suspension for Zambrano and some anger management therapy. I mention that only as a way to set the background for this comment by Steve Rosenbloom in his blog on the Chicago Tribune website:
“Zambrano went to anger management, then came back to win a bunch of meaningless games that helped encourage the Cubs to hire a meaningless manager to protect a hopeless general manager who continues to sucker a clueless owner. And then Zambrano went back to acting out, blowing off the manager and ripping teammates, so you can see he’s made as much progress as the meaningless manager, hopeless general manager and clueless owner.”
I think it is a shame that Steve Rosenbloom keeps all that emotion inside himself and does not let it out…
Here is a comment by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that has been sitting on my clipboard for a while:
“Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz, in a 5-4, 12-inning win over Kansas City on May 18, picked two (2!) Royals pinch-runners off first base for the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
“Or as it’s now known in pitching circles, a 1-3 double prey.”
In response to my suggestion that it was appropriate to mock LeBron James and the Miami Heat for their hubris but over the top to turn that mockery into hatred, a reader sent me an e-mail with a bit of mockery for LeBron James’ dubbing of the team as “The Heatles”. Here is the e-mail:
“What is the difference between the Heatles and the Beatles?
“The Beatles had a Ringo.”
Rather, I think the Heat should be compared not to The Beatles but to another old R&R group, The Platters. Remember their big hit:
The Great Pretender.
Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald that is frighteningly on target:
“The Saints’ Reggie Bush temporarily switched places with a Danville, Ill. man named Reggie Bush for a new CBS reality show called Same Names. So it’s official, then. TV finally has run out of ideas.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…