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January 23, 2014
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Greg Maddux Chooses Nobody for Hall Of Fame Cap

Greg Maddux got elected to the Hall Of Fame on his first ballot. Maddux, notable for his time with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, was hailed as the greatest pitcher of the 1990's. Apparently, his time with each was too notable to choose. 

First, a little background. The Baseball Hall Of Fame used to let players freely choose their own cap teams. This gave players ultimate control in which team they represented in Cooperstown. This right was revoked in 2001 for what is officially called a multitude of separate accusations but is really about Wade Boggs. It was "allegedly" (read:extremely likely) found in Boggs' contract that the batting average machine took unlisted money to make sure he out a Rays cap on his plaque. He didn't play the best in Tampa, he didn't play the most in Tampa, and he certainly didn't win much in Tampa. The Hall was scared that these actions would persist, so they decided that they would make all final decisions. This affected players like Gary Carter, who wanted to go in as a Met but ended up as an Expo (Sorry Gary. 7 seasons more don't lie), and Andre Dawson, who went as far as to protest the ruling of being an Expo by talking directly to Cubs fans during his speech (Which... I got nothing for. Hall wanted more Canadian revenue, so we got another Expo). 

Maddux's decision is not unprecedented;there are 128 players without a logo on their cap, with Catfish Hunter being a fairly recent example. But none have taken place since the Hall changed their stance. Which brings up the all important question, "Does this mean anything?"

Well... Yes, it does. This sets a precedent. The Hall has softened their stance, for one thing. Players like Dawson might fare better now that this action has taken place. But, and this is the big one, it might inspire players to not worry about picking sides at all. You didn't have to choose a team before 2001, but it was generally accepted that you should. This could have a few effects. It might make players happier about making the Hall. Catfish didn't choose because he didn't want to offend the management of the A's or the Yankees. He loved both. That was a one off, but this smells trend. We can expect future potential Hall Of Fame players like Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, and Mike Piazza to at least consider the possibility. It will make at least one team happy, and maybe two. The Cubs are definitely proud that they're getting representation. The Braves might be upset that they're not claiming a Hall member, or they might be impressed by the class or generally indifferent. 

One thing that we know for sure is that this will not be a one-off. Tony La Russa declined a Cardinals logo to honor all three of his teams. And for the good of mutual respect, this is a trend that I won't mind sticking around.
January 16, 2014
David Price, Rays avoid arbitration with one-year, $14 million deal

David Price, Rays avoid arbitration with one-year, $14 million deal

The Tampa Bay Rays and ace pitcher David Price have agreed to terms on a one-year, $14 million contract, avoiding salary arbitration. Price has one-year left on his current contract heading into this season.

Price dealt with some injuries early in the season last year, and came back to finish the season with a 10-8 record and a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts.

$14 million for the year could be considered a bargain for the Rays, who will go into the season with Price representing about 20 percent of their payroll. Price, the 2012 Cy Young winner, has been one of the teams best pitchers since debuting with the team in 2008.

He has a 71-39 record with a 3.19 ERA in five full seasons with the Rays.

There has been a lot of speculation about Price's future in Tampa. Given their track record, the Rays don't like paying a lot of money for players, and with Price about to hit free-agecny in, essentially, the prime of his career, his price tag is going to be pretty high.

The Rays are not subject to the idea of trading, and it'll be interesting to see if Price is still with the Rays at the end of the 2014 season. With his trade-value, it would make sense for them to get at least something in return, instead of letting him walk in the winter, leaving them with nothing.

January 15, 2014
Dodgers, Kershaw agree to seven-year, $215 million extension

Dodgers, Kershaw agree to seven-year, $215 million extension

The Los Angeles Dodgers and left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw have agreed to terms on a seven-year, $215 million contract extension, reports Ramona Shelburne of

The contract also comes with an pot-out clause after five-years that would exit his deal in search of something even better. Considering that he is only 25-years-old, he's likely to get even better as a pitcher.

FOX Sports reported in August that Kershaw was close to signing a record-setting, seven-year extension in the $210 million range earlier last season before the Dodgers backed off.

ESPN's Buster Olney reported in October that the Dodgers could have been offering Kershaw what was basically a lifetime contract for $300 million, but that kind of long-term deal isn't exactly what Kershaw might be looking to sign right now.

Kershaw is on pace to be one of the greatest, of not the greatest, left-handed pitchers of all-time. He has won two NL Cy Young Awards in the past three seasons and three straight ERA titles. His 1.83 mark in 2013 was the lowest in the majors since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 mark in 2000.

Kershaw and Dodgers talking "record-breaking" contract

Kershaw and Dodgers talking "record-breaking" contract

After months of discussions, the largest contract for a pitcher in the history of the game is almost here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and star left-hander Clayton Kershaw are in talks about a record-breaking contract that could possibly be in the $300 million range, according to reports by ESPN's Buster Olney and Ken Rosenthal of

Kershaw filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday; teams and players will exchange numbers on Friday, but the Dodgers are hoping to wrap up an extension with Kershaw before that time comes. The arbitration could help speed up the talks.

FOX Sports reported in August that Kershaw was close to signing a record-setting, seven-year extension in the $210 million range earlier last season before the Dodgers backed off.

Olney reported in October that the Dodgers could be offering Kershaw what is basically a lifetime contract for $300 million, but that kind of long-term deal isn't exactly what Kershaw might be looking to sign right, being only 25-years-old.

In Rosenthal's report Wednesday morning, the contract that Kershaw could be signing with the Dodgers, as early as this wee, would have an opt-out clause after five-years if Kershaw wants to sign an even bigger deal.

The Dodgers gave a similar clause Zack Greinke with he signed with them last offseason, giving him the chance to exit his six-year, $147 million contract after three years.

Even if Kershaw doesn't sign a big extension with the Dodgers this winter, he could still go into 2014 on a big salary. Through the arbitration process, predicted he would make $18.25 million next season, a bump up from the $11 million he made this past season.

Kershaw is on pace to be one of the greatest, of not the greatest, left-handed pitchers of all-time. He has won two NL Cy Young Awards in the past three seasons and three straight ERA titles. His 1.83 mark in 2013 was the lowest in the majors since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 mark in 2000.

30 Days To Spring: Toronto Blue Jays

30 Days To Spring: Toronto Blue Jays

Two team down and 28 days to g until pitchers and catchers start arriving at their team's Spring Training facility. We kicked things off on Monday with the Marlins, and yesterday I looked over the Mets. Today, we take a look inside the team that many had picked to win the AL East last season -- the Toronto Blue Jays.

The good and bad: To be fair, injuries an hype pretty much killed this team from the start. The Blue Jays made more big moves than anyone else last offseason, setting them up, on paper, to be one of the best teams in the league.

But RA Dickey never found the same grove that won him the Cy Young award with the Mets in 2012. Jose Reyes injured his ankle early in the season, causing him to miss time, and that was a loss that the Jays' lineup couldn't handle. And both Brandon Marrow and Josh Johnson, two of the pitchers that Toronto was counting on, spent time on the DL.

They're rotation was a good as it could have been, they're lineup wasn't as good as it should have been, and they're bullpen wasn't as good a it should have been. While the Red Sox were going from worst to first, the Blue Jays went from being the pre-season No. 1 pick, to finishing last in the division.

2014 must: This is kinda obvious, but they just need to play better, and stay healthy int order to compete in 2014. The injuries int the lineup and the starting rotation were not helping them. They were among the worst teams in the league at getting production from the catcher position, but they have signed Dioner Navarro to help that a little bit.

Their pitching needs to step up -- the Blue Jays ranked 25th in the league last season in ERA. Dickey needs to be the pitcher he was in 2012, and Mark Buehrle needs to figure out how to pitch in the AL East.

Opening Day lineup:

Jose Reyes SS
Melky Cabrera LF
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Dioner Navarro C
Adam Lind DH
Ryan Goins 2B

Hello, goodbye: The Blue Jays really need to add a starting pitcher before the season starts. They had shown some interest in signing Masahiro Tanaka, but he doesn't really have any interest in signing with them. Most of the things that I've been hearing have the Jays landing either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. Both would be pitchers that manager John Gibbons could place near the top of the rotation right behind Dickey.

Other than that, I do see them making very many other moves. Maybe a trade or two, but they have been very quite so far this winter, and though I do think they'll make notable move before all is said and done, it might only be for a starting pitcher -- likely one of the two mentioned above.


Record: 75-87 --- The Jays didn't really get any better this winter, and the rest of the AL East -- expect the Orioles -- did improve in one way or another. The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox will be the teams fighting for the top spot in the division, while the Blue Jays look up at everyone from last place.

Team MVP: Jose Bautista --- He's one of the best homerun hitters in the league, and as long as he stays healthy -- having dealt with some wrist injuries the past couple of years -- he'll be their best player once again in 2014.

Follow @GavinEwbank on Twitter.
January 14, 2014
Alex Rodriguez: A sad, yet necessary, story

Alex Rodriguez: A sad, yet necessary, story

It's easy to look at the situation developing around disgraced Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and regret the fact that he was once viewed as the best thing that was happening in baseball. Even though he was never beloved, he gave fans a reason to hope.

People once thought he would be the "clean" home run king and that he would eclipse Barry Bonds' tainted mark of 762. Though that dream died a long time ago and as of Saturday, every home run he has ever hit is under scrutiny, the fact that it ever existed is a reason to dream bigger than a clean record, but a cleaner game.

On Saturday, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz handed Rodriguez a 162 game long suspension that will sideline him for the 2014 regular season and postseason. This is the longest PED related suspension in MLB history. Then on Monday Rodriguez filed lawsuits against Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball's Players Association. This is the latest, but certainly not last chapter in this incredibly saddening story.

It wasn't always so bad for Rodriguez. In fact, it was once the story of a "once in a lifetime" player who was supposed shatter many records.

Rodriguez was the first overall pick of the 1993 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners. He debuted with the team in 1994 and would go on to hit .309 with 189 home runs over the next seven seasons for the Mariners.

After the 2000 season, Rodriguez left the Mariners in order to sign with the Texas Rangers for a record 10-year deal worth $252.2 million.

According to Rodriguez, his first season in Texas (2001) was the year he began using PEDs. They certainly worked, as he would hit 52 home runs and drive in 135 runs for the Rangers that season. If they made a difference in 2001, they did even more in 2002 when he hit a whopping 57 home runs as well as produce 142 RBIs. In 2003 Rodriguez would win his first of three MVP awards.

After winning the award, Rodriguez was traded by Texas to the New York Yankees where he would win two more MVP awards in the next five years.

Before Spring Training began for the 2009 season, Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts broke news that would taint his "clean" career forever. The report stated that Rodriguez had tested positive for a banned substance in 2003. A few days later, Rodriguez admitted to using Performance Enhancing Drugs from 2001-20003 in an interview with then ESPN's Peter Gammons.

It seemed to all like he was taking responsibility for his actions and showing remorse and was forgiven by many.

Though he would help the Yankees to a championship in 2009, he began to decline afterwards.

Things got worse for the star third baseman when he was listed as one of many players to have received banned substances from the Biogenesis clinic in Miami as late as the 2012 season.

When he was handed a 211-game suspension in the later stages of the 2013 season, he vowed to fight it. Though it has since been reduced to 162 games, it is still a number that Rodriguez will combat.

The fact is that Alex Rodriguez was a once in a lifetime talent, which makes this situation all the more tragic, but it may be what is best for baseball. If they are willing to ban Alex Rodriguez for this long, imagine how long they would ban a little-known utility man.

These are the types of suspensions that will help put the "steroid era" to rest or at least minimize it.

Though Alex Rodriguez will never be revered as a legitimate all time great or will never be remembered for the great player he was, the bad he did may make players think before they use these banned substances. He may be the cautionary tale baseball has been waiting for.
30 Days To Spring: New York Mets

30 Days To Spring: New York Mets

Spring Training is 29 days away, and we're breaking down the rosters of all 30 clubs as we lead you into Spring Training. Yesterday, Jacob Winters broke down the Miami Marlins, and what they need to do to be a better team in 2014. Today we'll look at the New York Mets.

The good and bad: As usual, there wasn't that many great things happening around the Mets last season. Matt Harvey broke through as the next best young pitcher in the league. He was having a great season -- and could have contended for the NL Cy Young Award if Clayton Kershaw wasn't one step ahead of him -- up until tearing his UCL towards the end of the year, ending his season, and putting him out until 2015.

The Mets' plan was to be back in contention by the 2014 season, but when Harvey went down with the Tommy John Surgery, that dream went down with him.

They added Curtis Granderson on a four-year, $61 million deal, and Chris Young on a one-year pact, as well as Bartolo Colon on a two-year, $22 million contract. Those additions won't mean much for 2014, but in a year, when they get Harvey back to join Zack Wheeler, and likely other top pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.

2014 must: Like I said, contending won't be likely for the Mets in 2014. The Nationals improved quite well this offseason, and the Braves will probably be just as good this season as they were last. If there was anything that would help the Mets finish better than their 74-88 record in 2013, it would have to be getting contributions from the young prospects I mentioned, including top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud.

The starting rotation will also have to survive without Harvey there this season. The bullpen wasn't great last year, and I can't see it being much better in '14, however.

Opening Day lineup:

Chris Young LF
Ruben Tejada SS
David Wright 3B
Curtis Granderson RF
Lucas Duda 1B
Travis d'Arnaud C
Daniel Murphy 2B
Eric Young Jr. CF
Dillon Gee SP

Hello, goodbye:  Even though the Mets have already gone out of their comfort level to sign Granderson, Young and Colon, I still think they have one more move left in them, and that would be the signing of free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew.

The Mets really need to sign shortstop to play over Tejada, and Drew is the one player that makes the most sense to them. He is tried to draft-pick compensation, but that won't stop the Mets. Recent reports have the Mets staying on contact with his agent, Scott Boras, and his market seems to be very limited, with him unlikely to re-sign with the Boston Red Sox on anything less than a multiyear deal. The Mets can say what they want, but I see them signing Drew.

Trading Ike Davis has been on their to-do list off winter. They have been talking about deal with the Brewers and Orioles, but nothing ever went too far with them. They've slowed down on the trade talks with him lately, and even though they also have Duda to play first base, the Mets are likely to go into Spring Training with Davis competing for the first base job.


Record: 72-90 --- The Mets will fail to make the playoffs once again, finishing 4th in the NL East. But not because they're a bad team, but because their plan for success isn't ready to go into action -- at least not without Harvey at the top of their rotation.

Team MVP: David Wright --- Wright is the captain of the team, he's their best player, and he's probably going to be the only thing dragging Mets fans out to the ballpark this season. Harvey would be the runaway winning for the award -- and probably will be for the next few years after he returns -- but like I've said a thousand times, they won't have him this season.

Up next: The "30 Days to Spring" series continues tomorrow with a breakdown of the Tampa Bays Rays. Come back tomorrow!

January 13, 2014
Seattle Mariners may hire LaRussa as team President

Seattle Mariners may hire LaRussa as team President

The Seattle Mariners have begun their search to find the teams' next president, and with that an interesting name has surfaced; Hall of Fame manager, Tony LaRussa.

Current Mariners' president Chuck Armstrong will be stepping down on January 31st, 2014.  The 71-year old has served Seattle in this position 28 of the last 30 years, resulting in an up-and-down tenure.  While most Mariners' fans tend to look down on Armstrong, the long time president is likely the best in the Northwest. 

In 1987, the M's had the first pick of the amateur draft and former owner, George Argyros, insisted that the team take Cal State Fullerton righty Mike Harkey. On the other hand director of amateur scouting, Roger Jongewaard, told Armstrong to take the outfielder out of Cincinnati, Ken Griffey Jr. We all know how that ended.  Griffey ended up becoming a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer with the Mariners while Harkey ended his career at the age of 30.  Armstrong tenure with the M's included four post-season appearances, three trips to the league championship series, and a record setting 2001 season which included a 116-win season.

LaRussa as a manager, won six pennants, as well as three World Series'.  He ranks third all-time in managerial wins behind fellow Hall of Famers John McGraw and Connie Mack.  

Over the weekend, LaRussa's name surfaced as a candidate for the presidential opening in the Mariners' front office.  He had expressed previous interest to be in the front office of a major league team and this isan early chance. LaRussa reportedly sent in a resume as well as a letter expressing his interest in become the Mariners president.  

"I'm interested in getting to the competition upstairs, " LaRussa said. "I've missed the competition since I left the field. I talked to the commissioner about it. It's not a thing where you miss the dugout, but I miss the winning and losing. The situation would have to be right." Seattle's current situation is certainly suitable for Larussa. 

The Mariners would like to choose a club president from within the organization, but if that search does not turn in, LaRussa seems to be the top candidate.  A multi-million dollar non-profit organization as well as a law degree from Florida State University does prove the as the background in business, which a job like this would require.
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