Daily Dose: Smoltz hooks on with Cardinals

Leave a comment

John Smoltz landed on his feet Wednesday, signing with the Cardinals immediately after he cleared waivers. That he had multiple suitors isn’t a big shock, as apparently a handful of teams agreed with me that he can still get major-league hitters out, but finding a contender willing to hand him a rotation spot is surprising. Smoltz will make his Cardinals debut Sunday against the Padres, which is a very favorable matchup.
However, there’s already speculation that Smoltz may eventually head to the bullpen as a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin, which is interesting given that the Red Sox were told that he didn’t want to work in relief for them. Whatever the case, Smoltz is definitely worth grabbing in NL-only leagues. Expectations should obviously be held in check, but don’t be surprised if he looks like a totally different pitcher in the NL.
While the Cardinals get Smoltz for $100,000 after the Red Sox dropped $5 million on him, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* It sounds like Matt LaPorta will finally get an extended chance in Cleveland, as the Indians called him up Wednesday and manager Eric Wedge promised regular starts between the outfield corners and first base. LaPorta was on the bench for 12 of 24 games during his previous stint with Cleveland and has been stuck at Triple-A for the past three months despite hitting .299/.388/.530 with 17 homers in 93 games.
Cleveland has been out of contention for months now, yet LaPorta has stayed in the minors while guys like Trevor Crowe, Chris Gimenez, and Jamey Carroll get starts at his positions. Better late than never, of course, but the Indians’ treatment of LaPorta is odd given that he’s one of the top MLB-ready outfield prospects in baseball, turns 25 years old in January, and has crushed to the tune of .291/.384/.557 in the minors.
* Perhaps remembering how useless he was trying to play through a leg injury earlier this season, the Reds quickly put Willy Taveras on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps suffered Tuesday. They won’t miss Taveras much, as the speedster has hit just .238/.273/.284 in 93 games as the team’s primary leadoff man, and his injury provides an opportunity to look at 24-year-old prospect Drew Stubbs.
Stubbs was the No. 8 pick in the 2006 draft following a great career at the University of Texas, but has hit just .269 while showing little power as a pro. One thing he can do is run, with 46 steals in 107 games at Triple-A, and Taveras is evidence of Dusty Baker needing to see little else to deem someone a capable leadoff option. Stubbs is absolutely worth an NL-only pickup, but don’t expect much aside from steals.
AL Quick Hits: Clay Buchholz tossed six innings of one-run ball Wednesday, winning for the first time since his season debut … Justin Morneau remained out of the lineup Wednesday with dizziness from an inner-ear infection … Jake Peavy (ankle) plans to make at least two more rehab starts before joining the White Sox … Jered Weaver hurled his second complete-game shutout of the year Wednesday, cutting his ERA to 3.89 … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) is slated for a bullpen session Friday, with a rehab assignment next on the docket … Dustin Pedroia is expected to rejoin the team Thursday following the birth of his first child … Jeff Niemann leads the Rays with 11 wins after allowing one run in 7.1 innings Wednesday … David Ortiz took Roy Halladay deep Wednesday, homering for the third straight game … Dontrelle Willis exited his Wednesday rehab start at Triple-A with a knee injury … Paul Byrd allowed three runs over four innings in a Triple-A start Wednesday.
NL Quick Hits: Cliff Lee struck out 11, walked zero, and allowed just an unearned run in a complete-game two-hitter Wednesday … Joey Votto left Wednesday’s game in the first inning with blurred vision, which is a concern given his various maladies this season … Dan Haren served up three homers Wednesday and now has a 4.91 ERA since the All-Star break … Carlos Beltran (knee) ran in the outfield and took batting practice Wednesday, but there’s no timetable for his return … Barry Zito tossed six shutout innings Wednesday and has a 2.36 ERA in the second half … Gary Sheffield revealed Tuesday that he doesn’t expect to finish the season with the Mets … Mike Hampton has been diagnosed with a partially torn left rotator cuff, but will try to pitch through the career-threatening injury … Scott Rolen (concussion) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A … Paul Maholm threw 7.2 innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since July 7.

What in the heck is Derek Jeter doing with the Marlins?

Getty Images
21 Comments

Last night we linked the Miami Herald story about the Marlins firing special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jack McKeon. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

The firings themselves are eyebrow-raising inasmuch as “special assistants” like that are rarely key front office personnel. Former players, Hall of Famers and former managers like those guys are really ambassadors for the team and, particularly in the case of Jeff Conine, who is known as “Mr. Marlin,” why would new ownership want to kick its ambassadors to the curb? It’s not like you can just hire a bunch of new franchise legends for he role. Who ya gonna call? Dan Uggla?

Sure, I can see an argument for changing their responsibilities. If they actually had say in baseball operations, I can see new ownership wanting to relieve them of those duties. It’s also possible that Jeff Loria paid them too much money for guys who are only team ambassadors. So, sure, if the job is too cushy by the standards of the gig, I could see Jeter cutting their pay or their duties to make it conform to what other clubs do with their former stars. Maybe that makes them want to quit. If so, that’s OK I suppose.

Beyond that, however, it’s hard to see why you would NOT want guys like Conine, Dawson, Perez and McKeon to represent your club in the community and in the service of impressing prospective season ticket holders. The franchise’s first star player, a Hall of Famer who ended his career with the club, another Hall of Famer who is from Cuba (which is kind of a big deal in a place like Miami) and the manager who brought the club its last World Series championship are exactly who you want to represent your team. Especially when nearly everything else about your team has, for so very long, alienated the very public you want supporting it.

But let’s say, for the moment, that there was a good reason to fire those guys. Let’s say they’re all flaming jackwagons who have secretly poisoned the franchise from within. Let’s say that, despite his grandfatherly charm, Jack McKeon is a ruthless Machiavellian. Let’s say that Conine, Dawson and Perez beat up copy boys in the stairwells and microwave leftover fish in the break room every day. Even if that’s the case, how does this happen?

And here’s the twist: Jeter asked Marlins president David Samson to fire those four Marlins luminaries for him, because Jeter didn’t want to do it.

Even more strange, Jeter made the request after telling Samson what he already knew: that Samson would not be returning as team president.

It seems that Samson did carry out the firings. Unless some handsome severance package was being held hostage over it, I’m not sure how Samson doesn’t tell Jeter, “Hey Captain RE2PECT, know what? Up yours, you do it yourself.” Of course, one can only project one’s own sensibility on a guy like David Samson so much, so let’s cut him a bit of slack here. We don’t know how the conversation went. Maybe Samson was happy to tell those guys to hit the bricks.

But really, how doesn’t Jeter man-up and handle this himself? It’s not because he’s not yet officially the owner, because if he has the power to fire Samson, he has the power to fire Conine and his friends. Maybe there is more to this than the Herald story lets on, but as it stands now, it comes off as cowardice on Jeter’s part. It’s a really bad look.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays in the baseball establishment over the next couple of days. Everyone — particularly the press — loves Derek Jeter an credits him with a class, smoothness and media savvy matched by few others. This, though, was either (a) a failure of class and an act of disrespect to baseball luminaries; or (b) a complete bungling of public relations, serving to make what was, in reality, a reasonable move appear classless. It has to be one or the other.

Derek Jeter has been a teflon star for more than two decades, but two of the few things the media loves more than Derek Jeter are (a) old Baseball Men like McKeon, Dawson, Perez and Conine; and (b) “classiness.” It’ll be interesting to see if, for the first time in his professional life, the media gets its knives out for Derek Jeter for seeming content to dispense with both.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

Getty Images
4 Comments

The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.