Ex-Ranger Blalock still without a taker

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blalock fielding.jpgWith Russell Branyan joining the Indians and Carlos Delgado down following another hip surgery, the first base market is finally just about bare. Jermaine Dye would give the position a try if asked and Cuban defector Jose Julio Ruiz is getting some attention, but Hank Blalock is the one experienced viable major league regular left available.
And Blalock is a viable regular. He did a horrible job of getting on base for the Rangers last year, but he delivered 25 homers in 462 at-bats. The problem is that he hasn’t been both healthy and productive since 2004, his age-23 season. In 2007, he posted a 901 OPS in 58 games. In 2008, it was an 846 OPS in 65 games. He was mostly healthy last year, but he came in at 736 in 123 games, nearly half of them spent at DH.
My feeling is that Blalock’s upside makes him worthy of more than just a minor league contract, though he probably won’t get one at this point. He has four 25-homer seasons to his credit, and he’s a lifetime .269/.329/.465 hitter. While he’d always previously taken advantage of the friendly hitting conditions in Arlington, he was actually far more productive on the road (.256/.308/.493) than at home (.213/.247/.427) last year.
Blalock’s best hope now might be Tampa Bay. The Rays lost out on both Johnny Damon and Branyan in their quest for one more bat. Blalock wouldn’t get much of an opportunity to play defense there, but he’d be nice to have around in case Pat Burrell fails to bounce back from his awful 2009.
The other Florida team has also displayed some interest, though the Marlins would view him as a fallback to Logan Morrison or Gaby Sanchez at first base. The Red Sox weighed Branyan and may consider Blalock as well on a minor league deal. However, he’d only be a candidate to make that team if a Mike Lowell trade gets done. I think the White Sox make more sense. Andruw Jones is currently their best option at DH.

CC Sabathia checking into an alcohol rehab center

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This is totally unexpected and definitely unfortunate: The New York Yankees just released a statement from CC Sabathia saying that he is checking himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center.

Sabathia, who was involved in a relatively minor incident outside a nightclub back in August, has battled injuries and ineffectiveness for the past three seasons but has, in his last few starts, shown himself to be effective, even if he’s not to the level he once was. And, should the Yankees advance past the Wild Card game, one would have assumed that the Yankees would’ve been counting on him for the playoff rotation. Now, however, that seems both doubtful and completely superfluous.

And for what it’s worth, Sabathia’s statement, just released by the Yankees, suggests that he is aware of the need to get his priorities in order:

“Today I am checking myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center to receive the professional care and assistance needed to treat my disease.

“I love baseball and I love my teammates like brothers, and I am also fully aware that I am leaving at a time when we should all be coming together for one last push toward the World Series. It hurts me deeply to do this now, but I owe it to myself and to my family to get myself right. I want to take control of my disease, and I want to be a better man, father and player.

“I want to thank the New York Yankees organization for their encouragement and understanding. Their support gives me great strength and has allowed me to move forward with this decision with a clear mind.

“As difficult as this decision is to share publicly, I don’t want to run and hide. But for now please respect my family’s need for privacy as we work through this challenge together.

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.

“I am looking forward to being out on the field with my team next season playing the game that brings me so much happiness.”

Here’s hoping Sabathia deals with whatever problems he’s facing and comes out healthy on the other end.

Diamondbacks fire pitching coach Mike Harkey

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Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the Diamondbacks have fired pitching coach Mike Harkey following a season in which the staff ranked ninth among NL teams in runs allowed.

That actually represents a big improvement from last season, when the Diamondbacks allowed the second-most runs in the league in Harkey’s first year as pitching coach, but the Tony La Russa-led front office has decided to make a change.

Prior to joining the Diamondbacks two offseasons ago Harkey served as the Yankees’ bullpen coach from 2008-2013. He pitched eight seasons in the majors.