Position-by-position trade deadline preview: First base

4 Comments

This is the second in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Prince Fielder (Brewers) – Fielder has overcome a slow start in grand fashion: by month, he’s posted OPSs of 741, 880, 956 and now 1074 so far in July. Still, one gets the feeling that his trade value isn’t what it was a year ago. That’s in part because he’s going to be very difficult to get signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent following next season. It also doesn’t help matters that he could ask for about $20 million in arbitration over the winter. Since the offers won’t overwhelm, the Brewers will probably be better off keeping him and hoping for better luck in 2011. The White Sox are thought to be interested, but unless they offer up Gordon Beckham — and they probably won’t — there wouldn’t seem to be a potential match.
Adam Dunn (Nationals) – I led off the NL notes on Rotoworld with my thoughts on a possible Dunn deal. There’s a chance the Nationals will move Dunn if they don’t think he’ll come down from his request for a four-year, $60 million contract. Still, the odds are against it right now. The White Sox and Yankees have shown the most interest.
Derrek Lee (Cubs) – Lee posted the second-best OPS of his career as a 33-year-old in 2009, but at .247/.337/.391 right now, he’s currently on pace to finish below 800 for the first time since 1999. Maybe there is still time for that to change: he’s gone 11-for-26 with five extra-base hits and eight RBI in six games since the All-Star break. Lee has a no-trade clause and likes Chicago, so it’s not simply a matter of the Cubs finding a taker for him. It’s possible he’ll accept a trade, but far from a given. An August deal could be a possibility here.
Lance Berkman (Astros) – Berkman and Lee are basically in the same boat: both are former All-Stars having down years and both have no-trade clauses and no huge desire to move on. The two are also free agents at season’s end, though Berkman has a $2 million buyout attached to a $15 million option for 2011 that makes him a more expensive proposition. Berkman came out last week and said he didn’t expect to be traded, but because of his salary, he’s another player who could potentially be available during August.
Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks) – LaRoche would seem to have about as much to offer as Lee and Berkman, but with fewer strings attached. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, and while his contract includes a $1.5 million buyout attached to a mutual option for 2011, he’ll be owed just $1.5 million over the final two months of this season. The Diamondbacks may be willing to pick up a portion of that buyout anyway, since it’s money they expected to be on the hook for all along. LaRoche, typically a second-half player, is hitting .259/.332/.453 at the moment. It seems doubtful that the Giants would bid for him after he spurned them last winter, but he’d make a lot of sense for the Angels.
Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays) – Overbay isn’t going to be anyone’s top choice, but there are worse platoon first basemen around. He’s gotten better every month since a dreadful April, and while his overall .251/.331/.414 line is still pretty unimpressive, he’s hit a respectable .271/.363/.449 against righties. Odds are that he’ll clear waivers and remain available into next month. If the Angels, Giants, Rangers or another contender is sweating its first base situation then, Overbay could be a fit.
Xavier Nady (Cubs) – While Nady could step in at first base for the Cubs if Lee is traded, he’s actually the more likely of the two to get dealt. He’s struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery, but that’s in part due to a lack of at-bats. He’s had just 141 this season, hitting .220/.289/.340 in the process. No contender should be looking to pick him up to play regularly, but he could probably help a team starting three times per week between first base, the outfield and maybe DH.
Russell Branyan (Mariners) – Branyan has been laid up with another back injury of late, making a trade a whole lot less likely. The Mariners, who just picked him up from the Indians last month, weren’t going to get much for him anyway, so they’ll probably just keep him and hope his power will help them avoid a 100-loss season.
Casey Kotchman (Mariners) – It didn’t figure that anyone would want Kotchman a month ago, but he’s bounced back to hit .333/.422/.692 with three homers in 39 at-bats during July. Like Overbay, he’s a potential fallback for a team that fails to get its top choice. It helps his case that he’s the slickest fielder in this group.
Dan Johnson (Rays) – In Johnson and Chris Richard, the Rays have a couple of the International League’s top performers stashed away at Durham. Johnson, 30, is hitting .300/.413/.603 with 25 homers in 307 at-bats, and he’s been playing plenty of third base and left field, which might make him more interesting to teams. The 36-year-old Richard is batting .297/.387/.514 in 286 at-bats. The Rays may yet decide to give Johnson a look as a part-timer, but if he’s not in their plans at all, letting him go to a team that would use him would be the kind thing to do.
Catcher

Jackie Robinson: ” I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag”

FILE - In this April 11, 1947 file photo, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers poses at Ebbets Field in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Robinson's widow said Major League Baseball has yet to fully honor her husband's legacy. "There is a lot more that needs to be done and that can be done in terms of the hiring, the promotion" of minorities in the sport, Rachel Robinson said Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 during a Q&A session with TV critics about "Jackie Robinson," a two-part PBS documentary airing in April.  (AP Photo/John Rooney, File)
15 Comments

One more bit of baseball via which we may reflect on the Colin Kaepernick controversy.

In 1972 Jackie Robinson wrote his autobiography. In it he reflected on how he felt about his historical legacy as a baseball player, a businessman and as a political activist. A political activism, it should be noted, which favored both sides of the aisle at various times. He supported Nixon in 1960, supported the war in Vietnam and worked for Nelson Rockefeller. He did not support Goldwater and did support the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He supported Humphrey against Nixon in 1968. He was no blind partisan or ideologue. When you find someone like that you can usually rest assured it’s because they’re thinking hard and thinking critically in a world where things aren’t always cut-and-dried.

As such, this statement from his autobiography, describing his memory of the first game of the 1947 World Series, is worth thinking about. Because it came from someone who spent a lot of time thinking:

There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.

Colin Kaepernick is not Jackie Robinson and America in 2016 is not the same as America in 1919, 1947 or 1972. But it does not take one of Jackie Robinson’s stature or experience to see and take issue with injustice and inequality which manifestly still exists.

As I said in the earlier post, the First Amendment gives us just as much right to criticize Kaepernick as it gives him a right to protest in the manner in which he chooses. But if and when we do, we should not consider his case in a vacuum or criticize him as some singular or radical actor. Because some other people — people who have been elevated to a level which has largely immunized them from criticism — felt and feel the same way he does. It’s worth asking yourself, if you take issue, whether you take issue with the message or the messenger and why. Such inquiries might complicate one’s feelings on the matter, but they’re quite illuminative as well.

(thanks to Kokujin for the heads up)

Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is a sports owner once again

File photo of Frank McCourt leaving Stanley Mosk Courthouse after testifying during his divorce trial in Los Angeles
3 Comments

There aren’t many major league ownership reigns which ended more ignominiously than Frank McCourt’s reign as Dodgers owner. He was granted access to one of business’ most exclusive clubs — one which being a convicted criminal or even a Nazi sympathizer cannot get you kicked out of — and somehow got kicked out. The clear lesson from his saga was that saddling your team with debt, using it as your own private piggy bank and exercising bad judgment at every possible turn will not get you drummed out of baseball but, by gum, having it all go public in a divorce case sure as heck will.

McCourt landed pretty safely, though. By sheer luck, his being kicked out of ownership coincided with the vast appreciation of major league franchise values and the expiration of the Dodgers cable television deal. He may have left in disgrace, but he also left with a couple of billion dollars thanks to the genius of capitalism. At the time it was assumed he’d ride off into the sunset, continuing to make a mint off of parking at Dodgers games (he retained a big piece of that pie) and not get his hands messy with sports ownership again.

Such assumptions were inoperative:

The soccer club has suffered from poor financial decisions in recent years. So I guess it was a match made in heaven.