Author: Bob Harkins

Joey Votto homers

Baker expects Votto to handle MVP treatment well

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Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker thinks that Joey Votto, fresh off winning the NL MVP award, will begin to be treated like great MVPs of the past by opposing pitchers.

Baker, speaking on Saturday at spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz., said he noticed some special treatment from pitchers last season, when Votto hit .324 with 37 home runs and a 1.024 OPS.

“You saw last year how they started pitching him tougher and started pitching around him,” said Baker, who guided the Reds to their first playoff appearance in 15 seasons. “It’s the same thing Albert (Pujols) has been going through for seven, eight years now. I saw Barry Bonds go through it.”

Baker said it would be key for whoever hits in the clean-up spot behind Votto – a group that could include Scott Rolen, Johnny Gomes, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips – to play well to keep pitchers from ducking Votto.

“I remember when I was a kid, 22 years old, I was hitting behind Hank Aaron,” Baker said. “Hank told me ‘No. 1, don’t strike out when they do that. No. 2 try to keep the ball off the ground because they want you to hit into a double play. And just get some singles and doubles and you’ll stop them from pitching around me so much.’”

Baker said that Votto, a patient hitter who walked 91 times in 2010, was well equipped to handle the situation.

“For a young player he has a very good idea of what he’s trying to do, and an even better idea of what they’re trying to do to him. … When is a guy throwing me bait? Is he afraid of me? That’s the one thing I know about Barry Bonds, he could recognize fear quick as anything. He was like that dog that’s barking at that postman. That dog recognizes fear.”

Seeing as how Votto hit zero infield popups while compiling his monster 2010 season, there should be plenty of fear around the NL this season.

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Jim Joyce should never call another Armando Galarraga game

Joyce Galarraga shaking hands

There is no denying that Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga will forever be linked in baseball history.

But did they really need to have a book out already?

Yes, that’s right. The pitcher who nearly threw a perfect game last season, and the umpire who blew the call that would have clinched it, have co-authored a book titled “Nobody’s Perfect: Two Men, one Call, and a Game for Baseball History.” The book will be released on May 16 and can be pre-ordered now.

Because the two are now business partners, Ed Price of AOL doesn’t think Joyce should ever call a game behind the plate in which Galarraga – now with the Arizona Diamondbacks – might take the mound.

Nonetheless, baseball must consider the appearance of impropriety. The first time Galarraga got a favorable call from Joyce, right or not, the other team could point to the book deal. Major League Baseball needs to make sure that doesn’t become an issue.

This is no different than if an active player and active umpire decided to start a sports bar together, or opened a car dealership. They both profit from the same business.

There is no questioning the ethics of Joyce and Galarraga. Both men proved their character – and then some – last year. But Price is correct on this. It’s about appearances, and you can’t have an umpire calling games in which the pitcher on the mound is his business partner. As Price points out, MLB has already dealt with a similar situation, as umpire Jim Wolf is not allowed to work behind the plate when brother Randy Wolf is pitching. The same rule should now be applied to Joyce and Galarraga. And if the D-backs put Galarraga in the bullpen, then Joyce should not be allowed behind the plate in any Arizona games.

The commissioner’s office is reportedly looking into the issue, which probably means Bud Selig will send up a weather balloon soliciting opinions on the matter in a couple weeks. We shall see, but it’s pretty clear what needs to be done.

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Free agent compensation rule cost Brewers shot at Mike Trout


The Milwaukee Brewers could have had Mike Trout, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As you probably knew, Trout, an outfielder in the Los Angeles Angels minor league system, is widely regarded as a rising star. He was all anyone was talking about at the Futures Game in Anaheim last July and has a line of .344/.426/.489 with 69 steals in two minor league seasons. This winter he was rated the best prospect in baseball by both’s Keith Law and’s Jonathan Mayo.

The Angels selected Trout with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2009 draft. What you might not have known is that the No. 25 pick originally belonged to the New York Yankees. That pick was awarded to the Brewers as compensation when the Yankees signed free agent pitcher CC Sabathia, who the Brewers had acquired in a mid-season deal with the Cleveland Indians.

This is where the plot thickens

The Brewers never got to use that draft pick, however.

Later that off-season, the Yankees signed free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had played for the Angels. Because Teixeira was a higher-ranked Class A free agent – the only one rated above Sabathia that winter – the Angels inherited New York’s first-round pick and the Brewers were bumped back to fill the Yankees’ second-round slot, the 73rd pick overall.

“(The compensation rules) hurt us that particular year,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Haudricourt. “The only player we could lose that (first-round) pick on was Teixeira, and the Yankees signed him. We thought that was an unfair part of the system.”

Understandably so. Dropping 48 spots in the draft because the Yankees decided to sign the top two free agents instead of just one is pretty brutal.

The Brewers used the No. 73 pick in that draft to take another high school outfielder, Maxwell Walla of Albuquerque, N.M. While it’s early to say Walla’s .223/.335/.364 line makes him a bust, the difference between he and Trout has to make Brewers fans cringe.

Of course there is no way of knowing if the Brewers would have used the No. 25 pick on Trout. “Whether he would have been the pick, I can’t say for sure, but there’s a good possibility,” Melvin told Haudricourt. “I know Trout was on the board for us.”

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.

Documentary on Andres Torres of Giants due out in July

Andres Torres swinging

After a pretty nondescript career spent mostly in the minor leagues, San Francisco outfielder Andres Torres became a key player in the Giants’ championship run last season.

Torres put up a .268/.343/.479 line, stole 26 bases and played fine defense at all three outfield positions. In August, it was revealed that Torres suffered from attention deficit disorder (ADD), a condition he was diagnosed with in 2002 but ignored until 2007. When he started taking medication, he started to focus better and improve.

In December, Torres revealed that he would be the subject of a documentary focused on his life, including both his condition and his rise from poverty in Puerto Rico.

“It’s about giving kids hope and never giving up,” Torres said of the film project. “You have to keep working hard. I want to be something positive, especially for kids with ADD. It’s a message for the kids.”

The film, called “Gigante,” is scheduled to be released in July, but there is a trailer out now, and it looks pretty interesting. Check it out below.

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Phillies have ‘some hunger in our mouths’


Yesterday we found out that Hanley Ramirez has the “hunger of a rookie.”

Today we find out some bad news for Marlins fans: The Philadelphia Phillies are also very hungry, maybe even hungrier than Hanley Ramirez. That’s what happens when you reach the NLCS and then sign Cliff Lee in the offseason.

This is what Phillies starter Roy Halladay told Jim Salisbury of

“The longer you play the more hungry you get,” Halladay said. “All of us are to the point where we’ve had success and established ourselves. Once you do that, the most important thing becomes winning. I know Oswalt and Cliff feel the same way. We’re at that point in our careers where you really have to start chasing it. To be able to be on this team, right now, I think we all have to like our chances and hope we can do what we need to do to get it done.”

Shane Victorino went even further:

“There’s some hunger in our mouths,” centerfielder Shane Victorino said. “I don’t think we can be any hungrier than we are right now.”

Since this is two hungry guys vs. Florida’s one hungry guy, I’m going to have to tab the Phillies as the early favorites to win the NL East. Of course we have yet to hear from the Mets, Nats and Braves, so things could change.

All this talk of appetites brings two questions to mind:

1) Could there possibly be a better way to explain the arbitration process than to give a fake Prince Fielder a bunch of cheeseburgers? (“Now, the arbitrator cheeseburger’s decision is binding and determines the number of cheeseburgers for compensation. He could determine that the player deserves six, eight, or 10 cheeseburgers, which I will now eat.”)

2) How will this phenomenon affect all these players who are in the best shape of their lives?

As complicated as these matters are, one thing is clear: I’m hungry for spring training to start.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.