Author: Bob Harkins


Vizquel hopes to play next season at age 45


Omar Vizquel was once one of the best – if not the best – defensive shortstops in baseball. He’s little more than an aging utility man these days, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to call it quits.

Vizquel, who turns 45 in April, tells Chuck Garfien of that he hopes to land a spot on someone’s roster next season.

An easy-going sort, Vizquel said he’s not worried about playing time, but thinks he still has the ability to compete.

“I would love to have the opportunity to play another year,” Vizquel said. “I think I have the ability to play. I don’t think there’s much difference between me and the other guys on teams. I’m not expecting to play every day, but I think I can still play.”

Vizquel said he’d love to return to the White Sox, but doesn’t expect to, given Chicago is a high-payroll, veteran-laden disappointment of a team in need of new life. In fact, he said that poor body language by his teammates is inspiring him to keep playing.

“I feel 35 (years old). I look at players on this team right now that are around that age or less. You look at them playing, and it’s made me want to play more because the body language is not what you’d like to see. I don’t think I have that kind of body language and I don’t like to show it even if I’m tired. That is why I want to continue,” Vizquel said. “I feel great. I have a lot of energy. I still have the passion, and I still have the legs. That’s the main reason why.”

He didn’t point the finger at any players in particular, but said he didn’t think it was an issue of fatigue. “They don’t have that spark.”

Vizquel has played only 57 games this season, hitting .245 with a .282 OBP. He has split time at shortstop, third base, second base and first base this season.

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Fielder states the obvious, calls it his ‘last year’ with Brewers

National League first baseman Fielder of the Brewers watches three-run home run in fourth inning during Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Phoenix

Quick everyone, raise your hand if you expect Prince Fielder to sign a huge free-agent deal this offseason to return to the Milwaukee Brewers.

(… waits …)


Well I can’t say that I’m surprised. Neither apparently, does Prince Fielder, who told TBS on Wednesday that this would likely be his last season in Milwaukee.

The Chicago Tribune has the goods:

Fielder made a reference to teammate Ryan Braun and regrets that the duo won’t stick together after this season.

“It’s been great, unfortunately, this is probably the last year of the one-two punch,” Fielder said. “But I think it’s been good, five years, him and me. Hopefully, we can go out with a blast.”

The Brewers are in position to win their first division title since 1982, when Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and co. went all the way to the World Series before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. They will not be favored to get that far this fall, not with the powerhouse Phillies ruling the National League.

The Brewers say they will make Fielder an offer after the season, and maybe a deep playoff run (along with the champagne parties that go with it) will convince ownership to open it’s wallet. But with big money committed to Ryan Braun ($61 million), Rickie Weeks ($34 million) and Corey Hart ($20 million) beyond this season, expected raises coming for arbitration-eligibles like Shawn Marcum and John Axford, as well as the question of what to do with Zack Greinke (a free agent after 2012), a serious play for Fielder seems unlikely.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Brewers will cease to be a contender after 2011. After all, it was an improved pitching staff that led to their rise this season, with only the Phillies, Braves and Giants allowing fewer runs per game in the NL this season.

That being said, it sure is fun to watch the big guy hit a baseball. Players like Fielder don’t come along too often. Enjoy him while you’ve got him, Brewers fans.

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Sorry Cubs, the Reds plan to keep Jocketty

Walt Jocketty

Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty has an expiring contract, leading to speculation that he would leave the Reds for the Cubs, who let Jim Hendry go in July.

One report said that the Cubs had even discussed the possibility. But Reds owner Bob Castellini tells the Cincinnati Enquirer that Jocketty isn’t going anywhere. He also said of Reds manager Dusty Baker’s future that “of course he’ll be back.”

It makes sense, as the Reds seem to need only a few tweaks rather than an overhaul.

As far as what this means for the Cubs, our friend Patrick Mooney of has an in-depth look at the issue, and at the importance of this hire in what is ultimately a winnable division.

With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder poised to become free agents, and the Cubs hoping to land some hotshot executive, the Central landscape could change dramatically.

But if Tom Ricketts gets this hire wrong, then the scouting and player-development infrastructure Hendry built could crumble. This organization could be set back for years to come, and starting all over again later this decade.

It’s a risk the chairman’s willing to take. The rest of the division will be rooting against the Cubs.

 You can follow Bob on Twitter here, or if Facebook is your thing, be his friend here.

Bill Buckner earns redemption, and some laughs along the way


Bill Buckner will always be remembered for that one moment in the 1986 World Series. You know the one.

He’s been tormented by the play for years, and for the most part has avoided talking about it. Who would have thought that Larry David, a New York Yankees fan, would come and make everything right?

David talked Buckner into appearing on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in an episode that aired on Sunday. In the first key scene, David tosses a baseball signed by Mookie Wilson to Buckner, who – naturally — lets it skip off his hands and out a window. In the end, though, Buckner redeems himself by safely catching a baby that is tossed from a burning building.

You can watch the drop here, and the catch here.

Buckner, who is currently the manager of the Brockton Rox, talked about the show with Dan Patrick, saying “I thought the whole thing was hilarious.” (Watch video above)

He also answered questions about why he did the show (“His whole thing for doing the show was to try to make me look good”), and explained that the baby-catching scene took six hours to shoot because of the difficulties of getting the baby to “land in the right spot” — not because he couldn’t catch it.

Asked if he could have done the show 10 years ago, Buckner said “Probably not. Things kind of changed for me both personally and publicly. Everything’s fine. I’m happy. Life’s good.”

Good for Bill Buckner. Being on that show is probably the best thing he could have done from a public perception standpoint. There is no way he will ever escape the 1986 World Series, but now he will also be remembered as a pretty funny guy who can poke fun at himself — as well as a damn fine major leaguer with more than 2,700 hits over 22 seasons.

As for Larry David, perhaps the next call he should make is to Steve Bartman. Hmm?

H/T to Rick Chandler, who had an early take a couple days ago.

You can follow Bob on Twitter here, or if Facebook is your thing, be his friend here.

Is this the end of the line for a true baseball character?


At the start of the season, I wrote a series of stories on the difficulties of making it to – and staying in – the major leagues.

One of those players was 35-year-old catcher Corky Miller, a classic baseball vagabond currently in the Cincinnati Reds system who has played for 14 teams, including five major league teams, over the past 13 seasons. Over the past decade, he’s managed to play at least one game in the big leagues in every season, hitting a mere .188 in only 575 plate appearances.

During spring training, Miller had this to say about his difficult journey:

“If you get to the big leagues, you bust your ass to stay there. If you’re in Triple-A, you do what you need to do to be ready when they call you.”

For the first time since 2000, it looks like they’re not going to call Corky Miller.

At least it appears that way, with the Reds planning to call up top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco when rosters expand on Thursday.

The game tosses aside players every season, and .188 hitters don’t tend to stick around as long as Miller has. But Miller has proven that a defensive-minded catcher who calls a good game and tutors pitchers well can find a place.

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with Miller, and his story from last week is both illuminating and entertaining.

Click through to read the whole story, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Dontrelle Willis credits Miller with helping him rediscover his form, saying “He’s like Halley’s Comet – he’s a once-in-a-lifetime guy.”
  • Pitcher Matt Maloney says Miller has some Crash Davis in him, “but I don’t know if he’d necessarily like the comparison.”
  • Corky is his given name, but his mother gave him Abraham as his middle name in case he became president.
  • The lone stolen base of his career was a swipe of home in 2001. “We’re still hearing about it,” Mesoraco said.
  • Early in his career, Miller was called up to the bigs, only to sit on the bench. He asked to be sent back down so he could play.

And finally:

What if this season were to be his last as a player? How would he want to be remembered?

“As a professional, a guy who went out and did his job, and a good teammate,” Miller said.

“To me, that would be everything.”

Mission accomplished.