Author: Matthew Pouliot

Milt Bolling - 1956 Topps

Former Red Sox infielder Milt Bolling dies at 82

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Milt Bolling, who spent seven years in the big leagues in the 1950s and afterwards worked for the Red Sox for 30 years, passed away Saturday in Alabama at the age of 82.

Frank Bolling, Milt’s brother and a former MLB All-Star, told al.com’s Mark Inabinett that Milt’s health had been in decline following open-heart surgery three months ago.

Milt Bolling came up with the Red Sox in 1952 and became the team’s primary shortstop a year later. He had his best season in 1954, hitting .249/.337/.358 with six homers in 370 at-bats. However, he suffered a broken elbow the following spring and missed most of the 1955 season. Primarily a part-timer after that, he was traded to the Senators in 1957. In 1958, he briefly played with little brother Frank in Detroit, appearing in 24 games for the Tigers.

“We played against each other in the big leagues, and then he came over to Detroit in 1958, and we played together as a double-play combination,” Frank said, “with me at second base and him at shortstop. We have some great tales. We had a lot of good times.”

According to Wikipedia, Bolling later served with the Red Sox as an executive assistant to owner Tom Yawkey and as an area scout based in Alabama.

Milt Bolling is survived by his wife of 60 years, Joanne, as well as four children and nine grandchildren.

Stan Musial’s greatness undiminished by time

Stan Musial
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Stan Musial’s name doesn’t dot the record books anywhere near as frequently as those of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Still, for consistent greatness, perhaps no one matched Stan the Man, who passed away Saturday at age 92.

– Excluding his one-year absence due to military service in 1945, Musial, who spent his entire career with the Cardinals, hit .310 or better every year from 1942 to 1958. That’s age 21 to age 37. He qualified for the NL batting title all 16 of those seasons, finishing first seven times, second twice, third four times, fourth twice and fifth once. He also finished third in 1962 at age 41.

– In addition to his seven batting titles, he led the NL in OBP six times, in slugging six times and in OPS seven times.

– He led the league in runs scored five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBI twice, walks once and games played five times.

– He did all this while never striking out more than 46 times in a season. He finished his career with 1,599 walks and just 696 strikeouts.

– Musial played in 24 All-Star Games (in 20 seasons), tying Willie Mays for the most of all-time.

– Even 50 years after his retirement, Musial ranks 2nd all-time in total bases (6,134), 4th all-time in hits (3.630), 30th in average (.331), 22nd in OBP (.417), 19th in slugging (.559), 13th in OPS (.976), ninth in runs (1,959), sixth in RBI (1,951), third in doubles (725), 19th in triples (177), 28th in homers (475) and 13th in walks.

– Advanced stats: Musial ranks 12th all-time in Baseball-Reference’s WAR, ninth among position players. He’s third in runs created (2,562) and his OPS+ of 159 ranks 15th.

– Only Barry Bonds, with seven MVPs, has been more successful in the MVP balloting. Musial is one of eight players with three MVPs, and he has four second-place finishes to go along with them.

– Musial wasn’t particularly productive in the World Series, but his Cardinals teams won three of the four in which he played. He hit .256/.347/.395 with one homers and eight RBI in his 23 postseason games.

Musial ended up playing 21 full seasons, plus his 12 games as a 20-year-old in 1941. Never once did he finish with an OPS+ under 100. He ranked among the NL’s best hitters at both 21 and 41. He hit .300 18 times. Only Aaron, with 15, had more seasons with 300 total bases than Musial’s 13. Only Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams, with 18 each, had more seasons with .900 OPSs than Musial’s 17.

Musial may have missed some milestones in finishing with 475 homers and 1,951 RBI, but his status as one of baseball’s very best hitters is cemented. The awesome nickname probably doesn’t hurt.

Bargain-hunting Rays still have some holes

Joe Maddon, Andrew Friedman
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The Rays have spent some money this winter, adding Yunel Escobar for shortstop, James Loney for first base and Roberto Hernandez to the pitching staff. Their rotation is fine even with James Shields gone and the infield might be set, if Ben Zobrist plays second base, but the team still has some needs as is.

Outfield: Desmond Jennings is the only sure starter in the Tampa Bay outfield, and it’s still unclear if he’ll be playing left or center. Matt Joyce will start somewhere against righties, probably in right field but perhaps at designated hitter. A career .201/.288/.325 hitter in 234 at-bats against lefties,  he’s more useful being platooned.

Beyond those two, the Rays have the option of playing Zobrist in right, but they seem more likely to use him at second initially. Brandon Guyer was looking like a nice sleeper entering last season, but he opened up in Triple-A and then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in May. Sam Fuld is also back healthy after missing much of the season, but he should be viewed as a reserve. Top prospect Wil Myers will almost certainly spend the first month in Triple-A to push back his free agency clock, and he might be held back until mid-June, depending on how he’s performing and the Rays’ needs in right field.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark today mentioned Michael Bourn as a possibility for the Rays, as unlikely as that would seem to be. Not only would he blow up their budget, but he’d also cost them their first-round pick. Scott Hairston would seem to be a nice fit as a starter early who can be eased into a reserve role when Myers comes up, but the Rays haven’t been mentioned in connection with him. Perhaps they think Guyer is his equal. Still, even if the the Rays do opt to go with a Guyer-Jennings-Joyce outfield, they’re going to need a…

Designated hitter: In recently posting a Rays depth chart, I put Ryan Roberts at DH for lack of any better alternatives. It shouldn’t be difficult to do better there, though. Tampa Bay could re-sign Luke Scott to DH against right-handers after he hit .229/.285/.439 for them last season. Travis Hafner and Jim Thome are alternatives there, but they’re pure DHs incapable of playing elsewhere. Scott can at least play a passable first base and perhaps still left field when healthy.

One alternative here would be to sign Kelly Johnson, put Zobrist in right field and use Joyce primarily at DH.

Bullpen: The Rays have only three sure things for the pen right now: Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta. They’ll probably stick Hernandez there initially, and they do have some adequate holdovers in Cesar Ramos and Brandon Gomes, plus guys with upside like Josh Lueke, Dane De La Rosa and Frank De Los Santos. Still, one imagines they have their eyes on a couple of cheap veterans who might be candidates for turnarounds. No teams are beating down the doors of Francisco Rodriguez,  Matt Capps and Ramon Ramirez at the moment. And then there’s Hideki Okajima, who wants to return to the U.S. after a terrific season in Japan. The Rays could also consider trading Jeff Niemann for bullpen help.

Arbitration filings: Chase Headley’s $10.3 million request leads way

Chase Headley
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Here’s the breakdown of the 36 arbitration cases remaining after Friday’s filings:

American League (player filing amount – team filing amount – 2012 salary)

Baltimore

Jason Hammel – $8.25 million – $5.7 million ($4.75 million in 2012)
Jim Johnson – $7.1 million – $5.7 million ($2.775 million in 2012)
Darren O’Day – $3.2 million – $1.8 million ($1.35 million in 2012)

Boston

Craig Breslow – $2.375 million – $2.325 million ($1.795 million in 2012)

Cleveland

Mike Aviles – $3.4 million – $2.4 million ($1.2 million in 2012)

Detroit

Max Scherzer – $7.4 million – $6.05 million ($3.75 million in 2012)

Los Angeles

Alberto Callaspo – $4.7 million – $3.65 million ($3.15 million in 2012)
Kevin Jepsen – $1.4 million – $975,000 ($501,000 in 2012)

New York

David Robertson – $3.65 million – $2.85 million ($1.625 million in 2012)

Seattle

Shawn Kelley – $1.2 million – $750,000 ($610,000 in 2012)

Texas

David Murphy – $6.5 million – $5.05 million ($3.65 million in 2012)

National League

Arizona

Gerardo Parra – $2.7 million – $2.1 million ($502,000 in 2012)
Cliff Pennington – $2.8 million – $1.8 million ($490,000 in 2012)

Atlanta

Martin Prado – $7.05 million – $6.65 million ($4.75 million in 2012)

Cincinnati

Homer Bailey – $5.8 million – $4.75 million ($2.5 million in 2012)
Shin-Soo Choo – $8 million – $6.75 million ($4.9 million in 2012)
Chris Heisey – $1.65 million – $1.05 million ($495,000 in 2012)
Mat Latos – $4.7 million – $4.15 million ($550,000 in 2012)
Mike Leake – $3.5 million – $2.65 million ($507,500 in 2012)
Alfredo Simon – $1.05 million – $750,000 ($487,500 in 2012)

Colorado

Jhoulys Chacin – $2.6 million – $1.7 million ($482,000 in 2012)
Dexter Fowler – $5.15 million – $4.25 million ($2.35 million in 2012)
Jonathan Herrera – $1 million – $800,000 ($482,000 in 2012)

New York

Ike Davis – $3.7 million – $2.825 million ($506,690 in 2012)
Daniel Murphy – $3.4 million – $2.55 million ($512,196 in 2012)

Pittsburgh

James McDonald – $3.4 million – $2.65 million ($502,500 in 2012)
Neil Walker – $3.6 million – $3 million ($500,000 in 2012)

St. Louis

David Freese – $3.75 million – $2.4 million ($518,000 in 2012)
Jason Motte – $5.5 million – $4.5 million ($2 million in 2012)
Marc Rzepczynski – $1.3 million – $900,000 ($501,000 in 2012)

San Diego

Luke Gregerson – $3.75 million – $2.875 million ($1.55 million in 2012)
Chase Headley – $10.3 million – $7.075 million ($3.475 million in 2012)
Clayton Richard – $5.5 million – $4.905 million ($2.705 million in 2012)

San Francisco

Joaquin Arias – $1.1 million – $750,000 ($525,000 in 2012)
Sergio Romo – $4.5 million – $2.675 million ($1.575 million in 2012)

Washington

Jordan Zimmermann – $5.8 million – $4.6 million ($2.3 million in 2012)

Some thoughts

– Callaspo and the Angels are expected to avoid arbitration by finalizing a two-year deal in the coming days.

– It’s incredibly bizarre that the Red Sox came to terms with seven of their eight remaining arbitration players today, yet couldn’t close the ridiculously tiny $50,000 gap with Breslow. Maybe they just ran out of people capable of negotiating; they were all on the phone with other players.

– Prado’s gap is also really small considering the amounts involved ($7.05 million-$6.65 million). It’s hard to see that one going before a panel.

– Headley’s $3.225 million gap with the Padres is the biggest spread in dollars, but others are bigger proportionately. O’Day is asking for nearly twice what the Orioles are offering ($3.2 million-$1.8 million. Romo’s request is 70 percent higher than the Giants’ offer. Freese’s is nearly 60 percent higher than the Cardinals’ proposal.

Mike Matheny loses court battle, could cost him millions

Mike Matheny
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Not long after he was hired as the Cardinals’ replacement for Tony La Russa in the dugout, it was reported that Mike Matheny was in serious debt due to bad real estate deals that cost him his 17-room home in Missouri.

14 months later, Matheny was still fighting over just how much he owes the Business Bank of St. Louis, but he lost his case today in front of Judge Tom DePriest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

It was reported last year that Matheny might owe more than $4 million after he stopped making payments on land he and a business partner bought. No financial details came out of today’s judgment, though. That matter will be settled during a March 13 hearing.

Matheny made nearly $20 million in a major league career that came to a close in 2006. He sold his home for $1.9 million in 2010 prior to its foreclosure. $1 million of that went to the Business Bank, which claimed that Matheny owed $10.2 million. While his annual salary from managing the Cardinals was never disclosed, Matheny likely makes somewhere between $1 million-$1.5 million per year.