Archive for the ‘Across the Diamond’ Category

February 16, 2010

For those of you wondering why there haven’t been posts on this site recently, it’s because this site no longer exists.

Please visit http://www.theghostofmoonlightgraham.com

http://www.theghostofmoonlightgraham.wordpress.com no longer exists!!!

Please visit http://www.theghostofmoonlightgraham.com

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Frank Thomas Officially Retires, Next Stop Cooperstown

February 12, 2010

On the same day that one future Hall of Famer officially announced his retirement, another future Hall of Famer did the same. Last night, two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas officially announced his retirement.

Not only did Glavine and Thomas retire on the same day, their situations were similar. Like Glavine, Thomas was forced into semi-retirement in 2009. Thomas didn’t play a single inning last season and yesterday, Thomas officially called it a career.

Thomas truly "Hurt" the baseball

Thomas will finish his career with a .301 average, 521 home runs, 2,468 hits, 495 doubles, a .419 OBP, and a .974 OPS in 19 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, and Toronto Blue Jays. His .974 career OPS is good for 15th all time. He also won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 93′ and 94′ with the White Sox.

I think if there is such a thing as an underrated Hall of Fame player, Thomas was it. For those of you who weren’t old enough to watch Thomas in the 1990’s, you probably don’t understand how good this guy was.

From 1991-2000, Thomas averaged a hitting line of .320/.439/.581 with 34 home runs, 115 RBI, 114 walks, and 35 doubles. Those are like Baseball Stars numbers after you power up your team. However, Thomas was overshadowed by the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa.

I will go far as to say that if you asked the average baseball outside of Chicago to name the top-10 players of the 90’s, many of them wouldn’t even mention Thomas. Mo Vaughn would probably get more votes than Thomas would in that poll.

I really don’t think Thomas got the credit he deserved for being as good as he was back in the day. This guy almost won back-to-back unanimous MVP awards (he unanimously won the award in 93′)! That is incredible and rarely talked about.

Of course the Thomas detractors (David Wells) will talk about how Thomas played the majority of his games at DH for the second-half of his career and was rarely on the field. Who cares if he played the majority of his games at DH towards the later half of his career? I never understood why that is a negative on a player’s resume?

Nowhere on the Cooperstown application does it say a player had to be a “five-tool” player in order to get in. Whether you like it or not, the DH is a position in the AL. If a player excels at that position, then I don’t see a problem with it.

One thing I don’t see anyone having a problem with about Thomas was his nickname. The “Big Hurt” was one of the best and most appropriate nicknames of any player in the history of baseball. At 6’5” and 257 lbs, Thomas is a big boy and truly hurt the baseball when he hit it.

Such a great nickname.

Thomas will eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014 and he will also have his No.35 retired by the White Sox this summer.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

After 22 Seasons, Tom Glavine Calls It A Career

February 12, 2010

After not pitching an inning in 2009, Tom Glavine was unofficially retired. Yesterday, he made his retirement from the game of baseball official.

Glavine officially retired from baseball after 22 seasons and will join the Atlanta Braves, the team he spent 17 seasons with, in the front office. He will be a special assistant to team President John Schuerholz.

Glavine officially retired yesterday

He will work with Schuerholz on baseball and business projects as well as assisting GM Frank Wren and manager Bobby Cox on occasion. Glavine will also work on the team’s TV and radio crew from time to time.

Glavine will finish his Hall of Fame career with 305 wins, a 3.57 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, and two Cy Young awards with the Braves and the New York Mets. Glavine will go down as one of the top-10 best left-handed pitchers of all-time.

Glavine will be remembered for his almost effortless motion, the way he was able to work each corner of the plate, and a ridiculous change up. His ability to control his change up allowed him to get away with an average fastball.

He would throw that “dead fish” at 78 mph, low and outside to a right-handed hitter and then on the next pitch, bust him inside with a 90 mph fastball. That hitter didn’t have a chance.

I think I will remember Glavine for two games. One good, one not so good. First, the good.

I don’t think you can talk about Glavine without mentioning his performance in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. He beat the Indians 1-0 that night and the Braves finally won a World Series in the 1990’s.

Glavine pitched one of the all time great World Series games that night. He hurled eight innings of one hit baseball, while walking three, and striking out eight. Home plate umpire Joe Brinkman gave Glavine the outside corner that night and he took full advantage.

What was so impressive about that performance was that Glavine did it against the Indians. In 1995 the Indians were in the height of their resurgence in the 90’s. That team was an offensive juggernaut in 95′ and had a lineup that featured Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, and Carlos Baerga and Glavine made them look like little leaguers that night.

Now the bad game I will remember Glavine for.

It was Sept. 30th, 2007 and the Mets needed to beat the Florida Marlins to clinch the National League East or force a one-game playoff with the Milwaukee Brewers. On the mound that day was Glavine.

I don’t think I have ever seen a Hall of Fame pitcher come up as small as Glavine did that afternoon. His outing in all honesty was pathetic.

He give up seven runs on five hits and walked two in just one-third of an inning. The highlight of the inning came when he plunked the opposing pitcher, Dontrelle Willis in the chest.

That was the last batter Glavine faced that day and his last in a Mets’ uniform. The game was over before it even started and the Mets suffered one of the worst end of season collapses in baseball history.

Regardless of whether you have a good memory of Glavine or a bad one, there is no denying he is a first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Houston Astros’ Brandon Lyon Undergoes Surgery

February 11, 2010

I got on Houston Astros’ GM Ed Wade pretty hard when he signed RHP Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15 million contract back in December. Here is what I wrote:

“This is a great day for Lyon and a sad, sad day for Astro fans.

How quickly do you think Meister and Lyon signed this contract? Five seconds? Two seconds?

This is the single worst deal of the offseason so far. What are the Astros thinking? To give Lyon three years to be their closer, when this guy can’t close is absurd.”

The contract was absurd then and it’s absurd now. It’s even more absurd now because Lyon had a procedure done to his pitching shoulder just two months after his signed his contract.

Lyon had surgery two weeks ago to remove a cyst in his pitching shoulder according to the Associated Press.

“Brandon was experiencing some weakness and discomfort in his shoulder, and we brought him in a couple of weeks ago to be seen,” general manager Ed Wade said. “At the time of his pre-signing physical, his right shoulder MRI showed a very small cyst, and when the MRI was repeated recently, it showed that the cyst had enlarged and was pressing on some nerves.”

So let me understand this and I believe I do. The Astros saw a cyst in a guy’s pitching shoulder, thought it was no big deal, signed him to a contract two years too long, and then nearly months later the guy needs surgery to remove that cyst?

Good to see the Astros are using the same doctors as the New York Mets. My lord. What a clown show.

Lyon will be ready to pitch by Opening Day. I am not sure that is such a good thing for Astros fans.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Brandon Webb Throws Off A Mound, Feels Good

February 10, 2010

Last year I did a two-part series on the “key” players for each team. A “key” player is a type of player that had an injury plagued or down season the year before and if he can make a come back, then the team would be much better off.

I plan on continuing this two-part series again this year and I will give you a little preview today. The “key” player for the Arizona Diamondbacks is RHP Brandon Webb.

Webb threw off a mound yesterday

Webb fits my “key” player title to a tee.

From 2005-2008, Webb was not only one of the top pitchers in the National League, but in all of baseball. In those seasons, Webb was 70-37 with a 3.23 ERA and won the NL Cy Young in 2006. In 2007 and 2008, Webb finished second in the voting.

Pretty impressive.

However, the 2009 season was a lost season for Webb. He made his first start of the season, got rocked by the Colorado Rockies, and never pitched again.

Webb went on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis and eventually needed surgery on his right shoulder. Now trying to make a comeback, Webb finally returned to the place where he has had the most success in his life–the pitcher’s mound.

For the first time since having shoulder surgery last August, Webb threw off a mound yesterday. Webb threw 20-25 pitches at Chase Field in Arizona and said he felt good afterwards.

“I’m right where I expected to be,” Webb said in a statement through the Associated Press. “Having not been on the mound in a year, I am pleased with how I felt.”

The Diamondbacks will take it slow with Webb in spring training, giving him extra days rest between starts and throwing sessions. If Webb doesn’t have any setbacks in spring training, he should be ready to go for Opening Day.

This is very, very good news for Diamondback fans. Arizona has added some nice pieces this offseason, but in order for the Diamondbacks to compete for the NL West title or a Wild Card spot, they need Webb to stay healthy in 2010.

Here is what I wrote about who I think Webb can be back in November:

“Webb’s career is really starting to remind me of Orel Hershiser’s. Hershiser was a sinker-ball pitcher, who logged a lot innings, won a Cy Young, and in the middle of his career underwent rotator cuff surgery.

Sound familiar?

Hershiser was a good pitcher after the surgery, but never was the dominate pitcher he once was. I think Webb can be the same pitcher Hershiser was post-surgery.

That means a pitcher who can still log a lot of inning, strikes out few, has a high WHIP, but can still gut his way out to 10-15 wins.”

The Diamondbacks will only go as far as Webb goes in 2010. If he can make a successful comeback, then Arizona will have a nice three-headed monster with Webb, Dan Haren, and Edwin Jackson. If Webb suffers any setbacks next year, then Arizona will have a massive hole to fill in their rotation.

That is why he will be the “key” player for the Diamondbacks in 2010.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Cliff Lee Has Minor Foot Surgery

February 9, 2010

I really don’t think that is the headline Seattle Mariner fans want to see about a week before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. But the reality is, it’s a true headline.

As the Tacoma News Tribune’s Ryan Divish first reported, Cliff Lee underwent a minor procedure in his left foot to remove a bone spur on the fifth of February. Lee is expected to resume baseball activities in two-to-three weeks and should be ready by Opening Day.

Lee had foot surgery last week

The reason Lee elected to have the surgery so close to spring training is because the injury hadn’t bothered Lee until recently. The other option for Lee would have been to pitch through the pain during the season and receive cortisone shots on a regular basis.

The injury will slow down Lee a little in spring training, but I don’t expect this to slow Lee down during the regular season. Lee is pitching for a big-time contract in 2011 and beyond and I don’t expect him to miss a beat this season.

The surgery was preformed by Dr. Bryan Burke in Little Rock, Arkansas.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Let the Adrian Gonzalez To The Red Sox Rumors Start…Again

February 4, 2010

Yesterday was a pretty sad day for a special group of people. Around 4:00 PM est yesterday, it was announced that Monster Worldwide purchased Hotjobs, a place I had called home for four plus years, from Yahoo!

As I wrote on my Facebook page, I had the privilege to work with some truly great people and few companies can say they had the talent that walked through those doors all those years. It was a great place to work.

I compare Monster buying Hotjobs to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) buying World Championship Wrestling (WCW) back in 2001. WWE was the established brand like Monster and WCW was an upstart trying to take over the top spot like Hotjobs.

Sure, there were times where WCW and Hotjobs claimed the top spot, but you always felt that no matter what happened WWE and Monster were still No.1. Like WCW (AOL/Time Warner), Hotjobs was purchased by a large media company and that media company treated Hotjobs–just as AOL/Time Warner treated WCW– as an afterthought.

In the end, both WCW and Hotjobs were sold for a fraction of what they were actually worth to the top players in their industries just so the poorly run media companies can get rid of them. A very sad day.

The reason I bring this up during this post is A. because it just happened and B. it reminds me of what is going in San Diego.

When former Boston Red Sox Assistant GM Jed Hoyer took the GM with the San Diego Padres, many assumed that at some point Hoyer would get together with his old team and strike a deal that involved star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

With the Red Sox going in a different direction this offseason, many of the Gonzalez to Boston rumors died down. Now, thanks to a couple of interesting quotes, I am guessing those Gonzalez to Boston rumors are going to heat up again during the season or next winter.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Padres CEO Jeff Moorad had this to say about the future of Gonzalez:

“I think the fairest description of our point of view is that we continue to be committed to doing what’s best for the long-term interest of the organization,” Padres CEO Jeff Moorad said yesterday. “As a result, no player is untouchable. And while we’re mindful of players’ individual popularity, we won’t put one player ahead of the long-term interests of the club.

“I’m confident that (General Manager) Jed (Hoyer) and John Boggs will have a discussion at some point about Adrian and his future. While I’d be thrilled to have him part of the organization for the long term, the early signals indicate his cost will be greater than our ability to pay.”

I appreciate Moorad’s honestly and candor, but where is his bedside manor? About 12 days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, he is telling his fans they most likely won’t re-sign their star player when he becomes a free agent in two years.

Way to excite your fan base or what’s left of it Jeff.

If you are a Padres fan (all 20 of you), it has to be beyond frustrating to continue to support this team. This team plays in the 28th largest market in the America, the nicest city in America, and has a new ballpark (PETCO opened in 2004) that should create additional revenue streams.

On the surface, there is no reason for the Padres not to have a payroll hovering around the $80-$90 million mark. But thanks to almost always shaky ownership, the Padres have been in cost-cutting mode for as long as I can remember.

It seems like for every step forward this organization takes, it takes two steps back.

Just look at a team like the Milwaukee Brewers. They play in the smallest market in baseball, but have a great owner, who does his best to make sure the Brewers put a winning product on the field.

I don’t think there is a person on the planet would rather call Milwaukee home than San Diego, but the Brewers are constantly making moves and attracting players to the home of George Webb Restaurants.

The biggest difference between the Brewers and Padres is ownership. Now Moorad might turn out to be a good owner in the future. He has only been the Padres owner for a little more than a year, but at some point he is going to have to make a commitment to the players and the fans.

A commitment that Yahoo! and AOL/Time Warner never made.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Verlander Signs Extension With Detroit Tigers

February 4, 2010

Its been a pretty good winter for two out of the three finalists for the American League Cy Young award in 2009. Felix Hernandez, who finished second in the voting signed a five-year, $78 million extension with the Seattle Mariners earlier this offseason and now the third place finisher got rewarded as well.

According to FOXSports.com, the Detroit Tigers have signed staff ace Justin Verlander to a five-year, $80 million contract. The deal cancels out Verlander’s remaining two years of arbitration plus three free agent years.

Verlander became a rich man on Wed.

Verlander will be 27 in two weeks, so the Tigers should have Verlander throughout his prime years. The Tigers have handed out some pretty awful long-term contracts recently (Magglio Ordonez, Nate Robertson, etc…), but this deal should be very much worth it for Detroit.

Since being taken with the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, Verlander has been everything the Tigers hoped he would be. In his four full years in the majors, Verlander has been a flat-out stud for three of those years.

Take out his 2008 season when he went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP and Verlander has gone 54-24 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. That is pretty awesome.

Like Hernandez, Verlander’s extension comes on the heals of a career year in 2009. Verlander led the American League in starts, innings, batters faced, strikeouts, and wins last season. He also led all pitchers in pitches thrown with 3,937, which might be a little concerning for 2010, but I don’t think it will have any long-term effects going forward.

What I find interesting about this deal is that Verlander got $2 million dollars more than what Hernandez got. You know that was a power play move by his agents over at SFX. They had to get more for Verlander than what Hernandez’s agent for him.

Oh and by the way, the guy who beat out Hernandez and Verlander for the CY Young award in 2009, Zack Greinke? Don’t feel bad for him. He didn’t miss the boat on signing a contract.

Greinke signed a four-year, $38 million contract extension last January.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Kris Benson On The Comeback Trail?

February 3, 2010

Is it me or does it seem like there is an unusual amount of pitchers trying to make a comeback this offseason? It seems like everyday we are are hearing about a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in a couple of years and is holding a workout for major league clubs.

This offseason, we have seen Ben Sheets, Derrick Turnbow, Noah Lowry, and others hold a workout in front of clubs and attempt to make a comeback. Now, we can add one more pitcher to the list of pitchers trying to make a comeback.

Benson is trying to make another comeback

According to John Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, Kris Benson is trying to make a comeback and a number of teams are monitoring his progress this offseason.

Morosi is hearing that the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Nationals are the teams keeping track of where Benson is at this offseason. This should just tell you the state of pitching in the game of baseball today.

Benson hasn’t been an effective pitcher in the majors since 2006 and even then he wasn’t that good. In that year with the Baltimore Orioles, Benson finished with a 11-12 record with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP.

Benson pitched in the minors and had a cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers last year and was terrible. He gave up 33 hits in 22.1 innings and had a 8.46 ERA in eight games.

A pitcher like Benson is just living off the fact that he was the No.1 overall pick in the draft. But that was almost 14 years ago.

25-30 years ago, Benson wouldn’t even be given a second look. Now, because teams are so desperate to find pitching anywhere they can, scouts are hoping that someone like Benson has something left.

Pitching in baseball has become quantity instead of quality. It seems like now if a guy can just throw a baseball, a team will give him a look. It’s a problem that really doesn’t have an answer.

Until someone comes up with an answer on how to get more quality pitchers in the major leagues, guys like Benson will always been given a shot.

By the way, if you noticed I didn’t give the expected answer of “Well at least we will get to see Anna Benson again,” in regards to Benson’s comeback. I never really understood what the big deal was with her. She never did anything for me.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Mark Prior Wants To Be The Next Ben Sheets?

January 30, 2010

I was reading ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark’s Rumblings & Grumblings post this morning and I came across a quote that I thought was pretty interesting. Agent John Boggs had this to say about one of his clients:

“Mark has been through so many timelines, at this point I’m almost allergic to the word,” Boggs said. “But he’s out there. He’s getting himself ready. And when he’s ready, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot about him. Then we’ll invite teams to come watch him throw. And hopefully, he’ll be the next Ben Sheets.”

The Mark, Boggs is referring to is former Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Mark Prior. While I appreciate Boggs’ enthusiasm for his client comparing Prior’s situation to Sheets’, I am going to have to tell Boggs to pump the breaks a little bit.

Prior is on the comeback trail yet again

The only thing Sheets and Prior have in common is that they have been two injury prone pitchers throughout their careers. However, their situations are completely different.

The biggest and main difference between Sheets and Prior is that Sheets has actually taken the mound recently. Like in the last three years.

Sheets was pitching at an All-Star caliber level as late as September of 2008. Prior hasn’t taken the mound in a major league game since August of 2006.

Their situations are night and day.

As we all know, Prior burst on to the baseball scene going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA for the Chicago Cubs in 2003. Since then, he has been an injury filled mess.

He has had an achilles tendon injury, a compression fracture in his pitching elbow, a strained oblique, shoulder tendonitis, and of course, two shoulder surgeries since 2003. That is a lot for any pitcher to handle.

If you would have told me Prior would only have 18 wins since the 2003, I would have said you were nuts. I would have said you were nuts too if back in 1987 you told me that Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry or Don Mattingly would never even sniff the Hall of Fame.

But this is baseball and one injury can ruin a player’s career.

Many have pointed to Prior’s poor mechanics, which have led to all his injury problems. While that may be the case, there have been pitchers with worse mechanics like Kevin Appier, who managed to pitch for 16 years in the major leagues.

Sometimes bad luck factors into a pitcher’s career just as much as mechanics.

Remarkably, Prior is not even 30-years-old yet. He will turn 30 in September of next year. Due to his relatively young age, I would imagine if Prior did hold a try out, there would be a fair share of teams that would come out to watch him pitch.

But unlike Sheets, Prior won’t get $10 million from a team, nor will he even get a major league contract.

Thus making their situations very, very different.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg