Barry Zito officially became the most expensive reliever in the history of baseball, moving to the bullpen after starting the season 0-6 and showing no glimmer of hope of regaining his stuff. For baseball's sake, let's hope Zito gets out of his funk and regains some of his former glory, or his salary with his bloated stats are going to throw arbitration cases and future contract negotiations completely out of whack. If Zito can piece together his future, San Francisco will be stuck with a Mike Hampton-like situation, where most of their money in on one guy who's not contributing and is basically untradeable unless the Giants eat the salary.
Elsewhere, fans in Atlanta are getting worried about the remainder of the season, even though we are still in April. John Smoltz just hit the DL with several arm problems (inflamed biceps tendon, rotator cuff inflammation) and despite pitching well this year, he hasn't looked comfortable on the mound. In other words, a couple weeks off might not be the end of Smoltz's arm issues. Pile Smoltz's problems with Glavine's lingering injury and Hampton's constant injuries, coupled with several maladies in the bullpen including closer Rafael Soriano, and suddenly it seems impossible to envision this Braves squad putting together many 7 out of 10 stretches along the way. Failing to win a single one run game (0-8 so far this year) hasn't helped either. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution implores fans not to lose hope just yet, though. Guess I'll keep that foam tomahawk on top of the TV for a little while longer, at least...
The disappointment of the year so far has to go to the Cincinnati Reds. With a new closer (Cordero), new manager (Baker), and plenty of talent left from years, past, Cincy fans were hoping for a renaissance in '08. It's still way too early to pack it in, but the Reds will have to do a lot better than their current pace of scoring only 4.13 runs/game if they expect to compete in the Central.
The Cubs have put the pressure on the rest of the division with a 15-7 record, half of which was accomplished without Alfonso Soriano. When Soriano comes back, the lineup will only get better, as long as the left fielder "lets" Piniella set the lineup card to his own taste. Soriano has selfishly been requesting the leadoff spot since he came to Chicago, but hopefully the Cubs recent winning streak without him has brought some humility to the overpaid outfielder. Many players better than Soriano have sacrificed something for the team in the past for the chance at a championship. If Soriano can follow suit, the Cubs will be tough to unseat in the Central.
From out of nowhere Frank Thomas was released from the Toronto Blue Jays, shortly after he was warned they would be decreasing his playing time significantly. At only 38 and seeming like he still has some baseball life left in him, this sounds like one of those stories where more will unfold over time. Toronto cited that Thomas was "slumping," but it's a little odd to release a veteran with three April home runs already just because of a bad week (0 for his last 13), especially knowing they have to pay him. Stay tuned, because when John Gibbons is around, there's usually more to the story...
I'm no Cubs fan, but I am a fan a quality baseball websites, and it doesn't get much better than Al Yellon's "Bleed Cubbie Blue" site found at www.bleedcubbieblue.com. With everything from personal pictures of most games to Chicago's record this year based on what station they were broadcast, Yellon's site has a plethora of interesting information and can even keep non-Cubs fans like me entertained for a long time. Check it out.
Cleveland closer Joe Borowski was put on the DL today, opening the door for Rafael Betancourt. If Betancourt pitches anywhere near the way he has been throwing since early last year, don't look for JoBo to regain the closer's role anytime soon, even if he finally figures out what's ailing him. Here's my unofficial diagnosis of Borowski's problems: a total lack of control with middling command at best. My prescription: rest and relaxation as a low-pressure middle reliever until control is regained.
First of all, as expected (and feared my fantasy owners everywhere), Rich Harden has been put on the DL. Now that Pedro Martinez, Mike Hampton, and Harden are already on the shelf, I might as well just call it before it happens and say that Tampa closer Troy Percival shouldn't be far behind. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Percival at the moment and, for his sake, I hope I'm wrong. Baseball has proven that history repeats itself, however, so when Percival is DL bound before the end of May, I will be donning my Nostradamus cap. Did he wear a cap? Was is more of a wizard's hat? All the pictures I recollect of him are a cross between Santa Claus and God, seemingly larger than life with a beard that never quits. I guess he didn't have a cap. Well, I'll still be wearing one anyway.
Sometimes procrastination pays off. Watching the Detroit Tigers lose game after game, a story was just BEGGING to be written about their playoff chances. As always, ESPN.com, the big corporate website, came through in a big way, allowing my lazy self to forego the research and simply attach a link and spread the credit elsewhere. Jerry Crasnick wrote a detailed piece on ESPN's website about nine poor starts which ended with a playoff run, many in this decade. As long as the Tigers can right the ship by the end of April, they might be OK.
HOWEVER, no team has gone 0-7 and reached the postseason. In other words, Tigers fans should be told that plenty of teams have made the playoffs with a bad start... just not as horribly bad as Detroit this year. It might be time for fans in Detroit to start crying in their motor oil.
Unbelievable. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Rich Harden has been scratched from his start tonight thanks to some "back soreness." This blog is starting to become like a text-based voodoo doll, so from now I'm only going to speculate about bad things happening to players not on my fantasy team and about any MLB team playing the Braves.
Some things you just can't make up. With Pedro Martinez already sidelined for four to six weeks, other oft-injured pitcher Mike Hampton goes on the DL after hurting himself last night while WARMING UP for his first major league start in seemingly a billion years. Hampton never threw a meaningful pitch. You just know that Rich Harden can't be far behind. For my fantasy team's success, I'm hoping I am wrong about Harden.