A reader recently asked me about my thoughts on the U.S. government trying to stop Cuba from playing in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Not being an expert on government issues, I can only go by what I read. In this link I found on ABC News' website, U.S. Treasury spokeswoman (Molly Millerwise) said "...the Cuba embargo prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest."
Jose Serrano, a rep from NY (Dem.) wants to "leave the politics out of this." While convenient, it may not be a reality because it IS a political situation, based on Millerwise's statement. Serrano goes on to say that Cuba has some very talented players and they should play. Sooo, a politician is saying that talent levels should determine the level of political involvement? I know I have made quite a leap there, but if we had an embargo with Germany (not exactly known for churning out All-Stars) and the WBC officials wanted them in for some reason only to see the government thwart the idea, would there be any opposition? Sometimes you can't leave the politics out of "it." Joe Blo is a Hall of Fame QB who has donated much of his time and money to the community. BUT, he murdered someone last week in a bar fight. Can't we just leave the politics out of this and keep this beloved figure with an arm of gold out of jail? Uhhh, no. (Sincere apologies to any QB's named Joe Blo)
Obviously the Cuba situation is not as "cut and dry" as Joe Blo's, but if what Millerwise says is true, then the situation must at least be examined. Disagree? Send me your comments!
Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams didn't take much time off for the holidays, quickly signing Jon Garland to a 3-year contract worth $29 million, avoiding the always messy arbitration process. Like Millwood's deal with the Rangers, it's a lot of money for a pitcher with no Cy Young Awards on the shelf, but at least Williams made it a short term deal. The Sox would have had to pony up the bucks this year anyway after arbitration, and then another successful season would cost Chicago even more money to keep him. Despite the $29 million price tag, there's not a whole lot of risk involved, and now Williams has yet another arm secured in his quest for long term success for the franchise.
I'm sure your holidays were filled with lavish gifts, but I don't think they can match what Kevin Millwood received from the Rangers, snagging a cool $60 million over 5 years. His numbers, mostly in the NL, are a little better than I thought (107-75, 3.76 ERA), so at least the Rangers are TRYING to improve on the mound. For the sake of the Texas franchise, I hope their holiday generosity is returned in the form of successful pitching. The Rangers can least afford another Chan Ho Park situation.
Reason #216 that the "rivalry" between the Red Sox and Yankees means MUCH more to the fans than the players: Johnny Damon, leader of the "Idiots" of '04 that dismantled New York in the greatest comeback in MLB Playoffs history, is now wearing the pinstripes, thanks to a 4-year, $52 million offer from the Boss.
I certainly don't fault Damon for taking the cash; my point is that there are many things more important to a baseball player than wearing the "enemy's" jersey.
This winter, baseball has been far from dormant. Not to be outdone by ESPN.com, Sportsline.com has issued its own Player Movement Tracker (by league), and it's quite impressive. As a self proclaimed Braves fan, I was not aware that Julio Franco signed with the Mets. Research your own shortcomings of knowledge right here.
The White Sox, not resting on their laurels, continue to improve their team this winter, now adding Javier Vazquez in exchange for Orlando Hernandez, Luis Vizcaino, and minor leaguer Chris Young. Vazquez has a big contract for a .500 pitcher ($24 million over the next 2 years), but like the Thome acquisition, the White Sox will receive cash along with the deal. In case you're asking why the White Sox are acquiring ANOTHER starting pitcher, giving them 6 capable starters, the answer is that you can NEVER have enough starting pitching. Someone will get hurt, stink, or freak out, and the extra arms will pay dividends in the long run.
Shifting gears for a day, one of the NBA's best players will be having his number retired tonight. Scottie Pippen will receive the honor tonight when the Bulls host Phil Jackson and the Lakers. Pippen's game epitomized what every coach and general manager look for in a player: he could hold his own against the best power forwards defensively, he could chase down a point guard, he could shoot the "3", he could bring the ball up and run the offense. Pippen could defer to the greatest player of all time and focus on passing, defense, and rebounding. Or, he could throw the team on his back and take over, scoring from the inside, outside, and everywhere in between. Basically, Pippen could do it all.
Pippen may not have won a title without Jordan, but Jordan never won any without Pippen, and Pippen actually got close more than once. A couple selfish incidents early in Pippen's career should not overshadow a career flooded in greatness. Congratulations, Scottie: you earned your place in history.
John Schuerholz has done it again: instead of ponying up $13 million per year to keep shortstop Rafael Furcal around, the Braves gave up highly touted prospect Andy Marte for shortstop Edgar Renteria. The kicker? Boston is paying $8 million of the contract PLUS the $3 million buyout if the Braves don't exercise the option in 2009. That means Renteria will cost the Braves $6 million per year, less than HALF of Furcal's going rate. Marte may end up being a star, but waiting around for potential while letting current talent escape is a recipe for failure.
After reading about how Alfonso Soriano will not play the outfield, the Nationals go ahead and acquire Soriano for outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge, while keeping second baseman Jose Vidro. Soriano is expected to play left field in Washington, but Soriano has not commented on that possibility, so stay tuned.
Pierre, Estrada, Casey and others are on their way out as the winter meetings are starting to wrap up. Check out ESPN's MLB page for the latest updates.
In case you're wondering why the entries have been slower than normal as of late, it's because I'm getting in "baseball shape" so I can report to the Florida Marlins training camp in March and win a job in the starting lineup. If you want to play, too, let me know - I'll hit fifth and you hit sixth!
While you are racking your brain trying to figure out why:
a) the Yankees gave $17 million (!) to Kyle Farnsworth, given his inability to hold up to constant scrutiny in large media markets
b) Farnsworth's agent wasn't stalking Leo Mazzone all the way to Baltimore, trying to land Kyle a gig with a little less limelight and a lot more Leo,
take some time away from such silly thoughts and visit the fantastic www.thomasgeorge.com/baseball/ website. This site has done a great job organizing past years' player stats in an easy to download format.