Clemens has vehemently denied all charges against him, which are primarily based on the testimony of his ex-personal trainer Brian McNamee. McNamee admits to injecting steroids into Clemens' buttocks on several occasions between 1998 and 2001, when Clemens was with the Toronto Blue Jays and then the New York Yankees. Clemens claims that the injections were lidocaine (a pain reliever) and B-12, which is legal. Confounding Clemens' denial is the admission by his teammate and close friend Andy Pettitte that he took an HGH injection from McNamee (McNamee told the Mitchell panel this as well) in an effort to recover from an injury. Inquiring minds want to know why McNamee ostensibly told the truth in Pettitte's case, but lied to ruin the reputation of his long-term client Clemens.
Clemens appeared on "60 Minutes" and argumentatively, if not eloquently, defended himself under questioning by 89-year-old Mike Wallace. Clemens also released a recording of a non-definitive phone conversation between himself and McNamee. McNamee stated that he had no choice but to tell the truth to the Mitchell investigators.
Clemens threatens to escalate his level of risk in the case by testifying to Congress about the situation. Conviction on a charge of perjury for lying in similar testimony just earned Olympic sprinter Marion Jones six months in federal prison. She categorically denied using steroids in testimony to Congress before being found out later.
Congress has also asked for a probe of Astros' SS Miguel Tejada. They are interested in whether Tejada lied during questioning by staffers in the Rafael Palmiero perjury case dating back to 2005. (Palmiero told Congress that he never took anything, then got caught by baseball's enforcement program--he subsequently retired.) Tejada was implicated by the Mitchell Report, contradicting his previous statements that he knew nothing about steroid use by himself or any other players.
There have been a few deals and signings. The Cards and Blue Jays just swapped surgically-repaired third basemen--the Cards getting slugger Troy Glaus (who suffered a ruptured plantar fascia in 2007); the Jays getting Scott Rolen, who has struggled with shoulder problems for the last three years. Rolen has been at odds with Cards' manager Tony LaRussa about his playing time and should benefit from the new surroundings, if his shoulder is up to the task. Likewise, Glaus, a McGwire-like player, could benefit from the supportive fans in St. Louis after a few years of being ignored by dwindling crowds in Toronto. Both players passed physicals before the deal was completed.
The Braves acquired CF Mark Kotsay, who played just 55 game last year in an injury-plagued season with the Oakland A's, for two pitchers. Kotsay has the reputation of being a fine fielder and adequate hitter--he'll hit for a higher average than Andruw Jones, but without as much power.
The Brewers signed CF Mike Cameron, who spent much on the DL with the San Diego Padres. Cameron is a fine CF with some power (he once hit four HRs in a game).
The Yankees seem to have the most interest in acquiring superstar left-handed starter Johan Santana from the Twins.
December 20 - I Wish This Was About Kevin Mitchell (or No One At All) Free agent signings and trades have been relegated to the second page (or even further back in Baton Rouge) by the release of the long-awaited Mitchell report on use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. The investigation, chaired by former U.S. Senator (and Boston Red Sox board member) George Mitchell, named names of both retired and active players, both famous and obscure. Mitchell recommended that Commissioner Selig release the report without names, but for whatever reason Selig decided to "let it all hang out."
The Astros lost a bat when IF reserve Mike Lamb signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Twins. Lamb is a professional hitter with a quick bat who can play both first and third. He'll surely get some DH at-bats with the Twins as well.
The Diamondbacks did get ace right-hand starter Dan Haren from the penurious Oakland A's. Haren, who led the AL in ERA for much of 2007, will add to an already tough Arizona starting staff, led by Brandon Webb, who finished first and second for the last two NL Cy Young Awards.
December 5 - Fish Turn Into Tigers - Holidays, college football and a brief sick spell kept me away from this post for awhile, but a lot has been going on, particularly since the MLB Annual Meeting started in Nashville this week.
The blockbuster deal saw the Florida Marlins once again slash their payroll by trading their two top-salaried players, 3B Miguel Cabrera and P Dontrelle Willis, to the Detroit Tigers for six players, only two of which are expected to make the majors next year. The centerpiece of the Marlins' offering was young LHP Andrew Miller. I read that the deal leaves the Marlins with a roster on which the highest salary is $1.3 million.
Earlier the LAAA's (that Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) made news by signing Twins OF Torii Hunter to a 5-year deal for about $90 million. This deal was interesting in that the team signed similar player Gary Matthews, Jr. to a similar, but less expensive, contract last winter. I guess they were hoping that Matthews would develop into a Hunter-like player, but he didn't--missing Hunter's 2007 marks by 35 BA points and 10 HRs, among other offensive stats. As a Ranger, Matthews made one of the greatest catches of all time, but for on a career basis, Hunter is the much better fielder, almost the AL version of Andruw Jones.
The most touching deal of the offseason takes LHP Tom Glavine back to the Atlanta Braves for what may be his last season. Career 303-game winner and two-time Cy Young Award winner Glavine was a mainstay of the Braves' starting pitching staff for 15 years before moving to the Mets in 2003. He started 32 postseason games for the Braves including a memorable 1-hit shutout of the slugging Cleveland Indians to clinch the 1995 World Series and a 4-hit, 1-run defeat of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1992 World Series.
Another interesting deal was Kaz Matsui's move from the Colorado Rockies to the Houston Astros. A washout in New York after coming over from Japan, Matsui seemed to have found homes at second base and the top of the order with the NL champion Rockies. The Rockies seem like a much better bet to get to the 2008 postseason than the almost Killer-B-less Astros.
In other deals of minor note, I don't see many. OF Jose Guillen signed a 3-year, $36 million contract with the KC Royals. Oh by the way, he's suspended for the first 15-days of the 2008 season for HGH usage in 2005. Welcome aboard to Jose, now going to his ninth team. Guillen's best year was 2003, when he hit .337 with a 1014 OPS in a split-stint with the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A's.
Oh yeah, A-Rod. He crossed up prognosticators and fans in several cities by negotiating his own extension with Yankees. The deal, estimated at 10-years and $275 million, was far short of the $350 million "qualifying offer" that agent Scott Boras said would be required for the Yankees to even talk to Rodriguez, and included a provision in which he compensates the team for the $21 million they lost from the Texas Rangers when A-Rod took the free agent out in his previous contract.
Jimmy Rollins Edges Matt Holliday for NL MVP Award
November 20 - Perhaps boosted by a spring training statement calling the Phillies "the team to beat in the NL East", but certainly supported by his outstanding play throughout the Phillies 2007 division-winning season, Jimmy Rollins claimed the Most Valuable Player Award today in very close vote. Runnerup by just 17 points was Colorado left fielder Matt Holliday. NL home run leader Prince Fielder from the Milwaukee Brewers finished third. The Mets' third baseman David Wright finished fourth, hurt by his team's late-season collapse. Fifth thru seventh went to Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones and Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. Surprisingly absent from the top vote-getters was Marlins' shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who wowed the league with his combination of speed and power. Team standing isn't supposed to influence voting, but the Marlins' last-place finish clearly hurt Ramirez.
Rollins is the first shortstop to take the award since Barry Larkin in 1995. He and teammate Ryan Howard have now claimed two straight MVP awards for the Phillies.
Both Rollins and Holliday surged to the top of voters' lists in last month of the season--Rollins when teammate and then-MVP favorite Chase Utley went on the disabled list for a month, and Holliday when both he and his teammates streaked to the NL wild card spot. With a month to go in the season, Rollins probably would have ranked third to Fielder and Wright; Holliday, a hard-hitting but unknown outfielder from the anonymous Rockies, would have ranked even lower. Despite a hot start and solid play throughout the season, Rollins was bypassed for the NL All-Star team in favor of the Mets' Jose Reyes and the Brewers' J.J. Hardy, neither of which finished in the top 10 in MVP voting. Rollins beat out two Rockies for major post-season awards--edging Troy Tulowitzki for the Gold Glove at shortstop (though the stats might have said otherwise) and Holliday for MVP (stats can be worked either way in this debate--Rollins outstanding offensive season (88 extra base hits, a league-leading 139 runs, 94 RBIs while hitting mostly leadoff, 41 steals in 47 attempts while playing all 162 games) combined with sterling play of the toughest offensive position was just enough to nose out the hard-hitting and hustling Rockies' outfielder who had fabulous stats of his own (league-leading .340 average and 137 RBIs, 36 homers, 120 runs scored and 92 extra base hits).
Today's story in the free-agent market is that the Yankees will once again take the field with their three mainstays in 2008--Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera--after Rivera agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with the team. The contract makes Rivera the highest-paid relief pitcher in the history of baseball.
Alex Rodriguez Not-Quite-Unanimous Winner in AL MVP Vote
To the surprise of no one, except perhaps the two sportswriters from Detroit who voted for hometown hero Magglio Ordonez, Alex Rodriguez won the American League MVP Award today. A-Rod pulled 28 of 30 first-place votes a landslide win that certainly could have been unanimous given his astounding statistics--league-leading totals of 54 homers, 155 RBIs, 143 runs scored, and 376 total bases; league-leading slugging and OPS numbers at .645 and 1.067 respectively; augmented by 95 walks and 24 stolen bases.
Ordonez's totals and percentages in the same categories were 28, 139, 117, 354, .595, 1.029, 79 and 4. Ordonez did beat A-Rod in batting average .363 to .314; OBP .434 to .422; hits 216-183; doubles 54-32; and the negative stat of GIDP 21-15. Going back to A-Rod, he was hit by 21 pitches compared to 2 for MO--an extra nineteen times on base.
It's not supposed to matter, but A-Rod's team won more games (94-88) and made the post-season, while the Tigers faded after a hot first half. Maybe the Detroit guys just thought that he had enough MVP trophies already and somebody else should get a turn. They could have found a better year to act on such a thought.
A much closer vote will determine the NL MVP Award winner, to be announced tomorrow.
On the free agent and trade fronts, Tom Glavine signed with the Braves for a year at $8 million. The Angels somewhat surprisingly traded shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for starting pitcher Jon Garland. Cabrera replaced Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop on the 2004 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox. He's played well at every stop, claiming a Gold Glove this year while hitting .301 and scoring 101 runs and driving in 86 for the Angels. The Pale Hose will be Cabrera's fourth team in four years.
The free agent market may have gotten one player shorter today as a federal grand jury indicted Barry Bonds for perjury for his testimony regarding his knowledge of purported steroid use. The initial hearing in the case is set for December 7. No matter how much Bonds could contribute as a DH, it's unlikely that any team will sign him as long as he's not cleared of the charge before the start of the 2008 season.
In a vote that was clearly taken before the postseason, Cleveland Indians' left-handed ace CC Sabathia won the American League Cy Young Award. Sabathia got 19 first-place votes to just 7 for runnerup Josh Beckett. Looking at regular season stats, Sabathia's win could be clearly justified. Both pitchers had an ERA of about 3.20. Beckett won 20 games; Sabathia won 19. But Sabathia pitched 40 more innings (241 to 201), the equivalent of 5 or 6 extra starts.
For leading the Cleveland Indians to a Central Division championship, Eric Wedge easily won the American League Manager of the Year Award. He drew 19 of 28 first place votes. The Angels' Mike Scioscia and Yankees' Joe Torre split most of the remaining votes.
I'll start with the awards so I don't end up reporting these all from behind the story.
The Gold Gloves honored some perennial winners and a few newcomers. Starting with the All-Star and World Series winning American League, the winners were 1B - Kevin Youkilis, Boston; 2B - Placido Polanco, Detroit; SS - Orlando Cabrera, California; 3B - Adrian Beltre, Seattle; C - Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit; OF - Torri Hunter, Minnesota, Grady Sizemore, Cleveland, Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle; P - Johan Santana. Remarkably, Youkilis won the award for his errorless play at first base in his first season there. Polanco also played an errorless season to win his first Gold Glove. Rodriguez won his 13th Gold Glove. There may be better fielding catchers in the American League, but "Pudge" will probably have to retire to break his streak of awards. Ichiro, a perennial winner for his play in right field, moved to center and still kept his streak alive. Hunter's award was also his seventh. Beltre was a surprise winner over better-hitting candidates like Alex Rodriguez and Mike Lowell.
Lee is a repeat winner. He sets the standard for first basemen. Hudson, Rollins, Wright and Martin are all first-time winners in the infield. Smooth-fielding Rockies like SS Troy Tulowitzki and 1B Todd Helton missed out in the infield voting. The Rockies late season rush may have come too late to gain the attention of the voters. Jones won his tenth Gold Glove in his last of 12 seasons with the Braves; Beltran is also a repeater. Strong-armed Francouer and fearless Rowand tied for their first each award.
The Silver Slugger lineup for the top offensive player at each position features a number of double-winners, players who can display Gold Glove and Silver Slugger trophies side-by-side on their mantles. On this list are American Leaguers Placido Polanco and Ichiro Suzuki and National Leaguers David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Beltran and Russell Martin. Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez took the AL award for 3B, his 9th overall Silver Bat. Other AL winners were 1B Carlos Pena of Tampa Bay; SS Derek Jeter and C Jorge Posada of the Yankees; OFs Magglio Ordonez of Detroit and Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels; and DH David Ortiz of Boston. Other NL winners were 1B Prince Fielder of the Brewers, Phillies 2B Chase Utley, OFs Matt Holliday of the Rockies and Carlos Lee of the Astros; and slugging pitcher Micah Owings of the Diamondbacks, probably the second easiest choice next to Rodriguez for AL third base.
Rookies of the Year were Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Ryan Braun. The short guy with the big swing and big heart, Pedroia started slow but finished strong in both the regular season and World Series. He won the award easily over Devil Ray outfielder Delmon Young. Braun played the almost first two months of the season in AAA, but bombed NL pitchers for a .324 average with 34 HRs and 97 RBIs and a league-leading .634 slugging percentage. Braun won the award by a blade-close 2 points over Rockies' shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Pedroia was an easy choice in the AL. I would have voted for Tulowitzki, the superior defensive player at a tougher position, in the NL.
As for the outstanding awards, my MVP choices are Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins. My predictions are Rodriguez and Rockies' OF Matt Holliday. Jake Peavy is both my pick and prediction for NL Cy Young. I know you're not supposed to factor postseason performance, but like testimony the judge orders you to ignore, Josh Beckett's dominating postseason run is hard to forget (unless the voting deadline came before Game One of the ALDS). I'd vote for him and predict that voters will do likewise, in another blade-close vote, over the Indians' CC Sabathia.
My Manager of the Year vote goes to the Phillies' Charlie Manuel in the NL, but I think that either Bob Melvin of the Diamondbacks or Clint Hurdle of the Rockies is more likely to win a close three-way vote. In the AL, I like Indians' manager Eric Wedge. Joe Torre and Terry Francona will also get some votes. I admire what Torre did with a makeshift pitching staff, but it's hard to vote for a guy with a $300 million payroll.
The Phillies made the most significant deal so far, trading OF Michael Bourn and P Geoff Geary to the Astros for RP Brad Lidge and IF Eric Bruntlett. Trading Bourn indicates that the Phils will make a big play for free agent CF Aaron Rowand. Getting Lidge to be their closer allows the Phils to move Brett Myers back into the starting rotation, where he'll take the #2 spot behind ace Cole Hamels. Bourn will get every chance to lead off and play center for the Astros. Geary, whom the Phillies will miss, will add depth to the Astros bullpen, but not replace Lidge as closer. As evidenced by great strikeout stats, Lidge has closer stuff, but he's struggled with home runs since Albert Pujols's titanic late inning homer in the 2005 NLCS. If he starts slowly, Lidge could incur the wrath of Philadelphia's notoriously tough fans.
In a lesser deal, the Cubs traded OF Jacque Jones to the Tigers for reserve IF Omar Infante. I don't know enough to care, but I thought that Jones was a pretty decent hitter. He didn't work out as well as the Cubs hoped when he came over from the Twins.
The Phillies also made an important free agent signing, wrapping up their own lefty RP J.C. Romero for three years at $4 million per season. Romero washed out with the Red Sox, but filled a niche well in the Phillies bullpen. He'll continue to pitch seventh innings and face critical lefthanders. His emergence also allowed the Phillies to move Geary in the deal to get Lidge.
It's hard to know what's going on with A-Rod. The most electrons point to a west coast address--possibly the Dodgers now that Joe Torre is their manager (oh yeah, that was another big story--Torre signed for four years with the Dodgers after refusing the Yankees one-year incentive-laden offer). Despite the Yankees avowed refusal to negotiate once Rodriguez announced his free agency, rumors swirl that they are preparing a new offer. Reportedly, A-Rod and agent Scott Boras were looking for $350 million over 10 years from the Yankees in exchange for bypassing the free agent market. Among online fans, Rodriguez is clearly viewed as being in it for the money rather than to win a World Series ring. I'm not sure how having a guy who can fit 50 homers and drive in 150 runs in the lineup hurts any teams chance to get to the World Series.