Cardinals Ace Adam Wainwright Begins Post-Surgery Throwing Program

Adam Wainwright

Cardinals fans – and management – can breathe a sigh of relief, their ace is on his way back.

Adam Wainwright played catch yesterday for the first time since undergoing right elbow surgery in October to repair damaged cartilage.

The Cardinals’ ace reportedly only made 30 throws – all from a limited distance – but was reportedly encouraged by the results.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch land some feedback from Wainwright after the throwing session:

“There was no pain. That’s pretty good. That’s good as far as signs go.”

This was the first step on the road to recovery for Wainwright. It’s expected that he’ll begin a daily throwing routine soon and will be working off the mound by the time St. Louis pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month.

Wainwright, 33, should be on track to pitch Opening Day assuming there are no setbacks in his recovery.

This is great news for a Cardinals team that has relied very heavily on Wainwright in recent years. Accounting for his work in the postseason, Wainwright has racked up 519.2 innings on the mound over the last two seasons – far and away the most in baseball over that time span.

Adam WainwrightLast season, the right-hander went 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, and a 179/50 K/BB ratio in 32 starts, but he didn’t look like himself for much of the season’s second-half and postseason as he dealt with consistent elbow pain.

St. Louis will need a healthy Wainwright in 2015 after seeing starters Justin Masterson, Joe Kelly, and Shelby Miller leave via free agency and trades since late last season.

The club’s current rotation figures to include Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez; a group that has plenty of additional question marks.

Lackey, 36, was mediocre after arriving in St. Louis in a trade deadline deal with the Boston Red Sox, but there was no way the club wasn’t going to exercise his 2015 option which – thanks to a contract provision with Boston – only pays Lackey the Major League veteran’s minimum salary.

Wacha, 23, made a splash when he debuted in 2013, but missed a large chunk of time in 2014 with a stress fracture in his right shoulder. Results came back clean on an MRI in October, but the club will keep a close eye on his progress in camp.

Martinez, 23, has struggled thus far at the big league level, looking much better out of the bullpen than as a starter. The club has a lot of confidence in the former top prospect, but will want to see a step forward in 2015.

Should Wainwright or any of the others falter, the club would turn to oft-injured right-hander Jaime Garcia or young lefty Marco Gonzales.

The Cardinals have been linked to top free agent starters Max Schezer and James Shields on multiple occasions this winter, but at this stage in the off-season, those rumblings seem like nothing more than rumors.

A healthy Wainwright is a great sign for the Cardinals as they aim for a third-consecutive National League Central pennant and a fifth-consecutive playoff berth.

Posted in Adam Wainwright, Baseball, Carlos Martinez, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Injuries, James Shields, John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Max Scherzer, Michael Wacha, MLB, National League, NL Central, Spring Training, St. Louis Cardinals | 2 Comments

The Price is Right: Tigers Agree to Record-Setting Contract with Lefty Ace

David Price

The Detroit Tigers avoided arbitration with David Price by signing the left-hander to a one-year, $19.75 million contract.

The pact instantly takes the top spot at the largest one-year deal ever handed out to a player who filed for arbitration.

This is familiar territory for Detroit as the previous record belonged to the $15.25 million agreement the Tigers made with Max Scherzer a year ago.

This is a significant raise for Price who made $14 million in 2014, his third year of arbitration eligibility. As a “Super Two” player, he earned a fourth year of arbitration instead of the customary three and he clearly made the most of it.

Back in November, Matt Swartz and MLB Trade Rumors projected Price would earn $18.9 million in arbitration.

The Tigers avoided arbitration altogether, opting to pay the southpaw a premium over the projection; likely in hopes of earning brownie points for future contract negotiations as the club aims to keep Price around long-term.

Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, finished sixth in the voting in 2014 when he posted a stellar 3.26 ERA split between Tampa Bay and Detroit.

The lefty also put up a 1.079 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, and 271 strikeouts in 248.1 innings – all of those marks were career bests.

In seven seasons, Price has tallied a 3.21 ERA and 1.142 WHIP; all while averaging 226 innings and a 213/50 K/BB ratio per season.

Come this time next year Price and Scherzer figure to have even more in common than Cy Young awards, old Tigers jerseys, and arbitration-related records.

Scherzer currently stands as the hottest commodity on the free agent market as he continues to wait for a $200+ million contract.

Next off-season, Price will move to the front of the free agent class and Scherzer’s forthcoming contract should help set the tone for what we can expect when the southpaw hits the open market.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, David Price, Detroit Tigers, Max Scherzer, MLB | 1 Comment

San Francisco Giants Ink Deal with Outfielder Nori Aoki

Nori Aoki

Norichika Aoki reached the World Series last season with the Kansas City Royals, but his club lost to the San Francisco Giants in a thrilling seven game series.

It seems that Aoki must follow the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy, because today he reached an agreement on a one-year contract with San Francisco.

He’ll make $4 million in 2014, plus performance bonuses. The deal includes an option for 2016 with a $700,000 buyout; guaranteeing Aoki $4.7 million.

If he reaches all of the incentives and has his option picked up, this would be a two-year, $12.5 million deal in total.

Aoki, 33, won’t make up for any of the power that the Giants have lost this off-season, but he will still provide a solid presence both in the lineup and in the field.

He is a career .287/.353/.387 hitter with good speed on the bases and nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the big leagues.

In 2014, Aoki’s .285 batting average would have been third-best among all Giants players with 300 at-bats, his .349 OBP would have been second-best behind Buster Posey, and his 17 stolen bases would have led the entire team.

He’s not a slugger, but he’s no slouch either.

He also has the ability to play all three outfield positions, although he’s spent the bulk of his time in right field.

As you may have noticed during the World Series, his defense can be unconventional

Aoki Slip

…but overall most defensive metrics rate him as above average in the outfield.

Aoki will take over in left field following the departure of free agent Mike Morse. The Giants can slot him at the top of the lineup, he’s a very traditional two-hole hitter, or – if that role is slated for second baseman Joe Panik – he can be a dynamic bottom of the order weapon.

In signing Aoki to a low-guarantee, one-year deal San Francisco is landing a serious bargain. The outfielder was projected by many to get a multi-year deal worth at least double the annual value of his current deal.

If he continues to produce at his previous levels, this is an absolute steal for the defending World Series champions.

On the other hand, if his production slips, they’ve got a stellar fourth outfielder at a very reasonable cost. No matter how it shakes out, it’s a win for the Giants.

As for Aoki, while he didn’t cash in as many had expected he would; he gets an everyday job with a legitimate World Series contender. At 33-years-old and with no power, that’s not too shabby.

It’s not the sexy signing that disgruntled Giants fans may have been waiting for as we near the end of a quiet off-season for the defending champs, but it’s a move that makes the team better than it was a day ago.

In what figures to be a very competitive division, that’s exactly what the Giants need.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, MLB, National League, NL West, Norichika Aoki, San Francisco Giants | Leave a comment

White Sox Slated to Retire Paul Konerko’s Number

Paul Konerko

In a very classy gesture, the Chicago White Sox will retire Paul Konerko’s number 14 in a ceremony this May.

Konerko spent 16 seasons with Chicago and famously helped lead the Sox to a World Series championship in 2005, the franchise’s first title since 1917.

He was named team captain after signing a five-year, $60 million deal to return to the team in the wake of the title victory and held that distinction until he retired at the end of the 2014 season.

He is one of the most-beloved starts in franchise history and it’s great to see the club honoring him so quickly after his retirement.

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf praised Konerko in the club’s official press release:

“Paul Konerko is one of the greatest players in White Sox history not only for his strength and performance on the field, but also for his heart and leadership off the field.”

“Paul was a humble leader whose passion for the game earned the respect and love of the entire clubhouse and fans all over the country. We honor Paul by retiring his number and welcoming him to the ranks of White Sox legends.”

I think it’s great to see Chicago honoring Konkero and his accomplishments right away.

It was a shame that Konkero didn’t receive nearly the same outpouring of #re2pect and adulation from the media that Derek Jeter did during his retirement tour. Konerko may not mean as much on the national stage, but he is just as important to the White Sox as Jeter was to the Yankees.

His named is littered all over the White Sox career leaderboard in a number of categories including: games played (2nd – 2,268), home runs (2nd – 432), slugging percentage (9th – .491), runs scored (4th – 1,141), hits (3rd – 2,292), total bases (1st – 4,010), doubles (3rd – 406), extra base hits (2nd – 845), RBI (2nd – 1,383), walks (4th – 904), offensive WAR (6th – 34.3), and runs created (2nd – 1,417).

While Konerko is highly-regarded among alongside his White Sox contemporaries he was no slouch in the greater baseball world either.

He made six All-Star teams and hit 439 home runs, 1,412 RBI, and posted a solid .279/.354/.486 career batting line. All the while he was one of the most-respected players in the game among his peers.

Konerko will be the 11th player to have his number retired by the White Sox; the rest of the crew includes: Luis Aparicio, Luke Appling, Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Nellie Fox, Ted Lyons, Minnie Minoso, Billy Pierce, Frank Thomas, and Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson.

It’s a very cool gesture for a very deserving player who meant so much to the organization over the last two decades.

Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Chicago White Sox, MLB, Paul Konerko | Leave a comment

Alex Rodriguez Expects to Win the Yankees’ Third Base Job

Alex Rodriguez

The Alex Rodriguez drama is already starting.

Okay, admittedly, when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, the drama never really stops; but this time around, it’s all about what role A-Rod will play for the Yankees in 2015.

Rodriguez is working out in Florida preparing for a return to New York after sitting out the entire 2014 campaign while serving a suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

Prior to that, Rodriguez missed a lot of time – and didn’t look like he had much left in the tank when he was on the field – in 2012 and 2013.

In those two seasons he appeared in 166 total games posting a .265/.352/.428 batting line with 24 doubles, 25 home runs, 76 RBI, 95 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases.

In a vacuum, those would be solid numbers. Over a single-season, you’d be pretty happy with that output, but split over two seasons and combined with below-average defense (thanks to two surgically-repaired hips), it’s not a good look.

It gets even worse when you factor in the $57 million the Yankees paid Rodriguez to produce like a very good, but not great and certainly not elite, third baseman during those two years.

Those numbers would, however, make the Yankees very happy if they were to come from Chase Headley in 2015.

Headley would be that guy the Yankees signed to a four-year, $52 million deal back in December with the mindset that he would be the club’s third baseman going forward and if/when Rodriguez returned to the field it would be in a diminished capacity as designated hitter and backup corner infielder.

Well, it turns out that Rodriguez sees things a little bit differently.

That’s the story being reported today via Steven Marcus of New York Newsday:

“Alex’s mind is that job’s not Headley’s, it’s Alex’s to lose,” the source said. “That’s what he thinks. Alex is going into training camp thinking that he is the starting third baseman, that if there’s a competition, Headley’s got to win it from him. It doesn’t matter about the money, what they signed Headley for. This guy [Rodriguez] can play.”

I guess the easy thing to do here would be to knock Rodriguez for being delusional or call him a prima donna or an entitled athlete or something of that ilk, but I’m not going to go that route.

Rodriguez, who will turn 40 days before this season’s trade deadline, has three years and $61 million left on his contract.

He was signed to play third base for the New York Yankees and that’s what he intends to do. He is a highly-driven, highly-competitive athlete; this type of response should not be a surprise to anyone.

Personally, I’m happy to see that he’s got some fire and drive. I’m impressed to see that he’s down in Florida already, well over a month before spring training starts, and working his butt off to contribute to the club.

He’s doing exactly what fans are always clamoring for; he’s respecting the game and treating it with passion. He’s showing that it’s not about a paycheck, but a genuine desire to compete and, naturally, he’s going to get raked over the coals because of who he is and what he’s done in the past.

I’m of the mindset that he’s paid his dues and we should judge him based on what we see going forward.

Rodriguez served his suspension – the longest PED-related suspension to date – and now he’s eligible to return to the field. Expecting him to tuck tail and disappear into the shadows or meekly return to the lineup, complacent with any slot on the lineup was never an option.

Do I think he’s going to beat out Chase Headley for the third base job this spring?

No. No I don’t.

Alex Rodriguez

I think Rodriguez will be the club’s primary DH and he’ll steal a few games here and there at first and third, but for the most part, the hot corner will belong to Headley.

Deep down, I think Rodriguez knows this as well, but expecting him to admit it while he attempts to comeback from injuries, public disgrace, and a year-long layoff would be naïve.

We’re finally getting the baseball-focused, driven, passionate Alex Rodriguez that the fans and media always wanted to see. He’s eschewing the spotlight and putting in the time and effort to get better and prove himself, not relying on a combination of freakish athletic talents and lab-fueled assistance.

He’s finally a guy who just wants to play baseball; rather than a guy who wants to be bigger than baseball.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting this version of Rodriguez at his peak. We’re getting it while he’s in his decline-phase and maybe – just maybe – already done as a regular ballplayer.

…but we’re getting it nonetheless.

It’s time to sit back and witness the final chapter of the Alex Rodriguez story, a tale that’s quickly becoming a redemption story; and one that finally has a protagonist worth cheering.

Posted in Alex Rodriguez, Baseball, Chase Headley, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Injuries, MLB, New York Yankees | 1 Comment

St. Louis Cardinals, Lance Lynn Avoid Arbitration with Three-year, $22 Million Deal

Lance Lynn

The Cardinals avoided arbitration with Lance Lynn today, opting instead to sign the right-hander to a three-year, $22 million deal.

Lynn, 27, was arbitration eligible for the first time this off-season, but the deal buys out the remainder of his arbitration years at a very reasonable rate for St. Louis.

Lynn made $535,000 last season and Matt Swartz projected him to earn $5.5 million in arbitration this winter coming off a stellar season that saw him win 15 games with a 2.74 ERA, 1.262 WHIP, and a 181/72 K/BB ratio in 202.2 innings.

The former first-round pick has been one of the club’s most reliable and durable starters since joining the rotation in 2012.

Over the last three years, he’s racked up 48 wins, a 3.48 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, and a 2.64 K/BB ratio while averaging 194 innings per season.

Ultimately, it’s a win-win for both the player and the club.

If Lynn continues pitching at his current level, St. Louis will be getting a serious bargain over what he may have earned in arbitration.

All the while, while Lynn may have left a lot of money on the table by signing the extension, he is now guaranteed $22 million should he suffer an injury or regression before he hits free agency as a 30-year-old following the 2017 season.

The move also gives the Cardinals additional financial freedom to make more moves now that they have a handle on Lynn’s salary for the next three years.

It’s possible this could serve as the precursor to another addition this winter; the club rumored to have interest in free agent starters James Shields and Max Scherzer.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Lance Lynn, MLB, National League, NL Central, St. Louis Cardinals | 2 Comments

Athletics Send Recently-Acquired Yunel Escobar to Nationals for Tyler Clippard

Yunel Escobar | Tyler Clippard

Here’s hoping Yunel Escobar didn’t unpack, because the veteran shortstop is on the move once again.

Less than a week after getting traded from Tampa Bay to Oakland, Escobar is headed back east to join the Nationals in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard.

Escobar, 32, put up a .258/.324/.340 line with seven home runs and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay last year. He has two years and $13 million left on his current contract with a $7 million club option for 2017.

While he has been at-or-below league average offensively for the bulk of his career, Escobar has maintained his value by playing solid defense up the middle. His defensive metrics slipped in 2014, but he should rebound nicely moving to second base in Washington.

The move to the keystone corner will come as Ian Desmond is unlikely to be supplanted as the Nats’ shortstop. Escobar’s inevitable move to second should move Danny Espinosa to a utility role.

Escobar could shift back to short if Desmond is traded – as was rumored when the Nationals were in pursuit of Ben Zobrist – and/or when Desmond becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.

The departure of Escobar indicates that the Athletics are ready to go with Marcus Semien at shortstop to begin the season. Semien was acquired from the White Sox in the December trade that sent right-hander Jeff Samardzija to Chicago.

In Tyler Clippard, Oakland lands an All-Star setup man who also possesses ample closing experience after saving 32 games in 2012.

Clippard, 29, posted a very solid 2.18 ERA, .995 WHIP, and a 82/23 K/BB ratio in 75 appearances last season. He has been one of the game’s best setup men since breaking into the big leagues eight years ago. In that time span he’s posted an aggregate 2.88 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 34 saves, 150 holds, and averaged 10 K/9.

The acquisition of Clippard makes up for the club’s loss of elite setup man Luke Gregerson who signed with the division-rival Houston Astros as a free agent this off-season. It also gives them an insurance policy if second-year closer Sean Doolittle struggles in 2015.

Clippard is entering his third, and final, season of arbitration-eligibility and will be a free agent after the 2015 season.

The move looks good for both clubs as the Nationals bolster their middle infield and bench in one swift move and the Athletics re-stock their bullpen as part of general manager Billy Beane’s reload for the upcoming season.

Posted in Baseball, Ben Zobrist, Billy Beane, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Marcus Semien, MLB, MLB Trades, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Trade Rumors, Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals, Yunel Escobar | 1 Comment

Braves Trade Evan Gattis to Astros for Three Prospects

Evan Gattis

Houston…we have a (another) slugger.

The Braves continued their rebuild on Wednesday and the Astros added more power to their already potent lineup in the form of slugger Evan Gattis.

In exchange for Gattis, the Braves will receive three minor league prospects: right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, third baseman Rio Ruiz, and right-hander Andrew Thurman.

The Braves appear to get the better of the deal as Foltynewicz (#3) and Ruiz (#8) both rank among Houston’s top ten prospects according to Baseball America.

Foltynewicz is coming off a rough season, but has an electric arm and possess the ability to be a major player – be it in Atlanta’s rotation or bullpen – and Ruiz is likely the club’s third baseman of the future thanks to his combination of good glove work and a very lively bat at the hot corner.

Gattis, 28, is no slouch in his own right, having popped 43 home runs over the past two seasons in limited at-bats split between catcher, first base, and the outfield corners with Atlanta.

While he won’t be confused for a Gold Glove defender anywhere on the diamond; Gattis figures to be in the mix for playing time in left field and as a backup catcher in Houston.

The move – while it may initially seem like an overpay for Houston – appears to be a win-win for both clubs given their current trajectories.

The short left field porch in Houston’s Minute Maid Park is tailor-made for Gattis’ swing and he figures to rival the club’s other young sluggers, both in terms of power and propensity for strikeouts, over the duration of his contract.

As for Atlanta, this move further solidifies that the club is rebuilding in hopes of fielding a winning team when they open their new stadium in 2017.

The club has already moved corner outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward this off-season.

The move of Gattis serves to replenish the farm system with two players who could be key cogs in the next great Braves squad.

Posted in Atlanta Braves, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Evan Gattis, Houston Astros, MLB, MLB Trades, Trade Rumors | 1 Comment

Arizona Diamondbacks Sign Cuban Starter Yoan Lopez

Yoan Lopez
Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez has agreed to terms on a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

MLB’s National Reporter, Jesse Sanchez reports that the deal includes a bonus of $8.27 million, setting the record for the largest deal under the new international guidelines.

As it is a minor-league deal, the contract gives Arizona six years of service-time control over Lopez.

Lopez, 21, defected from Cuba last year and established residency in Haiti. Major League Baseball declared him a free agent shortly thereafter and he held a showcase for interested teams in November.

The United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control finally cleared Lopez last week allowing him to negotiate salaries with interested suitors. It’s speculated that there was significant interest – and reportedly even an offer for $9 million – from other clubs, such as the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the end, it’s believed Lopez viewed Arizona as his quickest path to the big leagues.

Lopez has a five pitch arsenal that includes a cut fastball, a changeup, and a curveball; but his bread-and-butter, is the dynamic one-two punch of his devastating slider and a punishing fastball that regularly hits the mid-90s on the radar gun.

While he does have the ability to overpower hitters, his stuff is still considered somewhat raw and he has struggled with control issues in the past.

A quick rundown from Ben Badler of Baseball America gives an example of how electric, and untamed, Lopez can be:

During his final season pitching in Cuba for Isla De La Juventud in Serie Nacional, Lopez posted a 3.12 ERA with a 28-11 K-BB mark in 49 innings in seven starts. When Lopez pitched in Cuba’s 18U national league in 2011, he had a 1.74 ERA in 77 2/3 innings with 88 strikeouts and 45 walks, ranking second in the league in both strikeouts and walks, and third in wild pitches (9).

Lopez is expected to begin his big league career in Single-A ball, but it’s believed that the Diamondbacks plan to invite him to major league spring training.

There is some polishing that needs to be done, but if Lopez can show that he’s put his control issues behind him, he can become a key part of the Arizona rotation in the very near future.

Arizona has been very active on the international market this off-season.

In addition to Lopez, the club also signed a six-year, $68.5 million deal with slugging outfielder Yasmany Tomas who also defected from Cuba.

The club is undoubtedly hoping that their big investments in the Cuban market prove to be equally big investments in the future of the franchise.

Posted in Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, MLB, Yoan Lopez | Leave a comment

Atlanta Braves Sign Veteran Southpaw Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez

Veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has signed a minor-league deal with the Atlanta Braves.

Rodriguez, 36, is coming off of two disappointing seasons in Pittsburgh that saw him make just 18 starts over the past two seasons as he was hampered by knee and forearm injuries.

Before he was besieged by the injury bug, Rodriguez had been a reliable mid-rotation starter with Houston and Pittsburgh posting a 3.48 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, and a 807/300 K/BB ratio while averaging 187 innings per season from 2008-2012.

He reportedly had a deal in place with the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this off-season, but failed the physical. Apparently, the bar for “health” is set much lower in Atlanta.

Rodriguez is expected to compete for the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation this spring.

Posted in Atlanta Braves, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Houston Astros, Injuries, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Wandy Rodriguez | 1 Comment

Johan Santana Impressive in Venezuelan League Debut

Johan Santana

Johan Santana began his latest comeback bid with a start in the Venezuelan Winter League on Tuesday night.

There was some speculation that Santana might skip the start when rain pushed the first pitch back nearly two hours, but the two-time Cy Young winner stood firm in his decision to take the mound.

Santana took the hill for the Navegantes del Magallanes and played an early part in the club’s 10-2 victory over the Tigers of Aragua.

Santana pitched two innings and faced the minimum six batters in those two frames. He issued no walks or strikeouts.

In the first he got Padres infielder Yangervis Solarteand Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar to ground out. Yankees minor league outfielder Ramon Flores flied out to center to end the top of the first.

In the top of the second, he got Minnesota catcher Josmil Pinto to and White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia to fly out before inducing a ground ball out from Twins minor leaguer Jose Martinez to end his night on the mound.

That was it for the veteran lefty, giving way to the bullpen after just 17 pitches.

It’s being reported that while the results were there, the pitcher is still struggling to regain his previous form.

His fastball has yet to hit 90mph on the radar gun, but is reportedly sitting comfortably in the upper-80s and his once-devastating changeup is said to be status quo.

If Santana does make it back to the big leagues, he’ll be a very different pitcher; relying more on guile than his ability to overpower hitters.

While Tuesday’s start was obviously a small sample size; given his track record – and the reportedly large contingent of interested teams – it might have been enough to earn Santana a minor league deal and spring training invite.

Santana is trying to comeback from two shoulder capsule surgeries – something no one has ever done – and a torn Achilles tendon that ended his comeback a year ago.

Needless to say, at 35-years-old, it is a tough hill to climb from here, but I’d never bet against Santana.

We will continue to follow Santana’s comeback story as it develops.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Injuries, Johan Santana, MLB | 1 Comment

Peyton Manning: Goodbye, You Beautiful Bastard (Maybe)

Peyton Manning

Last week I wrote about Peyton Manning with the theme being how he was good, but not as great as he could – and should – have been.

That was before Sunday’s playoff game against Manning’s former team – the Indianapolis Colts – and the player drafted to replace him, Andrew Luck.

Before I get too far into the piece, I want to disclose that I would consider myself a “Peyton Manning hater.”

He’s never done anything negative toward me or even beaten a team I liked in an important game, but there’s something about him I can’t stand.

I thought maybe it was his southern “aw shucks” demeanor or maybe his tendency to “show up” his teammates with his reactions to disappointment or not being on same wavelength as him.

Recently, however, I realized that it’s a hatred born out of disappointment.

Part of the reason we watch sports is because we want to see greatness.

We want to see these walking myths do something that few, if any, people have done before. A 56-game hitting streak. 100 points in a NBA game. Whatever comparable hockey thing.

Four Super Bowl rings.

Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana (that old guy getting the free pizza in Peyton Manning’s Papa John’s commercials) each won four Super Bowls as a starting quarterback. Sure, they both won in a time (mostly) before free agency and when far fewer teams reached the playoffs, but they won four – regardless of the circumstances.

Four rings is the benchmark.

Bradshaw won his four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers before I was born and I don’t remember a thing from Montana’s run with the San Francisco 49ers.

What I do remember is Peyton Manning leading the band at Tennessee. I remember the Manning/Leaf debates (and the cruelly fun self-destruction of Ryan Leaf). I remember when it became obvious Manning and his teams weren’t going to come through in enough big spots to win five rings. That’s when I turned on him. Instead of seeing the greatest quarterback of all time, I saw Dan Marino with a Super Bowl ring.

One, singular Super Bowl ring.

Manning is a better “pure passer” than Tom Brady and it seems like no one puts in the hours Manning does and it seems like no one sees the game on the level he sees it. 

So why couldn’t he reach the benchmark?

The only thing I can think of is maybe he isn’t the best “leader.” Maybe his “aw shucks” demeanor works with the general public that is going through a phrase of redneck love, but doesn’t motivate a team to go into battle. Maybe his insistence on perfection makes it impossible to get the best out of his teammates in big spots, like a kid who is afraid his parents will scold him for not getting the winning hit in Little League.

It would seem that I should feel elated that Manning looked washed up in that playoff loss. I should be pumped that he got his comeuppance against his old team and the young quarterback they chose to replace him. I should be happy that he’s considering retirement; but instead I just feel sad.

It’s sad to see the end of an amazing career; to see someone with all the talent and dedication in the world be unable to stave off Father Time.

It’s a reminder of my own mortality, that no matter what, Father Time, as they say, is undefeated.

Manning’s current boss (besides Papa John), John Elway (also, not Papa John), once had the label of being unable to win the big game so much this happened:

In time, however, Elway got the right supporting cast and won two Super Bowls in a row (he was hurt part of his final season) before riding off into the sunset; leaving us wondering if he could have done the impossible and won three Super Bowls in a row.

With Manning there will be no more great “what ifs.”

He has one – maybe two – seasons left in him at a diminishing-returns level. He’s blown past his prime and is like all of us will be one day, wondering what happened.

Posted in Cheap Seat Chronicles, Denver Broncos, Football, Indianapolis Colts, Joe Montana, NFL, Peyton Manning, Pittsburgh Steelers, Playoffs, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl, Terry Bradshaw | Tagged | Leave a comment

Minnesota Twins Showing Interest in Johan Santana’s Comeback Bid

Johan Santana

Johan Santana is attempting another comeback bid.

While that is newsworthy all by itself, there’s even more to the story that peeks this blogger’s interest.

It’s looking like Santana’s comeback could involve a reunion with the Minnesota Twins.

That’s the scoop according to Darren Wolfson:

The left-hander is slated to pitch three innings and 45-50 pitches Tuesday evening in a Venezuelan Winter League game for Magallanes against the Tigres de Aragua.

If things go well, Santana can expect a number of minor league offers from teams hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and extract whatever magic is left in Santana’s left arm.

As it currently stands, Santana, 35, hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues since August 17, 2012 for the New York Mets.

That season, Santana was coming back from a shoulder capsule surgery injury that had cost him the latter half of 2010 and all of the 2011 campaign.

Given the severity of the injury, many weren’t sure he’d ever make it back at all, but he returned to the mound in April 2012 and – despite diminished velocity – he looked every bit like his old self on the hill.

Santana memorably threw a 134-pitch no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1 of that year. After that game, Santana stood at 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA and was allowing hitters to post a meager .200/.262/.306 batting line against him.

Unfortunately, that magical no-hitter – the only one in Mets history – was when the wheels started to come off for Santana.

Over Santana’s next ten starts he went 3-7 and was torched for an 8.27 ERA and allowed a .327/.377/.587 batting line to opposing hitters.

…and then he was done.

The Mets shut him down in mid-August with lower back inflammation.

As many suspected when he was shut down, the injury later proved to be far more serious than just “lower back inflammation.” Santana eventually missed the entire 2013 season – signaling the end of his stint with New York – while rehabbing following a second shoulder capsule surgery.

Santana was determined to make it back to the big leagues and signed on with the Baltimore Orioles in March of last season.

Santana was making progressing before he tore his left Achilles tendon last summer during an extended spring training start, ending his comeback bid.

Once again, the odds were stacked against Santana and once again, he’s looking to defy the odds with another comeback bid.

According to Santana’s agent, Peter Greenberg of the Legancy Agency, the lefty got his fastball up between 86 and 89 mph in a recent simulated game and is expecting to sign with a team before spring training:

“Johan wants to go out on his own terms,” Greenberg said. “He doesn’t want to go out because an injury put him out. He’s worked very hard and kept himself in shape, and he’s never thought about retiring.

“It’s not about the money or anything like that. He’s said he wants to draw his own ending. He wants to go out on his own terms. He’s told me, ‘I want to add to my legacy.’ I think anybody who knows him is going to bet on him.”

It’s tough to imagine a 35-year-old who can’t hit 90 mph – and is coming off of two major shoulder surgeries – making much of an impact, but as a long-time fan of Santana, it’s hard not to root for the guy.

Prior to his first shoulder capsule surgery, Santana was one of the game’s best pitchers from 2002 to 2010 when he starred for the Twins and Mets.

In that time, Santana won two – should have been three – Cy Young Awards, made four All-Star teams, and won 130 games with a 2.90 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, and a 3.90 K/BB ratio while averaging nearly 200 innings and 200 strike outs per season.

Here’s hoping Santana makes it all the way back, even if it’s not in Minnesota, and gets to go out on his own terms.

Posted in AL Central, American League, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Injuries, Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins, MLB, New York Mets | 1 Comment

Nissan to race the Batmobile at the next Le Mans?

Sports car racing has evolved by leaps and bounds in the last century.

What started off as a bunch of insanely rich men taking their overpriced and over-engineered speed machines to the track and seeing who was the fastest, has turned into…well pretty much the same thing, but the cars look like spaceships now:

Audi spaceships preparing to destroy the Rebel Alliance

They sound like them too:

The rich men have been replaced by gobsmackingly wealthy car manufacturers, and the gentlemen drivers have been – for the most part – replaced with professional drivers who have been behind the wheel since the age of two. All the while, the principle remains the same: go as fast as you can and win.

However, in recent years, certain rule changes by the governing bodies of the sport have forced manufacturers to innovate in the name of adding efficiency to speed.

Hybrid systems, at first a novelty, are now required in the top tiers of racing. Strict fuel limitations juxtapose pushing as hard as you can while sipping fuel like a glorified Prius.

Despite these impositions, the general engineering of the vehicle has steadfastly remained: driver stationed in front of the engine (called “mid-engined” for those of you wanting to know), both of which are between the front and rear axle to maintain an even weight distribution, and all the power goes to the rear wheels.

Audi was the first to buck this trend by making the power from their diesel engine go to the rear wheels, but the power from the electric hybrid systems would go to the front. Everyone said they were crazy. Then it rained at Spa and Audi’s all-wheel drive absolutely crushed the competition. Now Toyota and Porsche both have all-wheel drive cars as well.

Things settled down for a year or so, but now comes along the most insane news from Nissan, who will be joining the LMP1 fray starting this year. From the good folks at Mulsanne’s Corner comes news of a completely bonkers front-engined, front wheel drive LMP1 machine, with electric hybrid power going to the rear wheels.

Why is this huge?

Mostly because making a front-wheel drive racer is completely nuts, but also because a mid-engined racer, in order to stick to the ground, requires a giant fracking wing to help keep that heavy back-end in check. That wing causes a lot of drag which hurts aerodynamics, which hurts fuel consumption and overall speed in a straight line. A car with the engine in front doesn’t need that wing anymore. Ditch the wing and massive drag reduction is the result. However, you’ll still need some fins to keep the air flowing the way you want it to.

The outcome?

This might as well be a Batmobile

Hipster Batmobile ditched the rear wing before it was cool to do it…

Whoever ends up driving this thing had better wear all black, make their voice sound as gravel-y as possible, and end every TV interview with:

“I’m Batman.”

Posted in Cheap Seat Chronicles, Le Mans, MotorSport, Nissan, Porsche, Toyota | Leave a comment

Dan Haren Balks at Retirement, Plans to Play for Marlins

Dan Haren

This spring, Dan Haren will be taking his talents to South Beach where he’ll join the Miami Marlins.

It’s not exactly on par with LeBron James, but Haren’s drawn out version of The Decision is finally over.

Haren, 34, was traded to the Marlins back in December as part of the Dee Gordon/Andrew Heaney deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Prior to the trade, Haren had gone on record stating that he would opt to retire – and walk away from his $10 million salary – rather than continue his career, if he couldn’t play near his family in Los Angeles.

He spent a few weeks holding strong and “evaluating his options” before he softened his stance to say that he simply wanted to play on the west coast and with a team that hosts its Spring Training in Arizona.

Unfortunately for Haren, despite the best efforts of the Miami front office, no west coast team appeared interested in acquiring the right-hander.

It seems the allure of $10 million and the chance to continue pitching in the big leagues was enough to sway Haren’s decision and convince him to suit up with the Marlins.

Haren figures to slot in alongside recently-acquired Mat Latos, recovering Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, and Jarred Cosart in the Miami rotation.

While Haren’s days as a front-line starter are clearly behind him, he’s still been good for gobbling up innings. He’s made at least 30 starts per season for the last decade, averaging 211 innings pitched per year over that time period.

Over the last three seasons, however, the wheels have started to come off for Haren.

He hasn’t reached the 200 innings pitched plateau since 2011 and in those three sub-200 IP years – spent with three different clubs – he went 35-38 with a 4.33 ERA, 1.234 WHIP, and a 438/105 K/BB ratio over 92 total starts.

He figures to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter for Miami, but he’s hardly been worth the drama that’s surrounded his decision.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Dan Haren, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, MLB, MLB Trades | 3 Comments