11th and Washington

11th and Washington: January 2006

Monday, January 30, 2006

You'll always have a place in Mets' fans hearts, Mikey

I have to say I'm glad that Mike Piazza found work. He's a classy guy and a good player and he deserves to go out on his terms. It'll be sad to see him struggle, if that's how it's going to turn out, but he can still hit pretty well for a 37-year-old catcher. His career isn't that much different that Gary Carter's was, but at least with Piazza we know he's going into the Hall in a Mets cap.

Being in San Diego will bring his career full-circle, finishing up in SoCal where he began. Signing with the Phillies would've been similar, because he grew up outside Philadelphia, but being a Padre means that he has one trip to Shea Stadium next year, Aug. 8-10, with the Mets in San Diego April 20-23. With the Phillies, he would've been a two-hour drive away and at Shea for three separate series, which would've gotten old by the end. This way, the Mets likely will draw three good crowds for that weekday series, so long as Piazza is healthy that deep into the season.

And another thing: If Adam Dunn can hit 40 HR and drive in 101 runs with a fracture in his hand, as he did last year, I'm curious (to say the least) as to what he can do when healthy. Though from the sound of things, I'm not sure the appendage is 100 percent since Dunn acknowledged that it still hurts.

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Vicente Padilla: 20.5% better than Mark Prior, at least on paper

I think Mark Prior may want to get a new agent. Specifically, he should contact the guy who represents Vicente Padilla. Either that, or he might want to make his way to the Rangers when he hits free agency.

Prior last week agreed to a $3.65 million contract to avoid salary arbitration. He got a $900,000 raise from the deal he would've had this season if he hadn't voided that contract in November, which was one of the incentives built into it that went into effect with his service time in the majors. That's a bargain price for a guy who has the potential to be a 20-game winner with a low ERA and high strikeout total that championship teams tend to have. Of course, Prior has yet to fully realize his potential because of his injury history.

But on the same day that Prior's deal was announced, so was Padilla's with Texas. For $4.4 million! That's $750,000 more than Prior's salary and 20.5 percent of Prior's money. And it's not like Padilla was the picture of health last year.

Prior is 20 days short of being exactly three years younger than Padilla; has a 41-23 career record to Padilla's 51-51; a 3.24 ERA to Padilla's 3.95; a .233 career batting average against to Padilla's .261; and a 3.7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio to Padilla's 1.9:1. The Cubs may have Kerry Wood (though himself injury-prone) and Carlos Zambrano also in their rotation while the Rangers brought in Kevin Millwood and are just happy to be rid of Kenny Rogers, but I can't even buy it that Padilla is that much more valuable to Texas than Prior is to Chicago.

And I'm not even taking into account that Padilla is making the switch from the AL to the NL, a move that with the exception of Millwood last year and Curt Schilling the year before has not resulted in numbers even as good as the previous season for the pitcher involved. I might give Padilla some slack if he were moving to Oakland or Seattle, two comfy pitchers parks, but he's going to Texas, home of hot air and short fences.

Come to think of it, maybe I can hire Padilla's agent to find me a new job at a better salary, no matter my previous performance.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Separated at birth

There's no excuse for why I haven't posted as much as I should've been the past month or so. I just didn't devote any time to making sure I found something about baseball to write about and then sitting down to write it. There's been plenty to ponder, so I'll pick it up with some of this week's happenings and go from there.

The A's made a good move in signing Frank Thomas to a one-year deal with a base salary of $500,000. It fits their financial model, but the potential $2.6 million in performance bonuses will make it worthwhile for Thomas if he's able to stay healthy.

From Thomas' perspective, it all hinges on his left foot. He will earn, according to the ESPN.com article, "$1.4 million in roster bonuses if he is on the active major-league roster or not on the DL related to a left foot injury. He would get $325,000 each on May 1 and June 15 and $375,000 apiece on July 15 and Aug. 15."

So if he's going to get hurt -- rather than apply the Big Hurt -- he's better off dropping a weight on his right foot or carrying deer meat up the stairs to his house than he is in fouling a pitch off that left foot.

Ironically, while Thomas missed most of last season with injuries, so did another potential Hall-of-Fame first baseman with whom he has a lot in common. Thomas and Jeff Bagwell were born on the same date -- May 27, 1968 -- and made their major league debuts within three baseball months of one another (Thomas on August 2, 1990, Bagwell on April 8, 1991). And Thomas trails Bagwell in career home runs by the slimmest of margins: 448 to 449. (Not to mention less than 100 RBI and less than 200 runs.)

However, while Thomas appears to be healthier than he's been in several seasons, Bagwell and the Astros could be heading for an uncomfortable final season together. The Astros are saying Bagwell's right shoulder injury hasn't healed enough after last season's surgery to allow him to play. If you watched him in last fall's World Series, you saw just how much it affected his ability to swing the bat. Houston has some incentive to have Bagwell miss the season: $15.6 million of his salary would be covered by insurance if he retires or is disabled all season because of the injury.

That's some way to treat a guy who is probably the best hitter -- certainly the best slugger -- in franchise history. Still, Bags insists he'll be in Florida for spring training, which could make for an akward start to the season. I just hope he's able to play and not embarrass himself; he's one of those upstanding, honest players whom you enjoy rooting for and like to see do well. He's the kind of guy who should be able to go out on his own terms.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hall of Famers?

I'm lazy. Or busy. Or both. In any case, I need to gear up for spring training and get back to some posting.

But I'm taking the easy way out right now. I want to get something up before the Hall of Fame announcement in a little over an hour, so here are my quick-hit predictions.


Jim Rice
Goose Gossage
and, borderline (either just in or just out), Bruce Sutter and Andre Dawson


Don Mattingly
Jack Morris
Bert Blyleven


Gary DiSarcina
Alex Fernandez
Gregg Jefferies
Hal Morris
Walt Weiss

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