Pujols, the McCourts, and More

June 22, 2011

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St. Louis is still in mourning after the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols for 4-6 weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his radius (a bone in the forearm). After being pulled off first base by a throw, Pujols reached out his left arm in an attempt to tag out the baserunner. It was a bang-bang play, with runner Wilson Betemit having no opportunity to avoid the collision (nor was he under the obligation to do so). Although there hasn’t been the furor that followed the Buster Posey injury (should baseball ban home plate collisions?), the NY York Times has suggested a double bag at first base.  This seems like a rather silly idea to me, as all it would really do is force the first baseball to slide over another step before reaching out for a tag.  It’s worth noting that Betemit didn’t run into the body of Pujols, but into his arm.

The Cardinals have remained in the hunt in the NL Central this year despite being snake bitten by some injury.  Co-ace Adam Wainwright went down for the season during spring training, and Matt Holliday has lost time due to an injury and an appendectomy.  I do think the Cardinals can at least stay within striking distance until Pujols returns.

The big question is how this will affect Pujols’ status as the top free agent in the class.  Already, we had been hearing some murmurs that Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder – 4 years younger – might actually be a better option for a team needing an elite first baseman.  (I’m not sold on Fielder – his ability to keep his weight under control long term concerns me).  Pujols is going to have about 50 games at the end of the season (plus possible post-season games) to prove that he’s still the Pujols of old.  It seemed unlikely that his demands of a 10 year deal worth $30 million per year were going to be met in any case … but could this create a situation where Pujols signs a one year “prove it” deal rather than signing a longer deal at a lower rate?

In LA, the divorce case of Frank and Jamie McCourt (no, not the Angela’s Ashes guy) lingers on.  The two parties had finally reached an agreement, but it was contingent upon commissioner Bud Selig giving his OK to a new TV rights deal with the LA Fox affiliate.  Under the 17 year deal, Fox would have paid nearly $3 billion.  The deal would have featured $385 million in up front money.  $170 million would have been earmarked (by the divorce settlement) for personal debt and the divorce settlement.  Selig believes that baseball revenue should be used to pay baseball debts, rather than personal debts.

McCourt will likely sue baseball.  Upon buying a team, owners sign an agreement not to sue baseball, so this should be an interesting case.  The courts could rule the agreement unenforceable because of it being unconscionable … but I have a hard time buying into that argument.  It seems more likely that a judge would decide that McCourt had access to adequate legal counsel prior to signing the agreement and then made a conscious choice to sign it.  People sign away their rights all the time – that’s what contracts are used for.

As far as I can tell, the McCourts are still married, as the divorce settlement is still in limbo.  I’m sure that’s not awkward at all.

A potential suitor for the Dodgers would be Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.  Cuban has tried to buy teams before, but Major League Baseball has opposed such a move.  Personally, I think he’d be a good owner.  He does make the headlines from time to time in the NBA, but the fact of the matter is that he puts together good teams.  His “misbehavior” is generally due to the fact that he loves his teams, rather than just seeing them as a business.  It’s a bad thing to have an owner who is actually interested in the report?

It wouldn’t be a baseball article if I didn’t mention my Colorado Rockies.  After struggling mightily in May, the Rockies have rebounded in June and have pulled to with 2.5 games of first place San Francisco.  Last night, an effectively wild Jhoulys Chacin took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.  He walked six and allowed two his in 6 2/3 innings.  Although he didn’t come away with a win (the bullpen allowed the Indians to tie the game before the Rockies rallied to win), Chacin is emerging as one of the better young pitchers in the game.  Chacin actually had a very strong rookie season in 2010 (9-11, but with an impressive 3.28 ERA), but was overshadowed by Ubaldo Jimenez.  With Jimenez struggling this year, Chacin has become the ace, at least for the moment.

Another overlooked Rockies player is catcher Chris Iannetta.  Although his batting average (.229) might trick people into thinking he is having a bad year, Iannetta has actually been one of the most productive offensive catchers this year.   He has 9 homers in just 170 at bats and is among the league leaders with 43 walks.  His OPS of .836 is a very good number for a catcher.

Among the six division leaders, only the NL East’s Phillies (4.5 games ahead) have a lead greater than 2 games.  The Pirates – who haven’t finished above .500 since 1992 – stand at 36-37.  The Marlins have brought Trader Jack McKeon back on board to right the ship.  (I’ll go on record as saying McKeon won’t lead the Marlins to the same miraculous finish as he did in 2003 … you can only pull a rabbit out of the hat so many times).

Saturday Stew

July 25, 2009

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In 2006, three young men in Wisconsin attempted to dig up a recently diseased young woman so that one of them could have sex with her body.  One of the men had become infatuated with her after seeing her photo in the obituary column.  (Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not the first place I expect people to look for dates).  After a stop at a local Wal-Mart to buy condoms, the men arrived at the cemetery and proceeded to dug all the way down to the concrete vault before police, who had been notified of suspicious activity, arrived at the scene.  One of the men quickly cracked and blurted out the entire scheme.

Authorities in Wisconsin soon realized that the state did not have any necrophilia laws on the books.

The prosecutors wished to try them on sexual assault charges, but it was unclear if the state’s sexual assault laws applied to dead people.  The state supreme court decided that the laws did indeed apply, as a corpse is unable to give consent.  This logic threw me for a bit of a loop, as I had never stopped to wonder if someone had human rights after they were dead.

This week, the mastermind of the crime was found guilty of attempted sexual assault and was sentence to two years in jail.


Pittsburgh  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was named as a defendant in civil lawsuit this week.  The lawsuit alleges that Roethlisberger raped her last July at the Tahoe resort where she worked.  The lawsuit seeks $480,000 in compensation.

Is it possible that the allegations are true?  Of course.  Is it likely?  No.  The woman has not contacted police to file any criminal charges … just the civil lawsuit.  This really seems like a ploy to squeeze money out of Big Ben.  After all, if she was traumatized to the extent of $480,000, wouldn’t she consider this to be criminal activity that should be reported to the authorities?  Show me a criminal complaint, and I’ll take notice.

Erin Andrews

ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was videotaped nude by a voyeur, apparently through a peephole in her hotel room.  The video quickly made its way onto the internet.  Interestingly, many of the links the purport to be the Andrews video are actually attempts to trick people into downloading a virus – so those of you who are trying to find this video should be aware of the distinct possibility that you may instead give your computer a nasty virus.  And if the thought crosses your mind to look for this video, stop for a minute and realize that this video was made without any knowledge by Andrews – give her some respect and stay away from the video.

The story got even worse, as some news networks used pieces of the video or photos (captured from the video) as part of their coverage of the story (with parts of Erin’s body obscured).  This crosses a line of journalistic ethics.  ESPN lashed back at one of the papers – The New York Post – by banning any of its reporters from appearing on ESPN shows.  Good call, ESPN.

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin racked up a sizeable legal bill fending off multiple ethics complaints against her.  Most were dismissed, although she did have to pay back taxes on roughly $17,000 that the state reimbursed her for per diem expenses (on nights she spent away from the the governor’s mansion in Juneau – staying instead at her home in Wasilla) and had to reimburse the state for travel expenses for her family.

Palin created a fund so that her supporters could contribute toward her legal expenses.  Ironically, these donations may be a violation of state ethics laws.

Do yourself a favor, Republicans – find a better candidate in 2012.  If you want to have a woman on the ticket, take a look around.  Is Sarah Palin the best woman for the job?

Matt Holliday

On Friday, Matt Holliday was traded from the A’s to the Cardinals for three prospects, including 3B Brett Wallace.  The presence of Holliday will add another strong bat to join Albert Pujols in the Cardinals lineup.  There will be a cage match fight to determine who gets to keep the number 5 on their jersey.

Holliday’s numbers have slid from his numbers with the Rockies.  While many of his critics say that this shows he is a product of Coors Field, other factors are at play.  Not only did he move to a less hitter-friendly park (indeed, to a very hitter unfriendly park in Oakland), but he also changed leagues, rendering years of studying National League pitchers mostly useless, and forcing him to learn the tendencies of a hundred new pitchers.  This takes some time.  While Holliday had a dreadful April, he has a .905 OPS since May 5 (before Friday’s game).  And while Oakland is a terrible hitter’s park, Holliday’s home OPS is actually 89 points higher than his road OPS – compared to a standard MLB home/road split of +30.  Sure, it’s a small sample, but perhaps he’s the type of player who is simply more comfortable in his home surroundings, regardless of what those surroundings are.  When he was with the Rockies, his split differential far exceeded that of any other Rockies player – casting some doubt on the assertion that he was merely a production of Coors (since a rising tide should lift all boats).

How did Holliday do in his first game with the Cardinals, on Friday night?  4-5, with a double, a stolen base, a run, and an RBI.

Holliday has typically fared very well in the summer months, and the playoff race may energize him and boost his performance.  Enjoy the view, St. Louis.

Rockies update

Todd Helton of the Rockies recorded his 500th career double on Wednesday, becoming the 50th player in the history of Major League Baseball to reach that mark.  Helton’s once prodigious power numbers have been sapped by back ailments and a humidor in Coors Field, and his contract is considered by many to be a financial albatross, but Helton is universally revered by Rockies fans as the first truly great player that was drafted and developed by the Rockies.

On Monday, the Rockies took over the lead in the National League wild card race.  The Rockies had gotten off to a horrible start under former manager Clint Hurdle before rebounding with a 31-10 record from June 4 through Monday – good enough to push them past division rival San Francisco for the catbird seat in the wild card race.

On Wednesday night, Rockies top prospect Jhoulys Chacin was pulled from his start with AA Tulsa after 9 pitches.  The reason given was that the move was made in anticipation of possible future organizational move.  Speculation quickly came to a head, with fans wondering in Chacin would be traded (perhaps in a deal for Jays pitcher Roy Halladay), or would he skip AAA Colorado Springs for a promotion to the big club?  Well, it turns out that JC will be tossed into the shaky Rockies bullpen.  On Thursday, the Rockies acquired Rafael Betancourt from Cleveland to further bolster the pen.  Don’t be surprised if Garrett Atkins is traded before the deadline.