They Call It March Madness

I’ve never considered myself a college basketball fan.  In fact I often miss the beginning of Sportscenter because I don’t want to watch the end of whatever NCAA game they might be showing.  There are betting things on TV to waste my time.

But for some reason when it come to the Tournament it becomes a different story.  I turn a game on and see Belmont is beating Duke with less than 30 seconds left in the second half and I’m glued to the TV.  I don’t know where the heck Belmont even is, but I see they’re in a 15 seed, and they’re beating a #2 seed.  I instantly become a fan.

Basketball has always been a sport I sort of always overlooked.  Sure I’ve always rooted for the Knicks (the only New York team I really root for), but they haven’t been a respectable franchise since Patrick Ewing cut his flat-top.  Even then,I casually followed them (I could still name the roster and all, just not rattle off the facts and stats like other sports).  I’ve always wondered why.

The argument can be made growing up a suburban kid in Long Island, basketball wasn’t the sport, but I played a ton as a kid, as did my brothers.  I just liked baseball, football, and hockey a whole lot more. 

Probably because I was better at them.

I was never good at basketball.  I mean to the point where it’s embarrassing.  When you’re tall people assume you must be good at basketball (since when is 6’2 considered tall?), but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I can’t shoot, layup, dunk, or rebound.  Let’s be honest, I’m lucky I can dribble.  Even then I have to watch the ball to make sure it doesn’t hit my foot.

Because I was never good at it I never liked it.  Unless it’s March, and collegians are playing for schools I never heard of.  Then I become addicted… 

Gotta run, Arizona is closing the gap on West Virginia…

Call It A Comeback

Wow, it’s been a while.  The last time I updated the Orphan was during the Mitchell Report.  Life sort of caught up with me.  Not that I haven’t written.  Steve Carlton Likes to Fish, Hot Stove Philly, and Hot Stove New York, are all alive and well, and help me get my writing fix.  Between writing for three sites, the job (too bad blogging doesn’t pay the bills), and of course spending time with my wife, I’ve neglected the Orphan. 

Given the blog’s name, it’s a bit ironic.

Well enough neglecting the Orphan.  It’s back, but a little different then the standard MLBLog.  Most of my writing has to do with standard reporting, with my take on it.  The Orphan will of course center around baseball, but more opinions, and more stuff outside the realm of the American and National League.

We’ll see how it works out…

On a side note, I never thought I’d find myself rooting for the Devils.  No Flyers fan in his right mind would root for the team that plays in the sewer in the heart of Newark (the Ghettolands, as refer to it as), but it’s playoff time, and the Flyers are clinging on to the eighth seed.  With the Rangers in sixth, only two points ahead, a Rangers loss would be big.  Too bad they won in a shootout…

Congress Asks Justice Department to Investigate Tejada

Congress has asked the Justice Department to investigate Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada in his connection with lying to the House Committee regarding his use of performance enhancing drugs.  Tejada met with the Congressional Committee in 2005 after former teammate Rafael Palmiero tested positive for the use of steroids, but claimed he received a tainted B-12 shot from Tejada.

Congressman Henry Waxman and Tom Davis are sending a letter to the Justice Department this morning.

“Tejada told the committee that he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and that he had no knowledge of other players using or even talking about steroids,” Waxman said. “Well, the Mitchell Report, however, directly contradicts key elements of Mr. Tejada’s testimony.”

Said Davis: “We’ve concluded further investigation is warranted.”

Clemens to be Named in Mitchell Report

With George Mitchell having a press conference this afternoon at 2:00, ESPN is reporting that pitcher Roger Clemens will be named in the Mitchell Report.  Trainer Brian McNamee has stated he provided Clemens with steroid before and while he was a member of the New Yankees.

Clemens is regarding as one of the top 5 pitchers in the history of this game, and the question now looms, how will this affect his legacy and Hall of Fame status?

This is only the tip of the iceberg of what we’ll all be hearing today regarding performance enhancing drugs in baseball.

Dodgers Sign Jones

Ajones The Dodgers have signed free agent centerfieler Andruw Jones to a two-year $36.2 million dollar contract.  Jones is coming off a disasterous season where he hit .222 with 24 home runs and 94 RBI’s.  This is a far cry from his .263/34/103 season averages.

Jones was hoping to land a big contract this off-season, similar to what Alfonso Soriano received from the Cubs last year, but with his poor season the interest simply wasn’t there. Signing a two-year deal was the best avaiable offer.  This isn’t saying he still won’t get that big contract.  Jones will only be 32 when his contract with the Dodgers is up. 

While Jones is making $18.1 million a season, a two-year deal isn’t a bad gamble for the Dodgers.  Given how much Jones’ numbers dropped last season, there’s a good chance he’ll bounce back in 2008.

The Dodger’s signing Jones might only be the begining of a pending trade.  The Dodgers now have Jones, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre, and Andre Either all looking for regular playing time in the outfield. 

Santana to Stay Put?

What would the Winter Meetings be like without 75 different Johan Santana rumors??  Well here’s the latest (I’m sure by the time I post this it’ll change):

Word is the Twins will NOT trade Johan Santana at the winter meetings.  Rumor has it the Twins have rejected the Red Sox offer, and for now Johan is staying with the Twins.

This might not be the smartest move.  Sure, Santana is "Twins" property until the end of the season, so there is no rush to deal him, but there’s a catch.  As the season begins and progresses the more the Twins will need other teams to take Santana, then other teams need Johan Santana.  The long the Twins wait to deal him, the less they will be able to get for him.

Unless Carl Pohlad comes down off the giant pile of money he sits on top of, and gives Santana an extension, the time to trade Johan is now…

Tigers Acquire Cabrera & Willis

Last night the Tigers made the biggest splash of the Winter Meetings, acquiring all-star third baseman Miguel Cabrera and starter Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins for six-players.

It definitely makes the Tigers if not the best, one of the teams in all of baseball. 

Cabrera is one of the best players in baseball.  The biggest knock on him was his ever gaining waistline, but reports are he’s losing weight (15 lbs. since season’s end).  His numbers at this stage of his career, rival hall of famers.  At 25 years old he could be a fixture in Detroit for years to come.

Although Willis is only two years removed from a twenty-two win season, he was nothing better then average in 2006 and was terrible last season.  Reports were a lot of Willis’ problems were he was trying to locate the ball, which took his velocity off and made him very hittable.  Chuck Hernandez is one of the better pitching coaches in the league, and he should be able to work with Willis and help him return to his old form.  Another benefit of Willis pitching in Detroit is less pressure.  In Florida he was the staff “Ace”, and mentally he had to live up to it.  In Detroit he’ll probably be the 4th starter with Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Jeremy Bonderman in front of him.  If Willis can just go out and pitch his game, there’s a chance he’ll be able to return to his Cy Young-caliber status.

As good as Tiger fans have to feel about the players they picked up from Florida the Marlins received a TON in return.

Andrew Miller was the Tigers #2 prospect last season (via Baseball America).  His career stats are 5-6 with a 5.69 ERA, but don’t let that fool you.  Miller was drafted in 2006 and has more experience in the major league then in the minors, so some say he was rushed to Detroit.  He has the ability to be a true #1 starter.  Mid-90’s fastball and a mid-80’s slider with great movement.

Cameron Maybin was the Tigers #1 prospect and is the #3 prospect in all of baseball.  He’s still probably a year away from starting in Florida, but he has five-tools.  Barring any injury he’s an all-star caliber player.

Eulogio De La Cruz is a wicked fastball that tops out at 100mph.  He’s still probably a year away from the major leagues, but he could be a set up man and eventually be the Marlins closer.

Dallas Trahern is a strong starter.  Some reports were he would challenge for the Tigers fifth starter spot, but worst would be with the Tigers by midseason.  He projects as a #3 starter.

Mike Rubelo was the Tigers backup catcher last season, and most thought was the heir apparent to Rodriguez.  He has strong defensive skills and a decent bat.  He should start behind the plate.

I don’t know much about Burke Badenhop.  Statistically he was strong last year going a combine 12-6 with a 2.92 ERA last year between A & AA.  He went 14-3 at Single A ball in 2006.  A few years away from making his major league debut.

In saying all this I’m not sure how I feel about this deal.  The Tigers are showing they want to win now, but I think they overpaid for Cabrera and Willis.  The Tigers depleted their farm system in getting both of these two guys.  Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, and Gary Sheffield aren’t getting any younger.  The only real prospects left are Brent Cleven and Rick Portcello.

Another concern I have is what this does for baseball.  As of now the Marlins have a payroll UNDER $10 million.  Their highest paid player is now Kevin Gregg who makes roughly 600K.  Even though they won’t, the Marlins need to spend some money and at least acquire players who can fill in until guys like Maybin and De La Cruz are ready to contribute.

Dodgers Close in on Bedard

WFAN in New York is reporting the Orioles and Dodgers are nearing a deal that would send pitcher Erik Bedard to Los Angeles for Matt Kemp and Jonathon Broxton.

Varied rumors have said that Bedard’s deal would be similar to what the Twins would get for Johan Santana.  Do you think the Dodgers can get Santana for Kemp and Broxton?  I don’t think so.

The Orioles need to be smart.  Bedard is in high demand right now.  Sure, he might not want to sign an extension, but it doesn’t mean they have to deal him this off-sesaon.  He’s still Orioles property for two more seasons.  If they were to trade him they need to get maximum value for him.  When dealing with the Dodgers not trade fro Bedard should go down without the Orioles receiving Clayton Kershaw in the package. 

Although Andy MacPhail is the new sheriff-in-town in the Emerald City, the Orioles have a history of making less than desirable moves, mainly due to owner Peter Angelos. MacPhail’s known as a very deliberate and methodical guy, so it should be interesting how the Bedard trade talks progress.

Winter Meetings Day 2: Blockbuster on the Horizon?

The Hot Stove is heating up, and the rumors are flying.  The latest rumor is a blockbuster deal.  No, not Johan Santana.  This one is between the Marlins and the Tigers.

Word is the Tigers are willing to ship a group of prospects That would include Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

While Cabrera joining a Tigers lineup that already includes Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, and Gary Sheffield, would give them one of the leagues best lineups, I’m not sure what help Willis really gives. 

Dontrelle Willis is only two years removed from a Cy Young-type season, but he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball last season.  His 5.17 ERA was near the bottom of the National League, and that’s pitching half your games in a pitchers park.  Letting him loose in the American League where he has to face a DH could be disasterous.  On the other hand, maybe a change of scenery is what Willis needs.

Winter Meetings, Day 1: Yankees Give Twins a  Deadline

With the Winter Meetings starting today in Nashville, the focus on the first day will be on one player.  Who will acquire Twins pitcher Johan Santana?

Queue the circus music…

The Yankees have offered a package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and a prospect to be determined.  Word is the final prospect is the current hold up.  It’s been rumored the Twins want Austin Jackson or Ian Kennedy, but the Yankees aren’t willing to include either.  They want Minnesota to take more of a mid-level prospect, like Alberto Gonzalez or Jeffrey Marquez. 

Red Sox have offered a package centered around Jacoby Ellsbury.  With Ellsbury in the deal it means the Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are off the table.  Rumors are that a package of Ellsbury and prospects Justin Masterson, and Michael Bowden is the current offer.

Santana has made his own statements that he will only waive his no trade clause to play for the Yankees or Red Sox.  This is only in the off-season.   He will not waive his no-trade clause once the season begins.  Essentially saying that once the season begins the most the Twins will get for Santana will be a draft pick form whomever he signs with next off-season.

Then you have to question if the Red Sox really want Santana.  Obviously he’ll improve the team, but the one thing the Red Sox don’t need is a starter.  Reports are with their current roster; they are considering a six-man rotation (Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Lester, and Buchholz).  As much as a Beckett/Santana righty/lefty duo will make any Red Sox’s fan mouth water, do they really want him or are they making things difficult for the Yankees?

To heighten the drama, Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner has set a deadline for today to get the deal done or the Yankees are out.  While it sounds like the Yankees are making a stand, didn’t they tell Alex Rodriguez the same thing if he opted out of his contract?  We all know how that worked out.

The Johan Santana Circus continues, and most likely other pitchers on the market (Dan Haren, Erik Bedard), will not be dealt until teams know where Santana will wind up.