Matt Holliday Willing to Rework Contract to Keep Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols has been very clear about his contract situation with the St. Louis Cardinals. One of the best all-around players in the history of the game, Pujols has given the Cards and his agent a deadline of Feb. 16 to work out a contract extension. By that time, he wants to focus on training camp and get ready for the season. According to SI’s Jon Heyman, the two sides are worlds apart just five days shy of the deadline.

Fear not, Cardinals fans.  Matt Holliday wants to help.  Well, maybe you should still be afraid if Pujols is seriously asking for 10 years at $300 million, but at least there are people trying to make it work.  According to MLB.com writer Matthew Leach via Hardball Talk, Holliday is willing to defer some of his salary if it would help retain Pujols.

I deferred $2 million a year for the whole contract and I would be willing, if they came to me and said, “Hey, this is what it’s going to take to get Albert done, would you do it again or do more?” Scott [Boras] probably wouldn’t like me to stay that, but if that’s what it took, I would be willing to do that.”

Pujols is going to be seeking the largest contract in MLB history, and deservedly so.  For that reason, I don’t know how much $2 million per year over the next six years — or $12 million — will help the situation.  What I will say is that the gesture is nice and it’s something you rarely see in an era where professional athletes look to squeeze out every penny they can with their contracts.

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Wake Forest Coach Tom Walter Donates Kidney to Player Kevin Jordan

People don’t donate vital bodily organs to garner headlines, but Tom Walter will receive them for his courageous and selfless act. The Wake Forest baseball coach donated one of his kidneys to Kevin Jordan Monday, a recruit who was set to begin his freshman season for the Demon Deacons.

Jordan first got sick in January of 2010, two months after he committed to play ball for Wake Forest. In April, Jordan was diagnosed with Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Autoantibody (ANCA) vasculitis, “a rare condition in which abnormal antibodies attack white blood cells and damage small blood vessels.” He still enrolled at Wake despite having to be hooked up to “dialysis 18 to 20 hours a day through a catheter in his stomach.”

With only about 8% function in his kidneys, Jordan withdrew from the Spring semester of school and was hoping for a transplant. Nobody from his family was a match when screened for a kidney, so coach Tom Walter volunteered to get tested. He turned out to be a match and then had to decide if he would make the courageous move of donating his kidney.

After some soul searching, Walter decided to donate the kidney. He said that watching Kevin show up on campus despite his illness motivated him to do what he did.

Jordan, who was a 19th-round pick by the Yankees in last year’s draft, is recovering, as is Walter. Jordan plans to enroll in summer school in June.

Here’s hoping he’s well enough to do so, and that Walter is able to be near full-strength for his team’s season opener on February 18th.

For more on the story, read here, here, or here.

Did Tim Lincecum Cut His Hair? No, it’s Just a Pony Tail and Mustache

While some athletes are going long with their hair, Tim Lincecum is changing up his look in a different way. The Cy Young pitcher had his long, stoner/skater hair in a pony tail for Giants media day this week, causing a brief stir amongst folks on the internet (thank you, Tony Reali) who wondered if Timmy had cut his hair. Alas, we found out it was just tied back, but that only drew attention to the next part of the changed look — the stache.

Now baseball players have a long history with the mustache. You have porn staches, good luck staches, and whatever you call this. I’m not sure what you call Lincecum’s look, but I can swear I had some friends in 6th grade who were blooming a bit early and had that going on before exploring the benefits of a razor. I dunno about you, but I’m not exactly digging the Jesus Quintana look.

pic via SB Nation, plus another bonus pic below with more of a close-up side angle.

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Denard Span Joins Justin Morneau in Complaining About Target Field

The Minnesota Twins proudly moved into their new stadium last season and had tremendous success, winning the AL Central while posting the fourth best record in MLB. They went an incredible 53-28 at home in their new digs, and the new stadium plus the success of the team helped them sell out all their games and rank sixth in the league in attendance.

Though the development and opening of the new stadium was met with great celebration, some players have become dissatisfied with the new field. Slugging first baseman Justin Morneau termed the spacious dimensions in the outfield “ridiculous,” and says the far fences lead hitters to develop bad habits of trying to pull the ball. Center fielder Denard Span recently joined Morneau by complaining about Target Fields’ issues as well.

“It just seemed that hits (up the middle), last year at Target Field I wouldn’t get those, and did at the Metrodome,” Span said. “It just felt at times like the infielders were catching up to those up the middle. It seemed like the grass would slow it up just a little, and I was out bang-bang at first.”

Span’s batting average was down nearly 50 points from 2009. He had 16 fewer hits in 51 fewer games last season, so the numbers back up his claims. While Morneau complained about the distance of the fences, Span says the grass saps his speed. Sorry to say that’s just the reality of playing outdoors. And after going 53-28 at home, I highly doubt any changes are coming.

Story via Over the Baggy

Mets Ownership Looking Lost, Seeking Partial Sale

The Wilpon family, owners of 100% of the New York Mets, have recently stated that they will entertain offers to sell up to 25% of the team. The family had previously said they never wanted to give up any portion of the team, but a recent lawsuit related to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme has forced them to rethink that stance. The lawsuit reportedly seeks to recover between $300 million and $1 billion from the Wilpons, money that would be used to compensate the other Madoff victims.

The Wilpons, largely-known for their real estate success, have consistently said that the Madoff scandal would not affect the Mets financially. This lawsuit essentially aims to prove that the family actually profited from the scheme. If that is the case, then the sale of 25% of the team — recently valued by Forbes at upwards of $800 million — likely wouldn’t even be enough to cover the low end of the lawsuit estimates.

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2011 MLB World Series Favorites: Philadelphia Phillies with Cliff Lee

The final post in a three-part series written by Alan Hull who is previewing the teams favored to win the 2011 MLB World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies

After reaching the World Series two years in a row, the Phillies fell short of their goal in 2010 when they lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. The Giants will have most of their players back next season, but it doesn’t stop us from making the Phillies one of our favorites to reach the Fall Classic in the upcoming season.

Off-season Moves: The Phillies had an outstanding off-season, re-signing J.C. Romero and backup catcher Brian Schneider, and those were not their only moves. Most notably, they signed the best pitcher in baseball who wasn’t already on their team, Cliff Lee. They also made the easiest decision of the off-season, not paying Jayson Werth $126 million.

Strengths: Their rotation is historically good. With four Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers (not that they all will make the Hall or that any beyond Roy Halladay will, but that they are in their primes and perform at a HOF level), this team will win A LOT of ball games and will be very exciting to watch in the playoffs, if they all stay healthy. They also have a balanced offense (power/speed), are well-coached and play well as a unit. They should be serviceable defensively at every position except for left field and probably first base.

Weaknesses: Raul Ibanez. Their bullpen is good, not great. Brad Lidge is an every-other-year guy, so expect about a 8.50 ERA from him and 15 blown saves. They could really use bounce-back, offensive seasons from Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Ibanez (Rollins and Ibanez are in contract years, so…).

Summary: Cliff Lee, bitches.

Also see Thursday W.S. favorite: Boston Red Sox
Friday W.S. favorite: New York Yankees

2011 MLB World Series Favorites: New York Yankees with Soriano in the Pen

The second post in a three-part series written by Alan Hull who is previewing the teams favored to win the 2011 MLB World Series.

New York Yankees

The Yankees seem to be in the middle of the World Series chase every single season. Of course when you have the payroll they do, it’s expected, but they’ve still done well reaching the ALCS the last two seasons. Though they were quiet this off-season compared to the Red Sox and even the Rays, they still are a World Series contender.

Off-season Moves: After missing out on all of the major free agents, the Yankees settled on adding complimentary pieces, signing back-up/starting catcher in Russell Martin, a setup man (Rafael Soriano – to the tune of $35 million) and a lefty specialist in Pedro Feliciano. They are still the Yankees and there is a lot to like.

Strengths: The Yankees are older on the positional side, but this is still a team of Hall of Famers and Hall of Very Good-types. Maybe Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin all won’t have comeback seasons, but I bet a few of them will. Combine that with a MVP-candidate in Robinson Cano and great guys/great hitters in Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, and this team will put up some runs. The Yankees also feature a good bullpen, anchored by THE Mariano Rivera.

Weaknesses: They really, really needed to add a starting pitcher. Their number four and five starter, if Andy Pettitte retires, are some guys named Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Those two started 10 games combined in 2010. If they ever had plans to convert Joba Chamberlain back into a starter, this is the season to do it. I certainly would. Look for the Yankees to get creative mid-season and pick up a good starting pitcher or two for the stretch run.

Summary: While I mock their starting pitching, I anticipate Pettitte will be back and their pitching will be pretty good … until they trade for Josh Johnson.

Also see Thursday W.S. favorite: Boston Red Sox