Dustin Pedroia Gets Advice From M.J.

We all know the story by now.  Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia broke his foot back in June and did everything he could to get back on the field as quickly as possible, including taking ground balls from his knees.  Nobody knows if the Red Sox medical staff cleared him prematurely or if he just tried to do too much too soon, but Pedroia apparently wasn’t ready to return when he came off the disabled list and ended up re-injuring the foot, ending his season.

Pedroia, who made our list of the top 30 franchise players in the MLB, now finds himself seeking a second opinion to determine if he’ll need to undergo surgery on the left foot.  Along with the second medical opinion, Terry Francona arranged for Michael Jordan to give Pedroia some advice.  Francona and M.J. have a history together, as Tito was his manager when he decided to leave basketball and join the Birmingham Barons in 1994.  Coincidentally, Jordan suffered the same injury on the same foot while playing with the Bulls during the 1985-1986 season.

I don’t call Michael very much just because I know how much people bug him” Francona told WEEI’s Dale and Holley Show. But because of Pedey, I knew that Michael would enjoy talking to him, and he did. He was almost fatherly in his advice. He was like, “I went through this, it’s tough, you got to listen.” Pedey was all ears and that was good. When guys like Michael Jordan talk, people are apt to listen more.”

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Can Albert Pujols Win the Triple Crown?

About a month ago, I was asked if I thought Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown. I placed his chances at 50/50 thinking he had RBIs in hand, a strong grasp on the batting title, and a decent shot at catching up to Jose Bautista in home runs. Well, Bautista has gorilla stomped his way to 40 home runs while Miggy is tied for second with 31, and it’s turned out that another slugger has an even better chance at winning the Triple Crown: Albert Pujols.

A recent surge in power and overall production this month (nine home runs and 20 RBIs in August) has propelled our number one franchise player in MLB to the top of most offensive categories in the National League. Entering Tuesday’s play, Pujols was leading the NL in home runs by two over Adam Dunn, RBIs by six over Joey Votto, and he was third in batting average, a mere four points behind Votto again.

You would think that Joey Votto might have a shot at winning the Triple Crown too, but he’s four home runs back and that’s difficult to make up. Because of the edge in home runs and RBIs, and how close he is in batting average, Albert Pujols has one of the best chances at winning the Triple Crown that we’ve seen in several years.

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Alan Trammell Screwed Over by Cubs

On Sunday, Cubs manager Lou Piniella gave a tearful goodbye to the baseball world. He retired immediately following the Braves-Cubs game to be with his ailing mother. Because of Lou’s departure, the Cubs needed a managerial replacement, and they named third base coach Mike Quade the team’s interim manager for the remainder of the season. That move definitely made me scratch my head.

Piniella hasn’t been around the team much since he announced he would retire back in July. In his absence, bench coach Alan Trammell has been managing the the team. But I guess that doesn’t mean much to the Cubs. Jim Hendry and company completely overlooked Trammell and gave the job to Quade for the rest of the season. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they also told Trammell that he wasn’t even being considered for the vacant mangerial spot. Basically they told him that he didn’t have a shot in heck and that he wasn’t even being given a courtesy interview.

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Top 30 Franchise Players in MLB

There used to be a yearly column in Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus called the Ultimate Fantasy Draft written by BP’s Nate Silver before he became a full-time political analyst. The premise was if every player in baseball were granted free agency, which players would produce the most value over the next six seasons. I wrote a similar article for my now-dead Baseball Mastermind website in 2008 and will do so again here, determining the most valuable assets in Major League Baseball for the next five seasons (2011-2015).

This is not a “Who is the best player in baseball?” article, nor is it a fantasy baseball article, so age and defensive ability factor into the equation significantly as well as injury history. These factors will diminish the value of Josh Hamilton (having the best season in baseball in 2010) and Roy Halladay, the oldest player on the list (even though he is probably the best pitcher in baseball today). I included players like Hamilton, Halladay and Cliff Lee over some younger players because this is a five-year window and two or three MVP-caliber seasons, followed by two decline-phase or even injury-limited seasons are still worth more than five good, not great seasons.

This season was particularly difficult to assess because there are so many good young pitchers in the game today. Combine that with the fact that there have been many injuries and down years from some of the key position players such as Chase Utley, Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia, Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis and Grady Sizemore to name a few.

I projected aggressively, yet cautiously with Justin Upton, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Heyward because, while any of these players may break out into superstardom as soon as next season, as we have seen with many young players (Upton, Delmon Young, Matt Wieters), they may scuffle and produce at a below-average rate for a few seasons in making adjustments.

I looked at career statistics, advanced statistics for offense and defense and of course, their age, position and injury history. Again, this is not the MVP award — defense actually matters. Thanks to Vincent Hull, Andrew Grant and Cameron Weiss for consultation with the list. Without further ado, here are the Top 30 Franchise Players in MLB:

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Rays Senior Prom for Senior Citizens to Become Annual Event

You’ve probably seen the Pepsi commercial where Rays third baseman Evan Longoria suggests to Detroit’s Johnny Damon a “Senior Prom for Seniors Citizens.” I never really knew what that commercial was all about, but I always thought that suggestion was as funny as the Rays new BRaysers plaid blazers. Well, the Rays took that line from the commercial and ran with it, hosting a Senior Prom for Senior Citizens last week after their afternoon game Wednesday.

The turnout was fabulous — 2,500 people showed up to participate — and as Ben Maller points out, the Rays will make the senior prom an annual event.

So what made the event special? According to WTSP, “The music and scoreboard graphics also took fans back to an older era. Boutonnieres and corsages were provided as well. Ushers dressed in tuxes and prom dresses while Elvis and Frank Sinatra impersonators entertained.” Here are a few pictures courtesy of Sharing Florida in case you missed it:

Between the Senior Prom and their weekend night club at The Trop, the Rays have to win some sort of award for creative promotions. They’re owning.

Rays Tales: Adventures in plaid [St. Petersburg Times]
TV commercial inspires huge turnout for “MLB Senior Prom” [Ben Maller]

Lou Piniella’s Tearful Farewell Speech

Whether your last name is Holtz, Brown, or Piniella, there’s something about guys with the first name Lou — they’re all hard as nails coaches. With that in mind — not to mention his 60+ ejections — it was a surprise to see Cubs manager Lou Piniella get as emotional as he did during his farewell speech at Wrigley Field. Piniella had already announced he would retire at the end of the year, but he decided to step away after Sunday’s game to be with his ailing mother. Knowing this would be his last game as an MLB manager, Piniella became emotional. Here’s a video of Lou Piniella crying while announcing his retirement:

Perhaps in fitting Cubs form, the team got crushed 16-5 Sunday. While Piniella may be remembered for greatness and winning a World Series with the Reds, two poor managerial decisions with the Cubs stand out to me. Both occurred in the playoffs, one in 2007 and the other in 2008. Chicago’s 2008 team was by far the best in the NL and should have gone to the World Series. Piniella could have done more with his teams both years and mismanaged things. Other than those moves and the Carlos Zambrano fights, he did a great job with the Cubbies.

Video Credit: YouTube user gaabeo

HoJo Upset with Mets Pregame Pinochle

As difficult as it is to criticize the Mets because my uncle’s a big fan of the team, they just provide so many opportunities it’s hard to lay off. When it’s not K-Rod or Johan running into off-field problems, it’s the team’s offensive issues that provides the humor. The Mets actually have a talented lineup, but between Jason Bay’s concussion, Carlos Beltran’s knee, and Jose Reyes’ thyroid, their players either are not at full strength, underachieving, or both.

The Mets took two of three from the Pirates over the weekend to get to .500 for the season, but entering the series opener on Friday, they went seven straight games without scoring more than three runs. Manager Jerry Manuel rightfully termed the offense “pathetic,” and the team-wide slump prompted hitting coach Howard Johnson to call a meeting prior to Friday’s game.

According to the New York Daily News, HoJo “harshly criticized his hitters for their recent performances and pregame card-playing.” HoJo acknowledged that the tone of the meeting was out of character and that his hotels were doing well (just checking to see if you were reading carefully). The team went out and smashed 15 hits on Friday night in a 7-2 win and then won 5-1 on Saturday in a rain-shortened game.

David Wright downplayed the meeting’s effect, but I think it worked. As for the Mets’ offensive problems, well, it’s hard to score runs when only Wright, Reyes, and Pagan are hitting. This is an issue of the players not producing, but it’s also the responsibility of the coaches to get the most from their players.

New York Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson calls meeting, rips into Mets players [New York Daily News]