Results tagged ‘ Brian Fuentes ’

New York, New York in Las Vegas, Vegas

 

                           

 

 

The MLB Winter Meetings 2008 are now up and running, both Yankees head honcho Hank Steinbrenner and Met’s guru Omar Minaya are hunting for big game and will be seen all over the Las Vegas strip in small cubbieholes and behind the green curtain at your favorite steakhouse looking for that prized piece to their team’s puzzle. It is interesting that the meetings are in Vegas, not for the show and the flash, but for the bet big or leave philosophy.

 

And these two teams are the optimus primes of the 2009 seasons. People come to the city in the desert for different reasons, to make it big on the Strip, combine their luck with some skill to gain some cold hard cash, or maybe even leave with a prize beyond beliefs. Whatever your reason to come to the neon city, sometime what you do in Vegas can haunt you an entire season. And during the next several days, both these men will try and hone, piece together and ride the winning team to their goals. Or will both of them crap out and go home losers? That is doubtful, but this city can turn dreams in dust as fast as a roll of the dices.

 

 

 

Vegas has never been known as poor mans’ town. Not even in the early days of the Flamingo Hotel and the Golden Nugget did the town have a soft spots for losers or the weakly-rich. It is a town built on the riches of others and is not a forgiving town in the least. Wealth has always been thrown around the strip either for power or control. This years MLB Winter Meetings will  not  be any different.

 

The  filthy rich are throwing contracts at the  player du jour like a man with a gambling problem. Two of the biggest bets this season are pitchers’  C C Sabathia and Francisco Rodriquez. Both are considered the “aces” for both of the New York teams’ folly into the neons lights of Vegas. Both can either make the town smile or leave everyone in the state of disbelief that baseball fails to secure the prizes for the city. This is not to discount the power-hitters like Mark Teixiera or Raul Ibanez, or even shove under the table any discussions about them. But these two pitchers are the “make ot or break it” commodities of the two New York franchises.

 

Alot of poker is left to play in the Hot Stove season. Pots are boiling all over the place and people are starting to ladle out their favorites and make moves to secure their new seasons. After these two high end players either get signed or walk away from the tables, the rest of the cards will fall into place around the league. The benchmark salaries or contracts might be sitting in a Las Vegas hotel right now gaining dust or being prodded like cattle to search for loopholes or advantages. The next few days are critical for baseball, becuase as soon as the big boys leave the tables, the rest of the teams will put in their antes and see what they can get for their money.

 

 

                           

 

 

To say that whoever brings joy to the New Yorks’ will need al least a Brinks truck or a few Pinkerton guy’s to help them out of town. But would be an insult to the fabric that made Vegas a dreamers’ town if neither team got there man here, but in the works a contract or deal within the cinfines of the Bellagio Resort area.  But who out of the two giants in the Big Apple  will come away with what prize , and what price? 

 

Who will bet it all hoping for magic, and who will go home with their tails between their legs?  That will be a huge 2009 story, and it is so early in the game. Who has the guts and confidence to twist the hands of fate to the extreme  and test their will against the odds. Or who is winning to throw the dice and hope their number comes up with all their money on the table? This might be the true story of the next 4 days in the desert.

 

 

                             

 

Both teams’ might come home with a fortune in talent and could bankroll a great advantage going into the new season. The American League East will again be a 4-man race until someone seperates themselves from the pack and takes over that division. The Yankees do not want to be the team looking up at three teams again this season, and might make significant moves to illustrate their desire to agin be the top dog not only in the league, but in the city. The Mets on the other hand are in the division with the current World Series Champions. All they have to do is talk to the Rays players about the  stigma attached to chasing and passing the 2008 kings and gaining control, in the National League East race.

 

Both the Yankees and Mets have high hopes for these meetings, and both bolster full confidence they will come away as winners when all is said and done. Most of this bravado might be a illustration of the city’s personality and it’sinternational state of confidence, they get what they want, and then go on and conquer. That might have been the mindset in the past, but in today’s culture and today’s baseball, the best do not always rise to the top. Just because you spend in the 100′s of millions doesn’t even guarantee you a playoff spot in today’s parity league. To be the king of the hill, you have to remain consistant, which neither have done for years in their respective leagues.

 

Both teams have sparkling new stadiums that need to be filled nightly for there to be any signs of financial rewards and playoff glory again in the city,  I would honestly expect the Yankees to be the ones to put it all on black and try and pull out a near miracle to gain some face-time and again become the franchise to fear in the near future.

 

The Yankees have not had fate on their side the last few seasons. The team is in the payroll penthouse area, but almost slipped to the American League East basement last year with injuries and assorted offensive mis-alignments.  If not for a late season splurge, they might have fallen below the lowly Baltimore Orioles for 5th in the AL East. And that is not the place for a team spending money the way the Yankees have for the last 5 years. As Janet Jackson says in her song “What have you done for me lately?”

 

 

                             

 

To say it can not happen in 2009 would be an understatement. George Steinbrenner finally passed the mantel to his older son, and we are going to see if the elder Steinbrenner got any of Dad’s genes when it comes to building a competitive network and administering a firm hand on the roster.  “Big H” has to have all the cards and gamble his finest china to get the prizes of this years free agent crop. The prize knows his intentions and has already voiced a few odd comments to maybe put up a bluff before finally going for all the cash and playing in the Big Apple. But sometimes people do things for reasons other than money, so Sabathia might just go the “better judgement” route and not only stunn the NY crowd, but the nation as a whole.

 

After losing two starting pitchers, one to arrogance and the other to retirement, and maybe losing a vital cog in right-field, “Big H” has to toss the bones like a gambling’ whale and show the money or leave the Vegas strip as a loser going into Spring Training. The Yankees might have already played their first hand giving their top prize,  C C Sabathia their first offer, but you can be sure that this deal, if it interests the big guy will take a bit to complete. they might get a hand shake out of it all, but at this junction of the season, that can make the difference between night and day for a team.  A funny comment out of the Sabathia camp says the big guy hated Spring Training in Florida while he was with the Cleveland Indians, that might be a small cog in the road, but sometimes a better organization can mend that fence without too many problems.

 

The Mets on the otherhand, might have  a few  face cards up their own sleeves. They have already shown pitchers’ like K-Rod and Brian Fuentes that they have both the money and the reserved parking  spot for them just waiting for their signatures. The check waiting for the new closer of the Mets will have a few zeros behind it, and might even be the biggest payday of their career if they played their own cards right. 

 

 And with an offense that drawfs the Yankees squads, the Mets might have the leg up in the Big City. And with their own new sparkling stadium going up, they also have to win big now and secure some of the best talent to showcase their new digs. These two might not be the only high cost hauls of the Mets at the meetings, but it would be a nice centerpeice to showcase their new digs to have a starter who can command the game, and a closer who can execute with the best of them on board.

 

With the starter in mind, there are many floating on rafts  on the poolsides in Vegas waiting for a call from Minaya wanting to speak to them about a New York opportunity. The starting pitcher situation is actually alot cloudier than the closer or even right-field positions, becuase until the first few are off the board, the pecking order is out of kilter and might need to be rearranged by a Met’s signing. Do not be surprised if a name like Oliver Perez, or maybe even Edwin Jackson becomes the 5th starter for the Mets and outperforms the some of the best in the game.

 

 

 

Both teams have also selected  secondary targets who would be great prizes to obtain during the meetings, but might not be considered the “house favorites” right now.  The Mets have also set up back-up plans into effect if K-Rod decides to take his toys and go home without a Mets contract in hand. The team has also begun preliminary talks with Fuentes and wily veteran Trevor Hoffman for the vacant closers’ role. Both might not be the top shelf potential the Mets seek, but both have experience and might come at a discount considering the asking price of K-Rod services. Bott also might be a economical move as sure bargains considering the financial climate of  America and baseball. Another name that will be circling the shark tank is ex-Cubbie, Kerry Wood. He might have a busy week in Las Vegas shaking hands and eating expensive lunches and dinners while being courted all around the strip by interested teams.

 

Here is another thing to consider before shelling out  all the dusty money from the safe. Just how secure are we that the money will come back into the team’s coffers during this financial crisis. Will the fans be as eager to shell out up to $ 100 a visit to either of the pearly gates to see their New York teams play in 2009. Now tickets might not cost a hundred, but when you consider all the extras like food, beverage and maybe parking or transportation and a few after game suds, a hundred might even be a bargain. Teams might be looking for value in the fast lane this year and might even produce a few incentive laden contracts to help in case of a financial meltdown at the turnstiles and concession stands around baseball. People will still come to game no matter what, but the amount of expendible currency and the consistancy of that money might be watered down a bit at first in 2009. As fast as the nation rebounds, sports will shows an increase in revenues and sales of merchandise. But until then, it might be a buyers’ market for a short time.

 

I truly think the Mets might have the upper hand here in getting a few of the prized free agents based solely on the team’s current assets. What pitcher would not want to have a David Wright or Jose Reyes behind him makiing him look good. Those two guys on their own could be the best “face cards” to show for a prospective starter or closer signee. But of course the Yankees have their own cornerstones who can command respect and admiration in Jeter and A-Rod, but you never know how long those two will be together before age and injury finally takes them to the turf.  So we have a case of old guard and new guard in both the middle of the New York infields. One has been style and elegance for years, while the other has been power and speed. Sorry Yankees, I have to give this bet to the young turks on the Met’s roster based on potential after the fact.

 

 

                  

 

The next week will truly show if the worldly belief that you can bring home a fortune in Las Vegas holds true. Either team can be winners in this sweepstakes, but might also be smart to consider the penalties for thinking too far beyond the box.  Minor phrases and comments by Sabathia and by K-Rod might be indicators of just how fast all of this will be done. Sabathia might drag this out a bit and the Yankees might  just move onto A J Burnett or Ben Sheets because of less stress and more straight talk. But Burnett’s familarity with the division might be worth the extra dough to steal him out of a Braves uniform.

 

If this was 2008, and the economy and the job situation were bright, all power to the players for getting everything they can for their services. Prudent behavior has never been a strong suit of the ownership of either the Yankees or the Mets.  I have also heard recently that they will again petition for more bonds to secure the finishing touches to their stadiums beyond the Billions already spent on stadiums for both teams. Being financially prudent might also be the “river” card that could make or break their next few seasons.

 

By playing smart and studying the enviroment around them, they might come away with a minor player who will become a major contributor. High dollar doesn’t always mean high value.  Both these franchsies know this very well. Do we have to remind each franchise of their last high dollar low output signings. The Yankeess still cringe when the name Carl Pavano is heard in public, and the Mets might feel the same about Pedro Martinez and his ever changing body aliments. So it might be smart for both teams to take a step back and even re-evaluate a few things before sticking their heads back into the fire.

 

 People forget that baseball has always been a way for Americans to forget about their problems. Each World War was a huge emotional time for the country, and baseball helped ease the pains and the stress of life. During the Great Depression, baseball also served as a every man’s fantasy world that for a single nickel, they could watch 9 innings of guys working their hearts out for the common man without the stress of their own everyday life.

 

 Personally, I think that baseball keeps my head above water. Baseball is my primary solitude in a hectic world. And to think that the two giants in New York are struggling with success is almost too much to take at times. I am not a fan of either of these two teams, but I have a huge amount of respect for the organizations. And for that reason, I think the fan base deserves a winner, or at least a team that plays hard and nasty until the end of the 162nd game.  I always expect a New York team to come out bold and brash and carry their voice loud and proud into the night. But in 2008, for the first time in a very long stretch, both voices went silent in October. That is a silence that neither team can afford in 2009.

 

 

 

 

The cards are dealt and the bets are in………………Do they both win, or do they both lose?  

 

Does the play of the dealer and the teams bring out a push, or do they split the cards and find their glory in the end. The odds are in the favor of the house always, and the “house” in this matter is the players. Based on the climate of today, do they go to the penthouse, or do they give the team a chance and maybe back-load a contract a bit. The decision is about to come to light. No one knows but the guy holding the cards if it will be  a blow for a defeat or triumph.  A bit of gambling advice I was once given by a well known gambler, you never bet blindly on a sure thing, that only leads to a huge disppointment that neither you nor your dreams can ever rebound from….ever.

 

 

My Ray’s 2009 Closer Christmas Wish List

 

               

 

Sorry for the delay in getting this “Wish List” out for  my personal Rays 2009 Closer shopping list. For the past couple of days there has been a few rumblings at the Trop. concerning ticket prices and the firing of  Raymond’s alter ego, the departure of Joe Magrane,  and I decided it all took a front seat to my little wish list.

 

So I am getting down to business again by checking out the Free Agents and some guys currently thought to be on the trading block, who are considered closers in the MLB. I am also going to do my list on the assumption that current Ray’s closer Troy Percival will either be out still rehabbing his back and knee problems at the beginning of the season, or will not be with the team at all.

 

 

This is not to be considered  a positive or a negative at this time. Percival has not informed the Rays of his intentions either to rehab or have surgery on his two problem areas. I am going to remain neutral in my opinions on that for the moment, but will consider all options on the table for the position in the Bullpen.

 

There are several people who have peaked my interest lately in the closer category. Chad Cordero ( Nationals) is a proven closer, but the situation in Washington last season make me think he might not be as healthy as he claims to be  physically is on the mound. I still think a healthy Cordero would be a plus to any orgainzation, the Rays included.

 

                  

 

But there are a few guys who I think can be taken off this list because of past injuries. These guys I think still have situations that are just smoke screens to bigger problems. People like Eric Gagne ( Brewers) and Jason Isringhausen ( Cardinals) might still have the stuff, but I think they need to go to another club and post some impressive numbers if they want to seek the big money again.  Gagne has dropped about 6 mph off his best pitch, his fastball since the steroid policy kicked in a few years ago.

 

This is not a obsevation that was missed by people in baseball who have also noticed he has not developed or worked on another pitch since his dominant days in LA.

 

Jason Isringhausen tried to develop a changeup to go along with his other two pitches, and some of the ballooning ERA might be explained  in his trying to force the changeup over the plate and it just rolled and stayed in the strike zone too long and got hammered by hitters’. Both their numbers over the last season would indicate that they might be heading for that fast slope downward as closers’.

 

Brian Fuentes and Francisco Rodriquez will be the most visiableand powerful options this season for the position. The Rays will probably not have the money or the resources to go after a guy of K-Rod’s caliber right now. He would be a plus-plus addition to the young and improving Bullpen, but the high ceiling money aspect takes him out of the running fast in Tampa Bay.

 

Fuentes is another story. I think he has the same stuff that John Rocker had with the Braves. He is a leftie closer, which is a rare find, and a huge advantage to matching up the lineup with your reliever. But the Colorado Rockies have been very hesistant about even putting him visibly on the market.

 

Fuentes does offer that unusual low delivery angle which works well with his fastball and changeup in the Rockies home ballpark. His sweeping slider is an out pitch to lefites and can be very devastating to righties at times.  He has been on the  display shelf for everyone to see since the 2008 Trade Deadline, and I think the Rays underbid for him then, and might not consider him a great asset to their organization.

 

                    

 

There are a few guys who have been under the radar, but trade interest has been shown in them this off season. Brandon Lyon (Diamondbacks) is a  young guy who could be effective, but I am not sure he is cut out right now to be your close out guy. He has great stuff, but might not have the killer instinct yet and might be the better setup man for a few more seasons.

 

One guy who I admire a helluva lot as a closer, but got shafted totally by his club was Trevor Hoffman ( Padres). He was sitting there with an offer on the table and thinking about all the pros and cons and the team pulls it and tells him basically to hit the road. Do I think it was classless……….Do you have to ask?  I lost alot of respect and think that this move will come back to haunt the Padres in 2009. Hoffman will go on to hit the top spot as the best closer all-time in the MLB, and the Padres missed the boat on it all.

 

 

My top three guys might seem a bit odd considering 2 are not even free agents, but I think the Rays have the pitching and the prospects to pull off these trades without a hitch if they want to pull the tigger on them.

 

                          

                        

 

I think that the third guy on my list would be Bobby Jenks ( White Sox). People have been remarking about his decrease in strikeouts and his fumbling around the strike zone in 2008. Scott Kazmir had the same problem due to the fact that the team wanted him to throw to spots in the strike zone instead of just fire the ball into the mitt. Jenks is also a leftie and has a unusual cut to his pitches as they near the plate. 

 

He does have an unsual forte of having 4 pitches to throw at hitters, where most closer have 3 or less to work with on the mound. I think Jenks is another victim of progress and is caught up in that same mold of being reigned in and taught to hit the outside corners and throw away from batters instead of just rockin’ and rolling the ball in there. He would be a huge plur upgrade for the Rays and would be a impact player from his first pitch with the organization.

 

                

 

My second guy is also still on another team’s roster, but the Rays have been hot on him for the past year. Huston Street ( Rockies) lost a huge dose of confidence in Oakland last season.  At times it seemed that his own Pitching Coach gave up on him for awhile before finally giving him a chance to redeem himself on the mound. Street is another guy who has a 3/4 and almost side-arm delivery that can make it harder for batters’ to see the ball early on him.  His slider is short and tight, not like most of them that tend to sweep around and catch you unaware at times.  

 

During the 2008 trade deadline, the Rays were talking alot to the A’s about him and seriously wanted him to help the back-end of the Rays bullpen.  At that time , Percival was a hot and cold closer for the team battling injuries and a unwillingness to speak up about potential injuries or problems. Street could be had also for the right mixture of prospects and pitching and would be a valuable addition to the staff.

 

 

My top guy on my wish list has been a guy I wanted to get 2 years ago when he was struggling with his old team. He had been a starter and had a few injuries that basically forced the power- that- be with his team to consider him damaged goods at the time.

He struggled and fought and earned a right to go to the Bullpen and became a huge factor in his team’s Bullpen plans. He progressed to become one of the hidden gems in the closers’ role and is out as a free agent for the first time as a closer.

 

         

 

The guy who I would love to see take the mound in the 9th inning for the Rays in 2009 is Kerry Wood. The guys knows competition and how to prepare now. It took him a bit to get used to being the last guy out there every night, but I truly think he will have a banner 2009 season. With the obvious need by the Rays for a closer past 2009, this guy could fill the role and give you a guy who might even put a bit of fear in people on the mound.

 

Because he is not just a fastball pitcher, his breaking pitches, basically a huge 12-6 curveball would be a great out pitch to the batters seeking a big fat fastball over the plate. With the Rays, Wood could develop a slider that could be a great addition to his arsenal.  One thing I have always like about the up and coming Rays pitchers’. The Rays minor leaguers’ have some of the nicest sliders you will find in baseball.

 

 

So with the addition of this pitch and Wood on the Rays roster for 2009, I think the closer position will be filled for 3 years with no problems. For the team to continue this closer-by-committee BS is totally out of line with normal thinking. Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour have designated positions in the late innings of the game. To keep playing with the formula will instill a bad karma for the team and place some instability to their game preparations.

 

When you are in the back end of a Bullpen, you best friend is repetition and the fact of security in your role. To keep throwing the names in a hat and picking my matchups and not by strengths the team is sending the wrong message to it’s Bullpen veterans.

 

 

Tomorrow I will hit the trail and throw a few names out for Bullpen upgrades via the free agent market. There is a good amount of quality arms out there who could be a huge factor in the 2009 pen. Both lefties and righties will be  thrown out in tomorrow’s blog. 

 

Until later,  have fun, stay warm and do not catch one on the outside corner for that thrid called strike.

 

 

 

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