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LA Dodgers: Joe Torre’s Group Would Be Best New Owners for Torre’s Former Team

The ongoing circus that is the L.A. Dodgers ownership situation has introduced its latest acts. We’re a long way from learning who will buy the team from the departing Frank McCourt, but at least the field is narrowing.

The Los Angeles Times reports that at least eight bidders (of MLB’s maximum of 10) are still in the running to buy the team from McCourt. Among the contenders are hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, a group led by former Lakers icon Magic Johnson and another group including real estate developer Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre.

At this point, many Dodger fans will be glad just to be rid of McCourt, but bringing in a new owner who can provide some sanity is just as important. Of the candidates announced thus far, Torre and his partners would be the best bets for a long-term solution in L.A.

Cohen’s base is in Connecticut, and bringing in owners with no connection to the community is rarely an optimal solution. Magic and his team would be a fine choice with immediate fan support—not to mention that Johnson has already proven his business acumen—but don’t come with any expertise in baseball in particular.

If Torre et al. come out on top, though, they’ll have a trusted, experienced baseball man to run the operation. Although many baseball fans will always see him primarily as a Yankee, Torre’s three seasons with the Dodgers gave him ample opportunity to learn about what this team will need from its owners.

Above all, Torre spent a dozen years managing for one of the most meddlesome, tyrannical owners in the history of any sport. If anyone knows what mistakes to avoid as an incoming team owner, it’s a former longtime employee of George Steinbrenner.

McCourt may or may not have any interest in which candidate will be best for the future of the team, as his choice will likely be based on who throws the most money at him. If he wants to help clean up the mess he’s made of the Dodgers, though, Torre is the right man for the job. 

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MLB Free Agents 2012: Jonathan Papelbon and the Top Closers on the Market

Relief pitchers in general, and closers in particular, have repeatedly proven to be terrible investments in free agency. Nevertheless, every offseason sees millions upon millions of dollars thrown at closers, particularly when they’ve put up stats like the cream of this year’s crop:


Jonathan Papelbon

After saving 30-plus games for six-straight seasons in the pressure cooker that is Boston, Papelbon has certainly proven that he has the mental toughness to handle the closer’s job. He also recovered well from a down year in 2010 to post a dazzling 0.933 WHIP this season (along with cutting his blown saves from eight to three).

Papelbon is only 30, so he should have several good years ahead of him. Boston may opt to shell out for his services, but wherever he lands, he’s in for a big payday.


Heath Bell

Despite rampant speculation to the contrary, San Diego opted to hang on to Bell at the trade deadline. The Padres, one presumes, expect to be able to re-sign their lights-out closer, but they’ll have plenty of competition.


Bell has saved at least 42 games each of the last three seasons, with ERAs no higher than 2.71. The only potential red flag is that his strikeout rate plummeted this season from a career-high 11.1 K’s per nine innings in 2010 to a career-worst 7.3.


Francisco Rodriguez

Milwaukee isn’t likely to offer its current setup man as much money as he can get on the market as a potential closer. K-Rod is now three seasons removed from his dazzling 62-save season as an Angel, but he’s an established commodity out of the bullpen (not to mention a fairly big-name acquisition for some club in free agency).

On the other hand, Rodriguez’s ERA as a Met (where he spent the first half of the season) was a disappointing 3.16. It’s hard to judge whether any team signing him will get that version or the one who went 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA as a Brewer.


Ryan Madson

Perhaps the best bet to be seriously overpaid this offseason is newly-minted Phillies closer Madson. He saved 32 games with a solid 1.154 WHIP, but one season of production in the closer’s role doesn’t necessarily translate to long-term success.

The former starter may yet become a reliable stopper out of the bullpen, but he’s also got a substantial possibility of blowing up entirely after signing a big contract.

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ALCS Schedule: Detroit Tigers Will Survive Delmon Young Injury

As the Detroit Tigers gear up for their ALCS showdown with the defending league champs, the club got some bad news on the medical front. The injury oblique Delmon Young suffered in Game 5 against the Yankees is serious enough that he was left off the ALCS roster altogether.

For most teams, losing their regular No. 3 hitter when they’re already facing a superior offense would be the death knell for their chances at a pennant. The Tigers’s roster being what it is, though, they could be headed to the World Series even without Young.

First and foremost, of course, the Tigers boast the best pitcher in the A.L. in Justin Verlander. With the presumptive Cy Young winner getting to start Game 1 (and a potential Game 5 at home), the Tigers may not need to score many runs to get a pair of wins.

Then, too, Young is being replaced by Ryan Raburn, whose numbers on the season (.297 OBP, .432 SLG) are nearly identical to Young’s since being traded to Detroit (.298 OBP, .458 SLG). Both are right-handed hitters, so that’s a wash as well.

Lastly, neither Raburn nor Young is really the heart of a Detroit offense whose biggest production has come from the infield. First base Miguel Cabrera (.344 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI) is the star, but designated hitter Victor Martinez (103 RBI) and catcher Alex Avila (.895 OPS) have both had big years as well.

Having Young would’ve helped, especially by leaving Raburn available for situational hitting. Young’s roster spot is going to infielder Danny Worth, whose OBP is a hair higher than Young’s or Raburn’s at .308 but who posted a dreadful .324 slugging percentage in 30 games this season.

Still, even without their starting left fielder, the Tigers have a good shot to capture their second pennant in six years.

Game 1: Detroit at Texas, 10/8, 8:05 P.M.

Game 2: Detroit at Texas, 10/9, 7:45 P.M.

Game 3: Texas at Detroit, 10/11, 8:05 P.M.

Game 4: Texas at Detroit, 10/12, 4:19 P.M.

Game 5 (if necessary): Texas at Detroit, 10/13, 4:19 P.M.

Game 6 (if necessary): Detroit at Texas, 10/15, 8:05 P.M.

Game 7 (if necessary): Detroit at Texas, 10/16, 8:05 P.M.

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Justin Verlander: Detroit Tigers Ace Tosses No-Hitter vs Toronto Blue Jays

Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander posted his second career no-hitter tonight, shutting down the Toronto Blue Jays 9-0. The win improves Verlander’s record to 3-3 on the season, though he’s pitched better than those numbers suggest (3.75 ERA coming into today’s game).

In 2007, Verlander gave the Tigers their first home no-hitter in more than half a century by dominating the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park. He now has a road no-no to match it, as he allowed just one baserunner (an eighth-inning walk to J.P. Arencibia) at the Rogers Centre this afternoon.

Verlander finished off his no-hitter with his fourth strikeout of the game, fanning Rajai Davis on a 3-2 pitch. Ricky Romero got rocked for six runs in 3.1 innings to take the loss for the Jays.

Verlander becomes the second pitcher in Detroit history to record two no-hitters, joining 1950s star Virgil Trucks, who was also the last Tiger before Verlander to throw a no-hitter at home.

Homers from Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila ensured that Verlander wouldn’t be lacking for run support today. He needed just 108 pitches to complete the victory, thanks in part to some solid defensive work behind him.

Twelve of Verlander’s 108 pitches came in walking Arencibia, who was immediately erased on a double-play grounder from Edwin Encarnacion.

As he’s only 28, Verlander may not have thrown his last no-hitter. Only 24 pitchers in major league history can match his career total of two, but he could easily move up that list before he’s done.

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Black History Month: 10 Ways Jackie Robinson Changed The Game

Even non-sports fans know parts of the story.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the most popular sport in America, and helped change the way the country thought about racial integration. And Robinson’s legacy goes far beyond the already-amazing feat of breaking the color barrier. Herein, ten ways in which #42’s impact can still be seen.

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MLB Rumors: Will Vladimir Guerrero Be a Baltimore Oriole?

Just a few months removed from being a major contributor to the American League champion Texas Rangers, Vlad Guerrero is a man without a team. The free-agent DH turns 36 next week, and his push for a multi-year contract has gotten him nowhere thus far. Right now, his biggest suitors appear to be the Baltimore Orioles, who have offered him a one-year deal in the $4 million range.

At this stage, the O’s offer appears to be the best Guerrero will get. He’ll play regularly and make decent money for a hitter perceived to be on the down slope of a great career.

With Vlad’s defense having deteriorated to the point that he’s more or less restricted to DH work, the pool of teams who might pop out of the woodwork with a longer contract offer is pretty small.

Whether Baltimore needs Vlad is another question entirely. While the slugger has something left to contribute in the right situation, the Orioles already have a competent DH in Luke Scott.

To make room for Guerrero, Scott would have to move to left field, a less than ideal plan. As Scott’s OPS was actually slightly better than Guerrero’s a year ago (.902 vs. .841), the change wouldn’t necessarily be a big upgrade.

On the other hand, the Orioles’ two biggest acquisitions on offense—Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds—both have big question marks hanging over them.

The bottom fell out of Lee’s production with the Cubs over the last couple of years, and a change of scenery may not be enough to convert his GIDP swing back into a home run swing. Reynolds’ dismal .198 batting average and high strikeout rate give him an awfully low percentage of productive at-bats. 

The Orioles may also sense a window of opportunity to make a statement this season. The Rays have the potential to flop if new additions Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez don’t click with the rest of the lineup.

The Blue Jays, having moved Vernon Wells, are in danger of a big letdown after last season’s homerfest. Baltimore isn’t at a level where competing with Boston or New York is realistic, but a third-place finish would send a good message. If O’s management thinks Vlad can get them there, they’ll probably do whatever they can to sign him.

Plugging Guerrero into the middle of the Baltimore order in place of either Lee or Reynolds would almost certainly be an improvement for the Oriole offense. For that reason alone, he’s probably a good bet to sign in Baltimore. We’ll have to wait and see whether the Orioles live to regret it.

One more complication in this calculus is that Guerrero isn’t the only noteworthy free agent in the Orioles’ sights. Kevin Millwood has stated that he’s considering a return to the Baltimore rotation, where he’d help give the club’s young arms more time to develop before being thrown to the lions (or Yankees). If Guerrero signs, it might do more harm than good by using up cash that might have gone to Millwood.

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MLB Predictions: The Next 10 Position-Player Prospects To Reach the Majors

The best part about the offseason is that even Chicago Cubs fans like this writer can find reasons for optimism when the games haven’t started yet. For some teams, it’s a big free-agent signing to overhaul the lineup (see Gonzalez, Adrian).  For others, though, it’s a hot prospect getting his chance to shine with the big club. Here are 10 youngsters (though, alas, no Cubs) who will likely be seeing major league action in 2011.

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