Peter Gammons on Aroldis Chapman

We interrupt this beautiful day in the world of blogging to bring you some Aroldis Chapman love, and this time it’s coming from Peter Gammons over at MLB.com.

The first pitch I ever saw Aroldis Chapman throw from behind home plate was one of the things you dream on. Here is this 22-year-old kid with the body of a young Randy Moss and the wingspan of a great blue heron, and out of his hand came a change-up for a strike. Perfect arm speed, dead fish.

“He has the best left-handed fastball I’ve ever seen,” says the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier.

This isn’t the first person who’s noted that Chapman might be beyond special. John Fay has stated several times in talking to scouts around MLB that he has as good of stuff as anyone in the National League.

As a friend pointed out to me, they heard the same thing about Jose Contreras and Hideki Irabu. And as I said back to him, those guys were both fat toads and were not 22 years old.

Chapman has a ways to go, but to think that he’s not going to be a shot in the arm to the Cincinnati Reds whenever he does get the opportunity would be selling him short to say the least.

Honestly? Shame on you

So yesterday I got in touch with Jay Bruce’s agent. My request was simple. I wanted to interview Jay either via e-mail or on the show and ask him a few questions that I figured if I genuinely wanted to know; all you readers out there would as well (i.e. ‘Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced in MLB, etc.).
While there are a lot of Reds fans who read Diamond Hoggers there are fans from all over baseball who come to the site. We’ve mentioned before why Bruce is our favorite player, that’s not important here. The content we put on this blog about him is solely to promote and represent him in a positive light. It’s free promotion to the Reds on one of their best commodities.
Unfortunately; I’m writing this post because my favorite organization is ran by a bunch of boobs in suits that do not know how to treat clients. Their best clients.
Here’s the email exchange, this is the initial e-mail that went to Reds Director of Media Relations Rob Butcher:
Hi Rob,
Please see below (copy of e-mail from Jay Bruce’s agent).
Yesterday I wrote Jay Bruce’s agent, _________. My request is a simple one, I would like to do an interview with Jay that helps to promote his popularity not only with the Reds fan base, but also fans all around Major League Baseball.
On our site Diamond Hoggers, we have followed his career closely since he made his debut in 2008. We have always written positively about Jay and it would really be a great piece for all of our readers from the Reds fan base to get to read or listen to an interview with Jay, as well as the readers that visit from every fan base in Major League Baseball.
We would work around Jay’s schedule, and we would send a list of questions that we would ask beforehand if needed. Any questions you would like included could be added and anything you would not like included would be taken out. This interview could be done by email or by telephone, whichever the organization and Jay would prefer.
Mainly, we are HUGE fans of the Reds and Jay and want to create a neat piece of material that connects to the fan base in a positive manner. I think Jay would be comfortable doing an interview with me based on our past writing about him and his career. I really appreciate your time and consideration.
(signed)
Rob fires back pretty quickly. Does not even address me personally.
We appreciate your interest in Jay and the Reds, but because of the large number of requests we get for phone interviews, we don’t book guests for web sites other than those associated with MLB, its rightholders and our local news organizations.
Okay. I understand what he’s saying and was warned about the Reds snarkiness as an organization towards this type of stuff. But really, what do they have to lose? How many interviews are they really getting asked about each day? How many of those people bleed for the Reds?
I write Mr. Butcher back: (Sent at 11:22 AM)
Wow, really?
I don’t think it has to be so formal, really. It doesn’t have to be a phone interview, it could be as simple as a few questions via e-mail.
As someone who represents one of the fans in your upper-tier, I think this is poor business to be honest with you. Whether this is a Reds decision, or an MLB policy; I do not know. But when the sport and the organization take a look at numbers and wonder why things aren’t the same, it is these formalities and policies that cause the sport to suffer. I’m not directing this solely at you, I understand you’re doing your job and this most likely isn’t your rule. But it’s something to consider and maybe discuss in-house. Blogs are huge today, they’re a lot bigger then newspapers as you are probably starting to realize.
I’m trying to help the organization and the player here. I don’t think there are that many web sites out there that are trying to do something similar to this that push the Reds and Bruce as hard as we do. Also, how is what I would like to do any different than what Yahoo Big League Stew did last year around this time? (As you can see I link the interview with Jay on BLS)
They, like us, are a baseball blog on the internet.
Again, I respect your policy and appreciate your timely response to me. I’m a Reds fan and always will be. But this is something puzzling to me. I’ve been one of the 12,000 guys sitting at the games in September when we’re 17 games back and nothing to play for.
I’m trying to help. Thanks again,
(signed)
Mr. Butcher fires back, and really this is why I’m writing this post. Notice above in bold I sent that last e-mail which was a bit lengthy at 11:22 AM.
Rob Butcher writes back within 30 seconds to me at 11:22 AM:
I appreciate you opinion.
No signature. No explanation. Nothing. Just a cold door slam in the face.
I think back to the times I honestly sat and watched this organization when I was sick; I think back to the times that I made the two hour drive from Columbus to watch them just because I love them when we were 17 games out in September when I could have been watching the NFL instead.
I think about the times I talked my girl out of a romantic dinner only to take her to a Reds game and convince her it was a better date, knowing I’d have to probably hear about it later on. Or how about this past winter when we went to Redsfest for our anniversary gift to eachother. Or about the times I went to the games after working downtown alone instead of going home and going to the gym like I should have.
None of these things make me above any other Reds fan; but I’m shocked at how easily one can be treated like they mean nothing. And the fact is, to the Reds; maybe I do mean nothing. Fair enough. I’m just a number. A statistic. An ant through the gates.
I might not understand baseball economics or sabermetrics or be able to scout talent at the Major League Level, but I do understand business. This was a bad business decision. At the very least, a little kindness and just the effort to pay it forward can go a long ways in life. But of course standing in the way is MLB’s policies or should I say the Reds policies.
Will I make the Reds pay for it? No. I won’t. I’ll still go to my 15-20 games all the way from Columbus, and I’ll still check the box scores each and every day if we’re 12 games out in September.
Shouldn’t that be the type of fan you cater to as well? I realize I’m not a season ticket holder, but shouldn’t every team in baseball want fans like myself? I think to a degree that fans like me are the only reason baseball survived.
But it’s not because of Mr. Redlegs that I do this. It’s not because the suits in the Front Office are class acts. Today I realized that for good. People who root for the te
am on the jersey, and not the name on the jersey? Well they’re wrong too sometimes.
I’ll continue to root for the Reds and be a die-hard because of class acts like Jay, Joey Votto, Danny Ray Herrera, Brandon Phillips, Arthur Rhodes, Dusty Baker and some of the other guys on the team who I believe and have heard are quality individuals. When or if they ever leave town? Who knows at this point. This experience rubs me the wrong way in a big time manner.
I wrote Mr. Butcher one more response to no avail, as he didn’t have the decency to respond to me since I made an actual point. His original response to me really lacked detail in a lot of ways of which I’ll skip out on.
Here’s my last e-mail to Rob Butcher:
You didn’t answer my question.
How is what I was asking to do, any different then the interview done here?
Sorry to go off on a tangent. I think I make some decent points, and it really brought to head another issue. The Reds wonder why they’re struggling to draw 20,000 people a game; my answer would be–or a question to them rather–are you exhausting all avenues to sell your product? No, they’re not based on these actions.
I’ll continue to do my best to support Jay and write positively about his career; as well as many of the Reds. But it’s because I like the players and respect what they do and who they are. It has nothing to do with the organization at this point.
I’m done for the day. This is like finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. E-mail me at Diamondhoggers_at_gmail_dot_com and let me know your thoughts. Not saying I’m right this is just how I feel, and there’s a lot of passion with it.
And if you want to e-mail Rob Butcher and let him know? His e-mail is RButcher_at_reds_dot_com. Just don’t expect him to care.

The Baseball Show Welcomes a Special Guest This eve

I promised when I started The Baseball Show that I’d line up some good guests. Tonight, we welcome the crown jewel of them all.
Joining me will be Jeff Pearlman, NY Times best-selling author and SI.com writer. Jeff has written about the sport of baseball for many years; and wrote The Bad Guys Won, my favorite baseball book of all time.

If you haven’t read The Bad Guys Won, Boys Will Be Boys, or Love Me, Hate Me; I can say first hand that you’re doing yourself an injustice. Jeff also wrote The Rocket That Fell to the Earth about Roger Clemens.

We’ll pick Jeff’s brain and talk some baseball. It’s going to be fun.

Oh Doc, when will it be that you find whatever it is you’re searching for?

If you haven’t yet heard, Doc Gooden is at it again. This time he’s been charged with DUI and child endangerment.

According to police in Franklin Lakes, N.J and as first reported on Deadspin, Gooden has been charged with driving under the influence of unnamed drugs, leaving the scene of an accident and child endangerment after a two-car crash on Tuesday morning.
For good measure, he’s also being charged with “failure to notify change of address regarding driver’s license.”

Damn, Doc. I hate to see this as for some odd reason I feel badly for Gooden. I feel like he’s a guy who obviously is past the point of being able to keep his nose clean and stay out of trouble.

In recent years, Darryl Strawberry’s life has taken a turn for the better. Darryl’s book was a life altering read for me. I wish that somehow, Gooden could find a way to rise above his demons and live out the rest of his life in a respectful manner.

Jeff Pearlman feels similarly; although I do not know Doc Gooden I truly feel for him. I know what addiction is like.

Throwing it around

Two weeks from right now we’ll be sitting in the stands in Cincinnati watching the Reds probably take it sideways from Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a memorable trip anyways! Opening Day 2010 will be as special of an Opening Day as there’s ever been for the editor of this blog! Stay tuned!

-Why Jay Bruce will hit 35 home runs in 2010. [Fantasy Baseball Insiders]
-The window is closing on the Tampa Bay Rays. [Jayson Stark - ESPN]
-Fernando Martinez should maybe get the Opening Day nod in Mets outfield. [NJ.com]
-More insight on the Joe Mauer extension. [SweetSpot]
-All 145 FOX Sports Reds broadcasts in 2010 will be broadcast in HD. [DiamondHoggers Twitter]
-Think defense doesn’t matter? Franklin Gutierrez was worth 30 runs last year. [ESPN]
-Casey Kotchman hitting third for the M’s this season? [Hot Stone League]
-This should be Andy Pettite’s final season. [The Yankee U]
-Good read on Bobby Cox’s final, and possibly finest prospect. [USA Today]

Jeff Pearlman joins us Thursday on TBSBDH: Jeff Pearlman has been our favorite sports writers for a long time. He writes for Sports Illustrated and has been the author of many great sports reads including The Bad Guys Won as well as Boys will Be Boys. Check him out at his website or blog; or follow him on twitter. He is our special guest Thursday evening on The Baseball Show by Diamond Hoggers. We promised you some big surprises, and as you can see we deliver. [Jeff Pearlman]

Twins lock up Joe Mauer for 8 years

Joe Mauer signing an 8-year, $184 million contract extension with the Minnesota Twins is good for the game of baseball.
The Twins are set to open Target Field on this Opening Day 2010, and this is just good mojo for the fans who will come out in the freezing temperatures and risk frost-bite to watch some baseball.
Aaron Gleeman has written about the Twins for a long time, and he re-iterates:
Target Field was built to give Minnesotans the pleasure of outdoor baseball after decades in the Metrodome, but also to increase revenue enough to support a competitive payroll capable of retaining star players nearing free agency. As a 27-year-old homegrown former No. 1 overall pick coming off an MVP season Mauer fits that bill as well as any player ever will, which is why the decision was a no-brainer for the Twins despite the incredible amount of risk involved.
Mauer leaves a possible $70 million on the table that he could have gotten from the Yankees, but I like this. I like it because sometimes the villans can’t buy the assets no matter the price. I like it because should a superstar like Mauer pop up in cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, or Kansas City; maybe they won’t take the first ticket out of town.
That’s what this move means to me. Good for Mauer and good for the Twins. The little organization that could.

New York Mets 2010 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2010 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the New York Mets. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
For as much as everyone around baseball laughs at the Mets (a Mets fan who is a friend of mine called them the Al Davis gang of MLB), they don’t look all that bad on paper. The thing is about this organization; they might make the wrong moves sometimes, but their ineptness is never because of lack of effort. They continually make moves to improve their ball club and because of this, we don’t ever expect the Mets to endure decades upon decades of losing. If they’re bad, they’re making the effort to move in the right direction.
This off season, they went out and added Jason Bay. He was one of the prized free agents on the market and the Mets let their be no doubts cast. They signed bay early on in the off season, bringing him to roam the pasture in flushing.
Two of their high-priced stars enter the 2010 season with health questions. Jose Reyes has what is being called a thyroid issue while Carlos Beltran might miss the first six weeks due to knee surgery. These guys are getting old fast. The Mets other superstar David Wright is coming off of a season that was riddled with health injuries and struggles of his own.
This has opened the door for an infusion of young talent, and Fernando Martinez (pictured above) should have a starting outfield spot locked down on the Major League roster after an impressive spring. Martinez is a prospect that is highly touted in the Mets system but failed to deliver much last season in a short amount of big league work. We’re excited to see him develop as a young player in this game and we believe he has a bright future ahead. The absence of Beltran the first few weeks of the season should allow for him to really get his feet wet as an every day player and put up some numbers in cavernous Citi Field.
Luis Castillo returns at second base and will lead off. Gary Matthews Jr. could get some time in the outfield and second spot as well as Martinez. The heart of the order will be comprised of David Wright, and later Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran when they get healthy. Then you think about the fact that they can run out Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur as corner outfielders and hit them 5th and 6th in the order? C’mon now, these guys aren’t going to be all that bad. Daniel Murphy works hard at the craft of hitting and worked hard in moving to first base this off season to make room in the outfield. Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco will split time at catcher and offer nothing special from the plate.
The bench has a few guys you’ve maybe heard of. Mike Jacobs, Alex Cora, Angel Pagan; guys like that. Nothing really to write home about.
The rotation will trickle down from Johan Santana and should be decent if they all stay healthy. Santana says he’s well and ready for as good of a year as he’s ever had. From there they’ll run out John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, and Jonathon Niese. One of these years you’d think Pelfrey or Oliver Perez will step up and win 17 games or so. They were both extremely highly touted. Maybe we’ve seen their best. Still, this rotation isn’t as bad on paper as a Mets fan would have you believe.
The bullpen is headlined by Francisco Rodriguez, better known to us all as “K-Rod”. Sean Green, Pedro Feliciano, and Kiko Calero will all contribute. There might be a few additions you’re less familiar with in Ryota Igarashi and Eddie Kunz.
All things considered, we can tell you that this team will not finish last in 2010. They’re a lot better than the Nationals will be, and they’re going to challenge for third in the division. The key is getting the nucleus of the team healthy and deciding if this is the group to build around or if youngsters like Martinez and tho
se acquired in trade for dealt veterans will become the new nucleus in Flushing.

Ron Washington is being picked apart like a politician

Remember a few days ago when it shook out that Ron Washington had tested positive for cocaine usage last season? Things have gone from bad to worse for Washington, or in this case; cocaine to pot.
In an interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, Washington admitted amphetamine and pot usage as a player.
“It was not an ongoing thing,” Washington said. “I was young and didn’t know better.”
“I wasn’t the only one, but I’m not going to name names,” Washington told Gomez. “Amphetamines were prevalent throughout baseball.”
This is silly. Washington is being judged extra because of what happened last season. It was the 70′s, everyone was doing pot and amphetamines. Granted, not everyone did go on to become a big league manager. And a big league manager who tested positive for cocaine while in season.
“I made some mistakes in my younger days and I just want to get past it,” Washington said. “I want to move forward.”

I have to agree with Washington. I hope the media lays off him and he goes and wins 90 games this year. The Rangers are a likable team with guys like Washington and Josh Hamilton going to battle every day.

Chapman should head North East with the Big Club come April

It’s been a long time since something truly big has hit the Cincinnati baseball world. You can make the case for the day in 2000 when Griffey came home. You can talk about Jay Bruce’s arrival. Those were each hallmark days for the franchise without a doubt.

But right now, we’re talking about something that is getting noticed regularly on a national level; we’re talking about a young pitcher who was coveted by every team in baseball including the big boys. The Reds got him, and looks like all the organizations who had their scouts in watching interest of Chapman were correct; the guy is going to be something to be reckoned with at the Major League Level. It’s simply a case of when the Reds choose to start launching the missile.

Take for instance what John Fay said yesterday in his blog after Chapman’s first exhibition start:
I overheard this from a scout: “He’s their best pitcher right (now). How are they going to start him in the minors?”

Three innings, one walk, five more strikeouts. One earned run allowed on a home run; and that’s all the Brewers touched Chapman for.

If the Reds were going to say that Chapman not having enough control as the reason for starting him in the minors, they’re going to have to find another excuse it would appear. It would seem that the popular choice at this point would be that he’s going to the minors to work on developing other pitches. Yeah, alright.

When GM Walt Jocketty was asked about Chapman making the big club, he maintained that the Reds will go with their best 25, regardless of any arbitration eligible decisions that clubs like the Reds so often make when considering calling up young talent for good.

It’s clear that they’re going to probably start him in the minors and hand the 5th spot to Matt Maloney, who is a lefty with about a fourth of the stuff that Chapman has; breaking ball developed or no breaking ball. Then the only way Chapman and his $30 million contract are helping the Reds is the fact that Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are never going to have to go up against the guy. That’s a plus in itself. When we were listening to the game on the radio yesterday, a Brewers radio anouncer said it best. Chapman is the kind of pitcher who can start you down the road of a long slump.

If the Reds want to do the right thing, they’ll put this kid in the Major Leagues and see what he’s got. If they really want this move to be a statement move, he’ll be out there in April. What we think happens? Chapman starts in a minors and might have a shaky start or two, but then shows the dominance beyond his years at that level and is up with the Reds in May or early June. This after the Reds get out to an average start and see one of their starters go down to an injury or Matt Maloney surrenders 7 earned runs in a start.

Why wait? Let this guy learn against the best in the game because he appears to be ahead of the learning curve in terms of maturity and pure stuff on the mound.

It’s been long enough since the Reds were the true talk of baseball. If they get out to a good start and their youngsters (such as Chapman) are reason for that; can you imagine the positive press it would bring to the organization for having the guts to start Chapman in the big leagues?

The Reds want to delay the inevitable on this. They want to hurry up and wait. We’ve been waiting since 1990. The future is now. We don’t have time to bleed. You’re not going to win a World Series with Matt Maloney pitching every fifth day. Give in to the temptation and let this guy start racking Major League numbers. Afterall, you’d be giving your fielders a day off every 5th day.

Throwing it around

Today is the day March Madness begins! It should be a great sports weekend. With the woman out of town this week, there will be time to really dig into the season previews, fantasy drafts, video games, and of course the NCAA tournament. We really are in the home stretch now.

-Elijah Dukes was cut from the Washington Nationals without a whole lot of reason. [Nationals Journal]
-More on Ron Washington and the blackmail that came with his cocaine usage. [Dallas Morning News]
-The Indians failed pursuit of Tim Lincecum in 2005 didn’t please MLB officials at the time. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
-Aroldis Chapman was great again in his first exhibition start. [CNati.com]
-Buster Posey might be the Giants 1st baseman this year. [Hardball Talk]
-They’re comparing Wily Mo Pena with Juan Francisco. [Redleg Nation]
-Meet the MLBTR writing team. [MLB Trade Rumors]
-How’d you celebrate St. Patties day? Here’s how it was done around baseball. [Big League Stew]

Fernando Martinez is playing like a star. In the absence of Carlos Beltran, prospect Fernando Martinez is looking like he belongs and then some. And he’s doing it at a position as a centerfielder that experts thought he could never play. When Beltran returns the Mets could have an interesting problem on their hands. A problem that’s always nice to have. [MetsBlog]

Colorado Rockies 2010 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2010 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Colorado Rockies. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.

Everyone knows about Troy Tulowitzki. Now it’s time for you to learn about a guy who’s going to help make Colorado a consistent force in the NL West.

Meet 24-year old Carlos Gonzalez (pictured above). He was once considered an elite prospect but has been traded from Arizona to Oakland to now Colorado. He hardly proved worthy of his elite prospect status before he got it going last season with the Rockies, but now he looks like he might finally make good on all the high marks surrounding him. His second half a year ago certainly makes you believe he can be amongst some of the best in the game when he is locked in. He hit an eye-popping .320 with 12 homers, 24 RBI, 42 runs and 11 steals in 62 games and 194 at-bats. If you extrapolate that to a full season, you would get: .320-31-62-110-29.

Let’s also remember that in last season’s NLDS against the Phillies, Gonzalez had 10 hits; tying a Rockies franchise record. He hit .588 in that four game series. To do that at age 23 is no small order for a player. He reminds us of a guy also by the last name of Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez. Maybe a little less power, but the same stroke that looks like it’s a consistent bet to product .300 seasons. Aside from Tulo, he should be the consistent contributor in this Rockies offense for years to come while playing some very slick defense in the outfield.

Garrett Atkins no longer stands in Ian Stewart’s way at third base. Stewart hit just .228 last season but also hit 25 home runs. This guy will probably become the new Garrett Atkins of the lineup, settling into the 5th spot in the order and showing up to put up his numbers and hit between .260-.290 every year. Stewart plays in Coors, so a 40-point curve to the average in one season isn’t unheard of. Stewart also has enough speed to eventually swipe 15 to 20 bases. He along with Tulo should solidify the left side of the Rockies infield for the next decade.

Don’t forget about leadoff man in center field Dexter Fowler either. He stole five bases in a game last season and was picked before the 2009 season to win the Rookie of the Year by Peter Gammons. The guy has some ability. He will continue to battle with on-base percentage and if he can get on base enough, he could steal 50 bases.

The ageless wonder Todd Helton returns at first base with a two-year contract extension. Helton hit .325 last season with 15 homers, 86 RBI and 177 hits. His run at 3,000 really begins now, as he won’t have enough left in the tank to get there unless he does that every year for the next four or five seasons. He’s got a chance, but he’ll have to stay healthy and consistent.

The rotation goes Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis and Jason Hammel. Jimenez has something to prove and must take the next step and become this team’s ace. It’s never easy to sustain consistency as a starting pitcher in Colorado, you’re going to take your lumps every now and then. The closer is Huston Street in a bullpen featuring Franklin Morales, Rafael Betancourt and Manny Corpas.

Jim Tracy is a very good manager and this team has had the propensity to get as hot as anyone possibly can in this game the past couple of seasons. Long winning streaks have been what keep the Rockies alive after subpar starts. If they can start the season even decently, they should be a bet to be in the thick of things all year long in the West. How they play the Dodgers will be key, and the managerial chess match between Tracy and Torre is what you pay to see in those matchups. Overall we like the Rockies for a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the West.