Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from Diamond Hoggers

This is usually the time of year where I take two months to breathe. Don’t panic, I’m still here and still going to go nuts with the posts when baseball heats up. I’m in football mode right now though which is no good for a baseball blogger. Reds are somewhat going all-in for 2012, that’s the only thing I liked about the Sean Marshall for Travis Wood swap if you’re wondering my thoughts on it.

But let me take this moment to say God Bless you all and Merry Christmas. I hope the next two days are everything you wanted in a holiday and you have a safe and happy time with your family(s) and no one wants to strangle one another or make any below the belt comments.

Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

Image via: Rockin’ Redlegs

Reds Acquire Mat Latos from Padres for Yonder Alonso & Edinson Volquez

The Reds traded Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, and former 1st round picks Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger for Mat Latos this afternoon.

Can you tell we’re less than thrilled?

There are two ways to look at this trade. One is that basically in return for Josh Hamilton, we have now just Latos to show for it. We also threw in Yonder Alonso and two promising first round prospects just to sweeten the deal for the Padres.

The other way to look at it is the Reds traded a surplus to fill a need–and acquired the only proven Major Leaguer in the deal. I choose not to look at it that way because I felt Alonso shows more at the plate than Jay Bruce or Drew Stubbs or any other young Reds player. Now what will they do when Joey Votto skips town?

While I like Latos’ stuff, his numbers aren’t that impressive when you factor in that he’s been pitching in a pitcher-friendly ballpark his entire career. He’ll only be 24, but I would expect his numbers to and productivity to decline in Great American Ball Park.

UPDATE: FanGraphs likes the trade. I will still resume crybabying.

If the Reds Want to Warm My Holidays; Just Sign a Free Agent

You know what I don’t want under my tree right now? Reds tickets.

In fact, if my wife gets me anything to do with the Reds–especially something that would necessitate me driving two hours to the stadium and two hours home from said stadium–I’m going to act like the biggest disappointed spoiled brat baby there is on Christmas morning.

At the end of the day, you can dress up your plain old chicken dish with as much garnish as you would like. You can try and capitalize on my holiday cheer, like you’ve attempted to do with the above ad. But at the end of the day, if you go out and field the same team with your marquee edition being a Jamey Carroll-esque free agent or Ryan Theriot for that matter; I want nothing to do with you. Especially this time of year. It’s football season. I don’t even want to think about the Reds, and frankly they’ve given me no reason to do so.

You know when I was excited about the Reds this time of year? December of 2009. I even went to Redsfest, which I have talked myself out of following the 2008, 2010, and 2011 seasons. Times where looking up.

They had just gone out and signed Aroldis Chapman, out-bidding several other winning franchises. If you had followed baseball long enough, you just knew they were about to stumble upon something special. Jay Bruce would emerge. Joey Votto would be the MVP. That summer of 2010 would be magical. And they’ve done absolutely nothing since to promote my return business.

You want me to chase Votto bobbleheads and buy 4-packs in December? Give me a reason to do it. And until then think of a new promotion other than bobbleheads for goodness sakes.

You’re lucky I have a dog now–so I’ll see you April 24th for Bark in the Park Night. And that isn’t even for me! That’s for my kid. But hey, all you of you who scramble to get your new edition of your Votto bobblehead have fun with it when he’s playing in Toronto in 2013.

Walt Jocketty is Having Problems Improving the Reds

Frustrated by this Reds off-season? You have no idea.

I’ve felt all along that based on the nucleus the Reds have in place, and relative MLB experience; 2012 would be the Reds ‘all in’ year. I’ve stated it multiple times. With Albert Pujols leaving St. Louis and Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee–along with the problems that may arise from Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension–this should be the Reds time to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL Central and really kick the door down.

Their biggest off-season move thus far (and by biggest we mean ‘only’)? Signing former local product Andrew Brackman to replace Dontrelle Willis.

The Reds have been beaten to the punch on absolutely everyone. Huston Street to Josh Willingham. Willingham was the guy in particular who I wanted, because he’s productive and affordable and shares the same agent as Jay Bruce. He was virtually a perfect guy for the Reds.

Now Jocketty has his sights set on Michael Cuddyer, Ryan Theriot, and Joe Saunders. Yuck!

I don’t know what is going on in Cincinnati’s front office; but since the moment they won the 2010 NL Central crown by default they’ve operated like they don’t have a clue what is going on in the game of baseball.

Ryan Theriot? Joe Saunders? I need to finish this post or it’s going to turn into a rant.

In case you missed it, James Loney might be in some trouble

Within the very archives of this blog, you’ll see where I touted James Loney as a future batting title winner. I don’t know if I’m going to end up accurate on that one.

Huge hat tip to my buddy Franco over at Next Level Ballplayer for this one.

Loney, 27, was arrested Nov. 14 after hitting a Toyota, Mercedes and Mini around 6 p.m. According to the report, when officers arrived on the scene of the accident, Loney was handcuffed and taken to a hospital for breathalyzer and blood tests that were negative for drugs and alcohol.

However, during the tests and according to the report, Loney was uncooperative and became “aggressive,” spitting the mouthpiece at an officer. He was placed in arm and leg restraints and given an “injection” by hospital staff to calm him. The Los Angeles City Attorney will decide if Loney is charged in the incident.

Oh boy. My guess is that Loney doesn’t remember any of this. And it paves an exit path for him out of Los Angeles, if the Dodgers want.

And it opens up a perceived need for a big time free agent signing. Prince in Los Angeles? Pujols in Anaheim? Baseball would love it. Do not be shocked people. Loney’s contract was tendered by the Dodgers. Alrighty.

Loney, lay off the sauce my man. We’ve all been there, kind of. You’re a .288 career hitter. Just go to bed next time.

A First Look at MLB The Show ’12

It sounds like sports’ best video game has once again out-done itself.

Best new feature?

I think it’s our new ball physics. Our programmer ripped out every line of last year’s code and completely re-invented the way the ball acts. It’s a nerd feature, but it adds so much to the game. The baseball gains and loses energy like a real baseball, and if you go into replay, you can count the rotations – that ball is going to spin the way it’s supposed to. This opens up the game because we have bloopers, ricochets off the bases, balls going into no man’s land…it’s much more dynamic and engaging.

It sounds engaging. And what else?

A new feature called True Broadcast Presentation, which accurately recreates broadcast camera cuts and other presentation signatures you’d see in a televised MLB broadcast. “We’re trying to blur the lines between baseball simulation on your PS3 and what you’d see on MLB.TV sitting on your couch,” Russell explained. “When a batter strikes out, the camera will cut and you will see his face, his anger.”

But what about that recycled commentary?

Commentary, which Russell specifically described as the “number one complaint” from last year’s game, is seeing a similarly massive overhaul. “You’ll hear more season-specific commentary, more conversation pieces,” Russell explained. “The commentators are going to talk about the MVP race, the Cy Young race, the series that you played in two days before. They’re going to talk about how your pitcher is having an awful year because he’s 5 and 15.”

Also, prepare yourself for these new marquee power features like this:
-14 unique umpires with all new personalities
-Fielders will close their gloves on catches
-New cleats

You had me at the new umpires. I’m officially excited and counting down the days until this game.

Diedre Pujols is Ready for California

Albert Pujols’ wife Diedre told a Christian-based radio station today that her husband left the Cardinals in part because he felt spurned by the initial offer given by the club he had played his entire career for.

“When you have somebody say ‘We want you to be a Cardinal for life’ and only offer you a five-year deal, it kind of confused us,” Diedre Pujols said. “Well, we got over that insult and felt like Albert had given so much of himself to baseball and into the community … we didn’t want to go through this again.”

So I guess a decade’s worth of warm fuzzies are all done with for now. At least in terms of how Mr. and Mrs. Pujols feel about the St. Louis area. The future Hall of Famer’s wife also stated that ‘God put us on a team called the Angels’.

Go ahead and read the article for yourself. For all the talk she does of coming to Jesus–and I am not questioning this woman’s faith or values–how hard of a choice to walk to anything was it? I mean, you guys raked in $252 million dollars. So I’d say it’s permissible to stop acting like this was a religious act to pack up the family station wagon and head west for the next decade.

On Ryan Braun’s Positive Test Result


Programming note – as previously seen over at Tomahawk Take.

Other Takes: Deadspin | Grantland – Jonah Keri | Sporting News | Sports Illustrated | New York Daily News

A 4 to 1 ratio amount of testosterone positive test result. That’s all it took for one of the brightest stars in today’s game to be reduced to just another prince who turned into a pumpkin for us right at midnight.

Braun says it’s “B.S.”, literally.

I don’t know what to think anymore. I’m truly shocked.

Here we have a guy who we should be praising for being a shining example of what a ballplayer should be. He is coming off his first MVP season in which his team made the NLCS, and he’s began his career with five of the finest seasons that a player has ever compiled offensively. With Prince Fielder taking a stage left exit, the Brewers become Braun’s team. I believe that we were on the cusp of this becoming Ryan Braun’s league. Those are the things we should be talking about when we talk about Ryan Braun.

But for the rest of time now–no matter what happens–we’re going to be talking about something different.

I got a text after the world heard the news Saturday night. It read: “Braun is innocent until proven guilty.”

I used to be less jaded, but I think it’s the other way around nowadays. I think a player, any player; is guilty until proven innocent. And unfortunately in this case we’re talking about a player who you would not suspect anything of the sort from.

Braun doesn’t look like what we were taught the poster child of steroids looks like. He isn’t muscle bound, and he’s not a lot bigger than he was when he entered the game of baseball, if at all. Braun looks like a well conditioned ballplayer. In the past when players have used PED’s, they look like Bonds, or McGwire, or Sosa. We see no overgrowth of muscles or veins.

The same thing keeps running through my mind. Too often when there has been smoke, there’s surely fire to follow. I don’t believe this is going to be different–though we’re told that this is a case unlike any that we’ve seen before in baseball from sources close to the situation.

From the Deadspin post:

A very good source on the Ryan Braun side of the drug testing controversy assures me that Braun did not test positive for a performance-enhancing drug, as reported by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

[...]

But my source—and again, this is from Braun’s end and not MLB—familiar with the test’s findings says the “prohibited substance” was not a performance-enhancing drug or steroid of any kind. And the source says there has “never” been a result like this in the history of the MLB testing program.

 

I simply don’t buy it. Not anymore. And I suppose when I really think hard about it–when I really sat there and read the alert text over and over again Saturday night on my phone–the shock wore off a lot quicker than it used to.

If Ryan Braun can be guilty of this, I think anyone in baseball can. Anyone. This is obviously a player with such rare natural ability who never needed the usage of anything to refine his game. I believe Braun is as talented as anyone in the game today and if he’s dirty, I don’t think we could be accused at pointing our finger in vein at anyone anymore.

I don’t understand all the specifics of what is involved in a situation like this, but it appears to me that what got Braun caught was not the actual agent itself but something that was covering the agent that would have gotten him caught.

This is a real shame, and I think that living in the age we do that all the truth will eventually come to light. We’ll know close to the whole story, and it’s going to further darken the view of the fan who is like me. I try to enjoy and appreciate the various special talents from around the league and game of baseball because I really love the game. When something like this happens, it makes me believe that the things we see are somewhat artificial; and it makes me realize that I can never again live in an age like my father and grandfather did where the great ones derived their power from chopping wood and eating oats. And that’s not fair, because I think we deserve an era like that too.

I’m in Braun’s corner, I’m rooting for him. I just don’t have high hopes for the situation.

Albert Pujols signs with the Angels (10 years, $250 Million)

So where were you when you found out? For this is the day that the greatest player of many of our lifetimes left St. Louis for Anaheim.

For me, the Pujols to the Angels news will always be from a simple text from my friend MJ (from Off Base Percentage/Halos Hangout). His text was simple–it seemed as if he didn’t know how to feel.

‘Um, the Angels signed Pujols’.

I don’t think anyone really knows how to feel about this right now. It’s okay to be excited, MJ. After all, you are an Angels fan. But at the same time I know this has a dirty feel to it. I’ll do my best to break down what I think happened and why all sports fans might feel a little dirty over this.

Why a solid, God-fearing man like Albert Pujols would sell out the greatest baseball city in America for $30 million dollars over the life of a 10 year deal.

We have learned in recent weeks that Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano; is a pretty seedy individual. There’s no doubt in my mind that Lozano was pressuring Pujols to take absolutely every dime he could get. It’s been in the back of my mind ever since I read this:

According to people familiar with Icon Sports Group, Lozano has been promising them the world—in the form of Albert Pujols. The grand plan, which he thought foolproof enough to allow him to leave BHSC, was a $200 million-plus contract, with Lozano taking four or five percent. When that ship comes in he’ll be able to repay his players everything they’ve allegedly lent him, with money left over.

“It all hinges on Albert,” one agent says. “He’s got this house of cards, but there’s really only one sure thing in the deck. He’s built his entire career on the back of Albert. Pujols basically saved this guy’s life twice, and he and his wife still have no idea what he’s really about.”

Lozano didn’t care about Pujols’ legacy. Not any more than Lebron James’ lackeys cared about him saving his and staying in Cleveland. These are similar situations, and it’s a shining example of what sports today has become. It’s Scrooge McDuck jumping into a big vault of gold.

At the end of the day; Pujols had to have felt pressure to take this deal. It’s probably not too different from when Jim Thome left Cleveland for Philadelphia just a little bit more. It’s sad but it’s not going to be the last time that we see this; it’s just that the player who made the move today was the tops in his craft.

I also think a big factor in this aside from money was the ability for Pujols to be able to move to the American League and DH. For all the time I spent telling you that he would never leave St. Louis, he can extend his career now. If this was a major factor; and I doubt it was, you can’t fault the guy for wanting to effectively play out the life of his contract. Going to the American League will extend his career. Playing in the warm California sun might not hurt things either.

I’m happy that I had the opportunity to see Pujols play live for over a decade. Countless times I got to see him at Great American Ball Park. And I’m happy to see him go. With this the Cincinnati Reds arguably jump back into the drivers seat in the NL Central division.

My heart does go out to St. Louis–you know, as much as it could go out to a team who just won a storybook World Series. This was awful, and front office made enough of an offer to Pujols that he should have been a Cardinal for life. St. Louis is a wonderful town for the game of baseball; and for the chosen son of that town to spurn them like he did.

St. Louis doesn’t need a Pujols type figurehead star to sell out on a Tuesday night. All they need is to be St. Louis and people are going to show up to watch this team and they will recover from this. You have two championship banner flags that will fly forever and the memories you have from those titles are not about Pujols; even if it feels that way this morning.

I always thought Pujols was that talent of my lifetime, but the guys who were on Albert’s level during my father and grandfather’s time; they didn’t do this stuff. They didn’t jump teams. They wore one uniform. It wasn’t about dollars, really. It was more about legacy. Players don’t think about legacy anymore–and if they do it’s in terms of things and monetary–not loyalty and on-field achievements.

This Pujols move shocked me, but the longer I follow sports I realize it shouldn’t have been shocking at all. This is what sports are today. They’re not about the right thing or wearing one uniform your entire career or taking less to stay with the organization who made you. It’s not about loyalty, but about guys like Dan Lozano paying back all the dirty money lenders who let him have some coin to spend it on the likely evils of the world.

The Pujols in Anaheim era begins now.

Jay Bruce has added MMA to his off-season training

I remember the first time I had heard of MMA becoming a form of off-season training for a baseball player. Several years back when David Justice was an Indian and came into camp Spring Training pretty chiseled, word circulated that he had been doing MMA. We all thought the idea of it was ludicrous.

Now, if I still played baseball I’d probably be considering it over off-season treadmill work. As Bruce says, you get cardio without even realizing it.

“I am mostly just punching bags and pads at this point,” Bruce said. “I have been interested in it for a while because of Cody (Williams). I can’t say that I will actually start training for it, but it is awesome for my conditioning. I like the boxing stuff, and I am definitely looking forward to learning some technique.”

Bruce thinks that the training regimen works on some things that translate to his game. “All the rotational stuff. It will make me more limber, more flexible. I also think the balance stuff will help out too. There is a lot of stuff that can make me better on the field.”

Bruce has been training with Beaumont, Texas’ own Cody Williams; owner of a 2-0 professional fight record.

 

Buster Posey Will Play First Base Some in 2012

Finally an MLB team does something that I’ve been crying to see for a while. From that nifty NBC Bay Area site:

According to Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy in Dallas at MLB’s Winter Meetings, we could see plenty of Buster Posey at first base … and some Pablo Sandoval behind the plate.

[snip]

“On the days Buster needs a day off period and wouldn’t be a first baseman or catcher, Pablo could catch [Barry] Zito starts to get more offense in the lineup and he’s open to that,” Sabean said, per Jaymee Sire of Comcast Bay Area. “Now whether that happens I don’t know but it’s been discussed.”

One step forward, two steps back.

How about this; these guys are your two best hitters. Just play them at first and third base and throw a tarp behind the dish in the form of a .220 hitter that can throw out the occasional base stealer and not screw things up too badly with their garage full of Caddilac’s that is their pitching staff.

The only thing that can stop offensive talent like Sandoval and Posey are injuries. Otherwise you’re going to wind them up and get a decade of .315 to .330 seasons in the middle of your lineup. Just put them on the corners and let them hit. Don’t waste them by using them both as catchers. Is Bruce Bochy clueless on this because he was a catcher?

This is the exact reason that when I started my franchise with the Giants on MLB the Show, I had Buster Posey at first and even sometimes shortstop. Yes, shortstop. I am an innovative MLB the Show manager.

The Brewers know Prince Fielder has played his last game as a Brewer

This news stems from a Buster Olney tweet, but I don’t like linking tweets in case for some reason that twitter account gets hacked and the tweet gets deleted or in case Buster Olney leaves ESPN and is no longer twitter handle ‘Buster_ESPN’ and all that good stuff. So I’ll link Hardball Talk where I originally read the post.

Brewers indicating to others they are pretty much out on Prince Fielder, and are moving on.

Short and sweet, and a bummer for Brewers fans who never got to see a Prince/Braun team make it to a Fall Classic. It’s hard to feel sorry for a franchise that has Ryan Braun as their centerpiece. Cecil and Prince take their act to a new big league city. Or maybe they’re just done. Stay tuned to this development.

Marlins Offer Albert Pujols a 10-year Contract

I was thinking about something this morning on my drive into work. I really want Albert Pujols to leave the Cardinals, thus increasing the chances he stays in St. Louis. If Albert leaves the Cardinals, I think the Reds clearly become the front-runner in the National League Central. Let someone else worry about Pujols putting up a career year in the form of lifetime stats against them (see Pujols’ career stats against Cincinnati).

It looks like things are moving closer to a reality. ESPN breaks the news on this one:

The Miami Marlins have made a 10-year offer to the biggest fish on the free-agent market, first baseman Albert Pujols, baseball sources told ESPN the Magazine’s Buster Olney on Tuesday.

It is unclear what the monetary figure of the offer is, and a key question is whether the Marlins would agree to include a no-trade clause in their offer. The club did not offer shortstop Jose Reyes such a clause, which Pujols had with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Marlins’ latest offer is an increase from the nine-year proposal made in their first meeting with Lozano.

Well this news makes me happy. I know it makes Danny Lozano happy. I just want my Reds to have a run at things in 2012. I’m not scared of a baseball team from Miami that will be in full panic mode come July. Go ahead Albert, sign down in South Beach with your superstar Dominican buddy Reyes. Similar paths worked out well for Lebron.

Let me also add that there’s just no way a legend like Pujols should ever play for a franchise like the Marlins. And he’ll be back in St. Louis even if he has to take fewer years or money. It will be interested to see what happens now that the Marlins have put a little pressure on the Cardinals.