Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking back, looking ahead

Ah, the last post of 2007 and the first year of our little blog.

It was a down year for Louisiana college baseball, though the state doubled its haul of regional teams from 2006 as Louisiana-Lafayette and New Orleans carried the flag into the postseason.

LSU played its first season under Paul Mainieri; Northwestern State its last under Mitch Gaspard.

Louisiana Tech and Centenary made strides and Tech should take that final step to the regionals this season. Status quo held at LSUS where the Pilots were again an NAIA regional participant.

2007 was tough on local major leaguers as well. B.J. Ryan was done for the season by April; Todd Walker by May, though Walker's was by choice. Former Captian Shreve star Scott Baker shuttled from Triple-A to the Minnesota Twins' rotation and took a perfect game into the 9th in late August.

We're about halfway between the end of the 2007 World Series and the start of the 2008 MLB season, but there's good news for New Year's Day -- it means were about six weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Writers hold key for Smith

Last year, Castor native Lee Smith managed to nab votes on 39.8 of the Hall of Fame ballots cast.

That is down from his high of 45 percent and nowhere near what Smith needs to earn a bust in Cooperstown.

That being said, has caught up with Smith (story). It's an interesting read and gives you a glimpse into what the big right-hander is thinking as another year of Hall voting draws near.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fun with bowl matchups

I wanted to do this for the NCAA basketball tournament, but ran out of time.

So, just for fun, how about looking at some of the remaining bowl games, baseball-style.

Here in Shreveport, we'd be out of luck. Colorado has no baseball team.

The most interesting game would probably be Hawaii and Georgia, which both have strong baseball programs.

Florida-Michigan would be another intriguing diamond possibility as the Wolverines went to the Super Regionals this year.

The best however? Kentucky-Florida State. As long as the Seminoles had their full roster, it would be a slugfest between John Cohen's Wildcats and Mark Martin's Seminoles.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Astros' activity won't necessarily equal success

The Houston Astros made another minor transaction Friday, signing pitcher Oscar Villareal to a two-year contract extension.

Just another day under new general manager Ed Wade. But don't get ahead of yourselves Astros fans. New faces don't always mean new results.

Yes, the Astros needed a big-time, big-league makeover after a disastrous 2007 season. But Wade still hasn't addressed the Astros' most glaring need -- starting pitching depth.

It's fun to watch the home runs Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada will hit. Astros management, however, seems bent on undermining a potentially productive offense by having no starting pitching past Roy Oswalt and, on his good days, Wandy Rodriguez.

The Astros have tried to sign another starting pitcher. Their efforts, however, have gone for naught. There's still time, but Wade had better lock up, or trade for, another pitcher or this season could go for naught as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Astros sign Erstad

And for the most confusing offseason free-agent signing, come on down Houston Astros.

I know Ed Wade likes his veterans but where does Darin Erstad fit in Houston?

Lance Berkman is -- or should be -- entrenched at first base. The outfield should be solidifed with Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.

Erstad may be a nice bench piece, but certainly there's someone in the Houston system worthy of a few at-bats at the major league level.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Prior, Padres a good match

Mark Prior signed with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.

A couple of years ago, that would have been worthy of the lead item on SportsCenter. Now it has been reduced to crawl information -- another sign of how far removed from 2003 Prior is.

That was the right-hander's peak, winning 18 games and helping pitch the Chicago Cubs to the brink of the World Series.

Prior has not been the same since then as freak injuries and multiple surgeries have robbed him of what many expected to be a stellar career.

All of which brings us to Wednesday. Prior, whose family lives north of San Diego, joins the Padres in what should be a win-win situation. If Prior recovers, the Padres get a frontline starter at a bargain cost. Similarly, Prior will be pitching in a low-pressure situation as he tries to rebuild his career.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to all

Here's hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas.

The holidays really are about being thankful for your friendships and family members. And I am thankful for the group of people I work with in -- and out -- of the office.

A lot of times people like James Farrar, Dave McQueen and Brian Carlin don't get the due they deserve. They -- along with several others -- help make this blog and our Times baseball coverage as good as it can be.

For that, I'm thankful.

And, once again, merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yankees must pay

The Yankees gave Major League Baseball a $23.88 million Christmas present in the form of the luxury tax, proving once again New York is never against exorbitant spending.

And that means year after year.

In the five seasons since the luxury tax was introduced, the Yankees have provided the MLB coffers with a whopping $121 million. What do the Yanks have to show for that spending?

One World Series appearance and as many World Series titles as Kansas City, Seattle, Texas, Oakland, Minnesota, Detroit and Cleveland combined -- zero.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Clemens rumblings

For someone who vowed to talk when the time is right, Roger Clemens is doing a lot of yapping through the media.

Clemens latest denial came Sunday on his Web site and then on a video he posted on YouTube.

You know what? I still don't believe him.

Until Clemens comes out and says it -- really speaks the words -- he's under a cloud of suspicion.

So, Rocket, here's a tip. If you come back and play next season, don't take the mound to Linkin Park's "Numb," which you did in Houston. Instead, try Tim McGraw's remake of Eddie Rabbitt's "Suspicion."

That will suit you just fine.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Yankees out again

The New York Yankees' lust for Johan Santana is about as readable as a high school relationship.

One minute, they're on. The next, they're off.

The Yankees set a "deadline" to deal for Santana at the Winter Meetings. It passed. Then Hank Steinbrenner decided it was a soft deadline and resumed talks with Minnesota about acquiring the Twins' ace.

Now, Newsday's Kat O'Brien says the Yankees are out of the Santana bidding again.

The question remains, how long until they're back in it?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rangers acquire Hamilton

If anything, the Texas Rangers' clubhouse just got a heavy dose of perspective when the club acquired outfield Josh Hamilton in a trade with Cincinnati.

Hamilton's story is well-known. The former No. 1 overall draft pick -- ahead of Josh Beckett -- struggled with a serious drug addiction that eventually led to his suspension from baseball.

He came back last season, played in the majors for the first time and picked up 151,000 write-in votes for the All-Star Game. Now he's a Ranger.

The price? Two young pitchers. Right-hander Edinson Volquez once was part of the Rangers' DVD Trio. That would be John Danks, Volquez and Thomas Diamond, once the gems of the Texas farm system. Now Danks is a Chicago White Sox, Volquez is in Cincinnati and Diamond is rehabbing after Tommy John surgery.

Most of the time, giving up young pitching is something the Rangers can't afford. In this case, however, they landed an impact bat who still has something to prove, making it a shrewd deal for Texas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rox a perfect fit for Walker

If Todd Walker decides to leave the safe haven of his retirement, he could do much worse than sign with the Colorado Rockies.

The defending NL champions have contacted Walker about their opening at second base. Should Walker sign, he would be given a chance to win the starting job, or, at worse, share time with rookie Jayson Nix.

Walker has ties to Colorado, having played there in 2000-01. He'd be reunited with Todd Helton, whom he shared the right side of the infield with during that earlier span.

Walker fits Colorado's character mold. The Rockies don't have many high-profile players. They are a team of grinders and a couple of electric talents (Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki). Walker fit so well in Boston during the Red Sox' strong 2003 postseason run.

He is well-regarded as a teammate and that's something any team can use. Plus, Walker's left-handed swing plays well in Coors Field and, even with the Humidor, would produce solid numbers for the career .289 hitter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shilling vs. Clemens, round 2

For his sake, I hope Curt Schilling is right again.

On his blog,, Schilling called out Roger Clemens, saying the seven-time Cy Young Award winner should give back the four Cy Youngs he won after 1997, saying they are tainted by accusations of steroid use.

Of course, Schilling says Clemens should do this only if he cannot refute the allegations against him in the Mitchell Report.

Schilling has called out Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds thus far, but he and Clemens have a much more personal history. Remember it was Clemens who lectured Schilling about how the latter was wasting his talent when he was younger. Schilling took the words to heart and turned out to become one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

We can only assume Clemens didn't tell the now-portly right-hander to shoot up in those conversations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More steroid fallout

Tuesday brought another day of Mitchell Report fallout and two different ways of handling it.

Baltimore's Brian Roberts had been someone questioned by many prior to his inclusion in the Mitchell Report. He owned up to his one-time steroid use in 2003. Whether you believe Roberts truly used steroids once is beside the point. Roberts, much like baseball itself, owned up to a mistake. Now we must move on.

Roger Clemens, meanwhile, continues to issue statements denying he took HGH or steroids. He is well on his way to being painted as one person called him "the white Barry Bonds."

Generally speaking, in his later years, Clemens has been congenial with the media. He has been charming, well-spoken and genuine -- everything Bonds has tried not to be. Until now, it has earned Clemens the beneift of the doubt.

Now, however, it should not. We should hold him for what he is painted as -- someone as dirty as anyone in the game.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mitchell redux

After letting the Mitchell Report and its fallout sink in, I got to thinking about some of the things I heard from former players and managers while preparing our localized story in Friday's paper.

My favorite story came from one former player who said one of his ex-teammates had a friend who was a teammate of Roger Clemens in Toronto. In addition to the usual things found in a locker -- hats, gloves, spikes -- Clemens had some interesting stuff, including a box of syringes.

One of my favorite quotes was from a former manger who said, "I can't believe these guys didn't just say, 'Yeah, I did it and it helped me.' It wasn't against the rules at the time."

We still didn't get much out of the Mitchell Report, but I enjoyed a couple laughs over it -- including seeing Rich Garces (yes, this Rich Garces) on the fake list of players in the report that was posted by WNBC in New York.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

California teams make interesting moves

The answer to who is going to replace Barry Bonds in the San Francisco outfield has yet to be determined.

What we do know, however, is Aaron Rowand will patrol center field at spacious AT&T Park for the forseeable future after agreeing to a five-year, $60 million contract with the Giants.

One word: Overpaid. Look Rowand is one of my favorite players to watch. He goes all out all the time. He usually leaves skin or blood or both somewhere on the outfield. He had a great offensive year in an outstanding hitter's park.

Meanwhile, down the coast, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Hiroki Kuroda from Japan. Kuroda didn't come with the notoriety -- or price tag -- of countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka. If he has half the impact Dice-K did as a rookie, Los Angeles GM Ned Colletti will feel a lot better about life.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hulett gets a new home

I feel remiss that I missed the trade of former Evangel Christian Academy standout Tug Hulett earlier this week.

I try to stay connected when I'm out of the office, but this one slipped right past me. I was reading one of my favorite MLB-related blogs ( and saw Hulett had been traded from Texas to Seattle in exchange for Ben Broussard.

The Mariners were going to non-tender Broussard, meaning they would have received nothing in return for him. Instead, they now have Hulett, who gives the team some insurance behind Jose Lopez at second base.

Hulett played decently in his first season at Triple-A this year, hitting .273 for Oklahoma. He stole 20 bases, setting a new career high at one level.

Hulett is a solid defender who can run and has a strong knowledge of the strike zone. If something happens with Lopez, who was an All-Star in 2006 before backsliding in 2007, Hulett may get his first taste of the majors this year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Astros at it again

Say this for Ed Wade, he keeps people busy.

In the handful of months since he arrived as the Astros general manger, Wade has turned over Houston's roster at a rapid rate.

That trend continued Friday as he acquired National League saves leader Jose Valverde for three players, including pitcher Chad Qualls and second baseman Chris Burke.

On the surface, it looks like a good deal for the Astros. Valverde saved 47 of 54 games and gives Wade the established closer he has been looking for since trading Brad Lidge to Philadelphia in November.

Qualls is a solid setup man and Burke never found a home in Houston despite his first-round draft pick status.

This deal, at first glance, seems to be much better suited for the Astros than the Miguel Tejada trade from earlier in the week. Just don't think for a minute that "Trader Ed" is done dealing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell report unsurprising

Raise your hand if you were surprised by any of the "findings" in former Sen. George Mitchell's report on steroid use in Major League Baseball.

Just as I thought -- not many.

The surprising part will come in the next few days as people argue over how much of a black eye this gives the sport.

On, there is a column by Scott Miller saying Thursday's public release of the Mitchell Report helps baseball step out of a black decade. Maybe it should say decades, but no harm no foul.

There were no real surprises in the report. Who hasn't thought Roger Clemens could have been a steroid user? Andy Pettitte probably is the closest thing to a surprise, but there's always guilt by association.

More surprising were names not in the report. Guys like Brady Anderson, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa and others who seemed to be the most likely inclusions were nowhere to be found. Instead, luminaries like Jack Cust, Larry Bigbie and Mike Judd were included.

Oh and if you're looking for proof that steroid use, or alleged steroid use, doesn't always mean pumped-up muscle men, check out this picture of Jim Parque, who was mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Astros land Tejada

The Houston Astros sold the farm Wednesday to acquire Miguel Tejada.

That would have been great news about two years ago. Now Houston simply overpaid.

The Astros gave up five players, including outfielder Luke Scott and pitcher Matt Albers, for Tejada, whose career has flat-lined since signing with Baltimore prior to the 2004 season.

The good news is Tejada should be familiar with Minute Maid Park -- at least the left-field facade. Tejada and new teammate Lance Berkman wore out that part of the ballpark during the 2004 All-Star Game Home Run Derby, which Tejada won.

That turned out to be his high point in four tumultuous seasons with Baltimore.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lincecum on the block? Sabean's gone insane

While everyone in baseball has been preoccupied with the where is Johan Santana headed derby, Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi is trying to pull of the coup of the offseason.

Reports throughout baseball have Ricciardi offering outfielder Alex Rios for San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum in a straight up trade proposal.

I have a hard time believing Giants GM Brian Sabean would offer Lincecum, the No. 10 overall pick in 2006, to anyone. The lithe right-hander with the violent delivery rocketed through the minor leagues, but some experts think he has durability concerns.

Rios, meanwhile, has tapped into his prodigious talent, but this trade doesn't make sense.

If Sabean is worried about Lincecum's durability, just make him a closer. After all, the Giants haven't had a steady ninth-inning option since Robb Nen's elbow imploded during the 2002 pennant race.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guillen appeals; who knows why?

Certainly no one wants to lose playing time for a suspension, especially an HGH- or steroids-related suspension.

Alas, that's where Jose Guillen finds himself. Guillen was one of two players hit with a 15-day suspension last week for their involvement or purchase of human growth hormone and/or steroids.

So what does Guillen do? He appeals -- as he has the absolute right to.

Whether or not it works, we'll see. If it doesn't, it's just 15 games. And Guillen did sign with the Royals.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rangers show signs of life

After an offseason that, thus far, could be described as listless, the Texas Rangers scooped up a much-needed piece late Saturday night, agreeing to terms with free-agent outfielder/sideshow Milton Bradley.

This is the same Milton Bradley who tore an ACL while being restrained by his former manger while arguing with an umprie.

Yep, that same Bradley who's name appears on the disabled list almost as frequently as announcers make some lame attempt to use a Milton Bradley, he makes games joke.

It's also a Bradley who, while healthy, has the ability to hit for power, steal bases and play excellent outfield defense. Those are three categories the Rangers were lacking in.

If Bradley stays healthy -- emotionally and physically -- Texas just got a huge steal.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Red Sox Nation breathes easier

Christmas came a couple of weeks early for Boston Red Sox fans -- Eric Gagne is pitching somewhere else in 2008.

The erstwhile Cy Young Award winner is heading back to the National League, agreeing to a preliminary deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.

That's good news for fans of both teams. Gagne long has thrived in pressure-free environments, but struggled mightily in his three months in Boston.

The Brewers needed a closer after Francisco Cordero signed with Cincinnati. The Red Sox just need to rid themselves of Gagne for the sake of both parties.

Now everyone can be happy -- none more so that our esteemed sports editor Scott Ferrell.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Awards season not just for football

While everyone is debating the merits of their favorite Heisman Trophy finalist, college baseball people are starting to beat the drums for their 2008 award nominees.

That's right. Football isn't the only one capable of getting their players' names out long before the season begins.

The reason I bring this up is there's an e-mail in our staff inbox from Tulane, pointing out Shooter Hunt's inclusion on the Brooks Wallace Award watch list.

With the pushed-back starting dates, we're three months away from the first pitch of the college baseball season and we already have seen a preseason Top 25 (thank you, NAIA) and now the first watch lists for the 2008 season are trickling out.

It may be 80 degrees in Shreveport on Saturday, but it's hard to think about baseball right now.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Will AJ leave Dodgers blue?

You gotta wonder about Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti's sanity.

Last year, it was five years, $45 million for Juan Pierre. Look, I like Juan, except when he raps. He's personable. He can run. But he's not worth $9 million a year.

Ditto for the man who will now move Pierre to left field -- Andruw Jones.

Colletti signed Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million deal Thursday. By the way, Jones hit .222 this season, continuing his downward trend in that department.

If I'm Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, I'm closing up the checkbook until Colletti decides to use some of his prospects as trade bait for a proven -- and not overpaid --veteran.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Color me confused

Last summer I was over in Arlington, Texas, to do a story on a number of Toronto players with ties to Louisiana, including Vernon Wells, B.J. Ryan and Aaron Hill.

While in manager John Gibbons' office, I noticed a T-shirt with the University of Texas' logo with a slash through it and the horns broken. Written under it was a Bible verse about breaking the horns of the wicked.

It was clearly a Texas A&M-themed shirt. So Scott Ferrell tells me today he hears Gibbons tell XM Radio's Home Plate "good thing I've got my LSU purple and gold on" in response to someone saying he was wearing Tennessee orange.

Wow, an Aggie rooting for the Tigers? Has the world gone crazy?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tigers make a statement

Not so long ago, a college athletic director told his new school's fans he would not let their favorite football program backslide into mediocrity.

In a sense, and without the same bravado, the Detroit Tigers made the same statement Tuesday by landing Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in a trade with Florida.

The deal is contingent upon players passing physicals and other red tape. Assuming it goes through, and as of now there's no reason not to, it is a coup for Detroit.

Everyone knew Cabrera was on the trading block this offseason, but rumors surrounding Willis, which have flowed liberally the last few seasons, had been quieted for the most part.

The Tigers now have swept in and stolen a little thunder from the Yankees-Red Sox battle over a possible Johan Santana trade while remaking themselves as a contender for their second AL title in three seasons.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter Meetings start quick

Whoulda thunk it? A guy most renowned for his word skills -- remember "You dead, dawg" -- is among the first players traded at what should be Swap Meet 07 aka baseball's Winter Meetings.

That's right, oft-troubled Elijah Dukes gets a fresh start on life under noted second-chance taker Jim Bowden. Boy, I'd love to be a fly on the wall for one of their conversations. After all, Bowden is the same GM who offered the wonderfully sympathetic comparison of a possible strike in 2002 to "flying a plane into the World Trade Center."

Dukes could be a great steal for Bowden if the Washington GM can keep him focused on baseball. For the uninformed, the "you dead, dawg" reference is the message Dukes allegedly left on his estranged wife's cell phone complete with a picture message of a gun.

The player who gained the most after Day 1 of the Winter Meetings in Music City USA? Carlos Quentin. At one time, Quentin was one of Arizona's top prospects. Now he's headed to the south side of Chicago, hoping a fresh start with the White Sox will jump start his career.

One day, two minor trades. Hopefully it's an appetizer for three days of good eating around the Hot Stove.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Yankees have some nerve

In the span of five weeks, Hank Steinbrenner has gone from The Boss' son to overexposed whiner.

Steinbrenner, taking control from his father, was front and center in the A-Rod renegotiations and, now, he is the one trying to strong-arm the Minnesota Twins into dealing Johan Santana.

Hank Steinbrenner said he wants the Twins to make a decision on dealing Santana by Monday evening or the Yankees are out of the negotiations.

Let's see, Minnesota is a mid-market team with a penny-pinching owner and the Yankees are, well, the Yankees. There is no need for Steinbrenner -- any Steinbrenner -- to try to force the hand of any team then hide behind the "we're not going to be played by the Red Sox" card.