Straight Out of the Onion?

And it turns out that people flocked to my blog right before that Favreapalooza on Monday night. Go figure. But I’ll take the page hits!

Anyway, my current work schedule, has somewhat kept me from posting. Well, that and not having timely material for when I would otherwise have put up a new entry. But, let’s see if the upcoming weeks and months are a bit friendlier towards regular updates.

This morning’s events finally forced me to post. I’m absolutely stunned, just like the President was when he found out, and frankly most of the press too. The Nobel Committee’s reasoning is fair enough, including a comparison to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1980 (before glasnost really took hold), and Fareed Zakaria seems to think along the same lines (‘America rejoining the world’).

I guess most people assume that the prize is a lifetime achievement award. That has always been what I was led to believe, too. Plenty of joke fodder already, some on the right, and of course quite a bit of it is absurd hyperbole, but even Obama surely knows that he has to go earn this with his and our country’s actions in the next few years. If not, you can be sure this “rockstar” theme is going to come up again in 2012, just like it did after his tour of Europe in 2008.

Even non-conservatives might be concerned about this development. It could have both positive and negative implications for Obama’s policy-making efforts, particularly on foreign policy. Chris Cilliza expands on this and some of my other points.

Hey, it makes for a nice wake-up call though, if you can get it. Enjoy the award, Mr. President, I’m not going to say you need to turn it down by any means. But as you said in your press conference today, don’t dare let this award get to your head. There is a lot of work to be done, and everyone will be watching you more closely than before (if that’s actually possible).

The fun begins withi figuring out what to do in Afghanistan. And then reconciling Congress and the nation on healthcare (no disrespect to Sen. Tom Harkin, but try to minimize the government’s direct involvement) without actually using reconciliation. Oh, and don’t forget the “Es”- economy, environment, and education…

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Should I Really Have Been Surprised About Strasburg?

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Late last night, the Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a four year contract worth over $15 million. This despite lots of talk that he wouldn’t sign and then maybe play in the independent leagues or Japan until next year’s draft and then get taken by another team. Presumably, one that would pay what he and agent Scott Boras wanted, and also be closer to winning than the Nationals currently are. On the other hand, this year’s worst teams (who will ultimately pick at the top of the 2010 draft) don’t really include anyone whom you can classify as “free spending,” unless you really believe he would fall all the way to the Mets in the middle of the top-10. Forget the conspiracy ideas of him becoming a foreign national so that he could be signed as a free agent like Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. This would have cost him too many years of his potential big league career to get to that point. Otherwise, you know Boras would’ve tried it.

The Nationals knew all of this. They also knew that they needed another cornerstone player besides Ryan Zimmerman and some #2/3 caliber young starting pitchers- Strasburg should be an ace. And as we saw, they offered $15 million, no strings attached. More than the Cubs gave Mark Prior (although the deals aren’t structured the same), who was actually a #2 overall pick behind Joe Mauer… oops. If he pitches up to the hype, the deal expires without buying out any arbitration-eligible years, so his salary could quickly skyrocket.

Tom Boswell sees this much as I do. The Nationals may finally have some credibility as an organization, and the cost of being wrong on Strasburg over the next few years probably pales in comparison to what it would be if they yielded his rights and saw him thrive somewhere else in two years.

Still, I figured that the Nationals wouldn’t pull the trigger on this big a financial commitment to someone who hasn’t yet played in the Majors, or that Boras and Strasburg might gamble on what could happen next year. Instead, the two parties determined that they really did need each other- if only until 2015. As Keith Law puts it, a potential win-win for all sides– assuming Strasburg delivers on the field!

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

It All Sounds Right…

But how will it play out? Michael Vick basically said exactly what you’d expect to hear in his press conference this morning. He made some big, really horrible mistakes, and hopes that his actions going forward backup the second chance he is receiving. For Eagles coach Andy Reid and chairman Jeff Lurie (a dog-owner in the past), it took lots of questions to Vick and former NFL coach Tony Dungy (who has done a lot of work trying to help rehabilitate people in Tampa and Indianapolis), plus the apparent support of Donovan McNabb, to convince them to bring in Vick.

So far, reaction in Philly seems to be pretty mixed. John Gonzalez likes the last bit of teaser footage he saw in advance of Vick’s 60 Minutes interview this weekend- “Football doesn’t even matter” (compared to his crimes). But Phil Sheridan doesn’t see a general fit with the Eagles’ organizational culture (whereas others praise its sturdiness as being great for Vick). He also can’t get past the probability that we will think of Vick’s crimes every time he takes the field. That’s certainly true, for as Lurie said in the presser, Vick’s legacy will be almost entirely written off the field. Only by what he does there- i.e. working with the Humane Society to help eradicate cruelty to animals in the many places where it happens more than any of us could ever imagine- can he possibly remove any of the stain off his legacy.

Pete Domowitch takes it in football terms and says that a very good offense just became dynamite. Plus, Andy Reid is an offensive guru (he once worked with Mike Holmgren and helped tutor Brett Favre) who can figure out a way to use all of the Eagles’ pieces (including Vick, McNabb, Bryant Westbrook, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson). “Domo” couldn’t be more right. If all falls into place, the Eagles may have taken that last step to get buy the Giants and Cardinals to become the NFC’s team-to-beat. I wouldn’t want to be any defensive coordinator who has to game plan against Philly this season.

Fans? Predictably, also split. BountyBowl loves the signing. Everyone is taking a risk (PR/financial/job/whatever) and then some to bring in Vick, and it just might pay off in a Super Bowl. This blogger also sees the dynamic plays which the Eagles could concoct. InsidetheEagles, like Phil Sheridan, can’t figure out why the Eagles should be the team for Vick, even if he may have earned another chance. Some fans are even trying to get rid of tickets. In a month, I’m sure they’ll be in the minority. Listen, I’m not gonna argue with people if their principles say some crimes can never be forgiven– at least not with another opportunity to play football for a living. Or, that they can’t seriously believe Vick is sincere in his remorse.

Another fan is really torn on many levels, and I can’t blame her. She and other bloggers delve into some of the religious teachings one might consider in this debate as justification for Vick’s opportunity. Tony Dungy also has made those allusions, and I think it’s not even so much religion (of any kind) as reflective of our country’s society. At the end of a punishment for breaking the law, you’re eventually freed. What you do after that is your story to write alone. But having a good support system can never hurt.

Stay tuned…

USA-Mexico Rosters Announced

USA head coach Bob Bradley announced his traveling party to the Azteca this afternoon. No real surprises at all, possibly other than Brian Ching and Conor Casey both being on it. That’s interesting as those two seem like pretty similar players- hold-up/work-rate forwards in the vein of Emile Heskey. Since only 18 of the 20 players called up can be on the game-day roster, one of those two will likely be dropped. Otherwise, it’s the A-team, with Chad Marshall and Stuart Holden added on the strength of their performances in the recent Gold Cup.

ESPN and Ives Galarcep give their thoughts here and here. I like Ives’ lineup suggestion, but I think Bob Bradley will probably start Jozy Altidore over Charlie Davies, assuming Ching is a near lock in order to win balls near the goal. Altidore has been starting for a while, so that’s one of the main reasons for this opinion. Also, I think Steve Cherundolo may start over Jonathan Spector if he’s fully fit. Veteran over youth in a cauldron-like environment.

Mexico’s team was revealed last week. The big surprise is no Pavel Pardo, whom Mexico coach Javier Aguirre apparently doesn’t rate at this level. Also, captain Rafael Marquez is injured and will definitely miss the game. Of course, that also means he won’t get himself sent off as he did in the reverse qualifier back in February with a petulant kick at Tim Howard. But ageless veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco does get the call. It’s certainly a team that can score goals. Where they seem to be vulnerable against the U.S. is on set pieces (free kicks and corners), so watch out for that during the game.

So, can this be the first American team, and only the second overall, to win at the Azteca come Wednesday afternoon? My honest guess is no, but stay tuned. Mexico just has to win this game to feel comfortable about their chances of getting to South Africa for the World Cup via an automatic qualifying spot (CONCACAF’s top-3 make it, fourth place has to win a two-leg playoff against South America’s fifth place team), while the U.S. should pretty much book their ticket by winning their two remaining home games. Plus, if they don’t, the crowd and media down there are known to put big-time heat on the Mexican players and coaching staff after any poor performance. Against their biggest rivals? Dial it up times 100.

Deadline Day has Come

A semi-live blog of today’s MLB deadline day stuff. The usual mix of confirmed developments and any near-instant reaction I find. Plus some of my own thoughts, as warranted.

11:10- First, a recap of yesterday’s moves, including George Sherrill going to the Dodgers, more Pirates abandoning ship, and a couple of other deals. Also, Freddy Sanchez joined San Francisco on Wednesday (as we hinted at in that day’s blogging) for a potentially steep price, pitching prospect Tim Alderson.

11:21- Ken Rosenthal and FOX reported this morning that a Victor Martinez deal was unlikely, but Jayson Stark previously said Cleveland and Boston could pull off a three-way deal. Clay Buchholz would be Cleveland’s primary return on a trade, while the third team would take Adam LaRoche (and probably some minor leaguers). No real updates on Stark’s report, so we’ll see about this…

11:31- It does seem, however, that the Red Sox are still looking seriously at Adrian Gonzalez, but it’s clear that he is not likely to come without paying a steep price. In the Daily News article linked here, we also find out that the Yankees were interested in lefty-pitcher Jarrod Washburn, but that is not going to happen as Detroit just swooped in and got him.

11:45- The Daily News also has this gallery of not-so-great Yankees and Mets trades or free-agent signings, both at the deadline and otherwise. Ah yes, Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps and Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Gotta love it.

11:50- Looks like a couple of prospects headed to the Mariners for Washburn. Here are some details on them. Good move for Detroit, as it gives some protection for the rotation behind Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson in case rookie Rick Porcello wears down under the strains of a late-season pennant drive. Plus, Comerica (national) Park might be an even better place for southpaw hurlers than Safeco Field. A 2.64 ERA could go even lower, and if so, Washburn figures to be in for a nice payday once he reaches free agency this winter.

11:55- Not much else cooking right now, but we have until 4:00 ET, so I’ll be back a little later!

2:15- A little bit has changed since we last spoke. The Brewers traded for Claudio Vargas. Minnesota got Orlando Cabrera for basically a bag of balls. Jeremiah Graves likes it, since Cabrera is better offensively than what they previously had at short (aside from not walking very much), and his glove is solid. The Brewers may just be taking a cautious wade in the “go for it pool.”

2:23- Washburn reaction. Good deal both ways says Blogging About Baseball. Rob Neyer sees it as a wiser move for Seattle, as does Geoff Baker, while Keith Law thinks Washburn could be golden in October. Ken Davidoff thinks the Tigers are going for it this year, if only to keep attendance up despite the economy. Seems a bit cynical, especially since Mike Illitch is an owner who flat out wants to win. John Lowe in the Detroit Free Press worries about whether or not the Tigers will give Washburn enough run support, something he manifestly lacked in Seattle (and Lowe notes that Detroit has let down Edwin Jackson several times this season).

2:30- Fan bloggers mostly praised the Tigers’ decision, apparently including a (reluctant) Yankees fan. I can’t say I’d have given up top prospects for Washburn, which is supposedly what Brian Cashman was told he’d have to do. Of course, Detroit arguably ended up getting him for less, perhaps somewhat by default. This Mariner fan is happy, since the Mariners at least build up some pitching depth for someone they likely wouldn’t have been able to re-sign.

2:44- A Red Sox blogger wishes the Yankees had gotten Washburn (figures), but seems happier about a possible Victor Martinez trade that might be getting closer

2:45- Detroit apparently wants Luke Scott from Baltimore. That definitely would help the offense a little bit.

2:50- MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo hints on his Twitter page at whom Boston might deal for V-Mart. No Buchholz apparently, which could make this deal almost as good as the one Philly made for Cliff Lee. In fairness, Cleveland is looking for longer-term potential, which Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson may have.

3:05- A Victor Martinez trade means it would likely be “we hardly knew ye” for Adam LaRoche in Boston. Just one hour until the deadline, and rumor is Atlanta may be interested in acquiring him (they actually had LaRoche a couple years back and then dealt him to Pittsburgh for closer Mike Gonzalez).

3:23- And what do you know? Adam LaRoche is headed to Atlanta, per Gordon Edes (seen here and here). He should provide some extra offense.

3:28- The Yankees won’t quite let the deadline pass quietly. They’ve acquired Jerry Hairston, Jr. from Cincinnati. As with the Phillies getting Ben Francisco in the Cliff Lee deal, Hairston’s not spectacular but he will give them a right-handed bat off the bench with a little power (eight home runs so far this year). He can also play multiple positions in the field.

3:32- Boston gets Casey Kotchman in return for Adam LaRoche, per NESN. Kotchman was the Braves’ first baseman, but as the report notes, he’d be competing with V-Mart and Kevin Youkilis for playing time. On the other hand, perhaps Martinez would just rotate between catcher and DH.

3:34- Colorado upgrades the bullpen with a deal for Joe Beimel, late of the Nationals.

3:36- The Boston Globe’s trade deadline blog confirms details of the Martinez trade.

3:42- The Marlins will apparently stand pat and either get the wild card or nothing on what they have now.

3:45- Reports that Scott Rolen has been traded to the Reds. He does have to waive his no-trade clause first. He’d be a nice addition going forward, although the Reds are unlikely to win the NL Central this year (they’re just not better than the Cardinals or Cubs). No, I haven’t forgotten about Roy Halladay, but it’s pretty clear that he won’t be dealt today. No indication that the Jays have been in any serious talks over him this afternoon.

4:00- And there it is! The deadline is upon us.

4:04- The dust may not settle for another hour or so as teams and MLB confirm all the paperword/medicals/issue press releases. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi at FOX say Edwin Encarnacion will go to Toronto in return for Rolen, who is expected to waive his NTC. He’s signed through next year. Reds also deal a couple of others- nobody of particular note- per Yahoo! Sports. Also, in a milder surprise, the Marlins will, in fact, acquire Nick Johnson from Washington for a prospect. This should give Hanley Ramirez some protection in the batting order.

4:06- Yahoo!’s live blog says that the Blue Jays did not ask Roy Halladay to waive his NTC. If true, this confirms that he’s staying in Toronto, at least until the end of the season. Also, the Yankees gave a minor league catcher (but not Jesus Montero) for Hairston, Jr.

4:10- From earlier, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says San Diego is not trading reliever Heath Bell (unless he clears waivers during August). Minnesota balked at the high price, as other teams did with Adrian Gonzalez.

4:12- River Ave. Blues likes the Hairston trade for the Yanks. Was Watching with a light-hearted nostalgia flashback. Boogie Down says the Yanks were smart not to make trades just for the sake of them today. That said, I do think Boston improved themselves by getting Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman.

More Baseball Stuff

First and foremost, it doesn’t look like Roy Halladay’s going anywhere. His trade value may have plunged with the Cliff Lee deal concluded. Boston apparently is reluctant to get involved, per MLB Trade Rumors and the Herald.

Pittsburgh and Seattle made a hefty trade. The Mariners get Jack Wilson to give them solid defense at shortstop (and an expensive option on his contract for next year), while the Pirates will see if Jeff Clement can finally live up to his #3 pick hype, plus they get Ronny Cedeno and some pitching prospects. Veteran Pittsburgh reporter Dejan Kovacevic says the Pirates are actually paying much of Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell’s remaining salary for this year. Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron, as well as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus like what the Pirates are getting, while Rob Neyer says the Mariners’ end of the deal is in three parts– whether or not Snell, a formerly touted prospect, can get back to the Majors and blossom as a pitcher (in a great pitcher’s park), whether or not the Mariners can win the AL West this year or next (a product, at least in part, of Wilson’s defense), and that Pittsburgh is paying some of the freight. Fellow ESPN writer Keith Law again finds little to love in the deal other than the defensive possibilities for Seattle, and Pittsburgh building up its supply of young pitchers.

The Pirates may also trade Freddy Sanchez and/or others today. Stay tuned on that one.

The great Ken Rosenthal has a rundown of other stuff. He thinks George Sherill may go, but Adrian Gonzalez probably won’t. Rosenthal also says Boston is unlikely to get Victor Martinez, but MLB Trade Rumors quotes Buster Olney with sourced info that indicates Martinez is going somewhere.

More later.

Not Halladay, But…

Still a nice deal for the Phillies. They get Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco from Cleveland for four prospects, not bad ones at all, but none of whom is Kyle Drabek or J.A. Happ. All of this is pending medical formalities. You may recall that the Fightin’ Phils absolutely wouldn’t trade both for Roy Halladay (and were only prepared to deal one because it was Roy Halladay). Even if the Indians’ new prospects develop nicely, this is still a coup for Philadelphia. Lee may not like the hitter-friendly nature of Citizens Bank Park, but he should still benefit from switching to the weaker National League (The Good Phight has numbers confirming my point), especially the NL East. Assuming the Phillies pick up his team option for next year, he’d hit the open market in the same year as Halladay, and would have plenty of suitors, but it’s really too early to get into the “will he sign long-term” stuff. Ben Francisco, by the way, might help Philly too, as he gives them some outfield/bench help, and he’s right-handed in a team loaded with lefties. Getting back to the prospects, Swing and a Long Drive notes that three were blocked by established major leaguers, while pitcher Carlos Carrasco had obviously fallen below Drabek and Happ in the pecking order (his stats bear that out, and Philadelphia tried to include him in some Halladay proposals). Bottom line? Philadelphia becomes the favorite to win the National League again, unless the Dodgers get Halladay (which they won’t unless they give up Clayton Kershaw- not happening). Not to say that LA couldn’t win a best-of-seven with the Phillies, but I wouldn’t pick them to do so right now. Not with the Phillies’ loaded starting rotation.

Phillie fans seem happy with this deal, and as I said, they really should be. “All Shall Rejoice,” screams 4DaysRest. Red Pinstripes are Cooler asks a good question about who goes to the bullpen or exits town if Pedro Martinez has anything left and so is added to the rotation at some point in August. Fire Ruben Amaro may have to change its name. This blogger gives Philly a “B+” for the deal (you can also see his grades on other moves leading up to tomorrow’s deadline). Intial reaction from Cleveland’s perspective isn’t favorable to the Tribe’s haul, which is understandable given that they probably expected a price similar to Halladay’s. Yesterday, they traded Ryan Garko to San Francisco for a pitching prospect who has shown flashes of potential. Keith Law thinks he’s probably going to make it as a reliever, assuming he ever does.