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The first Sunday of the new NFL season has not gone unnoticed by MLB players. The Cubs are celebrating by wearing a NFL jersey of their choice on their flight from Pittsburgh to Houston tonight, reports Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. But, like their season, the idea wasn't without its pitfalls. While Floridian Anthony Rizzo (Dolphins), Baltimore native Steve Clevenger (Ravens), and Virginian Shawn Camp (Redskins) came prepared, others were left to the mercy of jersey shopping in Pittsburgh. So, newly acquired Jason Berken, a Packers season-ticker holder, had to settle for a Steelers jersey. Enough of the gridiron and back to the diamond:
- The Stephen Strasburg shutdown will test all of Nationals' intangibles: its confidence, cohesion, and just plain stubbornness, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.
- Jake Westbrook will miss his next start for the Cardinals with a right oblique injury. MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch reports Chris Carpenter is a possibility to replace Westbrook on Thursday. Carpenter, who has yet to pitch this year after undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, is set to throw a simulatated game tomorrow, but Langosch says the team could switch the schedule should they want Carpenter to step in immediately.
- The Pirates are still developing their offseason plans for Gerrit Cole, the first overall selection in the 2011 draft, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia). "We've got to spend some time with him and see where we can place him," Biertempfel quoted GM Neal Huntington as saying. Cole was roughed up in his final Triple-A start (eight runs in just two innings), but Huntingon was philosophical, "The biggest lesson is, Triple-A (batters) can hit 100 mph (pitches). If you keep coming with 100 mph, they're going to keep hitting it. You've got to use all your pitches. Things snowballed on him, things got a little quick for him. He's going to be better for it."
On this day in baseball history in 1939, NBC televised the first Major League baseball game using an experimental station W2XBS. Viewers were privy to a doubleheader between the Reds and Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Here's the latest news and headlines from around the National League…
- The exercise of calling up players for the month of September has changed for Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, writes Karen Price of the Tribune-Review. Instead of giving raw prospects a taste of the big leagues, Huntington will be looking to add minor leaguers who can help his team win games with an eye on the playoffs and provide manager Clint Hurdle an extra weapon off the bench. “The makeup of our club at midnight on Aug. 31 is the makeup of our club on Oct. 5, provided we take care of business and we get there,” Huntington said. “So that’s a little different, to try to put together an Oct. 5 roster on Aug. 31.”
- Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told season-ticket holders on Sunday that the Mets would love to retain R.A. Dickey on a long-term deal, writes Spencer Fordin of MLB.com. Word got back to the knuckleballer, who expressed a similar desire to call Citi Field home for years to come. "I love it here and I've always voiced that," said Dickey. "A part of me enjoys being loyal to an organization that's given me a shot. I connect well with the fan base, [the media] has always been good and I'm comfortable here. That says a lot for me and where I am in my career."
- Legendary play-by-play broadcaster Vin Scully announced on Sunday that he will return to the Dodgers for the 2013 season marking his 64th year with the franchise. The Hall of Famer will turn 85 in November but remains enthused as ever about the Dodgers given the team's new ownership group, says Stephen Borelli of USA Today. "The new ownership of the Dodgers has revitalized the city, the team, the fans and myself," Scully. "I am so convinced of their great purpose and leadership that I eagerly look forward to joining them in pursuit of the next Dodgers championship."
Major League rosters can expand to 40 players beginning September 1st. Not everybody thinks it's such a great idea. Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently vented to reporters, including Jason Beck of MLB.com. "I've been really adamant about that, really a stickler on it," Leyland said. "When I have that meeting with the Commissioner [as part of the special committee for on-field matters], I talk about that all the time. Myself, if everybody went to 28, that wouldn't bother me at all. I think that's fine. That's just my feeling, but any manager who does a pretty good job of managing all year, and then at the biggest month of the year, he loses some of his ability to maneuver." Let's take a look at what the plans are for other clubs looking to maneuver over the season's final month.
- The Pirates are mulling their September call-ups with the post-season in mind, as they entered play today holding the second NL Wild Card spot and with Triple-A Indianapolis likely playoff-bound. General Manager Neal Huntington told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Where we go from there … it’s a delicate balance. I’ve been with another organization where we raided the Triple-A team as it was headed to the post-season. The guys came up and didn’t play very much, and that didn’t go over very well on many fronts." At least one left-handed reliever and another catcher will be added when rosters expand, writes Biertempfel.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle adds another consideration when deciding upon September call-ups: cost. In Biertempfel's piece, Hurdle pointed out, "In my rookie year, if you got a call-up, you made $5,000 or $6,000 (in September). Now you’re talking about making $75,000. So if you call up 10 guys, you’re picking up $750,000 in salary and everything that goes with it.”
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter has acknowledged the team's September call-ups will be affected by the team's playoff chase. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com lists possible players, both on the disabled list and at Triple-A, who could join the O's when the rosters expand.
- The Padres may not have the roster space to bring Jedd Gyorko up in September, according to John Maffei of the North County Times. The Padres already have 49 players on their 40-man roster (nine are on the 60-day disabled list) and may not want to start Gyorko's service clock just for a September sneak peak, writes Maffei. Since Gyorko has less than three full seasons in pro ball, the Padres don't have to add him to the 40-man roster next season.
- Lucas Duda will probably have to wait until September 1st to rejoin the Mets because the team wants to take a longer look at Mike Baxter, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma.
- The Nationals have several candidates for September call-ups including pitcher John Lannan and 2011 first-round draft pick Anthony Rendon, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
The Games of the XXX Olympiad came to a close today in London. Nearly 11,000 athletes from 204 nations took part in over 300 events in 26 sports. But, none of the Olympic pagentry involved baseball. So, let's celebrate America's National Pastime with the latest news, notes and quotes:
- Not everyone in the Mets front office is sold that they can be a sustained contender moving forward with Ike Davis at first base, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. One internal option would be moving Lucas Duda in from the outfield and some believe that he would be more comfortable at first.
- Mets owner Fred Wilpon wouldn't speak with reporters following a rare on-field appearance before last night's game against the Braves, but he'll have to start answering questions soon, writes David Lennon of Newsday. There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Mets, including what their projected payroll will be for 2013 and if the franchise is on the rebound financially.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington says Gerrit Cole, last year's top draft pick, will not be a September callup, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia). "We've not talked about it internally. My gut (feeling) is no." Huntington said. "To drop him into bullpen up here in September is not something we have lot of interest in doing. We have a lot of other options, instead of rushing a young prospect." Cole is currently starting at Double-A Altoona.
- The A's had interest in Mike Aviles prior to the trade deadline, but a deal is unlikely now the Red Sox have placed the shortstop on waivers, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser says the chances are slim the A's will acquire a shortstop before the August 31st deadline for playoff-roster eligibility.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
With the Pirates riding a four-game winning streak and sitting just one-half game behind the NL Central-leading Reds, GM Neal Huntington met with reporters today including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia).
- The Pirates pushed their budget to the limit with the Spring Training acquisition of A.J. Burnett, but Huntington isn't concerned about adding payroll. "We've got some flexibility," Huntington said without elaborating. Biertempfel has received indications the front office has requested and received permission from owner Bob Nutting to increase payroll, if necessary, at the trade deadline.
- With the trade deadline a little over a week away, Huntington says reality is starting to hit some teams. "Teams are starting to reach out with two-way logic — still looking to add but reality is starting to set in they might need to sell. There are not more clear sellers, but (more) teams that are beginning to prepare if they decide to go in that direction."
- On trade talks, Huntington said he's "no busier than we've been the last couple last weeks of July."
- On trading the pick obtained in the new Competitive Balance Lottery, Huntington said, "It's another asset for us. We've got a certain value on it. If we get that value, it's no different than a prospect in our system who we've played a value on. We're not looking to move it. It will be interesting to see how industry values it."
With the Pirates looking for their first interleague sweep in 11 years, GM Neal Huntington met with reporters before the game, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia).
- On signing first round draft choice Mark Appel, Huntington says "it's a challenging sign." Scott Boras is advising Appel and Biertempfel references other Boras clients who were tough signs but came to terms. Biertempfel thinks negotiations will heat up as the July 13 deadline approaches.
- Huntington was asked about dealing with Boras, "We've dealt with him a handful of times, both on the amateur market and on Major League free-agent market. He's … There's a reason he's negotiated all the contracts he's negotiated. It, uh … it is what it is."
- Huntington described the team's sales pitch to its draft picks, "We talk about who we are as an organization, the success that's coming through our deep and talented farm system and the role they can play in that. You throw the money at them and sometimes that's the final, and maybe only, deciding factor."
The Pirates were buyers at the July 31st trade deadline, acquiring Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee, but they haven't won a game this month. Here's the latest from Pittsburgh as the 54-59 Pirates look to post their first winning record since 1992…
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington must sign first overall draft pick Gerrit Cole by next week's deadline, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.
- Kovacevic also says president Frank Coonelly should complete an extension for Huntington, whose contract expires after the season.
- Huntington told Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Pirates could solve their bullpen problems by calling up pitchers such as Tim Wood, Chris Leroux and Danny Moskos.
- Kovacevic points out that the Pirates' dropoff in starting pitching performances has contributed to the club's current ten game losing streak. Paul Maholm agrees that the results have to improve. "It's on us," Maholm said. "We're the ones who go out there and pitch."
By now, I'm sure you've looked over our list of players that will be free agents after the 2011 season numerous times, but what about general managers? With some help from Cot's Baseball Contracts, here's the list of GMs without contracts for 2012…
- Andy MacPhail, Orioles – Technically, MacPhail isn't the GM, he's the president of baseball operations. He's still the guy calling the shots though. Last October we heard that he doesn't have any plans to approach owner Peter Angelos about a new deal before his current one expires.
- Neal Huntington, Pirates – Team president Frank Coonelly said he expects Huntington to be in Pittsburgh "for a long time" earlier this year.
- Walt Jocketty, Reds – Cincinnati is clearly a team on the rise, so it seems likely that ownership would want to bring Jocketty back after the season.
- Dave Dombrowski, Tigers – A few months ago we heard that the fates of Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland could be a package deal based on the team's performance in 2011.
- Brian Cashman, Yankees – The third longest-tenured GM in the game would seem to be on rocky ground after being over-ruled by ownership on the Rafael Soriano signing, but we heard afterwards that he still has the "full backing" of the Steinbrenners.
Here are some notes from baseball's only six-team division…
- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was very vague when asked about the possibility of Albert Pujols becoming a Cub according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times (on Twitter). Chicago has been speculated as a potential landing spot for Pujols if he does in fact become a free agent after the season.
- Ricketts did however say that there will be "a little more financial flexibility" at the end of the season and he's open to "mega" contracts for certain players, according to Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald and Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter links).
- Ricketts also told Cowley (on Twitter) that the team has some room in the budget to add at the trade deadline, though revenue in the first few months of the season will be key.
- The Pirates have not yet extended GM Neal Huntington's contract according to Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Team president Frank Coonelly said "it's our expectation that Neal will be here for a long time." Huntington's contract expires after the 2011 season.
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that right-hander Mike Jones, the Brewers first round pick in 2001 (12th overall), is retiring. The 27-year-old never reached the big leagues, and owns a 3.75 ERA in 623 1/3 minor league innings, all in Milwaukee's system.
After posting the worst record in baseball and an 18th consecutive losing season, the Pirates are expected to fire manager John Russell after today's game according to Dejan Kovacevic of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. GM Neal Huntington is expected to remain. Both men are under contract through the 2011 season.
In three seasons under Huntington and Russell, the Pirates have gone 186-297. Their 57-104 record in 2010 is representative of how poorly they've played; Pittsburgh is dead last in the league in ERA (5.00), UZR (-63.9) and third-worst in OPS (.679). There is no word about the fate of Russell's coaching staff, but Kovacevic notes that most of them have contracts that expire after the season.
Huntington's plan has been clear since taking over: he wants to rebuild the team through the farm system. Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker have already broken in with the big league team, and at $30.6MM, the Pirates have spent more money on the draft since 2008 than any other club. They've also been aggressive in pursuing elite international free agents, most notably Miguel Sano.
Building from within takes time, especially when Huntington didn't inherit much talent to begin with. That said, 18 losing seasons is 18 losing seasons, and blame apparently fell on Russell's shoulders.