Everyone who knows me–or reads this column regularly–knows that I love Vegas, and think that Major League Baseball could flourish there. Well, apparently I’m not the only one, as Steve Stone has been secretly heading a group trying to buy the Expos and move them out west. As a Cubs fan, I’ve always enjoyed Steve’s work, especially when it comes to explaining the mental processes of pitching. I didn’t know it before meeting him on the field at Wrigley, but Stone is a close friend of Bud Selig–a fact that can’t hurt his chances of landing the team. Can Stone come up with the cash and a stadium? All reports have Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman on board, and that means things in town are a go. While I don’t like the implication of a winter where the two main stories will be the reinstatement of Pete Rose and a team moving to Vegas, I think one will definitely happen, and the other’s a coin flip.
Powered by Vince Vaughn’s performance in the movie Swingers, on to the injuries…
- The Cards fell out of the race this weekend, but don’t fault Matt Morris. He gutted through his performance, getting outmatched by another guy with injury problems, Roy Oswalt. Oswalt may be a ticking time-bomb out there on the mound, but he’s certainly effective while active, and in a race as close as the NL Central, his toughness might be the difference. As for Morris, he’s escaped TLR’s insane usage patterns, the lack of a bullpen, and injuries to play hard, but the Cards need to go on a streak early this week and then sweep the Astros–and they’ll push Morris back to face them–or they’re done.
- The Twins are hurting down the stretch, but the return of Eric Milton has Twins fans happy and looking forward to a couple more starts down the stretch. Milton had a solid outing on Sunday, going his full ration of five innings and showing good control and reasonably velocity. While he didn’t factor in the decision, his successful outing takes a bit of pressure off the rest of the rotation, and makes their potential playoff rotation Johan Santana, Brad Radke, and Milton a trio many teams would not want to face. In the outfield, besides Mike Ryan‘s face, the Twins have Torii Hunter with a sore knee and Jacque Jones with a sore groin, forcing Ron Gardenhire to mix and match with his million interchangeable parts. As good as Terry Ryan was last year, and as much credit as he should get for developing all the talent the Twins have, he’s been asleep at the wheel on roster construction in 2003.
- Don’t ask me how more than one person got Matt Clement‘s calf and groin mixed up. Was it misdirection? Was it merely a mistake? I’m not sure, but errors like that unfortunately happen. Luckily, truth tends to slide out, and with pitchers, we have a couple days to determine not only what is going on, but how serious it is. Other than the specific body part, everything else was correct. Clement had a good bullpen session on Saturday and didn’t have any complications. He’ll likely make his start on Tuesday, but Dave Tumbas and Larry Rothschild will watch him closely. He’ll be on a very short leash, unlike the rest of the Cubs staff.
- Hideo Nomo was able to make his start on Sunday, but it was obvious that Jim Tracy had him on a strict pitch count, pulling him at 71 (suggesting a 75 limit.) Nomo looked to have good stuff, and from the highlights, I saw no change in his mechanics or indication that he was having trouble with his shoulder. I’m just guessing, but I’d think that serious tendinitis in his shoulder would affect his windup.
- With the Royals clinging to playoff hopes, having an effective Jose Lima back would help. Tony Pena got a first-hand look, catching Lima’s 70-pitch simulated game, and came away saying that Lima could be back in the rotation this week. The Royals are getting some good innings out of Jamey Wright, and someone needs to start realizing that John Cumberland and Jeff Pentland might be just as important to the success of this team as Pena.
- Brad Penny was able to have an MRI–sedated this time, since those machines are bad for anyone with a hint of claustrophobia–and the results backed up what he felt. After just a day’s rest, Penny felt better, and with no damage apparent on the MRI, he should make a start this weekend. The worry, of course, is that no one is really sure what caused the hyperextension his last time out–leaving open the possibility that it will happen again. Given any sort of cushion in the wild card race, the Marlins have indicated that they’d like to get their starters some rest, especially Penny and Dontrelle Willis.
- While MRI results weren’t in by deadline (awaiting another radiologist’s opinion), Melvin Mora is done for the season. All indications are that Mora tore his MCL making a play in Toronto, crashing into the wall and landing awkwardly on the rubberized warning track. An MCL doesn’t have the same recovery time as an ACL, but it could limit how Mora is used next year. If Mora doesn’t continue to hit like he did this season, having his versatility limited reduces his value significantly.
- If you go way back to the work of Ted Williams–or more recently to the work of Chris Yeager–one of the keys to hitting is the legs. Take out the base, a la Mark McGwire at the end, and everything else just crumbles. Jim Edmonds is dealing with leg problems of all sorts–hamstring, knee, and ankle–and his hitting is suffering at just the time his team needs it most. Without rest, Edmonds won’t approach 100% this season.
- Quick Cuts: John Smoltz won’t take any mound until late this week and even then, it will only be a side session. He won’t be back for at least 10 days…Just off the DL, Terry Adams is now unavailable due to loose material in his elbow. He’ll have offseason surgery…Jose Guillen left Sunday’s A’s/Rangers game with a wrist injury–more as we know it…There are some rumblings that the White Sox will be going to a four man rotation down the stretch. With their collection of pitchers, they’re an ideal team to make it work. I only question why they didn’t try it before now…Danny Patterson is headed back to the shelf. He’s one of those pitchers that can’t seem to stay healthy…Curt Schilling should make his next start, but the D’backs may be too far gone to save.
The big announcement? Didn’t happen, but it will soon. Waiting for all the I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed.
P.S. I’m screwed.