So, it turns out that staying up until after 3:00 a.m. Monday morning -- a by-product of working frantically to launch the new website on time -- and then getting up less than five hours later for class wasn't such a wise course of action to take after all, and I'm now grounded with some sort of virus, left with no other option but to inundate myself with vitamin C, elderberry syrup and Gatorade.
Isn't the power of hindsight wonderful?
By the way, I believe I've taken care of everybody who has requested a BBTiA account thus far (and thanks to those of you that have, by the way). Again, if you're interested in acquiring one, simply send your preferred login ID, display name and password (between 6-25 characters) to email@example.com, or employ the 'Contact Us' page on the left sidebar, and we'll promptly set you up.
John Vittas makes his long-awaited return to BBTiA later this morning.
● Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has predictably taken a great deal of flak on a national level for his decision to exclude Dustin Pedroia from his AL MVP ballot, and Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald has taken particular exception with his decision (which, to Evan's credit, he admitted was "probably a mistake [...] in retrospect," though he then pulled out the ever-reliable on-base percentage with runners in scoring position as evidence that he wasn't as good as the rest of the field at "clutch hitting," which I really don't get), choosing to roundly lambast his Metroplex media counterpart:
Yes, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News botched it but good. He filed a piece Sept. 20 - a little more than a week before the season ended - in which he showed us his MVP ballot. He had the Sox’ Kevin Youkilis [stats] first, just as he did on his actual ballot. On his mock ballot, he had Pedroia fourth.
One week later, Pedroia fell off the ballot completely.
Is it possible he just forgot? At least Grant admitted, via a blog entry and various radio appearances yesterday, that he screwed up in some fashion.
Continuing to fight the fight, though, he devoted six more lines explaining why Pedroia should not have been MVP, noting that he was “dwarfed by the other players on the list.”
While we can only wonder if Grant’s use of the word “dwarfed” was merely an unwitting dig at the 5-foot-whatever-the-Sox-are-claiming-he-is Pedroia is beside the point. What jumps out here is that, even in saying, “I’m sorry,” the guy also is saying, “I’d do it again."
Grant's ballot also features Francisco Rodriguez in second place and the aforementioned triumvirate of Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer and Grady Sizemore in sixth, eighth and ninth place, respectively, which I find far more mind-boggling than leaving Pedroia off his ballot completely. I'm not at all opposed to the idea of pitchers being granted serious MVP consideration, but saves are an absolutely terrible evaluator of overall performance, and the fact that I can name three AL closers right off the top of my head who were simply better at pitching than Rodriguez in 2008 -- Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera -- should be a clear indication that there is something very, very wrong here.
Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has also vigorously dissected his own MVP ballot, which includes a first-place vote for Pedroia and a defensible 10th-place vote for Ian Kinsler, the only vote the Texas second baseman garnered throughout the entire balloting process.
● In his latest MLB.com mailbag, T.R. Sullivan suggests that free-agent closer Kerry Wood is pursuing a three- or four-year deal (something the Rangers evidently aren't all that interested in handing out), and further goes on to submit that the Rangers and Red Sox are "waiting to see if the other blinks" with regard to the long-discussed Jarrod Saltalamacchia-for-Clay Buchholz trade that will probably never materialize. Remember, general manager Jon Daniels has a penchant for the unexpected.
● Former Rangers bench and third base coach Don Wakamatsu has reportedly been chosen as the new manager of the Seattle Mariners, according to a source familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Wakamatsu interviewed to fill the Rangers' managerial vacancy after Buck Showalter's dismissal following the 2006 season (as did then-manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Trey Hillman), but ultimately lost out to Ron Washington and remained part of his coaching staff for one season before jumping to the division-rival Oakland Athletics.
Best of luck to Don. He's probably going to need it.
● MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports that the Diamondbacks have had informal conversations with the agent of free-agent infielder Ramon Vazquez (Melvin Roman, who also represents Rockies backstop Yorvit Torrealba), and are expected to have more in-depth discussions with Vazquez's representative later this week. Vazquez came up shy of qualifying for 'Type B' free agent status, meaning the Rangers will not recoup a compensatory draft pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft regardless of where he ends up signing.
● According to Newsday's Kat O'Brien, the Rangers are but one of more than a half-dozen teams -- along with the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Mets -- that have expressed interest in free-agent right-hander Derek Lowe. There's not much reason to believe that Texas will emerge as a legitimate suitor for his services at this stage (particularly in light of team president Nolan Ryan's recent affirmation that payroll will not expand beyond the $75 million threshold, all but ruling out any sort of major free-agent splash unless Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla or Hank Blalock were to be traded at some point), but it's out there.
On a related note, Ryan Dempster's freshly inked four-year, $52 million contract extension probably doesn't do much to affect the Rangers' off-season plans, although it could conceivably make it more difficult to reach Ben Sheets' asking price if the league-wide concern over his health is so extreme that his contractual demands are bumped as far down as two- or three-year territory.
I'm about ready for the Jake Peavy "Will he or won't he be traded?" saga to be over. It's all far too reminiscent of those many consecutive winters where Manny Ramirez was seemingly on the brink of being traded for weeks at a time right before everybody kissed and made up.
● New pitching coach Mike Maddux, once again, appears to get it:
"I like a pitching coach who relates well to his pitchers and understands that each one of them is different," [Nolan] Ryan said. "Dealing with 12 different individuals, you have to try to get them to rise to the occasion and try to get consistency out of them."
Since Ryan was purportedly the "driving force" behind the dismissal of former pitching coach Mark Connor (as well as his bullpen counterpart, Dom Chiti) back in August, I suppose we can safely recognize this comment as a subtle jab at Connor, whose incessant mechanical tinkering ostensibly contributed majorly to his ultimate downfall.
● First baseman Justin Smoak has played just three times for the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas in the last week, but his most recent 1-for-2, two-walk performance took some of the sting out of a 10-4 home loss to the Mesa Solar Sox on Tuesday, and spiked his batting line with Peoria to .371/.500/.514 over 35 at-bats, with eight walks to just eight strikeouts -- an especially striking level of offensive production, sample size be damned.
David Pratt, a poster at John Sickels' increasingly popular Minor League Ball, shot some exceptionally high-quality video of one of Smoak's plate appearances back on October 31st, and since it's been a while since we had some interactive goodness in this space, here Smoak's silky smooth swing in action:
[Direct link to the video available here.]
● Triple-A Oklahoma City manager Bobby Jones has been tabbed as the first-ever recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award, an honor named after the late Double-A Tulsa first base coach who died after being struck by a line drive last year and presented to an individual in the minors who has exhibited "outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field." Jones, a 21-year employee of the Rangers, will be honored during baseball's winter meetings next month at the Las Vegas Hilton.
● Finally, Rangers television color commentator Tom Grieve was honored with the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award at Tuesday evening's Bobby Bragan Award Gala at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Executive vice president Jim Sundberg, Grieve's television partner Josh Lewin, public address announcer Chuck Morgan, former Rangers Rusty Greer, Steve Buechele and Mark McLemore, and current Rangers Michael Young and Ian Kinsler were also in attendance.
And now time for another dose of elderberry syrup.