February 2011

About a year ago on March 4, 2010 to be exact, I wrote my first post on Caught Looking. Two hundred posts later and here we are. I’ve had fun posting and handing out my opinions throughout the year on my small space here in the blogosphere that included being featured on MLB Trade Rumors that saw my daily hits soar through the roof that week.

I’ve added a Caught Looking twitter account that you can follow at http://twitter.com/Caught_Looking1. Caught Looking also has its own page on Facebook that you can become a fan of here.

I can’t wait for spring training and the 2011 season to get underway as this blog finds its niche this year. One of the new features for the season with include a daily dose of some sort that will recap each day during the season.

Thank you to everyone who has visited these pages and to the dedicated fans that read this site regularly. I plan on being around for Caught Looking’s 500th post and beyond.

And as always, let’s play two!


Next up in my 2010 picture series was my highly anticipated first trip ever to Boston and Fenway Park to see the Red Sox face the Angels on August 18, 2010.

Fenway Park. Nuff said.

After spending most of the day walking the Freedom Trail, my friend and I made our way to Fenway a couple of hours before game time so we didn’t rush our first experience there. This was one of the most iconic ballparks in all of baseball and one that I’ve seen on TV a million times, so I cannot tell you my excitement to finally walk into that ballpark as the green monster came into view. Basically the experience was everything I thought it would be. And of course, the game would be a hit fest that included 12 runs, 22 hits, four hits and oh yeah, a Red Sox victory. Click here to read a detailed account of the game and the trip.

Last month the Blue Jays dealt Vernon Wells to the Angels for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera. Looking at it strictly on paper in terms of talent, the deal looks great for the Angels, but it’s Wells ridiculous contract that is the key.

Wells is in the middle of a 7-year, $126 million contract that will pay him more than $26 million this season and $20+ million until 2014. Meanwhile in return the Jays get a serviceable offensive catcher in Napoli and a 31-year-old former prospect that really never lived up to expectations (only posted a WAR above 2 once in 10 major league seasons). Obviously, this is a straight salary dump for Toronto.

When the Jays signed Wells to the seven-year deal in 2007, he was 27 years old, in his prime and they had Roy Halladay to give them a chance to contend. Things have changed drastically in four years after the Jays struggled to keep up with the big boys of the AL East. Halladay was traded for prospects after the ’09 season and with Wells getting up their in age and the team giving the young prospects a chance to play, the Jays were ready to dump Wells.

The surprising thing is that they found a suitor to take his contract on. Insert the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California. Here’s a team that tried and failed to sign Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this offseason, losing Beltre to a division rival in the Rangers. The Angels obviously took some heat publicly for not signing either free agent and had some extra money to spend, but $23M? They could have spent less than that and still gave more money to Beltre than Texas did.

Let’s look at Wells to see if he’s worth that kind of money. His best seasons were 2003 and 2006, the latter when he hit 32 home runs and a slash line of .303/.357/.542. Following the 2006 season, he slumped the next three years producing a three-year slash line of .265/.317/.426. Which was right after he signed the long-term deal. Did he get complacent? That’s definitely a possibility.

At any rate, Wells rebounded last year with 31 homers, his highest since ’06, and a slash line of .273/.331/.515. But he’ll be 32 this summer, and he’s already shown signs of diminishing skills so I’m not sure what the Angels can expect from him the next couple of years. But I do not see how the Angels will get $23 million dollars worth out of him this year. Wells is one of the top five paid players in all of baseball, but he’s not one of the top five players out there.

The bottom line is the Angels panicked and searched for a deal that could bring in a name. They lost out on Crawford and Beltre while seeing Adrian Gonzalez go to Boston and Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, and they suddenly didn’t have anything to show for this offseason so they looked for a quick desperate deal. Did their team get better on the field? Yes, but at what cost and for how long?

On the other hand, the Jays will miss Wells production from 2010 but with the $75+ million they saved over the next four years, they can better spend the money to keep prospects like Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek among others around. Then again they could just dump that money into Jose Bautista for the next five years and pray last year wasn’t a fluke, but that’s another topic for another day.

Just a few days after attending the Indians-Red Sox game, I made the drive to Comerica Park in Detroit to see a rematch of the 1909 World Series between the Pirates and Tigers.

Old school jerseys for Tigers and Bucs

I went to two games (June 12 and June 13) and both were pretty much the same result. The Pirates blew late leads in both games and lost by one run in each game on their way to a three-game sweep at the hands of the Motor City boys. The June 12th game featured throwback jerseys as the teams honored their hometown teams from the Negro League. For some reason, I didn’t take pictures of this trip so I do not own the picture above. Anyway, Carlos Guillen ended the game Saturday night in the 10th inning with a walkoff home run.

On the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon, I still can’t believe Dotel pitched to Miguel Cabrera in the 8th inning of a 2-1 game with two outs. Cabrera predictably took Dotel deep for a three-run home run and that was that. Despite how much Pirates baseball I’ve seen in the past 17 years, sometimes I still can’t believe some of the decisions that are made. Unreal. I also witnessed a rare occurrence in that game as well that you can read here.

Are the Mets really relying this heavily on R.A. Dickey this upcoming season? The Mets signed Dickey to a two-year deal worth about $7.5 million this offseason following his surprising 2010 season where he posted an 11-9 record with 2.84 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. I’m finding last year just a bit too good to be true.

Dickey’s best ERA prior to 2010 was 2009 with a 4.62 and his six seasons before that, he didn’t have an ERA below 5. Not to mention he didn’t pitch in the Majors at all in 2007. Dickey is 36 years old, had one good season suddenly but I think it’s foolish for the Mets to move forward with him as their No. 2 starter this spring. Yes, Dickey’s a knuckleballer so he could be a workhorse like Tim Wakefield, but not every player to ever throw a knuckleball finds consistent success with it. But the Mets have serious problems if they plan on Dickey being their second arm in the rotation and he struggles to find last year’s success.

Johan Santana, who is making over $20 million a year, is out until most likely at least June. That leaves Mike Pelfrey as your ace for the beginning of the year. While Pelfrey is almost 10 years younger than Dickey, he’s not exactly the model of success either. He had a nice 2010 campaign (15-9, 3.66), but he also had a good 2008 season and followed it up with a step back in 2009 (10-12, 5.03). Does he regress again this year? The Mets can’t afford that at all. They desperately need him to step up and be that starter they can rely on to stop losing streaks if need be.

After Pelfrey and Dickey, you have patchwork that includes the likes of Jonathan Niese, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee and Chris Young. Gee has five ML games under his belt, Niese just put in his first full season in the bigs, Capuano was a mediocre pitcher at best with the Brewers and Young has appeared in four games in the past year and has more injuries than the entire Mets team suffered last year. Definitely some cause for concern, huh?

Out of this group, Niese holds the most potential by far but there’s no guarantee that he’s going to roll out there and produce behind Pelfrey and Dickey. Plus, even when Santana returns in June or July, what can the Mets expect of him after coming off shoulder surgery last September? It may take him the rest of the summer to shake off the rust and get back into his old form.

It’s going to be another long season for the Mets, one that they may not be able to blame on injuries this time. Even if Dickey meets the lowest bar of expectations for him, the rest of the rotation will need to exceed them for the Mets to put together anything close to a winning season. There’s just too many “if’s” with Dickey and the rotation for me to be confident for the Mets chances in 2011.

Rolling right along in my 2010 picture series is my trip to Progressive Field in Cleveland in June 2010 to see the Indians host the Red Sox.

Indians-Red Sox - June 9, 2010

I have been to Progressive Jacobs Field many times before, and I always end up enjoying it. The ballpark usually gets forgotten in the talk of top ballparks out there, but compared to everything else in that city, that is one place I want to visit as much as I can.

And on that night, June 9, 2010, the game showcased how a bad team could smack around a good team. Justin Masterson fired a two-hitter against his former team and the Tribe put up an eight spot in the 8th inning, which included a grand slam by Travis Hafner. The Indians cruised to an 11-0 drubbing of Boston. The game even featured a Boof Bonser sighting! You can read more about my account of that game here.

This was not the headline the Tigers were hoping would kick off spring training 2011. Miguel Cabrera, one of the top five best young hitters in the game, is starting to become a distraction for the Tigers off the field. Cabrera was arrested early Thursday morning in Florida and charged with a DUI.

The situation was ugly according to police reports that not only was he found intoxication behind the wheel of a smoking vehicle, but also resisting arrest and even at one point, grabbing a bottle of scotch and taking a drink right in front of the police officer. Yikes. Not to mention his bizarre mug shot where he’s smiling while being booked at the police station.

This isn’t the first problem Cabrera has had with alcohol considering he showed up to games drunk after an apparent domestic fight with his wife in 2009 while the Tigers were attempting to clinch a division title from the Twins. That prompted an apology to the Tigers organization and his word that he would never drink again. Obviously, that turns out to not be true. A further look into what transpired early Thursday morning shows this is becoming a serious problem for Cabrera.

He was found alone in his car while the engine was smoking on the side on the road. Where were his teammates? Where were his friends that he went out with Wednesday night? Did he go drinking by himself? He’s making $20 million a year, why doesn’t he hire a driver or just take a cab if he wants to go out and have fun. One thing is for certain—someone in his life (a teammate, family member or friend) needs to step in before this gets out of control and derails his career just like a Darryl Strawberry or Josh Hamilton. Hamilton has since turned his career around, but he lost valuable years due to drugs and alcohol and almost never got back on the right track.

So far this hasn’t cost Cabrera or his team his dominant play on the field as he’s been one of the premier power hitters in today’s game over the past seven years, but we’ve seen personal problems eventually consume a player’s career in the past. It would be sad to see this happen here, but he needs to get help or accept the help that is being offered by the Tigers, family and friends.

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