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									Sunday, April 6, 2008




— By the Tribune-Review


Closers: Love ’em or Leave ’em
If you’re playing in a rotisserie league, feel free to stock up on closers early, then dump them when June comes around. And don’t worry abou the inevitable April glut of blown saves. Last year, closers averaged 8 saves during the season’s first two months, but fell off to 61/2 each in June and July before their totals rebounded in the late months. Across your whole staff, that edge could gain you a point or two around season’s end. All the small advantages add up.


Make that decaf, please
Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano is backing off his caffeine consumption in an attempt to cure dehydration problems that have plagued him in his career. Zambrano was forced to leave his Opening Day start against Milwaukee in the seventh inning because his right hand was cramping. It was the third time in four Opening Day starts that Zambrano has been troubled by cramping in his throwing arm. “I have to stop drinking coffee and Red Bull and put more (clear fluids) in,” Zambrano said. “You have to put that in your system and your mind. I like to drink coffee, but if I (can’t ) drink coffee because this happens, I won’t drink it.” The Cubs revealed that Zambrano was taking IVs before starts late last season to elevate his fluid level. They sent him to a kidney specialist this week and have contacted the Gatorade Sports Science Institute to do an analysis of the pitcher’s sweat.

The Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano has been as affected by cold April weather as any player. He’s a career .308 hitter in April with 54 doubles (most of any month), but has connected for only 30 April homers (fewest of any month). If he finishes the month with only two or three dingers, that’s just normal. Don’t panic.


Name Johnny Cueto Carlos Gomez Nick Johnson Team CIN MINN WASH Pos. SP OF 1B

Payout for A-Rod a step above the Marlins roster.
Baseball’s extreme fascination with numbers extends beyond bloated home-run totals and elevated earned-run averages, to the realm where the figures have dollar signs preceding them. Last week, we learned that New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, at an annual salary of $28 million for 2008, makes more than the entire Florida Marlins team ($21.8 million). This is not historic. In 1997, when Albert Belle was pulling down a cool $10 million to play for the Chicago White Sox, the Pirates’ roster earned a combined salary of $9.07 million.
What is historic is the new Yankee Stadium, currently under construction for a 2009 opener, is expected to cost $1.3 billion. By way of contrast, the existing Yankee Stadium was built in 1923 at a cost of $2.3 million. I know, I know. The dollar doesn’t buy what it used to, so much so that foreign supermodels request payment in Euros and commodities merchants are considering no longer pricing their goods in dollars, but rather in some more stable currency. A chart of the U.S. dollar index shows worse performance than the Pirates in their past 15 losing seasons. Gasoline is expected to push $4 a gallon this summer from sea to shining sea. We’re burning corn to produce fuel, with a commensurate rise in the cost of products made of corn, or from animals that eat corn. Sure, the A-Rod salary looks big, but have you ever tried to exist in New York City? But, unlike in the case of the game’s statistics, where comparing the home-run production of Babe Ruth across the eras to Barry Bonds requires guesswork, if not a degree in chemistry, dollar comparisons are as near as a government inflation calculator. Punching in the numbers there, with the calculator adjusting based on the consumer price index, that $2.3 million to build Yankee Stadium in 1923 translates to $28,473,327.49 in 2008. Put another way, adjusting for inflation still leaves a $1 billion difference between the cost of old Yankee Stadium and the new. Even with a martini bar, members-only restaurant and party suites in the new edifice, it doesn’t add up. On the subject of Ruth, who made $80,000 in 1930, more than President Hoover’s $75,000 and about which Ruth explained at the time, “I had a better year than Hoover,” that salary projects to a relative pittance in 2008. Adjusted for inflation, the $80,000 is the equivalent of $1,014,098.20 in present-day dollars. The average major league salary for 2008 is $3.15 million. Ultimately, is A-Rod 28 times the player Ruth was? Probably not. Just for kicks, we ran Ruth’s 60 homers in 1927 through the dollar-inflation calculator. Adjusted for inflation, that would be 729.98 round-trippers in 2008. Feel free to round that upward. — By Sam Ross Jr.

Safe at home again
Robert Andino, a backup infielder for the Marlins, hit a game-winning homer Tuesday and, upon reaching the clubhouse, found text messages from his wife awaiting on his cell phone. Renee Andino wasn’t calling to congratulate her husband, but rather to tell him that someone was trying to break into their Miami house. Robert raced home to find police there with his wife. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria described a surreal scene following the home run. “He didn’t get to enjoy it for but two minutes,” Loria said. “He came in here, he did something with his telephone, and he left.”

Name Team Pos. Barry Bonds FA OF Randy Johnson ARIZ SP Kerry Wood CHC RP

Starting pitchers who struck out more than a hitter per inning in 2007. Toronto’s A.J. Burnett and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum are two who did it who could be obtained on the cheaper side. Make a deal now before a strong month sends their value soaring.

Batting average of new Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome after five games. The Japanese left-handed hitter reached base four times — including a homer and a double — on Opening Day without recording an out and already has five runs, five RBIs, a stolen base a bunt base hit . Don’t get overexcited, though. This is the same guy who hit only 294 with 13 homers in 81 games in Japan in 2007.


How hard is it to be really unlucky and still finish with more wins than losses? Only four starting pitchers finished 2007 over .500 despite allowing a opponent batting average of .325 or higher on balls put in play (league average is .300). These guys will rebound in 2008, so get them while their stock is low: Name, team W L ERA Scott Kazmir*, TB 15 9 4.05 Felix Hernandez, SEA 14 7 3.92 Andy Pettitte, NYY 15 9 4.05 Doug Davis#, ARIZ 13 12 4.25

21, not the movie
This spring, the New York Yankees handed out jersey No. 21 to Morgan Ensberg, a number that had not been in use by the team since Paul O’Neill retired after the 2001 season. This prompted a flood of fan reaction and eventually, prior to the start or the regular season, Ensberg changed numbers. LaTroy Hawkins switched to the No. 21 jersey as a tribute to Roberto Clemente, and was booed when he was introduced on Opening Day. O’Neill, a part-time broadcaster for the team, remains popular with fans and may have added to the emotion of the situation when he said he didn’t like seeing his number being used by another player. Hawkins was having trouble grasping the fan reaction. “I really don’t understand what’s going on,” he said. As a sidelight, Ensberg got a $50 ticket after the Tuesday opener for talking on his cell phone while driving home.

a Q&A session with Pirates left fielder NYJER MORGAN
1. Who’s your pick to win the Stanley Cup this year?
Aw, c'mon, it's a no-brainer — the San Jose Sharks! I love the NHL playoffs, because that's when you see everybody step up their games. That's why I think, besides baseball, playoff hockey is one of the most exciting things in sports — especially when they get into sudden-death overtime and everybody's like, ‘Come on! Come on!' But I'm not one of those guys who's up all night watching a seven-overtime game. I'll give it three OTs, and then wait until the next day to see it on SportsCenter. The atmosphere is unreal. Everybody's energy jumps up like three times what it would be for a normal, regular-season game. And in the NHL, you're part of just 16 teams that have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, which is one of the biggest prizes other than the World Series and Super Bowl trophies. To hold the Cup ... that's a pretty significant thing.

Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano allowed four runs in 51/3 innings in a Single-A start Thursday night as he continued to rehab from 2006 elbow surgery. He struck out eight, though — a sign that the movement is there on his fastball and slider. One more rehab start and he should be activated.

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto receives mixed reviews — he mashed 26 homers at Triple-A at age 24 last year, but never had more than nine at any other level. He’s a guy who wasn’t even drafted in many leagues, so pick him up now and watch his stock soar if he makes April memorable. If not, you waste a month on a catcher instead of a No. 8 or 9 pitcher. — By David Sandora


Height: 6-foot-0 Weight: 170 pounds Bats: Left Throws: Left College: Walla Walla CC, Washington MLB debut: Sept. 1, 2007

2. As a teenager, you played four seasons of junior hockey in Canada. What were the playoffs like?

Baked Zito
In San Francisco, they’re pushing pitcher Barry Zito for biggest bust of all-time. The pitcher, in the second season of a sevenyear, $126 million contract, was down, 3-0, after just four batters on Opening Day for the Giants. The 29-year-old former A’s pitcher has lost four consecutive opening-day starts, with a cumulative ERA of 9.49 in those games. Worse, his fastball is being clocked in the range of 81 to 84 miles an hour. — Sam Ross Jr.

3. Do you miss being out there on the ice?

The last time I went skating was about three years ago with my little girl. She's fast, but she doesn't like the corners. She didn't get her goal-scoring skills from me. Nate (McLouth) and I are trying to line up something to skate with the Penguins when we get back to Pittsburgh. Nate's from Michigan; everybody skates up there. Hopefully, they let us bang with them because I want to go top shelf on (Marc-Andre) Fleury or (Ty) Conklin. But it definitely will be a no-contact thing because we don't want to get anybody hurt.

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