MLB

McCourt Is Burning the Los Angeles Dodgers

It has been a disappointing baseball season to say the least in Los Angeles. On opening day, a fan leaving Dodger Stadium was brutally beaten, and still remains in a coma.

For the baseball season to begin in that fashion, set the stage for a brutal 2011 season. Unfortunately, that was not the only setback the Dodgers organization encountered.

Dodger Owner Frank McCourt began seeing red, instead of true blue. The financial situation of one of the most historic baseball clubs of all-time couldn’t pay their bills.

It would be easy to understand an organizations shortcomings in Florida or Kansas City, where more seats are unoccupied than not. But, this is L.A., we support our team, through and through.

All the optimism that existed within Chavez Ravine instantly evaporated into L.A.’s smog. The stadium soon looked like Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Home run balls were hit to the outfield pavilion. Unfortunately, no one was there to catch it.

There is little to be happy about with the Dodgers. Although the roster is youthful and talented, the team is still in the cellar of the National League West.

Then again, it can’t be easy to suit up and play for a no-good owner. The players don’t even have the security of a paycheck, since their next one might turn to rubber.

The one constant about the Dodgers, through thick and thin, has been Vin Scully, the famous play-by-play announcer.

Amid a dark rain cloud in sunny Southern California, each broadcast Scully is a part of; he sheds light on gloomy franchise.

However, even Scully can’t turn this debacle into dessert with his vocal illustrations.

Published on July 30, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

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Big Money Spending vs. Front-Line Starting Pitching

Many fans of America’s pastime believe that “money buys championships.”

Whether or not you’re a subscriber to the theory, the amount of cash thrown around in the offseason has sparked considerable debate.

Last fall, the San Francisco Giants captured the World Series title with top-tier pitching, not an abundance of multimillion-dollar outfield players. Some might say, “Pitching trumps hitting, each and every time.”

The New York Yankees’ roster is a prime example of an excessive payroll coming up short of a World Series championship. After not reaching the Fall Classic last year, the Yankees’ payroll enters the 2011 season in excess of $196 million.

In 2010, the Yankees fell victim to a much-maligned, over-paid pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia carried his weight, but A.J. Burrnett’s $82 million contract left fans wondering whether the organization’s money was being put to good use.

This offseason, the Yankees added catcher Russell Martin and set-up man Rafael Soriano to the ranks of their near-$200 million payroll. Those moves most likely will improve the lineup and bullpen, but New York struggled with front-line pitching beyond Sabathia’s outings.

And now, the Yankees cannot rely on veteran Andy Pettitte. The lefty Texan called it a career this winter having won more postseason games than any pitcher in MLB history.

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For the Yankees, the increased payroll doesn’t make things any easier. With first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford arriving in Beantown, the rival Boston Red Sox added the top-two free-agent position players this offseason.

There’s no doubt Boston upgraded their day-to-day lineup with two hard-hitting sluggers. Many pundits have penciled the Red Sox in as American League East favorites.

Perhaps the Red Sox are taking a different approach to the saying, “Money buys championships.” Instead of upgrading the pitching staff or adding support in the bullpen, the Red Sox management followed the common fan slogan, “Chicks dig the long ball.”

After all, somebody other than David Ortiz has to send baseballs flying over Fenway Park’s Green Monster. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford seem to fit that part, not to mention each player’s athletic fielding ability as well.

Then again, past World Series winners have proven quality pitching outlasts powerful hitting. The San Francisco Giants showed that precise pitching coupled with timely hitting is the ultimate recipe to secure a World Series ring.

Just ask the Philadelphia Phillies.

Philadelphia’s shortcomings were revealed when its so-called “timely hitting” ran out, and after coming up short the past two seasons, forming a dominant pitching rotation became the main priority.

With the additions of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt over the last two years, the Phillies appear primed for another World Series run.

As Philadelphia wrapped up its free-agent acquisitions, its 2011 payroll exceeded $161 million.

Although it’s only spring training and the World Series is eight months away, the Phillies appear to be covering all the bases. Not many teams can compete with their pitching staff, long-ball sluggers and sure-handed fielders.

Then again, there are only a handful of teams that can afford to spend that kind of money to win a World Series.

Published on March 13, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

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Pujols Puts Contract Talks to Bed, For Now

Ten years, and $300 million is a tremendous contract. The St. Louis Cardinals did not reach that level, but offered a substantial contract to Albert Pujols.

The offered contract by the Cardinals would have made the three-time MVP first basemen a top ten earner in Major League Baseball.

There is no question that Pujols is one of, if not, the best player in the big leagues. Pujols’ will make $16 million in a Cardinals uniform this upcoming year, which places him behind the likes of Ryan Howard of the Phillies and the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera.

But Pujols does not play in Philadelphia or Detroit; St. Louis is the third smallest market in baseball. Can they go toe-to-toe and pay the big bucks against potential offseason buyers like the Chicago Cubs, Anaheim Angles, or maybe, even the Texas Rangers?

Honestly, who wouldn’t want Albert Pujols on their team? Even a team that is set at first base would adore “The Machine’s” bat in the lineup, but his glove is extremely valuable, too.

For now, the contract talks between the red birds and Pujols are on hold until the offseason. An approach, that seems unlikely to succeed. On the first day Pujols arrived in Florida for spring training, the media bombarded the clubhouse wanting reaction to the ongoing negotiations.

However, as Pujols stated, “This is a zoo, look at this.” There is no doubt that this continuing story will be a distraction. As Pujols’ deadline came and went, with each new city he travels during the season, the contract discussion will take the spotlight.

Seriously, how could it not? Especially, each trip to Chicago –where Pujols has hit 23 home runs in his career — fans will be courting the All-Star first baseman, and imagining him with a big “C” on his chest. Finally, the Cubs fans could celebrate Pujols’ hits to the street.

Perhaps everyone is overplaying the rumors and speculation, but what does Pujols expect?

Pujols has an opportunity to be placed among the greatest players in St. Louis Cardinals history –if not MLB history– or pull a “LeBron James” and go for glory in a new setting, with a new uniform.

Could you imaging if Pujols joining the Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers, or one of the beasts in the east? The possibility of Pujols returning to Busch Stadium with showering cheers and standing ovations each plate appearance in a rival’s uniform would be a crushing hit to a loyal fan base.

That’s why fans in St. Louis are worrisome of the fact that their beloved player for the last decade could leave town for greener pastures. And by greener pastures, I am referring to the ones littered with dead presidents.

Albert Pujols is 31-years-old, although he has filled up the stat sheets since being named National League Rookie of the Year in 2001, there is no guarantee those numbers will continue on.

St. Louis’ offer did not meet the 10 year $300 million dollar platform Pujols desired, but with those years attached, the Cardinals’ brass will be on the hook for “The Machine’s” declining years, as well.

Pujols is, and could continue to be, the face of the St. Louis franchise, for many years to come. Much like Cal Ripken, Jr. with the Orioles and Derek Jeter with the Yankees today, Pujols could place himself among franchise greats.

In today’s day and age, those athletes are few and far between. But if a baseball city is going to retain their beloved icon, the Cardinals’ brass will have to fork over the cash.

Even then, the big spenders in baseball could eventually lure Pujols. Against Pujols’ wishes, we will all continue to speculate.

Published on February 17, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

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