Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

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Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:13 am

Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/karabell/index

Two springs ago, fantasy owners everywhere were tantalized by a potential front-line starting pitcher in a major market, a strikeout right-hander who was sure to be a fantasy monster. We're talking 200 strikeouts, 20 wins, Cy Youngs, he was supposedly going to be that good.

So far, in three seasons, Jonathan Papelbon has made three starts. That's it.

Hmmm, doesn't that sound awfully familiar? The Yankees announced recently that Joba Chamberlain will start the 2008 season in the bullpen, ostensibly as the top setup man for Mariano Rivera, with the goal being to move Chamberlain to the starting rotation at some point. Well, it could happen. But I'm skeptical.

I know Papelbon and Chamberlain are different pitchers, and Papelbon hasn't exactly hurt fantasy owners by becoming arguably the top closer in the game. I don't want to give the impression that Chamberlain won't help fantasy owners. On the contrary, as you'll see, I think this will work out. However, while the Yankees don't have what appears to be a top starting rotation, and I'd call any bullpen relying on LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth to get games to Rivera a larger priority.

Good for them for making the correct decision that Chamberlain, who thrived in the eighth inning a year ago, should remain in that role. Who knows how long it lasts, but I would just like to remind fantasy owners, the same ones who might be tempted to make Chamberlain their No. 3 or 4 starting pitcher, that the Yankees could pull a Papelbon here and leave him alone. It has, you know, happened before.

Chamberlain is in a high-profile situation being not only a noted prospect, but a New York Yankee. In a way, Chamberlain's best bet to return to starting would seem to be by failing as a reliever, which I don't think happens. It's a small sample size, but Chamberlain overwhelmed hitters with the big club the final two months of the regular season, and I don't read a thing into him allowing runs in the playoffs, gnats or not. He fanned 34 hitters in 24 regular-season innings, walked only six and allowed one earned run over 19 appearances. He looked fine as a relief pitcher to me, and I think he stays there a while, because the Yankees need the help.

Could Mike Mussina decline even more this season and need replacing? Absolutely. Might Ian Kennedy and/or Phil Hughes struggle in their first full seasons as starters? Of course. I don't think there are too many pending concerns about Rivera, who signed a three-year contract, but it's always nice to have a backup capable of closing. Do you think new manager Joe Girardi wants to rely on Hawkins, Farnsworth or Brian Bruney?

Maybe, as the New York Post reported in Tuesday editions and colleague Buster Olney theorized back in December, Chamberlain will set up Rivera for half the season, then go to the minor leagues to stretch his arm for starting, and be an ace in the second half. By that point the Yankees could have found their setup man of the future, and backup closer, whether it comes from a veteran or youngster like Edwar Ramirez, Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Veras or someone else.

Nobody wants to see Chamberlain end up like Kerry Wood, broken down before he turns 30, so it's always a good plan to monitor a young pitcher's innings. I get that. Papelbon himself had his own rules in 2005, but opportunity and concerns over his arm created his role. As an objective observer, I'd like to see Chamberlain start, and if I was sure he'd make 30 starts, I'd rank him somewhere in the 40s among starters. He's still unproven at the major league level in the role. How many top pitching prospects become aces right away anyway?

Long story short, don't be surprised if Chamberlain pitches 80 times in 2008, all in relief. If that were to happen, I obviously wouldn't draft him on the premise he's a starter, but there's still value there. Fantasy owners went ga-ga over Joel Zumaya in 2007 drafts, and I'll bet Jonathan Broxton, Rafael Betancourt and others will be selected in plenty of 10-team mixed leagues.

Here are my top 10 relief pitchers I predict will end up with fewer than 10 saves. This is not really a list of the top relievers, because in fantasy, you want pitchers who could get saves. Carlos Marmol, Tony Pena, Jeremy Accardo and a sleeper of mine Matt Lindstrom (Kevin Gregg, be careful) don't belong here. I predict they get saves.



Eric on fantasy hoops

Wed: Manu is the man to trade
Mon: Surprises among stat leaders
Feb. 7: 25 centers to keep over Shaq
Feb. 4: Brad Miller just can't be stopped
Jan. 31: Parker out, Stoudamire in for Spurs?
Jan. 28: Webber, Andersen seek work
Jan. 24: Arenas, other fantasy busts
Jan. 21: Fantasy All-Star lineups
Jan. 17: Lakers, fantasy move on sans Bynum

Rafael Betancourt, Indians: His fans would like to see saves, but there's no timetable for Joe Borowski to lose the job, if he does at all. Betancourt's 0.76 WHIP is attractive.

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers: That 2.85 ERA might not entice, but it was 2.35 until final two weeks. He's a 100-K reliever, even if he gets just a handful of save chances.

Joba Chamberlain, Yankees: Honestly, I could see a Broxton-type season. The question is, do the Yankees let him get six outs at times?

Pat Neshek, Twins: He seems to win quite a bit, doesn't get hit much, and Joe Nathan could be trade bait.

Scot Shields, Angels: Not his strongest season, but you know when he'll be pitching, and you know the Angels will be good.

Hideki Okajima, Red Sox: Not a ton of strikeouts, but good ERA and WHIP, and five or so saves.



Eric on fantasy football
Feb. 6: Moss, Plaxico, WR review, top 25
Jan. 30: Super Bowl has little effect on fantasy
Jan. 23: Eli, Giants, conference weekend review
2008 RB top-30 | QB top-20
Jon Rauch, Nationals: Great innings and holds, for those who need that sort of thing, and Chad Cordero is certainly trade bait.

Heath Bell, Padres: A year ago we were talking about the dominant Cla Meredith, and look how that turned out. But Bell didn't sputter against lefties.

Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks: He's apparently third on the team's list for saves, but he could lead that bullpen in strikeouts and wins.

Matt Guerrier, Twins: Underrated Twins seventh-inning guy had 2.35 ERA in 88 games.

Your thoughts

John (Nesquehoning, Pa.): "Eric, it obviously doesn't come with the same complications as in football, but what are your thoughts on keeping two pitchers from the same team? Before the Orioles-Mariners trade, I was planning on keeping both Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard in a five-man keeper league, but now I'm having second thoughts. Should I be?"

Eric: No, I wouldn't. I might have some concerns about keeping two pitchers from the same bad team, like if I owned both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and was hoping for a combined 24 wins, but the Mariners should win more than they lose. I also would have some reservations in a head-to-head league. A year ago the Indians and Mariners, for example, lost a bunch of April games to weather. If you had more than a few players on those teams, you might have fared poorly in the weekly matchup. In a roto league, I don't think it matters much. I think the case can be made Bedard is the top pitcher in the AL, along with C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett, and Hernandez is in the top 10.

Want your question answered by an ESPN fantasy expert? The Answer Guys is a new service exclusive to ESPN Insiders, with a 24-hour response guarantee!

Jeff (Chicago): "Eric, loved your thoughts on Big Hurt versus other mid-tier outfielders from the Tuesday blog, which leads me to a question. Would I better served in my keeper league that really favors power hitting in our categories by snagging a later-round DH type like Frank Thomas, or keeping my younger power hitters with upside, especially Hunter Pence, Chris Young (the outfielder), and Dan Uggla? Do you have thoughts on best case or worst case scenarios with those youngsters? Keep up the good work. Go Cubs!"

Eric: Thomas is a sleeper pick in one-year leagues because his likely power output is not being realized by owners who keep drafting 15-home run outfielders. In a keeper league, however, it's hard to recommend Thomas over any of the younger players you mentioned, but let's separate them. Uggla will be 28 on Opening Day, and he was never a top prospect in the first place, so I don't think there's much more upside. He's going to hit more than 31 home runs? Still, I'd draft him a lot earlier than Thomas, due to the position he plays and the fact he hasn't proven himself not to be durable. Young just hit 32 homers and stole 27 bases. I think the Arizona leadoff hitter will improve his batting average, but do I expect a 40-homer season? Nope. That might stand as his career-best, to be honest, but he'll become a better fantasy player by hitting .270 and running more. Pence has the most upside here. He can hit for average this season, and put up Grady Sizemore numbers from 2005-06, at least. His worst-case scenario is another wrist injury.

Bob (California): "Eric, love the column. I have two keeper-league related draft questions. In our league, we can keep from five to 10 players of various values. First question, would you keep quantity or quality? Second question, would you overdraft at a scarce position in hopes of making a trade later? It seems tempting if you kept a stud and another stud at that position is available. Thanks for the response."

Eric: First of all, in any fantasy league the goal is quality over quantity. Sure, there are times you need depth, and have to fill a tough position, but if you're a good owner, you'll find a way to do this without sending Chase Utley packing for three players we don't rank in the top 100. If I didn't have 10 good keepers, I'd keep fewer and if league rules allow, draft to fill out the keeper list before others pick, or find a desperate owner who's just going to dump someone like Uggla and keep him. Second, I have been known to select a player at a scarce position because his value demanded he be off the board, but it's not always for immediate trade. I drafted Miguel Tejada last month and he'll be that team's utility guy for now. It doesn't mean I have to trade him, or another middle infielder. It is a six-month season.

Thanks for reading. Please keep sending comments by clicking here. I read all feedback, whatever the topic, and post at least one e-mail in every blog. Also, if you have topics or general thoughts, send them in. Enjoy your Thursda

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:20 am

No real answers on Capitol Hill


http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=olney_buster

There was no resolution in Wednesday's hearing, no formal referral for perjury, no absolution of Roger Clemens or Brian McNamee, no indictments. What we saw, in effect, was a publicly funded focus group debate for five hours.

Henry Waxman, the committee chairman, thinks McNamee is telling the truth in this matter. And so does Elijah Cummings, the Democrat from Maryland, who thunderously reminded Clemens, over and over, that he was under oath.

Dan Burton, the Republican from Indiana, thinks McNamee is a purveyor of lies. Christopher Shays, of Connecticut, told McNamee he is a drug dealer.

If there had been a vote at the end of Wednesday's hearing, it might've been something close to a 50-50 split, with one member excused for asking the most ridiculous question of the day: Which uniform will Clemens wear if he's inducted into the Hall of Fame?

That does not bode well for Clemens' fight to get his reputation back; as he said in his opening statement, that is lost. If he began this campaign with the intent of convincing the world that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs, it is becoming clear that he can never achieve this, no matter what he says or does. There are too many hurdles in front of him now: The conflicting accounts with Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and McNamee, the fact that his version of what happened is surrounded and contradicted by what others are saying.

But if you were one of the federal agents in the room, you may also have been disheartened by the response of the focus group. In any perjury case, Clemens' lawyers would need only to create a reasonable doubt, and McNamee's history lends itself to doubt: The incident in the St. Petersburg pool (you can bet that the officer from that case would be called to the stand, as a way to demonstrate McNamee's lack of credibility); McNamee's many reported statements about how Clemens and Pettitte don't do drugs, or how he would never be involved with drugs; and McNamee's continually shifting accounts to federal investigators since they first contacted him last summer.

Any perjury case would rest on the words of McNamee, and it was evident, from the response of those on the House committee Wednesday, that this loose relationship with truth-telling in the past is going to be a major problem. The physical evidence that McNamee gave to investigators may bolster the credibility of what he says, or it might undermine it altogether, or it may not be admissible; that is not yet clear.

Pettitte's version echoes some of what McNamee alleges, making Pettitte a potential tie-breaker. But there are potential problems there, too, for any one trying to build a case on his words. Pettitte apparently does not have direct knowledge of Clemens' steroid use; what we've heard so far are two general conversations that Pettitte contemporaneously repeated to his wife, Laura.

In four years of covering Pettitte, I found Pettitte to be among the most earnest players I've been around. But our T.J. Quinn wrote earlier this week that staff members found him to be an imperfect witness, because he tended to fumble his words and contradict himself, and this is not at all surprising, if you've talked to him. Andy tends to speak before he thinks, uttering words before steering them, and I cringe at the thought of him on the stand in cross-examination. He is a good guy who naturally wants to please those he speaks with, and by the time a skillful lawyer is finished cross-examining him, you could see him extracting enormous doubt from Andy about what he recalls. Heck, a skillful lawyer could probably get him to say that he is responsible for the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Still, it would shocking if the Justice Department doesn't pursue a perjury charge. They have staked their faith in McNamee, they stand by him, and to retreat from the field now without legal battle would raise serious questions about their judgment, and about the fairness of how they deployed McNamee in the first place. For their decision to be vindicated -- and for the Mitchell report to be vindicated -- they must follow through. The investment is too great.

If they weren't invested in this, they might look at this situation and say: Enough. Clemens' good name is wrecked. He will never recover. He will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I believe.

Will investigators commit millions and millions of dollars to push it, to try to convict him? Is it really worth it, with so much doubt about whether they can win?

They should just move on.

Experts predict there will be an investigation, writes Mary Flood. Jeff Novitzky was there, with silent presence.

There was no joy in the testimony for Clemens, writes Duff Wilson.

It became a political fight, writes Harvey Araton. Elijah Cummings threw a brushback at Roger Clemens, writes Thom Loverro.

Perjury charges are a possibility, writes Tim Lemke.

• Everybody was smudged, writes Dan Shaughnessy.

• Clemens would have been wiser to handle this differently, writes Tony Massarotti.

• Peter Schmuck thinks everybody might be lying.

• Clemens' worst days are ahead of him, writes Bob Klapisch.

• Clemens failed to answer key questions, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• There were more questions than answers coming out of the hearing, writes Mark Whicker.

• Roger Clemens is ruined, writes Rich Hofmann.

• Nothing is gained by this, writes Barry Rozner.

• Neither Clemens nor McNamee was credible, writes Richard Justice.

• Clemens only added doubt, writes Mike Lupica.

• Joe Torre found the whole thing sad, writes Carter Gaddis.

• Clemens and Pettitte were absolutely best friends before this, says Brad Lidge, and he found Wednesday's hearing hard to watch, as mentioned in this David Murphy piece.

Clemens' situation hit home for a Toronto trainer.

Kenny Rogers watched and felt bad for Pettitte.

Andy Pettitte was in absentia, writes Murray Chass, and he won't be in Yankees' camp until Monday.

But the Yankees have to be scared to death about the possibility that Pettitte is, at the very least distracted, and perhaps will even consider walking away from baseball, at some point. Right now, Pettitte is looking at the possibility of months and months of conversations with lawyers and investigators.

Pettitte acknowledged what he said before about his HGH use was not the complete truth.

• The award for timing would have to go to Matt Herges and Glenallen Hill, who chose to announce Wednesday that they had used PEDs. Here's Hill's statement.

NO-PED ZONE

• The biggest story of the day in baseball may not have been generated in Washington, but on the web site of C.C. Sabathia, as Paul Hoynes reports: He has broken off talks until after the season is over. This means, of course, that he will become a free agent, and that he may get offers of something close to $150 million from the Yankees and other teams. And that will make it all but impossible for the Indians to retain Sabathia, unless the left-hander is willing to walk away from an extra $40 million.

And if Sabathia goes for the money, it's hard to imagine anybody out-bidding the Yankees, who have a distinct need for a veteran pitcher and about $60 million coming off the books next fall, with the expiring contracts of Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano.

• The Athletics are asking for a lot for Joe Blanton, writes Hal McCoy.

• New Jays hitting coach Gary Denbo is looking for a boost in the Toronto offense, writes Robert MacLeod. The Jays have gained in the arms race against the Yankees and Red Sox, writes Bob Elliott.

• Ramon Hernandez dropped some weight in preparation for spring training, after struggling last year. Within the same piece, there is word that the White Sox are in discussions with Alex Cintron.

• Lou Piniella will take responsibility for one of the Cubs' 99 years of championship-less seasons. Piniella thinks the Cubs are better. Completely agree with him.

Piniella is looking for one guy to be the closer, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

Ryan Dempster thinks the Cubs will win the World Series, writes Paul Sullivan.

• The White Sox are sizing up their pitching options, before Mark Gonzales.

• Despite a lack of buzz at the Pirates' camp, writes John Perotto, there is hope for them. New manager John Russell is going to stress attention to detail.

• Hideki Okajima is keeping secrets.

• Erik Bedard will start on Opening Day for the Mariners. I don't know what went into John McLaren's thinking on this, but it is a surprise: Normally, the pre-eminent incumbent starts on Opening Day. You wonder what kind of message McLaren might be trying to send to Felix Hernandez a question, or if he's simply trying to take pressure off the youngster. Geoff Baker writes in that same piece that Hernandez is in even better shape than he was last year, when he improved his conditioning.

• The Phillies signed Kris Benson, writes Todd Zolecki. Here is one reason to like this, from a purely Philly point of view: Benson has pitched in a small ballpark before, in Baltimore in 2006, and he did OK, compiling a 3.95 ERA in the bandbox that is Camden Yards. The sample size is too small to make a hard guesstimate on how he'll pitch in Philly's park, but at the very least, he wasn't crushed, while pitching under difficult circumstances. If he's healthy, he's not a bad back-end-of-the-rotation kind of guy.

The Phillies are counting on a home remedy to win this year, writes Bill Conlin.

Paul Hagen evaluates the Phillies' progress this winter.

• Sarasota is pitching to keep the Reds, writes John Fay.

• Curtis Granderson cut short his offseason, and is ready to go to work, writes John Lowe.

• Pitchers and catchers reported to the K.C. camp.

• Kevin Millwood is looking for a big year.

• Aaron Rowand is ready to take the lead, writes Henry Schulman.

• Ray Ratto wonders: Is Rich Harden healthier and wiser. Harden says he felt pressure to pitch with pain.

• Joe Torre won't be Bossed around while working with the Dodgers, writes Dylan Hernandez.

• Noah Lowry reported to Giants' camp, but he may be traded, writes Andrew Baggarly.

• The Angels are facing familiar questions as camp opens, writes Bill Plunkett.

• Bobby Cox says there's no reason to quit.

• Johan Santana arrived at Mets' camp, quietly.

• Immaturity was a problem for the Marlins in 2007, writes Barry Jackson.

• Yadier Molina dropped 10 to 15 pounds this offseason, writes Derrick Goold.

• Rocco Baldelli is close to fully healthy, but will take it easy, writes Marc Topkin. The Rays can play, writes John Romano.

• The Astros are trying to keep their focus on the season ahead, writes Brian McTaggart.

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:21 am

Pitchers and catchers start to check in



http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2008/02/14/pitchers-and-catchers-start-to-check-in/#comments

Had a chance to speak to Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain so far this morning.

Hughes, as always, was measured and confident. He said he was shocked at the revelations about Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens but still feels the same way about them personally.

He also brushed off the idea that there is more pressure on him now because he wasn’t traded for Johan Santana. “It wasn’t my decision,” he said. “Trust me, I put far more pressure on myself.”

Joba was animated, as usual, and said he didn’t care how the Yankees used him. “It’s all about No. 27,” he said.

Interestingly, he said his best pitch so far during his workout has been his changeup.

Spoke to Scott Strickland who relayed an interesting story. The Yankees signed him last May and assigned him to Class AAA Scranton. But as he was headed that way, his wife gave premature birth to twins. So he returned home and didn’t play again the rest of the season.

Jaden and Call Strickland are doing well now and Scott says he’s ready to pitch. He could be a sleeper.

Mike Mussina lost some weight. Brian Bruney lost a lot of weight and Kyle Farnsworth looks far less bulky. Farnsworth also has a full head of hair for the first time since he’s been a Yankee.

For those of you waiting for No. 21 to get retired, Morgan Ensberg has it.

Other than the retired numbers, the only numbers not assigned are 6, 51, 69, 98 and 99.

Finally, Andrew Brackman is the biggest baseball player I have ever seen. Randy Johnson is taller but is built like a praying mantis. This kid is immense. It’ll be interesting to see him on the mound next season.

Back with more later.

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:11 pm

Wang, Fuentes, Valverde have arbitration hearings



http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3246657

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Chien-Ming Wang went to an arbitration hearing Thursday, the first for the New York Yankees since the team won its case against Mariano Rivera in 2000.

Relievers Brian Fuentes of Colorado and Jose Valverde of Houston also went to arbitration.

Washington defeated infielder Felipe Lopez in the first case decided this year when the infielder was awarded $4.9 million rather than the $5.2 million he asked for. Lopez made $3.9 million last year, when he hit .245 with nine homers, 50 RBIs and 24 steals.

Christine Knowlton, Elliott Shriftman and Steven Wolf made the decision Thursday, a day after listening to arguments.

Colorado outfielder Brad Hawpe ($3,925,000) and San Diego catcher Josh Bard ($2,237,500) agreed to one-year contracts, leaving seven players left in arbitration, which runs through Feb. 21.

Wang, a 19-game winner in each of the last two seasons, was eligible for arbitration for the first time and asked for a raise from $489,500 to $4.6 million. New York countered at $4 million in a case heard by arbitrators Stephen Goldberg, Jack Clarke and Knowlton.

Fuentes, who saved 20 games as the Rockies advanced to the playoffs, requested an increase from $3,525,000 to $6.5 million. Colorado argued arbitrators Robert Bailey, Dan Brent and Shriftman should award him $5.05 million.

Valverde, acquired by the Astros from Arizona in an offseason trade, asked Knowlton, Goldberg and Sylvia Skratek for a raise from $2 million to $6.2 million. Houston filed at $4.7 million.

Still scheduled for hearings are Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, Los Angeles Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard, Houston infielder Mark Loretta, New York Mets pitcher Oliver Perez, Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips and Milwaukee shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:15 pm

# Yazman February 14th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

One piece of Roger’s testimony yesterday seemed contradictory, and I haven’t heard anyone pick up on it.

Roger said (paraphrasing):

-Andy misunderstood their original conversation about HGH (ok, it’s possible, and Andy even concludes this may well be the case)

-If Andy really thought Roger did HGH, they were close enough friends that Andy would have consulted with him about it. Roger made this point repeatedly.

BUT, Roger is saying Andy really DID think Roger did HGH (based on mishearing their original conversation).

So Roger seems to be saying that Andy thought Roger did HGH (because he misheard) and he did not think Roger did it (otherwise Andy would have consulted with him prior to doing HGH himself).

I thought Andy’s and Roger’s testimonies were surprisingly consistent, other than this point.

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:21 pm

Busy offseason comes to a close

posted: Thursday, February 14, 2008 | Print Entry

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=granderson_curtis

Just as quick as the 2007 season ended, the 2008 season is about to get back under way with pitchers and catchers reporting around the entire league on Thursday and Friday. Even though the past few months of the offseason flew by, it was a very busy offseason to say the least, at least for me.

The offseason started out with my debut on TBS, followed by ESPN during the Division Series. Being in the studio with Frank Thomas, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ernie Johnson was a thrill and a great learning experience. To get a chance to see exactly how the show is run from start to finish and all the behind the scenes stuff was great. I was even put in make up for the show, which was a change, and I had to listen to my friends comment about it, which was also funny. Doing the show with TBS was the most nervous I had been since making my MLB debut in 2004. It's funny how I can play in front of 40,000 fans every night, but then as soon as a camera in a fairly empty studio was put in front of me, I clammed up some! But the nerves quickly went away.

After learning a few things from TBS, I jumped right into ESPN and pretty much ran through their entire studio of events and shows (First Take, ESPN.com, ESPN Radio, Baseball Tonight, SportsCenter, ESPNews). While there, I covered the rest of the Division Series and also the Championship Series for both the American and National Leagues.

If you ever get a chance to head to Bristol, Conn., where the ESPN studios are located, you will see that ESPN is almost like a community college with all the buildings used for production and also a cafeteria on the complex. I know they offer tours (and no, I'm not getting paid for this mention), and it was cool how you would just run into certain people walking from building to building -- guys I watched and admired as athletes growing up such as Eric Allen, Shaun King, the list goes on.

The term, "sent through the car wash" was exactly what was done to me during my time with ESPN. I would start the day early, and go from building to building, set to set, shooting this show, or taping that show, or watching these highlights, or talking about those highlights, and finally leave the complex around 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun, but also a very busy learning experience.

I followed up with the Detroit Tigers fantasy cruise. We set sail on Carnival Cruise lines and headed out to the Caribbean for seven days. Tigers fans had the opportunity of joining me and former Tigers pitcher Milt Wilcox for seven days. Joel Zumaya was replaced by Wilcox after he suffered an injury moving some boxes during the California wildfires. For fans, the cruise included private group dinners, an autograph signing, a meet-and-greet and a Q&A session. I was also allowed to bring three of my friends with me; two additional friends joined us, and we had a really good time. If the Tigers do another fantasy cruise like this again, I highly recommend it. It's fun, relaxing, and the interaction with new Tiger fans was great for me, as all the guests were nice and friendly.

My next adventure was to South Africa to try and spread the knowledge of baseball as part of Major League Baseball's Ambassador Program. This was my second straight year being part of the program. I was able to bring my dad and my friend Joe Lacy with me. Joe came with me last year to Europe for this program, but this was the first time my dad came along. We had a long layover in London, purposely, so I could show my dad the city (he hadn't been there before), then we arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. We had a seven-hour flight from Chicago to London, an eight-hour layover, and then it was another 11 hours in the air from London to Cape Town, bringing the total travel time to 26 hours -- 18 of which were spent in the air.

When we arrived in South Africa, the weather was great. It was their summer due to the hemisphere change. Every city we traveled to was beautiful, which included Johannesburg, Cape Town, Boksburg, Pretoria, Soweto and a few others. We also were able to go on a safari, where we were lucky enough to see lions, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, leopards, buffalos, elephants (my favorite) and many more animals. We even were able to catch lions mating and also leopards eating their kill from the day. The entire cycle of life was right in front of us! Plus, I got to throw out the first pitch at a game, which was pretty exciting for me.

The main purpose of the African trip was to promote baseball, and I was able to watch and talk to the kids of an African Schools Tournament (13-, 15-, and 17-and-under kids). The most exciting part about my trip was watching these games, and seeing entire teams, both boys and girls, of black players. I've never been on a team or seen a team where everyone was black (keep in mind all the teams were mixed, but there were teams that were all black). The game is more popular than I thought as they have academies throughout different cities, which help to introduce, educate and practice the skills of baseball. As of now, I believe there are over 400,000 kids in Africa playing baseball. I think that is great as we continue to globalize the game even more than it is right now.

After the Africa trip, I was finally able to slow down a bit for Christmas and New Year's. In January, my foundation (Grand Kids) had its first ever celebrity basketball game to raise money for kids in the Detroit and Flint public schools. We were able to get such greats as Desmond Howard, Braylon Edwards (game MVP), Courtney Hawkins and Jeff Grayer to name a few to come and play in the game. Even UFC star Rashad Evans and a young kid by the name of Jonas Gray, who will be playing football at Notre Dame next year, jumped into the mix. Nate Robertson and I were coaches, and Dontrelle Willis was a special ref for the game. The turnout was great, and we raised a lot of money. I want to thank everyone who attended, supported, and helped to make the event a success. Hopefully, moving forward we will have more events in the Michigan area again to raise money for those public schools in Flint and Detroit. We are currently in the process of building the GrandKidsFoundation.org Web site, and I will announce that here as soon as it is complete.

Now, after all the hustle and bustle of the offseason, not to mention TigerFest, I've finally made it down to Lakeland, Fla., for spring training. I'm excited to get back to playing and continue to learn and improve on my game. The offseason acquisitions of Jacque Jones, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis make us an even stronger team than this past season. Unfortunately, the trades come at a cost of losing players who I was friends and teammates with, such as Mike Rabelo, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. I want to wish all the best of the luck to those guys with their new team, the Florida Marlins, in the future.

I'd like to finish this long first blog of the 2008 season by saying thanks for continuing to read and support not only this blog, but also the Tigers. I promise the rest of my blogs will be a lot shorter as we move forward, but I wanted to recap the offseason, and didn't realize it would be this long.

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:24 pm

http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=19284
Bruce (Asbury Park, NJ): Who's got the worst rag-arm for an outfielder? It's gotta be Caveman Damon, right?

SportsNation Keith Law: Shannon Stewart. Coco Crisp.

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:35 pm

People must really like complaining and making excuses. Okay, the Red Sox and Yankees spend a ton of money to win games but so have the Dodgers, Cubs, and Mets. When was the last time any of those teams won a World Series? I seem to remember St.Louis winning with a low payroll, one of the Marlins wins was with a low payroll. The Angels won before their payroll exploded. Obviously money helps, but wasting gobs of money doesn't do any good - it still needs to be spent on the right players.

On another note, I know the Indians would prefer to trade CC to the NL if it comes to that, but I can't believe they would be a stupid as the Twins were and take only half the talent that the Yankees offered just to send him to the NL. They basically gave him away for nothing. I think Indians fans would be better off if he were traded for the best players they could receive instead of just making sure he goes to the NL

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Fri Feb 15, 2008 11:10 am

Chris don't be hypocrite and ignorant.

The difference between Bonds and Clemens


Barry Bonds failed the drug test in 2000 not 2001 according to Espn. Meanwhile Clemens did not.

Bond now hold all time homerun record set by Hank Aaron. Clemens did not. Clemens didn't break Cy young record for a starting pitcher

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Sun Feb 17, 2008 2:32 am

Kevin Brown was 37 years old when Yankees traded for him. remember He was trade for Jeff Weaver.

Maine,Pedro,Santana,Duque ,Perez did they came from Mets Farm system?

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Re: Eric Karabell-Drafting Joba is quite a relief

Post  RedMagma on Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:53 pm

Freaking , and filthy Philadelphia Sixers owning Knicks at half 72-36 tonight


http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/scoreboard


Fire Isiah!!

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