Twelve Thoughts: Strasburg's Shoulder, Torre and Bochy, DiPoto's Future
In his three years at San Diego State, Strasburg reported no arm problems. "None. Zero. Nothing," Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn told FanHouse on Wednesday. Gwynn said that adjusting to pitching every fifth day, rather than every sixth or seventh day, is part of the rookie's current challenge.
• Dodgers manager Joe Torre told me something I never heard from San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner over the past 12 months, even after the Bolts' mistake-riddled 17-14 playoff loss to the underdog Jets last January.
"I screwed up," Torre told West Coast Bias this week, saying he was wrong to remove pitcher Vicente Padilla from a recent game. Turner needs to read from Torre's playbook. If the Bolts play as if poorly prepared, he'd do himself a favor by taking some of the blame, instead of putting it all on the players like he did after the loss to the Jets. Torre has four World Series rings that speak to his humble leadership.
• Talking to Torre on Tuesday, I kept thinking of cooking oil.
A baseball man close to the Dodgers said Torre, 70, is exhausted this summer to the point of being "fried." Torre's response?
"Fried is not on my diet. You could say broiled. Or grilled." He added, "I get weary at times, yeah, but it's not that I get weary of baseball."
A hard day in Los Angeles, he added, is easier than an easy day in the Bronx Zoo. "Those last three years there were brutal -- it was everything other than managing the game," he said. "It's been fun here."
• Manager Bruce Bochy is quietly having a strong year with the Giants.
Bochy's fourth team with the Padres went to the World Series, and his fourth Giants team is starting to gel. With the Padres, Bochy's handling of youngsters Xavier Nady and Sean Burroughs warranted some criticism, but the greater truth is that for most of his tenure, the farm system sent him wooden nickels and Bochy usually did good work. Giants youngsters such as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are flourishing.
"The Giants play hard for him;" said former Padres catcher Carlos Hernandez, now a Direct TV broadcaster. Hernandez said that Bochy's faith in him revived his career after the Dodgers had given up on him. "[Pablo] Sandoval, [Edgar] Renteria, Andres Torres -- all of those guys love him. You know why? Because he lets them play."
• I doubt reliever Joba Chamberlain will be with the Yankees past next year's trade deadline.
After talking trade with the Diamondbacks this month, the Yankees reportedly decided they weren't willing to deal Chamberlain as part of a bid for pitcher Dan Haren. While those reports may have been true, they were news to the Diamondbacks, who had gleaned that the Yankees were, in fact, open to a deal built around Chamberlain, pitcher Ivan Nova and two prospects.
• Angels prospect Peter Bourjos will reach the major leagues this year.
Good speed and excellent defense in center field used to be his only calling cards, but after rededicating himself to hitting the ball up the middle, Bourjos erupted to bat .469 with three home runs and a .509 on-base percentage this month in Triple-A.
"It's not only opened up our eyes," Angels general manager Tony Reagins told FanHouse, "but the eyes of a lot of people in the PCL and a lot of people in baseball."
• D'backs interim GM Jerry DiPoto and staff scored points with the Angels this month.
The Angels despise media leaks, especially those relating to their trade talks, and thus were thrilled when DiPoto and his staffers were reliable in talks that would yield a 4-for-1 deal for Haren. When talks began, Reagins was a stranger to DiPoto, who only this month replaced the deposed Josh Byrnes. Reagins praised DiPoto on Monday, calling him professional and decisive. "You could trust what he was saying," Reagins said, "and anytime you can deal with a person who is forthright, I think you have a chance of getting a deal done, and getting it done fairly quickly."
• DiPoto may need to convince his bosses that he wasn't part of the club's problem.
Consider how much talent the D'backs either traded or gave away in the offseasons of 2005 of 2007. Three trades in December 2007 moved out eight players, among them a super-stud closer in Jose Valverde, future impact players such as outfielders Carlos Quentin and Carlos Gonzalez, and depth such as outfielder Aaron Cunningham (now a Padres stalwart) and Greg Smith. Second baseman Dan Uggla, meanwhile, is giving the Marlins his fifth consecutive good season since Arizona exposed him to the 2005 Rule 5 draft.
The Diamondbacks also rue not drafting New Jersey prep star Mike Trout last year with one of their two picks late in the first round. They had scouting connections to Trout, an outfielder who went 25th to the Angels and is now among the top few prospects in baseball.
• Powerful baseball agents are not rooting for the Padres
"Lead balloon," one agent type said of the high-flying, low-payroll Padres recently. I nonetheless saw a glimpse of concern in the man's eyes that the Padres, in fact, have sufficient helium to win the NL West. And for good reason. If the Padres and their $37.8 million payroll were to reach the playoffs, what would that say about the price other clubs are paying for their players?
• If the Padres decline for financial reasons to make a trade that their baseball people recommend, owners John Moores and Jeff Moorad should put the club back up for sale.
San Diego is a tough market financially because of a weak corporate base and a poor-house population squeezed by the sunshine tax and generally low incomes. Still, when answering pointed questions last year about the club's capitalization, Moorad said his ownership partners have a net worth of $4 billion. And last July, White Sox GM Kenny Williams did Moorad a huge favor by assuming Jake Peavy's $56-million contract at a time when no other club wanted the injured Padres ace. Sometimes ownership needs to get in front of revenues. This looks like one of those times if the right deal is out there -- admittedly, a big if.
• Catchers are the best actors in baseball.
How do they stifle laughter night after night on bogus strike calls? I can't recall ever seeing so many dubious strikes on backdoor sliders and curves. It's the trick pitch of 2010. Catchers are setting up at or beyond the outside corner and framing banana-shaped pitches that bend around the plate but must look good to umps. Pitchers get squeezed, too, of course, but no strike call is more unfair to hitters because the pitch starts far from the strike zone and never gets there.
"I've seen a lot of them this year, too," Gwynn said. "You've got to foul that pitch off, but that's tough to do, especially for a young hitter."
• USC's football team and its sneaky new head coach someday will make headlines for what they do on the field.
As if losing both bowl eligibility and their top recruit in the wake of an NCAA crackdown weren't enough, the Trojans jumped back into the headlines when their sneaky new coach angered the Tennessee Titans.
Once the games arrive, USC will retain its villain status, winning the Pac-10 and riling foes when the sneaky coach runs up the score. Used to be, complacency was USC's primary opponent within the Pac-10. That's gone now. These Trojans will view all games as bowls.