March 2007

Arte Moreno Promises Quick Action on Matthews

Evocative of his promise last fall to acquire a "big bat" over the winter, Angels owner Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times that "It’s going to be resolved by opening day, one way or the other. I promise you that."

Just how he’s going to "resolve" it remains unstated, especially since he has no control over an investigation being conducted in Albany, New York.

Times reporter Bill Shaikin wrote that Matthews spoke briefly about his decision to hire criminal defense attorney Robert Shapiro.

"When your name is mentioned in an investigation, what am I going to do? Check it out myself?" Matthews said. "I’m a baseball player."

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Gary Matthews Jr. Hires Legal Representation

Matt Hurst at the Riverside Press-Enterprise was the first to report last night that Gary Matthews Jr. has retained noted attorney Robert Shapiro. He reported Shapiro’s official statement:

I have met with Gary Matthews Jr., whom I believe is a terrific young man, and I am firmly convinced that he has not violated any laws or any rules established by Major League Baseball.

Gary wishes to cooperate with Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Angels and any other investigative agency that may look into this matter. He is eager to tell his side of the story and looks forward to providing a statement once all investigations into the matter have been completed.

However, it is my long standing policy not to allow clients to comment while an investigation is ongoing. To do so would be inappropriate and I believe irresponsible.

Hurst also reported Angels owner Arte Moreno’s official statement:

The Angels and I have long been committed to eliminating the use of performance enhancing substances from the game of baseball. We have fully supported the adoption and implementation of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

We have routinely educated our players about the dangers of performance enhancing substances and strongly encouraged players to avoid their use. Recently, our organization has supported the investigation initiated by Commissioner Bud Selig and conducted by Senator George Mitchell into the use of performance enhancing substances in baseball, has cooperated with that investigation, and will continue to cooperate with that investigation.

This week, the Angels and I were disappointed to learn that the name of one of our players, Gary Matthews Jr., has been allegedly associated with an investigation into the sale of performance enhancing substances by an internet pharmacy in Florida.

Both the Angels and I have strongly encouraged Gary to cooperate with any authority investigating this matter. Specifically, the Angels have asked him to come forward and fully answer all questions surrounding the recent allegations against him. The organization continues to expect that this matter will come to a quick conclusion.

These recent revelations continue to highlight that baseball and all other sports must continue to directly address the issue of performance enhancing substances. There is no place in baseball for such substances, and we have and will continue to do what we can to eliminate them from the game.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times columnist J.A. Adande urges Matthews to tell all, never mind that it might compromise his legal rights. Funny how some folk urge a person to “do the right thing” when such advice seems more likely to sell papers than to serve the person’s interest.

I watched once again Billy Crystal’s 61* the other night, his film about how Roger Maris was so mistreated by the New York press as he chased Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961. By no means is Matthews’ situation comparable to Maris’, but the current feeding frenzy surrounding Matthews is eerily reminiscent.

We know nothing other than an order of Genotropin was shipped to Matthews in August 2004, according to SI.com. This report has been bloated by some into the allegation that Matthews’ anomalous 2006 season was due to rampant steroid use.

Innocent people retain legal representation all the time to defend themselves. I’m not saying that Matthews is completely innocent, but the bedrock of American law is that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and that an accused has a right to expert legal representation.

It’s time for the hysteria to subside and allow the legal process to take its course. The press have their responsibility to report the news, and have as much right as anyone to express an opinion, but asking a person to give up his legal rights just won’t get far with me.

I’ll take Mr. Adande more seriously after he writes a column revealing all the skeletons in his closet. After all, he owes it to his profession so we can rid the journalism field of any taint of scandal, right?

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for Mr. Adande’s hypocrisy to resolve itself.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Three Angels Listed on BA Top 100 Prospects List

Three Angels appear on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list.

Brandon Wood ranked #8, Nick Adenhart ranked #34, and Erick Aybar ranked #61.

Of particular interest were some analyses they performed in looking at the prospects. Not only are the formulae interesting on their own, but BA also calculated the average for the Top 100 Prospects so you get a measure of where the individual is in comparison to the rest of the elite.

Under the category "Learning to Drive," Wood finished first.

It can be easy to fixate on a minor leaguer’s walk percentage or on-base percentage, but sometimes a player’s ability to drive the ball — perhaps the most valuable tool — is overlooked. Raw extra-base-hit percentage will favor players in the extreme hitters’ environments, so we’ll present all the top 100 batters who exceeded the average by roughly one standard of deviation.

The formula was defined as extra-base hits divided by plate appearances (XBH/PA). Wood had 71 XBH in 522 PA for a XBH% of 13.6%. Contrast that with Alex Gordon, named by BA the #1 prospect in the Texas League in 2006 (Wood was #2). Gordon was 69/577 for a 11.9% XBH%. Gordon is about 13 months older than Wood. The Top 100 average was 10%.

I’ve written many times over the years about "Contactball," the Angels’ answer to the overhyped theories behind "Moneyball." Contactball means putting runners in motion while the batter makes contact, the idea being that it’s more important to score runs than it is to just take a walk.

Of the top five players cited by BA, two were orignally acquired by the Angels. #1 was Alberto Callaspo, now with the Diamondbacks. #3 was his one-time Siamese Twin, Erick Aybar, probably destined for Triple-A Salt Lake this year. BA measured contact by the formula 1-(AB+SF). Callaspo had a contact percentage of 94.5%, while Aybar came in at 89.5%. The Top 100 average was 80%.

If you go to the other end and look at the "bottom five," Wood came in the worst at contact percentage with 67.7%. Brandon’s high strikeout rate is no secret, but a 21-year old in Double-A with the best power of any prospect is certainly a mitigating factor. Look at Mike Schmidt’s early career and you’ll see ugly strikeout rates too. He turned out all right.

On the pitching side, Adenhart ranked highly as well. Nick was #5 in "percentage of batters retired by groundout or strikeout." His percentage was 53.1%, with the Yankees’ Philip Hughes at 58.1%. The Top 100 average was 48%.

Nick ranked #3 in groundout percentage, measured as groundouts divided by groundouts plus flyouts GO/(GO+FO). Adenhart’s percentage was 61.2%. The Top 100 average was 52%.

If nothing else, the Top 100 list confirms that the Angels farm system is still producing top quality prospects.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Jerry Hairston Linked to Matthews Probe

The Sports Illustrated web site SI.com reports that Rangers infielder Jerry Hairston has been linked to the same probe that included Gary Matthews Jr..

According to SI reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim:

Authorities say that physicians writing bogus prescriptions are a vital component of this whole scheme. Without prescriptions, the compound pharmacies obviously would not be taking and filling orders. Already some doctors have caught the eye of investigators. A Queens, N.Y., doctor, Ana Maria Santi, is currently in an Albany County (N.Y.) jail, held without bail on charges of forgery and criminal diversion of prescription medicine, among others. Authorities say that Santi, with her medical license already suspended by the state, took the alias of Abdul Almarashi. She then allegedly signed thousands of prescriptions for internet patients from all over the country.

According to a law enforcement document we’ve reviewed, in May 2004, a doctor A. Almarashi of Queens prescribed Genotropin (human growth hormone) that was sent from Applied Pharmacy Services — the compound pharmacy raided in Mobile, Ala., last fall — to Rangers infielder Jerry Hairston, Jr.

Genotropin is the substance that was allegedly sent to Matthews via an unnamed "minor league teammate" in Mansfield, Texas, in August 2004. The shipment was from the same lab in Mobile, Alabama.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported today that Hairston angrily denied receiving the human growth hormone (HGH) from the lab. "I have never in my life – never – used steroids or illegal substances. I have never tested positive for anything. I know what goes into my body, and it’s all legal. I’ve never used amphetamines. Nothing."

At the time, MLB did not test for HGH, nor does it now. MLB did not ban HGH use until 2005. HGH use is legal with a prescription, but the law also requires a doctor to do a proper exam before issuing the prescription.

Grant describes Hairston and Matthews as "close friends" who were teammates in Baltimore during 2002-2003.

The probe may lead back to former Orioles first baseman David Segui. Pitcher Jason Grimsley, who named fellow ballplayers when he cooperated with a federal probe last year, said he was referred to a doctor by Segui. Hairston and Matthews were also teammates with Segui during their time with the Orioles.

Segui told ESPN in July 2006 that he was the one who referred Grimsley in 2003 to a Florida doctor who would issue HGH under prescription.

Segui showed ESPN a prescription for HGH from 2003, and said he continues to take HGH today. Segui says that Grimsley told him this past offseason that he planned to take HGH to help his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his elbow. Segui said he suggested that Grimsley see a doctor and have his growth hormone level tested.

According to Matthews’ 2004 bio on MLB.com, he "was slowed by a right calf injury in early Sept. and played just one of club’s final 27 contests."

Assuming that Matthews suffered the injury in August 2004 and was trying to play through it, this suggests that he might have ordered Genotropin to hasten his recovery from the injury.

I’ve been doing some reading on-line about Genotropin and HGH in general. When not used for its intended purpose (i.e. stunted growth), the sentiment seems to be that it used mostly to reduce body fat and heal muscle injuries. In massive quantities, it might build increased mass but that wouldn’t translate into being a better ballplayer. The best hitters have excellent hand-eye coordination and fast hands. The longer they can wait to watch a pitch, the more time they have to react to its movement. Hand-eye coordination helps hit the ball squarely and drive it.

So I really doubt that Matthews’ anomalous 2006 season can be attributed to HGH.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Angels on TV Today (March 3)

Today’s Angels game against Colorado will be telecast tape-delayed on Fox Sports Net West at 7 PM PST.

That means plenty of the "future Angels" will get face time since this early in the year the regulars are long-gone by the 4th inning or so.  A rare opportunity to see some of the players you’ve only heard about until now.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Meanwhile, in Baseball …

While the Angels’ front office sweats out the P.R. ramifications of the Gary Matthews Jr. story, the players actually got to play ball yesterday.

It’s always folly to project a season based on one game, especially the meaningless first game of spring training, but it was nice to see some positive news about a couple players from yesterday’s contest against Kansas City.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Jeff Mathis, who is hoping to re-establish himself as a front-line catcher after his rookie-season washout of 2006, made two outstanding defensive plays.

In the sixth inning, with Paul Phillips at first, a Chris Resop pitch bounced in the dirt in front of the plate. Phillips took off for second, but Mathis pounced on the ball and nailed Phillips with a perfect off-balance throw.

In the seventh, another Resop pitch bounced to the side of the plate. Shane Costa tried to advance from first, and Mathis fired a strike to second.

One goal for Ervin Santana this spring is to clean up the release point on his slider. Matt Hurst of the Riverside Press-Enterprise, who posts updates mid-game on his Baseball Blog, reports early success with Santana’s mechanics:

Working on a new release point for his slider, Ervin Santana threw only three in two scoreless innings against the Royals. Two of his sliders were for strikeouts, and the third also was a strike.

"I’m trying to be the best," he said. "I have the stuff to do it."

Of greater concern is Jered Weaver, whose biceps tendinitis has limited him to long toss. Doug Padilla of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group reports:

On the rehab front, Scioscia admitted that for the first time he can see a scenario where Bartolo Colon actually gets on a mound before Jered Weaver. Weaver was supposed to be doing some fine-tuning until his biceps felt better but his progress has been slow.

Colon, who has been rehabbing a more serious rotator cuff injury sustained last season, has been making significant progress. Colon had a long-toss session from 160 feet Thursday, while Weaver threw from 130 feet.

"Two weeks ago I would have said no way," Scioscia said about Colon passing Weaver in recovery. "Right now, the way Bart is progressing, it’s probably not likely, but as good as Bart feels you start to see some light at the end of the tunnel when he’ll get on the mound.

"Once Jered gets over this bump in the road, he’ll come quickly, whereas Bart needs to step up his stamina."

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

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