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The Yankees have paid a $75,000 settlement (which is not officially being called a fine) to avoid possible penalties under the U.S. Trading With The Enemy Act. Apparently the incident involved negotiations with Cuban players, negotiations in which the Cuban government was involved and presumably was to get a cut. I am desperately trying to hold my tongue on three separate issues: (1) the continuing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba and the means the U.S. uses in its embargoes; (2) the fact that corporate criminals like the Yankees can settle these disputes almost entirely in secret (the documents released by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control were redacted down so much that you could only make out the name); and (3) whether Castro and Steinbrenner really sound so much alike or if it's just George Costanza's imagination.

Mark Teixeira is hitting .094. He's 3 for 32 on the year with a .219 slugging percentage, and there's talk of him heading back to AAA. It's a major setback for Teixeira, not so major for the Rangers, who have Hank Blalock playing well at third (and hitting nearly .400). Teixeira will be back. He's the same player he was last year, and the year before... but the Rangers are going to be leery of playing him too much lest he become a lightning rod for the fans, and someone has to exit the 25-man roster when Herbert Perry comes back. That shouldn't be Teixeira, but if he does go down he's earned it on merit.

The 12-inning Giants/Dodgers marathon on Sunday Night Baseball showed how managers aren't getting any better at managing their bullpens despite carrying seven relievers; the Dodgers used all of theirs, two of them for one batter apiece, and when the seventh reliever (Andy Ashby) came in for the 12th he promptly surrendered shots to Grissom and Benard that would have been home runs in a normal park. As it was, they were both doubles and the Giants scored the winning run anyway. Ashby hasn't been used as a reliever since 1993.

The Mets were swept by the FIRST-PLACE MONTREAL EXPOS, which gladdens my heart as always. Other than the hated Braves, the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox are the teams the most fun to beat, mostly because of they way their fans run around screaming and wailing over losses. The Cubs, of course, are not far behind. Jose Vidro has indeed fully recovered from last year's broken shoulder, as he had indicated during the spring. He is hitting .333 with more than half of his hits for extra bases; he had a good year last year, but suffered a great deal from a spring injury that lingered all year. I've had a similar break on my elbow to what Vidro had on his shoulder, and the pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion was there for about a year whenever I would swing a bat or golf club. His power should take another step forward this year.

The Expos aren't using much of the 25,000 capacity of Hiram Bithorn Stadium for their games, and they aren't filling those 18,000-odd seats they are using. This experiment has accomplished only one of MLB's apparent objectives: the Expos don't seem to be fazed by it; and San Juan has shown itself utterly unrealistic as a possible destination for an MLB team. But one objective appears to be well fulfilled; ticket sales in Montreal appear to have tailed off badly after getting off to a very good start, with lots of apparent interest early on before the 22 San Juan games were set. MLB is well on its way to "proving" its point that Montreal won't support the Expos... at least not MLB's Expos. If this team is still in contention in July, MLB will have to walk a very fine line to keep fan interest down without being too obvious about strangling the team's chances. Otherwise their argument that teams cannot survive without expensive new taxpayer-funded stadia takes another hit.

Kansas City just keep on rolling, with a another big win over Cleveland again last night, this time scoring a few dozen runs off the tail end of the Cleveland bullpen to win 71-4. D.J. Carrasco, the Royals' rule 5 pick from Pittsburgh, pitched two strong innings in the sixth and seventh when the game was still close; he surrendered a home run to Milton Bradley, but otherwise pitched two perfect innings of relief. He has given up just that one hit, and two walks, in 7 1/3 innings so far, a terrific start to his major league career. Carrasco is one of those players whose minor league career looks utterly inexplicable. A 26-year-old guy who has pitched in A-ball for FIVE years in a row, always as a reliever, and has always been effective there. His brief shots at AA have revealed a lack of control, but his combined A-ball numbers are 248 innings with 100 walks and *264* strikeouts, with just seven home runs allowed and 201 hits, making a nifty 2.50 ERA. In five years of pro ball, Carrasco has surrendered just nine homers (now ten) in over 300 innings.

Guys like Carrasco, who cannot get a fair shake from their original organizations, are why the Rule 5 draft and the six-year minor-league free agent rules exist. I love seeing those guys make good.

Finally, what is with that at-bat music for Raul Mondesi? He *cannot* be serious.
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_Sean - Tuesday, April 15 2003 @ 12:58 AM EDT (#90534) #
Craig, please let go of your restraint and go on a Cuba/Yankees rant, I've love to see it. You noticed Mondesi's AB music too? Quite fantasy squad is carrying Bill Mueller in hopes that Teixeira would replace him 30 games in, as he's stashed as my number one prospect, but his start is troubling. If Showalter would just play him every day at a position, he'd hit like he's supposed to!
_Geoff North - Tuesday, April 15 2003 @ 09:51 AM EDT (#90535) #
As someone who enjoys a fine cigar now and again, I'd love to hear thoughts on the Cuban embargo. I'm going to be in Mexico next week, and will almost certainly have to try a few Cuban cigars.
Coach - Tuesday, April 15 2003 @ 10:02 AM EDT (#90536) #
A mere parking ticket for George. Tip money. I'm sure he'd disagree that it was "criminal" -- isn't circumventing rules considered good business?

Teixeira's killing one of my teams and giving me more grey hairs in another league. It was a huge mistake by the Rangers to make him a part-time player, and I'm now in favour of ending his misery (and mine) with a brief vacation in OK City. Next time they call him up, he should know what his job is -- hit, every day -- and he'll be fine.

The only thing that keeps me from loving the Expos is their ownership. Minaya has done an exceptional job under ridiculous circumstances, and Robby has them playing well. Richard Griffin filed two more excellent columns from San Juan; yesterday on Vidro's heroics, and today's reminder of what the great Clemente still means to his homeland. I'm still appalled that the Commissioner has a conflict of interest with even one team. MLB's agenda for the Expos has nothing to do with baseball, fans, competitive balance or anything but cash. Please sell the team ASAP so we can start cheering their success. Even though I'm conflicted about supporting them, I'm considering a road trip -- I'll be at a tournament when the Jays are in Montreal, so perhaps the July 12-13 weekend, to help the remaining Expos fans welcome supervillains Loria and Samson back to the Big Owe.

The Royals are a great diversion, but their success (after taking the ChiSox by surprise) has been helped by Cleveland and Detroit being worse than imagined. I expect Chicago to extract some revenge starting tonight, and when we see K.C. in Toronto next weekend, they'll be coming off a series against the Twins. From May 12 through June 1, they play the Twins and Jays again, followed by a dozen consecutive games vs. the A's and M's. Then a brutal interleague slate against the NL West and the Cardinals kicks in. Don't print the playoff tickets just yet; they will not be above .500 at the break.
_Jabonoso - Tuesday, April 15 2003 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#90537) #
Yankee nation sucks!!!
Craig B - Tuesday, April 15 2003 @ 02:21 PM EDT (#90538) #
jabonoso, you'll probably enjoy The Filthy Critic's latest movie review, Anger Management, which has a delicious little anti-Yankee diatribe at the end. Warning - the language may not be suitable for all viewers.
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