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Fish Fillet

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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

BY DAN GRAZIANO
Star-Ledger Staff

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Yankees will call up their top left-handed pitching prospect, Brandon Claussen, from Triple-A Columbus to start Saturday night's game at Shea Stadium against the Mets. And it might be the first of many moves the Yankees make in the coming and weeks.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner summoned manager Joe Torre, GM Brian Cashman and several other Yankees executives to a meeting at Malio's restaurant in Tampa yesterday. According to an official familiar with the content of the meeting, there was much discussion about what to do with struggling starting pitcher Jeff Weaver.

Other topics included possible acquisitions of another starter -- most prominently Pittsburgh's Kris Benson -- and a middle-of-the-lineup slugger such as Pittsburgh's Brian Giles, Kansas City's Carlos Beltran or Colorado's Admin Walker.

One official said Walker's name has been mentioned frequently around the Yankees lately and that there was talk of a three-way deal that would send Walker to New York and Florida third baseman Mike Lowell to Colorado. But there are complications there because Walker has a no-trade clause that he declined to waive in the off-season to go to Arizona and the Marlins might not be ready to trade Lowell yet.

The Yankees also could get into the Lowell sweepstakes if they are able to trade third baseman Robin Ventura...

Steinbrenner has been clamoring for another hitter, but most of his front office officials are leery of trading a starting pitcher without getting pitching in return. Also, they expect to get center fielder Bernie Williams back within the next three or four weeks, which will help the offense.

"I think everybody agrees that the need for another offensive player is just weeks away, and that's Bernie Williams," Torre said. "But that doesn't mean that you're not going to look to make your club stronger. That's ongoing."

Yankee insiders say the team is growing concerned about right fielder Raul Mondesi, who has been less productive in recent weeks, and may be looking to unload him. The team also is still looking for relief pitching help, and hasn't given up on the idea of acquiring Rangers closer Ugueth Urbina to use as a setup man for Mariano Rivera....

(edited for content relevance)

NJ Swamp - Liar
 

Fish Fillet

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And yet more for your perusing pleasure....

Cubs fans clamor for power-hitting 3B

June 25, 2003

BY GREG COUCH SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST Advertisement

Everyone seems to know that he would be the Cubs' savior, that third baseman they have needed for the last, oh, 30 years, and more importantly the home run bat, the power missing from these hitless wonders. Whos is the missing link to a Cubs pennant?

Mike Lowell.

Mike Lowell?

Of all the superstars in all the cities in baseball, the Cubs need some guy named Mike Lowell?

"Nice guy, never frowning, happy all the time, power hitter. He could play here,'' said Cubs pitcher and former Lowell teammate Antonio Alfonseca, smiling and pointing to the ground. "Oh, yes. He could play here.''

Lowell is tied for the major-league lead with 23 homers, 10 more than any Cub. He has 63 RBI, also 10 more than any Cub. And he was in the All-Star Game last year.

But be honest: Unless you are a box-score-reading fanatic, had you ever heard of him before this year? Yet, Chicago is dying for him.

Who is this guy anyway?

"He's a good person and a good teammate, and he comes to play every day,'' said Cubs pitcher Matt Clement, another former teammate of Lowell's with the Florida Marlins. "I'm not surprised he's having a good year, but I am surprised he's leading the league in home runs.''

OK, let's talk about our savior's home runs. Is he surprised to have 23 of them?

"Surprised?'' he said Tuesday afternoon before batting practice. "That's pretty much an understatement considering that my career high is 24 and we're not even at the halfway point of the season. I've never considered myself a home run hitter. Mostly, I'm a guy who hits into the gap for a lot of doubles.''

Lowell hit 12 home runs in college. Total. In three years. In his first season in the minors, he hit one homer. One. That's only eight seasons ago in Class A ball for a team in some town named Oneonta.

So how does he explain the transformation?

"I wish I had an explanation, but I don't,'' he said. "Actually, I don't want to figure it out. All I know is that I like trotting around the bases.''

It's a miracle that Lowell, 29, has gotten to where he is. And not just for his home runs, but a real miracle.

He is a cancer survivor with a family tale of tragedy and success that wouldn't sound believable if it were pitched for "Days of Our Lives.'' And yet when you put it all together, it adds up to who he is, seemingly grounded, hard-working, mild-mannered.

"I don't believe in being a rah-rah guy,'' he said. "If that's in your personality, fine. But guys at this level respect people who come out every day. If your reputation is that you're in the lineup, the team backs you up. That's my approach. You couldn't label me as a leader. I don't call closed-door meetings and rally the troops.''

He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, grew up in the United States and considers himself Cuban.

He was an afterthought on a Little League team that included Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod apparently was an afterthought, too--"We weren't exactly the cleanup or power hitters by any means,'' Lowell said.

He sat on the bench his freshman year of high school and figured he'd never play. So he transferred and played. Lowell was taken by the Yankees in the 20th round of the draft, and shortly after being called up, he was left off the postseason roster, then told that he'd never really get a chance there.

So he was traded to Florida. He was thrilled just for the chance to play. And then, 18 days after being traded, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"I had just gone in for a routine physical,'' he said. "I had never felt anything. No pain or discomfort. If there had been symptoms, it would have made a lot more sense.

"I cried more on the drive home than I ever have. But I learned from it. It made me a lot stronger and made me appreciate things.''

It was 1999, and he went through three weeks of radiation, going home to vomit afterward each time. And then, just more than a month after starting the treatments, he was playing for Florida's Class AAA team in Calgary. He hit a home run in his first game and went on to hit .313. By midseason, he was back in the majors.

Lowell's personal life has taken him through so much more, too. His father fled Cuba in 1960 for Puerto Rico. He pitched on the national team there and went on to become a dentist. His father-in-law spent 15 years as a political prisoner in Cuba, according to Sports Illustrated, for criticizing Castro.

As a Catholic, he considers fatherhood a privilege and a responsibility. His wife, Bertha, had a tumor removed from her ovary. It turned out to be non-cancerous. But that, coupled with his cancer, made them wonder if they would ever have children.

"We had to bank sperm before my treatments,'' he said. "But we didn't need to use it, thank God.''

Their daughter, Alexis Ileana, turns 2 in September.

So these are the things that built up the Cubs' potential savior. On the field, it has translated this way:

Last year, he started hot, then slumped miserably in the second half, his average dropping 79 points. He played with a hip bruise, but refused to take a day off. He played 160 games.

"You should have seen that thing,'' former Marlins manager Jeff Torborg told the Miami Herald this spring. "He had what looked like a pizza pie with a bloody bruise. I was walking behind, watching him try to get up the stairs in Wrigley Field. He was struggling. And he doesn't say boo.''

In the offseason, Lowell began an extensive cardio and weightlifting program. He changed to a high-protein diet, according to the Herald, on the advice of Christie Wolf, a professional wrestler and bodybuilder and the wife of former Marlins conditioning coach Dale Torborg.

He lost weight, gained muscle and now is a 6-3, 215-pound power hitter.

He's in the third year of a three-year, $6.5 million contract. He won't become a free agent until after next season. But he's eligible for arbitration after this season, and that means a big raise on a team trying to cut costs. That's why the Marlins are said to be willing to trade him.

But it's not just Cubs fans who see him as a savior. Rumors say that the Dodgers are interested, and the Yankees, too.

What does he know about Chicago? "It's out of my control,'' he said. "If a trade happens, fine. The rumors are to cities that are contending, so that's good. If not, I live in Miami anyway, so that's a win-win for me. In Chicago, the atmosphere is great, it's a great park and the team is playing well. They deserve a winner there.''

The CHI Slime-TImes
 

Arnie1941

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Fish Fillet, Thanks for the Star-Ledger re-print of the Dan Graziano article. Graziano was the outstanding baseball writer for The Palm Beach Post. And he always considerately answered my e-mails. He is missed. I think it's good we follow these young writers. Glad to learn where he is now. He's going to move-up again.
 

CapeFish

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I don't think Marlins management has the intention of getting rid of Mike. They have stated he is in their plans for the teams future. The other teams and the press continue to pressure the team to trade him and they won't. Mikey will continue to be a Marlin.
 

Wild Card

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I think the quote was, "He's the cornerstone of our teams future."
 

Marlins2003

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I find all these articles somewhat amusing. They all have the same common thread running through them. Allow me to paraphrase:

"We want Mike Lowell. We need Mike Lowell. Mike Lowell is the player we have to have to take (fill in team name here - Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Reds, take your pick) to the playoffs. He's the best third baseman in baseball and his bat is on fire. We gotta have him".

As for how they would compensate the Marlins the refrain goes like this:

" We aren't trading our core of minor league talent. Our rookie sensation? We aren't going to trade him either. None of our starters with an era below 4.00 are on the block, nor any of our guys batting over .265, BUT maybe we can trade you this guy (insert name of their highest paid, poorest performing player, or the team malcontent, or the guy with the longest stint on the DL in the team's history) if you're willing to pick up his contract. He had a great season in 2000, check out his stats!!"

Last week Gammons was pushing us into a trade for Benson, before that it was Beltrade and this guy and that guy before him. A couple of weeks ago, Berardino was flogging a deal (he pulled out of an internet chatroom) it was Bobby Hill and some other stiff. At some point its best to just ignore all this stuff.

That is unless you want a good laugh.
 

Ramp

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teams must be a little gun shy when trading with Beinfest....

cough cough Willis cough cough

?
 

Wild Card

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Yea they are....

But hey, I still go back to that Mariotti line...

"Hendry doesn't want to give up his precious kids on the farm. Well, it's the kids or the pennant. I guess he doesn't want the pennant."

Or something along those lines...
 

geemoney

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With the Marlins at .500, I think it's now going to take a knockout offer to pry Lowell out of South Florida.
 

Wild Card

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Definately. One that the Cubs aparentely aren't willing to make.

But this next stretch of games from June 27th to July 13th is going to make or brake our season, our team, and its future. If we can sweep the Mets, and be 2 over . 500, if we can manage to play . 500 baseball in that stretch, this team will be in good shape and stay intact.

We just need to stay in good shape in those games, and this team will run at the Wild Card.

BTW: I believe Brian Jordan may go on the DL or something for the Dodgers, which would help us tremendously with him AND the Crime Dog out. If you can't score, pitching won't win alone.
 

Teal Shadow

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I will go back to what I've been saying along "IF" the Cubs come to the plate and overpay for Lowell then Lowell is gone ie Angel Guzman and Andy Sisco in any package with Juan Cruz or Bobby Hill but seeing that won't happen Lowell will stay a Marlin. The Yankess though are know for overpaying which concern me because they could throw something like LHP B.Claussen or Nick Johnson and LHP Sean Henn in a package and take the Marlins dead weight like V.Nunez to make the deal. Again unless a team overpay, I see Lowell a Marlin till next year beyond that well will see :confused
 

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