Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

It’s open season on baseball’s free agents

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BASEBALL/After a World Series and San Francisco Giants triumph that fittingly capped a Major League Baseball campaign known as the Season of the Pitcher, the sport has barely skipped a beat before quickly beginning its next chapter — open season on free agents. 

License to begin the hunt in a season of big spending has been granted 10 days earlier than in the past due to rules changes intended to make the wheeling-dealing easier.

The top ticket item among more than 150 free agent players is Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee, and as expected the deep-pocketed New York Yankees have already reached out to his agent to express their interest.

Lee, who had amassed a 7-0 postseason record the past two years before two uncharacteristic Fall Classic stumbles against the Giants, figures to command in the neighborhood of his old Cleveland Indian team-mate CC Sabathia’s deal with the Yanks at $23 million per year.

Season of the pitch

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Washington Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth inning of their National League baseball game in Washington, June 8, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstPitchers have dominated the spotlight over the first third of Major League Baseball’s 2010 season, casting a spell over the hitters with Washington Nationals 21-year-old rookie Stephen Strasburg the latest to work his magic.

The most ballyhooed pitching prospect to hit the majors in recent memory, Strasburg satisfied the great expectations with a spectacular debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates last week.

A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

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BASEBALL/Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay is a perfectionist, meticulous in his preparation and attention to detail and one of baseball’s best pitchers over the last decade.

Halladay, the right-hander nicknamed ‘Doc’, removed a bad taste in his mouth from his previous outing with perfect precision — by throwing the 20th perfect game ever in Major League Baseball in a 1-0 win Saturday against NL East rivals the Florida Marlins.

Fading spotlight a nightmare for Bonds

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When Barry Bonds was playing baseball he seemed to crave attention. He wanted and needed the spotlight to be fixated on him. But like a spoiled child, he did not care if the attention was positive or negative as long as people were talking about him. For Bonds, the negative far outweighed the positive.San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds watches from the dugout in the second inning as the Giants take on the San Diego Padres during their MLB National League baseball game in San Francisco, California in this September 24, 2007 file photo. Bonds tested positive for steroids in November 2001, just a month after hitting his record 73rd home run of the season, U.S. prosecutors said on February 15, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

Jeff Pearlman, who wrote Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, sums Bonds up perfectly as “the undisputed president and CEO of the AMSAPS (Arrogant, Mean-Spirited Athletes in Professional Sports) Movement. Inside clubhouses, he scowled at teammates, reporters and club employees as if they were grime beneath his freshly manicured fingernails. On the field, he ignored 99 percent of fans who called his name, desperate for an autograph, a wave or even a simple nod. He treated his personal staffers like cockroaches and his wives like broken appliances.”

Will cricketers follow baseball sluggers down drugs path?

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CARDINALS/Reports that Major League Baseball will introduce testing for synthetic Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in its minor leagues next season year prompt disturbing memories of the explosion in power hitting in the 1990s headed by Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

This year McGwire admitted he had taken steroids when he broke Roger Maris’s long-standing home run record in 1998.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: Play on Fenway Park grass … in your yard

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Check out where Scotts is staking out new turf.

ScottsMiracle-Gro, the No. 1 U.S. lawn-care company, is taking a swing at winning over baseball fans with its latest sponsorship deal, which allows customers to buy the same grass seed and fertilizer used to grow the lush, green fields at the ballparks of such teams as the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox.

Scotts has signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal with Major League Baseball that includes licensed products, baseball-themed advertising and partnerships with eight of the teams. A source close to the deal who asked not to be identified said Scotts' annual commitments are in the high seven figures, with overall spending on baseball in the eight figures.

from Raw Japan:

MLB pitches to Kikuchi

Major League Baseball teams are lining up to lure Japanese high school baseball pitcher Yusei Kikuchi across the Pacific to join them in an unprecedented raid on the country's young talent.

Kikuchi, an 18-year-old left-hander from Hanamaki Higashi High School in northern Japan, would be the most coveted young Japanese player to join an MLB team, but he is equally desired by Japan's 12 professional teams.BASEBALL-JAPAN/KIKUCHI

Its baseball star fallen, Taiwan scopes alternatives

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rtr26txvA chain of injuries suffered by New York Yankees star Wang Chien-ming is pushing a pair of more obscure Taiwan-born U.S. Major League Baseball pitchers into the limelight as dejected fans grudgingly seek alternatives.

Fans in baseball-crazy Taiwan, though far from giving up on Wang, say they are looking harder at Ni Fu-te and Kuo Hong-chih. But unlike Wang, a starting pitcher responsible for winning games, the other two are relief pitchers and neither is quite a superhero.

from Raw Japan:

Ichiro: Japan’s greatest sporting export

Japan’s Ichiro Suzuki underlined his position as his country’s greatest sporting export after shattering one of Major League Baseball’s oldest records.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder was described as a "Hercules" by fellow players after becoming the first man to record 200 hits for nine straight seasons.

Mike Schmidt makes the case for reinstating Pete Rose

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Twenty years ago this week, Pete Rose received the harshest of all of baseball’s penalties: a lifetime ban for betting on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, the team that brought him fame as a player and infamy as a manager.

SPORT BASEBALL ROSEIn return for his admission, MLB wouldn’t embarrass Rose by exposing its evidence against him.

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