Best pitcher in National League traded to Toronto

941437.jpg

Best pitcher in National League traded to Toronto

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Eager for a new challenge and certainly a better chance to win, R.A. Dickey broke the news of his trade even before the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets.A few minutes ahead of the teams announcing the seven-player swap Monday that sent the NL Cy Young Award winner to Toronto, he tweeted his thanks to Mets fans and added he was all set to pitch for the Blue Jays."Now that its official, I want to say that I don't have the words to express how grateful I am to you for the steadfast support," Dickey posted on Twitter. "Thank you for making me feel wanted.""Looking forward to a new chapter with the Jays," he wrote.Toronto acquired the 38-year-old knuckleballer and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The Mets got top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and veteran catcher John Buck, plus minor league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra."It was an extraordinary privilege for us to be part of his career," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said about Dickey on a conference call. "The final chapter has not been written."Earlier in the day, Dickey and the busy Blue Jays agreed to a new contract, clearing the way for the Mets to send him to a team that's spending a lot of money trying to join baseball's elite. Toronto has now acquired All-Stars Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and Dickey since the season ended.Dickey was already signed for 5.25 million next year. His new contract adds two more seasons for 25 million -- he will get 12 million in both 2014 and 2015, plus there's a club option for 2016 at 12 million with a 1 million buyout."We're just so close to contention," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "It's not just about one season. This allows us to put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three-to-five-year period."Dickey needed to pass a physical before the teams announced the deal. He became the fourth pitcher to win the Cy Young and be traded before the next season, joining David Cone, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.Alderson said the Mets' preference going into the offseason was to re-sign Dickey. But as the winter meetings approached in early December, Alderson said Dickey's value "in a possible trade was also sky-rocketing. At some point, those lines crossed."Several teams made runs at a deal for Dickey, with Texas and the Los Angeles Angels among those in the mix. Alderson said while some clubs popped in and out of trade talks, Toronto's interest remained steady.Alderson said the Mets didn't completely decide to trade Dickey until they saw the final package that Toronto offered."This was a complicated deal," Alderson said.The Blue Jays have missed the playoffs since winning their second straight World Series crown in 1993, and have boldly moved to reshape a team that went 73-89 last season in the rugged AL East.Last month, they acquired a high-priced trio -- Johnson and Buehrle on the mound, Reyes at shortstop -- in a 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins.Toronto later signed Cabrera, an All-Star outfielder with San Francisco whose season ended when he was suspended 50 games for a positive testosterone test.Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA last season, capping his rapid rise from the majors' scrap heap to an ace pitcher. He did it by perfecting a way to throw his floater faster than previous knuckleballers, and tossing it with exceptional control.Dickey becomes part of a stellar Toronto rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and returning starters Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow."We clearly are convinced this can be a front-line starter for us," Anthopoulos said. "I don't think he gets the credit or the respect he deserves because of his age, and because of what he does throw. And I understand because it's so rare."But there's so much overwhelming data and evidence that points to him continuing to have this success."Thole gives the Blue Jays a catcher who is familiar with handling Dickey's knuckleball, and Anthopoulos said that relationship was a key to the deal."R.A. is too important to our chances to take a chance and have a tryout camp to see if someone can catch him," he said.Thole joins a lineup that features former home run champ Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 homers last season.Despite a big spot in the rotation to fill minus Dickey, Alderson said the Mets were not giving up on next season."We certainly are not punting on 2013," he said.D'Arnaud turns 24 in February. He hit .333 at Triple-A Las Vegas with 16 homers and 52 RBIs before tearing a knee ligament trying to break up a double play in June. He has been an All-Star at several levels during his climb through the minors.Alderson called d'Arnaud the top catching prospect in the minors and predicted he could contribute on the major league level next year."As painful as it was to trade the kids that we did trade, it might be three or four years down the road before they become All-Star status, or whatever is going to happen to them," Anthopoulos said. "At that time Reyes could be gone, Buehrle could be gone, Bautista could be gone, Encarnacion could be gone. We have no idea what our core will look like."Popular with Mets fans, Dickey perturbed team management when he spoke about his contract situation last week during a club event at Citi Field for children displaced from their schools by Superstorm Sandy.Dickey said he enjoyed playing for the Mets and added it would be "disappointing" if he went through his option year without a new deal and became a free agent."If that's the decision that they make, I feel like it would be unfortunate because it probably is going to mean that I'm not going to be back," Dickey said then. "And that would be sad."Buck was an All-Star with Toronto in 2010. The 32-year-old hit .192 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs for Miami last season, then was part of the big trade between Marlins and Blue Jays.The 20-year-old Syndergaard went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA for Class A Lansing. The 18-year-old Becerra hit .250 with four RBIs in 11 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League.Thole hit .234 with one homer and 21 RBIs in 104 games last season. The 26-year-old played four seasons with the Mets.Nickeas split last season with the Mets and Triple-A Buffalo. The 29-year-old hit .174 with one homer and 13 RBIs for New York.

Not another no-hitter, but Jake Arrieta remains Cubs ace in every way

bearrieta_04-28_640x360_675683907994.jpg

Not another no-hitter, but Jake Arrieta remains Cubs ace in every way

The no-hitter drama lasted about two minutes on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Milwaukee Brewers leadoff guy Jonathan Villar made contact with Jake Arrieta’s fifth pitch (95 mph) and knocked it into left field for a soft broken-bat single. The Cubs wouldn’t have any Johnny Vander Meer flashbacks.

Arrieta still continued to press his case to be a repeat Cy Young Award winner, a Game 1 starter in the playoffs and the recipient of a seven-year megadeal worth somewhere north of $200 million. But so much can happen between now and the end of the 2017 season, which means the Cubs have to maximize this two-year window to win a World Series with Arrieta.

Speaking in full paragraphs at his locker for almost 15 minutes on Tuesday, Arrieta had already answered and dismissed the questions about performance-enhancing drugs and his metamorphosis into one of the game’s best pitchers.

The muted clubhouse TVs showing ESPN and MLB Network still had the talking heads running with that chemistry debate for the next two days. To be honest, on some level it felt like Arrieta enjoyed the attention and wanted to get this off his chest.

One week after no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds, Arrieta responded with a low-stress 7-2 victory over the Brewers. This felt like a total mismatch, Arrieta vs. a rebuilding Milwaukee team that is so much closer to the beginning of a five-year rebuilding plan than the end. Ryan Braun – an admitted PED user – got the boos before his at-bats at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs only needed Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA) to throw 92 pitches and pulled him for pinch-hitter Jorge Soler with a four-run lead and runners on the corners in the fifth inning, trying to play the long game.

The front office and coaching staff obviously won’t root against a no-hitter, but that 16-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds was exactly the kind of situation the Cubs outlined in spring training, how they didn’t need to ride Arrieta so hard and could keep him fresh for October after throwing almost 250 innings last year.

Arrieta – who gave up one run across five innings – saw the end of his consecutive quality-starts streak (24) and scoreless-innings run at Wrigley Field (52.2). The Cubs have still won his last 18 regular-season starts and don’t expect anything to throw their ace off his game.

Arrieta got ready for the biggest start of his life – last year’s National League wild-card game – by trolling Pittsburgh Pirates fans on Twitter and telling them the blackout atmosphere at PNC Park “doesn’t matter.”

Arrieta has become a fashion model, signing endorsement deals with SAXX underwear and the Mizzen+Main clothing line. He says he finds the PED accusations to be “flattering.”

If the Cubs keep up this best-in-baseball pace (16-5), Jake will become a legend in Chicago.

“I haven’t seen him change a bit,” said manager Joe Maddon, who last year compared Arrieta to a male Jane Fonda. “He really handles those particular moments when he’s confronted really well, because he’s very matter of fact.

“He’s very self-confident. He knows who he is. So when he answers the questions, he can answer them in a genuine manner and feel really good about himself.

“Wouldn’t we all like to be like that? It’s a pretty good way to live. And I think he’s got it down. He takes care of everything about himself. So I’m all about Jake. We all are. We support everything he does and says.”

Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

fire_lites_04-16_640x360_667731523657.jpg

Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

John Goossens endured a hectic March.

On top of signing a new contract with a new team in a new country and league, the Chicago Fire midfielder had to travel back to his home country, The Netherlands, to get his visa. The long transatlantic trip forced Goossens to miss the season opener.

In the next match in Orlando, Goossens started and earned an assist on a long clearance that David Accam ran onto and scored for the Fire's only goal in a 1-1 draw. He went 73 minutes in that match, still his longest appearance of the season.

In Goossens' first home match against Columbus, a hamstring injury forced him to leave the match at halftime. The injury didn't cause Goossens to miss any games, but it did hamper his fitness and limited his minutes. He was already catching up after joining the team in the middle of the preseason and then missed the opener.

“It was a tough month for me," Goossens said. "I had some traveling back home for my visa and it was hard. I had some problems. I was in Orlando, I start feeling the hamstring and then in the game against Columbus at home after 45 minutes it was better to stop because I had too much problems with it."

After the Columbus match on March 19, an off weekend due to an international window gave Goossens time to recover, but he came off the bench the next two matches. He started the match against Montreal on April 16, his first start since the injury, and played 58 minutes. Despite coming off early, Goossens said he felt fully fit.

The midfielder drew some attention after a spectacular long-distance volley goal in a preseason scrimmage against the University of Portland. He finished with two goals and an assist in five preseason matches and appeared to be a solid candidate to replace Harry Shipp as an attacking midfielder for the Fire.

However, he hasn't had the influence on matches that he would like to so far.

“I can do way better,” Goossens said. “I think it’s for the whole team. We are not happy with the results. We are working really hard for it. You just need wins to be satisfied. For me personally I have to do better and I’m working on it everyday. In my opinion if you work hard everyday the good moments will come to you so we will see.”

Goossens said he has had little trouble settling in with the team and to the league, but admitted the long travel is something that takes getting used to. In the Dutch Eredivisie, where Goossens started his career, the only long flights would be for European competition, which Goossens has never played in. In May the Fire will have road trips to Vancouver, New York Red Bulls and New England in a span of eight days and the team will stay on the road for the duration of the trip.

“I have to get used to it, the flights and things like that," Goossens said. "It’s hard, but since the day I came here you know about it and you have to prepare yourself for it. Until now I feel fine. It’s going to be a really long season. Somewhere in the summer, August or September, there will be a point that you start to get tired, but it’s mentally. It’s our job, we have to take care of it. You have to take care of yourself and your body.

"For me it feels like a big adventure. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be fine. I really enjoy and I’m having fun, that’s the most important thing.”

Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

bearrieta_04-28_640x360_675683907994.jpg

Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

Hey, Clark the Cub is wearing pants!

That was my first reaction when I saw the get-up for the Cubs mascot Thursday. OK, technically a onesie isn't "pants," but it's close enough.

As Arrieta took the mound for the Cubs in his first start since his second career no-hitter, Clark showed his support with the same onesie:

BEARrieta - Get it?

For reference, here's Jake's onesie from Los Angeles last August:

We're not even going to get into the beard or why a bear with fur covering its face would need - or even have - a beard.

This has been your pointless Chicago sports news of the day. Back to regularly scheduled programming.