Bill Conlin: Rollins in the Cards

Posted: December 09, 2011

 When I'm King of the World . . .

 Phillies GM Ruben Amaro will blow a big, wet kiss to Angels counterpart Jerry Dipoto . . . They had to be pulling their autos over and dancing on the freeways that lace Orange County yesterday. Similar demonstrations of joy, but in groups of 12 scattered through 16 National League cities, had to be staged by NL pitchers who will only have to face Albert Pujols in expanded interleague play. Or October.

Tweets flew into the great slugger's phone, including one from still-unsigned, unsealed and undelivered shortstop Jimmy Rollins. "Congrats to my good friend Albert Pujols and his new deal with the L.A. Angels," tweeted the man Amaro has been unable to lock up.

Pujols will earn a reported $254 million between Opening Day of 2012 and Game 162 of the 2021 season. He will be 41 by then.

The Marlins are said to have offered him a little more dough but would not offer the best hitter of his generation full no-trade protection.

Dipoto gave him a full no-trade, the apparent tipping point. The Angels GM was so ecstatic he dug out a paltry $77.5 million more and signed excellent free agent lefthander C.J. Wilson for 5 years.

The balance of power in the American League West shifted so dramatically, seismograph needles jiggled from Point Loma to Puget Sound. The San Pujols Fault had shaken up a game awash in your money.

Which is exactly what we were saying here a year ago when RAJ returned from the meetings and hit us with the Cliff Lee bombshell. Yeah, rev up the flatbeds for the parade.

Mortal lock now, right?

All the Angels have to do is go out and win the West, the ALDS, the ALCS and the WS, that little postseason trick of winning 11 games in October.

Manager Mike Scioscia likes to run. He has a lineup filled with rabbits, including Erick Aybar and two of the game's fastest players in outfielders Peter Bourjos and Millville's Mike Trout, 19.

With that kind of speed in front of him, if Trout is ready to lead off or bat No. 2, Pujols might drive in 150 runs.

Ah, but what has the Pujols signing done for a Rollins re-signing that seemed close to dotted-line time until the Angels surfaced as the "Mystery Team" that had been lurking in the shadows while the Cardinals and Marlins tried to wrap him up? No doubt it will get him a fourth year and a better price from the Phillies. Or, horror of horrors, the Cardinals, who just saved themselves $250 million, go all in and decide to upgrade their shortstop situation with the best infielder out there? Could happen. Be very afraid.

When I'm King of the World . . .

 Phils will dive into the deep end of the International talent pool just to see what it's like . . . I'm not talking about the DR, Venezuela and Panama, where they have been Peso Store shoppers with nary a position star to show for their efforts since the days of Juan Samuel and Julio Franco - save for Carlos Ruiz . . . I'm talking a big, expensive, defecting Cuban five-tooler like Yoenis Cespedes, who is said to be the centerfield equivalent of 106 mph power arm Aroldis Chapman. They say the 26-year-old has the opposite-field power of Vlad Guerrero and the size and running speed of No. 1 prospect Trout. And all he wants is $30 million, a bargain considering you don't have to pay a "posting" bounty to Fidel Castro, the way suitors for Japanese phenom Yu Darvish must pay the Nippon Ham Fighters just for the right to negotiate with their gas-pumping righthander.

The Red Sox set the posting record when they paid $51,111,111.11 for the right to give Daisuke Matsuzaka another $52 million. It was a great deal until Dice-K's arm quit on him. Darvish has killer stuff, 6-5 size and a delivery much closer to the American version than most corkscrewing Japanese pitchers. He's just 25 and they don't forge birth certificates in Japan.

Rule 5 note: My eyebrows raised a little when the Cubs selected Phillies low minors Dominican righthanded pitcher Lendy Castillo with the sixth pick in yesterday's draft of unprotected minor leaguers. Castillo is a converted shortstop who has pitched just 111 minor league innings, none above the Low A level. He was 4-2 at Lakewood last season in two starts and six relief appearances. Lendy is a spindly 170-pounder with a live arm, but nothing that shorts out radar guns. And he sometimes loses focus when a teammate makes an error behind him or an umpire misses a call . . . The Phillies lost three other Class A-and-below players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5: former second-round draft pick Travis Mattair, a third baseman with Scott Rolen size who has missed a lot of time to injuries; late-season pickup Andy Loomis, a 5-10 lefthander who was 1-2 with a 1.14 ERA in brief relief for Clearwater; and "Little Chooch," a diminutive catcher named Francisco Diaz, who is homerless in four professional seasons, but has solid defensive skills.

When I'm King of the World . . .

 A laurel and hearty handshake for me if I pitch a Trivia shutout . . . Which is what happened last week. For shame, all you smug Googlers. Just one reader took a stab at it and got two right. The major league player named for two presidents was Grant Jackson, player named for two famous rivers was Charles Hudson, player named for a nation and a beer was Germany Schaefer and a player named for two major lakes was Martin "Marty" Marion - Lake Martin, Ala., and Lake Marion, S.C. Worse yet, Jackson and Hudson were both Phillies.


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