The Associated Press
PORT ARTHUR —
Former Nederland and Lamar star Brian Sanches, who spent the past six years putting up solid numbers working out of the bullpen for the Phillies, Nationals and Marlins, is starting the 2012 season with the Phillies AAA affiliate in Lehigh Valley, Pa. Brian’s not exactly thrilled about it and you certainly can’t blame him for being a bit disillusioned. A free agent after pitching well the past three seasons with Florida, his only offers were to sign minor league contracts. He finally agreed to a deal with the Phillies because of positive experiences in that organization, and fully expected to make the major league roster during spring training. It didn’t work out that way, so now he’ll have to pitch well in AAA and bide his time while hoping something develops on the big league club. “I’m still a little baffled over why nobody offered me a spot on a 40-man roster, based on how well I pitched,” Sanches said. “I don’t know if it’s something about not wanting to spend money on middle relievers or what. Going back to the minor leagues is tough to swallow, but I’ve got to stay positive and make the best of this. A bad attitude could ruin a career. All I can do is work on things like my fastball command, my overall repertoire and try to make the most of the situation. It’s not the first time I’ve had to grind it out. At least the Phillies were positive with me when they sent me out. They said give it time, we know what you can do.”
With the start of a new baseball season comes the annual comparison of salaries and team payrolls, and the annual news that the New York Yankees spend more than any other team. Featuring three of the five highest salaries in the game — No. 1 Alex Rodriguez ($30 million), No. 3 C.C. Sabathia ($24,285,714) and No. 5 Mark Teixeira ($23,125,00), the Yankees are No. 1 for the 14th consecutive year with a total payroll just south of $198 million. That’s roughly $25 million more than the Boston Red Sox are spending on players . . . Despite belt tightening and all the high profile players — Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn — lopped off their roster in the last two years, the Astros are not dead last in MLB payroll. That dubious distinction belongs to the Oakland A’s at $52,872,500, or about $2 million less than the Yankees are doling out for A Rod and Sabathia. San Diego is also below Houston at $55,871,500. The Astros rank No. 28 at $60,651,000. They would be dead last, of course, if they could unload Carlos Lee and his $19 million payroll burden. Thanks to Drayton McLane’s biggest blunder, Lee is baseball’s 16th highest paid player . . . One rather interesting salary note has a Southeast Texas link. Baseball’s second highest paid player, Vernon Wells III,, has ties to Port Arthur. Wells’ dad, Vernon Wells Jr., was a schoolboy football star in the 1970s at Stephen F. Austin High School. His paternal grandparents were long-time and highly respected educators in the PAISD. Wells, a centerfielder, is making $24,642,857 from the Los Angeles Angels
I’ve never been a fan of Kentucky coach John Calipari, and remain amazed at how he skated through NCAA investigations that led to penalties for teams he coached at UMass and Memphis, but I have to give the guy credit for one of the most amazing coaching jobs ever. To be able to take a freshman-laden team like Kentucky, with young kids who’ve been told how great they are through the AAU process, and get them to bury egos and play team basketball, is astonishing. Calipari’s Wildcats, because of their talent and unselfishness, were so much better than any other college team it was ridiculous. But the one-and-done stuff is making a mockery out of the NCAA’s favorite term — student athlete . . . Watching Baylor’s women’s team celebrate a 40-0 national championship Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but think of my dear departed friend — Judge James Farris. I’d give almost anything for the Judge to have been able to witness all the amazing feats authored by Baylor teams this year. He’d have roared over a 10-3 Bears football team with its first bowl victory in 20 years, and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. He’d have celebrated a 30-8 men’s basketball team that made it to the Elite Eight before running into Kentucky. And he’d have reveled in the unbeaten Lady Bears, Player of the Year Brittney Griner and especially coach Kim Mulkey. I still remember the Judge bringing Mulkey down to speak in Beaumont before her first season at Baylor and telling me how impressed he was with her. Two national championships and one near-miss later, it’s easy to see why . . . Speaking of Griffin, it was pretty remarkable to see him front and center at the women’s Final Four, rooting on the Lady Bears. What a quality kid he is, as well as a true ambassador for Baylor’s athletic program.
What was once rightfully trumpeted as the 8th Wonder of the World — the Astrodome — has become Houston’s biggest eyesore and debacle. After a blogger sneaked into the Dome a couple of weeks ago, and posted photos of what he saw on the Internet, a command decision was made by the management company that oversees all of Reliant Park. SMG extended an invitation to media members to tour the Astrodome and talk and write about their impressions. Barry Warner, my man on the scene in Houston, called what he saw shocking, and said the stench was like cat litter that had not been changed in months. Numerous plans have been floated for the Astrodome, but it sounds more and more like it’s got a date with a wrecking ball. Estimated cost to remove asbestos and start the process of retrofitting the facility is $125 million. Still to be paid off is $43 million of debt for improvements in the 1980s that were supposed to have kept Bud Adams from turning carpetbagger with the Oilers . . . Need to give new Astros owner Jim Crane two thumbs up for trashing Drayton McLane’s heavy-handed policies of not allowing fans to bring food or water into Minute Maid Park. If you plan to attend a game this season, be advised that it’s permissible to bring food, as long as it fits in a one-gallon clear plastic bag. Also permitted are unopened one-liter bottles of water. It’s a great way for Crane to build some goodwill while the Astros go through what is likely to be a long and slow rebuilding process . . . Maybe the Astros are not going to be quite as bad as a lot of us media types think. Everybody I’ve talked to thinks Houston will be hard pressed to match last season’s 56 wins. In Las Vegas, however, the over-under on the number of victories the Astros will manage is 63. I think I’ll have a heaping helping of the under.
That’s quite a public relations pickle Bobby Petrino has gotten the University of Arkansas into. In case you are not following along, Arkansas’ head football coach crashed his motorcycle the other day. The good news was that he was not seriously injured. The bad news was that on the back of the 51-year-old Petrino’s motorcycle was 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player recently hired by Petrino as a “student-athlete development coordinator.” As it turns out, they were having what Petrino, married and a father of four, admitted was an “inappropriate relationship.” If you’re Arkansas AD Jeff Long, how do you handle this hot potato? My guess is Long will lecture and suspend Petrino, then tell him to win more games . . . Is there a more first-class person in professional sports than golfer Phil Mickelson? To a long list of good-guy stuff Mickelson has continued to do while dealing with breast cancer issues for his wife and mother, add opening day at the 2012 Masters. Mickelson, who was in the final pairing of the day in mid afternoon, showed up in his green jacket at 7 a.m. to pay tribute to Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player by watching them hit the ceremonial opening tee shots to officially get the event underway. I’m guessing something like that has probably happened before, although I doubt any player turning out that early had to wait as long for his tee time as Mickelson. Somehow I can’t see Tiger Woods making such a grand gesture . . . It’s doubtful anybody paid a more painful price for Kentucky winning the NCAA championship than 31-year-old Wildcats fan Harold Calloway. Among the out-of-control throng celebrating in Lexington Monday night, Calloway was accidentally shot in the leg and wound up having to have a foot amputated. To add insult to injury, police investigating the shooting discovered Calloway has outstanding criminal warrants in Indiana. Sounds like it would have been much better for Calloway if Kentucky had lost.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com.