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Morning Briefing

Eckstein as a lucky charm

December 16, 2007|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

Amid a week of scandal involving allegations of ballplayers on steroids was word that 5-foot-6 David Eckstein is moving to the Toronto Blue Jays from the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals decided they could do without the scrappy, choke-up-on-the-bat shortstop, even though he hit a career-best .309 last season.

Eckstein also had a career-high 20 errors in 114 games this year and struggled with back problems. And the former Angel turns 33 next month.

But Toronto, which finished third in the AL East, 13 games behind division winner Boston, gladly signed Eckstein to a one-year, $4.5-million contract for next season.

For Angels fans, this all must have a familiar ring.

Eckstein was a fan favorite in Anaheim, where he helped lead the Angels to their World Series victory in 2002. But in late-2004 he was released -- "dumped by the Angels in December with no ceremony," as Ross Newhan wrote in The Times -- and picked up by the Cardinals.

Just two years later Eckstein was named the World Series' most valuable player when St. Louis beat the Detroit Tigers for the championship.

All players age and their skills diminish over time. But the Blue Jays know Eckstein's upbeat attitude, work ethic and hustle remain in place.

"He's been on two World Series champions," Jays Manager John Gibbons told the Toronto Sun. "Good things happen to teams he's with."

Trivia time

Who was the World Series' most valuable player when the Angels beat the San Francisco Giants to win the title in 2002?

Two cents' worth

Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling isn't afraid to voice his opinion on most subjects, and the Mitchell Report on steroid abuse in baseball was no exception.

Writing in his "38 Pitches" blog, the right-hander had a message for his peers:

"Look, if you ordered HGH or steroids, in your name, and there is documentation to prove that you did, please do us all a favor and admit you made a mistake and move on. This is a pretty damn forgiving country."

Open seating

The ice and snow that swept across much of the nation last week affected sports as well, including the NHL game between the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils.

Only about 1,500 spectators were able to see the Devils' 3-1 win at the TD Banknorth Garden because of a major snowstorm in Boston.

Said New Jersey defenseman Mike Mottau after the game: "I think the ushers and the families were the only ones in the stands."

Celtic pride

Speaking of Boston, the NBA's Celtics are starting to surprise even themselves.

Boston smashed Milwaukee, 104-82, on Friday to win their 12th home game without a loss this season, tying a franchise record set by the Larry Bird-led Celtics in 1983-84.

This year's Celtics are now 19-2 overall, the league's best record, and have won their last eight consecutive games.

"I knew from [training camp] it was going to be a special group, but never in my wildest dream could I have imagined this," said forward Paul Pierce.

And what does Bird think? "I'm happy for their success," Bird, now the Indiana Pacers' president of basketball operations, told the Boston Globe. "I wish them well."

More Mayo

USC freshman guard O.J. Mayo isn't the only Mayo making a splash in college basketball lately.

Josh Mayo, a junior guard for Illinois Chicago, was named Horizon League player of the week after averaging 30.5 points in two league games.

He had 29 points in just 27 minutes in the Flames' 91-73 victory over Wisconsin Milwaukee, then 32 points in a 76-67 win over Wisconsin Green Bay.

Trivia answer

The Angels' Troy Glaus. The third baseman hit .385 in the seven-game series, with three home runs and eight RBIs.

Now, Glaus -- who played at UCLA before turning pro -- is a member of the Blue Jays and will be Eckstein's teammate once again.

And finally

Reader Craig Kadden e-mailed Briefing with a question: "Would it be fair to say major league baseball players were on pins and needles prior to the release of the Mitchell Report?"

--

james.peltz@latimes.com

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