Angel Villalona's visa not approved for medical reasons


Angel Villalona's visa not approved for medical reasons

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Former top prospect Angel Villalona no longer faces murder charges in the Dominican Republic, but he will not report by Thursday's deadline for position players because his visa has not been approved by the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo, Giants vice president Bobby Evans said.

Villalona was deemed unfit to qualify for his P1 visa, which requires that he establish his status as an elite athlete, Evans said. It's the first time the Giants could remember a player's visa being flagged for that reason.

Giants officials would not disclose Villalona's physical issues, saying that it is a combination of conditioning and medical reasons "that he has dealt with in the past."

"We don't know if this delay is 24 hours or two weeks," Evans said. "We're hoping we can convince them he is in the condition he should be."

Villalona, 21, has not stepped foot in the U.S. since September, 2009, when he left Single-A San Jose on an approved visit to the Dominican while on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps. While there, he was charged int he fatal shooting of a man in a bar near his hometown of La Romana. Charges eventually were dropped after nearly two years, during which time Villalona was either in custody or under house arrest.

Major League Baseball removed Villalona from its restricted list late last year and the Giants added him to their 40-man roster in December in order to protect another team from claiming him in the Rule 5 draft. Players on the 40-man roster receive automatic invites to major league spring training; Villalona has a locker in Scottsdale Stadium with his uniform and workout clothes awaiting him.

Conditioning was an issue for Villalona before his career was put on hold. The thickly built power hitter received a 2.1 million bonus as a 16-year-old -- a franchise record at the time.

Villalona has been working out at the Giants' facility in the Dominican Republic and has been part of a conditioning program that includes baseball work, Giants trainer Dave Groeschner said.

"We're pleased with where he's at on the baseball side," Evans said. "His weight is down from where we started and it's close to what we were targeting. So we're disappointed by the delay. ... We're also hopeful we'll be able to cross this line."

Giants hire David Bell to fill key front office role


Giants hire David Bell to fill key front office role

SAN FRANCISCO -- A familiar face is returning to the Giants organization to serve a key front office role. 

The Giants announced Friday that David Bell, their former third baseman, has been hired as Vice President of Player Development. The job was previously held by Shane Turner. At the end of the season, team officials hinted that Turner could be one of several members of the organization to be reassigned. 

In a statement, general manager Bobby Evans said Bell will "help shape our ongoing strategy and continued commitment to player development."

Bell, 45, played 12 major league seasons and spent 2002 with the Giants. He hit 20 homers that year as the starting third baseman and scored the winning run in the final game of the NLCS.

Since retiring, Bell has served as a minor league manager for the Reds and a big league coach for the Cubs and Cardinals. He spent last season as the bench coach in St. Louis. 

Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered


Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered

Firing a manager is easy, and there are lots of ways to do it.

Dusty Baker, for example. He worked this year on the last year of a contract, which usually means there won’t be another one, and he relied on his players to deliver the goods.

Which, as we remember from our reading, they didn’t do. Again.

But Baker was marked for the chop unless those players did deliver, and when they didn’t, general manager Mike Rizzo did the expedient thing.

He fired one person rather than several. And changed exactly nothing.

Baker’s managerial career is probably over now, as most teams don’t look at 68-year-olds to fix their teams. He will never manage a  World Series champion, something he ached for, and he was always be caricatured in part as the guy who didn’t speak metric, and who believed in players as men whenever in doubt.

And the Nats didn’t betray him, either. They were always not as good in the big moments because someone else was, and they became part of Washington’s new fetish – Why Can’t We Win One? It’s as if having a cringeworthy President isn’t good enough for them.

So the time came, and he will be replaced by someone who will either win and get credit for work that was largely his, or he won’t win and the town can continue to wallow in its tedious We’re-The-New-Cubs pity. It is the circle of life.

At least it is for groups of people. For individuals, the circle of life is actually nothing more than a straight line that ends abruptly. For Dusty Baker, as it did for Tony La Russa in Phoenix two days earlier, that day came today. He deserves to be remembered as a very good manager who won a lot more than he lost, made more friends than enemies, and was honest from Day One until the end.

Which, as we also know, doesn’t matter a whole lot on days like this.