A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jair Jurrjens

So we may as well say that we're at the halfway point of the season right now. During this time, we've celebrated some people that are excelling and some that were excelling. We've looked at the strikeouts of all of those free swingers that just keep thinking that they can win if only they swing for the fences (a concept that works better against alien invaders that come out of a Pennsylvania cornfield than it does in reality).
However, today, let's look at pretenders and winners on the win / loss circuit of pitchers.
In the last 10 games, Cole  Hamels has let up 4 runs once. In that stretch, he has let up 0, 1, or 2 runs 7 times to include his last 6 starts. In those game, he has lost 2 times and his team blew the game a third time. For that reason, his record is 9-4. However, his WHIP is 0.96 and his ERA is 2.49.
This definitely sounds a lot better than the vast majority of 10 game winners not named Justin Verlander (124 strikeouts, 0.84 WHIP and 2.38 ERA because nobody can touch him right now), who is my Cy Young pick for the season (at the halfway point). It's definitely better than CC Sabathia's 3.25 ERA and 1.22 WHIP (very pedestrian) to get to that 10-4 record (definitely a benefit of playing in the Bronx, I might add).
Roy Halladay is truly becoming Mr. Consistency in that beautiful way that numbers like 2.40, 1.03 and 123 add up to (and 5 complete games now, too).
But what about the forgotten people? We've remembered Justin Masterson, Dan Haren, and Kyle Lohse, but where is Jair Jurrjens who is now 10 and 3 with a WHIP of 1.14 and an ERA of 2.07? We see these numbers now, and we say "shit god damn" (ot at least we listen to the Eagles of Death Metal singing them).
This is becoming an every non-injured year thing for Jurrjens.
However, what sets him apart from the other guys on the list is 3 fewer starts. He's just winning, and he's winning for Atlanta... a team that isn't exactly scaring the hell out of other pitching staffs. The strikeouts may not be there (55), but the walks aren't really that numerous either (22). He's just quietly good on a team that's always been known for its pitching. Is he the Tom Glavine to the flashier Greg Maddux-esque characters listed above? I hope not since I never thought much of Glavine (he always reminded me of a David Cone type player - you know, a Yankee who wins because he's on a team that wins a lot and he's above average).
In 3 years in the bigs (we'll forget the short season in 2007 and the injured campaign in 2010), he's doing some good things (13-10 and 14-10 - getting a little better in ERA year 3 as he dropped to a 2.60 from a 3.68).
And while he's not doing it with a winning team, he's still doing it and doing it strong as he shores up his options at getting to Phoenix in the next 2 weeks.
Hopefully, the abundance of teams that aren't worthy of having anyone go, but still, they send someone because Bud Selig hasn't ammended that rule (not necessarily a bad things because nobody wants to watch the Yankees / Red Sox combined team take on the Phillies (other than a few players who will be there on talent and fan vote alone, you know that it's true) won't affect Jurrjens deserved spot on the NL All Star roster.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Joel Hanrahan

Ok. I get it. You don't live in western Pennslyvania. You don't live remotely close to western Pennsylvania so that you can watch ROOT, a network on television that carries the Pirates. You don't remember when the Pirates were good (hint - Barry Bonds still played for them) and thus, you still might root for them just because. You don't think of Sister Sledge and wonder if Andrew McCutchen could make this team family, too. You don't root for the Washington Nationals and follow their former players, no matter what way the wind takes them. You don't scan the highlights and stats of those obscure teams that time and better sense seem to have forgotten. You only think of Pittsburgh when Bud Selig threatens to contract another team and you hope that your team can get Andrew McCutchen because MLBTV and your fantasy magazines talk about how good he is supposed to be.
You're just clueless because Joel Hanrahan has 22 saves and a sub 2.00 closer ERA (1.24 and 0.94) for the season. Sure, he only has 1/3 of an inning over the minimal 1 inning per outing thing that makes most closers today so.... lame, but yeah... he's doing it for Pittsburgh!
And sure, Pittsburgh lost today, but they're still 39 and 38 after a weekend series with the Red Sox. And sure, it was at PNC Park, but folks... they had the biggest crowd ever on Saturday night to watch Hanrahan come in and shut the show down for the first 2 batters. Barring a missed opportunity to catch the 3rd out at the wall by Xavier Paul (something any other red blooded web gems seeking outfielder - to include Manny Ramirez - would have done) and thus, a runner on 2nd, he brought out the real fireworks - not the ones that came when the control booth let a few loose too soon hoping and believing that the end was real. And after Adrian Gonzalez (he who is currently tops in batting average in the majors) was eliminated, it was pandemonium. People were literally screaming for their Bucs like in the days of Andy Van Slyke... like in the days of Kent Tekulve and Dave Parker and Willie Stargell... like in the days of Manny Sanguillen... like in the days of Bill Mazeroski... like in the days of Honus frickin' Wagner.
And I'm not a Pirates fan, but I do appreciate the good things in baseball (even enough to eat crow on how I said the Red Sox would mow through them and the Padres - neither happened, I might add). Seeing a city that has been dead since 1993 return and rejoice. Man... that was nice.
And what does this mean? Sure, there are over 80 games left, and a team can go to seed, but a team can also believe in itself. They're 4 games out with the loss on Sunday, but this is the Pirates and it's June 26th and they're only 4 games out and they're above .500 and St. Louis is stick a fork in it done and Milwaukee is up front, but a few key series, a lot of hanging on, a lot of wins against underachievers like the Astros...
This is a team with a closer who looks like Eric Gagne without the glasses and the Canadian who might be getting some fist pumps of energy ready for the Three Rivers area.
And wouldn't that be nice?
Like Cleveland's turn around season (1 game out in 2 less games than Detroit - 40 and 36), we have to feel good about lots of teams in this (and few teams out - the Marlins, Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, and Padres - AND thanks to the Minnesota turn around (at least for a while) no teams that dead in the water in a non-respectable way YET in the American League (even though we all know who the pretenders are - Kansas City, Baltimore..).
So please... .forgive us our happiness and excitement if we get carried away, but methinks that my cousin's kids might actually be having a year worth remembering when it comes to baseball!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kevin Millwood

When you need a job, you look at the openings, your talents, and your needs, and you make a logical decision to see what you can do.
For example, Kevin Millwood is currently hanging out with the Red Sox in the minor leagues. He's not very happy because he's not in the pros, but to be honest, this isn't the days when he was filling the number 4 slot with the Atlanta Braves. His ERA isn't league leading like it was when he was in Cleveland. He's not throwing a no-hitter for the dead era Phillies. He's just a pitcher with an upside that hasn't lived up to expectations for quite some time. The 4-16 stint in Baltimore last year with a 5+ ERA wasn't good either.
So if he's crying over not being in the majors - just because he once was all right (thank you, Leo Mazzone), then perhaps there is a sense that he "just hasn't earned it yet (baby)."
And he isn't alone.
Future Just for Men spokesman Jason Giambi is sending out all the right signals to the Yankees to let them know that he doesn't want to be a role player for Colorado and wants to play for them (it's not quite Rickey Henderson informing the major leagues that "Rickey wants to play and he wants to play for you," but hey, it's a start. With comments like:
“I wasn’t touching the ground, I was excited." (at the prospect of playing in New York and hitting a home run).
“Just being excited like old times to have that opportunity to play in front of (the fans) again. I went up there, and I think he could have thrown the resin bag at 2-0 and I would have swung at it, no matter what.” (in an attempt to ass kiss for the Big Apple since his second stint with the A's wasn't quite the way his first stint with them was.
And we can't fault him for trying since we're trying to work and we're willing to work any number of places - though having a specialized advanced degree pretty much says that I'm stuck in some variation of it because too many employers think I'm too "skilled" to be "happy" at lesser part time jobs that would accomodate my slightly over part time hours of teaching. Too many other employers think I'm too pricey for the starting salaries that they can afford due to my "advanced" degree (interesting because I thought that a liberal arts masters degree wasn't quite as "advanced" as a STEM degree, but yeah...).
So if there is love and a paycheck and an opporuntity to get it, so be it. Let Mr. Giambi do what he has to do to earn it. Let Mr. Millwood work hard to have the comeback he deserves (and who can say that he's not worth one more chance - aren't we all?).
In the end, all people deserve the right to earn a living - even Barry Bonds - he who was so hated that he didn't get a job after posting a .480 OBP and 132 walks to go with his 28 home runs in the year he set the all time home run record. And yeah... this was something about BALCO, and Bonds was a clubhouse cancer, but if that's the case, why bring him back for the record? And maybe there was a fear of the perjury trial and what could be said, but if you look at Barry's stats... they were positively sick (even if it made me physically sick to see him beat McGwire's home run record). This was a man who in 2004 walked 232 TIMES! Somehow, only 120 of these were intentional. This was a man who is ranked #21 all time on Baseball Reference Dot Com. This was a man who was walked with the bases loaded. This was the man who was walked 177 times the year he hit 73 home runs (McGwire was walked 162 in the year he hit 70).
But like so many others from an era that made a mistake, he was passed over and left to be forgotten. It's not that he didn't shoot himself in the foot and sabotage his world, but still... isn't ours a society of second chances? Aren't all sins save upsetting Oprah worth another chance?

Friday, June 24, 2011

AJ Burnett

It's really a dubious honor - 4 strikeouts in an inning, but on Friday night, AJ Burnett achieved this honor that gets achieved about once a year since the stat was first acknowledged (although Baseball Almanac does list some old time greats that have achieved it - Walter Johnson being the most notable and Ed Crane being the first on October 4,1888).
The rest of the game wasn't as memorable for the New York Yankees wild man and occasional solid pitcher as he threw 6.1 innings to get the loss against the Rockies. Other than that 6th inning, he only whiffed one other Rockie, and he walked 5 and allowed 7 hits. Nothing special...
But the 4 in one inning... that's special.
Last year, Manny Parra of the Brewers and King Felix achieved the feat. Hell, in 2002, Burnett did the same feat as well, so he's no stranger to the phenomenon. However, he's still got one more to go before he gets to first place in a tie with Chuck Finley - you know the guy who had the tar kicked out of him by Tawny Kitaen, she of the Whitesnake "Here I Go Again" video. And maybe it's hard to find control when you're throwing heat with movement, but there's also something to be said about picking up and starting again when you should be out of the inning and there's a runner on first because your catcher can't handle the nastiness that you throw. Maybe it's hard to find your control when you want to put a fastball behind your dirty tramp wife's eyes and are so wild with anger that (in the words of Crash Davis), "you couldn't hit water if you fell out of a boat."
And so Nuke Laloosh is going for a new league record.
It's not like opposing teams don't know the book on Burnett. The Phillies knew that if you get to him early in the game, you can get him out, but if you sit and wait on his pitches, you're going to lose (and they did - instead choosing to sit on his pitches and let him find his routine and end their dreams of back to back World Series victories in 2009).
Thus, AJ Burnett's 4+ ERA and 76 strikeouts that go with his 7-5 record really aren't worth the time and attention that the Yankees made us all think that they deserved when they signed him (in the same way that Big Sluggy CC's contract won't be much good when he opts out of it this offseason).
It will be nice to see people fleeing the Bronx - even when they're throwing money out like it was growing on trees. And if AJ is stuck in New York... call it a fitting punishment for a team that thinks that to win is to buy all of the name players - without checking what happens when they aren't making a name for themselves with a no hitter and 4 Ks in an inning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chris Heisey

There's something about the feeling of hitting a home run that makes players jump out of the batting box with that little spring in their step. Sammy Sosa did it nicely before he was made a pariah for his inability to speak English - you know, back in the good old days when columnists wrote gushing praises like they were a 14-year old girl with her first boyfriend calling on the phone to tell her that he loves her. Now, the columnists, the sports anchors, the radio personalities, the bloggers, and the fans still gush... it's just not over "those guys" anymore. Instead, it's over the new home runs hitters - the ones who couldn't possibly be juiced (Jose Bautista, Ryan Howard, et al.).
We forgive the new sluggers their tresspasses (all those strikeouts and that cruddy batting averages that so many of them carry). We like when they go yard - especially in the Second Year of the Pitcher. However, what do we end up with for this sensation of getting the guys to play yard ball?
In follow up to his statement about striking out a lot more since hitting Triple A ball, Chris Heisey of the Reds stated, "When I'm aggressive, I do a lot better. I'd like to put the ball in pay more, use my speed."
In 128 at bats after today's game, Heisey is hitting .273 with 8 home runs. He hit 3 of them in the 2nd game against the Yankees and helped the Reds wake up their offense. It was a nice moment. Can he continue on this torrid pace, or will this moment of joy just cause him to get more free swinging that he already is (33 whiffs in those at bats). So if you take away home runs, he's 33 for 120 in all non one swing wonder at bats. Either way, that's more than 1 K per 4 at bats.
But he is a local boy from this area, and we do applaud when our sons and daughters achieve in the pros.
However there is something about facing reality. In 2 part time years, he has 4 stolen bases. So much for that speed (or is it just that he's waiting for a green light?). Last year, he had 8 home runs in 226 at bats. He has that many this year, too.
So if he never does anything again other than just hit 3 home runs in one game to beat the Yankees, then he did something to endear himself to us.
That said, we just wish he would try for more contact than clobbering the ball. That's how you get to have the 10-12 year career he was dreaming about in the same Lancaster Intelligencer article. Frankly, that would be a lot better. Then, he could be fawned over like Ryan Vogelsong who is actually doing some good things this year from the other side of the spectrum (7 innings, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts to bring his totals to 1.86, 5-1, and 57 Ks for the season with the Giants after not playing since 2006). It's stories like that, which make us smile at The Great Things I See in Baseball.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Matt Albers

The Padres tied the game at 3-3, but there seems to be this mentality on the Red Sox... open up and kill whatever comes at them without mercy. There's no prejudice. It's just attack, attack, attack. Last night was a 14-5 drubbing after the 10-run 7th. Sunday was a 6-run first off Yovanni Gallardo, who looked abysmal.
Monday, the Padres ended Wade Leblanc's no decision with a brutal drubbing that featured no home runs, but it did feature a lot of offense. Adrian Gonzalez hit a single and double in the 7th inning alone (3 RBIs for that endless beating).
Ellsbury is now batting .311.
Adrian Gonzalez is now batting a Major League leading .353.
Big Sluggi is now hitting .323.
And while Pedroia and Youkilis aren't exactly dominating, it's not like they're slouches and schlubs either.
In the end, while there were only 14 hits, the Red Sox took 9 base on balls. When the fear is there that a team is so scared to pitch to offensive dominence, it comes out in other ways. That's what happens when you have a pair of glorified AAA pitchers coming in to stop the bleeding, but instead, they let the dam burst all over the place.
And what a mess it was. The fact that Carl Crawford and JD Drew weren't even in the game and the fact that Jason Varitek and Mike Cameron were says that every night in June (save 3) has been a turkey shoot.
From humbling 0-6 beginnings, Boston is now a major league 2nd best 44-28 (they played 1 game less than the Phillies who have the best record). On April 15th, they were 2-10 after a loss to the Blue Jays, which followed up a sweep by the Rays. The only team that the Red Sox were beating was the Yankees (they still are - other than that 1 loss to the Bronx Bombers on that series, they've been brutalizing them in spite of Terry Francona's "managerial skills" (i.e. feeling his puppet strings pulled when it comes to replacing a pitcher or making a lineup.
Last night, mid reliever Matt Albers came in for the win. He now has a 3.08 ERA with a 2-3 record. He's not great. He won't be in Phoenix in a few weeks, but the role of the bullpen and pitching staff seems to be protect the division lead from the Yankees and the Rays and don't mess up worse than the offense can cover your ass. With Lackey sucking and Matsuzaka and Bucholz injured, it's a matter of carrying the team through the dark times and building up an insurmountable lead. We can live with that.
This week is San Diego and a better than usual Pirates team. In short, there are going to be a lot of wins. However, the followup series is against Philadalphia at Citizen's Bank. The World Series preview is about to be upon us. Fortunately, my refrigerator is stocked with Yuengling (the good stuff). Nothing like heating things up on the baseball burner when the weather is already 90 degrees.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Casey Stengel

At the end of the 1960 season, Casey Stengel was fired. He has been famously quoted as saying that he would never make the mistake of being too old again.
That being said, Jack McKeon's 16th major league managing season begins now. He's played with Kansas City, Oakland, Florida, Cincinnati, and San Diego. Now, he's back with Florida. Since May 27th, the Marlins have won 3 times. Since June 10th, they haven't won. Theoretically, there's no Josh Johnson, but they weren't really winning for him. There's Anibal Sanchez, but they can't win for him either. The other teams wait until he leaves, and then they pound on the relievers.
And with signing an 80-year old man to the helm (shouldn't we be worried about Florida managers in the same way we were worried about John McCain keeling over and dying if he was president?), there's nothing to lose. Florida is bad. Not Houston bad... YET, but it's going to happen. Florida sucks. The offense is anemic. The bullpen is "nicht so gut." The pitching staff is pretty much non-existent.
Mike Stanton hits home runs, but... Mike Stanton strikes out at least 1 time per game (almost once every 3 at bats).
Gaby Sanchez is .304 with 12 home runs, but what does it matter if it's for a losing cause?
Anibal Sanchez has an ERA under 3.00, but as I said, if he can't pitch complete games and get 3 runs from his team, what good does it do.
So that said, if Jack McKeon is the new Casey Stengel, who is Marv Throneberry? Who is Choo Choo Coleman? Sure, there's Don Zimmer and Richie Ashburn (that said, Ashburn hit .306, but don Zimmer made Dan Uggla seem like Rogers Hornsby with a .077 average), but this was 1962. They weren't exactly who we remember them to be today. That's why they were 40-120-1.
And it's highly probable that the Marlins will win 8 more games and best the 1962 Mets, but are they really that much better (especially in light of hospitalization)?
So if they want to give the reins to McKeon... good luck and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wilson Betemit

St. Louis continues to face dark skies, and we know that when you're getting rained (or urinated) on, it tends to pour. Wainwright. Carpenter. Holliday. Being cursed to have to deal with Tony Larussa on a day in day out basis...
Yep... and now it's this line straight from ESPN about Albert...
"a non-displaced fracture of his left radius and his arm is in a splint."
Of all the things that we never thought we would have to do in life (wear an A-Rod jersey, watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding + 8 Mile, sit through an entire episode of the Kardashians, or ever have to relive the junior high school years after getting sucked into a horrible nightmare of a wayback machine moment), it seems that we now have to write about his assailant: Wilson Betemit.
Let it be known that it's only because he's now officially the dirtbag who took out Albert Pujols' and his ability to go .300, 30, 100, and 100 this year (he came up 1 run short of this only once in his 10 year career, but thanks to nobody loser Bettamit, it's going to happen since he's .279, 17, 52, and 49 this year).
We are not impressed.
Just like with his 8 year career that has him at shades above .260 and less than 60 jacks and no speed to speak of, Betemit is a person in need of a career shift - even if he's hitting .287 in 188 at bats for perennial cellar dwellers Kansas City.
Thus, for ruining Albert Pujols' 2011, we want to wish him some or all of these 10 things that somehow won't affect our karma.
1. A trip to the Gulf of Aden.
2. A job cleaning up after a New York Republican representative.
3. Teaching Megan Fox about World War Two in order to increase her chances of ever working in Hollywood again.
4. Getting to screen Shaq's newest career move.
5. A free course with Dale Carnegie.
6. The A-Rod run to first base course.
7. The chance to throw a luncheon for NFL owners and players.
8. A chance for a new career with a name that will completely fit him.
9. Being the guy who creates and cleans up after Justin Bieber's parties.
10. Helping others to overcome their inappropriately chosen words. Kind of like...
"I was running hard and the ball arrived at the same time I got to the base. I couldn't do anything about it. He hit me on my left arm, that's why he dropped the ball. I hit him and then I saw him on the ground. That's part of the game. I couldn't do anything about it."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bud Selig

What would this site be without 2 days in a row to talk about the Houston Astros? Have I mentioned them at all this year other than to say that Lance Berkman doesn't live there anymore?
Nevertheless, baseball wants to change things up a little and just like they did with the great shift of the Brewers to the NL Central when the D-Backs and the Devil Rays joined the game in 1998. There needed to be a balance of teams at an even number (all be it 14 American League teams and 16 National League teams), and well, that seemed to make it happen... something about a National League tradition in the land of Laverne and Shirley, but yeah.
So here we are again and it looks like it's the Astros turn. Someone from the NL Central (6 teams) has to go to the AL West (4 teams), the players are in favor of it, and there really isn't any other team that far west that would fit with the other teams, and besides, they would supposedly be a great matchup against the Rangers (if they decide to field a team with guys other than Hunter Pence if they decide to contend).
Because if it isn't the Astros, who is it?
Neatly tucked into this realignment situation is a new playoff situation that will see another team find their way into the playoffs (because in a Bud Selig world, it's all about money as opposed to logic). While we agree that there needs to be a 5 team division universality, we think that a 5th team in the playoffs is stupid beyond belief. If baseball lets this "blond moment" happen and doesn't stop it, what will that say for the playoffs? When October rolls around, we let 2 teams face off in a best of situation. Will it be multiple games? A single game that is more than what would happen if 2 teams were tied for the final spot going in where it is stuffed between the last game of the season and the first game of the playoffs? How much rust will Bud Selig let his teams accumulate as he makes his pittance on two leagues worth of games (whether single games or a best of 3 situation) to let another team play?
Is this his solution on what to do now that Boston, Tampa Bay, and the Yankees all want to play, or is this for the fact that he's that worried about the Yankees slipping out of contention and baseball needing the Yankees in the playoffs or else?
How many times can we spew hate on this bad haircut having schlub of a human before the Ancient Aliens come back to take him away once and for all?
Is there really that much of a problem for baseball in getting a decent commissioner?
Man, it's times like these that we wonder.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hunter Pence

For the 3 people in the world who read Ulysses and actually liked it (the ones that declared it was the best book of the 20th century), today is Bloomsday, the day when the main character met his wife. I got part way through the 2nd chapter before I saw a reference to the characters having sex in the first chapter. When I reflected on the knowledge that I didn't catch that while it was happening, I put the book away knowing I'd miss everything else in Joyce's stream of consciousness technique as well. There was another time that I felt like I should try it again - another Bloomsday, but... that didn't happen either. That said, it's not that I don't get deep literature - I did a lot of Faulkner (smartly enough, I did it with notes), but yeah... now, I just prefer baseball, outdoorsy travel, and American history. Currently, I'm still trying to make it through the Curt Flood book and a book on the Negro Leagues as well as a survival book I started a while ago as well. We never do have enough time to do the things that we want to do, but there is always time for baseball.
With this site being about baseball, let's see what's going on in the world of baseball news...
The Rangers are whining about the Yankees stealing signs. For the record, we think that even though it's the Yankees who are still baseball's version of the worst toilet in Scotland, there is still a sense of win at all costs. In NASCAR, they say that if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying. We'd also like to think that if you aren't trying to rip off Kyle Busch's ears or deck him solidly, you aren't trying, but we'll take live with whatever form of winning the game of baseball that you present. Besides, how much cheating can it be if you're smart enough to figure it out? Like counting cards in Vegas, if a person has the brains to calculate what is being done, then I'm all for it. If they need binoculars and some crazy dude in the stands wiring back coded info, then that's something altogether different. If a person knows how to play the percentages of what's left versus what's dealt, then he or she should be allowed to rake up the pot. Why handicap intelligent people?
And for those people intelligent enough to get it and figure it out and be one step ahead of the curve, there is the biggest success story on the Houston Astros: Hunter Pence.
OK, so he's not pretty to look at, but at least he's not the dreaded version of Edinson Volquez. And that said, whoever the gal is with him... she looks decent. All the same, Mr. Pence is fresh off a 23-game hitting streak in complete obscurity. Who knew until it was over?
And just like Joe Dimaggio, as soon as it ended, he started a new one, which is already 2 games strong, but still... in those 2 games he is 5 for 10 with a double, an RBI, and a stolen base. And so his ticket will be punched to the desert unless aliens abduct him because someone has to go to the All Star Game for Houston (even if they're mathematically eliminated from playoff contention already). And who knows, maybe he'll leave Texas for brighter pastures come trade deadline time, too. I'm sure the Yankees will give 26 cents on the dollar for him (you didn't think we'd spend this whole blog being nice to the Yankees, did you?).
All in all, he would be batting .326 with 9 home runs and 51 RBIs. His strikeouts are a little lofty at 62 for his 19 base on balls, but .326 is still a nice number - especially when he's hotter than Hell right now.
And while the focus on the streak has left him a singles hitter, he gets on nicely and is raising his average to new heights, which is what the good things in baseball are all about - even if nobody else takes the time to discover them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Orlando Cabrera

Since he left the Red Sox, Orlando Cabrera has been with the Angels, White Sox, Twins, A's, and now the Indians. In 2004, he was the replacement for Nomar Garciaparra, and he helped bring the Red Sox over the hump. I still can't believe that they didn't keep him.
Last night, he was the 23rd out that didn't go quietly, so instead, he was the first hit in what could have been Justin Verlander's 3rd no hitter (Sandy Koufax, anyone?). Quietly, the Motor City is producing a pitcher who is flat out dominant (4-0 on a 2 hitter). Sure, there's the flip flop wins of the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees to keep the division close (as Derek Jeter goes on the 15-day disabled list to postpone the great annunciation of the the next member of the 3000 hit club), but last night, there were 3 base runners and 12 whiff victims as Verlander was flat out dealing.
It's stuff like that, which makes Albert Pujols sub .300 performance not matter (even if he had a homer last night in his team's losing efforts against the frickin' Nationals). One for three with 2 walks means he's only hitting .275, but Verlander... he's pitching to the tune of 8-3, 2.66, and 105 total strikeouts. That's just sick. And we didn't even mention the 0.89 WHIP after 15 games (that would be number one - just over Cole Hamels, who is slightly better on ERA and slightly less in strikeouts over 1 less game).
And while Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have more Ks and a lower ERA than he does, he's better than them on all other things.  And he's doing it all in obscurity. Sure, Clayton Kershaw has a lot of strikeouts, too, but it's not like he's much better than the 6-3 record he's posting for the crappy Dodgers.
So when it comes time to meet up for the All Star Game in the desert this July, we need to be voting with something other than East Coast bias for the perennial favorites. It's time to reward some obscure excellence and some youthful greatness. This isn't about seeing the same old dinosaurs and extoling their former virtues. This is about raising a game from the aging nature of its stars that have long since gone away.
For that is the future of the game.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kevin Millar

Back in the day, Kevin Millar coined the term "Manny being Manny." Today, Millar is a host on Intentional Talk on MLBTV (porn without nudity for the guilty pleasure baseball lover of the world), and Manny is sitting on the sidelines, probably based out of his mind (at least without the worry of failing a drug test), waiting for the Dodgers to send him another $8.33 million of deferred money by the end of the month (he'll get another check for the same amount next year - gotta love $20million contracts - you get paid even when you don't play!). If you're Manny, it sure beats sitting out for a second steroids bust, but you have to do what you have to do.
If you're Millar, it means that you've got a job where you're getting paid to act like the class clown / team leader who keeps the team all loosey goosey together and having fun, doing your job, and making life good. MLBTV has been playing a lot of best of montages from the show. It's good stuff.
But when it comes to the money that Manny is owed and the need to get it to him pronto tonto... this is just another blow to the Dodgers who are racing the Mets to the poorhouse in all of the things that you shouldn't do to run a baseball team, but nevertheless, such is the life of a baseball team. Sometimes, you're up. Sometimes, you're down. It's like Minnesota. You can win a World Series or 2. You can get threatened by Bud Selig with being contracted (but not before you give up Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees). You can win some playoff games. Joe Nathan can phone in reliever duties and send you home without a ring. Joe Mauer can come to your team as the great catcher of the future. Joe Mauer can get injured and return great and get injured again. You can find your team in last place as your former player and Hall of Famer dies of cancer. It's an endless cycle, but if you're the Baseball Project (or just Craig Finn, the lead singer of the Hold Steady who is doing a guess appearance with you), you can sing a really great song about how much you love them all the same (just don't call them Twinkies).
For the Dodgers, all things not Matt Kemp pretty much suck this year. He's 11 for 23 with 4 moonshots and 8 RBIs in the last week. He's .332 for the season (20 home runs, 56 RBIs, and 15 steals - he's killing it fantasy style - especially because they don't include the 62 strikeouts - imagine what this guy could do if  he made contact about 10% more!). He doesn't have Rihanna dragging him down. yeah... life is good except for wondering if his bosses can pay him for working and that whole day to day thing.
But life isn't all bad... It's not all good either. Especially f you're Derek Jeter. You're 6 hits show of 3,000, but you're on the cusp of being out of action for injury. Nevertheless, in this time of need for Jeter's supporters, Ian O' Connor really lays the love on thick for Derek Jeter today, but you know what? It's a great article. Sure, it's a puff piece, but it explains why I can hate the Jeter3000 Love Fest (registered trademark), and still grudingly and in conflict with all I am as a Yankee hater, I still respect the man.
And with that, there are times where you win, and there are times where you lose, but at least you get up and play it again.
What else are you going to do?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Manny Acta

It's the first day of classes, and I always start off telling my students that they can A out of the class (leave when they have an A for the class - even if it's a couple of days early), but no student who has ever tried to "A out" has actually achieved it - at least of thoese students telling me that they're going to do it. Usually, I tell them that they're eligible to make it happen, and then, it happens, but alas...
In real life, Lebron James predicted that they Heat would win 8 championships, but unfortunately, they lost the first one last night to the Mavericks: 105-95. Thus, just like a guy who once missed 9 of the first 11 classes, neither one did what was predicted.
Nobody predicted that the Indians would be in first place as they've been for the early part of this season. It just happened. While they phoned in the past few weeks, a period that ended with a Yankee sweep (after the Yankees had their hats handed to them by the Red Sox the previous 3 games), they have been largely overachieving, and for that, Cleveland shouldn't be throwing themselves into Lake Erie just yet.
My yearly preview of choice (Athalon) expressed their season in terms of good news and bad news. The good was that they "aren't likely to finish in 4th place once again." However, the bad news was that they "appear headed for last place in the American League Central - one spot below the seemingly always rebuilding Royals. The Indians are too young and have too many questions to be considered anything but a doormat."
Despite being 1-9 in their last 10, they are still 34-29 (33-20 was just a crazy start). They're still in first as the Tigers lost yesterday, too. And while they have one more game against the Yankees, this one is against AJ Burnett, who quite frankly has been lousy as of late, so if the Tribe can just jump all over him quickly with an Asdrubal Cabrerra punch, we can see good things.
But that said, doing something like Fausto Carmona plunking Mark Teixera after all of the Red Sox pitchers used the Yankees for target practice (and the Big Papi plunk back) isn't going to reverse the course of this sinking ship. What is going to help is having Shin Soo Choo hit something other than the bottle. The Indians also need Carlos Santana making hits again.
Justin Masterson had aspirations and hopes, and he can still restore them as can Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot. And while we believe in Fausto Carmona less than Zach Greinke (the name says it all - who did he sell his soul to in order to move out from under the weight of that Big Papi home run on July 31, 2006?), we have to believe that there is potential for him to be better than the worst of the regular Indians pitchers at this point.
So for Manny Acta to do nothing right now when it comes to defending his team against the Yankees is just wrong. Bill Veeck put it best: "Hating the Yankees isn't part of my act. It is one of those exquisite times when life and art are in perfect conjunction." We agree, and for the fact that they're a halfass mirage of what they used to be (something the Red Sox have been making quite clear in all of their games together this year except one), it's time to stop pretending that this longball and Jeter's quest for 3,000 is making them contenders. The gig is over, and it was nice while it lasted, but now that a way over-performing Bartolo Colon is out, how long can Granderson and Teixera achieve all for the nothing on that roster?
But in the end, it's about wanting to be winners if the option is there. If you're going to contend in September instead of pretend in May, then rise up and want it.
If not, go home. Besides, the Cuyahoga Valley is pretty this time of year.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prince Fielder

There's this whole thing with Tony Larussa and his longevity as a manager of the Cardinals (and the A's and the White Sox) that just makes me want to say... I hate that guy.
From Friday night, his 5,000th career game, to Sunday, Larussa did nothing to lead the Cardinals to victory. Instead, he led the Brewers to first place, and the NL Central is now wide open for a long hot summer of who wants the pennant most (or who wants to crap the bed the least).
Maybe this can be contributed to Albert Pujols not setting the stars in the sky with 3 home run games, but part of it is also the fact that Chris Carpenter can't buy a win and Jake Westrbook's ERA isn't pretty at all. Maybe we can say that the Brewers want it more. Who knows, but if you ask me, I choose to blame it on the Cardinals not choosing to jettison Larussa into the jungles of South America in the hope that he can find some new animal friends and not find his way back to the state of Missouri ever again. But alas, that's just me.
Maybe it's the fact that Prince Fielder was 3/7 in the series with 2 home runs and 4 walks. He's definitely doing his best to sell potential for free agency with a .305 batting average and 19 home runs and 58 RBIs for the Brew Crew, who won't be trying to afford him unless he brings them to some kind of wayback machine repeat of the 1982 team (is he really Cecil Cooper to Ryan Braun's Robin Yount?).
And there is hope in the land of cheese, Laverne & Shirley, beer, and the Packers, but it's a long season and Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum will have to work well with Yovani Gallardo if there is to be hope in Wisconsin. Perhaps if Rickie Weeks doesn't strike out so much...
But for Fielder, there is the fact that his father hit 50 home runs in a season (despite those 182 Ks that went with that brilliant 1990 offensive explosioin), and he was always the heir apparent, and for good cause. His dad smacked 300 home runs at a time that it still meant something. Now, it's just chump change since all the kids are doing it, but Prince's girth has propelled him to do some nice things with the ball (211 from 2005 to now, which includes 50 in 2007).
However, we can't see the later numbers translating that big at the bank - though someone will pay, especially if they lose out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes.
For Prince, it's all about what the Brewers do against the Cardinals. Sure, they've gone on to October baseball, but they've gone nowhere with it. If they can this year... and if he can avenge not getting Ryan Braun bank, he can take his signing arm and make it all right.
And at the end of the day, isn't that what it's about anyway?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Drew Stubbs

In 272 at bats, Drew Stubbs of the Cincinnati Reds has managed to strike out 89 times. While not quite one every three at bats, there's an air of dismalness in the futility that is abounding in the Queen City. Sure, there are 9 home runs, but there are 41 players this year that have more home runs than that and 16 that have as many as him.
Letting Merle swing away doesn't seem to be the answer either. He's a career .260 hitter that is hitting .261 at this point in the game. Last  year, he struck out 168 times to finish with 22 home runs. Sure, it helped the Reds get to the playoffs, but it's not like he's Joey Votto piling on the weight.
And for this, we have to look at where the Reds are at this juncture in time: third place - 34 and 32. With the Cards and Brewers fighting for first, the Reds look to figure out what the hell is going on with their pitching staff.
Johnny Cueto's sub 2 ERA looks nice, but Edinson "the former ugliest player in baseball" Volquez is still atrocious over 5.00 (even with the dreads now shaved - a fact that has removed his "ugliest" title - if only temporarily). That said, it appears the minor league demotion helped him (that or the steroid relapse) start coming back to form a little bit. The other youth movement part of the rotation isn't much better. Mike Leake is over 4.00 and Travis Wood is over 5.00. That's not a good sign when the surprise part of your offense, Jay Bruce, is slowing down his home run pace and settling in just below .300.
And other than a few players like Brandon Phillips, the Reds are a platoon team of fragility (Scott Rolen, anyone?).
It happens, and it's never convenient, but at the end of the day, the opporuntities to win versus finish in the afterthought campaign of money spent to end up with a failed campaign are what causes tension, frustration, and a sense of someday for your fanbase (until you make it to the playoffs only to have Roy Halladay annihilate your offensive superiority and sense of self with the 2nd post season no hitter in playoff history).
And if the Reds want to morph into the Red Sox by spreading anti-St. Louis bias (like people loathe St. Louis in the same way that they do the Yankees) to the world, they're going to have to come up closer than they do. They're going to have to make people remember a year that mattered. For most fans, 1990 is a blur of nothingness. Who was even good on that team? Jose Rijo? Barry Larkin is the only name that stands out other than the more memorable moniker of the Nasty Boys (Rob Dibble's ESPN days being the only thing that keeps that memory burning), which lasted longer than their pitching.
The Big Red Machine was a beautiful thing (4 of the 9 Reds World Series appearances and 2 of their 5 wins), and even though it put the nail in the coffin of the 1975 Red Sox, those were teams filled with homegrown stars that went on to do great things.  Of course, there was 1939 and 1940, but perhaps the reason that the Reds - save the Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan led Big Red Machine that dominated the first half of the seventies in supreme style save an appearance against each of the Orioles and the A's - is so lame in the memory of most baseball fans outside of that part of the Midwest is the fact that they were the beneficiary of the Black Sox throwing the 1919 World Series. Everyone at the time (except for them) knew they were second class, and yet, they are considered the winners of a World Series that was handed to them by a team that wanted to get rich more than they wanted to be champions of the baseball universe - even if (and especially because) it could never be off of Charles Commiskey. Had it not been for gamblers threatening to get medieval on them for trying to win it when it was clear that they weren't going to get rich off of the gambling money either, the White Sox would have come from several games behind and cleaned house on the much lesser Cincinnati team.
But is the 2011 Red team worth mention with any of these teams - to include the Nasty Boys? How long until the team gets dismantled and traded away as it can't compete against St. Louis's pitching and Milwaukee's hitting?
Can Drew Stubbs lead the charge by whiffing as big as he does?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Joba Chamberlain

So if this is the last hurrah of Joba the Hutt, the fist pump, the failed starter, the middle reliever / heir apparent or maybe not to Mariano Rivera, and if this is the point that his Tommy John Surgery keeps him from being the man that he was destined to be... what will we remember?
Will we remember that his real name is Justin? More importantly, will we really care? After all, even as a Yankee hater, we have to say that Joba is far cooler anyway.
We will probably remember the rules that so befuddled Mr. Torre. There was a day off for every inning that the 21 year old (at the time) Joba pitched. He had that time off before and that time off after he came into the game. Can't have too much work on a young arm, which makes sense, but all the same, this is baseball. Are we really coddling young players so much that it takes forever to adjust them to the majors when the time comes? OK, don't answer that question.
For a team that doesn't have that many heatlhy or effective or youthful pitching options, to lose a guy like Chamberlain is scary for what the Yankees will have to do (spend LOTS and LOTS on iffy free agents like CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett, trust in Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, + Freddy Garcia, pray for Phil Hughes' arm to rise from the dead and a nearly 14.00 ERA). For a Yankee hater like myself, it means that we can focus on Boston's success and Tampa Bay's emergence. Both of those are happy thoughts, by the way.
The Midges, which many will remember from that fateful game on October 5, 2007... now that's something altogether different. We will remember them bringing Cleveland's hopes and prayers to life again as they brought in a run that effectively devastated the Yankee playoff chances that year and almost allowed the Indians to get to the World Series (losing 3 straight to Boston to keep that from happening).  We will see them swarming Joba on the mound and making the wild pitch possible.
Will we remember the 0.38 ERA that first year? The 19 games with 1 earned run and 2 runs? The utter finality of his appearance in the game until (thank you!) Boston's Mike Lowell put a stake through that vampire's heart with a home run.
There were moments of greatness and promise, and perhaps he can still be great, but will he be the homegrown excellence of Rivera, Jeter, Posada, Pettite, and Williams? Or will he be just another story, another shirt to show the kids to let them know that you were there through the good times (as opposed to a Rickey Henderson Yankees jersey for the ugly years)?
We wish him well at recovery because let's be honest... it's going to be fun to tee off on him in 2013.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

David Ortiz

One has to wonder about all the hype and the hooplah associated with David Ortiz's first plunk from the Yankees in 1 full season worth of games (162) between the 2 teams. Sure, the Red Sox do tend to hit a lot of Yankees, but is this hatred, crowding the plate, bad pitching or what? And sure, it is the unwritten code of baseball as exacted by great men like Bob Gibson that a certain 17" of plate is mine and that a certain amount of respect is mine. All good pitchers ever knew this. That's why Pedro was so dominant (you gotta love that Gerald Williams hit - it sure did scare Tampa Bay, that's for sure). All good hitters knew this. That's why Barry Bonds wore tank armour on his arm.
Who cares who takes offense to a flipped bat? For years, the Yankees made people put up with their fecal material (as if it didn't stink) because they were winning and they were on top. Now, they are starting to suck. They're starting to get old.
If the best thing that the Yankees can do to trump up to justify CC taking a shot at the sluggi one is that Joe Girardi was worried about the feelings of poor little Hector Noesi (and since the Yankees pitching staff is injured, thin, and brittle in mind and body, they've got a lot of protecting to do), then so be it because it's New York and they'll do what they can to stay in the forefront of everyone's mind - even when they're on the decline.
"Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers, and cheating on your income tax," Columnist Mike Royko once said.
We agree. That said, if you haven't seen the following video of Big Sluggi getting nailed by CC Sabathia on  MLBTV's Intentional Talk, then you're really missing out.
In the end, if Sluggi is having a great year and rebounding from the usual early season crappiness and post steroids drought that he has been forcing Boston fans to put up with, then bring on the retaliation towards him - we haven't thought anything about him since Obama ran for president, but hey, if he's 2004 David Ortiz, we'll take that he's going to be a target. For us, Papi can be in it to win it and make the Yankees hate him all that he wants. They still owe him a foot on that game one shot he almost put out of the stadium in the 2004 ALCS (game 1) when the Red Sox started to rally back after Mussina had left them in a stagnant morass. The time has come to pile on the misery to make the Yankee fans remember the 1980s and early 1990s for what they were - a complete joy to all non New Yorkers!
So let Girardi and crew cry. They'll be making us put up with their Jeter 3000 lovefest soon enough, which frankly put, is enough to make us vomit (even if we're doing better with getting over that whole Jeter sucks thing - besides, it's all about hating on A-Rod).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gary Carter

Instead of caring about the actions of Gary Carter, a Hall of Famer that many people might have forgotten about in our non historic attitude for 1980s baseball, we spend our time getting upset at Bryce Harper for blowing a kiss to a pitcher who he just homered off of. Of course, this was precipitated by Harper getting drilled with a pitch earlier, but alas... when it's a slow baseball week (except for the Red Sox beating the Yankees AGAIN), we have to make issues where we can.
That said, when Carter gets radiation treatment for tumors that are cancerous, we should probably pause for a second and think of that... even if Harper is a number one pick and may have offended the sensibilities of baseball's Puritanical and stodgy elderly blue hairs, no hairs, and What Would Babe Ruth have done-rs (eaten Polish sausage, slept with hoochies, drank a lot, blown his money, talked smack on Charlie Root's pitching in the 1932 World Series and somehow made us believe that it was a called shot, gotten suspended for throwing dirt in an ump's face, and was too obese to run out his final home runs as a Boston Brave when the Yankees grew tired of him). Even if Harper stomped the foot of a player covering first. Even if Bryce Harper does whatever it is that a super young guy with a lot of testosterone and a big me attitude is going to do, because let's be honest... he's a future athlete supreme growing up in the spotlight.
But we talk about that... we talk about Jonathan Papelbon, a formerly decent relief pitcher, getting ejected from a game for bumping an umpire, and we think it means something other than the was angry at the calls. Sure, he was bounced and he's going to appeal whether he bumped the ump, but alas, in the long run, who cares? As Pedro Martinez once said when he gave up an appeal, "I didn't want to listen to all that stuff." He came back and struck out 15, allowed 2 hits, and threw a complete game shutout that let no walks happen. 
From 1974-1992, Carter was great. He hit 324 home runs. Only Yogi Berra (historic shots), Lance Parrish + Johnny Bench + Carlton Fisk (contemporaries) and Mike Piazza (a steroids era player alleged to be linked to the juice) have more. Despite a dismal last 4 years of few appearances, he still batted .262 from a position that was more about throwing out runners and calling the game from behind the plate than doing things at the plate. In his day, he was throwing out as many as 50% of the runners who attempted to take second on him, but then injuries happened, and now, the biggest injury of all, brain cancer, is happening, and like he did in his baseball career, Carter is fighting.
And the newspaper guys care more about blowing kisses at the pitcher.
Here, we just hope Carter gets better and beats this nasty stuff.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gerrit Cole

The draft is just what it is - unless we're talking about coming up unlucky with conscription, but all the same, Gerrit Cole has to be happy. His doubters look at his losing record and laugh, but as anyone with half a brain knows, wins and losses don't mean anything. Just because you're on a team with a crappy offense or because you have to apply for non-support doesn't mean that you're a bad player. It just means that you're unfortunate. That said, at least he'll be used to non support when he plays for the Pirates (although this year, they are a little better as they flirt with .500 at various points a few months into the season and they are only 2 games under at this point in time (28-30)).
We laugh at who goes first and second in pro sports. We laughed when the Houston Texans selected Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush, but there were issues of who could afford Reggie Bush. A complete bust of a non-Kardashian career later, Bush is the guy who cost USC the National Championship (though in his defense, asking 18-24 year olds not to earn money JUST BECAUSE you've given them a full ride is asinine. If their parents are rich, they can give them beer and date money. If they're kids from the streets, well... suffer little children as you get caught for taking money and cars and jewelry and tattoos from rich donors everywhere (we feel your pain Ohio State).
And we can't blame Pittsburgh for what they can't afford or don't want to deal with heartache over. It's not like Pedro Alvarez and Scott Boras came through with an ability to match their holdout. Instead, they've got a guy hitting .208 and on the DL. One man can't change the culture of a team. At least not in MLB. Maybe in the NBA (and even then, Lebron isn't enough by himself - though he can make money at the gate). But for the Pirates scouting, they have 2 picks that had marginal talent in the Bonds-less past: Andrew McCutchen and Jason Kendall. Sure, McCutchen is touted as the 2nd coming, but he's not tearing up my fantasy league or the pros all that much. Jason Kendall is good and played for a while, but yeah... it's not like people are investing in his rookie card.
Looking at can't miss picks from number one of all of those who have played and had some degree of success, we have to look at the potential of our boy Stephen Strasburg (get well soon). We then find A-Rod, who despite hating his guts, we have to say that minus the steroids, he was the best can't miss prospect out of the league. Ken Griffey Jr. could have been great, but there were the injuries in the second half of his career. Joe Mauer could be be great as well, but he's injured so much that we don't really care what he can't do on MLB video games. Adrian Gonzalez has some upside, and we appreciate that - especially because he's finally earning his Boston Red Sox money. Josh Hamilton has a lot of upside as well - save the injuries, the smack, and the dalliances with drunken women who aren't his wife. Chipper Jones was really good too, but I never thought of him as the answer to the greatest player ever. He's a great player from an age who deserves to be remembered as being good in his age and being good for a great team during his age, but will he or should he be remembered longer than Dale Murphy was from his age?
And what of the ancients? Bob Horner? Harold Baines? Rick Monday? Tim Foli? Besides dressing up as Foli when I was a kid, there is no joy in Tim Foli land save a small town Pennsylvania Halloween parade. Baines is loved by the White Sox. Horner is pretty much forgotten outside Atlanta. Rick Monday saved the flag (we wrote about that). There are some 2 year wonders, and there is last generations Josh Hamilton (Darryl Strawberry) who always managed to blow his chances, but such is life. We can't all be perfect and this isn't about casting shame on those who aren't, but is there a possibility from number one. Can David Price continue to excel or will he end up being Floyd Bannister?
So many questions to wonder, but for now, we'll wish him and the class of 2011 the best and hope that they all end up great (same for Bryce Harper), but yeah... the minors aren't college ball, and they definitely aren't the majors. Keep working, though. The future will soon be here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Carlos Zambrano

In the continuing story of Goofus and Gallant, Carlos Zambrano (aka Goofus the big thug / slug of the Cubs) continues to mouth off about his team's effort to help him win, and we just nod appropriately because this is Carlos being Carlos (aka the meds aren't working). But perhaps, this is the story of Gallant Albert Pujols finally getting it together with a pair of walk off home runs over the past 2 days.
Then again, perhaps this is the tale of Zambrano being on his last pitching leg. If there was no upside (a better than average pitcher on a less than average team for the past 103 years that is still owed WAY TOO MUCH money), then Zambrano would be gone. If he mouthed off more or got in a fight with someone who had more of an upside, it would have meant something, but alas... Carlos Marmol is not the man (despite his high percentage of strikeouts a year ago). Neither was Derek Lee or Michael Barrett or walls or bats or Gatorade coolers or the voices in his head. This time, it was an ESPN column filler that went something like this:
We are playing like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing, that's the word for this team.
And it's Big Z, and he really sucks as a teammate, and personally, it doesn't matter if he only let up a handful of hits and a run. Sometimes, the tough luck losses come, and we accept them. So it goes.
But he doesn't, and he runs his mouth, and we all say... the contract will be over soon. The Cubs will still be losing, and yeah... perhaps they can do what the Onion felt that they Yankees should do and buy every great player in baseball and let Mark Cuban run the show (even with Dallas down 2-1 against the Lebron / Wades (who knew that Jay Z could have them both instead of just Wade), he's still an owner that will do what it takes "colorfully" to win).
But if this is Albert Pujols, who is and will always be the man, no matter what he is batting (.278 at this point with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs), then so be it. Let the season turn around. Let good things happen. In the past 4 games, he is 8 for 16. He has 9 runs, 7 RBIs, 4 home runs, and a double to go with his stolen base. He is a man on fire, and he's getting pumped up to take over for an injured Matt Holliday and a deflating back to Earth Lance Berkman. He is the heart and soul of the Cardinals and he's watched the pitching staff prop the team up long enough. He's playing to win.
The way any Gallant player should.
Zambrano should take note - or go the way of the dodo bird.
Either option would work nicely at this time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Adam Lind

Just back from injury, Adam Lind didn't make too much of an impression in his first game. He was 0-3 with a strikeout, but that second game... sometimes, all it takes is a can of WD40 on the old rusty joints, and the body responds, and respond it did - 4 for 4 with a pair of home runs and 3 RBIs, and his batting average is up to .326. Nice production for a Toronto Blue Jays team that refuses to fold at 1 game over .500 (30 and 29).
Granted, the offensive charge is still being led by Jose Bautista (.348 with 20 jacks), but it's nice to have runners to knock in other than the solo shots that look good on highlights reels, but do little else (Bautista has 40 RBIs at this point). That said, Rajai Davis, Yunel Escobar, Juan Rivera, and Corey Patterson aren't exactly playoff bound guys, but they're trying - even if they're not always as good as can be expected (on that note, Patterson and Escobar are currently over-performing, so we have to give them credit for something).
The pitching staff... well, that's scary. We already talked about Jo Jo Reyes winning for the first time in years, but he won again. Kyle Drabek, a key part of the Roy Halladay deal isn't materializing yet, and the pitching staff is all about Ricky Romero, who is over-performing with a 3.16 ERA and a 5-5 record. You've gotta believe, especially when your closer is Marc Rzepczynski (spell that quickly, spelling bee champion wannabes - I know I can't - I went out on mackerel in the 6th grade (2 Es not 2 A's)).
And 1992 and 1993 are light years ago. The Joe Carter home run off of Mitch Williams, a first class idiot that we still have to deal with on MLBTV, is still a great memory - even if the 2 years north of the border by Roger Clemens have become steroids inflated mirages. And there hasn't been much that was good. Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green went packing to other teams as the great hope, but then they vanished, too. And somehow, every player that ever had upside left. The grass was always greener somewhere else. They could have stayed in Toronto and gotten on the all star team in obscurity, but they went for the big money and the big sag in production (Vernon Wells (4 home runs - .183), Alex Rios (4 home runs - .199)).
So if Adam Lind has a good game, we want to believe .305 in 2009 is real and not .237 in 2010 (roughly the same at bats per year - the strikeouts went up as the homers dropped from 35-23 as well).
We want to sing and extol the virtues of the Blue Jays and we want to know what the future can be for a team with a chance, but that said, in the division that they're in, it's going to take more than a few players having career years above their average status. Jose Bautista can't do it all on his own - even if he's so much better than I ever give him credit for (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hanley Ramriez

Oh, Hanley, you once were so talented and full of hope and life and the future. The Red Sox shipped your younger self out to Miami with Anibal Sanchez and a few others who don't really figure into 2011 for Josh Beckett. They threw in a few more players because your current team demanded that they eat Mike Lowell's contract, and they said OK. In the end, those guys combined to help Boston to the 2007 World Series over the exhausted Colorado Rockies who had ripped through the end of the 2007 series like a dream.
From September 16 to October 1st, they lost one time. The final game was 13 innings. The game before that was tied 1-1 until the bottom of the 8th, when the Rockies tacked on a 3 spot. In the end, they almost lost that 1 by allowing 2 runs in the 9th, but they won, and then they beat the Phillies 3 straight and the Diamondbacks 4 more games straight. From that point, it was a matter of waiting for the Red Sox to finish up the Indians in 7, and well, bodies get tired, and when streaks end, so does karmic energy that drives a season to something good.
And maybe that's what has happened to Hanley Ramirez who is currently out of the lineup since May 29th (a game he only played for 1 at bat). He's batting .210 for the year and the 4 home runs he hit aren't much. In the end, he is yet another player who once had so much value in serious decline. This is more of a sign of something scarier than The Year of the Pitcher Part 2 (mark my words).
According to Stephania Bell of ESPN (what, a female fantasy baseball player / writer? Can I possibly use this to my advantage to get my wife playing?!!):
Ramirez has been dealing with severe back pain and intermittent sciatica over the past week, and it appears ever more likely that he will make his way onto the DL.
In another blog, she quotes him as saying:
"I feel it doing anything. I can't even put my shoes on. To get up from bed I have to take 10, 15 seconds. I have to do everything slow,' Ramirez said. "That's the worst pain I've ever had in my life, in my career."
 That's not good for him, for Anibal Sanchez's hopes of winning a lot, for the Florida Marlins hopes of competing long term this year, and for the 8 fans of regular season baseball at Sun Life Stadium.
We can only hope that he gets better, and while he gets better, he chooses to come back a team player that we can all like and support again, so that when he eventually takes his 6 year $70million contract somewhere else when the Marlins decide to rebuild from scratch again (as they always do), we can feel good about him being the new shortstop (instead of Marco Scutaro or Jed Lowrie or someone less flashy and worthy of getting a $150million mega contract).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dan Uggla

Dr. Kevorkian is dead, and while Kurt Vonnegut may want God to bless him, I don't know how I feel. Sometimes, I think that there are too many babies being born into this world, and then I think that my wife was #10 out of 11 kids, and I'm pretty dang happy that her parents kept procreating. But then I go back to Jack, and he's dead, and nothing is going to bring him back. Nothing is going to stop the terminal illnesses of many of his patients, those that wanted or got his help during those times. Nothing is going to help the ones who suffered painfully from the same thing that Lou Gehrig suffered from. And I can't say that I would want to go that way, and I wouldn't want anyone I loved to suffer that way either, but I don't know if I'd want some creepy old dude with a suicide machine setting me up for my final end.
Just press this button and it will release poison into your veins through the IV that I've set up.
And maybe we've gone on in life as a people long past the point where we're truly ripe. Joseph Heller said something about that, too, when he wrote Catch 22 and spilled the secret of Snowden all over the plane. Life is everything. Being able to live and do the things that we want to do before we get too old and too feeble to go to the good places. I think of my dad not wanting to be alive if he can't hunt and fish. I think to myself of all the joy I get through the physical exercise of hiking while experiencing the beauty of the woods and the world around me as my legs carry me to waterfalls, slot canyons, and mountain views. I wouldn't want to live if I was chained to a chair in the living room of my house, rocking into a slumber that seemed to take ages to get to. Somehow, I believe there has to be a point where we fulfill our need, and that's that. We make peace with the universe, and like Allen Ginsburg, we go "toodle loo."
My neighbor's husband died of a prolonged death just recently. We've lived in this house since November of 2009, and we saw him a few times. He never made it to the porch. A couple of times, I went in the house to help move him. He just died slowly, and it was sad watching how much it took out of my neighbor as she witnessed the end of her husband of 50+ years. She never knew it was the end - even when the hospice team came in. He just slipped further and further out of consciousness as his body filled up with toxins, and eventually, that was it. He was gone. Now, she's lost and angry as he isn't there to give her support to do the daily tasks - even though she's done them for ages now. She's trying to fill up her time, and we talk to her for companionship and because she's a good person, but the bitterness of having a person that was so loved gone is hurting her as she spends more time remembering the bad things that were done to him. She still remembers the struggles that they went through and perhaps there is a sense of "looks like we made it," but there's also a sense of we had a hard life.
And some do, but...
The days just get harder and longer, and thoughts of writing out his life's memories are lost to her (the kids aren't interested in this - even if that's now, and you never know what they'll feel years later - I say this as I have stored the memories of ancient times of my own family - 80-90 years ago and those from 70 years or so ago).
And sometimes, it's all about the giving up that seems to be the answer to living. I remember being around my neighbor at times when you could see how much it hurt her to watch the man she loved suffered, and she eluded to feeling like she wanted his suffering to stop - ashamed in part - but still understanding that the man she loved wasn't there any more. But still she held onto his belongings because they were his. She fixed his car up - even though it was old and gone and she really wasn't using it. She still wanted to believe, and she didn't want him to see his life given away before it was gone.
And there is nobility and love and honor in what she did. Now, she just has to move on to accept death and grief. It won't be easy, but it will lead to something good - hopefully.
For the baseball metaphor of all of the things that have gone and are no longer as they were before, we can only look to Dan Uggla. He's hitting .172 with 7 home runs propping up his 37 hits. Sure, 15 of his hits are for extra bases, but he's batting .172! He was killing me for keeping him in the lineup. I bounced between 2nd and 4th place (out of 6 teams), and as soon as I dropped him - acknowledged the end - I went into first place.
It wasn't easy to say goodbye to Uggla. I've liked him. A lot of the players who come up with Florida are really likable and good players, but sometimes, we have to say goodbye. Like Mike Lowell before him... sometimes, the end comes.
The Baseball Project sang of Willie Mays.
There was the sad end of Ken Griffey Jr.
I wasn't the same after the 2001 season of Mark McGwire until the Angels went to championship glory.
Death isn't easy. The cycles of life aren't easy.
I'm not saying that saying goodbye to a loved one is as easy as moving out a fantasy player or bidding goodbye to a favorite player, but in life, all of the things we love, whether human, animal, or larger than life heroes we never see in our daily lives, are important to us. They make us who we are.
They're not easy to put aside, but there comes a time to understand that we have to help them and us when the time comes and to confront things as realistically as possible - whether we want to believe the end is here or not. I wish my neighbor would have seen the signs a little clearer. That would have made this time now a little easier for her.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Theo Epstein

There are many ways that people can leave a club. For example, Shaq and Kobe hated each other's guts and traded insults until Shaq left Eagle, Colorado's least favorite visitor in Los Angeles, and went on to a progressively extended career with stops in Miami, Boston, Cleveland, and Phoenix. In the end, he was a lovable guy who's contributions to cell phone commercials and stopping online predators far outweighed his performance on the basketball court or in the studio. Maybe he didn't know when to leave. Maybe he believed that a high field goal percentage from shots really close to the basket constituted greatness... we'll never know or really care at this website, but all the same, it's sad to see someone who defined the game as much as he did leave it.
And if Daisuke Matsuzaka is bidding adieu to Boston in order to get Tommy John Surgery, his last game on May 16th, a game where he let up 5 runs in 4.1 innings with 2 strikeouts and 5 hits to go with his 7 WALKS is a fitting end to a mistake that Theo Epstein made by bidding $51,111,111 just to deal with Matsuzaka. Sure, we were hyped up with the talk of the gyro ball and the 150 pitches a game and the World Baseball Classic performance, but in the end, if he was great, and we're definitely not saying he wasn't, let it be known that a fish out of water in a major media town is a recipe for disaster. Boston's courting of Hideki Okajima to be Matsuzaka's wingman seemed like an OK move... until it all went south with spot relief and holding pattern usage taking him to an ERA that is north of 4. Boston sent him down to AAA Pawtucket, and we forgot about the 2007 All Star appearance and the terrible post seasons in 2007 and 2008 because we knew that he wouldn't be around much longer.
And Daisuke was all alone to face the hate of a manager who really doesn't manage and a town who expects a hell of a lot from all of their players, but why shouldn't they? Matsuzaka cleared $51million for 6 years that saw him go 49 and 30 on a team that was really good for pretty much all of those years. Sure, he has a 6th year to come, but Tommy John Surgery isn't quick, and let's be honest, if it takes a year to 18 months to recover, it's not like he's going to be flame throwing AL East competition.
Instead, he'll be recuperating in Japan or wherever he chooses to go. The Red Sox won't be able to deal him, and they'll eat the last $20million for this year and next year and have less interest in picking up Asian players after the debacle of their last few (ok, so Hideki Nomo did have a no hitter in game 2 of 2011 against the Orioles, but other than that...
And it's a shame, but we can't all be Ichiro or Godzilla.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jo Jo Reyes

After a dismal beginning to the 2011 season that saw him go 0-5, Ubaldo Jimenez finally seems like he's back, at least for one game, as he shut out the Dodgers on a 4-hitter in Chavez Ravine. Add to this the fact that he was free of walks and had struck out 7 batters and you have the recipe for the first 4 months of 2010 Ubaldo Jimenez. That said, what happened to Ubaldo?
Was it all just make believe? Did we dream that 2010 season? Maybe he's just trying to steal Jo Jo Reyes' thunder after he finally got a win for the first time after losing 28 straight starts. From June 13, 2008, (his last win) to May 30th, he couldn't buy a win. He made it to 3-4 on the 2008 season on that victorious day in June, but after that, he lost 7 more games. He 0-2 the next year, 0-0 the year after that, and prior to his win a few days ago, he was 0-4. Talk about an absolute lack of love.
So can either of these guys rattle off a win steak for the ages? Sure Jimenez has potential, but scouts talked about his lack of velocity in recent times. That's a far cry from Dexter Fowler making a superb catch to save Ubaldo's no hitter and be useful on the baseball field (other than striking out in the batter's box).
But we can't all be great, it's just when a player does what Jimenez did...
15-1 with a 2.20 ERA on July 8th.
19-8 with a 2.88 ERA when the season finished.
We have to wonder.
He had and has potential. The 214 whiffs say it, but he has problems (the league leading 16 wild pitches say that, too).
Reyes is Reyes. The career 5.87 ERA might reflect hope in upside. It might reflect being cheap to get a pitcher to eat innings in a town that doesn't have a contract (see Toronto, and see the $439,000 salary).
But Ubaldo has movement on his pitches and he could be the man... with or without blisters on his hand.
All the same, for whatever he is, he has a great name that just rolls off of the tongue. He's like Asdrubal Cabrera... there's just pop on that name and we want to feel something great is going to come when it hits the senses.
Sadly, prior to tonight it hasn't happened, but maybe, just maybe, like Francisco Liriano turning things around with that no hitter, we want to believe it's going to happen, and then it doesn't, and something worse happens (1 hiccup game in the next 3 and an injury), and we forget the greatness, and the Yankees don't have a pitching option to trade for in July, and  yeah... hope dies withering.
But there are always the moments of glory and the feeling of greatness that is like a long yearned for moment of ecstasy that comes with a pie in the face...
And couldn't we all use one of those.