As managers trot out one prospect after another, and painstakingly
analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly of their prospective teams,
fans anxiously tap their collective feet, counting down the days until
the regular season kicks off. The long and dreary days of spring
training can be just as monotonous for fans as it is for veteran
players practicing the “wheel” play or hitting the cut off man for the
umpteenth time. So, whenever there’s a chance to break up the toil with
some fun, or manufactured excitement, players and fans alike get a
Giddy is exactly how many baseball fans felt today when the Yankees
squared off against the Pirates in what would normally be just another
Grapefruit league game. What made this game different was a small
lifelong Yankee fan wearing the # 60 in honor of his 60th birthday.
Leading off for the Bronx Bombers was none other than comedian Billy Crystal,
or the Yankees “Designated Hebrew” (DH) as he likes to call himself. It
was a perfect moment of levity and anticipation that makes these
ultra-long days of spring barely bearable for the baseball fan.
To his credit, Crystal actually got ahead in the count, 3-1, against Pirates lefty Paul Maholm.
He even hit a foul chopper down the first base line. But then Maholm,
making sure not to be the butt of jokes for the rest of spring
training, bared down. He threw two 88 mph fastballs, that the 60 year
old comic swung over, “strike three, yer out!”. The fans rose to give
him a standing ovation, while Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez
retrieved the ball as one more birthday gift, a gift this life-long
Yankee fan will probably hold as dear as any of his many entertainment
While this moment might not ever be as memorably odd as 3 ft. 7 in. Eddie Gaedel stepping in the batters box for the St. Louis Browns; or Grandstand Manager’s Day, where thousands of fans got to manage the St. Louis Browns for a game through raised placards; or the White Sox’ infamous Disco Demolition Night, legendary major league baseball team owner Bill Veeck (the greatest baseball promoter of all-time) would have been proud.
Bill Veeck Would Have Needed Weight Watchers
On the opposite spectrum of odd promotions, the Pittsburgh Pirates have
announced that they will designate certain seating sections this
season, “All You Can Eat”
sections. So, as Pirate fans gear up to endure a record tying 16th
straight losing season, they can anesthetize themselves on all the hot
dogs, hamburgers, nachos, or ice cream that they want. And if you’re
health conscious, don’t worry, you can even chow down an unlimited
amount of Salad. Ugh!
***Below are You Tube links for anyone who missed Billy Crystal’s Yankee AB:
Cabbie’s Prescription For Mets’ Fans
My suggestion to all Mets’ fans is to take off tomorrow and
sleep the day away. If you’re musically inclined, a little blues harp
under the light of the moon would probably being soothing to the soul.
And if you really find yourself unable to function, I would suggest a
swift and sudden tirade. Throw a chair, break a glass, pick up your
dog’s droppings with a Tommy Glavine
card. The long and short of it is to take the day and let yourself
express the agony of the worst September collapse in New York baseball
If you follow my advice I promise you’ll feel less worse on Tuesday.
And hopefully by Wednesday you’ll feel well enough to watch what should
be one heckuva postseason.
A Couple Of Playoff Notes For Non-Mets’ Fans
If you’re a Philly-fanatic, you’ve got to be ecstatic that the Padres and Rockies are playing a one game playoff tomorrow (Jake Peavy vs Josh Fogg).
Not only will the winner only have one day of rest before they travel
to Philly, but if the Padres win, the Phillies will only have to face
Jake Peavy ONCE! That’s a huge advantage for Philadelphia.
Padres’ fans might need to coalesce with Mets’ fans by the end of the
week. Besides blowing a nice wild card lead over the Rockies over the
past two weeks, they have to travel to Colorado tomorrow with the most
injury ravaged team that’s still alive for the playoffs. Their have
been plenty of signs in the past couple of weeks that karma might not
be on their side.
First, Mike Cameron gets a viral infection and misses a bunch
of games. When he finally returns last Sunday, he tears a ligament in
his thumb. His availability for the playoffs is now in doubt. Next,
they lose their best hitter, Milton Bradley, to a torn ACL when Bud Black, the Pads manager, throws a ballistic Bradley to the ground while trying to prevent
Bradley from ripping the first base umpire’s head off.
If those two major injuries weren’t enough to make Pads’ fans doubt their
team’s destiny, the Rockies win 13 of their final 14 games, including a
three game sweep of the Padres in San Diego.
Mr Padre’s Son Beats Padres—Ouch!
But, the omen of all omens that would really make me shutter if I were a Pads’ fan happened in the
bottom of the ninth on Saturday. With Corey Hart on second and the Pads one out away from clinching a playoff berth, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman faced off against Tony Gwynn Jr.,
the son of the greatest Padre ever. Hoffman tossed eight straight
changeups at Gwynn Jr. before Gwynn hooked one into the rightfield
corner for a game tying triple. As karma would have it, the Pads would
go on to lose the game a couple of innings later.
AL Playoff Notes
Angels’ fans have to be delighted with how Kelvim Escobar pitched on Saturday. He looks good to go for Game 2 of the ALDS.
Since the Red Sox won home field advantage, they will get an extra
day off during their series with the Halos. That means they can use
just three starters if they want should the series go five games. Both Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be available to pitch twice on normal rest.
The Yankees on the other hand will now have to use four starters should their series go four games. That leaves Joe Torre with a big decision. Does he start veteran Mike Mussina if there’s a Game 4 or young phenom Philip Hughes? Who ever doesn’t get the Game 4 start would be up early in the bullpen for Game 3 in case Roger Clemens‘ bum hammy is still giving him problems next Sunday.
The postseason starts Wednesday, so get your rally caps ready fans,
the first round match-ups look to be the most competitive they’ve been
in quite a while.
Wed. October 3rd
Angels @ Red Sox (John Lackey vs Josh Beckett)
Cubs @ Diamondbacks (Carlos Zambrano vs Brandon Webb)
Padres or Rockies @ Phillies (Greg Maddux or Jeff Francis vs Cole Hamels)
Thurs. October 4th
Yankees @ Indians (Chien Ming Wang vs C.C. Sabathia)
Is their anything more durable than history? Current home run king Henry Aaron has publicly said he won’t be in attendance when Barry Bonds eventually passes him to take his place a top the all-time home run list. And though he has yet to declare it, Comissioner Bud Seligmost likely will be elsewhere also. In fact, many baseball fans will
choose to turn away when the greatest record in baseball finally falls.
Yet, no matter how many asterisks one might want to add next to Bonds’
name; no matter how many remotes decide to jump channels; no matter how
many references to HGH or steroids line the daily sports’ sections,
when Barry Bonds does finally hit # 756, baseball HISTORY will be made!
In 1921 when Babe Ruth hit # 139 to pass Roger Connor as the
all-time home run king, the historical impact was muted considerably
because of the infancy of the home run record. Because Ruth went on to
hit so many more long balls than Connor, the historical significance of
Connor’s home runs became even more insignificant. But like fine wine,
baseball records become so much finer with the mere passage of time. 53
years after Ruth established himself as The Sultan Of Swat, Hank Aaron
hit the most famous home run in baseball history. When Aaron hit # 715
off of Al Downing, he not only broke Ruth’s record, but he gave the 714
home runs Ruth hit greater historical context. Ruth had set the bar.
But, until Aaron had raised it, there was no one to really compare Ruth
with. Simply, Aaron’s 715th home run meant so much to the history of
baseball because he had Ruth’s 714 home runs to build on.
Once Bonds’ reaches the new magical number, there will probably be a
frenzy of articles penned all across the country supporting the notion
that Hammering Hank should still be the rightful champion of the long
ball. But, ‘shoulds’ have never made anything so, and that is why # 756 will go down as the most famous home-run in the annals of baseball.
Ironically, just as all the racial tension surrounding Aaron’s chase of the Babe added an extra facet to the story of # 715,
all the hoopla in the media about the possible illegitimacy of Bonds’
home-run chase, because of performance enhancing drugs, will make # 756
an even more fascinating historical event. Fans, journalists,
congressman, and even the Commissioner can opine ad nauseam on the
legitimacy of Bonds’ home run chase. But, while the opinions of many
might color history, it can never undo it. Barring injury or federal
indictment, the summer of 2007 will go down as the summer Barry Bonds
passed Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king.
Present Home Run Total Home Runs Needed
2006 Division Series Awards
NLDS Pitching MVP
Chris Carpenter (Cardinals)
He has been the best pitcher in the NL for the last three years. Carpenter defined the term "Ace" with his performances in Game 1 and Game 4 of the NLDS vs the Padres. For a team considered to have the worst pitching of any of the playoff contenders, Carpenter led a Cardinals’ staff that had a Division Series best 1.50 ERA. In his two games pitched, Carpenter went 2-0 with 2.03 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He allowed 3 ER in 13.3 IP while striking out 12 and walking 4 men.
NLDS Hitting MVP
Carlos Delgado (Mets)
No hit was more important than Carlos Delgado’s lead-off home run to dead center in the bottom of
the 4th inning of Game 1 against Derek Lowe. The Mets were losing 1-0 at the time until Delgado flashed the power that makes the Mets the most dangerous lineup in the NL. In the 6th inning Delgado singled and scored a run to help the Mets tack on two important runs. And then in the 7th inning after the Dodgers had tied it, Delgado changed the momentum of the entire series with a single to right off of Brad Penny to put the Mets back ahead for good. In the four games, Delgado hit .429 (6-14) with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 3 Runs and proved that sometimes good things happen for those who wait (Delgado had gone the longest of any active player, 1711 games, without a playoff appearance until last Tuesday).
Jeff Kent (Dodgers)
La La Palooza went down in flames, but it certainly wasn’t because of Jeff Kent. Kent hit in every game and gave the Dodgers one last shot with his two-run home run to tie Game 3. Overall, Kent was the best hitter in the NLDS with a .615 Avg (8-13).
ALDS Pitching MVP
Kenny Rogers (Tigers)
The Yankees were certainly not welcomed to Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. The old man pitched the game of his life in Game 3. No one showed more grit and passion than the oldest pitcher (41 years old) left in the playoffs. Kenny’s determination was the perfect personification of the fire behind an incredibly motivated Tigers’ team. His face throughout the game was also a photographer’s dream. Rogers grimmaced and snorted his way through seven plus innings, and all you had to do to gauge how bad Rogers wanted this one was to read his lips. Everytime Pudge Rodriguez hesitated, even a moment, before throwing the ball back to the mound, Rogers’ roared "Gimme The Ball!". Now the Tigers are roaring their way to the ALCS. Rogers line against the Yanks- 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K’s.
Joel Zumaya (Tigers)
He only pitched two innings, but Zumaya’s entrance in the pivotal Game 2 changed the momentum of the series. Zumaya came into the game in the 7th with the Tigers up by one run and proceeded to dominate the 2006 version of "Murderers’ Row". With one out in the 7th, Zumaya blew Derek Jeter away and got Bobby Abreu to tap out. Then in the 8th inning, hitting a sonic 103 mph on the radar gun, Zumaya extinguished the heart of the Yankees lineup as if he were facing little leaguers. Gary Sheffield actually got his bat on the ball, but Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez might as well have been swinging at air. This intimidating performance was the beginning of the end for the best club money could buy.
ALDS Hitting MVP
Frank Thomas (Athletics)
Carlos Guillen gets an honorable mention for his standout performance,
.571 Avg (8-14), 1 HR and 2 RBI, but Frank Thomas almost singlehandedly
won the most important game of the Athletics/Twins series. When Frank
Thomas took the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Sanatana, deep in the
2nd inning of Game 1, he gave the Athletics a lead they would never
relinquish. His second blast in the ninth off Jesse Crain proved to be
the difference maker in a 3-2 victory that would propel the Athletics
for the rest of the series. Overall, Mr. Thomas hit .500 (5-10) with 2 BB and his two lengthy home runs.
Best Managerial Move
Willie Randolph (Mets)
Willie actually is going to make both the best and worst moves list. In
Game 1 Willie used his bullpen almost flawlessly, exploiting one of
the Mets’ greatest strengths as the Mets held on for a 6-5 victory.
Replacing a very effective John Maine with Pedro Feliciano and Chad
Bradford in the 5th inning, with two men on and one out, showed the
great instincts Willie has and gave the bullpen the confidence it
needed to carry the Mets through the series. Feliciano struck out Kenny
Lofton, and Bradford got the dangerous Nomar Garciaparra to bounce out
Worst Managerial Moves
Willie Randolph (Mets)
Remember, I said Willie used his bullpen ALMOST flawlessly. In the same
game I just commended Randolph for, he made a potentially deadly error.
In the bottom of the 6th of Game 1, with the Mets up 4-1 and the bases
loaded with two outs, Willie let reliever Guillermo Mota hit even
though he had Julio Franco and Ramon Castro on the bench with a lefty
on the mound. You never leave runs on the field, especially when Aaron
Heilman and Roberto Hernandez are still available to pitch. The move
almost cost the Mets as Mota, with the help of Jose Valentin’s throwing
error, let the Dodgers tie the game up in the top of the 7th. Another highly
questionable decision was in Game 3 when with a man on base Willie let
lefty Darren Oliver face hot-hitting and lefty-killer Jeff Kent. Kent
proceeded to smoke one over the left field wall to tie the game up as
the Dodgers briefly took the lead later that inning. With three lefties
and all your righties still available in the bullpen, what was Willie
pitching ace Jake Peavy, on normal rest, in an elimination game is
unforgivable. Bochy has been fantastic pulling the strings most of the
year, but saying he wanted to save Peavy for a Game 5 that will now
never happen is just plain stupid! The Padres will have to go into the
offseason knowing that they lost with their best pitcher sitting on the
For any of you box score mavens who might have missed this little tid-bit, Derek Jeter’s 22-game hitting streak lives on (1 for 5 tonight), even though he went hitless Tuesday night at the Stadium, because of an obscure rule in MLB’s rulebook.
Rule 10.24 (b) states that "a consecutive-game hitting streak shall not be terminated if all the player’s plate appearances (one or more) results in a base on balls (BB), hits batsman (HB) or a sacrifice bunt (S). The streak shall terminate if the player has a sacrifice fly (SF) and no hit…." .
So, as far as the streak is concerned, Tuesday night never happened. For the record, Jeter officially had 4 plate appearances in yesterday’s game- 3 walks, 1 hit by pitch and 0 hits before Torre lifted him in the 7th inning. I guess Joltin’ Joe’s spirit will have to look over his shoulder for at least one more game.
22-Games and Counting
* This rule did not exist in Joe DiMaggio’s day.
As the old saying goes, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story". In the aftermath of Florida Marlins’ Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter Wednesday night, it appears that ESPN, MSG, SNY, all the network news shows and every other highlight show I watched on TV decided to follow this old moniker. There were many catchy angles to this story— "Anibal breaks the longest no-hitter drought in major league history”, "Sanchez throws first no-hitter in over two years", "Marlins’ hurler becomes first rookie since Bud Smith in 2001 to toss a no-hitter", but not one, NOT ONE slow-motion replay of the final out of this historic moment. Why is this a big deal? Well, because to the naked eye Eric Byrnes looked SAFE! How’s this for a story headline, "Umpire blows call on last play of a no-hitter!". I mean didn’t one sports producer think that it might have made a good story to highlight the drama of such a close play. And not just any play, but the last play of a no-hitter.
If you read the paper tomorrow, the print media will have you believe that Byrnes was retired on a routine ground out. But, in truth, shortstop Hanley Ramirez turned into a nervous nellie and took his sweet time in throwing the ball over to first, and what should have been routine became a bang-bang play. Byrnes actually might have had himself an infield hit. Now, I’m not saying he was definitely safe, but it was so dang close that the sports media might have wanted to show at least one slow motion angle to its audience so we could get a closer look. I mean for godsake, there was only a no-hitter on the line! But, who am I to get in the way of a good story? Have your no-hitter, rejoice in it, dream about it, mark it in the record books, but please when you retell the story to your grandkids of how it went down, remember to tell them that Eric Byrnes might have actually been robbed of a hit on the last play of the game by an overzealous umpire. Remember to tell them that this might have been one of the greatest blown calls in recent baseball history. And remember to tell them that Anibal’s no-hitter might not have been a no-hitter afterall. But, without a slow motion replay we’ll never know.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything in baseball, along comes some strange wackiness that would even make the headless horseman scratch his head. The other day while I was smoking a cigarette out on the stoop, a little birdie flew by and chirped some very strange happenings from Bristol, Virginia.
On July 9th, in an Appalachian League game (Rookie Ball) between the Elizabethton Twins and the Bristol Sox, their was actually a "two-out" inning. According to my feathered friend, the incident took place in the top of the 5th inning with Elizabethton batting. This is how it went down—Daniel Berg led off with a line single to right. Richard Sojo then tripled him home. With no one out Steven Singleton lifted a sacrifice fly to center-field to score Sojo and record the first out of the inning.
Then things turned wacky.
Evidently, with Michael Lysaught at the plate and no one on base, the scoreboard listed that there were two-outs. When Lysaught popped out to center fielder Kent Gerst, the umps called three-outs and the teams left the field. The mistake unbelievably wasn’t noticed until the bottom of the fifth was already under way. The umpires decided to continue play as normal with Elizabethton’s next scheduled hitter William Luque leading off the top of the sixth. The Bristol pitchers ended up being credited with 9-innings pitched and 27 outs recorded even though they actually only got 26 men out.
So, what happened to the mystery out? If you look at the Game Log in the top of the 5th that day,
you will notice that the batter Michael Lysaught is credited for two-outs during his at bat. The second out is listed as batters interference. You’ll also notice in the Box Score that Lysaught, who was batting ninth in the lineup, is credited with 5 plate appearances while the rest of his teammates all have 4 plate appearances.
All this craziness didn’t hamper Elizabethton as they went on to win 5-3 anyway, but poor Mr.
Lysaught’s batting average got the short end of the stick as he wound up 0 for 5 instead of 0 for 4.
Well, the only answers I can think of are that we have become so
conditioned to accept technology as omnipotent that it no longer occurs to us to question what an electronic scoreboard says; or that the home team knew what was going on, but decided to stay mum about it thinking that they had caught a break; or as my little birdie surmises, there was some kind of sedative in the water in Bristol that day. On the positive side, maybe this abbreviated-inning gaffe should be adopted as the norm—it sure would shorten the interminable length of ballgames these days!
I’m not really sure how to prevent this oddity from occuring ever again, except to suggest a new toy out on the market that might help the umpires refresh their counting skills— it’s a brilliant little item and can even be folded and packed in a bag for road games.