Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez is done for the year, in need of surgery for a thumb injury suffered in his fight with his girlfriend’s father that led to his two-day suspension last week. Because it is a non-baseball injury, the Mets are looking to void his contract and get out of their obligation for the $11.5 million he’s owed in 2011. In other words…K-Rod, you’re an idiot.
On a lighter note, Nationals president Stan Kasten gave GM Mike Rizzo the traditional pie in the face reserved for players who get a walkoff hit after the Nats managed to hammer out a deal with number one draft pick Bryce Harper at the last minute, cutting it even closer than they did last year with Stephen Strasburg. Harper and Strasburg are both represented by Scott Boras.
The always spectacular Mariano Rivera recorded his 500th save last night against the Mets, but perhaps of greater note was that he recorded his first career RBI. After coming in to get the final out of the eighth, he came up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs, taking 2 balls and a strike, swinging at strike 2, then fouling off a 2-2 pitch before taking two more balls to draw the walk off of K-Rod to drive in Melky Cabrera. As a rule, Red Sox fans like me aren’t quick to praise a Yankee, but Mariano is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no questions asked. He’s probably the best closer ever.
Elsewhere, the Rockies refuse to go away. After losing 2 games to the Angels to constitute their first series lost since losing the first three games of a four-game series at Houston June 1-4 (the win in the finale of that series constituted the start of their 11-game winning streak), they returned to sweep the A’s and are now 20-3 since June 4th, going from 2nd-worst in the majors to tied for tenth-best (with the Brewers). They’re still a half game out in the NL Wild Card, behind the Giants, but just 7.5 behind the suddenly failing Dodgers. Wait, are they failing? Their season high in games over .500 was under a week ago (although they’re 1-4 since then). The Giants are in second at 7 back, but they had never fallen further than 9.5 back at any time, anyway (two occasions, the latter of which was, incidentally, just before the Rockies’ hot streak started.) So, yeah…since June 4th (inclusive), the Dodgers are 11-10, the Giants 15-9, and the Rockies 20-3. Looks like the Dodgers are going to have to be more than just average if they want to hang onto their lead. If memory serves me correctly, the infamous Red Sox “collapse” of 1978 also had the leading team playing around .500 ball over the span of their collapse. The Rockies and Dodgers start a 3-game series in LA tonight.
Also tonight: The Rays and Jays meet for the first time this year. Quirky.
The AL won the interleague series again, 137-114 (one make-up game remains, between the Cubs and White Sox)
#58! #58! The Mariners were held scoreless from the second inning on, and the Angels won 5-2, Francisco Rodriguez picking up his fifty-eighth save of the season. The Angels have fourteen games remaining over which K-Rod can extend the record. Next up: One more home game against the Mariners, then an off-day, followed by a ten-game road trip that takes them to Oakland for three, Texas for three, and Seattle for four, before finishing up with a three-game home stand versus Texas.
The Seattle Mariners put on a brilliant rally last night, coming from a 7-0 deficit after seven innings to…create a save situation for Francisco Rodriguez, who picked up his record-tying fifty-seventh save of the season. In the wake of the Angels’ AL West clinch, manager Mike Scioscia says they’ll still be playing for home field advantage, but I don’t know if they’ll really be going all out. Making sure everyone’s ready for the playoffs is what’s important, and besides, the Angels are still far and away the best road team in the majors, so no home field advantage isn’t a huge deal to them. The manager also said that his usage of K-Rod wouldn’t change after the record was set and the playoff spot clinched, and this I believe. To be effective, a closer has to be in a good rhythm. Assuming that the rate of overall Angels wins to K-Rod’s saves stays constant, even a conservative 7-9 estimate for the Angels’ last 16 games would produce 61 or 62 saves. As for other hotly contested races, Chipper Jones has retaken the NL batting lead, .362 to Albert Pujols’s .360. Josh Hamilton’s once-dominant lead in RBIs has vanished, now just four ahead of Justin Morneau for the AL lead and trailing NL leader Ryan Howard by 5. Jacoby Ellsbury still leads the American League in stolen bases, 45-42 over B.J. Upton, although it would take a remarkable run for him to break the Red Sox’ team record, something that seemed a sure thing midway through the season. (He picked up number 35 on July 1). Still, it’s a sign of how unusual it is for Boston to have such a player that a player still considered a rookie is tied for 41st on the Red Sox’ all-time career stolen bases list. At this rate, he’ll likely be the team’s all-time leader by the time he’d first be eligible for free agency (if the Sox don’t sign him to an extension before he’s eligible, which they probably will.) On to the elimination scenarios… Detroit from AL Wild Card with loss and Boston win, that’s all for one-day. Two-day: Texas from AL Wild Card with two losses and a Boston win or a loss and two Boston wins; Cleveland from AL Wild Card with two losses and two Boston wins. Yeah, boring.
Final note: The first two games of this weekend’s Cubs-Astros series have been preemptively postponed due to Hurricane Ike. No word on when they’ll be made up–and trust me, with the way the NL Central/Wild Card race has been going, they will be made up.
First off, yeah, yeah, I know, I jinxed it on that last entry. Sorry. Anyway, on to today’s entry.
The title of today’s entry comes from a stat given on
Saturday’s Yankees-Orioles broadcast. Alex Rodriguez had just been hit by a
Jeremy Guthrie pitch, and YES Network announcers Michael Kay and Ken Singleton
were talking about the correlation between home runs and getting hit by
pitches, noting that many of the top guys in one category were also tops in the
other and that home run leader Carlos Quentin also led the league in being hit
by pitches, 20 times already this season. Then they said that Garret Anderson
has only been hit 11 times in his entire career. Remind me again, how
many seasons has he been playing? Since the mid-’90s, at least. That’s less
than 1 HBP per season. Those are some mad skills. That is the work of a
baseball ninja. Also with mad skills: A.J. Pierzynski. The thief of games (see:
ALCS Game 2, 2005) stole another one yesterday, being granted third base after
a controversial interference call when caught in a rundown. I didn’t actually
see the game, but the Associated Press story running in my paper suggests that
it was actually Pierzynski, not Rays third baseman Willy Aybar, who initiated
contact. Pierzynski then scored the winning run as the Sox won it 6-5 in ten
innings. I wasn’t happy about the miscarriage of justice in the ’05 ALCS, but
this I’ll take, as the Red Sox gained another game in the AL East standings
with a win over Toronto, 6-5 in 11 innings. They now lead the wild card by a
full game over Minnesota, 5-3 losers to the Angels. Angels closer Francisco
Rodriguez picked up his 50th save of the year in the game. It’s only
the eleventh time a closer has racked up 50 saves in a season, and certainly
the only time one has reached the mark in August. The Angels are 79-50, which
prorates to about a 99-win season. Taking into consideration the percentage of
Angels victories in which K-Rod records a save, that puts him on pace for
around 63 saves, six up on the record. I actually heard one of the ESPN
broadcasters suggest that with all of the worthy Cy Young candidates in the
American League, K-Rod should not win that award, but should win the
MVP. Balderdash, I say. No pitcher has ever won the MVP but not the Cy
Young since before the latter existed.
Extra innings was somewhat of a theme yesterday, actually.
In addition to the two American League games I mentioned, four NL games went
beyond nine. The Mets…well, here’s a great case of selective journalism. The
story, which is not AP because of my location, is headlined “Familiar
snag catches Mets”, sub-headline “Bullpen loses lead, then game in 10th“.
The reality? The tying run was already on base when the starter was pulled…with
only one out…in the seventh inning. No runs scored thereafter until the tenth.
The Mets were at home, giving them three chances to answer before extras hit.
Sorry, but I don’t think we can pin the blame solely on the bullpen. This has
to be spread around. In Milwaukee, CC Sabathia left uncharacteristically early,
being removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. The move paid off
initially, as pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler had an RBI single and the Brewers turned
a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 advantage, setting Sabathia up for a chance at
improving to 9-0 in the National League…but it wasn’t meant to be, as David
Riske allowed a run in the seventh for the blown save. The Brewers scored again
in the eighth, only to face another blown save at the hands of Salomon Torres,
who pitched the ninth and tenth. Guillermo Mota ended up with the win as the
Brewers finally took it in twelve, J.J. Hardy catering to the all-too-familiar
trope that the player being honored with a bobblehead day will end up the hero,
4-3 the final in twelve. Also 4-3 in twelve, the Rockies over the Reds, the
Rockies scoring in the seventh and ninth in order to force extras. Wait, why
did the Reds’ bullpen have to take over in the fourth? Is something wrong with
Johnny Cueto? Finally, the late game saw the Phillies end it with a three-run
homer in the eleventh, 5-2 the final.
Addendum: A faux pas, didn’t even notice, but my local paper cut the bottom off the NL West standings, the Padres were completely missing. Speaking of completely missing, it’s almost time to start breaking out the green numbers of elimination. Off-days keep it from hitting tonight, because the games remaining doesn’t raise the effective wild card leader total beyond the actual leader total of 76, but Wednesday morning, I could be using a different color for Washington in the wild card race section of my database, the lime green that indicates the date of a team’s elimination from contention. Hold on… Actually, the first green number could go up tomorrow morning, on the AL side of the table. The Angels are at home against Oakland, still with the worst record since the All-Star Break, while the Mariners host highly contending Minnesota. A win for the Halos and a loss for the M’s mathematically eliminates the latter from division contention. Yes, most teams are eliminated long before they’re officially eliminated, but you can never be too careful. The Astros tried to teach us that lesson in 2006 and fell just short. The Rockies took a shot at it last year and succeeded. 13 days left in the season, they sat 6 back in their own division, in fourth place, five back in the wild card race, tied for fourth with a team that only trailed by half a game in their division and just half a game better than the sixth-place team. And they won, and they won, and they won, and a few other teams lost in bizarre fashion, and so it really never is over until it’s over.
A sawbuck is slang for a ten-dollar bill, aka…a Hamilton.
Okay, yeah, that was a horrible pun; the point is, Josh Hamilton was amazing
last night! At one point, he had thirteen straight home runs without an out.
His 28 home runs in the first round broke the record set by Bobby Abreu, who
had 24 in 2005. I missed most of the first round, doing homework, but I saw
almost all of Hamilton’s performance. My father called me downstairs early on
after mistakenly thinking that Hamilton had done the impossible–drive a fair
ball clear out of Yankee Stadium. (Mickey Mantle once hit one off of the iconic
frieze, the closest anyone has ever come to hitting one all the way out.) The
ball that had fooled my father’s eyes? Only the third longest that
Hamilton hit, estimated at 502 feet. The announcers made a joke about Milton
Bradley actually doing something nice when he came out to towel off Hamilton’s
tired pitcher, who, by the way, adds yet another interesting scene to The
Josh Hamilton Story. Apparently, back when Josh played American Legion
ball, he promised his coach that if he ever reached the big leagues and was in
the Home Run Derby, he’d bring the coach along as his pitcher. True to his
word, in the long tradition of obscure or otherwise odd Home Run Derby pitchers
(David Wright put on a great first-round show in Pittsburgh in 2006 with Mets
catcher Paul Lo Duca throwing to him), 71-year-old high school coach Claybon
(Clay) Counsil was behind the screen for Hamilton’s at-bats, throwing 54 pitches
in the first round alone. (A second mention of the Star-Ledger in as
many days: this morning’s paper mistakenly identified him as “Clay Council”.
BOOOOOO!!!) By the way, does anyone know what was in the case that Edinson
Volquez set on home plate after Hamilton’s twelfth home run? It added a bit of
intrigue to it all, Volquez of course the other primary in the deal that sent
Hamilton from Cincy to Texas. Hamilton was the last of the eight contestants to
go in the first round, and with the rule change that makes all home runs from
the first round carry over to the second, he had already out-homered everyone
else before he’d even come up for the second round, securing a spot in the
finals; they allowed him to take a few swings anyway, and he hit four home runs
and made four outs in a shortened second round. The “Call Your Shot” contest
was a bust, as even with two left-handed hitters in the finalist taking aim at
Yankee Stadium’s short right-field fence, neither could win a car for the
contest winner, Hamilton’s shot hitting in fair territory in right and then
landing on the foul side of the pole on one bounce, Morneau’s landing in left
field. Oh, that’s right: lost in all of this kerfuffle was the fact that Justin
Morneau won the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby, with five final-round bombs to
Hamilton’s three. (Wright’s first-round heroics in 2006 likewise didn’t
translate into a win, but that was no big surprise as Ryan Howard had already
taken the stage with a late charge in the second round–five or six gold-ball
home runs, I think–to surge into the finals on the brink of elimination. Howard
also punctuated his amazing run by hitting his Derby-winning home run right at
one of those “Hit it here, win $1,000,000” MasterCard® signs, making one lucky
fan a millionaire. As if all of those gold-ball home runs weren’t enough
charity.) Tonight, the 79th Annual All-Star Game, live from New York
City! And remember…”This One Counts!”
Correction: It was actually the first round in which Howard
made his late charge, with four of his eight home runs coming with the gold
balls. Furthermore, while the MasterCard® signs last night said “Win
$1,000,000”, in 2006 the prize was 500 flights–a slightly lesser prize,
considering that not even first-class tickets should cost $2,000. Of course,
the gold balls were more valuable then–$21,000, for the sponsor at the time,
Century 21, as opposed to the $17,000 that they were this year. He had six of
those, all totaled. Not to mention, while the fact that the donation goes to
the local Boys and Girls Club instead of to a single lucky fan makes it more
charitable, the $50,000 that Justin Morneau earned for charity with his win
last night pales in comparison to the quarter-million that Howard got for his
paired fan. I made a big comment about how charitable Howard was at the Derby
in my ’06 journal–blog-like in nature but not a true blog in that it exists
only on my hard drive.
Addendum: Listening to XM 175 on my afternoon commute, they
brought up a good point about closer salaries skyrocketing and how there’s
going to be that type of situation this year with K-Rod, who hasn’t yet
re-upped with the Angels, and I got to thinking, is this one of the best “walk
year” salary campaigns ever? After 95 games, the Angels are 57-38 and K-Rod has
38 saves. Prorated to a 162-game campaign, that’s somewhere around 97 wins for
the Angels and 65 saves for their closer. I did say in an early entry that I
thought the single-season save record would fall, and I even did say it would
be a West Coast team whose closer would set it…but, like most of my
predictions, something was a little bit off. In this case, the league of
the team was off. The NL West was touted as the “most competitive division in
baseball”, and it seemed to be a division rich in pitching and, well, not so
much so in hitting, so it seemed natural that there’d be a lot of low-scoring
games. What I didn’t take into account would be the quintet’s near-inability to
win outside of their division. While it would be ludicrous to believe that
K-Rod really is on pace for 65 saves, 60 sounds like a reasonable enough
number–and that would still best the old record by three. So while I’m changing
the name of the new record holder, I stand by my former statement: Enjoy the
record while it lasts, Mr. Thigpen.