There’s a reason that my blog has the general MLB background even though I’m quite admittedly a Red Sox fan first and foremost, and that’s because I’m also a huge fan of the game in general. If there’s a game on, I’ll watch it/listen to it. And on weekdays that don’t usually serve as a get-away day–Tuesdays and Fridays most notably, but Mondays could serve as well–only one team could provide those much-needed afternoon games: The Chicago Cubs. As a result of them frequently having a timeslot all to themselves, I probably heard more of the Cubs’ radio team than any other except for the Red Sox’ and maybe the Yankees’ (because if my own team wasn’t playing, I’d gladly check in on their rivals, and also because the New York teams were the only ones I could hear without XM). The Cubs’ former All-Star third baseman, Ron Santo, was often called out as the epitome of homer announcers, but I never really had a problem with it, and besides…former All-Star Cubs third baseman. He was a former player, unlike many radio announcers (for some reason, it seems as though former players are more common on television broadcast teams than on radio teams), so he had a bit more of a right to think of the Cubbies as “we”. Santo passed away yesterday at the age of 70 from complications of bladder cancer. Cubs broadcasts won’t be the same without him.
AS cheesy as MLB’s slogan may be, you have to admit that October is where legends are born. All together now…
Branca throws. There’s a long drive, it’s gonna be, I believe. … The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits it into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant! And they’re going crazy! Ohhhhh-oh!! (pause for crowd noise) I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! …The Giants win by a score of 5 to 4… and they’re pickin’ Bobby Thomson up… and they’re carryin’ him off the field!
Bobby Thomson, whose immortal “Shot Heard Round the World” clinched the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants in the deciding game of a best-of-three playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away on Monday at the age of 86. Meanwhile, this year’s Giants can only hope they can find similar success. Last night’s loss to Philadelphia puts them 1 game behind the Phillies in the wild card race, while the Padres won again to take a 5-game lead in the NL West. It’s funny, isn’t it? The NL West was supposed to be one of the most tightly contested divisions, and the Padres–the one team no one thought stood a chance–have the second-largest division lead. It seems to be like that all around. The AL West was supposed to be anyone’s to win with the long-dominant Angels having fallen back to earth and the Mariners having improved so much in the offseason, but the M’s faltered and the Rangers have run away with it. The AL Central, which has gone to a 1-game playoff each of the past two years, was supposed to be a three-team race between Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota, and for awhile it was. Then Detroit fell apart, and currently the Twins have a 4-game lead, the third-largest. Then again, four games isn’t really that much, and it wasn’t even a week ago that the Twins and White Sox were tied after splitting the first two games of a three-game series. The Twins took the rubber game on Thursday, swept a three-game series over the weekend while Chicago lost two of three, then took game one of another three-game series with the White Sox last night. This being the AL Central, nobody’s really out of it until they’re mathematically out of it. Speaking of which…I haven’t been charting the season since early May. I fell behind on it while preparing for finals and never caught up. I keep meaning to, but the longer I put it off, the more daunting a task it becomes…
Elsewhere in baseball, former starter Hisanori Takahashi has been named the Mets’ new closer. I’m sure there’s something stupid to say here; I’m just not sure what it is. Also, this. Depending on how you look at it, this makes my job either a lot easier or a lot harder.
…Well this is awkward. In my last entry, I mentioned that my father grew up a Yankee fan, and I was going to put an explanation of what happened at the end of my next entry, since it didn’t seem right to interject any sort of negativity into such a poignant entry, but there was the obvious disconnect between the young Yankee fan I described and the man who raised his son to root for the Red Sox. It was just supposed to be a footnote… Anyway, what happened was, Dad went to college in the Boston area, and it was while he was there that George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees. This did not sit well with my father, and so he switched sides. It is, then, ironic that before anything worth writing about happened on the field (except for Big Papi winning the Home Run Derby, the first time a Red Sox won it), Steinbrenner passed on at the age of 80 after suffering a heart attack. Um…yeah, I can’t really get emotional about this one. I’m never happy about anyone dying, but I can’t really get all teary about this one like I have in the past. Well…goodbye, George.
What more can you say? My words can’t possibly do justice to a legend of Bob Sheppard’s magnitude. Yeah, I’ve lived in New Jersey for most of my life and have seen more major league games at old Yankee Stadium than every other stadium combined…but that’s still not that many. I’m not a Yankee fan, so I only went when my beloved Red Sox were in town, and besides…I’m only in my early 20s. This is more of a job for my father, who grew up in Bergen County, just outside New York, rooting for Casey Stengel’s Yankees, full of Hall of Famers like Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra (and Phil Rizzuto, who probably didn’t really deserve to be enshrined as a player), idolizing Bobby Richardson because second base was his position in Little League and he, too, was named Bobby. The one constant, even then, was Sheppard–who had been working for the Yankees ever since the year Dad was born. Naturally, as soon as I saw the news that Sheppard had passed, I went to tell my dad, who said that it was probably for the best, as Sheppard had been ill for quite some time. I agreed, but still…it’s always sad when someone dies. Always.
Things have been busy. I mean, I know, there has definitely been some interesting stuff going on in baseball. Dexter Fowler of the Rockies stole five bases in the first four innings of a game. Carl Crawford of the Rays had a total of six steals in a game. The Red Sox just set a new AL record for runs scored before making the first out of an inning in last night’s game against the Indians (12, in the sixth inning, breaking the old record of 11 and tying the major league record), and Manny Ramirez has been suspended for 50 games for taking a female fertility drug that is used by steroid-users to restart their bodies’ testosterone production when coming off a cycle. Speaking of PEDs, A-Rod makes his season debut tonight. Also returning to the majors soon: Dontrelle Willis. And since this blog has been turning into Death Watch for much of the season, let’s give a shout-out to Dom DiMaggio, who died earlier this morning at the age of 92. (Well, at least this time it’s someone who had lived a long, full life, unlike Fidrych in his fifties and Adenhart in his early twenties…) DiMaggio, though not nearly the star that his older brother Joe was, made 7 All-Star teams, and his 34-game hitting streak in 1949 still stands as the Red Sox franchise record. There is also speculation (because there’s always speculation in Major League Baseball, all sorts of “what if?”s) that had DiMaggio not left Game 7 of the 1946 World Series in the eighth inning after injuring his hamstring running the bases (on a base hit that drove in 2 runs to tie the game at 3-3), Enos Slaughter would’ve been unable to score from first base on Harry Walker’s double to center in the ninth inning, fielded by DiMaggio’s replacement, Leon Culberson. Though overshadowed throughout his career by his older brother Joe playing the same position for the Yankees and by his teammate Ted Williams playing next to him in the outfield, Dom DiMaggio was nonetheless a great baseball player.
Today’s sports page had it nice and simple. The headline: Phils voice Kalas dies at ballpark. That’s when it hit me: Seems fitting, right? This is a Hall of Fame broadcaster, one that, as ESPN keeps reminding us, is one of the rare announcers to truly be associated with two different sports, as opposed to those that call multiple sports but have one that they’re primarily associated with (they gave Marv Albert as an example–primarily basketball, also dabbled in football and hockey. I think of Joe Buck, primarily baseball, also football, and unbearable either way.) Isn’t it only right that when he finally passed on, it was at the game–where he truly belonged?
Speaking of voices of the game in ill health, how is Bob Sheppard doing? I keep hearing about how sick he is, but he’s still managing to survive. (I could’ve sworn I’d heard word of his death a few years back, but then he turned out to still be alive so I decided I must’ve been mistaken.) He’s also getting close to 100, isn’t he? I’m pretty sure he’s in his late nineties. It would make sense, considering the fact that my father tells me that Sheppard’s the only voice of Yankee Stadium that he’s ever known, and he’s well, old. (He was already in his late thirties when I was born, and I’m in my twenties now–do the math.) Keep on fighting onward, Bob!
And now, the lighthearted portion of the blog: My local paper already has a “Games Behind Wild Card” column. No, really. This is absolutely hilarious, although not as hilarious as the fact that because there’s a tie for the NL East lead and the NL Central and West leaders are just percentage points behind them for the top seed, the GBWC column and the GB column are exactly the same for the entire National League.
Okay, enough time has passed for me to blog again. Here goes…
1. What was up with that brawl yesterday?
I know that the benches cleared because of Josh Beckett’s pitch that went over Bobby Abreu’s head following a late time-out call. The question is, why did we end up with four Angels thrown out? The best that Baseball Tonight could come up with is that the Angels were mad that Beckett was allowed to approach home plate after the jawing had begun, whereas if a batter so much as set foot on the grass in an attempt to approach the mound, he’d be thrown out of the game. (Obvious point they missed: There is absolutely no point in the game in which a baserunner would belong in the vicinity of the mound, while the pitcher heads to home plate every time the catcher has to move to get a passed ball or wild pitch or engage a runner in a rundown, etcetera). They also suggested that Joe West did instigate more trouble by trying to shoo the Angels off the field rather than the Red Sox. Practical upshot: The Baseball Tonight guys are full of sh**. And, yes, Torii Hunter did shove an umpire.
2. So far, no good for the vaunted Tribe.
Talk about your bad starts for the favorites–although granted, the exact nature of a “favorite” seems to be up in the air for the AL Central. TV pundits said Indians, magazine pundits said Twins, and my genius totally-under-the-radar Royals pick actually wasn’t as under-the-radar as I thought it would be, with them being pegged as a team that could have a big improvement this year. Still…1-5 and trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the second tonight. Only the 1-6 Astros and 0-7 Nationals are worse, and the Astros did have an afternoon game today, so yeah, already lost. And that 1 win was just yesterday. Indians, not so great.
3. Chien-Ming Wang continues to decline.
First start of the year, at Baltimore: 3.2 innings, 7 earned runs, 9 hits, 3 walks–loss. Tonight, he allowed 4 earned runs in the first, then walked in the fifth run of the game before recording an out in the second, at which time he was immediately removed. The three runners then scored right away, courtesy of a Carlos Peña grand slam. 8 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 hits, 1 strikeout. Total 2009 stats: 4.2 innings, 15 hits, 15 earned runs, six walks, 1 strikeout. ERA 28.93; WHIP 4.50. Looks like the New York fans should be worrying less about whether or not Joba belongs in the bullpen (he had a decent outing yesterday but the bullpen blew it in the eighth inning, leading to a lot of blowhards saying that he belongs in the bullpen. Actually, in all fairness to the New York fans, most of those blowhards were national media, and the New Yorkers that called into Power Alley, as well as the many New York media featured this morning, insisted that the Yankees are better off with Joba in the rotation–which I agree with) and more about why their rotation has been faltering. Tampa Bay had a 10-0 lead after 3; it’s now 10-2 in the fifth.
4. Some surprising leaders.
On a mutual off-day before their first game of the season, the Braves and Marlins entered the day with the best records in the game, each at 5-1. Although this will hold up as the best winning percentage, a few others could be with them at 4 games over .500 by tomorrow at 6-2 should they win tonight, those being the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and…Padres? The Blue Jays are being predicted to finish no better than fourth in their division (although with the trio of teams in their division, that’s not saying much); the Cardinals could be anywhere from 2nd to 5th in most predictions (I’m leaning towards the fifth end), and the Padres, well, are more or less the consensus pick to finish last in the majors this year. Yes, last in the majors. Also unexpectedly in first in their division, and by a large enough margin that they’ll still have at least a tie for the lead by the end of the day tomorrow, are the Mariners–predicted to finish last in the American League. You can’t blame this on matchups alone, because the Mariners started off with the Twins and A’s; the Padres with the Giants and Dodgers; and the Jays with the Tigers and Indians. Wait…maybe that last one wasn’t a great example. The Braves and Marlins both had the Nats in the mix, but also the Phillies and Mets, respectively. The Cardinals…it’s a fluke of scheduling. They started out with the Pirates and Astros. The former is my choice for worst in the league; the latter, well, they’ve definitely been moving in the wrong direction.
5. No, seriously, what is wrong with the Yankees?
Update: Jonathan Albalajedo continued after giving up the Peña grand slam, giving up a leadoff home run in the third before getting through the inning okay and making it through the fourth fine. He then allowed the first two batters to reach in the fifth and left the game, a total of 3 innings on the night. Edwar Ramirez struck out the next two batters, but then allowed a hit to drive in the Rays’ 11th run, a third run charged to Albalajedo. Ramirez would be charged with a run of his own when Pat Burrell led off the sixth with a homer, then got through the sixth. 12-2 Rays. The Yanks scored another in the top of the seventh, and then Phil Coke came in, proving that one caller wrong about the Yanks having more faith in Coke than they do in Marte. The Yanks aren’t bringing in any of their best setup men in this turkey. How do we know that? After Coke gave up three runs (all unearned, as he got the first two out, then allowed a walk, the error, another walk, and a three-run double–15-3, Rays,) the next pitcher to come in (for the bottom of the eighth–15-5 Rays) was…Nick Swisher. Bringing in a position player to pitch in the regulation nine is sad. What’s sadder, though, is that Swisher was the most effective pitcher they had–he was the only one that didn’t allow a run, and he allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk, a 2.00 WHIP–Ramirez, the only one who could make a case for being more effective with his 3 strikeouts and just 1 run, on a solo homer, in 2 innings, had a 2.50 WHIP for the game, and besides that, he also allowed an inherited runner to score; Albalajedo’s 5 hits and 1 walk in 3 innings also equates to 2.00 WHIP, but he was charged with three runs and a total of five scored while he was in the game (one of his charged runs was scored after he’d left, but he allowed all three inherited runners to score); Coke, though he also didn’t allow an earned run, had a 3.00 WHIP, not to mention the three runs allowed, earned or not, in just one inning; and, of course, Wang and his 8 earned runs in 1 inning.
6. Goddamnit, why do I have to keep making detours for memoriams?
R.I.P. Harry Kalas, Phillies broadcaster, who collapsed in the broadcast booth prior to today’s Phillies-Nationals game and died at the age of 73, and 1976 AL Rookie of the Year Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, found dead in an apparent accident on his farm this afternoon at the age of 54. A moment of silence for Kalas was held at all major league games. The baseball graveyard is filling up much too quickly.
7. Orlando Hudson hits for cycle against Giants
Dodgers 11, Giants 1.
8. Zack attack
Yes, SportsCenter is weird. Apparently, Zachary is barely even in the top 1000 most common names, and there have only been 13 players with that name in major league history…but three different Zac(h/k)s started games today–Greinke of the Royals, Miner of the Tigers, and Duke of the Pirates. Duke was the best, giving up just 4 hits in a complete-game shutout of the Astros. Greinke was just good enough, going five innings and picking up the win over the lowly Indians. Miner was just a footnote in an interesting piece of history. Up until today, no two players had hit their X00th career home runs in the same game, where X could be any digit, and doesn’t even necessarily have to be the same number for the two players. It was
the same number, though, when Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox became the first pair. Dye led off the top of the second with his 300th career home run. Konerko followed him, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, hit his 300th home run. Yes, there had never been two players to reach double-zero milestones in the same game, and then they hit the same milestone in back-to-back at-bats. Congratulations.