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Tag:Atlanta Braves
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:38 pm
 

The catcher and the groundhog

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dirt.

As a catcher, you wallow in it.

As a catcher who hails from Punxsutawney, Pa., home of the esteemed groundhog ... well, how perfect is that?

Rookie Devin Mesoraco, on deck to become the Reds' backstop this season, is just the seventh major-leaguer to emerge from Punxsutawney, where the country turns its eyes each Feb. 2 to see how much longer winter will last. (Well, perhaps not the entire country. ...).

He family home, in fact is only about a half-mile from Gobbler's Knob, where Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prognostication in a sacred ceremony. (Well, perhaps maybe not exactly sacred. ...).

"I went one time," Mesoraco says. "My brother goes almost every year. He seems to enjoy it.

"The rest of my family ... I don't know if my dad has ever been."

Mesoraco was Cincinnati's first-round pick in the 2007 draft out of Punxsutawney High School -- yep, home of the Chucks.

"He's around," Mesoraco says of the city's celebrity groundhog. "He comes to school with his handler. He probably gets treated better than any other groundhog in the world.

"If a groundhog could smell good, it would be him."

Odd thing is, both big leaguers to come from Punxsutawney since 1960 have played behind the dish: John Mizerock, who who caught for the Astros and Braves in the 1980s, and Mesoraco.

Who knew that, in addition to being Groundhog World Headquarters, Punxsutawney would become a cradle of catchers?

Also from Punxsutawney, a town of some 6,000 people, according to Baseball-Reference.com: Billy Hunter, an infielder for the St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians in the 1950s (he also managed the Rangers in 1977-1978); pitcher Al Verdel (Phillies, 1944); outfielder Nick Goulish (Phillies, 1944-1945); outfielder Wilbur Good (Yankees, Indians, Boston Rustlers, Cubs, Phillies and White Sox from 1905-1918); and shortstop Hutch Campbell (Pirates, 1907).

Don't ask Mesocaro, 23, if he saw any of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day being filmed. For one thing, the move came out in 1993, when he was just 5. For another, it wasn't even filmed in Punxsutawney -- it was made in Woodstock, Ill.

But he didn't need the movie. He's had plenty of his own Punxsutawney Phil encounters of his own.

"He's a big deal," Mesocaro says. "They bring him around in a big cage. At the library, he's on display 24/7. It's in the main park. He lives in what's called the Groundhog's Den. You can see him all the time. Him and his wife, Phyllis.

"I don't know what they do when they want some private time."

Sunblock day? Overcast skies in the desert today. They promised temperatures in the 80s. It's not even close. Some of these weather folks around here need to be replaced. I know where they can find a few groundhogs to do the job. ...

Likes: This passage from near the end of Rosanne Cash's terrific memoir, Composed: "We all need art and music like we need blood and oxygen. The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture becomes, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person's depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice; the more we need the simplicity of paint on canvas, or the arc of a lonely body in the air, or the photographer's unflinching eye." ... Great Michigan State-Ohio State game Sunday. The good guys didn't win, but it was terrific to watch. The Big 10 is the best conference in the country. ... Slickables, Home of the $2 ice cream sandwich. Great new discovery on Mill Ave. in the Arizona State University district. Freshly baked homemade cookies, you pick your two and which kind of ice cream you want between them. Everything from Snickerdoodles (by far, by the way, the most underrated cookie in the country) to chocolate chip to mint chip cookies. ... Grimaldi's Coal Brick-Oven Pizza. Heard great things about it and it didn't disappoint. The meatball pizza was delicious, but the pepperoni and mushroom was even better.

Dislikes: Still haven't picked up a copy of Leonard Cohen's new disc Old Ideas. Soon, soon.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You gave me light when I was blind
"You bring peace into my heart
"You drove me back to my beliefs
"And today I’m home again
"There must be a kind of light
"Lighting down you, from so far
"And wherever you go, it will follow you
"‘Cause you, my darling, you were made to shine"

-- Ilo Ferreira, Home Again
Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:13 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:19 pm
 

Riffs from the Hall of Fame voting

The 2012 Hall of Fame election -- by the numbers, and with the skinny. ...

Elected

Barry Larkin, 495 votes, 86.4 percent: Many numbers tell the tale, such as Larkin becoming the first 30/30 (homers/steals) shortstop in history. But how about in 1988, when he led the majors with only 24 strikeouts in 588 at-bats?

Maybe next year (or the year after)

Jack Morris, 382 votes, 66.7 percent: Great chance next year (which will cause massive coronaries in Sabermetric community), but he could run smack into wall via overloaded ballot that includes Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

Jeff Bagwell, 321 votes, 56 percent: Start forging plaque after big jump from 41.7 percent last year.

In need of GPS

Lee Smith, 290 votes, 50.6 percent: A decade on the ballot and it's like he's trapped in a Republican debate. No traction.

Tim Raines, 279 votes, 48.7 percent: Criminally unsupported for guy who ranks second all-time in stolen base percentage (300 minimum attepts), though up 11 percentage points over last year.

Edgar Martinez, 209 votes, 36.5 percent: Fighting the designated hitter uphill battle. If you don't have 3,000 hits, it helps to have worn a glove at some point during your career.

Alan Trammell, 211 votes, 36.8 percent: Heading in the right direction after 24.3 percent last year, but still undeservedly playing the "bye" to the voters' "good."

Fred McGriff, 137 votes, 23.9 percent: CSI investigators -- or are those PETA reps? -- checking for pulse as Crime Dog's 493 career homers get no love.

Larry Walker, 131 votes, 22.9 percent: Even the Canadian exchange rate doesn't favor Cooperstown.

Mark McGwire, 112 votes, 19.5 percent: Big Mac Fan Club not allowing new members. Remarkably consistent from last year's 115 votes, 19.8 percent.

Don Mattingly, 102 votes, 17.8 percent: Just three more years left on the ballot. Hope Donnie Baseball's managerial stint with Dodgers outlasts that.

Dale Murphy, 83 votes, 14.5 percent: A Hall of Fame man, and even if he can't be in Cooperstown, I hope baseball somehow involves him more.

Rafael Palmeiro, 72 votes, 12.6 percent: Did this guy or his career really exist? Outside of wagging a finger at Congress, I mean?

Bernie Williams, 55 votes, 9.6: To those who support Bernie and Jorge Posada: How about we just put every Yankee who played between, say, 1996 and 2001, into the Hall?

No soup -- or future ballots -- for you

Juan Gonzalez, 23 votes, 4 percent: The Rangers had a homecoming ... and no Hall of Fame supporters showed up for Juan-Gone.

Vinny Castilla, 6 votes, 1 percent: Six votes?!?! Vinny had one Hall of Fame moment. That came near the end of his career when he walked into the stadium past me as I was arguing with a security guard who wasn't buying my press pass, stopped, grinned, then approached me in the clubhouse wanting the scoop ... and complimenting me for getting in the guy's face so spiritedly.

Tim Salmon, 5 votes, 0.9 percent: Not Cooperstown worthy, but easily could join Dale Murphy in the all-time good guys' Hall.

Bill Mueller, 4 votes, 0.5 percent: The guy won a batting title (AL, 2003), but I think somebody mis-read Mueller's moving receipts for Hall votes.

Brad Radke, 2 votes, 0.3 percent: I'm assuming the two who voted for Bad Brad are refugees who watched him, incredibly, win 12 consecutive starts while going 20-10 for an absolutely miserable Twins team in 1997.

Javy Lopez, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Had the Braves allowed him to catch on nights when Greg Maddux started, he may have earned two votes.

Eric Young, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Very cool. Had no idea Eric Young's mother was in the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Jeromy Burnitz, 0 votes: Yeah, but he'll always have that starting berth for the NL in the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston on his resume.

Brian Jordan, 0 votes: Coincidentally, no votes for the NFL Hall of Fame, either.

Terry Mulholland, 0 votes: No votes, but gets points for being part-owner of the Dirty Dogg Saloon in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Phil Nevin, 0 votes: On the other hand, his managerial career (Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens) is taking off.

Ruben Sierra, 0 votes: Whatever happened to the Village Idiot?

Tony Womack, 0 votes: The New York precinct refused to consider him following that game-tying, Game 7 double against Mariano Rivera to set up Luis Gonzalez's game-winner in the 2001 World Series.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:57 am
 

Beltran talks hot, Indians now in mix

Carlos Beltran continues to sort through interest from at least five clubs -- maybe more -- and hopes to make a decision by Christmas, sources with knowledge of the discussions say.

The Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays were all said to be "in the mix" on Wednesday, and talks were heating up. By Wednesday night, the Indians had joined them in serious talks with the free agent outfielder.

Beltran is said to have offers for both two and three years, with the dollars varying significantly. He earned $20 million last season in the final summer of a seven-year, $119 million deal.

At this point, the six-time All-Star appears to be weighing his preferred city (cities?) against average annual value (AAV) in yearly salary. The many American League clubs involved suggest that, at this point in his career, teams view Beltran more as a designated hitter than as an everyday outfielder.

While Beltran still prefers the outfield, one source close to him said Wednesday that he would be open to DH'ing part-time.

One team that probably would offer Beltran the most time in the outfield is St. Louis. The Cardinals have been aggressive all along, especially since Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. St. Louis figures to move Lance Berkman to first base and go with Allen Craig in right field, with Matt Holliday in left and Jon Jay in center field. Beltran could mix in both in center and right in a rotating Cardinals cast.

Beltran has intrigued the Blue Jays all winter -- enough, according to a source, that their pursuit remained unchanged after it was revealed this week that the Rangers had won the posting for Japanese free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. In other words, did the Blue Jays, who were believed to be knee-deep in the Yarvish bidding, up their ante after losing the pitcher? No, they've been aggressive all along.

In Toronto, Beltran projects more as a DH-type, because the Jays, of course, have Jose Bautista in right field and Colby Rasmus in center. As of now, they've got newly acquired Ben Francisco, Travis Snider or Eric Thames in left field. Beltran has played very little left field in his career.

The Red Sox have had an exceptionally quiet off-season, losing closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies and so far failing to add any significant pieces. They have been looking for a bat to lengthen their lineup, and with right-fielder J.D. Drew gone, Beltran makes some sense in Boston. Right field can be demanding in Fenway Park, however, with the configuration of the fence, and David Ortiz is back as the Red Sox DH.

Tampa Bay, on a tight budget, needs help at both first base and DH, where Johnny Damon got most of the at-bats last year.

The Indians have been scrounging around for ways to improve their offense all winter, and their late entry into the Beltran talks Wednesday added intrigue as the outfielder moves toward making a final decision. Cleveland has been a distant admirer before -- the Indians spoke with the Mets last July about acquiring him in a deal. Beltran had no-trade powers then and, eventually, approved a deal to San Francisco. The Giants talked about bringing him back early in the off-season but scotched that idea fairly quickly because of a tight budget.

Adding Beltran not only would give Cleveland another potent bat that it seeks, but also depth behind center fielder Grady Sizemore. Banged up severely in recent years, Sizemore has undergone five surgeries in the past two seasons, including one to fix a microfracture in his knee. The Indians are set at the corner outfield spots with Mickey Brantley and Shin Soo-Choo, and at DH with Travis Hafner.

Now 34, Beltran batted .300 with 22 homers, 84 RBI and a .385 on-base percentage in 142 games last summer for the Mets and Giants. He's had serious knee issues in the past but was strong enough to produce an All-Star season in 2011.

The Rockies also were talking with Beltran, but earlier this week they signed former Minnesota Twin Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million deal.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:17 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 12:05 am
 

Something fishy in Anaheim

Fact: The Angels are 19-4 when rookie outfielder Mike Trout starts.

Fact: The Angels started their series with the Yankees on Friday trailing Texas by 2 1/2 games ... and with Trout on the bench.

So ... is Mike Scioscia working on throwing the AL West race?

The quick answer, obviously, is no. He's playing the angles he thinks are best for the Angels. Trout, who recently turned 20, starts against left-handers. Scioscia says Trout will be in Saturday's lineup when CC Sabathia starts for the Yankees.

Still, even with righty Bartolo Colon on the mound, it's difficult to believe Trout would be a worse option than Vernon Wells (.252 on-base percentage, starting in left field) or even Bobby Abreu (.253 batting average, designated hitter).

Scioscia says Trout took some "good swings" in the Seattle series. He also says the Mariners pitched him differently than they did a month ago.

"Now Mike understands what the pitchers are trying to do and is making some adjustments," Scioscia said.

Trout, named as Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year this week, is hitting .230 with a .299 on-base percentage and a .448 slugging percentage in 29 games with the Angels. He has five homers in 97 plate appearances.

Asked about Maicer Izturis sitting in favor of Alberto Callaspo at third base Friday night, Scioscia said, in a statement that extends to Trout as well: "We're looking for production right now. We're not thinking a month or two down the road. Guys are going to play where they match up."

In Trout's case, he understands that.

"You learn [with] every pitch every inning," Trout said. "If I need anything, I go to Torii Hunter or Vernon. They've played my position. Petey Bourjos, as well. He knows how I'm feeling. He's been through it."

Trout's highlight so far was smashing his first big league homer, a three-run job, in front of 15-20 family members and dozens of friends in Baltimore on July 24. The most difficult thing, he said, is "calming yourself down. The first couple of games, I was jittery."

The Angels are happy with the way he's handling himself. But they're still not going to play him every day.

In 63 plate appearances against right-handers, Trout is hitting .214/.302/.357.

In 34 plate appearances against lefties, Trout is hitting ..258/.294/.613.

"He's still our secret weapon on the sidelines," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "It's great to have a combination [Trout and Bourjos] to give the veterans a rest, and having a guy you know is going to bring something to the team ... I think all of our young kids have brought something."

Referring to their speed, Hatcher said: "Sometimes you don't even care if they hit it hard. They still might get a double."

"There's no doubt we have more speed on our club than we've had in the last 12 years," Scioscia said. "But we haven't had the on-base percentage to where we take advantage of it."

Meantime, Trout waits.

Likes: Ivan Nova, the Yankees' rookie starter. Good stuff, good kid. ... Atlanta's bullpen is unbelievable. It will be fascinating to see if Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O'Flaherty have enough gas in the tank to go all the way through October like this. ... Michigan-Notre Dame on Saturday with my wife ready to make pizza for kickoff. ... Still little better in life than a good ballgame at home with pizza. ... Speaking of which, the trendy Pizzeria Mozza (celebrity chefs Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich) just opened in Newport Beach, Calif., and is highly recommended by Scioscia.

Dislikes: What a blackout in the west on Thursday night. The entire city of San Diego lost power, as did parts of Orange County, Arizona and northern Mexico. They blamed it on one guy doing maintenance at an important switching station in Arizona. I don't know much about electricity, but how can there be no checks and balances in place? One guy can wipe out power for five million people? Mama mia. ... Aw, Grosse Ile 20, Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High 14 in Friday night football. The good guys lost.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Spirits above and behind me
"Faces gone, black eyes burnin' bright
"May their precious blood forever bind me
"Lord as I stand before your fiery light
"Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li
"I see you Mary in the garden
"In the garden of a thousand sighs
"There's holy pictures of our children
"Dancin' in a sky filled with light
"May I feel your arms around me
"May I feel your blood mix with mine
"A dream of life comes to me
"Like a catfish dancin' on the end of the line"

-- Bruce Springsteen, The Rising 
Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:35 am
 

Konerko sixth to 2,000 hits this season

ANAHEIM, Calif -- Highlights have been few and far between for the 2011 Chicago White Sox, but Paul Konerko put up one for the books when he cracked his 2,000th career hit in the eighth inning of Tuesday's series opener here.

The hit surely was especially meaningful to Konerko in that it was an RBI single against Ervin Santana that tied the game at 4-4 at a point in the season where the White Sox are desperate for every run, every win they can get. Konerko, a beloved figure on Chicago's South Side and widely respected throughout the game, becomes only the 13th player in club history to collect his 2,000th hit.

It's been a boom season for the 2,000-hit club: Konerko is the sixth man to join that club this summer. Previously this summer, Houston's Carlos Lee, San Francisco's Orlando Cabrera (then with the Indians), Cincinnati's Scott Rolen, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Texas' Michael Young each collected his 2,000th hit.

The White Sox dugout immediately erupted in cheers, then most of the players began waving for the baseball as soon as the play concluded with Alejandro De Aza crossing the plate. With the game 4-4, White Sox manager removed Konerko, who was DHing, for pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge.

Konerko also is at 393 career homers and soon could become only the sixth active player with 400 homers and 2,000 hits, joining Pujols, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta's Chipper Jones, Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero and Minnesota's Jim Thome.
Posted on: August 22, 2011 1:48 pm
 

If you can't stand the heat ... get out of Texas

All this talk about Dan Uggla, Andre Ethier and hitting streaks this season, the Rangers have had quite the hit streak of their own lately, you know:

Nearly two weeks ago, Aug. 11 to be exact, snapped a streak of 40 consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures in Dallas. A record? Close: It just missed the 1980 Dallas-area record of 42 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.

That the Rangers played on, unaffected, and continued to thrive is yet another testament to the current group of strong-willed players constructed by club president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington: When was the last time you heard talk that the Rangers won't make it to October because they'll wilt in the heat?

Used to be an annual topic of conversation.

Yet this summer, the hottest on record in Dallas since Pat Corrales' Rangers went 76-85 and finished fourth in the AL West in '80, so far hasn't even come close to melting Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Co.

As the Red Sox arrive for a three-game series starting with an excellent pitching match-up Monday -- new Boston acquisition Erik Bedard vs. C.J. Wilson -- the first-place Rangers have produced their third-best record ever after 128 games (73-55).

"We monitor it," manager Ron Washington says of the heat. "We go out in it, we don't go out in it, we've still gotta play in it.

"You work in it less. We'll have weeks where we will have worked out in the heat for three days, and on four days we did not. But you've gotta get your work in to get used to it."

During the 40-day streak of temps of 100 or higher, the Rangers played 22 home games. They went 16-6.

"It's our home-field advantage," pitching coach Mike Maddux says. "We take our pitchers out in the heat of day. That's when we do our running, and throw in the bullpen.

"We see it as a challenge: 'I'm going to out-last the other guy.'"

The absence of third baseman Adrian Beltre, out since July 22 with a strained left hamstring, has hobbled the Rangers more than the heat has suffocated them.

And it remains scorching: When the 40-day streak of 100 ended on Aug. 11, it wasn't exactly with a cooling trend. The temperature reached 98 that day.

More of the same is awaiting the Red Sox and Rangers this week: Highs of 104 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday, 102 Wednesday and back up to 104 Thursday.

The Angels follow Boston in on Friday for another AL West showdown. Again, the high is predicted to be 104 on Friday.

"There are nights when we're dragging," Washington says. "But really, who wouldn't drag in that stuff?"

Likes: Absolutely fantastic job by the Padres on Sunday in the ceremony retiring legendary closer Trevor Hoffman's No. 51. One of the best I've ever seen. They presented him with a 1958 Cadillac convertible, based on the stories Hoffman has told regarding how his late father, Ed, loved to drive the family around in a convertible. They brought plenty of ex-teammates and coaches back. And in the best move of the day, the Padres tracked down an old video of Ed Hoffman singing the national anthem at Fenway Park on opening day in 1981 when Trevor's brother, Glenn, played for the Red Sox. Watching Trevor, his wife Tracy and his mother Nikki watch that video -- and brothers Greg and Glenn -- if your eyes weren't moist, then you weren't human. ... Reading the book ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun. Some entertaining stories, and it's written at a fast-moving clip (oral-history style). But it's a guilty read, too: I can't help but think, don't I have more important things to read? ... If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to Netflix (or rent or whatever) Win Win on DVD. It's terrific. Paul Giamatti as a small-town New Jersey lawyer and wrestling coach who is struggling in both areas. ... College football in less than two weeks.

Dislikes: Where, oh where, are the exciting playoff races?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"In between the stops at the Cracker Barrel
"And 40 movies with Will Ferrell
"I need some way to occupy my time
"So I'm writing you a road song
"I sure hope you don't mind"

-- Fountains of Wayne, A Road Song

Posted on: August 12, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 1:52 pm
 

Love Letters: The Colt (not Indy Colts) edition

Waaaay behind in the mailbag department. The problem? Duh: I haven't been able to get to the Post Office to get stamps. ...

FROM: Rochelle:
Re.: Newest Phillie a perfect fit in Pence-ylvania

Great article. I think it's funny you referred to Hunter as a young colt ... because he was. He went to Arlington High School with me and we were the Colts.

I'll bet you were.

FROM: Ben

Hey Scott, guess the Yanks didn't fleece everyone when they gave up Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson in that 3-way trade with Detroit and 'Zona. For all the crap the Yankees take about them not being able to raise pitchers, looks like Kennedy is doing great as the No. 1. of the D'Backs staff. So let me get this straight going forward so we're consistent in our analysis. When it is a young pitcher and he is in NY, he has zero time to grow and improve himself, otherwise he is an overrated NY prospect. But if he comes into his own elsewhere, then it is OK? Plus I'm assuming all the other young pitchers in other systems are allowed to be eased into the big leagues with no stupid scrutiny that the media pays to young NY players? I'm convinced that the media, not the Yankees, ruined Joba's chances at having a normal chance of becoming a frontline starter. Anywhere else, he would've been given the chance, but since it is preposterous in the media's eyes to allow the Yankees to grow their own starters, he failed.

Hey Ben, you play in New York, you pay in New York. Your points are accurate. The problem is inherent in the Yankees' $200 million payroll and in who they are: They themselves will tell you their goal every year is not simply to compete, but to win the World Series. By that self-proclaimed definition, no, the young pitchers do not get fair time to grow and develop in the Bronx. It's true.

FROM: David
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Pirates, Indians on the move, fortified by July

Scott,

Are we jumping the gun here? Cleveland is one game over .500 and Pittsburgh is two. The Sox and Yanks are not going to get worse as we head into the home stretch and the Phillies may have the best rotation ever assembled. I realize you have to keep people from all areas of the US interested in your smack, but I have to give you the NFL version of C'mon Man!!!

Fair enough, my man. You bet I was jumping the gun. When it's July and the Pirates are in first place, you jump! We'll have plenty of time in September, October (and November, December, January and beyond) to dissect the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else.

FROM: Robert W.
Re.: With slump behind Jimenez, why would Rockies deal him?

Well, I can see you are obviously a Yankees and Red Sox hater. Why, when writing a story about a pitcher getting traded, you have to make a comment like that when the Phillies are the team that is buying the pitching? Way to go with an unbiased opinion, jackass!!!

I'm not quite sure to which comment you're referring. Lots of pithy, witty and intelligent comments leave me open to being called "jackass" by those who wish they were as creative as yours truly. My compliments, by the way, to your read of me being both a Yankees AND Red Sox hater. Most of the time, I get one of those sides accusing me of hating their team.

FROM: Doc

I don't think people give the Rockies pitchers enough credit. It's a miserable place to pitch. Curves don't curve, so you end up screwing around with your pitch selection, always fearful of the long ball. Typically N.L.pitchers coming to the A.L see their ERAs go up anywhere from 0.5 to 1.0 runs. I'll bet Jimenez injected into a pennant race will see his go down. I wish him good luck!! Seems like a good kid.

He is a good kid and Cleveland can really, really use the help.

FROM: Tony D.

Be honest. Have you seen Sabathia pitch even once this season. And I don't mean on Sports Center.

Several times. Next question?

FROM: Chuck

No-no is a stupid expression. Before ESPN had to rename everything to be cute, the universally accepted term was no-hitter. No-no comes from no hits, no runs. Ervin Santana gave up a run. He pitched a no-hitter. Pass that on to your headline writer.

Done. And good take on ESPN and cute.

Likes: Atlanta's Dan Uggla and the streak. Hope it keeps going, in case you hadn't read. ... The Braves retiring legendary manager Bobby Cox's No. 6 tonight. It was terrific seeing him in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame induction last month. ... What a fun week with the Tigers and Cleveland and the Brewers at Cardinals. Good stuff and a great glimpse of September. ... The turnaround of the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... The Iowa straw poll this weekend. ... My Weber grill. ... Late-summer blueberries. In pancakes, on cereal, in cobbler, topping vanilla ice cream. One of life's greatest treats. ... The new one from Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes. Good stuff.

Dislikes: Seeing all the back to school sales already. No, no, no! Can't be that time already, can it?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Every day's so caffeinated
"I wish they were Golden Gated
"Fillmore couldn't feel more miles away
"So, wrap me up 'Return to sender'
"Let's forget this five-year bender
"Take me to my city by the Bay
"I never knew all that I had
"Now Alcatraz don't sound so bad
"At least they'd have a hella fine Merlot
"If I could wish upon a star
"I would hitch a cable car
"To the one place that I'll always call my home"

-- Train, Save Me, San Francisco
Posted on: August 10, 2011 8:21 pm
 

Pirates in need of either air or allergy shots

I ran cross country for four years in high school. I was OK, not great, for a couple of reasons. One, I was smallish back then and not very strong. Two, hay fever clobbered me annually in Michigan, from August until the first frost in late September or early October. Ragweed pollen choked off my breathing passages, and there were days when it felt like I could get no oxygen into my lungs.

Sort of, I imagine, how the Pittsburgh Pirates are feeling these days.

For four months, the Buccos were one of the best stories in the game. Even Commissioner Bud Selig said that Pittsburgh's was the first score he checks every night. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Bucs were buyers at the July trade deadline.

Then, wheeze, wheeze. ...

Clint Hurdle's club fell into a 10-game losing streak that has all but asphyxiated Cinderella. At 56-60, the Pirates were 10 games behind Milwaukee. Steelers season again is on deck in Pittsburgh.

What happened?

Well, there are a lot of explanations, but those mostly are just accumulations of pieces of answers from over there and parts of answers from over here. Their pitching suddenly disappeared on them. Their bats went silent. The lowly Cubs and Padres swept them at home, socking the Pirates with their first winless homestand of six-or-more games in their 125-year history.

The Pirates were outscored by 45 runs during the 10-game streak.

Basically, the Pirates confirmed what many believed from the start: They're not quite ready to win yet.

Young legs and fresh arms are as important as ever in the game -- and, with the majority of steroids and greenies evidently expunged thanks to tighter testing, more important these days than at any time since the mid-1980s.

But young talent alone is not enough. Because among the many things the youngsters must develop is stamina -- both physical and mental -- for a 162-game grind.

The story of this year's Pirates is shaping up remarkably similar to that of last year's Padres, who also were the best story in the game until ... yes, until a 10-game losing streak knocked the wind out of them. Only difference was, the Padres skid started a couple of weeks later, on Aug. 26. Pittsburgh's started a month earlier, on July 29.

One common thread is poor Ryan Ludwick. The Padres acquired him last July 31 because they needed more production in the middle of their order. Pittsburgh dealt for him this July 31 for the same reason.

Now Ludwick is something of an unwilling expert on would-be contenders falling into 10-game losing skids and seeing their seasons crumble.

Though the losing streak wrecked their season, last year's Padres did gain a second wind, played in meaningful games all the way to the last day of their season and wound up with 90 wins.

These Pirates are only on pace for 77 wins, and the interesting thing now will be to see how they respond the rest of the way. This is an important stretch. General manager Neal Huntington has built a good nucleus of young players -- Andrew McCutchen, Neal Walker, Jose Tabata (who has been injured), Pedro Alvarez (who is having a miserable season). Pittsburgh is far closer to winning than it has been in a long time.

Still, what they need is some room to breathe, some room to grow. Some air.

That, or some allergy pills.

By my senior year, by the way, we won the league title. I contributed in a few small ways, scoring points here and there, but others did the heavy lifting. Still, it was a great ride and I made some lifelong friends while running over the trails and through the woods.

I still think about those days at this time of year, when school beckons and the baseball season shifts toward its final sprint. Sometimes the trails go uphill. Sometimes they disappear into the woods. The trick is in the persevering.

It would be a shame if things completely got away from the Pirates in 2011. This is an organization that has endured 18 consecutive losing seasons, a record for North American professional sports.

It won't be nearly the same as watching them fight for a spot in October, but if the Pirates can't climb back into the race, watching them battle for a .500 finish will still be pretty good drama.

Likes: Dan Uggla extending his hitting streak to 31 games. ... Sign-stealing controversies. There has been off-the-record chatter about those kind of capers in Toronto for years. It's amusing and entertaining. And my response is, if you think the Blue Jays are stealing your signs, then change your signs. ... The law in the great state of Michigan prohibiting public schools from starting before Labor Day. That's the way it should be everywhere. Summer doesn't end until Labor Day Weekend, does it? ... Here's to Jerry Garcia, who died 16 years ago Aug. 9.

Dislikes: The dancing woman in Cleveland behind the plate in that crazy Indians-Tigers game that ended at 2 a.m. the other night. Can't you just sit still and watch a ballgame? As if she wasn't distracting enough (I was home watching on television), she trended on Twitter. Now I can just see dozens of other wackos following suit looking for their own publicity. Please, no.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well the first days are the hardest days
"Don't you worry any more
"'Cause when life looks like easy street
"There is danger at your door
"Think this through with me
"Let me know your mind.
"Oh, oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?"

-- Grateful Dead, Uncle John's Band
 
 
 
 
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