Posted on: March 8, 2012 7:59 pm
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Small world, baseball. So it's not a shocker that Yonder Alonso knew a few Padres when he was traded from Cincinnati.
He was teammates with three current Padres at the University of Miami -- catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Blake Tekotte and catcher Jason Hagerty -- on a Hurricanes team that was the No. 1 seed entering the 2008 College World Series.
But the best story is his acquaintance with center fielder Cameron Maybin.
"My first impression was, 'Geez, who is this guy?'" said Maybin, who first encountered Alonso when they were playing Florida travel ball as high schoolers.
Maybin was playing for the Midland Redskins, Alonso for the Florida Bombers.
When the two met, Maybin says, Alonso went 4 for 4 with three home runs.
"I still have the tape of that game," Maybin says.
Playing alongside Alonso for the Bombers: current Blue Jays catcher J.C. Arencibia, Reds pitcher Mat Latos (whom Alonso was traded for, ironically), Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia and Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay.
"They were sick," Maybin says.
The Twins drafted Alonso in the 16th round that year (2005), but he passed and went to the University of Miami instead.
"I needed it," Alonso said. "I wasn't ready for pro ball. I needed more baseball in me, and I needed to mature a little bit more."
Sunblock Day: Cool Thursday, but the wind stopped and that made all the difference. As predicted, the high was right at 60 degrees.
Likes: Chris Getz, vying for a job as Kansas City's second baseman. Good kid. He loved the fact that I was wearing a "Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band" hoodie in Royals' clubhouse (hey, it's been cold ... and he's from the Detroit area). ... Sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. Perfect combo... Spotting a Culver's Frozen Custard in Arizona. ... Old Town Scottsdale. You can't go wrong. ... The Jacuzzi at my hotel pool, which provides some pretty solid therapy for this doggone oblique strain that has been nagging at me (yes, spring training can be tough for writers, too!).
Dislikes: Clocks changing Saturday. Ugh. I like the idea of it being light later and later. Love it. But man, I hate giving up that hour of sleep Saturday night.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"We're gonna need each other
"So I'll drive while you sleep
"And when I get too tired you can take the wheel from me"
-- Steve Azar, Hard Road
Posted on: December 22, 2011 9:21 pm
File this under the Life Goes On Dept.:
The St. Louis Cardinals lost three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols ... and still may enter 2012 as NL Central favorites.
Yes, you read that right.
That's what two years and $26 million -- oh, and a full no-trade clause -- to free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran does for the Redbirds. No guarantees of course, because his knees have more mileage on them than Don Rickles. But if Beltran, at 34, can produce as he did as an All-Star last summer, look out.
Defending division champion Milwaukee is on the brink of losing Prince Fielder, and the Brewers could be without NL MVP Ryan Braun for the first third of 2012 if his suspension for a testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug is upheld. The Reds are coming off of a highly disappointing season and have young starters surrounded by lots of questions (Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, Mike Leake). The Cubs have miles to go. The Pirates fell off in the second half last season. Houston? Please.
In St. Louis, this isn't about the Beltran of 2006, when he played in 140 games and blasted 41 homers and collected 116 RBIs. That Beltran but a memory -- just as is the image of him standing there frozen at home plate, gawking at Adam Wainwright's knee-bending, Game 7 curve for strike three that sent the Cardinals, and not Beltran's Mets, to the World Series.
No, this is about how today's Beltran fits in with, yep, Wainwright and the rest of the post-Pujols Cardinals.
Wainwright should be sufficiently recovered from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery to start the season in the rotation. Add him to Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse and that's a winning rotation. Always, you start with pitching.
Beltran alone would not solve St. Louis' issues, pre- or post-Pujols. But with Matt Holliday (left field) and Lance Berkman (first base) in place, and with promising outfielders Jon Jay (center field) and Allen Craig (right field), now you've got something. Beltran fits well into that rotation. Veteran Rafael Furcal back at shortstop, World Series hero David Freese at third base ... mm-hmmm, the Cardinals will miss Pujols, but they're still versatile and potent.
With all that, first-year manager Mike Matheny shouldn't need to ride Beltran into the ground. But with Craig probably set to open the season on the disabled list following November knee surgery, Beltran can plug into right field early, stabilize the outfield and add depth and power to the lineup.
When Craig returns, Matheny surely will have no problem finding enough at-bats for Beltran in center and right field.
If he's got his legs under him, his bat is still there: His .525 slugging percentage in 2011 for the Mets and Giants ranked eighth among NL outfielders. Overall, he batted .300 with 22 homers and 84 RBI in 142 games.
You can argue that St. Louis overpaid for a guy who turns 35 in late April. But Colorado gave Michael Cuddyer $31.5 million over three years. It's a lot of money, but it's also a short-term commitment for St. Louis.
In that short-term, especially when measured against the rest of the NL Central right now, it looks like smart money. Yes, Pujols is gone. But that doesn't necessarily mean turn out the lights in St. Louis.
Posted on: October 2, 2010 9:42 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- As if Sunday's series finale here wasn't dramatic enough, the two starting pitchers are guys who have been involved in controversy during the Giants-Padres skirmishes this season.
The Giants wound up losing two of three in San Francisco this weekend. The losing pitcher in the Friday game? Sanchez.
Meanwhile, right-hander Mat Latos, San Diego's struggling ace, gets the ball in Sunday's regular season finale and surely will be a target of another sellout crowd. The San Francisco media seized upon one of Latos' comments to CBSSports.com following Tuesday's frustrating loss to the Cubs, and it's caused quite a stir in the area.
After losing to the Cubs as the Giants took first place in the NL West, Latos said that, "Baseball works in funny ways. The only way I could honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with 'San Francisco Giants' across their jerseys. We didn't. We added two guys [Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick]. We've been the same team all year. We haven't just gone and grabbed guys from other teams."
Since the season started, the Giants have added Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Mike Fontenot, Cody Ross and relievers Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez. Ross earlier this week called Latos' comments "asinine."
Latos, 22, is 14-9 with a 2.92 ERA, including a 2-1 mark and a 2.25 ERAS in five games started against the Giants this season.
But over his past four starts, Latos has a 10.13 ERA and has not made it out of the sixth inning.
"He has to be calm," Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "He has to be calm and relaxed, let his talent take over. He can't let his emotions get in the way of his talent.
"He lets his emotions get to him and then he starts throwing the ball instead of making his pitches. The biggest thing will be keeping his composure."
Sanchez, 27, is 12-9 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts this season, and his history with San Diego is an interesting one.
He no-hit the Padres in July, 2009. He also was on the losing end of a 1-0 decision in San Diego in April during which he held the Padres to just one hit over seven innings.
"Jonathan's done a great job for us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We need him to go out and give us a chance."
Posted on: September 29, 2010 1:45 am
SAN DIEGO -- Adrian Gonzalez made a bold prediction on Sept. 15, after his squad took two of three in Colorado: If the Padres scored four or five runs a game the rest of the way, they would win the NL West.
Since then, the numbers have conspired badly against Gonzalez and his Padres.
They have mustered just four or more runs only five times in 12 games since that day.
In those five games, they're 4-1.
In the seven games in which they've scored three or fewer, the Padres are 1-6.
Emphasizing the struggle, San Diego has managed only a total of four runs over its past 27 innings.
Since Aug. 24 in spacious Petco Park, the Padres are 0-9 when they allow four or more runs at home.
San Diego's 5-2 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night was devastating to the Padres not just because they now trail the Giants by two games in the NL West and Atlanta by 1 1/2 games in the wild-card chase. No, the loss also was devastating in the method.
The normally sure-footed Padres committed three errors. Mat Latos failed to field a ball in the fifth and, three batters later, Miguel Tejada, ranging into the hole to field Starlin Castro's grounder, threw the ball into the dugout when he had no play.
Gold Glover Adrian Gonzalez booted a ground ball in the seventh and failed to cover first base on a play in the ninth (second baseman David Eckstein threw to pitcher Edward Mujica for the out as Gonzalez stood frozen, watching).
"Baseball works in funny ways," said Latos, now 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA over his past four starts. "The only way I could honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with 'San Francisco Giants' across their jerseys. We didn't.
"We added two guys [Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, now hitting .221 with five homers in 54 games with the Padres]. We've been the same team all year. We haven't just gone and grabbed guys from other teams."
In the season's final week, the contenders making the least number of mistakes emerge to play another day. It's that simple.
And when you're dragging around an anchor of an offense the size of the Padres', your margin for error is minimal.
Likes: The Cincinnati Reds store staying open all night at Great American Ballpark on Tuesday after they clinched. Very cool. Good for the Reds. ... The Baseball Project and Craig Finn (of The Hold Steady) with their new song Don't Call Them Twinkies. Great stuff, with a clear eye for the history of the Twins. Make sure to check it out.
Dislikes: Come on. The guy who owns the Segway company dies when ... he apparently accidentally rides his Segway over a cliff in England? How ironic is that?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You gotta grow, you gotta learn by your mistakes
-- Gerry Rafferty, Get it Right Next Time
Posted on: July 12, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 8:32 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- How long has it been since the National League has won a freakin' All-Star Game?
Let's just say this: Last time the NL won, 1996 in Philadelphia, Bob Dole was running for president.
It's weird, it's bizarre, it's ugly and it's a subject the National Leaguers get tired of answering. Current count: The AL's unbeaten streak has reached 13 years, including winning the past seven in a row (since the humiliating 2002 tie in Milwaukee).
Yet silly as this sounds, there is a very real sense that the tide might be beginning to shift away from Junior Circuit dominance in the Mid-Summer Classic.
Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Florida's Josh Johnson. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. All All-Stars this year. And, Washington's Stephen Strasburg, and San Diego's Mat Latos, who very well could debut as All-Stars next summer when the game hits Phoenix.
You know about Strasburg. And Latos was the next pitcher NL manager Charlie Manuel would have chosen in the event of one more injury scratch.
"It needs to turn for us, the way it's been going," says San Diego manager Bud Black, a coach on Manuel's NL staff this week. "There are some fine young power arms in the National League.
No question. But there is more sizzle in the NL's pitching this summer -- especially given all the incredibly talented young arms -- than there has been in quite some time.
"Just looking at our staff, I know I wouldn't want to be a hitter on the other side," says Mets third baseman David Wright, who has been in the NL clubhouse for the past four losses. "We have some power arms, really, top to bottom. Just seeing their age and the ability and the upside and what they've accomplished already is amazing.
"I know how I feel with a bat in my hands in the box against these guys. Then when you string together the depth that the NL has with their young power arms, it's pretty impressive."
Jimenez comes into the game with 15 wins, a no-hitter against Atlanta this year and a 33-inning scoreless streak compiled during one especially torrid stretch in May and June.
Johnson leads the majors with a 1.70 ERA and has allowed no more than one earned run in 10 of his past 11 starts.
Lincecum has won back-to-back Cy Young awards, Strasburg is showing signs of having Cy Young stuff ... the list goes on.
In the NL, Wright has been watching most of them from the batter's box.
"You know that it's going to be a rough day when you're battling to draw a walk," Wright says. "Or you're battling to plate one guy and you know you have to be perfect as far as situational hitting just to plate a run, that you're not going to have that big inning where you can put up some crooked numbers.
"Where you have to battle and grind and fight and almost hope that the other team makes a mistake. You know what an uncomfortable at-bat it is. You know what they're capable of doing."
Add Philadelphia's veteran ace Roy Halladay, who will pitch for the NL for the first time following six All-Star appearances for the AL, and Atlanta's cagey Tim Hudson, who is making his NL debut Tuesday following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery (and two All-Star selections when he was pitching in the AL), and it's not an easy staff to face.
As for Jimenez and Johnson, the NL's two most dominant pitchers in the first half and the ones many AL hitters will see for the first time on Tuesday night, well, Wright says his least favorite to face is. ...
"Neither. We've been fortunate in that we've missed Josh Johnson the last few times we've played the Marlins, but it's no fun having him in the division.
"When you go in for a series in Miami, you always know which day Josh is pitching. You know you'd better win the game before that or the game after that or the other games because you're likely not going to win that one."
Whether the same will hold true for the All-Star Game, well ... it's got to turn one of these years, doesn't it?
Posted on: July 4, 2010 4:49 pm
-- Stephen Strasburg, discuss.
-- OK, here's my part of the discussion: I think the right thing was done not only in leaving him off of the All-Star ballot, but also in not listing him among the final five men for whom fans can vote. You know he would have won that in a landslide. As I blogged the other day, the guy's career has barely achieved liftoff -- there are others in line in front of him for the All-Star Game. Besides, the Nationals are so worried about his innings-pitched count that they're probably going to shut him down by early September. So why shouldn't he wait a year or two before making his All-Star debut? That said, it's one hell of an argument, and colleague Gregg Doyel makes the contrary argument (big surprise there, huh?) here and, as usual, does it very well. He's wrong, but he's good.
-- Biggest snub? Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo not being on the NL team. Forget a simple roster spot. He should be starting.
-- How can the San Diego Padres have by far the best pitching staff in the game one-through-12 this season and not have one pitcher on the NL team? Closer Heath Bell is one of the five players up for the fan vote for the last spot on the team. But starter Mat Latos (9-4, 2.62 ERA) should be on the team, and starter Clayton Richard (6-4, 2.74) merits consideration. But the real snub is that set-up man Luke Gregerson didn't make it despite a strikeout-walk ratio that is sick: 51 K's against six walks over 40 1/3 innings. What, the NL team has a death wish by not inviting San Diego pitchers?
-- Best All-Star story: Cincinnati reliever Arthur Rhodes, who, as a 40-year-old first-time All-Star, is the third-oldest All-Star "rookie" in history. Rhodes from April 13-June 26 made 33 appearances for the Reds without allowing a run, equaling a single-season record he now shares with Mark Guthrie (2002, Mets) and Mike Myers (2000, Rockies).
-- Nicest All-Star story: Arizona outfielder Chris Young, who got himself so twisted up at the plate last season that the Diamondbacks shipped him back to Triple-A to fix his mechanics (and for his own sanity) last summer, bounces back to earn his way onto the NL team. Young has 16 homers, 57 RBI and 14 steals and is one of the few bright spots in Arizona this summer.
-- With the 5 p.m. start time to the Tuesday, July 13 game in Anaheim, you'll be hearing so much about "twilight" you'll think vampires (or Kristen Stewart) will be playing. No question, in the Year of the Pitcher, pitching should dominate for at least the first half of the game. Hitters will not be too crazy facing Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson, David Price, Jon Lester, Cliff Lee and the rest in the twilight.
-- Quick reference guide: The American League has won seven consecutive All-Star Games since the tie in Milwaukee in 2002, and 12 of the past 13 (including the tie). The NL has not won since 1996 in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.
-- The new rule this year by which each manager can designate a position player to re-enter that game in the late (or extra innings) if the last available position player at any position is injured) is cheesy. I know Commissioner Bud Selig's special on-field committee is a crack staff, but it won't be long until we'll have Little League everybody on the roster gets to bat rules in place. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio used to play seven, eight, nine innings. Today's "everybody gets a chance to play" mentality is weak.
-- You'll also be seeing endless replays of the big Bo Jackson 448-foot homer to dead center field against Rick Reuschel in the 1989 game.
-- Vladimir Guerrero returning to Angel Stadium as an All-Star with Texas will be intriguing to everyone but Angels fans.
-- Rookie Jason Heyward's announced plan to participate in batting practice with the NL All-Stars, because he was voted in by fans, but to sit out the game, because he's on the disabled list, is classy.
-- The painted Mickey Mouses (most featuring All-Star designs on Mickey) they're placing around Anaheim look very cool. And this from a cranky guy who doesn't give two hoots for Mickey, and a guy who generally avoids Disneyland (and Disneyworld) at all costs (I just despise crowded places where you stand in line forever).
Likes: The long piece on Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in Sunday's New York Times magazine. ... Seeing clips of Lou Gehrig's "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" each July 4 -- it was delivered 71 years ago Sunday -- never fails to produce chills. ... I'm not much for reality shows -- sports or otherwise -- but The Club, centered on the crazy Chicago White Sox, on MLB Network later this month looks too dramatic to pass up. ... George Steinbrenner's birthday being on July 4. How perfect is that? ... Man, does the Padres' Tony Gwynn Jr. have wheels.
Dislikes: We can all argue All-Star snubs, but there are too many players on each roster already. The 34-man rosters are ridiculous.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Driving in to Darlington County
-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County
Posted on: May 18, 2010 7:00 pm
As two pitching phenoms, San Diego's Mat Latos and San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez, prepare to tee it up later tonight in the Padres' Petco Park, a few numbers regarding what might be the oddest season series so far in all of baseball:
-- The Padres, first in the NL West, are 7-0 against the second-place Giants. The Giants have not held one lead -- not one! -- in any game so far and have not scored more than two runs in any game against the Padres.
-- The Giants' 0-7 run ties for the second-longest losing streak against an opponent to begin a season in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1977 Giants started 0-8 against the Chicago Cubs. After that, four other Giants' teams have started 0-7 vs. an opponent: 1933 (when the Giants were in New York, against St. Louis), 1980 (against the Dodgers), 1995 (Braves) and 2003 (Expos).
-- The Giants have mustered only 10 total runs in the seven games.
-- The Padres have outscored the Giants 21-9.
-- San Francisco is hitting just .197 against Padres pitching this year and averaging 1.3 runs per game.
-- Giants pitchers have held San Diego batters to a .229 average yet are 0-7.
-- The Giants are 21-9 against everybody they've played NOT wearing a San Diego uniform this year.
-- Remove their games against the Giants, and the Padres are 16-15 against everybody else.
-- With runners in scoring position in the seven games against San Diego, the Giants are hitting .096 (5 for 52).
-- With runners in scoring position in the seven games against the Giants, Padres batters are hitting just .182 (10 for 55).
-- Talk about the epitome of frustration: Sanchez is 0-2 against the Padres this season despite holding them to just two earned runs and four hits in 15 innings.
-- Entering Tuesday's start, Sanchez ranks fourth in the NL in worst run support, with the Giants scoring an average of 2.45 runs when he's on the mound (Houston's Felipe Paulino and Roy Oswalt ranks 1-2, with St. Louis' Brad Penny third).
-- The Giants have lost 11 of their past 13 games in Petco Park.
Likes: Carlos Zambrano. Bless his little Cubbie heart for at least trying to help the team and do what has been asked of him. ... That the Dodgers have won seven in a row entering Tuesday night's game without injured shortstop Rafael Furcal and without Andre Ethier for the past three games should make NL West opponents really nervous. ... I'm officially changing my mind. I've eased up and now find that in the right frame of mind, White Sox television broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson can be enjoyable. I will not change my opinion of Yankees' radio voice John Sterling, however. If evil folks are forced to listen to a play-by-play man as they burn in eternal flames, I'm sure it will be Sterling to whom they're listening.
Dislikes: How are we going to get through Tuesday night with no Stephen Strasburg updates? Alas, his Triple-A start in Rochester was rained out. Hang with 'em for another day. ... By the way, do yourself a favor and don't even rent Pirate Radio. I was looking forward to that flick last summer, or whenever it was in the theaters, but was scared off by reviews. Turns out, the negative reviews were so dead on it's not even worth renting. Great idea for a movie, and very, very poorly executed. And what a waste of good actors like Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
-- Bob Marley, Redemption Song
Posted on: May 2, 2010 8:46 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2010 8:51 pm
SAN DIEGO -- Along with the Mets, the Padres are one of only two National League teams to never have thrown a no-hitter. But where San Diego's pitching is concerned, the Padres on Sunday did touch history by throwing a third shutout against Milwaukee in four games.
Never before had the Padres thrown three shutouts in a series of any length. And leaving the Brewers' batters even more bewildered, the two runs the stingy San Diego pitchers allowed were the fewest in Padres' history in a four-game series.
This against a Brewers team that arrived here last Thursday leading the National League in runs scored.
So much for the continued absence of All-Star Chris Young, who has been on the disabled list since the season's first week.
"You talk all the time about pitching and solid defense and timely hitting going a long way," Padres manager Bud Black said after Sunday's 8-0 whitewashing of Milwaukee. "You can't discount what our starters have done early this season.
"To a man, they've all pitched well."
Sunday's winner was the graybeard of the group Jon Garland, a 10-year veteran. Kevin Correia, Clayton Richard, Wade LeBlanc and Mat Latos also have pitched so well that the discussion in San Diego recently has centered on just whom the Padres would send back to Triple-A when Young is ready to rejoin them.
"You see our bullpen," Padres catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "There are not a lot of guys people have heard of before. But if our starting pitching gets us a lead after seven innings, it's game over. Gregerson, Mike Adams ... guys nobody's heard of before, but they have outstanding arms.
"Unfortunately, we probably weren't at our best."
Overall, the Padres now own a major-league leading six shutouts. Though five of them have come at Petco Park (the other came in Cincinnati), that's two more than the Mets and San Francisco and double the number of any AL team.
"The fact that we held them to zero runs in three of four games and to two runs total in four games, we feel like we came away with a sweep," Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. said. "That's a very, very talented offense over there. Our pitchers really stepped up."
Heading into Monday's series opener against Colorado and Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, Padres pitchers now have worked 40 scoreless innings in their past 42 innings pitched going back to Wednesday's game in Florida.
Over their past 16 games, the Padres own a 2.08 ERA.