Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.
Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.
Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.
Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).
It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.
That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.
But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.
And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.
Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.
Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.
Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.
Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.
Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.
Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:24 pm
Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:
-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.
-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."
-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.
-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.
-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.
-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.
-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."
-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."
-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).
-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).
-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.
Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.
Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.
"Good luck had just stung me
-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox, Brian Murphy, Chris Carpenter, Clint Hurdle, Derek Jeter, Ian O'Connor, Kirk Gibson, Lance Berkman, Milwaukee Brewers, Nate McLouth, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Professor Longhair, Ron Roenicke, Russell Martin, Shaun Marcum, St. Louis Cardinals, The Band, Tony La Russa, Zack Greinke
Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:53 pm
The Florida Marlins are off to the best start in club history, Josh Johnson is pitching like a Cy Young winner and Anibal Sanchez is threatening to re-visit No-Hitter Land. A lot is going right for the Marlins, and it couldn't be coming at a better time. This summer isn't just about this summer for Florida. With a new stadium set to open in 2012, these aren't your typical cut-rate Marlins. They need to stir interest and sell tickets and bring a strong product into their new ballpark to set a solid foundation.
This isn't to say the Marlins are looking to flex their financial muscle. But they're definitely looking to win, and behind Johnson, Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, they've got three starters going in the right direction. And, in Leo Nunez, they've got one closer consistently nailing things down.
Three thoughts on the Marlins as they tangle with Philadelphia this week:
1. Johnson is incorporating a slower curve with the help of Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire in an effort to work deeper into games. He's thrown more than 200 innings in his career just once, in 2009, and both Johnson and the Marlins would like to get him to that level consistently. Already, he throws a fastball, slider, sinker and change-up. With a fastball that already kills at 94, 95 m.p.h., the curve that is clocked around 77, 78 is leaving hitters with little chance.
2. The Marlins are off to their best start with All-Star Hanley Ramirez off to one of his worst, which bodes well for them for later this summer. Because, as one scout says, "Hanley will hit. He always hits." The man who has hit the most home runs of any major-league shortstop since 2006 started the season with none in his first 23 games. He's currently hitting just .195 with one homer and 13 RBI. While the Marlins wait, first baseman and team leader Gaby Sanchez, plugs along as one of the game's most underrated players.
3. Without question, the biggest difference in this year's Marlins is at the back end of games. Florida's bullpen is second in the NL with a 2.59 ERA. Last year's Marlins ranked ninth in the league with a 4.01 ERA and ninth in saves (39). This year, Nunez's 11 saves (the Marlins' total) are tied for third in the NL. Brian Sanches, Randy Choate and Ryan Webb have been instrumental in the improvement.
-- The Marlins are expected to pursue a third baseman at some point this summer, but veteran Greg Dobbs has been outstanding there in the wake of the fractured elbow prospect Matt Dominguez suffered late in spring training. Dobbs' steady glove and .359 batting average and .411 on-base percentage have eased some of the Marlins' pain.
-- One scout, who was in Seattle for this weekend's White Sox-Mariners series, on Milton Bradley being designated for assignment Monday: "He was going through the motions. Good for Jack [Zduriecik, Mariners' general manager]."
-- Among the reasons to believe Cleveland is for real: On Monday, the Indians' +48 run differential was best in the majors. Next-closest in the American League: The Yankees, at +38. Next-closest in baseball: St. Louis at +44, followed by the Phillies, who were even with the Yanks at +38.
-- Those watching closely the final two months of last season know that Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson's 5-0 start is no fluke. Masterson's 2.86 ERA from Aug. 4 through season's end in 2010 ranked ninth in the AL. Currently, his 2.11 ERA is fifth in the AL. "The last six weeks last year, he was able to repeat his delivery more often," Indians manager Manny Acta says. Part of that is, pitching coach Tim Belcher has helped him institute a series of checkpoints in his windup and deliver, which allows the 6-6 Masterson to be more efficient at making in-game adjustments. It's also allowed Masterson to reduce his walks. Over 47 innings pitched this year, he has 34 strikeouts and just 13 walks.
-- One scout on the Cubs: "They have no speed, and not much power."
-- The Padres have been shut out a stunning eight times in 34 games, twice as much as anybody else (the Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox and Athletics each has been shut out four times). Indications are, Petco Park is getting in the heads of newcomers like Brad Hawpe (signed over the winter) and Ryan Ludwick (acquired at last July's trading deadline) and others.
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Petco, where he's also managed several games as Colorado's skipper: "I think the worst damage it did when it was first built was to the home team. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth you could hear from across the other side when this thing was first built. I think it's been tinkered with since. I think perception is so huge in this game. The first thing hitters look for are flags and distances. Actually, I just try and get them focused saying, 'Look at all that grass out there. There's room for all kinds of hits. Let's focus on that.'"
-- More Hurdle on Petco Park: "I've got to believe if you put Tony Gwynn in here, you know what? He'd get a lot of hits in here. I do believe that, unfortunately, there's this thing called the male ego, and if that number's big out there [on the outfield fence] and you think, 'I’m still going to hit it out', before you know it, you're doing more grunting and manipulating your swing just to try and hit it out rather than just hit it hard."
-- Outstanding: Angels outfielder Torii Hunter's at-bat music for his first trip to the plate at home each night is the theme from Sanford & Son, the old television show. It started as a joke last week when Hunter was in a slump.
-- Great line from Larry Stone, the excellent baseball writer for the Seattle Times, on the rise of Justin Smoak: "The Mariners are trying to coax Pat Meares out of retirement so they can do it with Smoak & Meares."
-- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on counterpart Mike Scioscia earning his 1,000th win managing the Angels on Sunday: "You manage for 100 years, you will have 1,000 wins." Seriously, Guillen added, "I think it's a great thing, especially when you manage the same ballclub."
Likes: The "20 Greatest Games" on MLB Network is a cool feature. Watched the network's treatment of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris' 1-0 classic for the Twins over Atlanta, with Morris and John Smoltz in studio. It's worth seeing. ... White Sox outfielder Mark Teahen says he still keeps in touch with some of his ex-Royals' teammates -- the few left from when he was there. ... Glad to see LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder surgery) back in Milwaukee's bullpen. ... Latest CD rave: The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love. Man, that woman can sing.
Dislikes: Gatorade used to be so easy. You worked out, you sweated, you rehydrated. But now, there's Gatorade for before your workout (Prime), during/after your workout (Perform) and post-workout (Recovery). What if you drink them in the wrong order. Then what happens? ... So now Kate Hudson is in this Something Borrowed? Does she choose her roles, or handlers? And to think, there was such hope for her after Almost Famous.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You're the reason I changed to beer from soda pop
-- Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, (You're the Reason) Our Kids Are Ugly
Posted on: May 3, 2011 8:39 pm
Outtakes from the land of the Pirates, who aren't yet plundering anybody but at least are coming closer in the season's first month:
-- Part of why the 14-15 Pirates have remained competitive is because their bullpen mostly has been sensational. Closer Joel Hanrahan converted his ninth consecutive save opportunity Monday night in San Diego. Right-hander Jose Veras leads all NL relievers with a 15.32 strikeouts-per-nine innings-pitched ratio and has fanned 15 in his past seven appearances. Overall, Pittsburgh's bullpen leads the majors with a 2.12 ERA.
-- Manager Clint Hurdle's take: "Our starting pitching has been good, our bullpen has been better. Offensively, we're still trying to make sense of things. Defensively, some nights we're very, very good, and some nights we go, 'Ouch.'"
-- Second baseman Neal Walker's take on Hurdle, the new skipper: "Everything he preached, everything he talked about in spring training, he put into effect. That we'd be an aggressive club that played good defense and pitched well. He's a more vocal guy who gets his point across. He's letting us work into things."
-- Budding center field star Jose Tabata came out of Saturday's game with a "tight" right hamstring, sat out Sunday and was not in Monday's lineup. He was, however, in Hurdle's thoughts after Tabata said he figured he'd miss two games. "I have heard a rumor that Jose self-proclaimed two days out," Hurdle quipped. "So not only is he a 22-year-old outfielder, he's a part-time doctor." Looking to make sure Tabata's tightness doesn't become worse, the Pirates were to "re-assess" him on Tuesday.
Likes: Always enjoy talking music with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, and his latest rave is Melody Guy, a folk singer from Oregon. I'm going to check her out. ... Really like Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, not just as a center fielder, but as a personality. The dreads, the speed, the personality, the intelligence and charisma. He's the complete package. Hope he has a long career. ... Checked out the DVD How Do You Know? the other night and it was much better than anticipated. I always like Reese Witherspoon, anyway. Still, wasn't expecting much given how it bombed at the box office, but she, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd did a nice job.
Dislikes: Shin-Soo Choo becomes the latest in the game to be picked up on a DUI charge. C'mon, fellas, what do you think this is, the NFL?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I turn on the tube and what do I see
-- The Eagles, Get Over It
Posted on: May 3, 2011 7:04 pm
The Pirates currently have five of their own first-round draft picks on their active roster, but the fact that there are still cracks in the foundation after 19 consecutive losing seasons is evidenced by the fact that they've already added two waiver claims in the season's first month: Brandon Wood (from the Angels) and Xavier Paul (from the Dodgers).
Of those two, Wood is the guy whose reputation arrived in the game long before he ever did.
A ballyhooed first-round pick in 2003, Wood was supposed to be the Angels' Next Great Thing after producing one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of minor-league baseball at Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2005 when he batted .321 with 43 homers, 115 RBI, 51 doubles, 109 runs scored and a .672 slugging percentage.
Now? He's picking up the pieces of his career in Pittsburgh.
"It's been a crazy time, leaving my wife with an apartment and dog [in Southern California] and saying, 'See you in Pittsburgh when you can get here,'" Wood says. "Then she showed up and we leave on a trip."
Wood was the Angels' opening day third baseman last year but batted just .146 with four homers and 14 RBI in 81 games and wound up dispatched back to Triple-A Salt Lake. When he started slowly this year (.143 in six games), the Angels finally designated him for assignment on April 20, and Pittsburgh snatched him off of waivers two days later.
"Baseball-wise, this is a great opportunity for me," says Wood, who has made three starts at shortstop and one at third with the Bucs. "I wasn’t' going to go up again with the Angels. I had reached my point after not doing well in the first month-and-a-half to start the season last year.
"It wasn't pretty. They're in a situation where they have to win. There's so much pressure on a big organization like the Angels."
Clearly, Wood had reached the change-of-scenery-is-best part of his career. While there's always pressure in the bigs, maybe he'll handle it and hit for a team still in the shadows. At least, maybe enough to finally get a firm footing in the majors.
"This left me a clean chalkboard to start with," Wood says. "Clint [Hurdle, Pirates manager] said, 'Don't worry about the first month.'"
The first month has always been bitter to him in every taste of the majors in Anaheim ('07, '08 and '09 as well before his big chance in '10). Maybe with this move, he can change that.
"We've talked a little, and I'm going to get my at-bats, be it at third base, shortstop, first base, second base or even coming off the bench to hit," Wood says. "I'm good for it all."
Meanwhile, wife Lindsey and their pooch -- a seven-year-old blind Pug with diabetes named Elvis -- have found a place to live back in Pittsburgh.
Maybe it'll be the start of a successful new chapter -- both for Wood, and for the Pirates.
Posted on: May 29, 2009 6:56 pm
Outside of two fantastic months in 2007, the Colorado Rockies have been as irrelevant as any team in the majors. Whether Friday's sacking of manager Clint Hurdle will change any of that, I don't know.
What I do know is this: Judging from past directional changes in Colorado, odds are, it won't.
Even counting their World Series season in '07, heading into Friday night's series opener with San Diego, the Rockies stood at 117 games under .500 since Dan O'Dowd became general manager in 2000.
They have finished with a losing record in seven of the past eight years and in nine of the last 11. They have finished either in last place or next-to-last in 13 of their 16 seasons. And at a major-league-worst 14 games back in the division right now, they're poised to add to it.
Even under new skipper Jim Tracy.
What got Hurdle gone is that, even measured against this historical sad-sack level of play, this year's Rockies are lagging. Take away the Dodgers, and the rest of the NL West stinks worse than the dumpster outside of a fish market. Yet the Rockies still can't help but belly up to the underachiever's bar.
Both Hurdle and O'Dowd entered '09 in the final year of their contracts, and if Troy Tulowitzki doesn't snap out of his slumber sometime soon, it might be O'Dowd's turn to say the next farewell. Tulowitzki, awarded a six-year, $31 million deal that takes him through 2013, has been awful.
One of the main questions asked all season in Colorado has been, "Is Tulo pressing?" and, whether the answer is "maybe a little" or "Hell, yeah!", there's no getting around the fact that his numbers directly relate to the Rockies' dive and Hurdle's axing: He has just three hits in 38 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and recently just snapped an 0-for-27 skid in those situations. Tulowitzki currently owns a .318 on-base percentage, a .393 slugging percentage, a .227 batting average and 34 whiffs.
And it extends upstairs to the owner's suite: In trading free-agent-to-be Matt Holliday over the winter, the Rockies were implicitly signing a non-compete clause. Again: The NL West reeks. It wasn't going to take that much to stay in contention this summer (especially when building the team last winter, before it was a given that the Dodgers would re-sign Manny Ramirez and bag Orlando Hudson). Clearly, winning is not at the top of the Monfort family's to-do list.
Two years ago, I wondered how the Rockies could justify extending the contracts of Hurdle and O'Dowd through 2009. Six months later, they capped the best season in their history by winning an incredible 21 of 22 games and storming into the World Series.
What that is now, though, is the exception to the norm. And an organization that has changed directions more often than Magellan over the past decade sets sail in a new one yet again.s
Likes: Clint Hurdle is a good man and I hate to see him go. After I ripped the Rockies in the '07 column linked to above, he confronted me a couple of months later and it was the beginning of an entertaining give-and-take, which I detailed in this column from October, 2007. We both share a passion for music and we even exchanged a few CDs after that. I'm listening to one he gave me, Neil Young's Chrome Dreams II, as I write this. In fact, when I last saw him earlier this month, I asked him what he thought of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive. It was after an interview as the Rockies were scuffling, and he misunderstood at first and said, "Oh, I'm staying positive." Knowing Hurdle, he still is today, too. Even as ex-manager of the Rockies.
"You don't care who you aggravate
-- Stone Coyotes, So Long, I'm Gone, Goodbye
Posted on: May 4, 2009 11:14 pm
Manuel Corpas has gone from closer to hanging onto the major leagues by the tiniest piece of dental floss in Colorado.
The struggling right-hander, who took the closer's job from Huston Street last month before giving it back last week, has been charged with three of the Rockies' past five losses and has watched his ERA grow to 6.75.
His most egregious recent transgression was issuing a leadoff walk to seldom-used San Francisco backup catcher Steve Holm to start the 10th inning of a scoreless game on Sunday. Two batters later, Holm scored on Rich Aurilia's single and the Rockies lost their seventh one-run game of the season, 1-0.
There were some who thought he would be diverted to Triple-A Colorado Springs before the Rockies' series in San Diego finishes this week but, as of Monday, Corpas was still in the Rockies' bullpen.
"He's on the team," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said.
What's especially frustrating to the Rockies is that Corpas appears to make progress when working in the bullpen with pitching coach Bob Apodaca but it doesn't show up on the field.
"Guys that go down to the pen with him, you see what you want to see, but it's transferring that into the game," Hurdle said.
So for now, the Rockies appear back to Street closing and Corpas working in the ... sixth? Seventh? Only in blowout games until he starts hitting his spots and gets that .409 opponents' batting average in order?
"We're going to have to find places in the game where we can remove him from the flame," Hurdle said.
Likes: Zack Greinke 6-0 with an 0.40 ERA after clipping the White Sox. How about more than 6,500 fans buying walk-up tickets in Kansas City on a Monday night? The kid has allowed just two earned runs in 45 innings this season. The Greinke Express hits Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday night. ... What a weekend for Seattle second baseman Jose Lopez. He punched a game-winning single to beat Oakland in the 15th inning Sunday, two days after he put the exclamation mark on a 14 pitch at-bat against Oakland's Russ Springer with a game-winning single to lift the Mariners to an 8-7 victory. Lopez fought off nine two-strike pitches during the at-bat and, right now, it looks like something special is brewing in Seattle. ... Hey, my daughter's softball team won the 12-and-under league championship on Saturday. Yes, congratulations to ... ready ... Batta Batta Bling. You should see some of the other names in the league: How about Batitude? And my favorite, Green Eggs and Slam. ...
Dislikes: Haven't gotten a chance to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. The movie should pack 'em in based on the title alone (though I gotta say, with Matthew McConaughey in it, my first thought is, "rental"). Anybody seen it yet? Is it funny?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well she was blond and tall
-- Mudcrutch, The Wrong Thing To Do
Posted on: July 16, 2008 4:01 am
NEW YORK -- It was shades of Milwaukee in the wee hours Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and not in a good way.
Lovely town, Milwaukee, but baseball is still scarred from the embarrassing All-Star tie played there in 2002. And as the AL and NL were deadlocked in the 15th inning in the 79th All-Star Game, each manager had called on his last available pitcher -- Scott Kazmir in the AL, and Brad Lidge in the NL.
Things were so grim in the NL dugout, especially with San Francisco's Tim Lincecum unable to pitch because he was stricken with the flu Tuesday, that Cubs closer Kerry Wood volunteered. Wood was taken off of the active roster because of a blister on his right index finger, but he was here in uniform.
"I asked if I could go, but I don't think I was an option," Wood said. "I think because they had taken me off of the active roster."
He asked bench coach -- and Cubs manager -- Lou Piniella, and the two of them were stumped for a minute.
"Maybe," Piniella told Wood, on the basis of Lincecum being out.
While that was left unclear -- Wood never did even go down to the bullpen and warm up, let alone pitch in the game -- NL manager Clint Hurdle was dangerously close to asking Mets third baseman David Wright to make his major-league pitching debut had the game gone much further.
"I told David, 'You were the last pick, I went and got you, have you ever pitched in an All-Star Game?'" Hurdle said. "I said, 'You wanted to be in this thing, that's all I've read, all I've heard for the last three days. You won't believe how much you might be in it here real quick.'"
Indications were, though, that there was no way the game was going to let another Milwaukee occur.
"We were told the game would find a way to finish itself," Hurdle said. "I'm good with that. That's communication. Black and white. Plain and simple. We knew that going in. We talked about it before the game."
It was only the second walk-off victory for the AL in All-Star history, the other one coming in 1941.
And in a statistical oddity -- the Elias Sports Bureau dug this up -- the NL fielded a lineup Tuesday that included Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters with batting averages of .340 or higher for the first time in an All-Star Game since ... 1941.
Back then, the AL batted Joe DiMaggio (.357) third, Ted Williams (.405) fourth and Cleveland's Jeff Heath (.371) fifth. Tuesday, the NL batted Lance Berkman (.347) third, Albert Pujols (.350) fourth, Chipper Jones (.376) fifth.
The AL won that '41 game on Williams' game-ending homer.
Go figure: When the game got late and the lineups got crazy, NL manager Clint Hurdle moved Cristian Guzman to third base. Guzman has started more than 1,000 major-league games at shortstop, but had never played third. He made a terrific play on a Carlos Quentin chopper to end the 11th.
The NL had been 9-0-1 in All-Star extra inning games.