Tag:Oakland A's
Posted on: March 8, 2012 7:59 pm
 

Driving Florida's back roads with Maybin & Alonso

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: February 21, 2012 6:56 pm
 

Mariners shuffle lineup, Ichiro out at leadoff

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The game's worst-kept secret finally was uttered publicly -- and definitively -- by the Mariners here on Tuesday: Ichiro Suzuki, leadoff man extraordinaire for most of the past decade, will be bumped down in the lineup in 2012.

Suzuki, at 38, is coming off of his worst season in the majors. That, combined with the Mariners' persistent failure to score runs over the past two seasons, made it impossible for Seattle to justify keeping Ichiro atop the lineup.

Eric Wedge will begin the season with Ichiro hitting third. The manager envisions Chone Figgins, who was an All-Star as the Angels' leadoff man in 2009, returning to the top of the lineup in what likely will be a last-ditch grab at past glories for Figgins. Though it is not cast in stone, Wedge said second baseman Dustin Ackley likely will hit second.

Wedge said he and Ichiro talked on Monday before the Mariners made their decision public a day later.

"I sat down and explained to him the whys and wherefores," Wedge said. "This wasn't out of left field.

"He's on board with this. I was very clear with him, and he was very clear with me. This is all about the team. ...

"You look at the impact he can have in the middle of the lineup, it's greater than the impact that he can have at leadoff. It's that simple."

Suzuki, a lifetime .326 hitter, batted a career-worst .272 in 2011. It was the first time in 11 seasons that his average dipped below .300. The 2001 AL MVP's .310 on-base percentage also was, by far, a career low.

"I came in prepared mentally because there was a possibility I'd be hitting elsewhere," Ichiro said through a translator following Seattle's workout Tuesday.

Asked if it will be strange to not hit atop the lineup, Suzuki said: "Anything can happen in this game. It's not just leading off. That's the fun part of the game. Like I fell you guys all the time, I'm ready to pitch."

That likely will not be happening anytime soon. Though some Mariners' fans might swear at this point that Ichiro will take the mound before Figgins will bounce back.

Part of Wedge's thinking, he said, is to get Figgins back into his comfort zone. A colossal disappointment after signing a four-year, $36 million deal before the 2010 season, Figgins bottomed out last season at .188/.241/243. He suffered while doing so, managing what was thought to be a sports hernia through much of the season's final four months but what turned out to be a torn labrum in his hip.

"I'm happy to be healthy," said Figgins, who was married in the offseason. "We talked about what might happen [with the lineup], but I'm just happy to be healthy."

It's no secret that Figgins has been a fish out of water during his two years in Seattle, from having to adjust to a different (non-leadoff) spot in the batting order because of Ichiro to failing to figure out a way to fit his offensive game into Safeco Field.

Clearly, the Mariners are hoping that no small part of this move will result in a boost to Figgins' confidence.

"I'm going to give Figgins first shot at," the leadoff role, Wedge said. "I'm confident that Figgy can get back to his old self as a leadoff hitter. He got on base, scored runs, and really was a pain to opposing teams when he led off in Anaheim."

While the Mariners sort through the top two spots in their order and hope Figgins and Ackley can produce solid enough springs to solidify their roles, the heat will be on Suzuki, who has one year and $17 million left on his current Mariners' deal.

His slugging percentage has been below .400 in each of the past two seasons, and in three of the past four. His OPS has been below .800 in three of the past four seasons. He tweaked his batting stance over the winter, and now is utilizing a more wide-open stance this spring.

"I want to perform better," Suzuki said when asked why he made the changes. "We all make changes to perform better. That's one reason. That's the only reason."

He said he does not view the three-hole as requiring him to hit for more power, though that view likely will be at odds with other folks' expectations (starting with his employer). His career-high is 15 homers, in 2005. He had five last season. In his view, situations dictate some actions at the plate.

"I've always performed when wanting to hit a home run," he said. "Even when leading off, you want to hit a home run when it's the right time.

"That will not change."

His once jet-black hair now dotted with flecks of gray, Suzuki, according to Baseball Prospectus, saw his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) drop 100 points on line drives and 40 points on ground balls. Some of the former is attributable to luck (bad), while some of the latter likely is because of his age (getting old).

"I want him to make it his own," Wedge said of Ichiro and the three-hole in the lineup. "He's as smart a baseball player as we have in there. He wants to do what's best for the ballclub."

Said Ichiro: "I was always prepared to do what's best for the team."

Sunblock Day? Best day of the week so far. Temperature hanging in the mid-70s. Warm sun. Life is good.

Likes: Carlos Guillen, trying to stay in the game with the Mariners, intently watching the clubhouse television after practice. What was he watching? Footage of Prince Fielder joining his old Tigers teammates in Lakeland. ... Padres bullpen coach Darrell Akerfelds staying strong while batting pancreatic cancer. He underwent off-season surgery to determine whether his tumor could be removed, but doctors said it could not be because it was entwined with surrounding arteries. But the good news is, it hasn't grown since last year and Akerfelds is back in uniform for San Diego this spring. ... Mariners general manager Jack Zdurencik has put together quite a front office, including relatively new additions Ted Simmons, Joe McIlvaine and Chris Gwynn. ... Gwynn says his brother, Tony, is doing great after last week's surgery to remove a cancerous tumor inside his right cheek. The brothers spoke over the telephone, and Chris says Tony, who had a nerve removed from his cheek and another transplanted from his neck/shoulder area to replace it, sounds "normal." ... Best scene Tuesday: A father leaning over close to his young son while Felix Hernandez was throwing a bullpen session and telling the boy, "Listen to him pop that glove." ... One heck of a story from Thomas Lake in the current Sports Illustrated looking at Wes Leonard, the Michigan high schooler who made a winning basket and then died on the court last winter, and the Fennville community. ... The sesame swordfish with orange chile salsa at the newly opened Richardson's in Phoenix. Fabulous meal the other night.

Dislikes: Manny Ramirez signing with Oakland. More on that later in the week.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone
The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone

-- We Take Care of Our Own, Bruce Springsteen
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 6, 2011 1:18 pm
 

Arizona pondering Saunders' future

DALLAS -- The Diamondbacks are discussing a contract extension with Joe Saunders in talks that could either tie the left-hander to the Arizona rotation for a couple of more seasons ... or land him squarely on the trade block.

With young starters such as Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker close to ready, and young lefties David Holmberg and Patrick Corbin on the way, the Diamondbacks are internally discussing the merits of a two- or three-year extension to Saunders.

He's worked 200 or more innings in each of the past three seasons and, as such, provides shelter for a young staff growing into its future. But he's also arbitration-eligible and due a big raise from the $5.5 million he earned in 2011. Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA for the NL West champion Diamondbacks last summer.

If the Diamondbacks decide to go with their young pitching, the Diamondbacks could seize on a weak free agent market and perhaps deal Saunders as early as this week. The slow dance continues on the free agent market with Mark Buehrle (who is being pursued by more than a dozen clubs) and C.J. Wilson.

Beyond them and maybe Edwin Jackson, the best alternatives for clubs looking to acquire starting pitching this winter appears to be on the trade market, where Oakland is receiving hits on Gio Gonzalez, the White Sox are fielding inquiries on John Danks and Houston is shopping Wandy Rodriguez.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 8:10 pm
 

Rays carry season-end momentum into Game 1 win

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Who needs a triple play when you've got the left arm of the brilliant Matt Moore?

Who needs to bother worrying about needing to storm back from a 7-0 deficit when you've got a kid like him?

This time, the Tampa Bay Rays found another improbable avenue to victory: Making just the second big league start of his career, Moore led them there. He was brilliant in pitching seven shutout innings during Tampa Bay's 9-0 Game 1 Division Series romp over the stunned Rangers.

And suddenly, following the liftoff Moore gave them, the Rays have seized Texas' home-field advantage and, maybe even more impressive, carried their season-ending momentum straight into the playoffs after the emotional high of Wednesday night.

No other pitcher in major league history had started his team's first postseason game with just one big-league start under his belt. And Moore, 22, became the youngest AL pitcher to start Game 1 of the postseason since Oakland's Vida Blue in 1971.

The way he dominated one of the game's best lineups, you could have sworn that he cut his major-league teeth long ago. Same as his only other start, when he tamed the New York Yankees, shutting them out over five innings and fanning 11. Last pitcher that young to fan 10 or more Yankees in New York? Hal Newhouser of the Detroit Tigers in 1943.

This guy throws 97 m.p.h. with the ease of you and I playing catch. His curve is terrific. And manager Joe Maddon especially loves his changeup.

That's 17 strikeouts in 12 big-league innings so far against the Rangers and Yankees.
Posted on: July 28, 2011 5:49 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 6:20 pm
 

Braves, looking for bat, talk Ludwick with SD

Looking for an outfield bat, the Braves are engaging the Padres in trade discussions regarding Ryan Ludwick, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com.

Ludwick is not the only outfielder with whom the Braves are exploring a trade, but they are described as having significant interest in the 33-year-old. The Braves also have talked about Oakland's Josh Willingham, the White Sox's Carlos Quentin, Houston's Hunter Pence and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton.

The difference is that Ludwick and Willingham will cost less than Pence, Quentin and Upton.

Ludwick was held out of San Diego's lineup Thursday afternoon against Arizona, though manager Bud Black brushed off any suggestion that it was because a trade was imminent. The Padres acquired Ludwick from St. Louis at last year's trade deadline during a surprising season in which they won 90 games.

However, Ludwick was a bitter disappointment down the stretch in 2010 (.211, six homers, 26 RBIs in 239 plate appearances). While he's been better in 2011 (.238, 11, 62 in 412 plate appearances), he clearly is not in San Diego's future plans. A free agent this winter, it is believed that Ludwick will seek something in the neighborhood of a three-year deal. With his game not translating well in Petco Park, the Padres are not interested.

Willingham is hitting .240 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs for an Oakland team that long ago fell out of the race this summer.

There are two problems with the White Sox's Quentin, whom the Braves really like and have serious interest in:

One, he's more expensive than Ludwick or Willingham, according to sources. And, two, the Tigers apparently refuse to allow the White Sox to become full-blown sellers. Detroit lost again on Thursday, this time to the Angels, allowing idle Chicago to pull to within three games of the AL Central lead despite a 51-52 record. The White Sox are only two games behind Detroit in the loss column.

As for Pence, his market has exploded since San Francisco traded for Carlos Beltran. My colleague Danny Knobler writes that the Braves, Phillies and several other clubs checked in with the Astros on Thursday.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 7:09 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2011 12:22 pm
 

HOFer Williams managed his way right to the end

Compared to Dick Williams, sandpaper was as soft as newly laid sod. The business end of a nail was as dull as a polished marble.

Acerbic comes to mind. Irascible. The subtitle of his autobiography, No More Mr. Nice Guy, was A Life of Hardball. There was nothing soft about this man, not until he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008.

As Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage has said on more than a few occasions since, Williams was not a hugger. But when he finally got his long overdue notice that the Veterans' Committee had elected him, they shared plenty of hugs.

Why it took so long for the basepath Williams followed throughout a tobacco-stained life to lead into Cooperstown, I do not know. He was a baseball genius, one of the most brilliant minds ever to construct a lineup card. But I suspect his delayed Hall entry had something to do with the fact that he pissed off so many people along the way.

Oh, he was his own man all right. And from the time he piloted Boston's "Impossible Dream" season in 1967 through the 1980s, just about every loser within three time zones came begging for him to take over and perform some of his classic turnaround magic.

Problem was, wherever Williams landed, after his new employers got a load of his blunt manner and caustic "charm," the Fourth of July usually came next. It was fireworks time.

"I must lead all of baseball as a target for behind-the-back verbal assaults," he wrote in No More Mr. Nice Guy, co-authored by Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke. "I've been called mean, cruel, insensitive. I've been called a bully. I've been called a bastard and a son of a bitch."

Those who could see through all that, and those whose skin was tough enough, also called him a baseball savant.

"Dick Williams is the best manager I ever played for," Tim Flannery, former Padres utilityman and current Giants third-base coach, once said. "But as soon as he gets out of baseball, I'm going to run him over with my car."

His very first managerial gig was with those '67 Red Sox, a team that had finished ninth in the American League the year before. He steered them to the World Series, where they lost a seven-game thriller to the Cardinals. Then, seemingly just as quickly as he arrived, he was gone. He got into it with Carl Yastrzemski, feuded with owner Tom Yawkey, and Boston fired him in 1969.

It was only the start. In Oakland, he stunned Charlie Finley by quitting on the spot, telling the owner to stick it, after winning a second consecutive World Series title in 1973. He was unhappy with Finley's interference, and with the way the owner publicly humiliated infielder Mike Andrews after Andrews' untimely fielding gaffes in the Series.

In 1976, he was fired by the Angels after a brief tenure that included Williams ordering his players to take batting practice in a hotel lobby using Wiffle bats and balls, driving home his point that the hitters couldn't break anything.

He alienated his players in Montreal -- among other things, calling pitcher Steve Rogers a fraud -- to the degree that the Expos fired him during the 1981 stretch run just a few weeks before Montreal won the second-half (post-players' strike) division title and appeared in the playoffs for the only time in club history.

Locked in a power struggle with Padres president Ballard Smith and general manager Jack McKeon, Williams didn't show up on the first day of spring training in 1986 and was fired.

In Seattle, in the late 1980s, he called pitcher Mark Langston gutless.

But those are just the flashpoints. Legendary stuff, events that make Jim Riggleman's on-the-spot resignation with Washington last month look like a child playing dress-up.

The reason Williams was afforded so many chances to take on all comers was simple: Man, did the guy get results.

The Impossible Dream season in Boston remains legendary, both in New England and beyond.

"One of the best managers I ever played for," Yastrzemski said Thursday. "His leadership in 1967 was very instrumental in accomplishing The Impossible Dream."

In Oakland, he landed in 1971 and won three straight division titles and back-to-back World Series. The Expos improved under Williams, and the Padres romped to their first-ever World Series.

His force of personality was greater than all of those egos in Oakland combined. Reggie Jackson? Vida Blue? Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman? Are you kidding? To mold those guys into one unit pulling in the same direction, that's not coaching. That's managing.

He did not suffer fools gladly, and he did not tolerate threats to his authority. He was of a different age, a time before rookies were rushed to the majors, where managers are expected to provide on-the-job training.

"Playing without the fundamentals is like eating without a knife and a fork," Williams once said. "You make a mess."

If you knew Williams, the last thing you wanted to do was to make a mess around him. His expectations were through the roof. Few could meet them.

"It was all business on Dick's side, and that's what I really loved about Dick Williams," Gossage said Thursday. "No nonsense, absolutely no nonsense. What you saw is what you got, and that's what I loved about Dick.”
 
I can remember standing in the back of a group of reporters in his office after games in San Diego in 1985, a raw kid who was damn sure he wasn't going to ask any stupid questions. Let the cantankerous Williams have at it with someone else.

And I clearly remember greeting him at the winter meetings in '07, a day after his election to the Hall, the gruff old manager just beaming with pride and, yes, as Gossage said, even hugging a few people. It was quite a change, and quite a thing to see the way the Hall has the power to melt even the gruffest of hearts.

"Dick Williams' lasting legacy will be his innate ability to lead, turning franchises into winners wherever he managed," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said Thursday. "No one wore the mantle of 'Hall of Famer' more proudly than Dick."

Dick Williams, dead at 82 of an aneurysm?

I pity the Grim Reaper chosen to go get him.






Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Short Hops

Some quick mid-week notes:

-- Brandon Belt, who will be back and will be productive one day, made Wednesday's decision easy on the Giants by hitting just .192 with a .300 on-base percentage and .269 slugging percentage. It was a given since opening day that somebody would be the odd Giant out when Cody Ross (calf) was healthy. Belt's ongoing struggles combined with a weak defense with Aubrey Huff in right and Pat Burrell in left made it a no-brainer. The lesson in Belt's demotion to Triple-A Fresno (on his 22nd birthday, no less!): It's just not that easy. Not a new lesson, just one that needs reiterating from time to time. When Belt hit .282 with three homers and 13 RBI in 71 spring at-bats, Giants fans had visions of Buster Posey II. But Posey, who punched the accelerator as soon as he arrived last May, was the rare exception. Belt leaves with just one homer in 17 games (60 plate appearances).

-- What are the odds of the 8-8 Cubs splitting today's doubleheader with the Padres? So far this season, the Cubs have been 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8. Even I can do that math.

-- And they don't even get paid overtime: Kansas City has gone extra innings in five of its first 16 games. At that pace, the Royals would play 48 extra-inning games this season. The major-league record is 31, held by the 1943 Boston Red Sox.

-- Into Wednesday's series finale in Oakland, the powerful Red Sox remained historically impotent: 0-7 on the road, their worst-ever road beginning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, surpassing 0-6 in 1927. It's not historically bad by major-league standards, however: The Nationals started 0-8 away from home just two seasons ago.

-- The Padres were confident that they had a better-balanced lineup even without Adrian Gonzalez's bat, but they were shut out in four of their first 16 games. At that pace, San Diego will be blanked 41 times this season. Yes, that would be a record. The current NL mark for being shut out in a season is 33, held by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals. The AL mark is 30, owned by the 1906 Washington Senators.

-- Yes, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a sensational start, leading the NL with a .438 batting average and ranking second with a .514 on-base percentage. But before declaring that he's turned it around from a disappointing 2010, let's let things play out another couple of months. Kemp ALWAYS plays well in April: Coming into this season, his career April numbers were a .312 batting average, .362 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage -- his highest numbers of any single month all season.

-- That said, my favorite Kemp moment so far this season occurred in the second game against the Giants. At first base and running on the pitch, Kemp read a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval perfectly. Not hesitating, he blew around second base as Sandoval was throwing to first and easily made it to third. It was a great play that involved athleticism, talent, instincts and smarts. When Kemp is on like that, he's as electric as anuybody.

-- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips not only is a big fan of shortstop Paul Janish, but also of Janish's family. Phillips says Janish's mother is a mean cook.

Likes: The Farrelly brothers are moving along with plans to bring The Three Stooges to the silver screen, bringing in Sean Hayes of Will & Grace to play Larry. Better news would have been coaxing Sean Penn to change his mind on Moe, but, alas, no such luck. Curly is Will Sasso of MADtv. But with filming supposedly set to begin in Atlanta soon, still no Moe. Speculation: Hank Azaria, who voices in The Simpsons.

Dislikes: Rented Wild Hogs the other night. A couple of pretty funny moments but, overall, not so good. Strong cast, though: William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence.

 Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"As I walk on
"Through troubled times
"My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
"So where are the strong
"And who are the trusted?
"And where is the harmony?
"Sweet harmony.
"'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away
"It just makes me wanna cry
"What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?"

-- Nick Lowe, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com