Saturday, June 28, 2003

I'm not sure what to make of Lou Piniella's outburst about poor Ben Grieve. My first reaction is that it was a pretty classless act and that Lou should have taken that outburst privately to his office. I don't believe in berating players to the public. How is his player supposed to react? If I was Grieve, I'd be embarrassed and hurt. Then again, Grieve makes a lot of money and for a million or so, I'd be willing to take public abuse.

Grieve has been a puzzle since he's come into the league. He's never developed into the kind of player he was expected to become. He is one of those quiet guys who just don't seem to care. But I'm sure he must and I'm sure this is the first time in his life that it isn't coming easy to him. Some players adjust and some don't and it appears that Grieve won't or can't. Perhaps a move would help him but that is how he came to Tampa in the first place. Tampa scored nine runs today (last I checked and Grieve was one of the few on the team not to contribute. The poor guy will probably be released or traded soon. He even said in an interview yesterday that when he showed up at the ballpark, he wasn't sure if he still had a job. Poor guy.

The Yankees are having a big day against the defenseless Mets. Clemens won his 301st and Matsui--who has been on fire lately--hit his second grand slam of the season. Clemens pitched eight innings of six hit ball and is now 8-5. Put him on the AllStars!

In the second game, Soriano and Jeter started the Yankees off with back to back homers off of Tom Glavine of all people. The poor Mets always get the good players on their way downhill.

Speaking of downhill, the Cubbies have lost several heartbreakers lately with six-fingered Alfonseka (I know I'm not spelling his name correctly) blowing the save for the second night in a row. That has to be demoralizing. On the flip side, the doers of the damage, the White Sox, are now on fire and back from the dead. What a strange season. The teams I keep giving up for dead keep reviving. First the Reds, then the Blue Jays, then Arizona and now the White Sox. Maybe I'm a reverse jinx for teams going bad?

It's time to look at the last seven days for my favorite boxscore players:
- Hank Blalock. Blalock had another good week batting .348 with a homer, double and three RBI. He is still batting .335 for the year.
- Mark Teixeira. Teixeira batted .261 for the week with a homer, triple and a double accounting for four RBI. He is now batting .247 for the year.
- Pat Burrell. Oh man. Burrell is still scuffling big time. He only batted .107 last week and his average for the year is at .201. He came up 28 times and only had three hits. Hard to figure...real hard.
- Coco Crisp. How can you not keep checking a guy with that kind of name? Well...I may not have to keep checking much longer as he only hit .250 last week and is now batting .206 for the year. Not a good start for the fast man.
- Sean Burroughs. Jeff's son had a rough week and only batted .186 for the week. He sits now at .289 but he has a pulled groin muscle.
- Miguel Cabrera. The pride of Marakay has started his big league career (seven games so far) with a .214 average but of his six hits, four have been extra bases and he has six RBI in those seven games. He's going to be great.
- Jose Reyes. The twenty year old hope of the Mets had a good week batting .316 to raise his season average to .222. The Mets have said recently that they have changed their mind and Reyes will stay at short for the rest of the year. That's great news!
- Albert Pujols. The .400 and triple crown watch is on. Pujols only batted .533 last week and is up to .387 for the season. He also has 21 homers and 69 RBI. 50 of his 113 hits have been for extra bases. This man has driven in 326 runs in his first 2.5 seasons. Amazing.

Friday, June 27, 2003

A day after Dontrelle Willis, the great Florida rookie pitcher, won his seventh straight start against the Mets, the same Marlins gave up fourteen runs in the first inning to the Red Sox! Fourteen! For only the second time in 12 decades of MLB, a batter (Johnny Damon) had three hits in the same inning! Three! The score is now up to 18 to 1 as the auto-refresher on Yahoo keeps updating the score like some crazy jackpot night in a Las Vegas slot machine. Nomar is one of the few Boston batters that hasn't had an RBI. The timing looks ripe for a non-pitcher to pitch for the Marlins tonight. I told you Florida baseball is entertaining!

We started the second stage of our Florida trip yesterday as we moved from North Palm Beach to Ft. Lauderdale. It sure is a chore to have to be in paradise. The move was the reason for the lack of a post yesterday though the Fan usually takes Thursdays off anyway.

So far neither Bo Hart or Albert Pujols has a hit in the Cardinals/Kansas City game. The Cards still lead in the game 2 to 1 as Edmonds has hit his 22nd homer and Rolens has hit his 14th. Even Tino Martinez is hot for the Cardinals. I wouldn't want my team to be facing them right now. If Pujols keeps up his pace, there will be a .400 watch soon in the same path as the George Brett/Jon Olerud/Tony Gwynn efforts of the past.

The Boston/Florida score is now 19 to 5. Man, those umpires in that game are going to get tired.

Continuing my vacation reading, I'm currently reading the fascinating "October Men" by Roger Kahn. The book discusses the 1978 Yankee team and the history leading up to it. I remember that team and those times so clearly. I had just been married a year and as such became a New Hampshire resident after growing up in New Jersey. Thanks to Boston's Channel 38 (pre-cable days), we got to watch most of the Red Sox games. I was torn that year and for that playoff game. I was a lifelong Yankee fanatic but watching the Red Sox that whole year, I became the dreaded convert. I still loved the Yankees best, but I couldn't hate the Red Sox anymore.

As happy as I was for the Yankees to win the game and head to the playoffs, I was sad for the Red Sox. I was not, however, sad to have Yaz pop up to lose the final Red Sox chance. The book recounts all that history as well as the demise of Billy Martin and a lot of the underpinnings of that Yankee team. It's a great read and highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I really can't understand all the moralizing I hear going on about Juan Gonzalez exercising his no-trade clause and not wishing to go to the Expos. To the Fan's point of view, why would Texas agree to a no-trade clause in the first place? Basically, you're asking a guy not to take advantage of a negotiated perk in his contract. That isn't Juan Gone's moral problem but the team that signed that contract in the first place.

The same sort of moralizing happened two years ago when the Cubs traded for the Marlins' Fred McGriff. McGriff was made to look like the bad guy when he really wanted to keep his family in South Florida. Who knows how much of the pressure was put on him to accept the deal as it turned out he did. A year later, he is in Los Angeles. Gonzalez feels the most comfortable in Texas. His contract allows him to turn down a trade so that he can stay there. Too bad. Tough luck. It isn't like he hasn't produced for the Rangers because he has.

So the two guys who battled in the courts for Bonds 73rd homer only (!) got $450,000 in the auction. I wonder if that covered the court costs?

Albert Pujols looks unbelievable. He is now batting in the high .380's and has a great shot at .400 and the triple crown. His new teammate, Bo Hart, had three more hits tonight and is up to .500 for the start of his MLB career.

Speaking of hot hitters, there aren't too many hotter than Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers. He had four more RBI tonight as the Brewers whomped the Cubbies 12-6. Jenkins is now batting .290 with 18 homers and 57 RBI.

I remember a few years ago (maybe it was two years ago) when Jenkins was off to a really fast start and was on his way to a breakout year when he got hurt and couldn't get it back when he returned to playing. It looks like he is going to put a great year together this year.

Just when you think a team is dead, they run off a streak. The Diamondbacks, with everybody on the disabled list, have won nine in a row to climb back into the NL West. I'm VERY surprised by this turn of events. Another team back from the dead is the White Sox as they close in on the Twins and the first place Royals (another team back from the dead).

In one of the great stories of the year, the Brewers have a player who pitches and hits. No, I don't mean that he gets to hit when he pitches. I mean that he was hired to hit and to pitch. Tonight he hit a pinch hit homer (his third) and is batting .367. This two in one player is Brooks Kieschnick and he will be fun to follow.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

After another day of fun in the Florida sun, I turned on the Marlins/Mets game and I hear a familiar smarmy voice. "I know that voice," I said to myself. Then I had to know so I performed a Yahoo search for the Marlins announcers and sure enough, I see the name: Tommy Hutton. Oh my gosh, it's Tommy Hutton!

Hutton was the Blue Jays announcer I listened to all those years where I could only watch a bunch of their games from the Canadian stations. Through the Blue Jays championship seasons, Hutton's homish, gushing way of doing color for the Blue Jay telecasts would make me want to puke.

And here he is, announcing Marlins games the same way. I like the Marlins. They are fun to watch and I've been coming to South Florida for six years now and have been to several of their games. So my gagging at the TV is not because Hutton is announcing FOR the Marlins. I had often wondered if my reaction to him before was because I've always hated the Blue Jays. But today's broadcast tells me that it's Hutton and Hutton only. He makes my skin shrivel with his drivel.

Nomar Garciaparra went five for five tonight. That spectacular game comes two days after he went six for six. Nomar's average is now up to .344 and he is having the best season of any shortstop this season. He is also a strong candidate for MVP although if the vote was held today, the award would have to go to Carlos Delgado who is now up to 80 RBI!

Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks was moved from the 15 day disabled list to the 60 day. That is much more time than was expected which is a big blow to Arizona's season and Johnson's career.

The transaction wire today listed that the Mets signed their second round draft choice, Beau Vaughan. I wonder if that name made the team's fans shudder.

Speaking of Beau...or Bo...Bo Hart has started really his MLB career with a bang as he is batting .450 in his first few games for the Cardinals. That must be exciting for their fans. Hart made a spectacular play against Griffey tonight too!

Speaking of rookies, the Mets/Marlins game featured Cabrera for the Marlins and Jose Reyas for the Mets. Reyas had a tough game but Cabrera went two for five and just missed a homer to left as it curved foul at the pole.

Monday, June 23, 2003

One thing is clear from my first few days in Florida: The state has two entertaining baseball teams.

The Marlins have Lowell and Willis and now they have Miguel Cabrera to go along with some good young pitchers. The Marlins will frustrate quite a few contenders for the rest of the season.

The Devil Rays first of all have Lou Piniella managing and add Baldelli and Huff and this pitcher who is pitching tonight: Zombrano. A Devil Ray named Roll (Samari?) has hit two homers against Clemens and Zombrano has outpitched Roger.

But then again, the Yankees look flat tonight which seems understandable since the won a long and emotional extra inning game last night and then had to travel to Tampa. You can tell a team is flat when several of its players swing at 57 foot sliders.

I think Torre is asleep too as a situation happened that cost the Yankees a run. The Yankees had aman on first and third and Matsui was up. At the time, the Yanks were two runs down. Matsui smashes a double to centerfield and it hopped over the fence for a ground rule double. One run scored and usually, the umpires make the runner from first stop at third. But there was a catch this time as the Yankees had the runner on first in motion when the ball was pitched. That being the case, the run should have counted. Torre didn't even question it and apparently, even his braintrust didn't wake him up about it.

I hate the kind of rules that are considered discretionary and the umpires take the lazy, easy way out and always make the call the same way. The rule is discretionary because if a ground rule double is hit and it appears the runner would have scored, then by gum, the runner should score!

I'm pretty fed up with umpires in MLB anyway. The Devil Rays broadcast mentioned that Tampa is one of the cities that is using the system to test umpires. The announcer mentioned that Dale Hirschbeck (sp?) was angered that the system showed that 30+ of his ball and strike calls were wrong. He discredited the system as being flawed. A real man would take the report seriously and look for patterns that can be improved upon. The real truth is that the strike zone is seriously flawed in MLB.

Another beef is umpires that look for confrontation instead of backing away from it. The best umpires I've ever seen will just ignore a player or manager who complains and usually the person making the complaint will back off if his arguments aren't getting anywhere. When will today's umpires learn that a great called game means that no one noticed the umpires at all.

I'm starting to worry about Buck Showalter down there in Texas as the Rangers have lost a ton of games the past thirty days. I don't think they've won five of their last thirty games. They have the batting but just not the pitching where it needs to be. I sure hope that Showalter won't be the scapegoat.

The Blue Jays scored over eleven runs again today. They are unbelievable lately. It will be interesting to see if the Jays can stay in the race all summer. With the mashers that team has, I find it hard to believe they will have much of a slump as a team.

I'd like to thank Steve W. and his family today for their hospitality after I had some lunch over there today. I showed Steve's great kids all about blogging and I think they were excited enough to want to start something themselves. I hope they have as much fun as I'm having.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

It's a typical day in paradise. We had a sunny morning and I alternated with swimming in the pool to reading the Florida papers about the Marlins' latest five inning win.

The rain shortened win is another example of the trouble with Florida baseball. To really make MLB viable down here, you will need to have a domed stadium. You can't ask the fans to shoot dice to determine if they will get wet watching the game or whether they will get to watch a game at all.

In any case, the Marlins won again and so did Willis, the young pitcher from the Fan's post yesterday. He really seems like the real deal and is now 7-1.

After I was done reading the paper and the boxscores, I was able to turn to my other reading. Vacations have always been a time for me to catch up on reading, one of the true pleasures in life. My days at the Jersey shore in the summer were always times to read and I have a fairly ecclectic selection of tastes. Even then I would read anything from Tolkien to Mickey Spillane.

And there was always a sports book thrown in that mix. I liked biographies especially which earlier in my life were of the heroic variety. Books about Connie Mack or Lou Gehrig were typical. Later, the books got grittier and more gossip-like. "Ball Four" of course, was the big breakthrough of that ilk. Bouton's book captured my imagination when I was in junior high and gave me a new appreciation for baseball players.

The funny thing was that he was vilified because it was thought that his honest look at baseball and its players would eat away at the reverence fans had for players. But that wasn't the case for me and Mantle was my idol too. Bouton's book actually made Mantle more appealing and approachable as an idol.

One funny memory of that book was a execration that impressed my juvenile mind as the coolest I'd ever heard. If you've read the book, Bouton had a manager who often said, "horseshit." I remember trying to find the right circumstance to use what I had learned.

The occasion came later at a junior high basketball game I attended and watched with interest. One of the refs in the game made a call I totally disagreed with and I shouted my newly learned swear phrase at the top of my lungs. I was unnerved when all action stopped and the entire population in the gym were staring at me. I quickly learned that the results weren't as cool as I had hoped.

Another great read was the series of books written by Ron Luciano, the clownish umpire. Luciano's books were hilarious and if you can find copies on Ebay or someplace, I recommend them highly.

So far, on this trip, I have read a book by Mike Shannon called "Tales From The BallPark." At first I had thought that Shannon was the same one who played for the Cardinals back in the 60's and 70's. Shannon was one of my favorite Stratomatic players of that time. "Tales" is somewhat entertaining as Shannon gives 225 pages of one page snippets of true things that happened in MLB. I was somewhat disappointed by the books lack of depth but it was an okay read.

Now I am reading a very engaging history of ESPN written by Michael Freeman. A rags to riches story, ESPN is not without its blemishes, particularly sexual harrassment, throughout its fascinating history.

Of course, that kind of thing needs to be examined so that it doesn't repeat itself but the book also fairly represents ESPN's affect on American sports culture. Sports fans never had it so good.

The book mentions Fox Sports as being an able rival and Keith Olbermann as being the best reporter there is (a form ESPN star). That's crap as nearly all of the ESPN achors are more entertaining and more likeable. I'll never switch.

I'll be very interested to read about Chris Berman as he's always been my favorite. I wonder what dirt we'll learn about him! It won't matter of course, which goes back to the point made during my discussion of Bouton's book. He's still great and you know what? I'm not perfect either.

See you down by the pool.