Saturday, May 17, 2003

It's funny how a team can get totally wiped out like the Rangers were by the Red Sox during the week only to have the Rangers turn around and look like World Series champs a few days later against the Yankees. Valdez comes off the disabled list after not being able to get anyone out early in the year and mows the Yanks down. The Texas relievers, who haven't pitched well all year and are the worst in the league, don't give up any runs against the Yanks in ten innings of relief so far this series. I know, I'm bordering on whining here so I'll move on.

One great thing about the series was to get a chance to watch Blalock play. I don't see any holes in his offensive game at all. He's a pure hitter who knows what he is doing at a young age. He is taking the game by storm much as Albert Pujols did a couple of years ago. Pujols is going to be a Hall of Famer some day too.

In the feeling good category, the Brewers had a walk off homerun today. That doesn't happen very often!

In the feel bad category, Mike Piazza went down today with severe muscle pull and will be out for a while. Hasn't it been sad to see the ends of the careers for Piazza, Mo and Alomar? They look cooked and there doesn't seem to be any turning back for them.

In the whoops category, Trot Nixon, a very sound fundamental baseball guy and a really hard working player caught what he thought was the last out today and threw the ball in the stands. The only trouble was that it wasn't the last out and runners were on base. That has to be embarrassing! That is the equivalent of a football player running the wrong way, a basketball player shooting at the wrong basket or a hockey player rapping the puck in his own net. In baseball, Nixon will never hear the end of it from his teammates, the fans nor the other team. I hope he can just laugh about it but he always seems so intense I wonder.

Looking at the standings today, all three AL divisions have good races going as does the NL East and Central. The only blowout might be the Giants although they haven't been playing well lately either. As I started this column saying, it turns fast so lookout all you teams going well right now!

The Cubbies are playing extremely well especially with Sosa out. Their pitching is the key and Prior, Woods and friends have been lights out. Pitching doesn't slump nearly as much as batting does. As big a Yankee fan as I am, a Red Sox/Cubs World Series would be awesome. One of the teams would break their long cursed spell.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Well...I was hoping for a good night at the Stadium tonight as the struggling Rangers were next on Roger Clemens list. But he's down 4-1 and the young kid he is facing seems right on top of his game.

The Yankees got what I think is a big blow today as Nick Johnson will be out four to six weeks with a fractured hand. Johnson isn't the Yankees' best player but he is leading the majors in walks with 33. That's a lot of clogging the bases that certainly propels the offense. I think the Yankees are going through a really tough stretch that will test them for the kind of year they are going to have.

The Red Sox on the other hand are playing really good baseball. Nomar Garciaparra is getting hot and Trot Nixon is having a good year. Pedro is where he needs to be and Wakefield is pitching well. If the Sox can get Derek Lowe going, they will be dangerous.

Hank Blalock is an amazing young hitter. With the bases loaded against Clemens, Blalock took Clemens offering to the opposite field and missed a grand slam by inches. You can easily see why the young player is hitting .380+. Another great young Ranger player is Young whose name describes his age but not his discipline at the plate. He's had two great at bats against Clemens tonight and turned them both into singles.

And yes, ::grumble::: badass Carl Everett is having a great year. He seems impossible to get out these days and as a leadoff hitter is one or two away from leading the league in RBI. If this Ranger team could only get some pitching.

Buck Showalter managed a good Yankee team and was fired in 1996. The Yanks that year went on to win the World Series. Showalter then went on to the Diamondbacks and did a great job there, was fired and the Diamondbacks won the World Series. I don't believe there is a coincidence there. The guy gets his players to play good fundementals and disciplined baseball. Watch him do the same thing for this Ranger team. I still believe the Rangers will finish at the bottom of their division. But they will be fun to watch.

Speaking of the Diamondbacks and the bottom of the division. that's where the Arizona team will end the bottom. They are old, they lost too much pitching and they don't hit. That's a formula for failure.

Man...Clemens has great stuff...eight strikeouts in four innings, but he's walked five and given up five runs. Tonight is just not going to be his night. Maybe 299 will come in Boston instead of 300.
The Flagrant Fan takes one night of rest on Thursday nights. See you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I just have to laugh when I read a story like that. On the MLB sports page of is a story about Jose Guillen and his demand to be traded from the Cincinnati Reds because Griffey is back and that puts Guillen on the pines. Yeah, he's a guy I'd want on MY team. Uh huh!

Mr. Guillen, let's take a look at the facts here. You are having a fine season. You are batting .327 with seven homeruns and 21 RBI in 98 at bats. Good stats as is your .622 Slugging Percentage. But let's take a closer look around you. Austin (Powers) Kearns has 13 homers and 35 RBI, a .629 Slugging Percentage and an OPS of 1.051. Oh yeah, and his On Base Percentage sits at .423 compared to your .362. There is no dice there, sir.

Okay, let's look the other way. At first glance, you might feel the nod over Adam Dunn. After all, Dunn is only hitting .240 and his OBP is only .338. He does have 13 homers and 28 RBI. But in his last seven games, Dunn is batting .368 and his OBP is .429 with four homers and nine RBI! Excuse me, but you're only hitting .292 in your last seven games. If I was your manager, I'd sit down your hottest player in favor of you too.

Oh, and you're most upset because Junior Griffey is back from the disabled list and is going to play over you. Who is he to take your place? He may have hit 469 homers in his career, but what has he done for anyone lately? His seven seasons over forty or more homers is old news. Let's forget about his 1300 RBI by the age of 31. You're a better player than him, right?

Mr. Guillen is a part of the entitlement generation. I am who I am so I am entitled to be a starting player. I spilled coffee on my leg and I'm entitled to a hundred million dollars. I developed a bad back in the army so I'm entitled to receive 50% disability the rest of my life. I've worked here a year so I'm entitled to a two dollar raise even though I haven't grown any in my ability or energy level. The entitlement generation believes that other people are just a hindrance to what is MINE, what *I* deserve, what *I'M* entitled to.

Jose Guillen is a part of this generation who doesn't see that his team has come back from the dead to be just two games out of the lead in the NL Central and is surrounded by some of the most amazing talent in the league. Shut up, stupid, and sit on the bench and root for your teammates and be ready when your number is called. If that isn't good enough for you, I have a $9 an hour job answering tech support phone calls for you.

Okay, I got that out of my system...

Curt Schilling pitched his second consecutive shutout today in the Diamondback's game with the Phillies. He only gave up two hits and has a 1.97 ERA in his last three starts with a 3-0 record. Not a bad rebound from getting his appendix out eh? He seems to be a man with a heart as big as his talent.

The Yankees lost again to the Angels, 5-3. The team's great attack has fizzled of late and as I mentioned yesterday, getting Jeter back is great, but moving some in the lineup changes things and not necessarily for the better. predicted a run for the Yanks now that Jeter is back, but I don't see it and fear just the opposite.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The big stories tonight are Jeter and Griffey's return and that MLB is investigating the Florida Marlins for hiring McKean. Jeter and Griffey's returns are great for baseball and for them as they both went down hard with similar injuries. We all feared the worst, but it's great that we didn't get the worst.

The Florida Marlins story is part of life, folks. Get used to it. I totally agree that baseball needs to do all it can to make sure all people have access and chances for leadership positions in baseball. I have no argument there, especially if the managerial or front office decisions are being made in the off-season. But when you are in a mid-season situation and you need a quick fix or shot in the arm, shouldn't a team have the ability to choose someone they had in mind from the start? Now what happens to that quick fix? The quick fix gets thrown in limbo as controversy surrounds the move. It's a shame we are not yet quite as enlightened as we will be.

I still think that moving Nick Johnson to the bottom of the lineup with the return of Jeter is a big mistake. I think it changes the threat of having people on base in front of the big guys. My thought is that you would keep Johnson up in the second spot, you bat Jeter sixth and mollify him for now that he is working his way back to shape. Once Jeter is firing again on regular gas, then move him to third. I believe that Matsui is struggling and should move down in the order and Mondesi moves up. My Yankee lineup looks like this: Soriana, Johnson, Williams, Giambi, Posada, Jeter, Ventura, Mondesi, Matsui. Hmm...looking over my creation. Yes. I like it. Right, left, switch, left, switch, right, left, right, left. Perfect. How do I know the current idea is wrong? On their first game with the new lineup, they are no hit for six innings.

In the Cincinnati/St. Louis game tonight, Pujols, Kearns and Dunn have homers. Are those three of the brightest young stars in the league right now? They are at least up there with the brightest. Speaking of bright, Hank Blalock is batting .380 and hit a homerun tonight. What a great story. And Teixeira is up to .238. Texas is going to be a force if they ever find some pitching.

The Rockies are falling like a rock. What a landslide as they have lost eight of their last ten. They have the worst road record in baseball (yes, even worse than the Tigers). The Rockies are 11-4 at home and 6-16 on the road. They will never be contenders until they figure out how to play down the difference of home versus the road.

The White Sox look comatose too. Can you blame Frank Thomas? I think you can. The guy always seems to stir a bunch of emotions. David Wells was dead wrong a couple of years ago for mouthing off about Thomas not playing. Thomas was later learned to have a serious arm injury. But the point never made at the time was that those kinds of comments don't start if the whispers hadn't already been there. Reports are that Thomas' bat speed has slowed tremendously. The White Sox should have cut their losses and let him walk at the end of the last season.

I have to be honest here. I wrote off the Reds for dead a couple of weeks ago. They are certainly alive and have have won seven of ten to pull to .500 baseball. They are only two and a half games behind the Cubbies.

Wasn't that a great story the other night when Steve Avery pitched a scoreless inning for the Tigers the other night? It was his first MLB appearance since 1999. That's hard work and the refusal to lie down and die. Good for him!

Monday, May 12, 2003

Derek Jeter comes back tomorrow night for the Yankees and they immediately become a better team. But what do they do about the lineup? Johnson has become one of the best number two hitters in the game since Jeter was out. Do you bat Jeter third and move everyone else down one? What a lineup that would be! Do you bat Jeter at the top and move Soriano and his power to third? Johnson hitting second makes it happen because he takes so many pitches and has an on base percentage well over .400.

Well, I was right about Jeff Torborg although I don't feel good about it. It really is an organizational problem but a change in managers can change a team's outlook. For proof of that, look no further than Tony Pena in Kansas City. McKean is a stand up guy and the players there should play for him. Lord knows, it can't get much worse.

The Cubs look strong even without Sosa and that is a very good sign. What isn't a good sign is that though they are winning tonight, Prior is getting cuffed around a little bit by the Brewers. Fortunately for the Cubs and unfortunately for the Brewers, Milwaukee's pitching is so bad, they make Prior's bad night look spectacular.

This makes me sick to admit it, but the Braves look suddenly unstoppable. I don't see them getting caught any time soon. The good news for the rest of the National League East is that with the dogfight in the NL Central and the weakness of the NL West (with the exception of the Giants), it looks like the runner up to the Braves should get the wildcard.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Thirty-six years ago on Mothers Day, 1967, my Mom took "her kids" to the Emerson Restaurant in Bergen County, New Jersey. The Emerson was always "our" place and our only place to go out to eat. They had the best slice steak sandwiches and my Mom always made sure she gave me half of hers. Moms do those kinds of things and my Mom wasn't any different. It was an especially tough time since my father had died the previous year. We had to leave our beloved house for a crummy apartment. My mom had to work and was struggling along to make ends meet and we had my poor sister taking care of us two boys.

A source of comfort and survival was baseball. We played it, we watched it, we lived it. As I mentioned earlier, the Yankees were awful by then and between Mel Stottlemyre and a hobbled, broken down Mickey Mantle, there wasn't much else to root for. For many reasons that have already been covered by Billy Crystal, Mantle was every kid's ideal. Of course we all know now that Mantle wasn't perfect but that doesn't matter, he was our hero.

On this Mothers Day in 1967, Mantle was stuck on 499 career homeruns. It looked like it took an act of will for him to even step on the field at that point and so we wondered how long it would take. So we were at the Emerson and I heard someone say that Mantle was going to be up next and I could hear the game on in the bar section of the building. I asked my Mom if I could go and watch him bat. Now she could have been strict and told me to sit down and eat my dinner, but she didn't and told me to come right back after.

So I walked to the bar section and ignored all the cigarette smoke and looked up at the TV to see Mantle walking up to the plate. For some reason, I just knew it was the moment and everyone else in the bar must have too because it was eerily quiet in there. And then he hit it and the bar erupted and people were shaking hands. Some guy grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me in his happiness. I just stood there and smiled from ear to ear as Mickey ran around the bases with that charming limping gait. My hero had finished his quest.

I don't remember anything much else about that dinner but I'll always remember watching that homerun and I feel so fortunate to have done so since there wasn't any such thing as Baseball Tonight back then.

The point of this whole discussion is that here we are in the year 2003 and on another Mothers Day, Rafael Palmeiro hit his 500th homerun and I saw his mother watching and I felt good. But I was also taken back to that other Mothers Day so many years ago. The homer was typical of his career. It wasn't a perfect pitch to hit as it was inside and a little bit up. But he's been so steady the last ten years and he's just plain learned what to do with those kinds of pitches and he got just enough of it to put the ball in about the tenth row of the right field bleachers.

I am in a constant state of disbelief at those who have been writing or spewing on TV that Palmeiro doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. What are they crazy? The man has hit 38 or more homers for eight straight years. Nobody has ever done that before. Don't give me that crap about his playing in the age that we live in. Is Rafael Furcal going to hit 500 homeruns? I hardly think so. Players of Palmeiro's ability and steadiness don't come around very often.

The argument is that he wasn't the best player of his generation. Was Billy Williams? Was Willie McCovey? Was Yogi Berra? Was Harmon Killebrew? Was Eddie Matthews? No. No. No. No. And no. That is a stupid argument. Let me use the following analogy:

As a young adult, I worked in a tannery, which is where they get raw hides and turn them into leather for shoes and handbags. The job I worked was piecework and I always made the most money in the factory. Nobody could figure it out because it never looked like I was working hard. There were others doing my job who were flashier and faster...for a while. But my secret was in my steadiness. I never stopped. I never quit. I never took breaks. I just worked at a steady pace for a long period of time. And because of that, I came out on top even though nobody would have ever voted me as the hardest worker in the place.

In just the same way, Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer. He has been steady and sure for a long time and that is what it takes to get the job done. He got the job done and deserves the honor. Well done Rafael Palmeiro and congratulations.