Saturday, July 05, 2003

The Red Sox again destroyed the Yankees today defeating Clemens 10-2. The two straight laughers brought the Red Sox to within two games of the leader. Trot Nixon always wails on Clemens and hit another homer off him today. The Yankees will need to win tomorrow's game to keep the Red Sox from making a big statement at this point of the year. Those Red Sox sure can hit and it was really important for Mendoza to have a good outing today for the Sox.

Roberto Alomar has started strong for the White Sox hitting .364 in his first few games. The White Sox lost a big game last night though when the Devil Rays' Crawford hit a walk off three-run homer. Crawford only has two homers this year and both of them were of the walk off variety. At last look, the Sox were down to the same Devil Rays 1-0 in the fifth inning. Amazingly, the Royals are still leading that division by two games.

The hottest team in the last ten games in the Phillies but they had a big loss last night. Pat Burrell is now below the Mendoza Line. Ack!

Sammy Sosa is getting hot now for the Cubs as they defeated the Cardinals today. He has thirteen homers now and over forty RBI which is amazing considering how many games he has missed. The race in the NL Central is fantastic as three teams keep taking turns at the top. It's going to be a fun summer in the midwest!

The amazing thing about the NL West is that no team in that division has a record over .500 in the last ten games. None of the teams can really make a statement and pull ahead.

In the NL West, the Giants have answered the Diamondbacks and both have identical 7-3 records in the last ten games. Bonds is starting to pile up the homers again and remains the most amazing hitter in the world. The Dodgers finally snapped their losing streak today but if they don't get some hitting soon, it will be a two team race.

Four more days in sunny Florida and the Fan will have to go home to Maine. (sigh) I'll miss paradise...

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Now that we are heading into the AllStar break last week, let's look at the current contenders and see what they need to do to be successful in the second half and beyond.

American League East:
- Yankees: The Yankees are in great shape and have done much to improve themselves. They need to stay healthy, continue to get good performances for the revamped bullpen and have their old starting pitchers hold up along the way. In the meantime, Bernie Williams will be back and hopefully Norm Johnson as well. Johnson was a big loss as his defense and OBP meant that the bases were always clogged up.

- Red Sox: The Red Sox addressed their biggest need with Kim becoming the closer. That makes the rest of their bullpen better (despite today's meltdown against the Devil Rays). They certainly have the best hitting in the league. The starting staff has to perform well down the stretch.

- The Blue Jays need pitching, pitching, pitching. They can hit with the best, but besides Halliday, they don't have the guns they need to stay in the race.

American League Central:
- Twins: The Twins are really in trouble. They look bad lately and they need to start pitching and they need to start hitting. They have the players. Those players just need to perform. I think they will fall out of it.

- Royals: The Royals helped themselves with Leskanic but need one more starter and they need Mike Sweeney back. Sweeney is their heart and their big bat. He has a back injury which is a very scarey prospect if you remember what happened to Don Mattingly.

- White Sox: The White Sox really made a statement and their concern now remains in their relief pitching. Their bullpen has been suspect so far.

American League West:
- Mariners: The Mariners seem to be in charge and with Boone (argh!) and Ichiro leading the way will score often. Their major concern is closing as Nelson just isn't a closer. Suzuki won't be much help the rest of the way.

- Oakland: The A's defense is hurting them as their offense. We all know about their pitching, but they need a big bat.

- Angels: The Angels are over and out. They will not be a factor.

National League East:
- Braves: The Braves don't seem to have any holes except for starting pitching (who ever thought we'd ever say that!). The Braves offense is also inconsistent although it shouldn't be.

- Phillies: The Phillies look great and all they need is for Pat Burrell to become the force he is supposed to be in the middle of that lineup. I still say that Burrell should bat third and Thome fourth. Then Burrell will get his pitches and start mashing.

- Expos: The Expos need a home and they need Vlad back. They also need one more bat. I don't think they will be able to do much to help themselves to contend.

National League Central:
- Cardinals: This is a three team race and none of the three wants to take control. The Cards need to find enough starting pitching and if so, will pull off a streak and win this thing.

- Cubs: The Cubs need the pitchers behind Prior and Wood to step up. They also need Sosa to become a force again and they need to take the ball away from Alfonseca at the end of the game. The Cubs are the one team that can use Benitez from the Mets.

- Astros: The Astros need to get Biggio out of centerfield and to get their starters healthy. Their relief pitching is great but their arms are going to fall off the way they are going.

- Reds: If the other three teams keep messing around, the Reds could sneak in a winning streak. They hit well enough. Their pitching is their question mark.

National League West:
- Giants: The Giants look fine but I still am suspect of their lineup around Bonds. They could use one more big bat I think.

- Dodgers: Hitting, hitting, hitting. Shawn Green needs to get going and they need two more good hitters. Their pitching is fine.

- Diamondbacks: They need their young players to continue to perform as surprisingly well as they are. That's a tough task to ask. I think they will cool off soon.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The Chicago White Sox announced themselves as players yesterday by picking up Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett. The move can help them very much not only on offense but on defense. One of the big questions the White Sox had for contending was their team defense. Alomar is obviously one of the best ever and Everett, though he's now too slow for centerfield, can still be a good defender in left or right.

Everett has been a good citizen in Texas unlike the rest of his career and it will be interesting to see if the same holds true in Chicago. Manager Jerry Manual seems like the kind of manager that would be easy to play for, so we'll see.

Alomar's fall from superstardom while with the Mets is still puzzling. Alomar had been consistently great in his career until two years ago. I suspect Shea Stadium had something to do with it. I still remember Bobby Murcer going from superstar to warning track slugger when the Yankees moved to Shea during Yankee Stadium's remodeling in the 70's. Roberto's defense suffered as well with the horrible Shea infield surface and the lack of a good first baseman. I suspect that with the chance to play with his brother, Sandy, and having a fresh start, Roberto will be a force in the AL Central race.

The Fan missed last night's post as my wife and I met a friend for dinner and drinks. The Fan isn't a big drinker, but four beers later and there was no way a post was going to get written. Oh well. My apologies to those of you who checked.

Dontrelle Willis hooked up with a young Braves pitcher for a great pitching duel as the Marlins and Braves are tied going into the seventh inning 1 to 1. Willis is probably wishing the Marlins saved some of those 20 runs for him today.

Speaking of the Marlins, their front office announced that Mike Lowell was not going to be traded. That's wonderful news and a good reward for those Marlins fans who have stayed loyal to the team. Lowell was greatly relieved himself. Tonight, he's accounted for the Marlins only run with his 26th homer and 72nd RBI. Amazing.

I was reading Ken Kaiser's book, comically titled, "Planet of the Umps" and although the book is mildly entertaining, I find his statements and attitude appalling. An MLB umpire for more than twenty years before he got caught up in the umpire strike that broke the umpire union and lost his job. He admits, without any apology, to "palming" the real Gaylord Perry ball from Perry's 300th win. Kaiser gave Perry the wrong ball. How atrocious is that? What he doesn't say is what he did with the ball. Did he sell it? If so, that criminal.

Kaiser also mentions that he bluffed when he didn't know the call and that he knew he made mistakes but never lost sleep on it. His beliefs about the umpire's role in baseball and in baseball games only proves that there is something wrong with the way umpires function in MLB. They look for confrontation and they do not have the correct attitude towards the game. I'm appalled with what I'm reading and I'm glad he's out of baseball.

In one last postscript (pun intended), Dontrelle Willis will not get a decision tonight as the Braves and Marlins are still tied in the ninth inning. Willis pitched eight full innings giving up only one run allowing only seven baserunners and brought his season ERA down to 2.13. What a great story!

Monday, June 30, 2003

Mr. Jim Thome is carrying his Phillies on a run that has the Phillies in the top spot for the NL wildcard and only five and a half games behind the first place Braves. Thome has hit homer after homer lately and is now over 20 for the year. His homerun tonight won the game for the Phillies. Thome is such a fun guy to watch play. He seems to have a sense of wonder and plays like he's having fun which is the way it should be.

Yesterday I erroneously listed the Astros as the division leader in the NL Central. The Cardinals were actually on top. But the Fan can claim a mulligan as the teams in that division have been leap-frogging each other for quite a while. The Cards are getting beat tonight and the Phillies' opponent, the Cubbies, had a great chance to gain a game but Thome took care of that with one of his typical opposite field drives.

The Phillies look really good and if Pat Burrell can get going, they can streak the rest of the season. Burrell has shown signs of life lately but his efforts have been for not. In the typical if-something-can-go-wrong-it-will scenerio, just about every Web Gem on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" show Burrell getting robbed: a home run robbed by Torii Hunter, a single robbed by the Cubs third baseman. Sooner or later, those will start to find holes.

The only thing that can hold back the Phillies is their manager, Larry Bowa. I just believe the guy is a loose wire and can hinder as well as help his team. I watched him in the dugout and if I was playing for him, he would drive me crazy. After all, Scott Rolen is one of the best third basemen in baseball and Bowa ran him out of town.

The Phillies chase of the Braves was helped tonight as Greg Maddux again pitched poorly and was beat by Florida. Maddux is going into the AllStar break with a losing record and he just doesn't appear to be the pitcher he was. Of course, that doesn't hurt the Fan's feelings very much. I still think the man is one of the most arrogant players to ever play the game. I do have to admit that all I have to go by on those feelings is my perceptions of his body language when he pitches. The body language seemed to me to be pretty obvious.

But then again, arrogance has been a problem for the Braves for quite a while. I'll never forget the Braves/Yankees World Series when the Braves were up and thought that they had the Series won. I forget what source I read at the time but I remember reading that the Braves were full of themselves and never believed the Yankees could beat them. The sign of greatness is KNOWING that any team can beat you. I will say that Bobby Cox has never gotten the credit he deserves as one of the best managers of all time.

Bobby Valentine had a great observation concerning Maddux insisting on using his "personal catcher" when he pitches. Apparently, there is bad history between him and Javy Lopez. Valentine's comments were that the Braves lose one of their best hitters because of the pitcher's silliness. I thought it was a great observation.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Interleague play has mercifully ended (I know, the fans like it) and the weekend pretty much marks the mid-point of the season. If the second half went exactly the same as the first half that just ended:

- The Yankees, Twins, Mariners, Braves, Astros and Giants would win their divisions and the slammin' Red Sox and (gasp!) Philidelphia Phillies would be the wildcard winners.

- Carlos Delgado would end up with 52 homers and 178 RBI! He would easily win the MVP. His teammate, Vernon Wells would finish with 150 RBI!

- Barry Bonds would finish with 46 homers which would give him 660 for his career. We all know what that number means!

- Albert Pujols would finish with 148 runs scored, a 144 RBI, 46 homers, 58 doubles, 234 hits and easily win the NL MVP.

- 13 pitchers would have 20 wins with the most being 22.

- Kerry Wood (286) and Mark Prior (254) would end up 1-2 in the majors in strikeouts. Not quite Johnson/Schilling but good numbers.

- 41 year old Roger Clemens would end up 16-8 with 238 strikeouts good for fourth in the majors. He would finish his career with 309 wins.

- John Smoltz and Eric Gagne would finish with 58 saves each and finish two of the greatest seasons by relief pitchers ever.

- Dodger pitchers Nomo and Ishii will end up with 220 walks between them. That's a lot of free passes to overcome.

- Nomar Garciaparra would end up with 46 doubles, 24 triples (!) and 24 homers.

Speaking of the Red Sox, besides Urbina, have they made a bad roster move all year? In a little thought of transaction blip, the Red Sox signed Kapler to a minor league contract. Less than a week later, they added him to their team. All he's done in two games is go 7 for 9 with five of those seven hits going for extra bases. He also has seven RBI in those two games. Incredible. Welcome back to the majors, Gabe and you just became one of the Fan's boxscore favorites.