Saturday, July 12, 2003

Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa are really putting on a show. Sosa has hit 12 homers in the last three weeks with 23 RBI and Bonds has hit a bunch as well including homers in his last five games.

Sosa's midpoint statistics are enviable for a player who didn't sit out for three weeks on the disabled list and then serve a seven game suspension. With 18 homers and 50 RBI, Sammy is well on the way to another 30+ homer season with over one hundred RBI.

Bonds already has thirty homers and has a shot at sixty again. It didn't take long for Bonds to come from behind to take over the league leadership in that category.

With Bonds and Sosa, we are watching two of the best sluggers who have ever played the game. Sosa's last six seasons are unequaled in the history of the game and Bonds has an excellent chance to surpass his idol, Willie Mays, this year to become third on the all time list.

It's time to look at the Fan's favorite boxscore players and how they did the last seven days:
- Bo Hart. Hart is a new favorite but he "only" hit .333 this week to bring his average "down" to .372. And Hart is always on the highlight shows with his spectacular fielding.

- Rocco Baldelli. Rocco was steady with a .296 batting average to maintain his .308 season average. He had a homer and four RBI. He will struggle though if he doesn't get some patience at the plate as his OBP was lower last week than his batting average! Baldelli has only walked 13 times in 86 games.

- Hank Blalock. Blalock had a quiet week with a week's batting average of .286. His season average is still a healthy .329. Blalock only figured in one run (scored) this week as he had not extra base hits and no RBI.

- Mark Teixeira. Teixeira had two homers this week but scuffled a little at the plate, batting .235 for the week. His season average for his first full year in the majors is now .250. He has nearly caught up to teammate Blalock's RBI total for the year.

- Michael Young. Young batted a torrid .417 last week and is now at .323 for the year. He also had two homers and seven RBI and now has 42 RBI for the year.

- Coco Crisp. Coco was not crisp again this week as he batted only .234 for the week and is now at .224 for the week. The most discouraging stat is that Crisp is a speed, singles hitter who struck out six times in six games this week. Even so, Crisp has scored 20 runs in his 30 games played.

- Pat Burrell. Pat. Pat. Pat. Burrell is still scraping as he only had three hits in his 24 at bats this week for a dismal .125 average. His season average is now at .194. Burrell has struck out 99 times in 83 games this season. To put that in better perspective, Burrell has struck out 32 times in every 100 at bats.

- Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera had a decent week batting .263 as he learns his way around the Major League batter's box. He did have a homer and a double as part of his five hits and continues to have a large percentage of his hits go for extra bases.

- Jose Reyes. Reyes had a tough week as he only had two hits in his eleven at bats. His season average is now at .234. Distressingly, he's only walked once in his 24 game Major League career.

- Sean Burroughs. Burroughs and Young are my stars of the week as Jeff's son hit .360 for the week with a homer, triple and three doubles to account for many of his nine RBI for the week. His season average is now over .300. The nicest stat for Burroughs is that for a young player, he's only struck out 44 times in his 84 games.
Both Chicago teams are tumbling which is unfortunate as there was a lot of promise and hope in that city just a few weeks ago. The Cubbies spent a large part of the first half in first place and the White Sox traded for some promising help as they had become a factor in the AL West. But the Cubs are now a .500 team (46-46) even though Sammy Sosa is now back slammin' those homers (he had two today to give him 17 for the season).

The Cubs will live and die by how well their starting pitching performs and their big two, Prior and Wood, have been good, great and bad. They are just not consistently either good or better. And Chicago's other starters are not fairing much better.

The White Sox on the other hand, have stopped hitting. They were pounding the ball, trade for two AllStars (past) and now can't hit. Paul Konerko is the American League's Pat Burrell (Burrell did hit a homer tonight) and is batting .194 which doesn't help.

The top sluggers in the game are all getting hot at the same time. Sosa has hit eight homers in the last two weeks. Ken Griffey, Jr. has hit a homer in four straight games and Bonds has gone on an unbelievable tear. Too bad these best of the best won't be at the HomeRun Derby.

The big story of the day though is the Florida Marlins who continued their winning ways by coming from behind to beat the Expos today. The Marlins are now only four and a half game out of the wildcard race and declared themselves as a contender by trading young talent for Ugueth (what kind of name is that?) Urbina. What a great pickup as Urbina leads the AL in saves and has 200 lifetime. The Marlins don't plan to close him which I think is a mistake. Having Urbina setup Brandon Looper is like having the opening act of a rock concert finish the show instead of start it. Urbina is the proven pro and should save the games.

The trade, either way, has to please the Marlins' fans as the team is showing a strong desire to win instead of trading away all of their top players in cost cutting measures. I was down there for three weeks and can testify that the Marlins are a fun team to watch right now. Pudge Rodriguez is getting hot. Lowell hit another homer tonight and Lee is hitting well. They will be fun to track from here on out.

The trade was also brilliant in another way. Since they traded for Urbina so early, they can see if he can help them win now. If they don't win and fall back again, it's still early and trading him is still possible. Very smart.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

The Detroit Tigers just completed a three game sweep of what was the recently contending Chicago White Sox. Can you imagine what the White Sox fans are thinking right now? The team went out and declared themselves as contenders after a hot streak by obtaining two professional hitters, one a possible Hall of Famer, and they lose six of seven including three in a row to the Tigers. Ugh! The Tigers have won only 24 times which means that one sixth of their wins have come courtesy of the White Sox (these three and one earlier in the year).

Harold Reynolds of ESPN made a telling point that when you chance a lineup like the White Sox have, it takes a while for the batters to get used to the change. He believes the White Sox will come around. The Yankees have proven that theory several times this year as they have had trouble scoring at various times when players were inserted into the lineup that caused a major shift. When Jeter came back and moved Johnson down to ninth in the order when he was batting second and now that Bernie Williams is back, his entrance into the lineup affects the entire middle portion of that lineup.

It's too bad that the Yanks couldn't get some run support for Clemens who pitched another great game AllStar caliber game, giving up only two runs in seven innings of work. But he gets a ND as the Yankees only managed two runs themselves. The game is in the ninth inning now with Posada on first with one out.

Last night, the Astros scored six runs in the first inning on their way to pounding the Reds 12-2. Tonight the Astros out-did that effort by scoring nine runs before they had any outs in the first inning. Paul Wilson was the victim or should that be, "villain," as he failed to get anyone out. Griffey hit another homer tonight so that at least is good news. Hey Cincy GM! It's time.

Sean Burroughs had a great night tonight for the Padres, as he was 3 for 5 with a homer and two doubles. His BA is now up to .306. As I mentioned earlier this season, he'll starting hitting more extra base hits once he gets comfortable and confident.

I have featured Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira in my writings all year but even as impressive so far comparitively to those two young players is their 26 year old teammate, Michael Young. Young is in his third year in MLB and has improved all of his important stats each year. He's having a terrific season batting .318 with 52 runs scored.

The Twins have lost eight of their last ten and are below .500 for the year. Fortunately for them and for Chicago, the leader, Kansas City, is still not too far ahead. I can't believe the Royals are still leading the division in July! Even more amazing since their best player has been out of the lineup. It's scary that Sweeney has been out this long with a back problem. That's a long time and seems to point at a big problem.

The Red Sox took care of the sinking Toronto Blue Jays. Pitching. They won't win with just Roy Halladay performing well.

The Red Sox really did a terrific job picking up players that are really helping them. David Ortiz is batting .302 with 46 RBI in just 62 games. Bill Mueller is at .337 with an OBP over .400 (he also went 4-4 tonight). Kevin Millar is batting .301 with 14 homers and 61 RBI. He's already had more RBI than all of his last season.

And the Red Sox magic touch continued as newly acquired Gabe Kapler has nine RBI in nine games. Mendoza gave the Sox his second great start in a row against Toronto tonight. The Red Sox as a team are now batting .294 with a team slugging percentage a hair under .600. Amazing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

With a full slate of games, MLB tonight continued to confound us in one of the tipsy topsiest seasons I can ever remember. The Twins and White Sox lost...AGAIN. The Cardinals lost AGAIN as the Dodgers actually scored six runs tonight. Pujols went 0-5 in that game and has dropped thirty points on his average in the last week and a half. Meanwhile, the Cubbies finally won a game as Sammy Sosa hit another homer with three RBI.

To continue the madness, the Blue Jays, who a few weeks ago looked unbeatable, blew another lead. This time they were up 7-3 late in the game and lost 8-7. The Cincinnati Reds, who a few weeks ago looked ready to contend with the other three teams in their division continued a really poor losing streak and were down 6-0 before three outs in the first inning were recorded.

I will resume my call for Bob Boone's job in Cincinnati. I really believe that team could use a spark much like the spark that the Florida Marlins have received with their managerial change. It's time to try something different in Cincy. The only bright spot for Cincy was that Griffey hit a homer.

Well, the Fan is back from Florida after an eighteen day vacation. I miss the palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean, but I don't miss the constant smell of exhaust fumes and the moisture in the air. We arrived back in Maine today and it was a breezy 73 degrees with no humidity and fresh clean air. It's good to be home. I did a fair job of keeping the blog going while I was gone though I did miss about three days. Things will be more stable now.

I was very glad to see Geoff Jenkins get voted into the AllStar game. He really deserves it after working hard from a very ugly injury to play the way he is playing.

I saw an amazing stat tonight stating that Ichiro has had seven consecutive multi-hit games. That's a hot hitter! I was watching the highlight show and saw him jack a leadoff pitch for a very long homerun. He is so quick that he could probably do that forty times a year if he wanted to. His only weakness is a 95 MPH fastball up and in. But then again, he has plenty of company there.

Speaking of a fastball, I had a rare chance to watch Eric Gagne tonight and he is amazing. He dispatched of the hot Jim Edmonds and a dangerous, but slumping Albert Pujols. There are only a few relievers who can dominate the way he can: Rivera and Smoltz. That's it. Those three are in a class by themselves. You might think Billy Wagner belongs in there but he is a step down from the top three because his mighty fastball is pretty much straight without a lot of movement and he can be beat.

Monday, July 07, 2003

The Chicago Cubs and MLB suffered a major blow with the injury to Corey Patterson. Patterson tore up his ACL in his knee on a close play at first base yesterday. His injury will end his season.

Patterson blossomed into one of the brightest young stars in the league under Dusty Baker (who we'll discuss a bit later). Such blossomings are what makes baseball such a fun game to follow. Patterson was batting .298 at the time with 13 homer, 55 RBI with 16 stolen bases and was playing great defense. The Fan wishes the best for Corey and hopes that the injury can be overcome with hard work.

It's hard not to think of Jermaine Dye at a time like this. Dye just came into his own when he was traded to Oakland during the race a few years back. Dye helped the A's get to the playoffs and then in those playoffs horribly broke his leg. Dye has never been the same player since and now has a severely separated shoulder after a collision at the plate. Sad.

This has been a year marred by injuries to exciting players. Ken Griffey was poised after years of injuries to have a big year. He hit ten homers during Spring Training. A few games into the season and he separates his shoulder. He has struggled since and is currently batting .238. Sad.

Speaking of sad and the Cubs, it hasn't been a good month for the club with the Patterson injury topping the list. First you have Sammy Sosa's unfortunate problem with his bat. Next, you have all those blown saves with terrible relief pitching. Then you have Dusty Baker opening his mouth and inserting his foot. Basically, what Dusty said was that latino and black players are better suited to hot summer baseball than their white counterparts.

I remember that it wasn't too long ago that Al Campanis lost his baseball executive job after a wonderful career because he stated that blacks run better and are stronger than whites. While I'm not a fan of the politically correct, Baker's statements will result in a slap on the wrist because Dusty is African-American while Campanis was white. There is something wrong with that.

I don't have a problem with Baker having that opinion but in his position, he should have kept that opinion to himself. His statements are embarrassing to baseball in a time when baseball is in a position to aid in the end to blind and ignorant racism in America.

And one more Cubs sad comment before we call it a night (and I like the Cubs and want them to win). They have stated their disappointment in not being able to trade for Mike Lowell because they need a bat at third base. It seems to me that they had one Bill Mueller and let him go. He's only hitting .330 for the Red Sox this season.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

I wish that when the commissioner's office determines what is best for the fans, that he would ask us. I have been against the new format of the AllStar Game from the beginning and the voting today and the quotes from at least the AL Manager show that what is best for the fans is not what is going to happen.

The Flagrant Fan is a typical fan. True baseball fans love baseball and its great players past and present. True baseball fans could care less who wins the AllStar Game. What true fans want is to see the year's best players and a representation by the best active career players who are still performing well. To not have a chance to see Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa is terrible.

Let's first look at the obvious gaffes. Vernon Wells should be starting over the Yankee's Matsui. Matsui should be on the squad, but Wells is having the superior year. Nomar Garciaparra should definitely start over Alex Rodriguez. Don't get me wrong, Rodriguez is the best player in baseball, but Nomar is having a better year.

Kerry Woods should not be on the squad (barely over .500) and Dontrelle Willis should be. Jorge Posada is having a good power year but should not be starting over the Twins catcher or the Red Sox catcher. And the biggest gaffe of them all? Carl Everett should NOT be on the squad. He had a great start but has cooled off and is hitting only .270+ for the season. He should not get the nod over his own teammates, Frank Thomas and Maglio Ordonez nevermind the ten other players in the league who are having better years.

I also have a big problem with the amount of relief pitchers chosen over starting pitchers. Starting pitchers have a harder job, plain and simple. The top of the year's group should be on the squad along with two closers and maybe the best setup man.

The other gripe will be pressure for the teams' manager NOT to play everyone over trying to win the game. We're the fans. We want to see as many players as possible. We don't want to see the same players the whole game. That's not an AllStar game. The whole thing smells and maybe this fan will protest by not watching at all. Take that, Mr. Commissioner.

By the way, does anyone else but me see how much Bill Gates has come to resemble Bud Selig?

The Yankees did manage to win the third game of their Series with Boston. The Red Sox could have really made a statement with a sweep but were not able to do so. There are some positive signs for the Yankees. Soriano had a bit of a slump but is now back up to .300. Jeter was hitting in the .260's but is now back up to .297 and unbelievably, Hidecki Matsui is batting .311! Karim Garcia was a good pickup but I'm not sure of why they would want Curtis Pride, a .256 lifetime journeyman outfielder. That doesn't make sense. But Pride was called up from Columbus and will be a moot point when Bernie Williams comes back.

Now it's time to look at the Fan's favorite boxscore players and how they fared for the week:
- Rocco Baldelli. Rocco is still struggling and was only 5 for 21 (.238) last week with only one extra base hit and one RBI. His average for the year is down to .309. The upside is that he has over a hundred hits halfway through the season.
- Coco Crisp. Coco puffed up a bit this week as he batted .294 for the week with nine runs scored! He has raised his season average up to .225.
- Hank Blalock. Blalock keeps chugging along as he batted .308 for the week with two homers. His season average is still over .330. Go Hank go!
- Mark Teixeira. Teixeira batted .222 for the week and is still below .250 for the year. He did hit a homer this week though.
- Pat Burrell. No good things to report here. Poor Burrell still hasn't turned it around yet and only had 2 hits in 16 at bats this past week. Yeesh. He's hitting beneath the dreaded Mendoza line now.
- Miguel Cabrera. The young rookie had a great week batting .333 with eight hits, six of them for extra bases including three doubles and three homers, five RBI and six runs scored. Ten of his season's 14 hits are for extra bases. The kid looks good!
- Jose Reyes. The Mets phenom had a solid week as he played three games and had three RBI, batting .273. He is only batting .218 for the year but he has 18 RBI in 21 games.
- Bo Hart. Hart became human this week and only hit .250 but he did have four RBI and scored five runs. His season average "fell" to .390.
- Sean Burroughs. Burroughs had a great week batting .381 to raise his season average to an even .300. He also scored six runs. His On Base Average was .480 for the week!