Friday, August 01, 2003

In a game where it didn't appear that the Boston Red Sox brought their A game, the Orioles and revitalized Pat Hentgen won a close game 2-1. As posted earlier, the Orioles have become an entertaining game. The Fan was sad to see Ponson get traded to the Giants because the O's have a chance to be a very good team next year.

With Hentgen and Johnson, the team has a pretty good pitching staff and their offense is doing the job. Ponson would have given them four solid starters next year. Mike Hargrove should be considered for Manager of the Year.

Texas hit seven homeruns tonight as Todd Greene and Mark Teixeira each hit two. Teixeira now has seventeen homers and is proving manager Showalter's strategy of letting the young guys play. Showalter has done a great job of putting his young players on the field and the likes of Teixeira, Blalock, Young, Nix and Greene, Showalter is building the fundamentals and building a contender just like he did in Arizona and New York. The Fan hopes that Showalter gets the chance to take his team into the championship this time.

Derek Jeter has been huge for the Yankees the past month and has shown why he is the leader of that club. Tonight, when Tim Hudson looked lights out, Jeter hit a double that drove in a run to tie the game.

The Yankees finished a sweep of the finished Angel team for a great start to their western road trip. The Yankees can only hope that they don't meet the A's though in the playoffs as they don't match up well and it's doubtful they can squeak past the A's in the playoffs like they have in years past.

Important wins tonight: The Cubs in a marathon over the Diamondbacks and the Phillies--with a great performance by Millwood--over the Padres.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Cincinnati Reds finished their flurry of trades by sending Aaron Boone to the Yankees for the Yankees best pitching prospect. That's a good move for the Reds who get a great prospect and dump Boone who found himself in an impossible position as the son of the manager who just got fired.

I'm torn about the trade off of Boone for Ventura. In a short playoff series, you're looking for two things from an experienced player: a clutch glove and a clutch bat. Ventura doesn't hit much for average during the season anymore but his fielding is consistently excellent and in a short series, his experience gave him an edge in the clutch.

Boone on the other hand, is six years younger and seems to be peaking as a player. He has double the homers of Ventura and seems more durable. But he is playing his second best position as second base is where he is a better player.

Bottom line is that the Yankees have a third baseman that will produce for a number of years and lose a third baseman who was an impact fielder and a good clutch hitter with an inviting right field porch in Yankee Stadium.

The Red Sox reaquired Jeff Suppon years after they gave up on him as a young prospect. In 1995, Suppon was the next Red Sox big thing but things didn't turn out that way and the Red Sox traded him to KC after the 1997 season. Suppon is having a good season and is a big step up from Ramiro Mendoza in the starting rotation. The Red Sox did give up their best prospect to get him which scares Red Sox fans and makes them think about Jeff Bagwell.

The Giants got the pitcher they wanted in Baltimore's Ponson. A fourteen gave winner, Ponson will really help the Giants. However, the Giants gave up a lot in Damian Moss, Kurt Ainsworth and a minor leaguer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

What is going on in Cincinnati? Bobby Valentine spoke for me last night when stating that he didn't think the Reds had a clue what they were doing.

I agree with the Boone firing. I disagree with the Bowdan firing as he has brought that team some great young players without spending a lot of money. Trading Scott Williamson to the Red Sox was curious as he was one of their few pitching highlights. The deal is even more curious since Williamson was only making $1.6 million. What other closer can you find out there to give you twenty plus saves for that kind of money?

Then today, the Reds traded their hottest hitter, Jose Guillen to Oakland (another great move by the A's). The articles on the deal called it a salary dump. Salary dump? Guillen has bounced around for six year and several teams. How much money could he be making? And he was batting .337 with a slugging percentage over .600 (very Sosa-like!).

So why would you trade him? The only reason I can come up with is payback for the griping he did earlier in his season when he wasn't playing much. The Reds got Aaron Harang, who until last year was considered a great prospect. Harang was really hit hard in his brief stint in the major leagues in this his rookie season. I just don't understand this one. Maybe Harang can regain his promise for the Reds.

Bill Mueller's two grand slams, one from each side of the plate, was a great story last night. His year is storybook already and his game was the climax of the story. The only chink in the Red Sox armor right now seems to be Ramiro Mendoza as the fifth starter. His ERA is now over seven.

Those of you who were fortunate to watch the Inside Sports Center program last night should have gotten a new appreciation for what it takes to put that kind of show together. With all the juggling that goes on in that show, you appreciate the on-air talent even more than you did before. They are amazing. And amazing also describes the complete team process it takes to make that show happen. That was TV at its best last night.

It's time to look at the Fan's favorite boxscore players and how they did the last seven games.

Texas has become my favorite boxscore team. Now I follow Teixeira, Blalock, Michael Young, Shane Spencer and Laynce Michael Nix (their latest rookie gem).
- Blalock: .357 for the week with two homers, six RBI and kept his season average up to a solid .317.
- Teixeira: Had a tough week only going 3 for 26 (.115!) bringing his average down to .250. But he is two for two tonight with a homer and three RBI.
- Young: .355 for the week with 11 more hits and 9 runs scored. His season average is now .322.
- Nix: Nix batted .267 in his first full week in the majors. He had two homers and hit his third tonight with three RBI.
- Spencer: The Fan's old Yankee friend hit .412 last week with 8 RBI in 7 games. He's now a respectable .270 in 237 at bats.

The Marlins are my second favorite boxscore team:
- Dontrelle Willis: 13 innings, 1-0, 7 hits, 13 strikeouts with a 1.45 ERA. He is now 10-2 for the season!
- Mike Lowell: Batted .412 the past seven games with a homer and 7 RBI. He now has 29 homers and 87 RBI for the season.
- Miguel Cabrera: .414 for the week with 2 homers and 9 RBI! In his first 122 MLB at bats, he's up to .267 with six homers and 26 RBI in 33 games. Eighteen of his first 32 major league at bats have been for extra bases.

The rest of my favorite boxscore players:
- Sean Burroughs. Sean struggled again last week, batting only .188 with no extra base hits. His first season average is still a respectable .288 in 333 MLB at bats.
- Luis Matos. The Baltimore outfielder has his first bad week, batting only .160. His season average is down to .341 which I'd take anytime.
- Melvin Mora went 1 for 19 for the week after getting hit in the face by a batted ball. It's a real shame after the year he was having. I hope that he can get the groove back as he is still batting a solid .325.
- Albert Pujols. Pujols only hit .423 for the week. Sheesh, the man is amazing. He had another six RBI to bring his total to 98.
- Bo Hart. The human highlight film has stopped hitting. He hit .214 last week and his OBP was .267, which is terrible for a leadoff batter. The Cardinals should move him to seventh or eigth in the lineup for a while. The Cards should try Renteria at leadoff.
- Pat Burrell. Burrell hit .250 for the week! He managed to get his average just a nose above the Mendoza line.
- Rocco Baldelli. Rocco had a great week as he batted .375 with 2 homers, 2 doubles and 9 RBI. His season average is now at .307.
- Coco Crisp. Coco hit .355 last week and is now up to .291 for the year. Go Coco Go!
- Jose Reyes. Reyes has done well enough that the Mets traded away the previous starting shortstop, Rey Sanchez. Reyes is hitting a respectable .264 in his first big league season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

In the age of the homerun and the era of big innings and team Earned Run Averages over five, the Dodgers and Tigers may well be two of the worst hitting teams in history. Both teams have a team On Base Percentage (OBP) under .300. How bad is that? It's so bad that the Red Sox team BATTING AVERAGE is ABOVE the Tigers team OBP and just below the Dodgers!

Both teams strike out one out of every five at bats and the glaring stat is that the Dodgers have only 244 walks all season. The Arizona Diamondbacks are not exactly powdering the ball but have a hundred more walks than the Dodgers. And since the Dodgers don't hit many homers, not having many runners on base makes it impossible to manufacture runs. You can't manufacture if you don't have raw material to work with.

The Tigers are fighting the first year Mets team as the worst in history. It took them nearly thirty games to get their team batting average over .200 and at .233, they haven't exactly lit it up since. Looking at their lineup, there doesn't seem to be much going on there at all.

The Dodgers tried to boost their offense. They brought in Rickey Henderson and Jeremy Burnitz. Burnitz has done well with three homers but the Dodgers sat Henderson after just a few games because he was only hitting .188. Geez, he just got there. Let him get his feet wet! Rickey did hit two homers while in there and can still make things happen.

Shawn Green has had a surprisingly poor power season and only has eleven homers. There is some history to this. Shawn isn't a big powerful guy and his homers were the result of a great, sweet swing. But skinny guys like him don't last that long as sluggers. Don Mattingly and Bobby Murcer are two great examples. It doesn't take much for a skinny homerun hitter to go from forty homers to warning track fly balls and "just missed the pitch" popups.

And yes, the Dodgers were shut out tonight and managed only three hits.

Trot Nixon of the Boston Red Sox is finally living up to his number one draft selection ten years ago. After two solid, but unspectacular seasons (except for some clutch hitting against the Yankees), Nixon is batting a hefty .322 with an OBP over .400. He is a good outfielder and a fiery, hard-nosed player, but now he is a force in the lineup. At 29, he could be coming into his own in much the same way that Luis Gonzalez did for the Diamondbacks. It will be interesting to see if this is a career year for Nixon or if this is the start of a great run justifying his first selection so many years ago.

Monday, July 28, 2003

The Reds finally fired Bob Boone as manager and more surprisingly, Jim Bowden as general manager. Boone and Bowden's final legacy was a lack of continuity and performance pitching which has effectively wasted the development of good young batters who, upon occasion, can really tear up the baseball.

But it wasn't just pitching that killed Boone and Bowden's tenure, it was the lack of cohesiveness in their offensive approach. Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, Aaron Boone (who you wonder how he will handle this event), D'Angelo Jiminez, Jose Guillen and Griffey and Larkin when healthy are a great core for a ball club that should have won a ton of games. Griffey's injuries somewhat hampered continuity but that doesn't explain the constant lineup changes and rearranges that were a hallmark of the club.

But it remained the pitching that constantly defeated the Reds. And it wasn't for a lack of talent. Some organizations can take the talent and develop the talent to better and more consistent performance. This one never did. And Boone's notoriously quick hooks didn't help matters as his games always featured four or five pitchers.

This team is better than it has played and hopefully, like the Marlins and like the Royals, a change in leadership will spark better performance. Cincinnati is a great baseball town with a lot of great baseball history. Hopefully, this will be the start of a resurrection in this franchise.

The Reds without Boone won their first game in the post-Boone era against the Phillies who have picked a disappointing time to nosedive, losing six of their last ten. Their once large Wildcard lead is now down to just one game over the Marlins and two over the Diamondbacks. The Marlins won again tonight and are on a great roll with the emergence of Cabrera, the return of Mike Lowell and the pitching of Redmon, Beckett and Willis. The Phillies are in danger of falling off the table.

One good note for the Phillies is that Pat Burrell is hitting better and finally got over the .200 hump for the season.
Watching the Yankees lose to the Red Sox tonight reminds me that several times this year I have written how Joe Torre over-manages and then overly relies on just a few of his bullpen pitchers. Grady Little on the other hand, used his bullpen more wisely and that was the story of the game and the series.

First, let's discuss Torre's decisions. The Red Sox are the best hitting team in baseball. All weekend long I kept thinking that the Red Sox might have the best top to bottom lineup I've ever seen. There are no holes and no weaknesses. That being said, you have a pitcher who hasn't had much success this year handcuffing the Red Sox with only two hits while allowing no runs. Weaver gets the first out and then walks a batter and hits the next one.

In my mind, he's still your man because the double-play is still in order and Jason Veritek is a much better hitter right-handed and had to bat left against Weaver. He is also the only Yankee pitcher, and one of the few pitchers all year, that has handcuffed that great lineup. Torre should have left Weaver in there for one more batter. He didn't and brought in Jeff (feather ball) Hammond. Ballgame over.

Watching the Red Sox tonight was impressive. The lineup speaks for itself. The bullpen looks solid. But what is more evident than anything else is how close they are as a team and how emotionally they are playing. I've never seen a baseball team that hugs each other more than the Red Sox. They seem to pull for each other and root for each other. I can't imagine this team with Carl Everett still playing outfield for them. If the Red Sox pull it off and make it to the playoffs and beyond, they deserve to win because they really are a team. Heck, even Manny Ramirez looks like family.

Sammy Sosa hit his 521st homerun today to tie Willie McCovey and Ted Williams on the all-time list. Sosa's current run is remarkable and furious and indicitive of the fury of his career. Sammy is batting over .300 and is up to 22 homers and 61 RBI after missing a quarter of the season. Way to go, Sammy!

The top stories tonight to the Fan were the fifteenth straight win by Roy Halladay and the seventh straight win by Royals' pitcher, Jose Lima. Halladay has been outstanding and if he holds up should easily win the Cy Young award. I remember when he first came up and the Yankees used to cuff him around. Not anymore.

Jose Lima's rise back to top form has been remarkable. Starting a few years ago with Houston, Lima became the easiest pitcher to hit in baseball. After a year when he went 21-10, Lima put three of the worst years of pitching history together with ERA's of 6.65, 5.54 and 7.77 together. His three year record was 19-40! Right now he is 7-0 with a 2.37 ERA. Remarkable...and fun...and another reason why MLB is the best game there is.