Archive for April, 2008

Mars Acquisition Portends Name Change for Wrigley Field

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The proposed acquisition of the Windy City’s chewing gum-maker Wrigley by Virginia-based candy bar giant Mars had analysts buzzing today about the possible implications the deal could have on the naming rights to the Cubs’ home, Wrigley Field. With the team on the market naming rights for the venerable ballpark will be in play, according to market gurus. The $23 billion mega deal is on hold pending shareholder approval

Jerry Mathers, an industry analyst at Deutsche Bank, said in an interview that one possibility would be the unwieldy ‘Mars/Wrigley Field’. “The synergies between the companies are obvious,” Mathers said. “As far as the industry is concerned the new company will be the gorilla in the room – so it would make sense to take advantage of the opportunity naming rights would provide.”

Merril Lynch analyst Lawrence Mondello noted today that the merger provides Warren E. Buffett a unique chance to promote Bershire Hathaway, which loaned Mars $4.4 billion to close the deal. “‘Berkshire Ballpark’ would link a sports icon with a titan in the investment field,” Mondello said. “It’s a natural.”

However, Chicago-based industry expert and White Sox fan Edward G. Haskell offered a different take. Mars should push one of its own brands by dubbing the ball park ‘Snickers Yard.’ “It would certainly go a long way,” he noted slyly, “in describing what Sox fans think of the place,” he noted.

Personally, given the growing trend in Major League Baseball away from tobacco and towards seeds and chewing gum in the dugouts, Mars would be wise to exploit a new opportunity while keeping a link to the past. ‘Juicy Fruit Field’ would be a chance to lure the ball players away from Bazooka while maintaining a home town Wrigley connection.

After a surge in its stock price on Monday, at the end of the trading day on Tuesday Wrigley closed at $76.87, down four cents.

What I Thought About This Week

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Pale Hose’d: The White Sox have stuck Josh Fields at Triple-A — and he’s playing like a major leaguer. I remember when Joe Crede went down with an injury last year I thought “oh, oh,” and then Fields knocked the hell out of the ball. Okay, so he didn’t knock the hell out of the ball, but he proved he belonged in the majors. So when Crede came back this year, what did the Pale Hose do? … they demoted Fields. He’s at Charlotte, where he’s hitting .292 with three home runs. Listen, if the White Sox don’t want him …

The Very Junior Circuit: If you sit here in the National League on the East Coast you focus on … well, you focus on the National League on the East Coast. For us, a team like the Texas Rangers hardly seems to exist. So in reading through the Hardball Times this week I learned that the Rangers have the fourth best minor league system in baseball. I believe it, but so … ? This team is lost … maybe Nolan, the new Ranger president (who, presumably, knows something about this game), can help.

GnatsNation: Tyler Clippard and Collin Balester continue to tear up Triple-A, while Mat and Sean continue to get torn up in the majors … Paul LoDuca is still out, but it seems not to have made a difference. Wil Nieves’ walk-off home run on Friday night sailed into the bullpen, giving him one more homer than the former Met … So now, after the Nat’s win, a sweep is out of the question I hate to say it, but the one-time great hope for the Cubs in centerfield might be done (see below). Dubois is hitting .174 at Columbus; even Langerhans is doing better. Oleanders and Morning Glories has a good dit in on the Mets — which I missed and Just A Nat’s Fan has a good piece (“We All Scream for Ice Cream”) on what it’s like to cheer for the Anacostia Boys when your heart is still on the North Side. I hear ya …

bartman.jpg

The “Nation”: The Angels didn’t dominate the Beanies this week, but they beat them decisively, taking two of a three game set. Red Sox fans oohed and ahhed about Justin Masterson’s major league debut, but the rest of us (methinks) oohed and ahhed about how the Angels are quietly making their case for being the best team in the American League. Joe Saunders if 4-0, Ervin Santana looks unhittable, and Scot Shields has nine strikeouts in ten innings. And all of that is without John Lackey, the most underrated pitcher in the game — who’s one rehab start from a 16-3 season. Then too, the Belinsky’s have the best defense west of the Mississippi. Tell me I’m wrong.

200px-bo_belinsky_64topps-315.jpg

Speaking of the Left Coast … I saw a good bit of the Orioles series in Seattle (on television, of course), which prompted me to do a tutorial on the Mariners. I came away less than impressed: while their website says they have their “Mojo-Risin” (gag), the only thing that’s “risin” in Seattle are visiting team’s batting averages. The certain-savior, Eric Bedard is sidelined and the bullpen is a mess. J.J. Putz is on his way back, but you have to wonder what the Mariners will do for starting pitching, outside of Felix Hernandez. Jerrod Washburn and Miguel Batista just aren’t going to cut it. So suddenly, the Mariners and Orioles seem headed in opposite directions, which would have been impossible to say at any point in the past ten years. Or longer. Ironically, the key to the turnaround for the Orioles is Bedard, who was shipped out for Adam Jones — who is the real deal. Everytime I saw him I thought, this kid is going to hit the hell out of the ball. And so far, at least, he has …

Speaking of Centerfielders: There is no greater argument for patience than Felix Pie. Pie is slated as the Cubs centerfielder of the future, the second coming of Billy Williams. The Cubs have never (and I mean never) had a Mantle-type centerfielder (Williams played left in ’69, their darkest year), peopling their greatest teams with the likes of singles-hitting forgettables like Augie Galen, Chuck Klein, Frank Demaree and the otherwise excreble Solly Hofman who, in 1908, retrieved Fred Merkle’s shot to center. So … anyway, the Cubs have dubbed Pie “the hope” and have worked, and worked and worked to make him do what they know he can do and what he has done in the minor leagues. Which is hit the leather off the ball. But it has never clicked – until now. Last week the Cubs brought in their minor league hitting instructor, Dave Keller, to tutor Pie and he’s suddenly, inexplicably caught fire, his shoulders down on the ball, his head steady, his hands back where they should be. He hit one out of Wrigley, his first there, on the 22nd, and I thought Lou (who’s made Pie his own special project) was going to do a little dance. The kid’s arrived.   

 

Nats and Lopez Open a Can of Whup-Ass

Friday, April 25th, 2008

It is a rare sight so far this year so if you weren’t in the ballpark or didn’t watch it on t.v. you should go to the box score to witness Thursday’s pounding of the Mets. In a come from behind win the Nats slammed out 13 hits and 10 runs in as even an attack as you’re likely to see this season. The number 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 hitters in the line up had two hits apiece and were led by Felipe Lopez who had six RBI on a single and his sixth inning grand slam which put the game out of reach. It would appear that Senor Lopez is comfortable with his role as a starter and made a strong point that, for the time being at least, his days as a platoon player should be over.

Michael O’Connor came on in the sixth to pitch his first inning of the year, gave up one hit and no runs, and was rewarded with the win. In his second start of the season Sean Hill struck out five while giving up six hits and two earned runs in his five respectable innings of work. Rivera, Ayala and Rauch mopped up with an inning of work apiece.

On the other side of the ledger the two Carloses (Beltran and Delgado) were held to one hit in nine at-bats by the Nats’ pitching staff. The one hit was a Beltran dinger off Rivera in the seventh. Ryan Church continued his strong-out-of-the-gate hitting pace for the Mets going two-for-four with a walk and a ribbie. He’s hitting .350 with a .409 OBP and a .463 slugging percentage.

It was a very nice win to finish off the series with the Mets and a great lead-in for the three-game set with the very hot Cubbies who are atop the NL Central. The Cubs have won eight of 10 coming into the weekend. The Nats will face Ryan Dempster tomorrow night who is 3-0 thus far with a taut 3.0 ERA.

Diamond Nuggets

Jumbo presidents Abe and George greeted fans as they exited through the center field concourse in the late innings tonight. Stopping for photos and waves, they provided a nice opportunity to get up close and personal with a couple of the prezes we’ve come to love. . . . A suggestion for the front office folks: it might not be a bad idea to add some regular video games and (horrors!) perhaps go old-school with a few baseball-themed pinball machines in the arcade in the center field concourse. Guitar Hero, the race car video games and other high tech stuff are good for the teens but it leaves the kids still in the single digits with not much to do. . . . Skeevy Screech made an appearance in section 313 tonight. It all started out pleasantly enough with him/her/it mugging for the fans and posing for photos. But it soon went awry when it pantomimed picking its nose and eating it prior to departing. Nice.

Nats New “Ace” Chops Tomahawks

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

The Washington Nationals finally got untracked tonight — scoring six against the Atlanta Braves. While the team of Carpenter and Sutton extolled the virtues of Ryan Zimmerman’s eighth inning double down the rightfield line, it was John Lannan who once again provided all the Nats needed. Lannan tossed a seven inning shutout with four strikeouts. This was not the eleven strikeout wonder of his previous no-decision outing (his fastball was not diving in on righthanders as much as it was last week), but it was a beautifully pitched game nonetheless.

john-lannan.jpg

Lannan is fasting becoming the ace of the staff — the undisputed Nats Number One Pitcher on a staff without an ace. The only other contender is Tim Redding, who has pitched well (as he did several nights ago in a losing effort), but who lacks the catch-em-looking stuff that Lannan has shown. Later, on “Baseball Tonight,” the team of John Kruk and Buck Showalter (sans Steve Phillips — thanks be to … ) idenitified the league’s aces and came up with the usual top-of-the-line dominators: Santana, Zambrano, Peavy, Webb, and one or two others. (I still believe there’s no better pitcher than Webb — the class of both leagues.) Lannan is certainly not in that company, but for a ballclub that’s not supposed to have any pitching, Lannan is “exhibit number 1” of an ace-in-the-making — and if he keeps pitching the way he did in his last two outings, he’ll be on the Kruk-Showalter list by the end of the season. So for all of the Nats’ troubles recently (and they are formidable), Lannan is evidence that not all is amiss along the Anacostia. Then too, as I keep saying, there’s always this guy — who is on the way:

balister-three.jpg

NL Predictions

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

N.L. Predictions

Yeah, yeah, I know: who does predictions after 15 games? Well, I got behind in my posts. So sue me. Anyway, I won’t look at the standings. I promise. Like Arizona is the best team in baseball?! Please. Although it would be interesting to see Mark go apoplectic if they did win the division – again.

East

Phillies – Grant is the Phils, Hepburn the Mets

Mets – After Johan there’s no depth in their chart

Braves – Glavine and Smoltz run out of gas

Nats – They battle the fish for bottom of the barrel

Marlins – When your “ace” has a lifetime ERA of 4.98 you’re in trouble

 

Central

Cubs – If they don’t win in this division Lou throws a clot

Milwaukee – Prince helps ‘em make a run

Stros – Too many converted relievers in the rotation

Pirates – I don’t see it

St. Louis – Pujols has 360 total bases but it don’t mean squat

Reds – The year’s dog-bites-man story

West

Dodgers – In a dogfight to the end, Torre helps L.A. celebrate its 50th anniversary in style

Padres – Good pitching and a strong lineup make L.A. sweat

Dbacks – They know how to win but fade in the stretch

Rockies – A good lineup won’t make up for little pitching

Giants – A Bonds-less team with Zito and a decent lineup = 80 wins

Losing With Kids

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Just when you think that what the Nationals really need is pitching, along comes a guy like John Lannan, who sets down sixteen in a row while striking out 11. Lannan’s fastball — inside and tight — was a pitch-to-behold, clocking in at something just overe 91 mph. He seemed, at times, almost overpowering and, when not overpowering, confident and in control. And suddenly, the complete funk the team is in seems less a result of poor pitching than poor hitting: plus the adventure of seeing Christian Guzman fielding ground balls.

After last night’s version of how-to-lose, I race for this year’s version of Baseball Prospectus to reread the last sentence of their narrative account of what the future of our team looks like: “Stay tuned,” the editors intone, “because the next four years should be all sorts of fun.” And when, praytell, would that “fun” begin? “Patience,” Stan Kasten says. Okay, fair enough. But while we’re being patient, we hope that Kasten-Bowden-Acta and company are searching around for the future — some more-than-warm bodies that can carry the club up the middle while Lannan and O’Connor and Clippard and Balester — but especially Balester mature.

There are players here: Zimmerman and Johnson and Milledge and Flores (oh for God’s sake: just get him back from Columbus and put him behind the plate) and even Kearns, but the weakness up-the-middle is glaring and fatal. Last night it was Ronnie Belliard’s turn: Belliard Buckner’d Ryan Church’s slow roller with two out in the bottom of the eighth, cracking the door for the Mets and eventually sending the game into the 14th, when reliever Joel Hanrahan (only Chad Cordero was left in the pen) wild-pitched the Mets to victory. Anybody can boot a ball and one booted ball does not a season make, but Ronnie (“adequacy in cleats”) is not the club’s future — and Jim Bowden knows it.With the dirth of two-baggers in the minors, the Nats might look around for a young second baseman, a quick bat and good glove backed up in a system replete with infielders or stuck in park at some woebegone place like Iowa or Portland. There are a few — Triple A or majors bench types — most particularly with teams who might salivate over putting someone like John Rauch or Luis Ayala or Saul Rivera in their bullpen, which is all the Nats have to deal. So much as I love the Nats relief corps, Rauch and Ayala and Rivera are not about to pitch us to .500 and how many long relievers are there in the Hall of Fame anyway? So if we’re going to make a swap, then Jim should (just this once) go hunting for a second baseman — and look elsewhere than in the Cincinnati farm system. Here are some nominees.

Eric Patterson

eric-patterson.jpg

Patterson is stuck on the bench in Cubbieland, subbing for Mark De Rosa and seeing time in Left and even Centerfield. But he’s a natural at second and a better hitter than his brother Corey — but nearly everyone is. Mike Fontenot is still Lou’s fair-haired favorite and the Slugs have been looking to unload Patterson in a deal for the Orioles Brian Roberts. The Cubs bullpen, meanwhile, is in free-fall: Bob Howry can’t hit the strike zone, Michael Wertz is a mess and Scott Eyre is injured. The Prospectus (my recent Bible) says the Cubs should “either hand him the second-base job or deal him to a team that will.” I have a nominee.

Danny Richar

danny-richar.jpg

The former Arizona Asshole has had a so-so minor league career, but he hits the ball with authority and at 24 he is all up-side. He needs to work on laying off high fastballs — but who doesn’t and his glove and range are more than serviceable. If the White Sox won’t give him a shot (and they seem, oddly, in love with Juan Uribe — who’s just plain lazy), then the Nats should give Richar his chance. Then too, the asking price would likely be modest in comparison with Patterson, particularly if Bobby Jenks continues to make the 9th inning an adventure.

Kevin Melillo

kevin-mellilo.jpg

Oakland Athletics Melillo is stuck at Triple-A, and is likely to be there for awhile. Billy Beane is in love with Mark Ellis (as well he should be), though Melillo hits for average and average power and is all of 25. Untried and untested, the rap on this recommendation is that there is no guarantee that Melillo will ever go anywhere. But the response is my default position: I would rather have a 25-year-old with some potential booting a ball than a 32-year-old. And if you’re going to lose ten in a row, well then at least do it with a kid who can learn something by it. Of course, trading a top-flight reliever to Oakland violates one of my rules: never make a deal with Billy Beane.

Matt Antonelli

matt-antonelli.jpg

San Diego Padres Antonelli might still be a year away, but so too are a host of second basemen — a lot of whom are in the majors. Case in point? The Friars are playing Tadahito Iguchi at second and while Iguchi is serviceable (a “fuilityman” in my book) he is hitting a torrid .235 and went 0-7 in the latest 22-inning epic. Meanwhile, the Pads are keeping Antonelli down in Portland, ostensibly because he needs to straighten out his swing. So does Iguchi, but nevermind. So bring Antonelli to that new-park-by-the-Anacostia and tell him to straighten out his swing in the majors. The problem? Antonelli will be expensive — and the Padres certainly know Iguchi’s weaknesses as well as anyone. Listen, if you don’t think these are good ideas and you think that Ronnie Belliard are better than any of these, you have a point. We know Belliard can hit, and I’m sure that he feels as badly about what happened in the eighth at Shea as anyone. Even so — in the midst of a spiraling losing streak, the least we could do is lose with kids.

Pee Wee Reese’s Plaque

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

jackie-robinson.gif

Back in 1965, Bobby Bragan had to be the most hated man in Wisconsin. This had nothing to do with Bragan himself, you understand, but with the fact that he was the manager of the lame duck Milwaukee Braves — who had announced before the beginning of the season that they would be abandoning County Stadium for the greener pastures of Atlanta. The city was stunned. Why would anyone want to leave Milwaukee for a city that was still recovering from Sherman’s well-deserved burning? Worse yet, the Braves were so desperate to leave that they offered Milwaukee $500,000 to let them out of their stadium lease. The city turned them down.

The Braves’ move was even more surprising because the team had just arrived from Boston in 1953, complete with a bevy of young talent that would bring them to the National League Pennant and a World Series within five years. They won it all in 1957, behind the pitching of Lew Burdette — with his famous spitter — who compiled three complete game wins and an ERA of 0.67. Crandall, Torre, Schoendienst, Mathews, Logan, Covington, Bruton and Aaron are still, for my money, one of the great World Series teams of all time.

pennant1small.gif

Just so: eight years later, the folks who ran the Braves decided it was time to leave and so it was that every time Bragan emerged from the dugout he was booed mercilessly. Bragan feigned disinterest — but everyone knew he was thin-skinned.  Bragan’s reputation had preceded him. Back when Branch Rickey decided that Jackie Robinson would be baseball’s first black player, Bragan led a revolt of Dodgers’ who threatened to sign a petition saying that if Robinson played, they woundn’t. Bragan reportedly led the cabal that included Dixie Walker, Eddie Stanky, and Kirby Higbe. Dodger manager Leo Durocher got wind of this during Spring Training and called an early morning team meeting. Showing up in his pajamas and bright yellow bathrobe, Durocher told his players what he thought: “I hear some of you players don’t want to play with Robinson,” he said, “and that you have a petition drawn up that you are going to sign. Well boys, you know what you can do with that petition. You can wipe your ass with it. I hear Dixie Walker is going to send Mr. Rickey a letter asking to be traded. Just hand him the letter, Dixie, and you’re gone. GONE. I don’t care if a guy is yellow or black or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I am the manager, and I say he plays.”

While the Bragan petition was dropped, Bragan’s reputation as being anti-Robinson was sealed, despite his later claim after “just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player. I told Rickey I had changed my mind and I was honored to be a teammate of Jackie Robinson.”In any event (and putting aside Bragan’s later reputation as a steller minor league administrator), Milwaukee’s fans (and especially their African-American fans) never let Bragan forget what they thought of him. Bragan returned the favor: during one hot August game, Braves left fielder Rico Carty misplayed a ball in left field (not an oddity, as I recall) and Bragan came out of the dugout and headed to the mound. But instead of replacing the pitcher, he waved Carty into the dugout: the only time I have ever seen a manager so publicly humiliate a player. By the end of the game, the fans at County Stadium (and there weren’t many of them) were standing and clapping: “Rico, Rico, Rico.” (We might only imagine what the fans might have done had Bragan decided to replace the guy in right field — Henry Aaron — but not even Bragan would dare do that.)

Bragan’s stillborn petition might have divided the Dodgers between a pro-Robinson group and a sullen and silent cadre of Bragan supporters, but it didn’t. That the Dodgers went on the win the 1947 Pennant was attributable to the play of Robinson, who was voted Rookie of the Year, but also to Pee Wee Reese — who made a point of welcoming Robinson to the club and standing by him during some of the worst moments of the season. Bragan had expected Reese, a southerner, to be one of the petition signers, but Reese refused. In Cincinnati, where a large number of Reese fans showed up to shout epithets at Robinson, Reese walked across second base to chat with Robinson and put his arm around him.

pee-wee-reese-and-jackie-robinson.jpg

Crosley Field went deathly still. If “the Little Colonel,” as his legion of fans called him, could welcome Jackie Robinson to the big leagues, well then so could they. Reese was a great personality. He held down an announcing spot on the “Game of the Week” with Dizzy Dean for years, back when the Yankees dominated the game and his color commentary was a thing of beauty. He was never a great baseball player — and partisans of Ron Santo point to Reese as an example of why the Cubs Captain should take his place in the Hall. But Reese wasn’t voted into the hall because he was a great player: he was voted into the Hall because of what he did for Jackie Robinson and baseball. Reese was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1984. The last line of his plaque reads: “Instrumental in easing acceptance of Jackie Robinson as baseball’s first black performer.”  

Silver Linings

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

So, three and eight. Not good. And certainly not fun. After Wednesday night’s game Ryan Zimmerman said that despite the losses the team has “played good baseball.”

There’s something to be said for optimism. And it is early. At the start of the season Zimmerman, this being his third in the bigs, said he wants to be a team leader. You don’t lead anything by preaching gloom and doom. Just ask Walter Mondale.

But the home team has added two losses since Zimmerman’s pronouncement. So, what’s there to be optimistic about? I poked around the stats page after tonight’s loss to Atlanta and came up with these:

Milledge is hitting .289 and Guzman, in the leadoff slot, is at .294. Plus, Nick Johnson is healthy and hot, batting .286 and slugging .514. Which, of course, means they should trade him for some pitching as soon as Dmitri gets back in the lineup.

Speaking of pitching, Tim Redding has pitched just 11 innings but he’s only given up one run. Matt Chico’s ERA is a respectable 3.72 and his strike out-to-walk ratio is 3 to 1. His line on Friday night was:

IP  H  R  ER  BB  SO

8.0 5   1    1      1     3

That’s what you call a hard-luck loss.

Of their eight losses four were by one run which means they in most games but haven’t gotten the timely hit.

To be sure, they have pitching problems. If they get to .500 this year most people will see that as progress.

But now, in the season’s infancy, the legs are strong, the warm weather approaches and all things are still possible.

Ma Nuit Chez Pat Corrales

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

My wife and I attended our first game together at the new Nats Park — a great but cold time. Here we are, getting ready to head to the game:

untitled

It was a day of runs. In Chicago, the Cubs led by half-a-dozen before the defense imploded. The game went into extra innings before the sluggies won, almost by accident. Before it was over the Buccos plated eight, but it wasn’t enough. At least Ted didn’t throw his glove. The scoring outbreak reached league-wide proportions. In Arizona, the Assholes scored 9, while the White Sox (surprising out of the gate), scored 7. The Tigers continued their head-scratching swoon, a monumental collapse that will undoubtedly land Leyland in intensive care. They are now 0-7 and sinking like a stone. What did I say about Dontrelle? Huh? Huh? Huh?

But enough of the complaints. Despite the five game losing streak, it is good to see Mastings Lilledge hitting the ball, and I have to believe the “Learners” will straighten out the parking situation. Somehow. Now, then, on to the real focus of this entry — one of my favorite Nats’ coaches — Pat Corrales.

Pat wandered over near the first base line before the game

image_004.jpg

with Paul Lo Duca, coaching him on his throws to second. Corrales was a no-hit, great-gun catcher back when Johnny Bench defined the position. Corrales’ knees are gone, which was apparent during the pre-game intros when he came onto the field for opening day. In any event, Corrales is near-and-dear to my heart: I caught a foul ball he hit back in 1965 in Milwaukee County Stadium when he played for Philly. It was a cold day then too, and Corrales was subbing for Clay Dalrymple. My memory must be going, because I remembered him playing for Houston, but he never did — it was the Phillies and Cincinnati and Padres, and then a semi-distinguished managing career. I yelled at him from the first base line.

“Hey Pat.”

“Yeah.

“Hey Pat, I caught a ball you hit in Milwaukee County Stadium back in ’65 …”

He turned to me and smiled: “Must be worth about 25 cents.”

“No, no way.”

“You still got it?”

I shook my head: “I lost it. I was just a kid. I think I used it for a game.”

He nodded and turned back to Lo Duca and then turned back to me.

“Guess who I saw the other day?” he asked.

“Who?

Dick Allen.”“No kidding, how’s he doing?”

“He’s great.”

“He was a great, great hitter,” I said.

“He sure was.”

“Everytime he came up to the plate against the Cubs he hit it out,” I said.

“Yeah, he could hit.”

Dick Allen had to be one of the best pure hitters in the history of the game. Back in the mid-1970s, when he was at the end of his career, I would drive up to Philly to see him play. This was in ’74 and ’75 and he would still hit these towering home runs. I remember in one game (must have been in ’74), in the bottom of the ninth, Dave LaRoche (a Cubs reliever) set him up with one that ended up in the top row of the old Vet. Buckner, the Cubs first baseman, just couldn’t believe it: I am certain now, from the look that Buckner (God I loved Buckner — who had an overdue good day recently) gave to LaRoche, that Billy was convinced that LaRoche grooved one. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen.

A similar thing, well — not similar, but you know — happened to me in Milwaukee in the mid 1960s, when I took a bus (I was all of 15 or so) to Milwaukee County Stadium for the sole purpose of seeing Eddie Mathews play. I just loved to watch him play, and this was in the days of daytime double-headers. So Mathews comes up in the first inning and gets a called strike on the first ball he sees and turned to the ump and tells him (and I could hear it): “are you out of your f —ing mind?” And bang, he’s out of the game. And I thought: “what the hell am I doing here? I came all this way on that damned bus and Eddie wanted the day off.”

So, anyway, back to Pat Corrales, who has to be one of the most noble characters in the game. I can just hear him in the dugout. Let’s say, one out and man on third and the pitcher up and the bottom of the eighth. And Manny turns to Corrales and says: “Squeeze him home?” And Corrales shakes his head, thinking, and says: “Well, I remember once back in ….”

I’d love to hear that.

My A.L. Predictions

Monday, April 7th, 2008

I have to hand it to Mark, he got his predictions posted before the season started; and they were pretty good. I must admit, he caught me off guard. When I was growing up I never predicted who would come in first in any division. It was usually just praying for the Red Sox and hating the Yankees. Kinda like this:

kid-praying.jpg

After that it was basically watching to see how the Sox would screw it up each year. Haven’t had to do that much lately. I guess the cumulative effect of the Hail Mary’s finally paid off.

My predictions for the A.L. follow – although they won’t be as well-formatted as Mark’s were (so, who did that for you anyway?) Here goes:

EastBoston – Too many guns.New York – Wang wins 20; No one else wins 14.

Tampa Bay/Toronto – Depends on whether Shields or Halladay has a better year.

Toronto/Tampa Bay – See above.

Baltimore – Its official: Angelos has finally driven them into a ravine.

Central

Detroit – Under Leyland, Willis is the new Carmona; Maglio challenges Vlad for MVP.

Cleveland – C.C. and the Sunshine Band can’t repeat . . . but come close.

Chicago – Sox pick up Nick Swisher! Oh. Never mind.

Kansas City – A small market team with small market guys.

Minnesota – Livan doesn’t help.

West

Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem and kinda near Yorba Linda too – Torii Hunter seals the deal.

Seattle – They fade down the stretch.

Texas – Millwood and pray for rain. And pray for rain. Repeat.

Oakland – Even with Duchscherer as the third starter.

Next, my N.L. predictions. . . .