Archive for the ‘Belinskis’ Category

April’s Unlikely “Derby”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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Monday was home run day in Major League Baseball. In Miami, on their way to a 9-2 crushing of the wayward Miami Marlins (the fish have now lost eight in a row), Washington’s Tyler Moore and Sandy Leon hit dingers (it was Leon’s first ever), while the Marlins got their second run on a moon shot from Garrett Jones.

In Anaheim, where the A’s played the Belinskis, John Jaso’s pinch hit home run topped the Halos, but only after Albert Pujols put his 496th career round tripper into the Anaheim stratosphere. That was the second game of ESPN’s nightly offering, which led off with a head-shaking match-up between the Braves and Phillies.

The Braves-Phillies tilt was nearly unwatchable until the 8th inning, when Dominic Brown’s three run blast sent Philadelphia to what seemed an unlikely late-inning victory. That was not the story, as it turned out: Atlanta had scored its runs on back-to-back-to-back skyballs in the previous frame, courtesy of Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, then went on to beat the Ponies in the 9th, when Dan Uggla homered.

Even then (with Washington, Miami, Oakland, Anaheim, Atlanta and Philadelphia all going long), April’s most impressive home run derby took place in Cincinnati, where the stinking Reds and mighty Pirates put ten (count ‘em) ten balls over the fence. It was a sight to behold: Pittsburgh had three sets of back-to-back home runs, while Cincinnati hit four solo shots. Pittsburgh’s Gaby Sanchez hit two, as did Neil Walker.

Ironically, while home runs played vital roles in all of these match-ups, the Cincinnati derby (at the Great American Bandbox, so there’s that) counted for nothing, with the game suspended in the 7th inning due to rain. Don’t think it was impressive? Take a look at this:

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So? So what the hell is going on? Right here would be a good time for some statistical analysis, reputedly showing that April 14 was a “statistical anomaly” — an argument any old wag could make except that nearly every game in baesball (or so it seems) provides some kind of “statistical anomaly.”

Last year at about this time, baseball writers were going on about how 2013 was the “year of the pitcher” (when I was younger, the year of the pitcher was 1968). By June of last year, it was official, with analysts pointing out that over a period of five years the majors had seen 18 no hitters and six perfect games.

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Nats Squeeze By Chicago

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Adam LaRoche ended his standard early season drought with two home runs in consecutive at bats and the Nationals squeaked by the Chicago White Sox, 8-7 to bring their record to 5-2. LaRoche’s homers helped the Nationals stave off a surging Chicago line-up — and helped the team to survive some shaky bullpen outings.

LaRoche’s blasts came in the 6th inning with one on and in the 8th with no one on. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth also went deep for the home towners. “You get into the second week of the season, that’s never a good feeling to look up there and not have a hit,” Laroche said following the win. “I felt great that first series at home, I just couldn’t get the ball to fall. To come back and get a couple [tonight] was nice.”

The home runs were needed: Chicago’s Paul Konerko blasted a three run home run in the 7th inning off of Tyler Clippard to bring the score within one. Washington came back to tack on a run in the bottom of the 7th, which was followed by LaRoche’s second home run — but Chicago added two more in the top of the 9th off of Rafael Soriano, who then closed out the game.

Both Chicago and Washington were hoping their starters would turn Tuesday’s game into a classic pitching match-up, but Jake Peavy gave up six runs on nine hits in 5.1 inning, while Nats’ lefty Gio Gonzalez surrendered four hits in five innings. That wasn’t so bad, but Washington’s bullpen gave up seven hits and four runs in the next four frames.

Washington’s big inning came in the 6th, when the Nationals put four runs on the board — with home runs from Werth and LaRoche.  “Obviously, the sixth inning got away from us,” Peavy said. “I didn’t have much there, and it was hot and humid, and I ran out of gas. I didn’t have much left with LaRoche, and he put a good swing on it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s deja vu all over again for the Los Angeles Angels, who are repeating their slow start from a year ago. The Angels dropped a slugfest at home last night, in their opener, against the forever surprising Oakland A’s. The Angels yielded a one run lead in the top of the 7th by giving up home runs to pinch hitter John Jaso and first sacker Brandon Moss. The A’s went on to dump the Halos 9-5 . . .

Nothing seems to be working for the Belinskys, and you can read the frustration in the face of Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia. Ace C.J. Wilson came out of the clubhouse and promptly gave up three runs in the top of the 1st, but it could have been a lot worse: Wilson left the inning with the bases loaded . . .

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Baseball’s Left Coast Phenom

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Last night’s Los Angeles Angels-New York Yankees match-up seemed like so much ho-hum for N.L fans: a predictable struggle between the Titans of Gotham and an empire-in-the-making. These kinds of things hold little interest for the small ball, double-switch afficianadoes of D.C., Miami, Milwaukee, or Colorado who tend to look down on teams that have non-position players in uniform that are “designated.”

But L.A.’s walk-off, 9-8 bottom-of-the-ninth victory portended more of the same as this summer passes, and perhaps a sign of what is to come for both teams in September and October. They could not be more different. The Bombers are a team built on power and savvy age (even their website looks old), with a shaky staff, while the Belinskys are constructed around the best player in the game and a bevy of solid starters.

That sounds right, but you’d never know it from last night’s game. Solid starter Jered Weaver seemed anything but solid, as the Yankees touched him up for three runs in the top of the first. Then, even more ignobly, Weaver twisted, tore or tweaked something as he delivered a slider. He was suddenly done for the night, making way for a gaggle of relievers who looked just so-so.

The stage was set for the Yankees to cruise to victory. But this is not the Yankees of old, or even of two years ago. Empire starter Phil Hughes brought L.A. back into the game with a very average performance — seven runs on eleven hits in just 5.1 innings of work. Here’s the shocker: when he walked off the mound, the Yankee fans in the stands (a surprising number, in Angel crazy L.A.) gave him a standing ovation.

That’s the way it is in Yankee-land it seems: poor performances are built into the ubiquitous pinstripe “legend,” where every pitcher is a potential Whitey Ford, every hitter is compared with Mantle, and every mediocre outing is transmuted into “gutty.” ESPN headlined this performance — “Hughes Doesn’t Look Suited To Start” — to which we would add: or relieve.

L.A. eventually won the back-and-forth affair with a triumphant home run (a “trumbomb”) from Mark Trumbo, an underrated an often-ignored force at the plate in his sophomore year. You’d have to be out of your mind to think that this guy won’t be a superstar: in 41 games this year he has eight home runs and 22 RBIs. Last night’s shot snuck just inside the left field foul pole, but his power’s not in question.

Oh, and then there’s that Angels’ rookie, Mike Trout. Touted by some scouts as even better than Bryce Harper, the rookie is setting L.A. on fire: his .302 average is second only to Trumbo’s, and he’s a whiz in the outfield — which is (we wince in saying this) more than we can say for Bryce. And while he’s not as whip-fast as Harper, Trout is sneaky quick, with that all-out college baseball style shown by his Nationals’ counterpart.

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The Business Of Baseball Is . . .

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

business . . . of course. No one ever has any problem filling in the blank on that one, and no one would ever doubt it now — after one of the most expensive off-seasons in baseball history. The Belinski’s ponied up out in Los Angeles, and may well have bought themselves a World Series. The numbers are getting astronomical, undoubtedly because revenues from television contracts are spiking. The answer to whether spending all of this money is actually good for the game seems to be “yes” — at least so far.

Back in the late 60s, fans oohed and ahhed about the pricey St. Louis Cardinals, the first team with bragging rights to a $1 million per year payroll. That was the team of Roger Maris, Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer and Orlando “Baby Bull” Cepeda, a powerhouse that remains among one of the legendary teams of the past. The money was worth it, but people worried that baseball was getting too expensive — and (even then), that MLBs’ pocketbooks could rui the game. It didn’t happen, but the question is being raised again, perhaps most of all in St. Louis, where offering the game’s best player the kind of money he was looking for was just out of reach.

But in the end, it wasn’t the Pujols contract, or the one given by Detroit to Prince Fielder, that has really shocked people. The real shock came this week, when Cincinnati’s owners put $251.5 million on the table for Joey Votto — a pretty good player to be sure, but certainly not the third best player in the game — which is where the contract puts him. That’s (arguably), one-fifth (or even a quarter) of the worth of the entire Cincinnati franchise.

The Cincinnati “doubles” machine (he had 40 last year, to lead the majors), has now signed onto the Redlegs for another twelve years (plus . . .), which means he’ll be 41 when his “club option” kicks in. That’ll be in 2024. Barring an international disaster (not out of the question, mind you), a lot of us will be here to watch him. The question is, will he still be around — will he be playing first base for the Reds?

Our bet is he won’t be — and we’re also betting that Cincinnati’s front office agrees. But the Reds are due for a new and more lucrative television contract in about three years, and the Votto contract is their way of telling their fans that they intend to be good. So the question is . . . is a team like Cincinnati mortgaging the future to bet on the present? And the answer? . . . we’ll just have to see.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Your Washington Nationals open in Chicago this afternoon, and it’s just plain fun to read the Chicago papers — and listen to their fans. “This is the year,” they say — and they say it every . . . single . . . year. And two months from now, when the North Side Drama Queens (we might have to change that, with the departure of “Big Z”) are 12-24, they’ll still be saying it. Except the tense will have changed. “Next year is the year, you just wait . . .

The Nationals are picked for third or fourth this year, depending on who you listen to. But Mitch Williams over the MLB Network said just last night that they’d make the Wild Card this season. And we agree. All of this talk about how good the Braves are is, in our opinion, somewhat puzzling. If you put the two rosters side-by-side (as we have, and often over the last week), the Nationals look a lot better . . .”

So we’re back. For yet another season. And for those who stuck with us, thanks . . . and for those who have wondered where we are — well, there’s a four letter involved, and it starts with “w” and ends with “k.” Never mind. The Nationals are on the field in Chicago, and another great year of baseball beckons. The emails can wait. Go ahead. Watch the game.

Another Nats Walk-Off Stuns The Phillies

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

This win, a Washington Nationals 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in ten innings, was even more improbable than Friday’s walk-off 8-4 bloodletting. With Philadelphia leading in the bottom of the ninth and with two outs and two strikes on Ian Desmond (and the Philadelphia buses starting their engines in the parking lots), the Nationals’ young shortstop put an Antonio Bastardo offering into the second row in left field to tie the game.

The Desmond home run gave the Nationals a reprieve from what seemed an almost certain loss. The Nationals took advantage of the extra inning — loading the bases in the 10th on a Ryan Zimmerman double, an intentional walk to Michael Morse, and a Jayson Werth single. After Danny Espinosa struck out, Phillies’ reliever Brad Lidge hit Jonny Gomes. Lidge’s mistake gave the Nationals an unusual HBP walk-off — and a 2 of 3 series victory.

The stunning Nationals’ win overawed the solid pitching of starter Chien-Ming Wang (five hits and three earned in 5.2 innings), the toughness of the Nats’ bullpen (one earned run in 4.1), and the solid performances of the up-the-middle combination of Ian Desmond (2-5 with an RBI) and Danny Espinosa (3-5, two RBIs and a home run — his 18th). “Those two guys up the middle are very talented, and unfortunately I think a lot of people forget how young they are sometimes,” Ryan Zimmerman said following the victory. “It’s not easy to learn at this level, but they’re doing a great job with it.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Phillies’ bloggers are not taking this well. After making an insultingly stupid joke about Chien-Ming Wang prior to the game, The Good Phight told his readers that today’s game shows that baseball isn’t football. Brilliant . . . Phillies Nation said they were “a little shocked” by the loss, then crowed that “Phillies Nation” won in Washington because of the thousands of Phillies’ fans at Nationals Park . . .

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Anaheim’s Blockbuster

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

We couldn’t have an off-season without a blockbuster — and the Angels have accommodated us. In a swap of a contract for talent, the Belinskys sent underrated outfielder Juan Rivera and rock solid first sacker Mike Napoli to that-place-north-of-the-border for outfielder Vernon Wells. Angels fans have to be happy. After wiffing on the likes of Jayson Werth, Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford the Halo’s front office has finally come through, providing the team with what MLB Trade Rumors calls “a dream outfield.” There’s only one problem: Wells arrives in Anaheim with a mega-contract that had all of baseball atwitter back in 2006 — when Wells was re-upped for $126 million over seven years. The Angels give up two solid regulars for the honor of shifting Torii Hunter to right, slotting Bobby Abreu as the team’s DH and gambling that can’t miss youngster Peter Bourjos can’t miss.

While baseball focuses on what this does for Los Angeles, Toronto’s trade for Rivera and Napoli not only gets the Jays out from under a suffocating contract, it adds two pretty good bats to an already homer-heavy line-up. Toronto might not be able to compete with New York and Boston in the A.L. East, but they’re a powerhouse — and with a little more pitching they might surprise. The Blue Jays now have Juan Rivera (15 home runs last year, ten more the year before) in the middle of their line-up, to go along with recently acquired Rajai Davis (50 stolen bases last year) and big bat (54 home runs in 2010) Jose Bautista. And Mike Napoli is nothing to sneeze at — he hit for power last year (a surprising 26 home runs) and he’s a solid presence behind the plate. Rivera and Napoli could easily combine for 40 homers to go along with their solid OBPs. What’s not to like?

So . . . Angels fans are happy. Right? Well, not exactly. Halos Heaven slams the deal: “This trade doesn’t even deserve the dignity of a formal analysis. The Angels voluntarily vacated about three or four wins next season while simultaneously boosting their payroll by nearly $10 million.” Angels Win disagrees, saying that the deal “improves the defense, improves the offense, and will result in more wins.” Well, maybe. But even AW is forced to admit that picking up the Wells’ salary could cause problems: “Subtracting the $11 million that the Blue Jays will pay Napoli and Rivera in 2011 from the $89 million owed to Wells, the deal amounts to a $78 million/4 year deal—or about $19.5 million/year.” That’s a lot of money, or — as Halo Heaven says, bringing in Wells is like releasing Napoli and signing Rivera to an $86 million extension. “They’re popping corks and smoking Cubans in Toronto tonight,” HH says. “Alex Anthopoulos [the Toronto GM] has done the impossible.”

Pudge Blast Sparks Nats’ Assault

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Sparked by Nats catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, the Nats scored seven runs in the bottom of the 8th inning on Tuesday for a much needed 8-4 win against the Houston Astros. The rally started with two outs when Rodriguez put a Felipe Paulino breaking ball into the foul pole in left field, tying the game at 3. The victory snapped a stomach churning six game losing streak, while adding another good outing to the resume of Nats’ lefty John Lannan (seven innings, three earned runs). But the story of the game was the story of the 8th. Pudge’s dinger came with one on and two outs — and an 0-2 count. The Rodriguez homer seemed to spark the Nats’ slumbering lumber as the Astros’ bullpen unraveled: Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell both reached base, before pinch hitter Adam Kennedy laced a liner to right. Espinosa, Desmond, Dunn and Zimmerman followed before the rally was finally snuffed. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett relieved Lannan, with Clippard getting the win.


Who are these guys anyway?
Over in Minnesota (they have a team — and it plays in a division called the A.L. Central), the Twinkies have been pounding the snot out of anyone who shows up in Target Field. After the Nats win on MASN (that oughta up their Arbitron ratings), I switched over just in time to hear the Twinkies’ announcers talk about “that kid Valencia” — a rookie third baseman who recently stroked four homes runs in four at bats. The pride of Boca Raton was picked in the 19th round (the 19th round) of the 2006 draft. Valencia moved effortlessly through the Twins system, until he showed up this year in June, and commenced putting on a hitting display. The Twins have just about everything else, so why not a little hitting? And — oh yes: the Twins won tonight, so they are almost (but not quite) the division champs, depending on how the Pale Hose fare. It doesn’t matter, stick a fork in the White Sox. They’re done . . .

Speaking of new guys: The Angels are taking a look at a catcher by the name of Hank Conger, who was drafted ahead of Valencia in 2006 (25th overall). Conger isn’t like most catchers, he’s fast. He smacked a hard triple tonight against the Rangers and by the time that Dwayne Murphy retrieved it, Conger was rounding second. It was a little strange watching Conger, because he reminded me of (okay, this is a little . . . well . . . remote) former Cub, Marlin and Dodger first bagger Hee-Seop Choi, who had a wicked quick bat — albeit not one that gave him a long career in the majors. Choi played only four seasons in the bigs, and will no doubt be remembered as the guy the Marlins got for Derrick Lee (what the hell was Miami thinking). Sure enough, Conger (it turns out) is Hyun Choi Conger, a California native who (despite the obvious resemblance) might be Hee-Seop’s younger brother: a straight-up stance and an out-of-the-batter’s box speed that makes infielders hurry their throw. Conger’s numbers in the minors are outstanding, his defense is reportedly first-rate and he’s moved through the system quickly. The Belinskis are auditioning Conger for their number two (behind former Gold Glover Mike Napoli), which isn’t a surprise — Jeff Mathis is hitting Willie Harris numbers (actually, a little better –  at .193). Hee-Seop Choi, by the way, now plays professionally in Korea . . .

Nats fans will be saddened to note that Felipe Lopez, the former slick fielding second sacker for our very own Half Street Nine, was released today by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals weren’t going to keep the struggling Lopez in any event, but his official release struck me as oddly timed, coming two weeks before the end of the season. A slap, really, at an MLB veteran who has (from time to time — including this year) played well. Sure enough: the Cardinals said they were fed up with Lopez’s attitude. Hmmm. Imagine that. The ten year veteran (he started in Toronto in 2001 before moving on to Cincinnati), had an okay career that could have been a lot better. His years with the Nats were fairly typical: he played with fire in his first months, then tailed off, then got lazy. It would be a surprise to see any team give him another shot . . .

The New Twinkie: Danny Valencia