Archive for the ‘The McCovey’s’ Category

Not A Dunn Deal

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

The best move the Washington Nationals made before the trading deadline was the one they didn’t. As the witching hour struck 4:00 pm, the Nationals front office didn’t budge — and thereby decided that keeping a fan-popular 35-to-40 home runs per year hitter in D.C. was better than moving him to Chicago for a sometimes-very-good and sometimes just so-so righthander. The news that Adam Dunn was staying in D.C. began to circulate 60 minutes before the deadline, with a variety of sports reporters (including SI’s Jayson Stark) saying that Dunn was staying put. Even so, there seems little doubt there was a last minute attempt to land the Nats bopper: the Pale Hose dangled newly acquired righty Edwin Jackson (the Nats wanted Jackson and prospects), while the Giants inquired about Dunn but thought the price (Jonathan Sanchez) was too steep.

Nationals’ G.M. Mike Rizzo was always hesitant to deal Dunn, the centerpiece of a formidable 3-4-5 line-up that features Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham. Even talk of trading Dunn caused consternation, with Zimmerman saying flatly that it would be a mistake to break-up the trio. Apparently team president Stan Kasten agreed. According to the MLB Network, Kasten (a Dunn partisan) met privately with the first baseman on Friday night to reassure the slugger that the Nats were doing everything they could to retain him. One of MLBN’s commentators described Kasten as “tearful” during his one-on-one talk with Dunn. Over at Nationals Daily News, Mike Henderson quotes Mike Rizzo as saying that the Nats “never got a deal that we thought was equal or greater value to Adam Dunn.” Good. There arn’t many every day major leaguers who can hit 35 to 45 home runs each year.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: We here at CFG always attempt to respond to the flood of correspondence we receive from our dedicated readers. A recent missive upbraided us for our lack of coverage on the before game problems of what’s-his-name. “Dear editor:  Three days later, how could CFG not write a single word about the biggest Nats story of the year — Stephen SoreArm?  Are you and your staff covering the team or not?  At least offer a little commentary, or insight, or historical perspective on similar injuries . . . If nothing else, think about your foreign readers and their need-to-know…….. Sincerely, A concerned reader.” Hmmm. Point taken.

Okay, so here goes: we stayed away from “the kid’s” arm issue because, honestly, we don’t have a damn thing to add to what is already being said. Except that, oh yeah, we are attempting to sort through two conflicting views: that with a $15 million investment it’s hard to blame the Nats front office for playing it safe and (second), having said that we know that the very best way to protect “Stephen SoreArm” is not to pitch him at all. Put another way, we couldn’t decide between “phew, good move” and “oh c’mon.” Mmmmmm: whaddawegonnado? There’s an idea abroad in the land of baseball that today’s pitchers just aren’t as tough as the old codgers who used to pitch complete games and go entire careers without a complaint. The Warren Spahn-Juan Marichal game is cited as an example of this toughness.

But polemicists for this viewpoint fail to add that the era before rotator cuff surgery and bone chip removal is littered with the bodies of young hurlers who blew out their arms and had no recourse to bone marrow scoops or ligament replacement surgery. We here at CFG know one, for sure — who (designated as a power arm in the Kansas City A’s  rotation of 1959) blew out his arm and ended up coaching high school football. He had no choice. The reason we didn’t hear much about arm trouble in the good old days is that once you had arm trouble you had two choices — you could wait it out, or you could quit. Most times, you were simply finished. Which is to say: arm toughness isn’t the rule, it’s the exception and if there’s anything that can be done to save a young pitcher’s young arm early in his career, why then that ought to be done. The Nats are doing that and will continue to do that. But with this caveat: while the Nats have made an investment in Stephen Strasburg, they’ve also made an investment in winning baseball in D.C. Weighing the two is the challenge.

Nats Beat “The Freak”

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Tim Lincecum struggled on Wednesdayleaving his fastball up in the zone and failing to throw strikes with his curve — allowing the Nationals to score six runs and pound out six hits in taking the second game of a three game stint in San Francisco. Luis Atilano, meanwhile, dominated Giants’ hitters through the first four innings, before San Franciso put together a mini-rally in the fifth. Even with that, San Francisco (which is struggling at the plate) was unable to connect against Atilano, or Washington’s relievers. “Everything was working good,” Atilano said of his performance. “Finally, I was able to command my sinker. I was just throwing sinkers and changeups the first couple of innings. Everything was good. I was happy I finally got back to the point where I was on top of my game. Hopefully, it will keep going like that.” Atilano is now 4-1 on the season — and a surprise for the Nats — while Lincecum lost his first.

There’s no question the Nats need to start hitting. While the Anacostia Nine aren’t having the same problems at the dish as the Giants — who are scrambling to find their rhythm — the team’s anemic performance on Tuesday (two runs on just four hits in a 4-2 loss in San Francisco), serves as a cautionary note for a squad that should be among the NL’s leaders in scoring runs and hitting for average. They’re not. The Nats are in the middle of the pack in the NL in batting average (7th of 16), tenth in RBIs, tenth in hitting the long ball, ninth in walks and 11th in scoring runs. With Ivan Rodriguez on the DL, the team will need to have Wil Nieves step into his shoes not only behind the plate, but in the batter’s box. That doesn’t seem likely. Worse yet, the Nats are near the bottom in fielding (12th of 16), having committed more errors than any team but the Marlins. The good news? Surprise. Surprise. It’s the bullpen. The team leads the league in saves and has been solid in the middle innings. It’s a good thing, with a team ERA at 4.45, the Nats remain desperate for arms that can keep their opponents off the board.

Soylent Green Is People: There was an animated dugout conversation between Tim Lincecum and McCovey manager Bruce Bochy last night after Lincecum was removed from the game. Odds are that Bochy was zinging his ace for his inability to keep runners close at first. The Nats stole four bases on Lincecum, three of them in the top of the 5th and two of them on no-throws from catcher Benjie Molina . . . Rob Dibble’s “intestinal fortitude” speech came in inning 5 last night. This time Dibble’s victim was Luis Atilano. Dibble deemed Atilano’s performance “disappointing.” Really? Atilano gave up two earned and four hits in 5.1 and he might well have pitched a complete 6th if it hadn’t been for a Roger Bernadina misplay in right field. Then too, Atilano was coming off two previous rocky starts and was facing baseball’s best pitcher. What the hell is Dibble talking about? “These kids have to learn, there’s competition up here — they should be pitching like their hair is on fire.” Oh come on: two earned and four hits in 5.1? We’ll take it . . .

Speculation about just when Stephen Strasburg will make his debut is the focus of MLB baseball talk — and the Nats blogosphere. Nats Triple Play says that the Nats front office has been manipulating Strasburg’s debut for contract purposes (check) and to sell out a June 4 Friday night game (check). The Nationals Enquirer (meanwhile) gives the Nats a pass, noting that Mike Rizzo had never said when Strasburg would appear: “Heck, about the only thing the Nationals are guilty of is not stepping in sooner to squash the speculation around June 4th. And really: why should they have? It was only last night that anyone from the Nationals even mentioned June 4 as a possibility; and it was Rizzo denying that this date was written in stone.” Still, there’s a lot of anger on fan forums about the June 4 date. So here’s the deal: don’t listen to the Nats, listen to the pundits. About a month ago, baseball guru Tim Kurkjian had Strasburg starting against the Ahoys on June 10. That sounded about right, but Kurkjian might have been off by about two days. My bet is Strasburg will be on the mound on the 8th . . . so here’s a question: what happens if “the next big thing” gets hit around and Rigs has to pull him in the 4th? Let’s not kid ourselves — there are no guarantees . . .

Bay Watch

Monday, May 24th, 2010

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_YSj9VerPFmY/SB8aMNopd9I/AAAAAAAAAsE/tsPVmrDZ4eE/s400/rowand.jpg

How odd is it that, just over forty games into the season, the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants — teams so different in outlook, history and raw talent — would have almost identical records? And yet there it is: after suffering through a gut-wrenching five game losing streak, the Giants (predicted in the pre-season as one of the elite teams of the NL West), are one game over .500, as are the Nats (at 23-22). If the Giants are so much better than the Nats (as baseball analysts would have once claimed), then why are they playing so poorly?

At least a part of the answer became obvious on Sunday, as the McCoveys struggled through yet another punchless contest — registering a terminally fatal 0-18 with runners in scoring position and suffering their second consecutive shutout. The loss was particularly hard to swallow, as it came against their White Elephant rivals across the Bay, who not only swept the interleague series, but made the Giants look downright silly. Here’s the key, at least according to San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy: the Giants can hit, but only sometimes and even when they do, it’s not when runners are in a position to score.

Giants fans are becoming impatient: with one of the most formidable starting rotations in all of baseball, the Giants should be winning decisively. They’re not. Bochy has responded to the team’s hitting drought by shaking up the McCovey’s batting order: dropping outfielder Aaron Rowand into the sixth spot and moving speedster Andres Torres to the head of the line-up. But even Bochy has doubts this will work — San Francisco’s problem is that it lacks hitters who can hit for power and average. Pablo Sandoval is San Francisco’s premier (and popular) young power hitter, but his batting average stands at .282 — hardly something to brag about. Aaron Rowand, signed as a free agent to anchor the outfield and drive in runs, is hitting just .242 while import Freddy Sanchez is struggling to remain above the Mendoza line.

A comparison between a line-up struggling to generate runs and one that knows how to put them on the board is sobering. The Giants have put 33 dingers into the seats, the Nats 39; the Giants are hitting an anemic .257, the Nats are chugging along at .265 — the Giants have driven in 160 runs, the Nats 191. Which is to say: a San Francisco front office that boasts a starting rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Zito and Sanchez (truly, the Nats have no one to compare), is now having to scramble to find someone comparable to Willingham, Dunn, Zimmerman and Guzman — anyone of whom would add more power and average to the Giants line-up than anyone they currently have. Which is why, in the weeks ahead, the Giants will begin to search for the hitting they will so desperately need to catch the Friars and Trolleys for the NL West flag. They must know — the price will be high.

Walk Off “Hammers” O’s

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Josh Willingham’s walk off home run in the tenth inning gave the Nats the game, the set and the match against the Baltimore Orioles in a 4-3 victory at Nationals Park on Sunday. Willingham’s game winner came off of O’s reliever Cla Meredith, and gave the Nats bragging rights in the “Battle of the Beltways” inter-league series. Perhaps as important, the Nats played a nearly perfect, tight game that relied on defense and pitching — a decided change from Saturday’s messy win and a needed boost as the Nats now head west for an extended road trip. “When you get a game winning hit like that,” Willingham said after the win, “it’s why you play the game as a baseball player . . . it got up in the air and went out.”

Willingham’s game winning knock was not the only good news for the Nats. Starter John Lannan pitched well — holding the Orioles to one run on two hits over 5.1 innings. Lannan said that his arm felt good after the outing, with the pain he had suffered over the previous weeks an apparent thing of the past. “I’m feeling healthy, which is the main thing,” Lannan said. The game also seemed to confirm Jim Riggleman’s decision to provide Roger Bernadina with a more steady starting role in right field. After a slow start, Bernadina is hitting the ball well — and he’s a defensive asset in right field. “He’s just getting a little better each time,” Riggleman noted. “He’s really finding his way and getting a little more comfortable.” The Nats will start their road journey with a series against the San Francisco Giants,  before moving on to San Diego and Houston.

Take Two: Nats Win N.Y Series

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Livan Hernandez pitched seven shutout innings on Sunday and the Washington Nationals took two of a three game series against the Mets in New York. Washington’s 5-2 win put the team back at .500 for the first time in nearly two years. In his 2010 pitching debut, Hernandez gave the Washington pitching staff a much-needed lesson in how it’s done: he threw 88 pitches, 55 of them for strikes, giving up five hits and accounting for 13 fly outs and seven ground outs. Hernandez consistently fooled Mets hitters, but was helped by Citi Field’s deep alleys, which kept the ball in the park.”He works off your aggressiveness,” Mets third baseman David Wright said after the game. “He’s working really the outer half of the plate — throwing the ball where he wanted to. And a guy like that shows you that you don’t have to be overpowering to be successful at this level.”

The first four of Washington’s five runs resulted from a Josh Willingham home run with the bases jammed. Willingham was initially called out while trying to score in a ball he hit off of the wall — but after a review the unpires determined that the Willingham blast was a grand slam. Willingham also got credit for the Nats other run, stroking a double to center field to score Cristian Guzman. Even so, and with the exception of Willingham, the Nats’s heaviest hitters and most consistent RBI men  have had trouble getting started. The team is hitting a measly .226 so far for the year. The Nats now move on to Philadelphia to play the surging Phillies before returning home to face the Brewers.

San Francisco Giants’ veteran shortstop Rich Aurilia — who came into the majors as a rookie in 1995 — announced his retirement today. Aurilia hit 186 home runs in his fifteen year career and played in over 1500 games. He led the league in hits in 2001, when he also accounted for 37 homers and won his sole Silver Slugger award. Aurilia also played in Seattle and Cincinnati, but his heart was in San Francisco, and he returned there to finish his career. He started with the Giants, when the team designated him to replace regular shortstop Royce Clayton, and he became a fixture in the Giants’ infield. In the era of Big Stars like Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent — who continually snubbed and pouted their way past reporters and broadcasters — Aurilia became the exception: he was unfailingly polite and was always willing to sit for an interview. The media loved him.  “San Francisco was a place that I never wanted to leave,” he admitted.

Aurilia signed a minor league deal with the McCovey’s in 2009 — but when he was called to the big club he had a less-than-average year at the plate and he no longer enjoyed the range he once had in the field. He said he would do anything the team asked, even if it meant sitting on the bench and waiting for the post-season, when he agreed to be a DH. While he dreamed of signing on for one final year, perhaps as a DH in the American League, he knew he was finished. In his final game in San Francisco in 2009, Aurilia was given a series of standing ovations in his final game. In a franchise that boasts some of baseball’s greatest players — Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey — he was one of the most highly respected Giants to ever play the game. He will now provide on-air analysis for the Giants’ pre-game and post-game baseball broadcasts.

Nats End Skid, Tame Wallbangers

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Craig Stammen pitched 6.1 innings and the Nats rapped out ten hits — including three home runs — to take the third game of the four game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on Sunday, 8-3. Stammen was not brilliant, but in firm control of the strike zone, moving his fastball in and out against a baffled Milwaukee line-up. Stammen, who has had several good outings of late, threw 97 pitches, 60 of them for strikes. Stammen consistently moved players off the plate by throwing his fastball inside on hitters. “My No. 1 goal is to pitch six or seven innings and throw a quality start,” he said after the game. “But it was really important today to save the bullpen, give some of the guys a couple of days of rest and pitch late into the game so we could win.” Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard pitched in relief and were able to close out the game.

Craig Stammen Three

As was the case in the previous two contests, the Nats’ bats came alive, but this time the effort was in a winning cause. And the wallbangers in this case were not from Milwaukee. Home runs by Cristian Guzman (number 6), Adam Dunn (his 33rd) and Ryan Zimmerman (his 26th) paced the ballclub. The club was even able to pull off a suicide squeeze, with Nyjer Morgan laying down a perfect bunt in the second inning to score a sprinting Mike Morse. “It was one of those plays where we had to get that run in and put a little more pressure on them,” Morgan said. “We got it down and executed the play. I was trying not to show the bunt too early. It worked out in our favor.” Morse started in right field, his first major league start for the club since coming over from the Mariners.

Some People Call It A Kaiser Blade, I Call It A Sling Blade: Ronnie Belliard has been hitting the ball well lately, stroking a grand slam homer in a losing cause to the Brewers on Saturday. He’s raised his batting average by twenty points in the last week and had a key hit on Sunday. So, despite our constant criticism of Ronnnneeeeee here at CFG, we’re all happy for him. In fact, we’re so fracking ecstatic we’re wetting our pants. A young guy who can hit .300 and field his position? Who won’t get picked off first? Who won’t boot a ball at a key point in the game? Fogeddaboudit  . . . we want Ronnie. That said, don’t ya think it’s a little much when Bob Carpenter described Ronnie as “a really good hitter” during the Sunday broadcast? 

The game of the week took place after the Nats-Brewers match-up today, but before the Red Sox battled the Yankees in Boston. Out in Colorado, the Rockies faced off against the Giants in a tussle of NL West contenders vying for a wild card spot. And, at least at first, it seemed a cinch that the McCoveys would stifle the Rockies’ bats. Tim Lincecum was dominant: he pitched seven innings of three hit ball and struck out seven. He had a no hitter through five. He was overpowering. In comparison, Ubaldo Jimenez looked merely average — giving up two runs to Frisco in the top of the second. But in the seventh, Lincecum left a change-up out over the plate and Rockies’ Seth Smith put it in the seats. The Rockies went on to win the game, 4-2, saddling Lincecum (now 12-4) with the loss. Jimenez, whose win might well have put a very large post hole in the “let’s give Lincecum another Cy Young” bandwagon, is now 12-9 with a 3.36 ERA. Coors Field was filled to capacity (47,704). The Rockies are now three up on the Giants in the wild card race, and only 3.5 back of the fading Trolleys, who lost to the North Side Drama Queens. This was one hell of a game.

Would you like some Coors Light with that Whine? The announcers on FSN Rocky Mountain were going on a bit today about how “those guys out on the east coast” (I’m not kidding) are ignoring just how good the pitching is out in the west, and how good the Rockies and Giants are. Yeah, there’s a little of that. I’ve even mentioned it here in the well-read and highly influential pages of CFG. But you know, they went on and on. And on. And on. It would help, of course, if major league baseball didn’t schedule the Giants-Rockies dust-up for a mid-afternoon in August. But, really, who knew? Then too, it’s hard to see how ESPN could have guessed that, during the third week of August, the most important game being played in baseball would be between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies. Then too, the comment is just not accurate: it’s not as if Tim Lincecum hasn’t been celebrated.  Yeah, sure. We oughta pay a little more attention to the Rockies. But ignored? Give me a break.

Our Of Thin Air

“The Great Right Hope” Arrives in D.C.

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Stephen Strasburg, Washington’s first overall pick in the 2009 first year player draft, will answer questions from fans and the media in D.C. on Friday. But it’s likely that he won’t be able to answer the most important question  he will face: just how good are you anyway? Strasburg is the most highly touted amateur pitcher in baseball history — outdueling (and out-earning) Mark Prior, Ben McDonald and David Clyde for the honor. The San Diego State University righthander has a zippy fastball and a vicious hook, but other pitchers in other eras have had the same, and failed. That said, the Nats have done the homework that due diligence required, sending scouts to watch Strasburg in every game he has pitched over the last year. Good scouting can’t guarantee anything, but in this case it might prove the difference between a better-than-average hurler and just another busted flush.

The Nats have sold 6000 $1 tickets to fans who want to see Strasburg, who will arrive at Nationals Park this afternoon at 2 pm. And at 11:30, fans have been invited to chat with the Nats’ new “great right hope” on line at MLB.com. Should be quite a scene. Strasburg, who is only 20, went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts this at San Diego State University this season. He struck out 195 batters and issued just 19 walks in 109 innings. The ballclub would undoubtedly love to showcase Strasburg sometime in September (and thus fill the seats at Nats Park, at least for one game), but that now seems unlikely. “The Strasburg signing greatly impacts the Minor League system and the Major League ballclub, but I have to reinforce this: He can’t be viewed as the savior of the organization, because as we’ve seen with Jordan Zimmermann, the shelf life is sometimes pretty quick,” new Nats G.M. Mike Rizzo said yesterday. “But we are hoping he is the player we think he is. I know he is the person we think he is. He is a tremendous makeup guy. This guy is what you are looking for in your No. 1 ace, Major League starter.”

Down On Half Street: The Nats open a four game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on Friday, before heading out to face the North Side Drama Queens in Chicago, the Redbirds in St. Louis and the Friars in San Diego. The Prince Fielder led beermakers, who had high hopes for a playoff spot, are reeling after being swept by the Ahoys in Pittsburgh. The Brew Crew is now four games under .500 and ten games behind St. Louis in the NL Central. The standard view is that the Brewers have the wood to win (Fielder leads the team and has 32 home runs and a .416 OBP) but lack pitching. In fact, Brewers’ bats have been far less effective this year than last, in spite of Fielder’s heroics: the team ranks 17th in batting average, 12th in runs scored, ninth in OBP. Which is to say: the Brewers are right where they should be — they’re a middling team in need of a lot of help, and not just on the mound . . .

Prince Fielder

The big series of the weekend is not in New York, where “the Nation” faces off against “the Empire,” but in Colorado, where the Rockies take on the McCoveys. The Rockies and Giants are nip and tuck in the NL Wild Card race, but the edge has to go to the Rockies, in spite of San Francisco’s Lincecum-Cain one-two pitching punch. The Rockies have won four in a row, the Giants were beaten in Cincy last night (in a walk-off home run by a Redlegs’ rookie) and the McCoveys are 14th in team hitting in the NL (the Rockies are second). Then too, the Rockies line-up is filled with on-base boppers, while the Giants are thin and getting thinner. The hope for Frisco at the trade deadline was the Freddie Sanchez could fill a hole up-the-middle while providing some pop, but his shoulder is aching. He hopes to return for the Colorado series, but nothing is certain . . .

The McCoveys energized fan base has been decrying the lack of punch all year — and criticizing the front office for the team’s patchwork defense. Bay City Ball opines that Tim Lincecum is worth two Pablo Sandovals and that “outside of Lincecum, Sandoval, and Cain, the Giants don’t have much.” Yeah, that’s right. But for a guy who sits for some 30 games in Nationals Park, Lincecum, Sandoval and Cain sound like a helluvalot . . . for The Giants Baseball Blog, the key is “getting the hitting going” in the upcoming series. The Giants recently added Ryan Garko to their anemic line-up, GBB notes, and “it looks like he’s heating up just in time.” Well, maybe . . . Our favorite, the appropriately named  Dodger Hater, celebrates San Francisco’s gaggle of top-notch arms, but points out the the Giants’ bullpen is good, but not great. The holes are obvious: ” . . . all of us in Giants Nation feel like Bobby Howry is the least trustworthy arm in our pen,” Dodger Hater writes. “Every time Lurch Howry manages to pitch a scoreless inning, we all breathe a sigh of relief” . . . All of this is interesting, but more a comment on Giants’ fans than on the team. The relief pitching might appear shakey, but the McCoveys have the best pitching in all of baseball and have a good shot at catching the Rockies. If they can’t score runs, the least they can do is keep the likes of Helton and Tulowitzki off the bases . . .

Nats Sting Brewers (Again)

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Nyjer Morgan led off Tuesday’s game with a home run and the Nats then added two more (on round-trippers by Adam Dunn and Cristian Guzman) to take the second of four games from the Milwaukee Brewers, 8-2. Morgan continues to swing the hot bat — despite predictions that he will eventually cool off. Morgan seems to have found his role in Washington: an overachieving sparkplug on an underachieving team, playing in a position usually reserved for power hitters and superstars. Collin Balester pitched well, if not spectacularly, to take the win: six complete innings with five hits, no walks and three strikeouts. Balester’s outing now seems standard for Nats’ starters: low strikeouts but few walks with fastballs in the low 90s. Jason Bergman, Logan Kensing and Ron Vallone went the rest of the way, holding the beer makers to just one hit over three innings. The win is the Nats fourth in a row.

Chico Harlan over at Nationals Journal gives a rundown of what the Nats might or might not do with a little over 24 hours to go until the trade deadline. The front line of Willingham, Dunn and Johnson are hitting well in July and the team is performing — and with the McCoveys and Red Sox having traded for a first baseman, the market for Nick Johnson may be dry. Harlan has published an interesting exchange with reliever Joe Beimel, who praises Jim Riggleman for instilling a new work ethic in the clubhouse. “It’s been fun coming to the field the last couple weeks,” Beimel said. “Since Riggleman took over, I think you’ve seen an attitude change in the clubhouse. Guys recognize they have to come in early and do work to get better, and they’ve been doing that. It’s been actually pretty fun. It’s been fun to come here, be in every game, and even win a few.” Beimel is rumored to be on the radar of the North Side Drama Queens, who are in talks with the Ahoys about reliever John Grabow. If the Cubs don’t get Grabow, they may work hard to get Beimel, who’s been solid out of the pen for the Nats. Wouldn’t it be nice for Mike Rizzo to get someone who could fill-in up the middle (and push the badly slumping Alberto Gonzalez)? Someone like say . . . Mike Fontenot, who is now being platooned with newly acquired Jeff Baker. Truth is, the Cubs would never part with him for Beimel, and Lou loves Fontenot, despite the former LSU star’s struggles at the plate.

Is Joe Headed to the Cubs?

Is Joe Headed to the Cubs?

A Rose By Any Other Name: During the Nats’ series with the Mets, MASN analyst Rob Dibble referred to a heater that fooled a Chokes’ batter as a “Blue Bayou.” As in — “that one blew by you.” I immediately sprinted to that handy tome on baseball phrases, but couldn’t locate Dibble’s reference. It wasn’t there. ‘Aha,’ I thought. ‘A crack in the otherwise rock solid ediface of Dickson baseball expertise.’ I wrote to the author yesterday (now officially promoted to the position of “droog”) to issue a soft comeuppance. The author informed me that a “Blue Bayou” (fastball) is referenced in his dictionary as a “Linda Ronstadt” — who sang, ah, “Blue Bayou.” Paul then referenced a “Peggy Lee fastball” – “Is that all there is?” The “Peggy Lee” was the specialty of Tug McGraw, who threw his heater and then took about 10 mph off of it . . . But having promoted Paul I am now going to demote him (from “droog” to just plain old “friend”) for reminding me that my reference to a “Bugs Bunny change-up” in a previous post was incorrect. It is not “Bugs” who swings at the pitch, but who delivers it. Well, okay. But I don’t count that as a strikeout; it’s more like a pop-up. So now, lemmeaskya, how many other baseball blogs can boast a pic of Linda Ronstadt?

Linda

Down On Half Street: Cole Hamels appears to be all the way back. The former dominant lefty faced off against the Showboats’ Dan Heren last night and, with the help of an umping call on a scorcher down the rightfield line (which should have been called foul), tamed the D-Backs. Hamels’ went eight innings and gave up only four hits . . . The Cubs and Astros have been hit by a series of unforseen injuries. Cubs’ starter Ted Lilly is on the DL after having knee surgery and “Stros” stopper Roy Oswalt tweaked his back during the Houston nine’s win against the Slugs . . . Mark Buehrle continues to dominate. Last night he set a major league record for consecutive outs — with 45 — shattering the record held by teammate Bobby Jenks and former San Francisco starter and reliever Jim Barr. While his statistics don’t show it, Barr was one hell of a pitcher. For a time in the early 1970s, his control was among the best in baseball. I remember watching him against Pittsburgh in 1973 and was stunned by his pin-point command. I could have sworn, then, that he would develop into the best pitcher in the game. It was not to be. Barr’s best year was 1974; he was 13-9 and threw eleven complete games and five shutouts. Barr developed arm problems in 1980 and was out of baseball in 1983. He has been pitching coach with the Sacramento State University Hornets since 1995.

Josh Hammers Brewers

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Josh Willingham’s two grand slam home runs powered the Washington Nationals to a 14-6 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Monday night. Willingham became the 14th player in major league history to hit two grand slams in a single game. The first Willingham blast was hit in the fifth, the second in the sixth. Ryan Zimmerman added one of his own (his 18th), in the eighth. The rap against Willingham is that while he has shown power, he usually homers with no one on base; presumably that rap will be forgotten after his impressive display in Milwaukee. The first recorded double grand slam game, according to major league baseball, took place in 1936, the last occurred in 2003 –when Bill Mueller hit two for the Red Sox.

You have to believe that the Nats’ were happy to come away from tonight’s contest with a win — Craig Stammen proved ineffective in four-and-two-thirds innings of work: he gave up nine hits and five earned runs before being relieved by Jason Bergman, who pitched to six batters and gave up two hits. Sean Burnett and Logan Kensing closed out the game without giving up a run. Burnett lowered his ERA to 2.53. Nyjer Morgan’s three-for-five night pushed him over the .300 mark; he is now hitting .303 and has become the club’s everyday centerfielder. Rightfully so: since joining the Nats, Morgan has hit .388.

Willingham standard

Willingham was not the only player to hit a grand slam tonight. Fernando Tatis hit a grand slam in the New York Mets 7-3 win against the Rockies. It was the New Yorker’s third win in a row; and Chicago Cubs’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off grand slam homer against the Astros in Wrigley Field. The Soriano homer gave the streaking Cubs a 5-1 win over division rivals Houston . . . The Cubs need all the wins they can get, now that St. Louis has solidified the middle of its line-up with the addition of Matt Holliday, who is hitting like he’s happy to be back in the National League. Holliday’s arrival, coupled with the return of Mark DeRosa from the DL and the addition of Red Sox castoff Julio Lugo gives the “new look Cardinals” one of the toughest line-ups in the NL. The Cardinals look like they can beat anyone — except the Phillies of course: this last weekend the Redbirds lost two of three to the Phuzzies, and were outscored 24-16 . . . The only thing the Cubs, Cards and suddenly mortal Trolleys need is for Philadelphia to get another pitcher. And they might — they’re still the lead team in the hunt for Blue Jay ace Roy Halladay. If the Phillies land Halladay, the Cards can start waving white flags from the top of Busch Stadium . . .

On a day of great hitting, Tim Lincecum pitched a complete game, striking out fifteen while giving up only four hits against the Ahoys. The fifteen strike outs tied a franchise record held by Gaylord Perry. Lincecum is now 11-3 with a 2.30 ERA . . . The Giants are agog over landing Cleveland Indians’ Ryan Garko, a player they say they “coveted.” Really? It’s possible to “covet” Matt Holliday or Roy Halladay . . . but . . . Not that it was a bad deal: Garko is hitting .285 with eleven home runs. The Giants needed a bat and gave up relatively little to get a good one. Still, Garko is no Matt Holliday (whom the Redbirds, rightly, “coveted”) and you have to believe the Giants will need an even bigger bat to compete for the wild card. The Giants just lost two of three to the Rockies — their competition in the NL West. They’re now nine games behind the Dodgers and one game behind those same Rockies in the wild card . . . that said, the Giants’ acquisition of Garko plugs the hole they had at first base, which means it’s unlikely they will pony up for Nick Johnson, whose price was likely much steeper than the one they paid for Garko . . .

Criticisms Echoed In Clubhouse

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Complaints about the Nats defense are now not only emanating from the broadcast booth, but are also coming from the clubhouse. After last night’s game reliever Joe Beimel, referring to a miss-played pop up by first baseman Nick Johnson, said “obviously it’s a play that has to be made. . . anybody with a pair of eyes can see that.” This can only spell trouble for the Nats. Once the grumbling starts among teammates, and becomes public, all hell is likely to break loose.  (Witness the Yanks and Red Sox in the ’70s) Maybe the all-star break will be a God-send for the team: it’ll give everyone a few days to cool off.  Dissing your starting first baseman (BA .299) to the Post is not a way to win friends and influence people.

But Mr. Acta may be whistling past the graveyard. After last night’s blown game he put the blame for the loss on the bullpen, saying the “let us down again,” but also noted that “overall I feel good.” Really? He may be the only one who does. Maybe he’s found peace with the fact that most of the time he’d can control the disasters on the field. 

Diamond Nuggets

Six, count ’em, six: as in shutouts last night. I can’t remember the last time I saw that. And of course the gem of the night was the no-hitter by Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez. A lot of fans had never even heard of him and with a 2-8 record going into the game there probably was no reason to. He only got the nod because future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson has a shoulder injury. But he came up big with his dad watching from the stands. A great story. Not far behind Sanchez’s feat was that of Brian Bannister of the Royals who three-hit the Red Sox only to lose 1 – 0. A pitchers duel in the AL?!! I didn’t think that happened any more.

sanchez-oe

Read the Stats: The fairly weak-hitting (.261) left fielder for the Red Sox, Jason Bay, leads the AL in RBIs with 72. Not a lot of hits, but he makes them count. He also has 20 dingers and will be in the All-Start game this week. Meanwhile, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who leads the AL in wins with 11, is the oldest first-time All-Star since Satchell Paige earned the nod to the summer classic in 1952 — when he was 46.

Tejada on Fire: Houston SS Miguel Tejada is lighting it up down south this year with a .330 BA, 114 hits (he has the NL lead in that catagory) and 29 doubles (also a league leader). The NL is so flush with good hitting that his .330 mark doesn’t even make the top ten list in the league. He’d be third in that category in the AL. 

No Love: With teammates like the aforementioned Randy Johnson and righty stud Tim Lincecum, Giant’s pitcher Matt Cain rarely gets mentioned in the national media. But he’s no secret in San Francisco. He’s tied for most wins in the NL (10) with Lincecum.