Archive for the ‘White Elephants’ Category
Saturday, April 27th, 2013
On any other day Jordan Zimmermann’s one hit masterpiece of the Cincinnati Reds would have been the top story in baseball. But not yesterday. Instead, Zimmermann’s brilliant mastery of the Redlegs was quickly relegated to a distant second place — like a very pretty, but not beautiful, bridesmaid who stands at the alter waiting for someone to take notice.
Indeed, on a day of pitching brilliance, the Zimmermann outing placed a ho-hum second to Anibal Sanchez’s amazing performance in Detroit’s 10-0 pasting of the Braves. Sanchez’s outing made history, as the righty struck out 17 hitters in a single game, besting the 16 Ks registered by Detroit Hall of Famer Mickey Lolich.
There is little that Sanchez’s performance has in common with Zimmermann’s (Anibal threw Ks, Jordan threw grounders), except for this: Sanchez, like Zimmermann, is not the publicly acknowledged ace of his team’s staff — that would be Justin Verlander.
How good was Sanchez? The former Marlin (he was never better than 13-12 for them), struck out Dan Uggla four times, Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco three times each and struck out two batters in every inning except the fourth. Sanchez limited the Braves to five hits and no Detroit outfielder recorded a putout. And Sanchez didn’t even pitch the 9th.
But Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t the only bridesmaid on Friday night. Out in Oakland, Baltimore southpaw starter Wei-Yin Chen two hit the White Elephants over eight innings to provide the Birds with their best pitching performance of the season. Prior to Chen, no Orioles pitcher had made it into the 8th inning — which should tell you something about the O’s starters.
On what might justifiably be called “the day of the pitcher,” Chen was just so-so, at least in comparison with Sanchez and Zimmermann. But Chen’s victory was a thing of beauty. He threw 12 fastballs in his first thirteen pitches, all of them four seamers and none of them faster than 92 mph. Chen is hittable, but no one seems able to hit him.
Least of all Oakland hitters: “He does a little something different each and every time,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Chen’s outing. “But at the end of the day, he’s got a fastball that gets on you a little quicker than you think. He gets a lot of popups and fly balls.”
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 . . .
Sunday, September 16th, 2012
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson never gets thrown out of a game, so you know that when it happens it’s for good cause. It happened in Atlanta on Saturday in the sixth inning, when first base umpire Marvin Hudson called Martin Prado safe at first base when he was clearly out. Johnson argued the call and was ejected.
The call was the turning point in the game. The next hitter, Jason Heyward, put an Edwin Jackson offering into the right field seats to tie the game at four — but the Nats would have remained ahead without Prado on base. So the call was key. Did the Hudson call cost the Nationals the game?
“We don’t need to give them a gift,” Johnson said after the Nationals 5-4 loss, their second in a row to the second place Braves. “That’s what was concerning me. He gives me that inning, our bullpen’s set up, we win the game.” But Johnson was philosophical: if the Nationals had pitched better, and come back to score some more runs . . .
First sacker Adam LaRoche made the same point: “If that happens and we get a double play or something, nobody talks about it, it’s no big deal,” LaRoche said. “It’s just a shame that they ended up scoring on it. It didn’t help Edwin at all.”
Of course, for Washington fans, the play may turn out to be the pivot for the season, particularly if the Braves should end up using Hudson’s missed call as a rally point to sweep the Nationals or surge past them in what remains of the season. And while that may seem unlikely now, stranger things have happened.
Saturday, September 15th, 2012
Kris Medlen showed why the Braves consider him their ace and stopper on Friday, as the young righty tamed the Washington Nationals, providing seven innings of five hit baseball — and setting up a thrilling last inning Atlanta win, 2-1. Atlanta’s victory came on a late throw to the plate that failed to get Andrelton Simmons, who scored the winning run.
“I’ve got a prayer, basically, with Andrelton Simmons at third,” Desmond said of the play following the loss. “Just tried to get it as quick as I could and get rid of it. If I set, he’s already sliding in, celebrating. There was a probably 1-in-10 chance, and I didn’t get him.”
But it was Medlen who wowed the Nationals. The righty threw the game of his season, befuddling Nationals’ hitters and registering thirteen strikeouts. “It was just one of those nights where everything just kind of felt like it was working for me,” Medlen said. Medlen, who is 8-1 on the season, did not get the decision — but the game lowered his ERA to a snappy 1.62: best among Atlanta starters.
The loss hurt the Nationals, but they remain 7.5 games ahead of the Braves in the N.L. East. Certainly no one in the Nationals’ clubhouse is panicking. “This is playoff baseball,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “Every team we play for the rest of the way is in the hunt and hungry, so these are the types of games we’re going to play for the next six weeks.”
Saturday, August 4th, 2012
It now seems obvious that the Nationals have been looking for a catcher from the moment that Wilson Ramos went on the disabled list — while hoping, the whole time, that Jesus Flores would make that search unnecessary. But on Saturday, Nationals’ G.M. Mike Rizzo traded catching prospect David Freitas to Oakland for Kurt Suzuki, making it clear that Flores would be his back-up.
The swap elicited a community wide ho-hum from the usual national baseball gurus, but it was big news in Oakland, where Suzuki was a fan favorite and once deemed a crucial part of the A’s future. Oakland G.M. Billy Beane signed Suzuki to a five year contract worth $16.25 million back in 2010 — an unusual, if not unheard of, splurge for the small market White Elephants.
“Trade Shocks Kurt Suzuki, A’s Teammates,” was the headline of the San Francisco Chronicle article that gave details of the Suzuki swap. “The move shook the clubhouse, left the team without its longest-tenured player and turned Derek Norris into the No. 1 catcher,” the article intoned, and then went on to imply that not everyone in green was pleased.
“Kurt took me under his wing when I got here,” A’s righty fastball artist Jarrod Parker told the Chronicle, “like the other young (pitchers) without much experience, and made my transition easier. I attribute the success I’ve had to him. It sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast.”
Pitcher Brett Anderson was also circumspect, describing Suzuki as “an integral part of our team on and off the field, especially for a guy like me who throws a lot of balls in the dirt. We’ve got ‘Ninja’ back there. He’s the most agile catcher I’ve ever seen.” Beane apparently knew the move would be controversial but defended it by implying that Suzuki needed a change of scene. “I think this will be good for Kurt,” Beane said. “He gets a chance to play every day.”
The “I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing this for you” explanation is standard practice for raising children, but it doesn’t wash in baseball. What Billy Beane means is that having paid Suzuki for performing as a backstop that everyone believed would be at the heart of the Oakland franchise for years to come, he became disenchanted with Suzuki’s performance at the plate.
There’s nothing worse than someone who heads to the bank and then fails to produce.
Friday, August 3rd, 2012
We never believed that Mike Rizzo et. al. were really looking for a catcher — even when reliable rumors circulated that the Nationals were checking on the availability of everyone from Ramon Hernandez to Kelly Shoppach. Nor did we like what we heard: Hernandez was too old, Shoppach not enough of a hitter.
But we never imagined that Rizzo and the Nationals’ brain trust would pull off a trade for A’s veteran Kurt Suzuki, not so long ago considered one of the most valuable catchers in the American League. But that’s exactly what happened this afternoon when Rizzo swapped minor league prospect David Freitis for the 28 year old six year veteran.
Freitis may someday be a good catcher, perhaps even a great one, but even with that the price for Suzuki seems not simply modest, but downright cheap. Freitis, 23, is a 2010 15th round draft pick from Hawaii who’s hitting .271 at Class A Potomac, while Suzuki is a respected veteran behind the plate with excellent defensive skills and a lifetime .254 average.
The trade was made in response to Jesus Flores’ troubles at the plate, and behind it. Skipper Davey Johnson cited Suzuki’s “veteran presence” as a reason for the trade. But the trade seems odd from Oakland’s point of view — who will go forward with unproven George Kottaras and rookie Derek Norris.
The White Elephants and Billy Beane seem like a regular trade partner now for Rizzo and the Nationals, who swapped out four leading prospects last winter for ace Gio Gonzalez. It was a good trade for both teams. This seems different, and in our early judgement, a steal for the Nationals.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
The Washington Nationals’ bullpen couldn’t hold onto a hard fought Washington lead, and the Nats were downed by a modest but effective late-inning rally in Milwaukee, 7-6 on Tuesday. The loss came at the expense of Nationals’ reliever Henry Rodriguez, who gave up a two out, two strike bleeder down the left field line to Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the 8th inning. “That’s baseball,” Rodriguez said after the game. “You guys saw what happened. It’s part of the game. It was a jam shot, and it fell in.” The hit was just enough for the Brewers to notch their eighth straight victory at home.
The bullpen, which has been stellar for the Nationals this year, looks like it’s starting to fade. Tyler Clippard was ineffective in the 7th, Rodriguez (who came in for Sean Burnett) was ineffective in the eighth — but nearly the entire crew has been struggling of late. Nationals skipper Jim Riggleman noted that the Washington pen has been the team’s highlight reel, but that it was almost fated that it would go through a rough time: “Our bullpen’s done a great job holding leads, and it just didn’t happen tonight.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It doesn’t look good for Adam LaRoche. Bill Ladson writes that the first baseman has major shoulder issues and could face surgery — but first he’ll rest his arm, which includes at least two weeks of not touching a baseball . . . Michael Morse is swinging the bat. After a great Spring Training, Morse had trouble out of the gates. His grand slam home run last night is evidence that his power swing is back, but he’s also hitting for average. In mid-May he was hitting .235, he exited last night’s game at .282. He’s hitting over .400 in his last ten games . . .
It’s funny the way things happen. Over the winter, some Nationals fans were urging Rizzo, Riggleman & Company to forego a free agent contract for a first base replacement for the departed Adam Dunn (who’s hitting all of .192 in the Windy City) and put Morse at first base. Part of the argument was that the Nationals could spend their money more wisely on an outfielder with a good bat: to replace the departed Josh Willingham (who’s hitting .233 for the White Elephants). Now they have their wish. It looks like the Nationals are about to go with a set line-up of Rick Ankiel in center, Roger Bernadina in left — and Morse at first. That’s not bad, except that Morse will not only have to keep hitting, but step up his defensive game. Adam LaRoche was a wizard at first, and his glove will be missed . . .
One of our more regular readers and a CFG fan (here he is), sent along a piece from Wired magazine (that’s a first, because most of our readers read Maxim) noting the May 24 anniversary of the first baseball game played under the lights. It’s a pretty good read, and notes that erecting lights at Crosley Field was part of a desperate measure to keep the Reds in the Queen City (that would be Cincinnati of all places). Lights caught on around the rest of the league, the article noted, except in Chicago, where lights (and winning) were a late addition . . .
And speaking of firsts, if you haven’t read the article on the New York Mets ownership (and the Fred Wilpon-Bernie Madoff fiasco) in the New Yorker you should. The article is long, but you can do it (and you’re all grown up now, and it’s time), and it gives a fair and even sympathetic picture of the Mets’ owner and his struggles to keep his team. We were all set to dislike the guy (as with everything else blue and orange), but ended up thinking that, despite all of his problems with financing, Wilpon not only seems like a good sort, but (surprise, surprise) knows his baseball . . .