Posts Tagged ‘Baseball Tonight’

Nats Spear Marlins . . . Jeter, Ichiro and BBTN

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The Washington Nationals authored a decisive 7-2 spearing of the Florida Marlins on Sunday, through a combination of stellar starthing pitching and timely hitting. After a long rain delay, Nats’s starter John Lannan dominated the Marlins’ bats through five complete innings, holding the Miami Nine to six hits while striking out three. Reliever Tyler Clippard was, if anything, even more effective (holding the Marlins to one hit over two innings), before Jason Bergman closed out the game. Nats hitters accounted for five hits over unsteady Marlins’ starter Chris Volstad, with the big blows from the bats of Pete Orr and Elijah Dukes. The win boosted Lannan’s record to 9-11, while giving a needed infusion of confidence to Nationals’ hitters, whose bats wer unable to master Florida pitching on Saturday. The 7-2 win gave the Nats the series victory in Florida, three games to two.

Down On Half Street: Derek Jeter recorded his 2,722nd hit on Friday, passing Lou Gehrig for the most hits in Yankees franchise history. Jeter’s landmark hit was properly extolled in the New York and baseball media and we have to give credit where credit is due – there’s no doubt that the Yankees shortstop will end his career by being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and have a plaque dedicated to his accomplishments out in Yankee Stadium’s monument park. Even so, in the wake of Jeter’s accomplishment, “Baseball Tonight” commentator Steven Berthiaume felt compelled to ask his guests (Orestes Destrade, Eric Young and Buster Olney) whether BBTN was paying too much attention to the Jeter record “just because he’s a Yankee.” Absolutely not, the trio intoned: Jeter’s mark symbolizes his undisputed place in baseball history and puts him on “the Mt. Rushmore of Yankee greats . . .”  

Well, maybe. But, if you have to ask the question in the first place . . .

 

The Berthiaume question keeps coming up: is “Baseball Tonight” too much of a Boston and New York and east coast-oriented show, with too little focus on west coast teams and west coast match-ups? The producers at BBTN probably have something to say about this — and some of it might even make sense. New York probably provides the largest audience of ESPN viewers and “Baseball Tonight” often (but not always) ends too soon to do a report on west coast scores, particularly if those games run into extra innings. Then too, I’ll just bet that somewhere there’s an internal BBTN memo that says that when Berthiaume and crew lead the broadcast with news about the Padres or A’s, people change channels. Whether we like it or not, the Yankees are of abiding interest (even to fans outside of New York) and the Jeter record is probably more important to the average viewer than, say, the fact that Ryan Howard eclipsed the Phillies’ grand slam home run mark set by Mike Schmidt.  

But if the producers of “Baseball Tonight” are hammered for being “homers” for the Yanks and Red Sox (and the Mets, too, when they don’t stink), it’s only because they often deserve it. Last week the CFG brain trust was convinced that Ichiro would finally get the attention he deserves when he broke one of baseball’s nearly untouchable records: the number of consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits. But that’s not what happened. When Ichiro broke Wee Willie Keeler’s record on Sunday night, ESPN was busy covering the games of another sport while ESPN’s flagship sports reporting program, “SportsCenter,” barely mentioned the accomplishment. But while Baseball Tonight can thereby be excused for their seeming lack of interest, baseball’s pundit class took an “oh and by the way” attitude to Ichiro’s accomplishment in the days leading up to his record breaking infield single on Sunday night. Yankees fans might take umbrage at all of this: that Ichiro is not Jeter, that Ichiro’s record is hardly of the same class as Jeter’s and . . . and that you can’t really compare “Wee Willie” to the “The Iron Horse.” Some of this might be true, but not all of it. While Gehrig was a better ball player than Keeler, the two records are vastly different: Jeter’s record is a team record, while Ichiro’s will reside at Cooperstown.

Albert’s Walk Off… and “Buck’s Plan”

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

albert-pujols

John Lannan’s stellar eight inning performance on Friday night — which should have led to a Nats’ win — was reversed with one swing of Albert Pujols’ bat in the ninth inning, as our Anacostia Nine lost to the St Louis Cardinals 3-2. But after the game, it wasn’t Pujols’ walk-off home run, given up by Jason Bergman, that Lannan regretted, but his own eighth inning pitch that pinch hitter Khalil Greene muscled out of Busch Stadium that tied the game at two. Greene, who has struggled all season (and is hitting near the Mendoza line) came to the plate with Lannan clearly in control, but lifted a Lannan pitch that was up in the zone into the Busch Stadium bleachers. The homer shocked Lannan as much as it energized the St. Louis crowd. Without that homer, Lannan speculated, he might have made it into the ninth: and the Nats’ loss might easily have counted as a win.

Lannan was nearly spectacular: reversing a series of indifferent outings. He threw only 91 pitches, more than two-thirds of them for strikes. “That was more like what we saw earlier in the year,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said of Lannan’s performance. “He was outstanding against a good hitting ballclub. He got a lot of ground balls. He pitched a great ballgame. He got behind on Khalil Greene, and Khalil has a little power. And he had to put one in there, and Khalil took advantage of it. That was the big blow.” In fact, the big blow came one inning later, against Jason Bergman, who served up a classic in-the-wheelhouse pitch to Pujols, who rarely misses. Bergman’s third pitch of the night was his last, as Pujols’ jacked just one under the second deck in left field.

Down On Half Street: Last Monday, “Baseball Tonight’s” Buck Showalter presented his plan to realign major league baseball, arguing that the “integrity of the MLB schedule could use an overhaul.” The way to do that, Showalter argued, is to get rid of two weak teams (the Ray and Marlins), do something about the DH (either keep it or get rid of it) and realign the league into four divisions of seven teams each. The divisions would be renamed for Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson. Each team would play every other team exactly six times: three home and three away and because the teams are geographically aligned, the economic savings would be obvious. Not bad. It’s a compelling idea and shouldn’t dismissed. So watch the video, it’s entertaining. The former Rangers’ skipper is right about baseball’s current problems: the schedule is badly unbalanced, attendance is weak in at least four markets and it makes no sense for (say) the Red Sox and Yankees to play each other eighteen times.

There’s been a lot of comment about Showalter’s plan, most of it negative. Umpbump points out that Showalter’s plan worsens the problem it’s intended to solve: “None of the alleged benefits of these new divisions that Buck and [Steve] Berthiaume spend so much time praising will come to pass at all if each team plays every other team exactly 6 times. Teams will have to fly farther, more often, fans will have even more games outside their time zone they’ll have to stay up late for, and regional rivalries will be much reduced because the fans will only see that rival team three times a year.” Bleacher Report, meanwhile, rightly reports the obvious: “Some of the teams who don’t win now would go out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Nationals would not only still have to compete with the Mets and Phils, but they would pick up the Yanks and Red Sox as division rivals.” The Fair Ball notes that convincing the owners in Tampa and Miami that they should cash it in for the good of baseball is probably not going to work. (Truth is, if I had my way, I’d get rid of the Toronto Blue Jays, but only because I can’t stand them.)

Buck

Realignment in baseball is worth doing, but radical realignment isn’ possible — and it isn’t necessary. It’s time to kick the Brewers back into the American League (to help resolve the problems caused by the unbalanced schedule), get rid of the D.H. (add an extra player to each team’s roster in five years, to satisfy the players’ union), work with weak franchises to ensure the building of new stadiums (like Tampa), negotiate an increase in the luxury tax on high salary teams (and require recipients of the tax to spend it on player development) and allow teams to trade draft picks in the first year player draft. These are fairly modest proposals and they’ve been heard before: their chief elegance is that they’re actually doable.  

Still, there’s something about the Showalter proposal that is oddly compelling. It keeps you awake at night, thinking about the possibilities. Is it true that putting the Nats in “The Babe Ruth Division” consigns them to interminable mediocrity, with little hope of ever seeing the postseason? I wondered this last night, eyes staring at the ceiling, as I heard St. Louis fans cheer as Albert Pujols circled the bases. And I began to think about what the Nats might do in “The Babe Ruth Division,” say, next year. And it occurred to me. It might not be so bad. So instead of grouping the teams alphabetically (as Showalter had done in his presentation), I ranked them in order of predicted finish for the 2010 season.

So. Whaddayathink?

The Babe Ruth Division: 2010 Season

1. New York Yankees
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. New York Mets
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Washington Nationals

6. Baltimore Orioles
7. Boston Red Sox

Pretty good prediction, eh?

Nats Defang Rattlers; Win Streak At 8

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

The Washington Nationals swept the three game series against the Diamondbacks, with a decisive 9-2 skinning of the rattlers on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park. The victory followed a thrilling 5-2 win on Saturday. The Nats have now won eight in a row and will get a day off before embarking on a semi-extended road trip. In both of the last two games an otherwise shakey starting rotation provided consistent outings — with Garrett Mock beating Dan Heren on Saturday and J.D. Martin besting Yusmeiro Petit on Sunday. It was both Mock and Martin’s first major league victories. Mock and Martin were not overpowering, but they were good enough to allow Nats’ interim manager Jim Riggleman to mix-and-match a bullpen that had been putting in extra innings. The Nats bats continue to heat up: Adam Dunn hit his 30th home run on Sunday, Ryan Zimmerman went 3-5, and Alberto Gonzalez seems to be rediscovering his swing — he went 2-4 on Sunday.

The bats of Dunn, Guzman, Zimmerman, Morgan and Willingham — at the heart of the Nats’ order — figured big in both games: accounting for six of Washington’s eight hits on Saturday and nine of 16 hits on Sunday. But the key to Washington’s sweep of the Diamondbacks may well have been Elijah Dukes, who notched ten RBIs of a total of 21 runs the ballclub scored. Dukes unlikely resurgence makes up, at least in part, for the departure of Nick Johnson to the Marlins. Equally impressive was the Nats’ newest find: reliever Jorge Sosa. The former Braves, Cardinals and Mets journeyman pitched 2.1 innings on Sunday, which followed a one inning no-hit-no-run relief effort on Saturday. It’s clear that the deceptive Sosa has found a place at the back of the Nats’ bullpen. He may even vie, at some point, with Mike MacDougal for the closers’ role.

Why are the Nats suddenly playing so well . . .? The answer seems obvious: good pitching, timely hitting, good defense. All that. For sure. But then, you know (and, I mean, this is just a suggestion) it’s pretty hard to ignore the role played by this guy:

Riggleman

Down On Half Street: The Boston Globe is reporting that the Boston Red Sox, reeling from their slapping at the hands of the New York Gothams, have reportedly put a claim in on Nationals’ shortstop Cristian Guzman, who has been placed on waivers. The Nats can either pull Guzman back, let him go, or work out a deal sometime in the next 48 hours. The Red Sox have had trouble filling their hole at short — Julio Lugo is gone to St. Louis and Jed Lowrie is on the DL . . . I haven’t met a Sox fan yet who isn’t absolutely ecstatic about getting rid of Lugo: “thank God he’s gone,” they say. And you can see why. I mean, his replacement (the aforementioned) is like “the second coming” of the second coming: except that he’s hitting .143. Oh no, what will they do without him? . . . Hey, maybe they should trade Clay “can miss” Buchholz (ERA: 5.33) and a boatload of other “can’t miss” players for Roy Halladay, who’s only the best pitcher in baseball . . ..  Nahhhhhh .   

We are pleased to announce that there’ll be a twenty minute special report on Lowrie’s status on Boston Red Sox “Baseball Tonight,” right after the fifteen minute special on David Ortiz (which follows the sixteen minutes on the Bosox vs. the Bronx series, which is the single most important baseball series this year — not counting the Angels-Rangers tilt going on right now too, of course), so be sure to stay tuned for that compelling report . . . and, oh yes, later on in the program, we’ll be presenting our special segment, “that’s not television, that’s boring”  . . . speaking of the DL. It could be bad news for Nats’ starter Jordan Zimmermann, who is experiencing continued elbow soreness. He is scheduled to have x-rays of the elbow examined further on Monday by the nation’s leading baseball orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. Andrews isn’t examing the elbow, mind you, he’s so good all he needs to do is look at the x-rays. In any event, this is not good news . . . but hey, here’s my question and it’s damned important: do you think that Joba Chamberlain should stay as a starter, or go back to the bullpen? huh? huh? huh? do ya? do ya? do ya? . . .