Posts Tagged ‘chicago white sox’

#2, Derek Jeter . . . Jeter

Thursday, September 25th, 2014


The simple truth is this: if you write a story on your blog about the New York Yankees (even on a blog that is focused on the Washington Nationals), people will read it. Not just some people, a lot of people. Put simply: a lot more people are willing to read about the Yankees than about the Nationals.

How do we know that? Because we tried it. Earlier this season we posted a pic of a baseball card of Joe DiMaggio on CFG’s “Facebook” page and received five times as many views as a normal posting. Yes, it’s a “single data point” (as they say in Washington), but it’s compelling. But why?

“Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser,” General George Patton told his troops during World War Two. “Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed.” Patton’s right of course, which explains the appeal of the Gothams — and why people are paying so much attention, just now, to Jeter.

There’s no way to prove this, but we believe it’s true: if the Yankees had spent the last twenty years in last place, Jeter wouldn’t be getting the kind of attention he is now. And if the Yankees weren’t the Yankees (if, say, they were the Mets), they wouldn’t be America’s teams. The Yankee are the Yankees because they’re winners.

Yes, yes, yes. Of course. Jeter’s retiring and he’s had a great career, but we doubt if as many people would be paying attention to Jeter if he’d spent twenty years with the Astros, or even the Cubs. Face it: the Braves, Cubs and Dodgers (or anyone else, for that matter) aren’t America’s team, the Yankees are. And there are statistics to prove it.

Then too, it’s not as if Jeter didn’t have something to do with those five World Series rings he owns. We would even claim that while it’s likely that many, many baseball fans agree with what Keith Olbermann said the other day, people remain fascinated by him (and his Yankees) because . . . well, he’s a Yankee.

And, for the record here, in part, is what Olbermann said: “Contrary to what you have heard, Derek Jeter is not the greatest person in human history. He did not invent baseball, he did not discover electricity, he is not the greatest shortstop who ever lived.”

We agree with the gist of this, while noting that extolling the greatness of people is a current media fixation, a kind of art form. Talk show host Larry King once said that he thought there was no musician who ever lived who was better than Michael Jackson. One of the guests on his program furrowed his brow, shook his head — and offered this: “Well, there’s Mozart.”


Kershaw Too Much For The Nats

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014


Clayton Kershaw gave up just three hits and one run in eight complete innings of work on Tuesday night, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a ho-hum 4-1 victory over the Nats. The victory was Kershaw’s league leading 17th win on the season against just three losses.

The L.A. lefty’s only mistake came in the seventh inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Bryce Harper — a relative rarity in the Annals of Clayton Keshaw. “He just didn’t give us any opportunities,” Nats skipper Matt Williams said of the southpaw. “That’s why he’s doing so well. He’s just not making any mistakes.”

“He is the best pitcher in baseball, hands down” said Harper, who went 1-for-4 in the game and notched his 11th home run on the season “He goes out there and locates his pitches. He has his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. He is very, very good.”

Kershaw showed why he’s in line to win the National League Cy Young Award, and why he’s also being mentioned as a front runner as league MVP. The L.A. southpaw, with the best curve that L.A. has seen since the days of Sandy Koufax, fanned eight and walked just two in throwing a three hit, eight inning victory. Kenley Jansen notched his 39th save of the season for the Trolleys.

The Nationals hoped to provide a counter to Kershaw in steady Doug Fister, but Washington’s righty gave up ten hits to the Dodgers over five innings of work (Fister couldn’t make it out of the 6th), which included an in-the-hole infield single to Adrian Gonzalez in the 5th (that scored Kershaw and Dee Gordon) and a home run to L.A. third sacker Juan Uribe in the 6th.

“The ball didn’t bounce our way tonight,” starter Fister said of his outing. “There were things that happened. I gave up a few hits. I have to be better. I have to be better picking up my teammates. It’s unacceptable for me. That’s what teams do. They pick one another up. I didn’t do that. I left the ball over the middle for Uribe. I have to be much better with him.”

Washington’s night included a muffed infield play in the two run fifth, when an in-the-hole Gonzalez grounder brought home both Kershaw and Gordon. Gordon should have been out on the plate on a throw from Desmond, but the shortstop wildly overthrew the ball, a rarity for the usually defense-oriented Nationals.

“I tried to throw it to first, I lost the grip, looked up and Dee Gordon is taking off for home. I just rushed it a little bit. I should have set my feet,” Desmond said of the play.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: MLB Tonight’s Billy Ripken reminded viewers on Tuesday night that one of the biggest stories of the season is the seemingly sudden appearance of game-changing Cuban imports, including Cubs outfield phenom Jorge Soler . . .

Soler, the most recent rookie call-up of the retooled Cubs (they’ve won two in a row against the Brew Crew — and swept the O’s in mid-August), has only 22 at bats in the majors, but 11 of them have gone for hits, which includes three home runs and eight RBIs . . .

But Soler is only the second most exciting player in Chicago, bragging rights for the first spot still held by Jose Abreu, who is hitting a staggering .320 with a .381 OBP and .602 slugging percentage for the South Siders. Abreu has been on fire: he is hitting .500 in his last 12 games and is a lock-on favorite for the A.L.’s Rookie of the Year award . . .


That Other Chicago Team

Sunday, June 29th, 2014


There hasn’t been much to cheer about on the South Side of Chicago since the Pale Hose made their last, once-every-half-century, appearance in the World Series in 2005. The White Sox have flirted with greatness since (they appeared in the LDS in 2008, but lost) but mostly (mostly) have been vainly struggling to recoup their former 2005 triumph.

But this year is different. While the Aparicios are limping along at 38-44 and are trailing the Tigers by 8.5 in the American League Central, the Pale Hose have put together what figures to be a core group of starters that could lead them back into contention for an American League title.

The figure at the center of that dream is Jose Abreu, the celebrated Cuban slugger (with Yoenis Cespades and Yasiel Puig) who Chicago signed to a $68 million, six year mega-deal this last off-season. While baseball analysts mouthed their obligatory “oh yeah, sure” response to the Abreu signing, the vast majority showed a half-smiling, let’s play it safe, disinterest. Jose Abreu?

“For players who haven’t played in the states, it’s a calculated risk, but one we had to take,” Chicago G.M. Rick Hahn said of the signing. “If we are going to get this thing right, and get it done as quickly as we want it done, we are going to have to be bold and be aggressive.”

The pre-season projections for Abreu seemed to suggest that the White Sox were smart in making the deal, as Abreu was thought to have enough power to hit in the .270 range with perhaps 20-25 home runs. In fact, as it turns out, the projections were just flat-out wrong. With the 2014 season just one-half gone, Abreu has already matched those numbers, with a .280 BA and 25 home runs.

“There’s going to be an adjustment period,” Hahn told the press, hedging his bets. “There’s going to be him getting used to the daily grind of a major league season, the travel in the states and the games every day for six-plus months.”

Pretty good? A calculated risk? An adjustment period? Abreu has turned out to be a monster at the plate and, for our money, the most dangerous hitter in the game.



Is There A “Nats Nation?”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

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Last week the New York Times published a fascinating, and unusual, look at baseball loyalties. “Using aggregated data” provided by Facebook, the Times published a map of U.S. baseball loyalties, color-coded by team — then accompanied the map with fourteen separate maps showing the boundaries separating the teams.

As the Times explained: “The maps were created using estimates of team support based on how many Facebook users ‘liked’ each team in a ZIP code. We applied the algorithm to smooth the date and fill the gaps where the data was missing.” Put another way: using the maps, readers can find out which team a large aggregate of fans support in a specific ZIP code. The process can get obsessive, but it yields sometimes surprising results.

The Yankees and Red Sox (in particular), but also the Braves (to a lesser extent) have national followings. The Yankees are an “empire” and the Red Sox are a “nation.” The Yankees have more followers in Emery County, Utah for instance, than any of the closest nearby teams — the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants (who are third). Alaska? Alaska has a lot of Mariners fans, but the Red Sox and Yankees have a loyal following.

“A popular team like the Yankees has a huge presence in the New York area,” the Facebook entry on the findings says, “but its presence is felt all over the country and indeed the world. ┬áThe ‘Red Sox diaspora,’ despite being from a much smaller city, are also spread all over the country.”

As you might expect, the Braves (the Cobb Country Braves, as we have taken to calling them), dominate the Georgia fan base, but their loyalties extend well to the west and northeast, much as the Rangers dominate nearly all of Texas, except for the ZIP codes surrounding Houston.

We would have thought that the Cubs would have a loyal national following, but that’s not the case. But they dominate Chicago — except for the area around U.S. Cellular Field (on the South Side)) which then trails off into parts of northwest Indiana. But Chicago is, essentially “Wrigleyville.”

The New York Times says that California’s baseball loyalties reflect a group of “city states” — with the area divided by team loyalties based strictly on metropolitan areas. That’s right, but Angels and Padres’ fans are surrounded by the more popular Dodgers and Giants — who have been around longer (even in California) and have won more national championships.

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Kennedy Pitches Padres To 4-2 Victory Vs. Nationals

Monday, April 28th, 2014


San Diego righty Ian Kennedy stymied the Nationals’ offense on Sunday, throwing seven innings of three hit baseball and striking out nine, as the Padres went on to gain a split in their four game series against Washington, 4-2. Kennedy outdueled six Washington pitchers in gaining the victory, his second of the season.

San Diego’s offense, meanwhile, was powered by eight hits, two of them from outfielder Cameron Maybin, who was seeing his first action of the 2014 season. “Ian pitched his butt off,” Maybin said after the San Diego victory. “Fun being behind a guy like that who can command the zone like he does.”

The Nationals came up nearly empty against Kennedy, with Jayson Werth the only Washington regular who was able to notch two hits against him. It was a rough day for Washington hitters, but also a rough day for the pitching staff. Starter Taylor Jordan was battling the flu when he took the mound and lasted just four innings.

A host of Washington relievers who followed Jordan to the bump battled San Diego hitters — and their own control. Ross Detwiler gave up four hits in just 1.1 innings of work and Aaron Barrett walked two batters while registering a single out. Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard pitched well, but by then it was too late.

Huston Street notched his league leading ninth save without a blemish, wrapping up the game. “It’s a really good lineup they have over there, and I know that Adam LaRoche had a big series against us, so having Ian pitch so well was very important,” Street said of the victory. “To see him settle down and get into a groove, it put the momentum back on our side.”

The Nationals have Monday off, but will travel to Houston for a short series against the Astros that begins on Tuesday.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Major league teams dump salaries, they dump old starters and relievers and they dump washed up veterans. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, it seems, dump young and talented starters. How else do you explain last year’s swap of yesterday’s pitching hero, Ian Kennedy, to the Padres back in 2013 . . .?

True — Kennedy was struggling at the time, but he was two years down the road from a 21-4 season. The D-Backs got reliever Joe Thatcher, a minor leaguer (righty pitcher Matt Stites) and a draft pick in return, hardly enough to justify the swap of a proven youngster with electric stuff . . .


Zimmerman Foils Wacha’s No Hit Bid

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013


Cardinals’ starter Michael Wacha came within a single out of no-hitting the Nationals on Tuesday night, but a Ryan Zimmerman infield bounder put the Nationals in the hit column as St. Louis went on to down Washington, 2-0. Wacha, who entered the game at 3-1 after a swift rise through the minors, threw 112 pitches before being lifted after Zimmerman’s single.

“For a kid to do that against a lineup like that, at this point in the season, it’s hard to get your head around it,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said after the victory. Zimmerman, who Wacha struck out twice prior to his single hit, also praised the young righty. “He pitched great. He really had his stuff going,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman’s bounder hit in front of the pitcher’s mound and flew over Wacha as the young pitcher reached for it. It hit off his glove, but was fielded by shortstop Peter Kozma, who flipped the ball to first baseman Matt Adams, who swiped at Zimmerman but missed him.

After the hit, Matheny brought in reliever Trevor Rosenthal to close out the game. Rosenthal ended it on six fastballs to Jayson Werth, who grounded out sharply to first baseman Adams. “I guess it just wasn’t to be,” Wacha said of his short-circuited no hitter. “But it was still a pretty special night.”

Wacha’s performance overshadowed a solid outing from Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who threw seven innings while striking out six and giving up six hits. Drew Storen shut the Cardinals down at the end of the eighth, setting up the tumultuous 9th inning. It was Gonzalez’s eighth loss on the year against eleven wins.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “Don’t be surprised if the Indians, losers of 94 games a year ago, turn out to this year’s Orioles,” Sports Illustrated writer Albert Chen said back in March. Cleveland fans apparently didn’t believe him, accounting for the third worst attendance in baseball this year . . .


Ramos Leads Nats In 9-6 Win

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013


The Nationals committed three errors and Gio Gonzalez walked three Philadelphia batters, but Washington banged out eleven hits (including a Wilson Ramos three run home run in the top of the 2nd inning) and the home towners went on to down the Phillies 9-6 at Citizens Bank Park.

“It was an ugly game, that’s all I can tell you,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s one of the ugly ones I’ve seen. Gio had a real rough start. He threw a lot of pitches. He hung in there. [The fielders] were sloppy behind him. It’s not the way you win pennants, I’ll tell you that.”

Thankfully for Johnson (although that might not be the best word to use), the Nationals are in no danger of winning a pennant. The win in Philadelphia still left Washington struggling to catch Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card spot. The Nationals remain 7.5 games behind the Redlegs with 24 games to play.

The Nationals were hoping that starter Gio Gonzalez would give them a solid outing on Tuesday night, as he did during his last outing against Miami at Nationals Park, but the struggling southpaw gave up five hits and five runs (just one of them earned) in 5 2/3 innings on the mound.

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Gonzalez, who contended for the Cy Young award in 2012, has been up-and-down all season — with his 5 2/3 innings outing reminiscent of his 3 1/3 innings stint two weeks ago against the Kansas City Royals, in which he yielded ten hits and seven runs.

“I was fortunate to go at least that long, especially knowing that I felt uncomfortable on the mound the whole game,” Gonzalez said of his outing. “You can look at it from both sides: The Phillies had a lot of walks, we had a [few] walks. It was just one of these weird games. You just can’t explain it.”