Posts Tagged ‘Yorvit Torrealba’

Does Signing Pudge “Send A Message?”

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

We just can’t let the signing of “Pudge” Rodriguez go without a comment: not only is the all-around-good-guy winner of 13 Gold Gloves the newest Nats signing, Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson (speaking on the Nats website on one of those webcast doo-hickey thingies) says that the Nats are “sending a message” to their fans that his signing means “they want to contend now.” Here’s our reaction — if that’s the message they’re sending, they ought to send it again. It’s easy to be critical, but Pudge stopped being one of the game’s indispensible players long, long ago: which (obviously) Mike Rizzo and Company know.

The reason Rodriguez is here is not to make the Nats a contender now (because he won’t), but to keep the box behind the plate warm for Jesus Flores (whose tender mercies have yet to fully heal) and to keep a dugout of trembling young pitchers from wetting their pants. Pudge is as close as the Nats can get, just now, to a player-coach — a clubhouse presence who’s been through the wars and an unruffled and steadying player who, at the end of his career, knows pitchers not because of any inherent genius, but because he’s seen so many of them. There’s something to be said for having years of experience behind the plate.

There’s a little odor to the deal among some sportswriters, who say that the Nats overpaid (sniff, sniff). That seems particularly true now that it appears as if the Purples will re-sign Yorvit Torrealba for a near-song: $5.5 million over two years. But the Nats not only probably (probably) couldn’t get Pudge for two years, they didn’t need him for one: there’s no guarantee that Flores will heal that fast or, even if he did, that he’ll stay healed. Then too, Derek Norris is not just a few months away — if he works out at all. The deal maker in this was Jim Bowden: he complained that “this was another bad signing.” Yeah, well he oughta know. Thus was inaugurated “the Bowden rule”: if Jim hates it, Mike Rizzo should do it. If he doesn’t, flee.

The Board of Directors here at CFG (you remember them, right?) likes the deal and so do I: the signing of Rodriguez saves fans from having to watch Josh Bard gimp his way to first base, or gaze in wincing shame as Wil Nieves (Who? Wil Nieves!) slams his bat in disgust at striking out. Fun as that was. Then too, unless you’re the Boston Red Sox and you think you can just let catchers walk out the door — they’re damned hard to find and every team needs one. Yeah, so the signing of Pudge Rodriguez sends a message: the Nats desperately needed a catcher and now they have one. Or, if things work out for the very best, they might even have two.

Rockies Even Series; Trolleys Stun Redbirds

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Colorado Rockies held off the rallying Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday to take the second game in their five game series, 5-4. The key for the Purples was an unlikely two run homer off the bat of catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who hadn’t had a four base knock since May. Torrealba’s knock was complemented by solid pitching from Rockies’ starter Aaron Cook and bullpen aces Jose Contreras, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Morales and all-world closer Huston Street (above). The Heltons, who won during the regular season by counting on the bats of an unlikely mix of new heroes, depended on the bat of yet another unknown newcomer: in this case it was left fielder Carlos “Cargo” Gonzalez. Gonzalez — a former Showboat prospect and a throw-in in the off season Oakland-Colorado Matt Holliday-for-Huston Street trade — spent much of the last two seasons in triple-A, while Denver’s front office waited for him to pan out. Gonzalez got his chance this year, after a series of injuries made room for him in the Colorado outfield. On Thursday, the fleet Venezuelan went 3-5 to spark the otherwise sleepy Rockies’ line up.

When the Oakland A’s got Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in the Huston Street trade back in November of 2008, they thought their search for a big bat was over: the Stillwater, Oklahoma native was a three time all star and three time silver slugger and he’d been named the 2007 World Series MVP. But Holliday didn’t seem to fit in in Oakland (he hit an otherwise anemic .286 with 11 home runs in 93 games), and on July 24, 2009 Oakland A’s guru Billy Beane swapped him to St. Louis for three top prospects: Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson. In St. Louis, Holliday tore the cover off the ball — hitting .353 with 13 home runs in just 63 games, and propelling the Redbirds into the post season. He was just what Tony La Russa ordered.

Holliday’s post season experience gave St. Louis the confidence they needed against L.A. With Albert Pujols and Holliday in the middle of their order and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright their big guns as starters, St. Louis was set to head into L.A. to face Joe Torre’s big bats. L.A. took the first game, with a surprisingly shaky outing by Carpenter. But St. Louis came back to dominate the second game: and it looked like the Redbirds were set to even the series at one game apiece. But with two outs in the ninth ining and St. Louis leading, the otherwise sure-handed Holliday dropped a sinking liner off the bat of first sacker James Loney to give the Dodgers new life. Casey Blake then walked and former Nats Ronnie Belliard singled home the tying run, before Mark Loretta’s short centerfield single provided the 3-2 walk off win. “It’s tough to swallow,” Holliday said after the game. “Obviously, I feel terrible. But I just missed the ball. It hit my stomach. I think I can catch a ball hit right at me.” The Trolleys now lead the series, 2-0.

Nats Ending With A Whimper

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

This is apparently the way that Nats end: not with a bang, but with a whimper. With seven games left in the season, the Atlanta Braves banged out thirteen hits against five Nats’ pitchers, victimizing Garrett Mock with seven hits and six runs in five innings of work. Mock, who has said he doesn’t pay attention to things like personal wins and losses, (or defensive gaffes – or his own ERA), began Saturday’s tilt against the Chops by allowing four runs in the first inning — a pattern of early innings futility that has become the sad norm amongst Washington’s young arms. It was all Braves thereafter, as Atlanta lumbered through an 11-5 win. Mock doesn’t pay attention to personal wins and losses? It’s a good thing: he’s now 3-10. With Washington losing nine of its last 11, it’s clear that the mounting losses are having an impact in the clubhouse — even this late in the season: “I don’t like losing,” Nats’ slugger Adam Dunn said after the game. “I can’t really point a finger why we are losing. It’s very frustrating. I can’t put it into words. I hate it. I hate it. It’s not good.”

Those Are The Details, Now for the Headlines: Saturday’s marquee match-up pitted the N.L. Central’s Redbirds against the Colorado Rockies — and dominant Redbird righty Adam Wainwright against fireballer Ubaldo Jimenez. It was a must-win for the Rockies, who are looking in the rearview mirror at the Braves, who are now just 2.5 out of the Wild Card lead. Which is why the Saturday match-up was so important. Shockingly, the usually steady Ubaldo Jimenez was shaky out of the gate while (less surprisingly) Cy Young contender Adam Wainwright look untouchable. Jimenez lost his control in the first inning — giving up three runs, but the Rockies’ rallied late, tying the game at three in the fifth. It stayed that way until the 7th, when unlikely hero Jason LaRue deposited a hanging Jimenez slider in the left field seats. That’s all St. Louis needed to win: and clinch the division championship.

Is there a growing sense of panic on the rockpile? ” We’re still ahead,” Colorado manager Jim Tracy said after his team’s loss to the Cards. “We saw what the Cardinals just accomplished with their victory tonight, and if we keep going in the manner that we have the last couple of nights, I promise you that we’ll put ourselves in a very good position to maybe have a little celebration like that for ourselves.” Tracy is paid to be upbeat, but with Atlanta surging the Purple’s fans are beginning to show signs of gnawing doubt — and a feeling that the team is just not hitting (literally) on all cylinders. “There is a perception around the league that all of the Rockies get hot and cold together and that’s why they’re prone to stretches where they can’t win followed by stretches that they can’t lose,” Rox Girl at Purple Row says. “While there’s a little truth to that, those of us that follow the team closely know that there are slumps within the machine even while it’s working well, as well as hot players churning along even when it’s not.”

All Things Rockies, meanwhile, notes that some key players are slumping — including bopper Brad Hawpe, who was recently lifted for former White Elephant Jason Giambi. Hawpe isn’t the only one who’s slumping. Colorado’s fleet-footed Nyjer-like centerfielder, Dexter Fowler is hitting a forgettable .267, an average that belies his recent struggles. Fowler, whose speed is wasted if he can’t get on base, looked positively overmatched on Saturday, going 0-4. Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy finally threw in the towel, pinch hitting for Fowler in the 9th. The Fowler stand-in against Redbird reliever Ryan Franklin was part time left fielder Seth Smith — and you have to wonder why Tracy isn’t using him more. Smith was the N.L. player of the week in early September, when Smith was positively on fire: in six games he hit .542 with four home runs, five doubles and ten RBIs. He posted a .607 OBP.

The Rockies and their fans would deny there’s any sense of panic (of course) and the even-keeled Jim Tracy waves off reporters who remind him that the Braves are closing fast. But there are those niggling little signs (familiar to Mets fans) that signal doubt: complaints about the perceived unfairness of umpire calls (the normally phlegmatic Tracy questioned the strike zone on Saturday), reassurances from players that their “rhythm is coming back” (as Rockies’ catcher Yorvit Torrealba would say), and complaints among diehards that, while the Rockies are facing the class of the National League, their chief competitor is in the midst of a series against an also-ran. This is vintage whine. And disturbing evidence that the Rockies have stopped searching for ways to win — and started issuing excuses.