Monday, April 30, 2007

Josh Hancock 1978-2007

On early Sunday morning, Cardinals middle reliever Josh Hancock died in an automobile accident; he was only 29. This brought back eerie memories of five years prior for the Cards, when starting pitcher Darryl Kile unexpectedly passed away. Hancock hit a tow truck early just past midnight and died on impact.

I feel a little selfish because I heard of the Cards-Cubs game being cancelled on Sunday Night Baseball before I knew the reason why, and I was very upset that my weekly tradition would not happen this week. Although I was still sad I couldn't watch ball, I understand why the game was called. It is moments like these when you realize that baseball is great, but friends, family, and God are definitely more important. It also makes you realize that athletes are people too, regular people with people who love them...we definitely lost sight of that sometimes.

The Brewers begin a 10-game homestand tonight against the Cardinals (on national TV!), and I will be watching of course. I hope that there is a moment of silence for Hancock, and that the team can move on past this tragedy by playing hard in his honor.

WEEKEND RESULTS:
Twins 2-1 @ Tigers (14-11, 2nd in AL Central)
Brewers 2-1 @ Astros (15-9, 1st in NL Central)
Reds 2-1 @ Pirates (12-13, 2nd in NL Central)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Congratulations Sammy Sosa


Last night, Sammy Sosa hit a home run in his record 43rd stadium. Sammy's homer put him one park ahead of Fred McGriff and Ken Griffey Jr. These feats were possible because all three players played in both the American and National League and many stadiums where the trio hit homers in their early years have since been torn down and replaced by new ballparks. As a tribute to Sammy, i have decided to compile a list of all the stadiums where I have watched a ball game.

1. Milwaukee County Stadium. Milwaukee, WI
2. Miller Park. Milwaukee, WI
3. Old Comiskey Park. Chicago, IL
4. US Cellular Field. Chicago, IL
5. Wrigley Field. Chicago, IL
6. Pohlman Field. Beloit, WI (home of the Beloit Snappers - A)
7. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Minneapolis, MN
8. Midway Stadium. Saint Paul, MN (home of the Saint Paul Saints - I)
9. Franklin Rogers Park. Mankato, MN (home of the Mankato Moondogs - NCAA/NWL)
10. Dick Putz Field. Saint Cloud, MN (home of the Saint Cloud River Bats - NCAA/NWL)
11. Copeland Park. LaCrosse, WI (home of the LaCrosse Loggers - NCAA/NWL)
12. Siebert Field. Minneapolis, MN (home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers - NCAA)
13. Tiger Stadium. Detroit, MI
14. Comerica Park. Detroit, MI
15. Fenway Park. Boston, MA
16. Yankee Stadium. Bronx, NY
17. Shea Stadium. Flushing, NY
18. RFK Stadium. Washington, DC
19. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore, MD
20. Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia, PA
21. Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles, CA
22. Great American Ballpark. Cincinnati, OH
23. Phitzner Stadium, Woodbridge, VA (home of the Potomac Nationals - A)
24. Busch Stadium II. Saint Louis, MO

Looks like I should pass Sammy's record this summer. Granted, what he is doing is a lot harder than what I'm doing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Getaway Day Grab Bag

One of the stories in Baseball news this week was a piece that MLB.com did on Athletics outfielder/douchebag Nick Swisher. This article actually tries to defend his reputation, instead of reinforce it. Most people, including myself, don't really care for this "Moneyball" player because of his stupid hair, the massive amount of body armor he wears while batting, and that he points towards the sky every time he gets on base. MLB.com has revealed that he is actually quite a down to earth guy who wears his hair long in honor of his grandmother who raised him, and he actually plans to do what Johnny Damon did a few years ago and donate his hair towards a foundation that makes wigs for women with cancer. It's going to take a lot more than that to get me to like you, as a person or a player, but it's a good first step I guess.


Torii Hunter was also in the news the week. The Twins centerfielder is under investigation for "donating" a case of champagne to the Kansas City Royals last season after they beat the White Sox at the end of the year, thus allowing Minnesota to make the playoffs. This is hardly a college booster issue, and I think Major League Baseball should be more focused on the steroids issue right now as it is, and Bonds only has 14 to go.


The Yost family certainly should make the TWIB Blooper reel this week. Ned Yost IV, who is in the Brewers' farm system, is out for the season after injuring himself during a bodysurfing accident. However, Brewers manager Ned Yost can ceratinly not be angry with his son, because on Tuesday he broke his collar bone after tripping and falling during a job near Lake Michigan in Chicago. He has refused to be casted or immobilized, and basically said "Hey Doc, stick it, I gotta coach ball!"


The infamous 2004 ALCS Game 6 sock worn by Curt Schilling that now resides in Cooperstown was under fire from Gary Thorne early this week. Thorne, known mostly for his hockey commentary but is also an announcer for the Orioles, seemed to indicate that the sock was a hoax and was actually paint, and not only that, but that Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli was in on it. All team members denied this, particularly Schilling, who offered to show Thorne the nine-inch scar on his ankle if he wanted any proof. I think Thorne is probably just pissed off that since the NHL is on Versus now, his lone duty for ESPN is now horse racing. There's no need to take it out on Schilling though, one of the greatest pitchers of all time and a true ambassador of the game - not to mention the pride of Anchorage, Alaska!


Hurt again this week were: Ken Griffey Jr (colon inflammation), Ben Sheets (groin strain), Mark Prior (torn rotator cuff), and Eric Gagne. All are expected to return shortly, excpet for Prior, who is out for the season again. No surprises here. Maybe they should just round up all the parts that still work on these guys and give them to other mediocre players. If so, I got dibs on Gagne's specs.


Records set this week: Ken Griffey Jr pulls ahead of Reggie Jackson for 10th all-time on the homerun list; Sammy Sosa's 593rd career homer at Jacobs Field today was a record 44th park he has homered in, most in major league history; Jake Peavy struck out 9 batters in a row, setting the Padres mark and falling one behing Tom Seaver's record of 10 with the Mets; A-Rod now has 14 homeruns in April, tied for most in April with Albert Pujols (he is currently on pace for about 115 HR and over 300 RBI.


Lastly, Randy Johnson made his first start of the seaon in his second stint with the Diamondbacks; his first time around, he won 4 Cy Youngs and a World Series ring with Arizona.

YESTERDAY + TODAY'S RESULTS:
Twins L, W (12-10)
Brewers L, off (13-8)
Reds L, L (10-12)

THIS WEEKEND:
Twins @ Tigers
Brewers @ Astros
Reds @ Pirates

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Los Angeles Announcer

Last night I was in studio very late, and on this particular night I was still on the jazz after the Crew won their 4th straight game to take a 3-game lead in the division. So, I opted for watching more ball on MLB.TV rather than the radio. I turned on the Giants-Dodgers game around the 4th inning, and it proved to be a wise decision. I party chose the Dodgers broadcast over my other choice, the Padres, hoping to hear one of my favorite play-by-play guys, Charlie Steiner, formerly of ESPN. Instead, it was a different guy - Im not sure of his name but his voice was familiar - with no color guy either. Just him. It was a 5+ inning barrage of mindless Jeopardy trivia and hilarious anecdotes, and I was glued to my seat. In a short 2-hour span, I learned who the top 10 switch hitters are of all time (Omar Vizquel is #8 at 2,486), the whereabouts and life story of Giants closer Armando Benitez, and a pitch-by-pitch and year-by-year chronicle and interpretation of Matt Morris' pitching career. Every batter seemed to have some sort of useless statistic that Erik and myself would find hilarious - my favorite involved percentage of team wins at home when Juan Pierre gets on base after the 6th inning.

I am not sure who this man was announcing for FSN Prime Ticket, but kudos on a job well done, and thank you for keeping me entertained late at night when I'd rather be at the bar or in bed. It's hard to find a statistician, announcer, and color man all in one person, but you pulled it off successfully. I hope you do a Brewers-Dodgers telecast next time they play so I can learn the origins of Rickie Weeks' batting style and Bill Hall's career batting average with a pink bat.

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:

Twins L (11-9)

Brewers W (13-7); largest division lead since 1990, latest team has been in lead since 1998, most games above .500 since 2004

Reds W (10-10)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Upcoming Indians Promotion

To celebrate Cleveland's greatest pitcher in team history, the Indians are giving away Ricky Vaughn glasses at the Jake tomorrow, April 25th in a game against the Rangers. Anyone who knows me knows that I was Wild Thing for Halloween last year (haircut, professional custom jersey, the whole 9 yards), and I wish I would have had these glasses at that time, rather then having to use white out for lightning bolts and to superglue a cheap skull on the front. Hopefully Charlie Sheen will be at the game to throw out the first pitch, although with his hit television show and his hilarious new Major League-themed DirectTV commercial, who knows if he has the time? I for one am glad Sheen is able to not only ride the success of this great movie for 18+ years, but to also still work in the process, unlike people such as Dustin Diamond who live in the past and collect Welfare checks.

Anyone out there who happens to attend this game, I will gladly buy these off of you. Otherwise I may have to resort to EBay, but who knows how much these would go for. Hopefully the giveaway is a success so that they can follow it up with "Eddie Harris Jar o' Crisco Day" and "Pedro Cerrano Jobu Statue Day."

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (11-8)
Brewers W (12-7)
Reds off

Monday, April 23, 2007

Brew Crew completes 4-1 homestand

I returned home this past weekend to watch my first Miller Park series of the season and witnessed the Crew take 2 of 3 from the 2nd-place Astros. The Brewers are running on all cylinders and seem to be improving daily. What was once a concern with the defense now seems to be just a product of the cold weather, and Bill Hall is definitely making strides in Center and at the plate. The bullpen was looking a bit shaky at times, but the Wise-Turnbow-Cordero 1-2-3 punch to close out the ballgame is pretty unstoppable at this point; in fact, Coco still doesn't have an ERA, and D-Bow gave up his first runs of the season on Thursday, even though we ended up winning the game anyways.

The three heroes of the homestand were the 3 gentlemen shown above. Dave Bush kept up with 2 trends: dominating the Astros, and alternating great start, bad start. Both fell into place on Sunday, as he tossed 8 scoreless, striking out 7 (he ended up being charged with 3 ER after Coco struggled a bit and his inherited runners scored). Closer Francisco Cordero had 4 saves in 5 days, struggling only a bit on Sunday. Lastly, shortstop J.J. Hardy, coming off a horrendous series in Cincinnati in which he went 1-11 and had 3 errors, racked up 5 hits in the weekend series and hit 4 homeruns on the homestand.

All five of our starters are pitching somewhere between average and great right now. Claudio Vargas racked up 12 Ks in the win on Wednesday, and Suppan followed the 2-game sweep of the Pirates with a 6 IP, 3 ER performance. Sheets pitched well in the loss Friday, giving up 2 over 7 and striking out a season-high 4. Capuano got himself another quality start Saturday, being charged with 4 over 6+ (Villanueva gave up 2 of these 4). Lastly, as mentioned, Bush dominated in the homestand finale. Our starters average around a 4.50 ERA and there are only a handful of games in which a starter has not gone at least 6 innings. This is certainly not stellar on paper, but they keep us in the ballgame and eat innings, and that's all you can ask for in today's game, especially with the Brewers' lineup.

The Crew hits the road for 6 games now, heading to Chicago and Houston. 1st place in the NL Central baby! Note: following Greg Aquino's third straight horrific appearance Friday in which h cost us the perfect homestand, he was sent down to AAA Nashville, and the contract of Chris Spurling was purchased and he was called up to take Aquino's spot.

WEEKEND RESULTS:

Twins 1-2 @ Royals (11-7, 1st AL Central)

Brewers 2-1 v. Astros (11-7, 1st NL Central)

Reds 1-2 v. Phillies (9-10, 3rd NL Central)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Getaway Day Grab Bag




Last night, 28-yr old Mark Buehrle tossed his first career no-hitter, the first White Sox pitcher to do so since 1991. He was actually even one walk away from a perfect game as well. As much as I hate the White Sox, and mostly anything from Chicago except Old Style and Harry Carey, a no-hitter is a special achievement and it deserves a mention, particularly to have one this early in the season when pitchers are not considered to be in "full form" yet. You have hat tricks in hockey or perfect passer ratings in the NFL, but nothing really comes close to the mystique of the no-hitter. It's a moment of perfection unrivaled in sports that could happen to anybody: case in point, Mark Buerhle now has one more no-hitter than future hall-of-famer Roger Clemens.

Barry Bonds hit three home runs this week and is now only 17 away from tying Hammerin' Hank. I only mention this because yesterday the Brewers unveiled plans to mark the location of where Hank Aaron's 755th and final homerun fell as a Brewer in July 1976 at Milwaukee County Stadium, which stood in the parking lot now adjacent to the new stadium. This commemorative plaque should prove to be the subject of much controversy when Bonds eventually breaks this record, but I'll leave this debate for when this event actually happens. Right now, I'm just glad that Aaron is being honored in the special way by the Brewers' organization at Miller Park.

Phillies first basemen and last year's NL MVP Ryan Howard injured his knee in yesterday's loss to the Nationals. This is the last thing this team needs, as sports writers had very high hopes for this club. At 3-9, the Phillies can ill-afford him to be placed on the DL, so hopefully he is alright. He stayed in the game post-injury, so that's a good sign at least. Howard is probably one of my top 5 favorite players, so I hope he's okay; I am looking forward to watching him and Utley in Philadelphia this summer.


Voting is underway already for the 2007 All-Star Game!? Is it just me, or does it seem a little early? I don't ever seem to recall filling out ballots at mid-April ballgames.


A-Rod is still on a tear, now with 9 HRs, and lastly...


Good news for the trip! The Brewers' recent rainout in St. Louis is going to be rescheduled for the day we're in St. Louis in July! Seeing a Crew-Cards doubleheader would be totally awesome; I only hope we can acquire tickets, since it's not your typical 2-for-1 doubleheader. Also, we're in Oklahoma City the day before, so driving 7 hours through the night to catch a Noon game might be challenging, but between the 2 of us, I think we can make it happen. And there's a giveaway at the evening game! This could prove to be one of the top 5 days on the trip.


LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins W (9-5)
Brewers W (8-6)
Reds L (8-7)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Brewers v. Reds Series #1


The Brewers split a brief 2-game set against the Reds in Cincinnati, the first two of their 15 meetings this season. I attended both of these games on Monday and Tuesday, and was rather disppointed with the cool weather, low attendances, and lack of pitching by both teams. Winning 1 of 2, the Reds remain 1/2-game ahead of the Crew in the NL Central. It was a sloppy pitching series all around, particularly that no starter went 6 innings, but it was fun to see what these teams are capable of offensively.

Game 1 went the the Brewers, 10-6. Capuano looked as good as he has all season and was locating his cutter very well, but only lasted 5 2/3, even though none of the 3 runs he allowed were earned. The key point in the game was the 7th inning, when Todd Coffey of the Reds hit two batters and gave up a single, and then Bill Hall crushed a 3-2 fastball into left-center at the end of a 12-pitch at-bat for his first career grand slam. Uncle Milty got the loss for the Reds, and was pretty much destined to do so after his 35-pitch first inning.

Game 2 was in control of the Brewers until the bullpen, with an ERA just above 3 entering the contest, surrendered 6 runs in 3 innings to allow the Reds an 11-5 victory. Dave Bush was leaving his fastball out over the plate, but his curveball got him out of quite a few jams as he ended up giving up 4 runs over 5, and also had a 2-run double at the plate.

Notes on the Brewers: Weeks looks to be settling in as the leadoff hitter, albeit not a prototypical one - more of the Soriano variety. Weeks is definitely a 5-tool player, now that his defense has improved greatly over Spring Training. Mench and Hall both had 4 hits in the series and are looking pretty sharp. Knowing relatively nothing about newcomer Johnny Estrada, I was very impressed with his offense, two doubles in the gap, but not so with his defense, as he let quite a few balls go back to the screen. Unfortunately, it looks like Damian Miller will only get starts maybe once a week, if that, since the Crew signed Estrada for his bat and Miller is a career .260 hitter.

I really hope for Hardy's sake that J.J. can get his head together. I put up with his mediocre offensive production since he is young and has been injured, but Yost continues to hit him out of the 2-hole, so he must be seeing imporvement somewhere. But Hardy also had two errors in the series (I would have marked 4) and what was once the staple of his game looks to not be so much anymore. This, coupled with Hall's early struggles in Center Field, hopefully will not come back to bite the Brewers in the ass. Oh, and I'll say it again...Elmer Dessens is horrible and although I agree a trade of Clark was necessary, he wasn't the right man to get for him. Not only can he get nobody out, but his presence on the team has taken Jose Capellan's roster spot, and now we're probably going to lose this player to trade or free agency since he is pissed (rightfully so) about being back at AAA.

Notes on the Reds: Ryan Freel is a stud and I'm glad they gave him a 3yr/$7mil extension on Monday. He had 5 hits in the series and he can play 7 positions between good and very good. Although he has started every game in Center this season, he moved to 3rd base yesterday to make way for Josh Hamilton in CF, who is just surprising everyone by how well he's hitting. The testament to this is that he had singles off of the Brewers' lefty specialist Brian Shouse on consecutive nights - and being able to do that after being out of baseball for 5 years, that says a lot about this guy's raw talent. Griffey doesn't look like he has much in the tank. He very visibly gave up on a few balls that he would have dove for in years' past, he can't run well on the bases, and he just doesn't have the bat speed he used to. He's hitting ropes off the left-centerfield wall, but last year those would have been homeruns to right-center, and 8 years ago those would have been bombs to the second deck at the Kingdome. Adam Dunn is somehow leading the team in rbi, homeruns, AND average; could we see 40 homers AND a .275 average this year? Stop the presses. I still have no faith in neither their starting nor relief pitching; neither of their two aces have looked stellar (Harang, Arroyo), and their bullpen is just a hodgepodge of past-their-prime free agents.

Needless to say, this should be an interesting race between these two teams, and hopefully the Crew doesn't backslide this year so I can win my double-or-nothing bet with my friend in Cincinnati.
LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins W (8-5)
Brewers L (7-6)
Reds W (8-6)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In Ned We Trust


I am just taking an opportunity in this post to vent a little bit. "Anger" is too strong a word, but I have definitely had it with these stupid mailbag questions being politely answered by Adam McCalvy on Brewers.com. They're the same damn three questions: (1) Why are we platooning Jenkins and/or why haven't we traded him? (2) Why don't we call up _____ from the minors? (3) Why is Bill Hall in Center Field?

Here's the deal. The Brewers have not shown this much promise since the early 90s, and as much as a I love Ricky Bones and Dave Nilsson, this is a much more exciting group, due to in large part Manager Ned Yost. Yost, along with Doug Melvin, Gord Ash, and Mark Attanasio have basically been the Holy Trinity...err, "Quadrilogy" of the Crew the past 5 years, and we have to trust in what these people are doing. There is no room with my team and my sport for "armchair quarterbacks." The salary cap and developmental systems are much more complicated in baseball than in any other sport aside from possibly hockey, so cool it. The Brewers have continually shown in the past 5 years that they want to put a quality product on the field every year and are legitimately trying to win a championship - and so have a lot of other small market teams, incidently. Attanasio has more than tripled the Brewers' payroll since he took over, and Melvin, aside from maybe the recent Clark-for-Dessens deal, has engineered some of the greatest trades ever; see Sexson trade, Podsednik trade, Lee trade, Overbay trade, Davis trade, etc. The trades are so good that we even end up getting good players for players we acquired years earlier in later trades! We aren't just trading players away from prospects as we used to, and the prospects we have and/or have traded for are now all coming into fruition, thanks in large part to the tutilage of Ned Yost & Co.

Well, I can provide a plethora of examples backing my team's upper management, but back to the issue at hand. In response to the three oft-repeated assinine questions, these are the summaries of what McCalvy (and myself, for what it's worth) have to say:

(1) Jenkins signed a big contract with us because he has faith in our team and that means something, and also is still more capable than probably all of our other outfielders. Hall and Gwynn will eventually surpass him, and Mench, Gross, Nix, and Hart are definitely not capable of being everyday players right now. Jenks is notoriously known for going on incredible hot streaks, much like he is at the beginning of this season hitting around .350 with 3 HR, so don't cry to me about his 1-32 slumps that he gets. Take the good with the bad; he is also a stellar defensive player, by the way. Adma Dunn is the exact same type of player - hits for power, .250 average, good eye at the plate, strikes out a lot, cannon for an arm, a solid 5-hitter. I've lived in Cincinnati for 3 years, and I only wish that someday that Jenkins can be as adored in Milwaukee as Dunn is here; hopefully this occurs soon and not post-tenure.

(2) The reason that players like Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Sheets, Hall, etc. are all playing good and getting increasingly better is because of the Brewers' spectacular farm system and because they were not rushed. The Brewers don't want to see players like Braun and Gallardo, etc. play 3 seasons and be done. These players will get their chances. The fact that Gwynn got to play in The Show this year this early tells me that the management knows and sees something I don't, and this is definitely my player to watch this season for the Crew.

(3) Hall has had 35 at-bats and 21 total outfield chances to date, and for every play he doesn't make, he makes a great one due to his outstanding athletic ability. He WILL be a good center fielder. Give him a mask and some pads and throw him behind the dish - he's just that good of an athlete that I see him adapting anywhere he's placed. The man hits walk-off homeruns with pink bats for God's sake! Seeing how much Hall improved at shortstop over the past 4 years, I have no doubt he can improve that much in CF. And let's not forget of another famous Brewer who moved from SS to CF. It takes time. Picturing an outfield with Jenkins, Gwynn, Hart, and Hall next season already has me really excited.

From now on people, trust in the staff and take Adam McCalvy's word for it. The Brewers will get the Wild Card this year, no thanks to your stupid questions. Do what Milwaukee fans are good at - stay positive and hope for the best (and tailgate). We've been called lots of bad things here in Wisconsin, but one has never been "band-wagon fans." Go Crew!

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins off
Brewers W (7-5)
Reds L (7-6)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday Night Baseball

Every Sunday we can, Erik and myself both try to make it out to the bar to watch Sunday Night ball - Erik to Williams' in Minneapolis, and myself usually to Mac's in Cincinnati. It provides a nice break for myself from a rough week of schoolwork, and it gives Erik a chance to enjoy $1 burgers and prepare for working his three jobs the next day. I'm not sure how long ESPN has been doing this great tradition, but I know that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and they, along with Peter Gammons, are the greatest baseball television announcers out there. Yeah that's right, I said it - Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, you're both horrible. The best part of tuning in at 8 ET every Sunday is seeing what kind of crazy suit and tie Morgan has on, and how out-of-control Miller's hair is.

Erik and I will be the first to tell you that matinee baseball is where it's at, but there's just something about Sunday Night Baseball that makes it special. Just knowing that you can watch two of the finest teams in baseball (usually the Red Sox and/or Yankees are televised, but that's okay) every week at the same time is pretty outstanding. Our trip's very first game is a Sunday Nighter - Cubs @ White Sox on June 24th - and I can't wait. Although these are our 29th and 30th favorite teams respectively, the fact that we get to kick off the tour at a nationally televised interleague rivalry game is really cool.

Erik and myself will be missing Sunday Night ball this weekend because we'll be at home in Milwaukee this weekend watching the Crew stomp on the Astros. However, hey bartender and random girl I met yesterday who also watches Sunday Night Baseball (I love you!) - please have a barstool, a plate of greasy cheese waffle fries, and a Strongbow waiting for me every Sunday there after.

And PS - Happy Patriot's Day! Yet another great baseball holiday.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

60 years ago today, Jackie Robinson started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier. Robinson's number 42 was retired by all of Major League Baseball in 1997 and in 2004, baseball declared April 15 as an annual day of celebration. For me, these ceremonies have gone entirely unnoticed. Until this year.

At this afternoon's Devil Rays vs. Twins game, Torii Hunter wore Robinson's 42 and high socks like Jackie. Devil Rays' outfielder Carl Crawford also wore number 42 today. Fans were also given a commemorative program upon entering the stadium. In addition, every player had a Jackie Robinson Day sticker on his batting helmet.

At tonight's Padres vs. Dodgers game there will be a pre-game ceremony honoring Jackie and all of the Dodgers players and coaches will were number 42.

The wearing of Robinson's number is the idea of Ken Griffey, Jr. I think its a fantastic idea. Allowing star players to wear the number for one game has brought a tremendous amount of attention to the celebration. ESPN has been promoting tonight's game very heavily and there is even a story about race and baseball in Time magazine as well as interviews with legendary players. Today, fans will be reminded of Robinson's contributions to the game throughout the day rather than just in a brief ceremony that most will miss. Major League Baseball has done a fantastic job of honoring one its most important figures.

Update: I noticed it in the Devil Rays vs. Twins game and it was confirmed during Sunday Night Baseball and highlights on ESPN: the players who wore number 42 did not have their names on the back of their jerseys. This was a great way to keep the focus on Jackie and not the players who were honoring him. Also, Jerry Stackhouse of the Washington Wizards, who wears number 42 everyday, honored Jackie by writing Jackie's name on his sneakers during this afternoon's game.

Today's Scores:
Twins 4, Devil Rays 6 (Twins not 7-5)
Brewers 2, Cardinals 10 (Brew Crew now 6-5)
Reds 1, Cubs 0 (Reds now 7-5) Congratulations on a fine pitching performance to Kile Lohse. Lohse went 8 innings, gave up no runs, and struck out 12.

Rained out in Dayton














Yesterday, I decided to make a trip up to Dayton to watch a little Midwest League A-ball, but it was not to be. The contest between the Dragons and Fort Wayne Wizards was rained out, and will be made up in a doubleheader when the teams meet again in mid-May. I shall return in the first week of June, since I get a ticket to an upcoming game in exchange.

In the brief time I was there standing in the concourse, protected from the wind and rain, I must say I was pretty impressed with the ballpark. Dayton is a ghosttown, and Fifth Third Field definitely proved to be the "diamond in the rough," so to speak. The Dragons have sold out over 500 consecutive games, and aside from the fact that I'm sure that there is not much else to do in Dayton, a large part of it is probably the quality of the stadium experience (also that the Dragons are the class A affiliate of the Reds, who are a mere 45 minutes south). If I was walking into this stadium not knowing anything about the team, I would have honestly thought it was a AAA stadium; it reminded me a lot of the Rochester Red Wings stadium, minus the nice scenery. Most of the A-ball and independent league fields ive been at contain little more than 15 rows of bleachers on either side and a cheap 9-inning tally in the outfield. But this was a very nice park, with a pretty outstanding little team shop (the Dragon Den) from which I acquired a T-shirt. I look forward to my return visit to actually see some game action from my right field GA lawn seat. And perhaps while I come back next time, I'll make a stop at the neighboring Mendelsohn's Furniture Warehouse for a nice ottoman.

YESTERDAY'S RESULTS:
Twins W (7-4)
Brewers W (6-4)
Reds L (6-5)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Twins' New Ballpark













The Twins unveiled the final design for their new stadium this past Thursday. The design was done by HOK Sport, the people who brought us Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Jacobs Field, PNC Park, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Great American Ballpark and the new Busch Stadium. With a track record like that, there was a lot of excitement about what the new Twins stadium would look like.

In my opinion, HOK Sport did not live up to their reputation with this design.

Don't get me wrong, the new stadium will be a vast improvement over the Metrodome. There will be fewer seats in each section and the seats will be wider and have more leg room. The concourses will also be wider and have twice as many bathrooms. I do love the use of fir trees in centerfield for the batters eye. Also, the plazas will be a great place for pregame activities.

But, the stadium does have its problems. The ticketing and team store areas still look very small. The Twins are bragging that their seats will be closer to the field than anywhere else. But those are the expensive seats. The bleacher seating is terrible! First of all, the only outfield seats are in left field. Secondly, those seats are in a two story pavillion. Fans will be force to choose to either sit just beyond the fence and have no view of the sky or to sit in the second deck, high above the playing field. HOK Sport did it right at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, but wrong in Minnesota.

Still can't wait to get there though! Play ball!

Trip Playlist

For the past 6 months or so, Erik has had the arduous task of downloading ball-related songs for our trip. I must say, I never knew that there was a version of "Talkin' Baseball" for every team! (Talkin' Softball from the Simpsons is still the best version by far.)

It's fun to see how many teams have songs about them, which range from classics such as "Win Twins" and "Meet the Mets," to amateur songs like "OK Blue Jays," to even remixes by artists such as Chamillionaire and Bachman Turner Overdrive rewritten for their favorite teams. Even our Brewers have two songs! "Come See What's Brewin'" and "Let's Hear it for the Brew Crew" will definitely be amongst the most played on the trip. And of course, we have the quintessential "Centerfield" by John Fogerty.

We also have a few radio downloads, such as Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First?" and "Casey at the Bat," as narrated by James Earl Jones. The key contributions that we will be adding to this list in the next couple months will be batter + pitcher songs. Adam Dunn's songs "Sister Christian" and "In the Air Tonight" and Trevor Hoffman's song "Hell's Bells" are already on the playlist. Ricky Vaughn's "Wild Thing" and Prince Fielder's slow jam song will definitely be added shortly.

The cumulative playlist is already well over 90 minutes. Hopefully we can listen to only baseball related songs and baseball broadcasts for the entire trip!

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (6-4)
Brewers PPD, not yet rescheduled
Reds W (6-4)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Indians take first "home" series at Miller Park

In the top of the 9th Tuesday, in front of a crowd of over 18,000 Milwaukeeans, closer Joe Borowski entered the ballgame from the left field bullpen to chants of "Bring in Wild Thing!" These Miller Park fans were obviously eluding to arguably the greatest baseball movie ever made, Major League, in which the Cleveland Indians called Milwaukee County Stadium home. Now nearly 18 years later, Brewers fans still remember, and I'm sure Joe Borowski was thinking "Hey, it's better than nothing."

The crowds and enthusiasm were something neither team expected, and Milwaukee did everything they did to make the Indians feel right at home...this time, the REAL Indians. With Sizemore in center instead of Willie "Mays" Hayes, and Marte getting the nod over Roger Dorn, the Indians took 2 out of 3 in their first "home" series of the year, in front of a total attendance of over 52,000 screaming fans. I know personally of at least two people that attended this $10-general admission series, and it sounds like it was an unparalleled experience - hey, as much as I hate the AL, it must have been nice for these fans to see a couple of offensive outbursts. Bernie Brewer even got into the act, sliding down from his chalet for every Cleveland homerun. The bookends of the series were C.C. Sabathia's pitching on Tuesday, and Travis Hafner's 3-run bomb yesterday afternoon.

The Indians will again try to play a series in Cleveland this weekend against the White Sox, and weather right now looks to be in the mid-40s with rain possible on Sunday. Certainly a warm welcome compared to what they've been having up there. Indians, it was great having you in our fair city, and hopefully this will inspire a movement for "Major League 4: Snowed In."

THIS WEEKEND:
Twins v. Devil Rays
Brewers @ Cardinals
Reds @ Cubs

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins W (6-3)
Brewers off
Reds off

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Twins Pitching


We've now made it through the rotation twice and the Twins are looking pretty good.

1. Johan Santana is looking like he's got Cy Yong form again. He went 6 innings on opening day, allowing 4 runs and striking out 6. Then he shut out the White Sox over 7 innings while striking out 9. He'll take the hill on Friday night against the Devil Rays - a team he owns (2-0, 15 Ks in 13 innings last season).
2. Boof Bonser looked good in his first outing against Baltimore but struggled a little against the Yankees, giving up 6 runs in 4 1/3 innings, but hey, its the Yankees. He'll start Saturday against the Rays with a follow up coming next Thursday in Seattle.
3. The most pleasant surprise of the season has been Ramon Ortiz. He gave up 2 runs over 7 innings against the Orioles and followed that up by pitching 8 strong innings against the Yankees, only giving up 1 run and helping the Twins avoid the sweep at the hands of the Pinstripes.
4. Carlos Silva has looked good as well. In his first outing he was the victim of no run support, losing to the White Sox but pitching innings and allowing only 1 run. Tonight he looked even better. Silva went 6 2/3 and shut out the Rays.
5. In the fifth spot, Sidney Ponson was a unmitigated disaster in his first outing, getting shelled by the Yankees for 8 runs in 5 2/3 innings. Fortunately, the Twins have a couple young arms waiting in the wings. Glen Perkins had no record over one game and six innings, giving up 1 run at Rochester and earned a call-up on Thursday. Matt Garza also had no record in 1 game, 3 1/3 IP, and 0 earned runs at Rochester after going 3-6 with a 5.76 ERA with the Twins in last year's second half.

Pitching and defense win championships so the Twins better make space for a third World Series trophy.

Getaway Day Grab Bag

Last night, the Mariners-Red Sox game was nationally televised for one reason: Daisuke Matusaka's first start at home, Fenway Park. And as an added bonus, he would be firing gyroballs at former rivals from the Japanese league, Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johijama. Matusaka pitched well, allowing 3 runs over 7, striking out 4. But the man who stole the show on this night, amongst all the flashbulbs and "Dice-K" signs, was Felix Hernandez, the 21-year old phenom of the Mariners. Us east coast people don't get to see a lot of Seattle games, but it was pretty hard for King Felix to fly under the radar on this night. He pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out 6. He carried a no-hitter into the 8th, until that lazy overpaid guy J.D. Drew broke it up with a single up the middle. I got to watch 6 innings of this game at the bar, and this guy was just outstanding. The movement he had on some of his pitches for a guy his age tells me this kid is going to be around for a long time, barring injury.

The big story in my neck of the woods this year has been Josh Hamilton. A former rising star and former 1st round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, his career came to an abrupt halt due to a cocaine addiction. He played for a few years in the D-Rays farm system, and now after being out of baseball for nearly 5 years, he is back on the field, cleaned up and looking better than ever with his new team, the Reds. He made the team in spring training with hustle, determination, and not to mention a .403 batting average. He is primarily going to be used off the bench, but he did manage to get his first career homerun in his first career start on Tuesday, and last night in his 2nd start, he had a double and a homerun. These are the stories that you just love to hear about in Major League Baseball. For every Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry out there, there's a Sammy Sosa and a Josh Hamilton that fight for and deserve a second chance.


Just a quick thought...I noticed in watching a few innings of the Yanks-Twins series this week that A-Rod seems to be on a mission this year, as he now leads the Majors with 6 HR and 16 RBI. Maybe he's going to finally stop letting the New York fans get to him, even though I'm sure they'll always be ready to boo at the drop of a hat. A-Rod has never hit below 30 HR and .280 in a season, and he seems to be a .300/40 HR/120 RBI guy year in, year out. He's one of the best players in baseball, even under the microscope, and I really hope he does well this year for the sake of his mental health. This isn't Seattle or Arlington anymore - it takes a special player to play under constant scutiny and to win the favor of such a tough crowd year in, year out, much as his teammate Derek Jeter has.



Lastly, our Brew Crew managed to win 2 games in a little over 4 hours last night, taking their first road series on the year against the Marlins in Miami. A new rule this year (see "New Rules" post from last month) allows suspended games to be resumed the next day, and the Brewers took full advantage of this, as Prince nearly came out of his shoes knocking in the go-ahead run in the 13th. The Brewers' defense and pitching looked much better this series, and Dave Bush, typically a pitcher who struggles on the road, looked phenomenal. The bullpen is looking outstanding, minus a few shaky appearances by Villanueva. Turnbow certainly looks to be back to his old form - giving up a walk and a hit, and then striking out the side. Hardy, Jenkins, Estrada, and Fielder are all hitting a ton, and everybody seems to be getting good swings at the plate except Bill Hall, but I'm sure he'll come around. We have plenty of other outfielders to spell him until he gets hot and starts hitting opposite field jacks ad nauseum.

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins W (5-3)
Brewers W, W (5-4)
Reds W (5-4)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mike Hampton out for the season...again.


It was revealed on Monday that veteran Braves pitcher Mike Hampton would have to miss his 2nd consecutive full season, this time with a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow that will require surgery. When the Braves traded for Hampton in 2002, they thought they were getting a steal. But with Hampton finally nearing the end of his contract in 2008, he's proving to be the Grant Hill of the MLB.
Of course, you can't blame the Rockies for giving him a huge contract, because they always have to overpay every pitcher to pitch in that altitude. See also Denny Neagle. But this news just got me thinking: Is Mike Hampton the hugest bust in baseball contract history? I mean, one can debate for days weather or not A-Rod is worth a quarter-billion dollars, but I'm talking about injuries here, not alleged player worth. Arguing over what Gil Meche, Barry Zito, and Jeff Suppan earned this offseason is also for another article. The classic case of an injury-plagued multi-year contract is Ken Griffey Jr, who had season ending injuries from 2002-2004 and has never played a full season since signing with the Reds in 2000. Ben Sheets, Carl Pavano, and Mark Mulder spring to mind as well.
There is currently an article on AOL.com that was the inspiration for this article, which provides its list of the 15 worst contract busts in the history of sports. Mo Vaughn, the aforementioned Griffey, and Albert Belle also made this list, as far as baseball players go. Mr. Hampton, we wish you well, but I see that you will be 35 already next season, and that can't bode well for your future in the bigs, nor does being injured 5 of the past 7 years.
LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (4-3)
Brewers called after 10, will resume in 11th tonight before next game (3-4)
Reds L (4-4)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Jackie Robinson Day


This season is the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut as the first African-American player to play in the Major Leagues, stepping onto Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. April 15 has been labeled "Jackie Robinson Day" by MLB, and the weekly Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN, which this week features the Padres and Dodgers playing in Los Angeles, will feature a Jackie Robinson tribute before the game, as well as a 90-minute pregame show starting at 630 ET on MLB.TV.
After a very well-received and successful (hopefully annual) Civil Rights Game 2 weeks ago in Memphis, this is another step by Major League Baseball to honor African-Americans in baseball. On Robinson's 50th anniversary in 1997, several players (such as Ken Griffey Jr shown above with the Mariners) wore Robinson's #42 in his honor, and his number was subsequently retired throughout all of baseball. Today, Mariano Rivera is the only remaining player who wears #42, since he was wearing the number before 1997 and he was thus grandfathered in. For this year's 60th anniversary, Ken Griffey (this time with my Reds) has initiated the campaign along with Bud Selig. Per Griffey's request, at least one player from most teams will don the #42, including Barry Bonds, Torii Hunter, Gary Sheffield, Jermaine Dye, and of course Griffey himself. Basically, anybody who feels they want to honor Robinson will be allowed to wear the number, as the Diamondbacks already have five players on board.
The ceremony at Chavez Ravine will include Robinson's widow and daughter, some of his former teammates, baseball executives, civic and industry leaders, and various Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars. I try to take a break from studio and watch Sunday Night ball at the bar whenever I can, and as with the Civil Rights Game, I will definitely be watching. These special moments in which baseball and fans get to honor tradition and witness history are few and far between, aside from All-Star weekend, and I will definitely be watching at 8pm this Sunday.
LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (4-2)
Brewers L (3-4)
Reds L (4-3)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Indians v. Mariners series snowed out

This past weekend, the Seattle Mariners visited Jacobs Field for what was supposed to be the only time this season. Paul Byrd got the start on Friday night, and he pitched nearly 5 innings of no-hit baseball. With one strike needed to complete the top of the 5th, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove came out to complain to the umpires. Not because of a bad call, or even suspicion of something illegal the pitcher was doing. By this time, it was snowing so hard his players could barely see, and seeing as how the Mariners were losing at this point, he wanted the game called before it became official.


I must say, this game should have been called a lot earlier due to the intense amount of "lake effect snow" they got in Cleveland. I'm not sure if Mike Hargrove only wanted the game called because he was losing, or if he just sort of assumed it would have been called many innings ago and finally he could take no more. But either way, it proved to be kind of a dick move, because subsequent doubleheaders were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday due to snow, and now MLB already has a 2007 season dilemna on its hands - how to handle this series.

These two teams should have gotten at least one game in on Friday, and now they will try one final attempt to finish at least two of the games today in a doubleheader, as the snow is supposed to subside. Since these are non-divisional games, they probably will not be made up unless necessary to determine playoff spots at the end of the season. Bud Selig is already in the works to try and get the Angels/Indians series moved to Anaheim instead of Cleveland, and their second series to of course switch to Cleveland. This also presents a problem since the Angels would have to fly all the way to Boston for a game on Friday immediately following Thursday night's game.



So this was one of the coldest Opening Weeks in recorded history, and if anybody made it out to see their favorite teams, you know this, as it even dropped into the 40s in Texas. Hey Major League Baseball, lets make sure that we don't have teams from the West Coast and Florida flying up to the Midwest and New England next year until at least late April. I'm not sure who decided the Twins, a dome team, should fly to Chicago, and that the Devil Rays should fly up to New York in the first week in April, but it wasn't very smart, as games in that series were also postponed/cancelled due to the cold weather. Here's to a warmer Week 2 of the 2007 season, mostly so I don't have to see people in Bengals jackets and stocking hats at the GAB.

AND THIS JUST IN!!!
The aforementioned Angels/Indians series has been moved to Miller Park! Yay AL baseball returns to Milwaukee (they should still make the pitchers hit though). This is certainly an unprecedented event, and certainly was the idea of Bud Selig, who has former ties with the Brewers organization. I wish I was back home purchase my $10 GA ticket to watch this series, but I will certainly be calling everyone I know back home very shortly.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Bobblehead Mania gone too far?

I read an interesting blog on the Brew Crew myspace page earlier today that is worth checking out for any of you that are on MySpace. It brings up how if you were a Brewers fan, one would need to attend about 38 ballgames to collect all the paraphenelia this year (17 for bobbleheads alone!), which is far and away more than any other team in the majors. Personally, I think the Brewers are a decent enough team with a nice stadium that we are above the millions of gimmicks.

Now, Erik and I will be the first to tell you that at least 50% of the reason we attend games is for food and giveaways, and we always look forward to adding a little ceramic man to our collections, but I would have to agree that it's gone a bit too far. I know that if I lived in Milwaukee that I'd go broke this season trying to make it to every bobblehead night. I know the Brewers are doing a whole 1982 AL champs commemorative thing, but hey, let's keep it to like 4-5 bobbles a season from now on. And if you're going to do 20+ giveaways, bring back the good stuff! What ever happened to Seat Cushion Night!? Mug Night!? Bat Night!? Helmet Night!? UMBRELLA NIGHT!!!??? It seems like all we have now is bobbleheads, magnet schedules, and family four-pack days.

I know I still have my Brewers mitt, golf umbrella, and plethora of seat cushions lying around in the garage somewhere. Dear Crew and Major League Baseball, please bring back all the cheap plastic giveaways that only last long enough so that you can acquire a new one the next season. I'd really appreciate it and it would mean a lot to me. Fewer collectibles, more usable items. I want to be able to show my team pride in places other than my shelf. Also, the Major Leagues should not be above taking a page from their subsidiary, the Minor Leagues. I'm all for more Dollar Dogs Days, Fireworks Nights, and 2-for-1 Beer.

Reds Opening Week + Thoughts on the NL Central


This past Thursday and Sunday, I attended my first of hopefully many Reds games this season -- unfortunately I have school and do not work for the Reds as Erik does the Twins, so I do not get to frequent the park as much as I would like. Two cold, windy, and cloudy afternoons did not deter the Cincinnati faithful, as the crowds were around 26000 and 14000 respectively. I really enjoyed some of the new features of the park/team this year upon my arrival:

1. uniforms
The Reds, much like our other two favorite teams from the Midwest have done in the few years, have gone back to an older cap/jersey design. The Reds no longer have the black cap brim, nor the sleeveless pinstriped uniforms. The new uniforms reference the Big Red Machine of the 70s - all white with red accents, the "C" on one breast, number on the other, and the old school Mr. Redlegs logo on the sleeve. Although these were $225 in the gift shop, I did manage to muster up enough courage to purchase the $100 replica, which is basically the same, minus the sleeve logo.

2. new deck in center field
The new architectural addition to Great American Ballpark, the first since its opening in 2003, is a deck above the batter's eye black box in CF, which references Cincinnati's history with a river steamboat vernacular - in fact, it pretty much just looks like a steamboat docked in the stadium. Most stadiums built or to be built since 2000 have some sort of picnic/party area, and this area is certainly a welcome addition, and it really doesn't look that bad nor distracting. It provides a nice view to both the Ohio River, downtown Cincinnati, and of course a panorama of the entire ballpark.

3. Pete Rose exhibit
Much like Mark McGwire in St. Louis and Barry Bonds in San Francisco, legendary hitter and 24-year league veteran Pete Rose is adored and venerated in Cincinnati despite his woes and general dislike elsewhere. Cincinnati is where he played most of his career, aside from a brief stopover in Philadelphia, and got his managerial debut, and although he has a street named after him and his merchandise is still amongst the top grossing players in the team shop, he is pretty much shunned by Major League Baseball for betting on baseball. His number is not allowed to be retired at the stadium (although it is by the ECHL Cyclones!), but MLB has allowed for a one-year display of Rose's career at the adjacent Reds Hall of Fame, which is entitled "Pete: The Exhibit." I have not yet visited this, nor the Reds HOF as a matter of fact, which is pretty lousy of me since it's right next to the team shop which I go to at least every third game. I hear it's great though, and I will definitely be sharing photos of it on this blog as soon as possible. Most notably, it's supposed to showcase the #4192 ball and bat, and have a baseball from all of the Hit King's hits stacked up in a glass case for 3 1/2 stories. As Charlie Hustle puts it himself, "that's a lot of God damn hits."

And well, as for the team, after watching 18 innings of ball, I must say that I was impressed, but I do still think that they need pitching consistency to contend in the Central. However, I would say that all 6 teams in the central lack pitching consistency right now, particularly the Cardinals. Freel has taken over for Griffey in CF this year, giving a hard working utility player a much deserved chance, while also allowing the 37-year old Griffey to finally accept his age. The man can still swing a bat and throw a ball as good as any outfielder in the game, but let's just say I wasnt surprised when I saw him hit a rocket off the left-center field wall and barely make it to first. Hey, at least he knocked two runs in on the play. Harang and Arroyo have to each get about 18 wins and pitch 7 innings per start for the Reds to have any chance. The lineup is stacked as usual, especially with the additions of Alex Sanchez and Jeff Conine. There's actually so much pop in the starting 8 that the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn, has been hitting primarily out of the 2-hole. The bullpen is a hodgepodge of free agents and players that are passing their prime(s). And Uncle Milty and Kyle Lohse are definitely not the ideal 3-4 pitchers you want in the rotation - never trust any pitchers that Terry Ryan deems to be expendable. These were the two pitchers I saw this week. Lohse actually faired pretty well; I think he gave up something like 2 runs over 7? Milton, however, continued his torrid streak of never pitching well when I am there. He gave up 4 runs on 10 hits over 5, and I will most certainly never forget the time I saw him give up 10 runs to the Dodgers in a 2005 game before even recording an out in the first inning.

Overall, based on what I've seen over the past week, my predictions would have to be:
1. Cubs
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Pirates
5. Cardinals
6. Astros

I'm gonna stick by these, come hell or high water, even though of course I hope the Crew takes the division and the Reds take the Wild Card. I do think those first three spots will be very contested and this will be the best race in the NL, as I see the Mets and Dodgers everntually running away with their divisions and the Braves easily taking the wild card. The Cubs have like 3 1/2 solid starters, a solid pen, and a tremendous lineup. They will only get better when Prior, Wood, and Floyd return to full health, and when Soriano starts earning his check. The Brewers have the most capable 1-5 rotation with the most depth, and I worry more about their hitting than their pitching this year than I have in a while. Weeks, Hardy, and Hart all need breakout seasons. Fielder and Hall need to continue carrying the team. Jenkins and Mench should both be good since they're out to prove they can win an all-out spot in the lineup without having to platoon. The Reds will get 6 runs a game, but their pitching will be the death of them in the end. I don't see Arroyo having another year like he did last year. The Pirates have shown much improvement under Jim Tracy, and it will be a nice story if they can keep it together. They have lots of young talent and LaRoche was a good pick up at 1st base. I'm not sure if Sanchez'z season was a fluke last year, but I do see Bay continuing to improve and to contend for the MVP this year, if not at least a Silver Slugger. I see the Cards and Astros being the only two teams below .500 in the central. LaRussa and Garner are both excellent coaches, and they both have a staff ace and a couple 40-HR guys each, as well as spectacular leadoff hitters. However, those three things don't add up to a winning season in and of themselves.

Sunday Night Baseball is almost on, so I'm off to the bar. Happy Easter everyone!

Our teams' standings through 04.09:
Twins 4-1 (1st AL central)
Brewers 3-3 (T-2nd NL central)
Reds 4-2 (T-1st NL central)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sweep! Sweep!! Sweep!!!




It's three wins in three nights for the Minnesota Twins. They're atop the division after the first series of the season and things are looking good. Coming into the season, we knew the Twins offense would be potent - we had the batting champion coming back, the MVP who hit 34 home runs, and even Rondell White had a good spring. The starting rotation was the big question mark. After Cy Young winner Johan Santana all the Twins had was Boof Bonser - a second year pitcher who was only 7-6 last season, retreads Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson, and a very questionable Carlos Silva. Many fans wanted to see rising stars Matt Garza and Glenn Perkins make the team out of spring training.

After three games, the pitching looks pretty good. Santana was pretty good in his first outing, getting the win opening day while pitching 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and striking out 6. Santana will round into form as the season progresses and will once again be lights-out after the All-Star break. Boof had an excellent first outing. He had a no decision yesterday but pitched 6 strong innings, allowing 2 runs, and striking out 6.

Tonight was the big test. Ramon Ortiz dominated the Orioles from start to finish. He pitched 7 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs, and striking out 4. He struggled with his control a little in the early innings, throwing first pitch strikes to only 3 of the first 11 hitters, and going deep into many counts. Once he gained his command he breezed through the Orioles lineup. Clearly throwing early strikes will be the key for Ortiz.

Now, the Orioles are not the best barometer of a pitching staff; that team is definitely going to struggle this season. The real test will come this weekend when the Twins hit the road to take on the Chicago White Sox. They'll have the end of the rotation taking the hill against a very potent lineup. Then when they return home we'll see how Boof and Ortiz fare against the New York Yankees.

Today's Results:

Twins 7, Orioles 2 (Twins now 3-0)
Brewers 4, Dodgers 5 (Brew Crew now 2-1)
Reds 1, Cubs 4 (Reds now 1-1)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Official Scoring

Since we've been attending ballgames together, Peter and I have always been intrigued by official scoring decisions. There are many plays that we feel are errors but are then ruled base hits. In addition, we feel that a ball that drops between three players because no one calls it should be an error on all three. When an umpire blows a call - E Umpire. And when the crowd does something in appropriate, such as doing the strikeout clap when the home team is batting - E Fans.

At tonight's Twins game there was definitely a mistake by the official scorer. Luis Castillo hit a chopper back to the mound, Daniel Cabrera reached for the ball but pulled his glove down too early and the ball glanced off the fingers towards second base. It was an easy play for Cabrera and Castillo would have been thrown out had Cabrera fielded the ball cleanly. And the official scorer gave Castillo a base hit! There wasn't even any hesitation. The judgement flashed on the scoreboard immediately.

I fell that official scorers should be more liberal with the E's and more stingy with the base hits.

Tonight's Results:

Twins 3, Orioles 2 (Twins now 2-0)
Brewers 4, Dodgers 3 (Brew Crew also 2-0)
Reds off

Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers were the feel-good story of last season. Two years after losing 119 games, they were in the World Series. This year Sports Illustrated has them picked to finish 2nd in the very tough AL Central and Jason Stark of ESPN has them winning it all.

I say the Tigers will be a .500 team at best.

Yes, the lineup was loaded last year and it only gets better with the addition of Gary Sheffield. But, pitching and defense wins championships and the Tigers will not have the same pitching staff they did last year. Last season the Tigers relied on three very young pitchers to carry them - Jeremy Bonderman (24 years old last season, 214 innings pitched), Justin Verlander (23, 186), and Nate Robertson (29, 208.2). This heavy workload will surely tell on their young arms this season. Plus, last week the pitching staff lost its anchor - The Gambler, Kenny Rogers. Rogers will be out of the lineup until at least the All-Star break after having surgery on Friday to remove a clot from his arm. The Tigers young guns now have no steadying influence to look to when things go bad.

Tigers' pitching will not live up to what it did last year and the team will be 81-81 at the end of the season, probably good enough for 4th place in the AL Central.

Monday, April 2, 2007

My Thoughts on Opening Day

I just got back from the Twins opener about an hour ago. The Twins took it 7-4 over the Orioles. Johan Santana pitched 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and striking out 6 for the win. MVP Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter hit back to back homer runs in the 2nd. The bullpen performed capably and Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 1st save of the season. It was a good way to open the 2007 campaign for the Twins.

While I was quite busy tonight I did make a few observations about the new season.

Baggie Advertising: I may have gone to too many baseball games over the past few years since one of the things I was most looking forward to this opening day was the new Dodge Truck ad on the baggie in right field. The new ad features a bat in mid-swing being broken by the Dodge Truck. The ad is not as good as last years Cute./Anything But. ad comparing the Twins' mascot T.C. Bear and the Dodge Truck, but it is eye-catching.

Souvenir Sodas: At every stadium Peter and I visit we acquire a souvenir cup. This year the Twins have designed their cups to look like the backs of the player's jerseys. There is definitely a Hunter cup and a Mauer cup. I will assume this is a four cup set and there are also Santana and Morneau cups but I did not see either of these tonight.

That's all I really had time to see tonight. More observations, hopefully coming this week.

Standings after Opening Day:

Brewers 1-0 (defeated LA Dodgers 7-1)
Twins 1-0 (defeated Baltimore Orioles 7-4)
Reds 1-0 (defeated Chicago Cubs 5-1)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

So Long, Herb


For the third time in as many seasons, the Twins have lost someone very important to the organization just before Opening Day. In 2005 the team lost PA announcer Bob Casey, in 2006 it was the tragic and sudden passing of Kirby Puckett, and today the Twins have lost radio play-by-play man Herb Carneal.

The Twins came to Minnesota in 1961. Carneal arrived in 1962 and has been a large part of the radio broadcast ever since. In 1996 Carneal was given the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting and inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2001 he was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame and in 2005 the press box at the Metrodome was named in his honor.

Herb Carneal meant a lot to me personally. When I first moved to Minneapolis, I did not have a television and listened to every Twins game on WCCO 830 AM. Carneal was always my favorite of the Twins three announcers. He never got over excited, as John Gordon does, and sometimes had a great story about the Twins early days.

So Long, Herb Carneal. You will be sorely missed!