Thursday, May 31, 2007

Getaway Day Grab Bag

Another week, more attention on the Yankees. Roger Clemens concluded his tour of the minor leagues with a start at AAA Scranton-Wilkes on Memorial Day and is scheduled to pitch against the White Sox on Monday. Most thought he would be starting this weekend sometime against the Red Sox (is it just me, or have they already played like 10 times?), but instead Torre scheduled him for Monday with Wang, Moose, and Petitte going in the weekend set.



A controversial play happened yesterday when A-Rod screamed "I got it!" at Troy Glaus, who was trying to catch an infield fly while Rodriguez was running to third, and he subsequently dropped the ball, which opened up a 3-run inning. The Yankees are 22-29 and are probably just looking to jump start things however they can, and I'd have to say that it was a pretty outstanding move. The Blue Jays didn't seem to think it was too cute, but hey, it works, and it's not illegal. Let's see if they try the hidden ball trick with the first baseman tomorrow.



The top three vote getters in the AL are Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and David Ortiz. Justin Morneau is 3rd amongst 1st basemen, Joe Mauer is 2nd at catcher, and Torii Hunter is 4th in the outfield. The top three vote getters in the NL are Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and David Wright. Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy are 2nd at their respective positions, and Weeks and Estrada are 3rd at their positions. Ken Griffey Jr. is 4th in outfield voting.



The shocking story of the week was the severe injury to Reds centerfielder and fan-favorite Ryan Freel. His hustle actually got him into trouble on this play, as his momentum going after a fly ball in the gap caused him to collide with right fielder Norris Hopper and subsequently bang his head on the warning track, leaving him unconscious for 13 minutes before taken to an area hospital. MRIs were negative and he was diagnosed with head/neck contusions and was placed on the 15-day DL. He was released from the hospital yesterday and is scheduled to see a spine specialist before reporting back to the team. Get well soon, Ryan; you're one of the few reasons I can still muster enough enthusiasm to go watch your team play.

RESULTS THROUGH 05.30:
Twins 27-25 (5.5 GB)
Brewers 29-24 (5.5 up)
Reds 21-33 (8.5 GB)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Photos from Champion Window Field

A Happy Memorial Day to all! Hope everyone is celebrating the day appropriately - by grilling out, watching ball, and getting that set of mini-American flags set up over the front lawn. Anyways, here are some photos of my trip to Florence, Kentucky last week, as promised.










Top left: Freeway sign
Top right: Snappy Tomato Pizza mascot singing the national anthem
Middle: the stadium
Bottom left: scoreboard (note the knuckleball pitch speed at the bottom)
Bottom right: Freedom wins, and the mascot Liberty is there to help celebrate
WEEKEND RESULTS:
Twins 2-1 v. Blue Jays (24-25)
Brewers 0-3 @ Padres (28-22)
Reds 0-3 v. Pirates (18-33)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thirsty Thursday in Florence

This week was opening week for the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League, and I attended the game last night. This was my third independent league game (St Paul Saints and Rockford Riverhawks) and I loved every minute of it. The Freedom won 12-5 behind a strong pitching performance by knuckleballer Chris Webb, and the player of the game was definitely catcher Josh Lex, who had 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and a club-record 6 RBI.

Florence is a special little town about 15 miles south of Cincinnati in northern Kentucky and is one of the area's most rapidly growing cities. For those of you back home, it reminded me a lot of Appleton/Dykesville/Sturgeon Bay, and for those of you in Ohio, it is very similar to the Batavia Pike area. I love driving to Kentucky, because aside from the tourist Newport area, it's like a whole other country. You just feel like you have entered a foreign land when you go to Appalachia, and so I knew I was in for a big treat at the game.

The stadium itself is literally right off I-75 - I could see the "Champion Window Field" sign from the freeway exit. As with all great independent/minor league parks...awesome giveaways and promotions. Thursdays are "Thirsty Thursdays" in which Budweiser and soda are $1. As much as I un-support Busch and Coors products, I couldn't pass up the deal. There was a batter for the Freedom called the "Pesticide Inc. Pest of the Game," and the deal was if he got on base, an entire row of fans got a seat cushion. Unfortunately, despite the fact that he had 2 hits and 2 walks, I did not obtain one of these. I spent a total of around $35 on a pair of mesh shorts, 2 beers, a burger, a ticket, parking, a program, and a magnet schedule, with the latter three of the list being free items. Unfortunately I won't be around for any Dollar Mondays, but I will definitely be returning to take in some more Frontier League action, where you can pay $8 to sit so close you can hear the umpire.

Look for photos of the stadium/game to be posted this weekend sometime.

**A side note: top positional prospect Ryan Braun (3B) was called up for the Brewers today and will start in San Diego over the weekend for his major league debut. Elmer Dessens was placed on the 15-day DL.

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins off (22-24)
Brewers off (28-19)
Reds L (18-30)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Getaway Day Grab Bag

For a guy who is generally known around the clubhouse as a "clutz" and missed a series in Kansas City last year due to a salad tong mishap, Brewers reliever Matt Wise sure does know how to handle power tools pretty well. And I'm not talking about his wicked changeup either. For the second year in a row, the Brewers have teamed up with Habitat for Humanity, the organization that Erik and I are raising money for on the trip (which is a month from today by the way!) Matt helped construct a house in the Miller Park parking lot that was on display for this past weekend's largely attended Twins series. The major Milwaukee chapter goal this year was to help the depleted Harambee neighborhood on the North Side, and the Brewers have donated $5,000 to the effort. Hopefully they will help accomodate Erik and myself as well.

In other Brewers news during the week, JJ Hardy, Bill Hall, Jeff Suppan, and Chris Capuano, shown to the right looking mighty dapper with actor Peter Bergman, did guest spots on The Young and the Restless while in LA to play the Dodgers this week. They play themselves in the scene and the spot is scheduled to air on the June 20th episode of the 35-year daytime soap. This is a day game against the Giants that Erik and myself have planned on attending, so hopefully they show the clip on the jumbotron between innings. I'm glad to see the Brewers getting press no matter in what capacity, and from the looks of it, apparently we have a pretty handsome young group of guys on the team.

It was announced this week that Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, will have a statue erected of him at Wrigley Field in time for the 2008 season.

More Yankees highs and lows this week. Roger Clemens took his minor league tour to AA-Trenton and Derek Jeter passed Joe DiMaggio on the all-time Yankee hit list. A-Rod hit 3 homeruns to extend his league lead. On the flip side, it looks like Pavano needs Tommy Johns surgery, which typically takes 18 months to heal, which means he will miss this season and next. This means that by the end of Carl's 4-yr contract, Pavano will have missed 2006 and 2008 entirely, half of 2005, and almost all of this season. That's 110 IP in 4 seasons...what is $40 million divided by 110 by the way? What a bust. Also, Jason Giambi has the possibility of getting his contract terminated due to an ongoing steroids investigation, which I don't quite understand since he admitted use like two years ago.

And this just in...the NL Central is STILL horrible. The Brewers have managed to lose their last 4 series and still gain 1.5 games in their division lead. The Reds are about to lose a series to the MLB-worst Nationals, and every team except for the Crew is below .500. The Brewers could quite possibly make the playoffs playing .500 ball the rest of the year, just have the Padres have done for the past three seasons.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brewers v. Twins series #1


This past weekend at Miller Park was the first of two "Interleague Rivalry" weekends, in which the Brewers have played the Twins since its inception. The Crew ended up salvaging some dignity with a win on Sunday, in which the bats finally woke up. Before Sunday, the Crew was 2-7 in their last 9 with an average run output of under 3 a game.

The Brewers lost 8-1 on Paul Molitor Bobblehead Night on Friday. Cappy had his second consecutive poor start and a red-hot Torii Hunter plated 7 runs. Former 2-time Brewer Jeff Cirillo got the start at 3rd and Rickie Weeks sat out what turned into the entire series with a sore wrist. The Brewers managed only 3 hits off of a stellar pitching 11 K performance by Boof Bonser.
On Saturday, J.J. Hardy shook off a bad headcold to hit what was at the time his league-leading 14th HR in a 5-2 loss to rookie callup Scott Baker. Both starters went over 7, but as has been the case lately, Bushy was not getting the run support he deserves. And, as usual, all of the runs for the Brewers came via the longball in this game, with the 2nd coming from Billy Hall.
In the series finale Sunday, Geoff Jenkins went 3-4 with 5 RBI and launched his 200th career homer in the win. Jenkins now ranks 4th all-time on the Brewer homerun list behind Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas, and Robin Yount. Jenks should easily pass Coop and Gorman this season. Gwynn got his 5th consecutive start in RF in this game, as Yost seems to be platooning much less nowadays.

Overall, both of these teams seem to be struggling to keep the bats and the pitchers hot at the same time, but both are good enough teams that they can work through adversity. Look for the next meeting between these two teams next month at the Metrodome to be outstanding, as both teams should be looking to vie for a good division standing heading into the Break.

STANDINGS THROUGH 5/21:
Twins 20-24 (8 GB in AL Central)
Brewers 27-17 (6.5 up in NL Central)
Reds 18-27 (10 GB in NL Central)

Friday, May 18, 2007

2007 Interleague Play begins



On tap for this weekend is the 10th edition of Major League Baseball's Interleague Play. (Incidentally, it is also the 10th anniversary of the D-Rays and D-Backs this year, which makes me feel REALLY old.)

The novelty of Interleague Play has long worn off for me, although it is nice to see different teams in the ballpark once in awhile. However, I do appreciate the so-called "rivalry series" which pair up intercity/regionally close teams, as opposed to the other random interleague dates. This weekend features the Battle of the North (MIN-MIL), the Subway Series (NYM-NYY), the L series (ChC-ChW), the Freeway Series (LAA-LAD), and the Battle of Ohio (CLE-CIN), among others. These series are always meaningful to the fans and it are always large draws at the park. I'm looking forward to watching Yankees-Mets on Sunday Night Baseball this weekend, and hopefully the Crew can sweep the Twinkies at Miller Park.

YESTERDAY'S RESULTS:

Twins L (18-22)

Brewers W (26-15)

Reds off

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Getaway Day Grab Bag

This week, there were two things on the ballot for Major League Baseball. One was the approval of the sale of the Atlanta Braves from Time Warner Cable to Liberty Media. Although Ted Turner owns Time Warner, the ballpark is owned by the city, and thus the name "Turner Field" will remain, so I am okay with this. Next on the ballot is the potential sale of the Cubs by the Chicago Tribune. Let's hope Wrigley Field doesn't become "Uno's Pizzeria Field."


The second thing was the potential reinstatement of ball as an Olympic sport. It is a cut and dry case as far as I'm concerned - Selig doesn't want to interrupt the season with the use of Major League Players (Ben Sheets in college playing for 2000 olympic team to left), so there is no point in discussing this, particularly since there is the World Baseball Classic now. If they want to reinstate ball, however, that would be fine with me. United States collegiate and minor league players could handle most of the world's professional competition pretty handily, except for maybe Cuba and Japan (All-Star ballots are now available in Japanese, FYI...)


The fun story of the week was that in exchange for Mets fans having to sit through a 3+ hour rain delay a few nights ago, all fans in attendance who stayed through the rain delay will receive free seats to a game against the Twins of their choice from June 18-20. I'm not sure if a hand stamp as you left the rain-soaked game will be able to keep until June, so let's hope they had a better system than that.


And this just in -- J.J. Hardy belted his 12th homerun Monday in a loss to the Phillies, making him the first NL shortstop to lead the league in homeruns this late in the season since 1986. Ernie Banks was the last NL shortstop to lead the league in HR for an entire season, with 40 in 1960. Hardy hit another one yesterday, putting himself and Prince Fielder at 1-2 in HR in the NL, with 13 and 12 respectively.

**Arrests & Suspensions Toteboard updated**


LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (18-21)
Brewers L (25-15)
Reds L (16-25)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pee your Pants for the Brewers!

Recently, my good friend Josh has brought it to my attention that there is a website in which people will pledge to, in good faith, wet themselves if and when the Crew makes the playoffs. So far there are over 3700 people who have signed up, myself included.

Go to www.peeyourpantsforthebrewers.com to sign up!

Also, a brief trip update:

We are now OFFICIALLY affiliated with Habitat for Humanity. Erik go the go-ahead from someone in the main office and we even got Habitat hard hats in the mail! Check back for photos of the aforementioned Habitat gear. Erik is also currently trying to work a deal with Holiday Inn through a friend, which would be pretty sweet.

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (18-20)
Brewers L (25-14)
Reds W (16-24)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Opening Night at the Saint Paul Saints


Tonight was the home opener for the independent American Association St. Paul Saints and, of course, I was in attendance. Under threatening skies, the Saints beat the Sioux City Xplorers 10-4 on a strong pitching performance from Charlie Ruud and a three run homer by new first baseman Josue Lopez. Most of the team had changed since last year so it'll time some time to get used to the new faces and names.

Both Peter and I love college, independent, and minor league ball for many reasons. First, the tickets are always cheap, usually $4 for a Saints game, and it is very easy to upgrade your seats. Food and beverages are more reasonably priced too. Another reason is that the players always give their all even though they are playing for very little or no money. The best part of these games, however, is the awesome promotions. At tonight's game I won three prizes for actions that occurred during the game. When Saints' DH Adam Olow tripled in the first inning I won a $10 coupon to Dick's Sporting Goods because Olow was the Dick's Pick to Click. Then when SS Brian Sprout recorded three hits I won a free Chilito from Zantigo. I've never heard of this restaurant and have no idea what a chilito is but, if it's free, it's me. Finally, when a Saint slide across home plate in the eighth inning I won a free Slider from White Castle. I have no intention of using any of these prizes but they're still nice.

Saints fans, we'll see ya, tomorrow night for game two of the series.

Tonight's MLB results:

Brewers 6, Phillies 8 (25-13, 6.5 games up in NL Central)
Reds 1, Padres 7 (13-24, 10.5 GB NL Central)
Twins off (18-19, 5 GB AL Central)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Nothin's Betta' Than a Doubleheada'

Today I was the beneficiary of some scheduling serendipity. The Twins game didn't start until 7:10 tonight which left me the afternoon free to take in the home finale for the Golden Gophers. Under overcast skies and with a strong breeze blowing from left to right, the Gophers took advantage of several errors by the Ohio State Buckeyes to earn a split of the 4-game weekend series.

Then came the highlight of the weekend - The Tigers vs. Twins game on Sunday Night Baseball. The Twins were looking to avoid being swept at home by the division leading Tigers and the bats exploded. Torii Hunter had 2 home runs and a career high 7 RBIs (a nice performance on national television for free agent to be Hunter), Michael Cuddyer broke out of his slump, going 3 for 6 with a homer and 4 RBIs, and even Mike Redmond hit a home run. Boof Bonser finally got a win in his 8th start, following 6 no decisions. Boof went 5 innings, allowing 4 runs, and struck out 6. Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshak, and Joe Nathan closed the door on the Tigers and sent the fans home happy in a marathon 3 hours 24 minutes.


The only bad part about this evening was that ESPN decided to leave Peter Gammons at home tonight.





Hopefully, the Twins bats stay hot when the start a series in Cleveland on Tuesday.


Tonight's results:
Twins 16, Tigers 4 (18-19, 5.5 GB in AL Central)
Brewers 1, Mets 9 (25-12, 7 games up NL Central)
Reds 5, Dodgers 10 (15-23, 10.5 GB NL Central)

O Canada


National Television was not kind to the Twins yesterday. Not only were they thumped 8-2 by the Detroit Tigers, but also lost MVP first baseman Justin Morneau in the 8th inning. Third baseman Nick Punto had speared a hot liner and was attempting to double off Craig Monroe at first. His throw skipped off the turf, temporarily disappeared from Morneau's sight behind Monroe, and struck Morneau in the face. Blood was seen coming from his nose and Morneau left the game. Shortly afterwords, it was revealed that Morneau's nose was broken. Punto was mic'ed up by Fox and was later heard remarking to the third base umpire, "I can't get a hit to save my life and now I took the MVP out."

But Morneau was brought up in Canada as a hockey player and a hockey player wouldn't let something as little as a broken nose keep him out of the action. Thus, its only a small surprise that Morneau plans to play in tonight's game.

Update: Morneau did start tonight and had a whale of a game. He had three singles and a walk as the Twins beat the Tigers 16-4.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Brewers up, Reds down

The Milwaukee Brewers have won 6 straight games (2 sweeps), have a commanding 7-game lead in the division, are 14 games above .500, and recently completed an awesome 9-1 homestand. The Cincinnati Reds are 3-7 in May, have sunk to last place in the division, are at the bottom of the NL in bullpen ERA, and recently completed a dismal 2-5 homestand.

That pretty much sums it up. These two teams were picked by many to be in the top half of the division this year, but nobody I'm sure would have suspected that they would ever be at first and last in the division at the same time.

The Brewers are running on all cylinders. They have the best 8-9 combination in the Majors, Cordero is 15 for 15 in saves (including saves in 5 straight games, tied for ML record) with a sub-1 ERA, they have two starters with 5 wins already not to mention the Crew's undefeated record when Vargas takes the hill, and they have 4 to 5 everyday players hitting above .300. The Prince and J. J. Hardy are finally looking to make this their breakout season, and Hall seems to be adjusting better to centerfield. Estrada, Mench, and Suppan are looking to be great acquisitions more and more every day.

The Reds, on the other hand, can't do anything right. The only prospect is that their worst starter, Eric Milton, is probably going on the DL, which may clear the way for phenom Homer Bailey to get to the Big Show. Encarnacion has recently been optioned down to AAA, who was a stud last year, and one of the best lefty middle relievers in the game, Rheal Cormier, has been dumped as well. This just goes to show that everyone is struggling. Fans still come to the games to see Dunn hit balls out of the stadium, Griffey assult the record books while simultaneously avoiding injury, and to see Freel try and turn bloop singles into triples and dive 8 rows into the stands on every foul ball. Aside from these players and possibly also Josh Hamilton, there really isn't much going on for this team. Both the rotation AND the bullpen are at the bottom in the NL, and there is no sign of improvement. It is clear that Jerry Narron only trusts Harang, Arroyo, and Weathers at this point. I went to 3 games on the homestand, and although I got to see both of the wins coincidentally, the Reds certainly made it entertaining by blowing huge leads in both. Whether it's a trade, a free agent, or calling up some minor leaguers, something needs to be done here, and soon.
YESTERDAY'S RESULTS:
Twins L (17-17)
Brewers off
Reds W (15-20)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Give Silva Some Run Support!


I just returned from this afternoon's series finale between the Twins and the White Sox. Once again, Carlos Silva pitched a very good game and was saddled with the loss. Silva went six innings, allowing 6 hits, issuing only 1 walk, and allowing 3 runs. But, for the third time this season with Carlos on the mound, the Twins were shut out.

The Twins are not giving any run support to Carlos Silva. They are averaging 3.1 runs in Silva's seven starts, and half the runs they scored in support of him came on one day, April 28th against Detroit.

The Twins may be able to get by scoring only 2 or 3 runs when Santana is on the mound, but when Silva is out there they need to score more. Silva has shaken off last season's bad results and deserves a record better than 2-3. His control has returned and his sinker is once again sinking.

Now, the bats need to wake up when he takes the hill!

Getaway Day Grab Bag

Time once again to see what's making headlines in baseball this past week.

The biggest story this week was obviously the signing of Roger Clemens. Amidst the probability of Karstens being out for the season, as well as Pavano missing his 3rd straight year, and with depleted bullpen, the Rocket decided to make another go of it for the Bronx Bombers. He is expected to make his first start for the Yankees the first weekend in June against the Red Sox. Here are some of the terms of the 44-year old Clemens' sweet deal:

- demanded to be the highest paid player in the game
- exact salary is $28,000,022 (he is #22)
- only has to make roadtrips when he pitches, and he doesn't have to travel with the rest of the team
- showing up for workouts and games where he doesn't pitch are optional
- paid condominum in full by team in Manhattan
- use of team private jet whenever he wants

Roger Clemens, much like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, is just one of those players where you can't say "it's about the money." His contract is ridiculous, but fans can't seem but always like him, because they know his work ethic is outstanding. He's only a #3 starter nowadays, but he's still one of the greates pitchers of all time, and a treat to watch - he will certainly help this ballclub.

There was a push this week to try to get alcohol banned from clubhouses throughout the Majors, following reports from Josh Hancock's toxicology report that he was driving drunk. The Cubs have already stepped up and enforced this rule, and personally I think it's a good idea. Hey, if I can't drink at work, they shouldn't be able to either. It's the safe thing to do, particularly now that David Wells has diabetes.

Bonds jacked two more this week, bringing him up to 745, and lastly...

The fun story this week is that the Mets (except Reyes) all decided to shave their heads in an effort to instill more team unity. Apparently the third best record in baseball wasn't enough. The photo of Shawn Green to the right with an obvious look of "haircut remorse" says it all. I wish the Red Sox would do this so that I can stop shivering every time I see Manny Ramirez.

YESTERDAY'S RESULTS:
Twins L (17-16)
Brewers W (24-10)
Reds L (14-20)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Derrick Turnbow Online Chat

Before last night's game with the Nationals (5th win in a row!), setup man D-Bow answered questions in an online chat. Major League Baseball has gone increasingly more global via the web in the past decade, and this is something MLB does about once a week. Turnbow had the honor last night. I typically don't read these because fan questions are stupid, but I knew in this case D-Bow would have some interesting answers to said stupid questions. Here are some of the highlights, and as you can probably imagine, most of the questions have to do with hair. This first question really rings true for me and Erik, since we've very much seen him doing this during several games.

Fan: "Do you really take power naps in the bullpen?"
Turnbow: "Sometimes, not all the time, but there will be some power naps on day games. It is part of my routine and keeps me focused."

Fan: "Ever thought about getting a mohawk?"
Turnbow: "No."

Fan: "There is a rumor out there that you hit the Pepsi sign on the scoreboard during batting practice -- is this true, or an urban legend? If it is true, do you ever lobby Yost to pinch-hit?"
Turnbow: "Yes, I was taking batting practice in 2005 during the Brewers On-Deck event before Opening Day and I hit the middle of the Pepsi sign on the scoreboard. I don't really lobby Ned to pinch-hit."

Fan: "When was the last time you got a haircut?"
Turnbow: "Spring Training was the last time, and I am due for another one real soon."

Fan: "Are you ever going to chop that mop?"
Turnbow: "No, not going to chop it, maybe just a trim here or there."

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins W (17-15)
Brewers W (23-10)
Reds L (14-19)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Return of the Pink Bats

Last year, Major League Baseball introduced pink Louisville Sluggers on Mother's Day around the country in support of finding the cure for breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This year, these bats are on sale again, and will be used this coming Sunday, May 13th, by select players from every team.

Nearly 180,000 women are diagnosed with this disease every year and over 40,000 die from it annually. Although the fatality rate is decreasing, there is still much work to be done. $10 of every pink bat purchased will go towards Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and there will be a countless number of game-used bats auctioned off after Sunday, with proceeds also going towards the foundation.

Along with the Civil Rights Game, Jackie Robinson Day, and now Pink Bat Day, Major League Baseball is once again raising awareness for a worthwhile cause. America's National Pasttime has been showing its support over the past couple of seasons for raising the awareness of breast cancer research, one of America's top diseases among women, and will hopefully continue to do so. Over $1 billion has been raised already by MLB, and once again kudos to Bud Selig for continuing to push the sport in a positive direction. I attended last year's Mother's Day Brewers game against Pedro Martinez and the Mets - let's hope Billy can crank another walk-off homerun for Mrs. Hall this year.

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins off
Brewers W (22-10)
Reds L (14-18)

Be sure to check the updated version of "Arrests and Suspensions Toteboard" from late March.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Reds salvage series with Rockies

With Bronson Arroyo on the mound Sunday afternoon, the Reds finally won a game, and are now 2-4 in May thus far. The Reds produced well offensively in all three games scoring 21 total runs, but as usual, the bullpen ruined the first two games of the series. A decent pitching performance by Matt Belisle, who along with Kyle Lohse have been welcome surprises in the rotation, was squandered late by the bullpen and two of the NL's top hitters, Todd Helton and Matt Holliday, could not be contained.

On Saturday, Josh Hamilton and Ryan Freel combined for 7 hits, but Aaron Harang gave up 5 runs early and the lead proved to be insurmountable. Hamilton had two homeruns on Sunday, a sweet over-the-shoulder catch, and an outfield assist in the win Sunday.

It is unfortunate that Josh Hamilton will probably not make the All-Star game because he was not an Opening Day starter, but he should be getting serious contention for NL Rookie of the Year. He is hitting over .300 with 8 HR and plays an outstanding Center Field. The fan favorites in Cincinnati have typically been the hard working bench players that don't start every day - Hamilton, Freel, Javier Valentin, Wily Mo Pena, etc. - and Josh is no exception. He's definitely my favorite player on the team and is exciting to watch. I was at the games on Friday and Sunday, and Hamilton got a curtain call on Sunday after his 2nd homerun - it was pretty awesome.

The downfall that may ruin my prediction of a 3rd place finish from the Reds will be the bullpen, which is downright horrible. Jerry Narron left Bronson Arroyo in well past the 120-pitch count after throwing a 48-pitch 6th inning; Arroyo was visibly fatigued, and this goes to show Narron's and pitching coach Dick Pole's (what a name!) lack of confidence in the bullpen staff. Every reliever is near 5.00 except the closer Weathers, with high honors going to Mike Stanton at 7.71. I thought at the beginning of the season that it would be the starting pitching, seeing that the bullpen has a lot of veteran guys, a solid closer, and three lefties; however, every starter except Eric Milton has faired pretty well thus far. I would not be the least bit surprised if Homer Bailey is called up to replace Milton by the end of May.

One final comment - hey Reds marketing staff, I'll always come out to the ballgame because I love the Reds and the stadium, but you guys need more all-fan giveaways. I missed out the foam finger Friday because I was above 14 and the sweet tote bag on Sunday because I am not a mom. All but one of the Dirty T-Shirt giveaways are for kids as well. This is clearly segregation and I won't stand for it.

WEEKEND RESULTS:
Twins 1-2 v. Red Sox (16-15, 3rd in AL Central)
Brewers 3-0 v. Pirates (3-1 in series; 21-10, 1st in NL Central)
Reds 1-2 v. Rockies (14-17, 3rd in NL Central)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Rocket's Back!


Today, the New York Yankees announced they had agreed to terms with Roger Clemens. They announced the signing in a really cool way too - Clemens spoke to the fans in attendance following today's 7th inning stretch. This way the fans knew before the media and even Clemens' new teammates did. Clemens signed a $28 million dollar contract - a $6 million raise over his $22 million contract last year with the Houston Astros - that will be prorated over the 4 months Clemens will pitch. In all, Clemens will take home about $18.5 million.

The move is smart on both parts. The Yankees pitching staff has been decimated by injuries. Jeff Karstens is out for the year after being hit in the leg with a line drive, Carl Pavano is also probably done for the season with a forearm injury, Mike Musssina just returned from the DL with a hamstring injury, Chien-Ming Wang missed nearly the entire first month of the season with a hamstring injury, and Philip Hughes went down in the middle of pitching a no-hitter. The Yankees have already used 10 starting pitchers and its only the first week of May! They need reliable, healthy pitching bad.

For Clemens part, he said at a press conference this afternoon that the Yankees offer something "they only know how to do here" - win championships. the Yankees also offered him $10 million more than did the Red Sox and a chance to pitch sooner.

I was lucky enough to see Clemens in what was supposed to be his retirement year, 2003 with the Yankees, and again in 2004 when after he signed with the Astros and they came to Milwaukee. Here's hoping that I get one more chance to see the Rocket in Yankee Stadium on July 8th.

Finally Healthy or Playing for a Paycheck?


Torii Hunter is off to a torrid start this season. Through this afternoon's game Torii is hitting .345 with 6 home runs, 15 doubles, and 20 RBIs. He also extended his hitting streak today to 21 games, 10 shy of the Twins record 31 game hitting streak by Ken Landreaux in 1980. These numbers are huge improvements over Torii's average and even best seasons. Hunter is a lifetime .271 hitter and his best season was way back in 2000 when he hit .280.

There are a couple of explanations for Torii's hot start. The ankle he broke crashing into the outfield wall in Boston in 2005 may finally be healed. It was still visibility bothering him in the field last season, taking away some of the speed that allowed him to make his trademark leaping and diving catches. Another explanation is that Hunter is excelling because he is playing in a contract year. Torii definitely wanted a long-term contract but the Twins but the team only picked up his 1 year, $12 million option. With all the money the club has recently shelled out for Mauer and the expected raises due to Morneau and Santana, it is unlikely Torii will be roaming centerfield at the Dome next season. His hot bat may be a showcase for other teams looking for a Gold Glove outfielder next season.

In my opinion, Hunter won't be winning his 7th consecutive Gold Glove this season if he doesn't start playing fundamental baseball. Torii has been catching a lot of balls on his hip or over his shoulder when he could easily get underneath them and put two hands on the ball. Torii, you win the Gold Gloves because you get to balls that other centerfielders don't, NOT because you make the easy catches look hard. It's only a matter of time until a ball glances off your glove and turns into an embarrassing error.

One final note: Today, Curt Schilling got his first win ever at the Metrodome. He has now won in every American League park except Comerica Park in Detroit.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The real life "Wild Thing"

"Those glasses look good -- I had a pair just like 'em."
"Hey, seein' is the most important thing son."

These were words uttered by characters in the movie Major League, in reference to Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn, and may perhaps be soon uttered from Mel Stottlemyre Jr, pitching coach of the Class-A South Bend Silverhawks, to pitcher Jason Neighborgall.

I actually found this story on the front page of Yahoo, and it's pretty hilarious. Here are the stats from a handful of Neighborgall's most recent appearances:

0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 WP

0 IP, 0 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K

0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 WP

0 IP, 0 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 3 WP, 2 HBP

0 IP, 0 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 3 WP, 1 HBP

That is pretty damn incredible. When rating pitchers, scouts rate a pitch between 20 and 80, 20 being the lowest and 80 being the highest. Francisco Liriano's slider would be an 80. Randy Johnson's fastball was at one time an 80. Barry Zito's curve would be close to an 80. This kid averages 100 mph with his fastball and has a "nose to toes" off-the-table curve, and both would be ranked an 80. He just need to learn control before he kills someone - the coaches won't even let him throw his curve anymore until he can manage his fastball. In three years at Georgia Tech before being drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2005, he had 113 BB and 115 K in 101 IP, with 4 no-hitters.

To quote the author of the article, "He's not Rick Ankiel. He doesn't lose [control] instantaneously. It's been missing for years." The team isn't ready to give up on a kid with supposedly two "80" pitches, but he'll never get past AA with erratic control. I really hope I get to see him pitch in the Midwest League before he leaves A-ball, because brawls are always fun.

"Should we go get him?"
"Nah, leave him in...let's see how he reacts."
(Vaughn beans batter in back)
"I think you can go get him now."

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (15-13)
Brewers L (18-10)
Reds L (13-15)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Not Good


The Twins wrapped up their season series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tonight. They lost 6-4 giving the Devil Rays the season series 4 games to 3. They are now 15-13 on the year and 3.5 games behind division leading Cleveland.

The Devil Rays? The Devil Rays? for a team that is supposed to be contending for a World Series title this year, losing the season series to the Rays is not a good omen. The Twins should have taken at least, at least, 5 games.

Tonight's game was particularly painful. With the bases loaded, batting champion Joe Mauer struck out swinging and then MVP Justin Morneau grounded into an inning-ending double play. Ouch!

The Twins big question mark heading into the season was the starting pitching following Johan Santana. So far, the staff has held up pretty well. Boof Bonser is 0-1 with a 4.55 ERA. He has 32 strikeouts and 20 walks. Those are pretty weak numbers for being a month into the season but the Twins are 3-3 when he starts. Boof needs to regain his control and go deeper into ballgames. His longest outing of the season is only 6 innings.

Ramon Ortiz has been a very pleasant surprise. He is 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA. He won his first three starts in dominating fashion and has been a victim of poor run support in his last three outings, giving up 3 runs over 7 innings in a loss at the Royals on April 22, 2 runs over 6 innings in a no decision at the Tigers on April 27 - a game which the Twins won, and 4 runs over 7 innings tonight against the Devil Rays. The Twins need to get this guy some more runs. He has pitched well enough to be at least 4-1 thus far.

Carlos Silva has bounced back well from last season's 11-15, 5.94 ERA. This season he is 2-1 with a 3.10 ERA. Once again the Twins have a winning record when Silva starts; they are 3-2. Last season Silva struggled because he allowed a lot of base runners and made the problem worse by surrendering a lot of home runs. This season, the command Silva showed in 2005 has returned - he has allowed only 7 walks in 5 starts and has a WHIP of 1.52. More encouraging is the fact that Silva has given up only 2 homers so far this season. Silva needs to continue to keep the ball down in the zone and he will be a very effective starter for the Twins. We'll see Silva again tomorrow night at home against the Boston Red Sox.

What can you say about Sidney Ponson? He's awful!!! He's 2-3 with a 6.67 ERA. His last start Tuesday at the Devil Rays when he went 7 innings giving up only 1 run but he has been tagged by the Yankees and the Royals. We'll see Ponson on Sunday against the Red Sox. I believed at the beginning of the season that the Twins would give Ponson 1 month to prove himself. Its now May and Ponson is still in the rotation. I don't think it will be long until we see Glen Perkins, 11.1 innings 3.18 ERA out of the bullpen (in 1 bad outing against the Devil Rays Perkins gave up 3 runs on a homer, otherwise he has allowed only 1 run) or Matt Garza - 1-1, 2.88 ERA, 27 K in 25 innings at AAA Rochester, make a start in place of Ponson.

But the pitching is not the problem. Despite good overall numbers, the Twins hitters are failing in the clutch where they excelled last year. They are not 'Smelling the RBIs' like the did last year and the Piranhas aren't biting like they did last year.

The pitching staff has done its part, now its time to wake up the bats and start hitting.

Here's hoping the Twins fare better against the Red Sox this weekend, than they did against the Devil Rays!

Getaway Day Grab Bag

The big story this week is that the Yankees, with Mussina and Pavano already on the DL, lost two rookie phenom pitchers to injury in the span of a week. Jeff Karstens took a ball off the leg and is out for the season with a broken fibula, and Phil Hughes (pictured to left) is out 4-6 weeks with a torn hamstring. Hughes, 20, was in the middle of a no-hitter in the 7th inning in Texas when the hammy popped. News is now that Chien-Mien Wang may also miss his next start with a torn fingernail, thus leaving the Yankees rotation as Andy Petitte, Kei Igawa, and three guys I've never heard of. Joe Torre gets manager of the year if this club is even close to .500 at the All-Star Break, although I'm sure Brian Cashman is on the phone with Roger Clemens as we speak.

Although I'm admittedly biased, the story of this season has to be the Milwaukee Brewers thus far. At 18-9, and coming off a sweep of the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, the Crew owns the best record in baseball and enjoy a hefty 5-game lead in the NL Central. This could finally be our year, and it would keep in line with the trend of "cinderella teams" the past few years - Cubs 2003, Red Sox 2004, White Sox 2005, Tigers 2006. The pitching is outstanding, and almost every player is swinging a hot bat right now, including the bench players. We also have the best setup man-closer combo in the major leagues (D-Bow has to wake up an inning earlier this season). And, as Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker puts it, "the Brewers are winning and they're not even playing as good as they are capable of." Keep it up boys. Suppan, Capuano, Cordero, Jenkins, Hardy, Estrada, and Fielder should all be legitimate All-Star contenders; it sure would be nice to get more than one obligatory representative this year (although last year we did have three).



A stranger story over the wire this week...Ryan Langerhans was traded twice in three days. The Atlanta Braves sent Langerhans to the A's on Monday, and after going 0-4 with a fielding error in two games against the Red Sox at Fenway, Langerhans again packed his bags and headed to Washington, as part of a trade for pitcher Chris Snelling. Ryan was cordial, however. In regards to the Oakland organization, he remarked "I've enjoyed my time here."

Tonight, look for the rematch of Dice-K and Ichiro in a makeup game at Fenway Park

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins L (15-12)
Brewers W (18-9)
Reds L (13-14)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

North Dakota State @ Minnesota


I spent this evening at Siebert Field on the University of Minnesota campus watching the Golden Gophers baseball team take on the North Dakota State University Bison. It was the second Gophers game I have attended at Siebert this year and my 23rd ballgame of the season. Watching Northwoods League games last summer got me more interested in college baseball. The guys play their hearts out and you can get a really good seat, and I'm talking 'you can see a curveball curve' good, for five bucks. The only defect in the college game is the use of aluminum bats. The speed at which the ball comes off the bat is dangerous to the players and there is no romanticism about 'the ping of the bat.' This one flaw is the reason baseball is the only sport in which the college game is not better than the pro version.

The Gophers won 10-4 with Dan Lyons and Kevin Carlson each hitting 3-run home runs.

A little comparison:

10/21/2006 - Football - Minnesota 10, North Dakota State 9
5/2/2007 - Baseball - Minnesota 10, North Dakota State 4

Yes, the numbers on the scoreboard are correct. The Gophers baseball team scored as much as the football team did against NDSU. And the Gophers baseball team held the Bison to 5 fewer runs.

Minnesota is not a football school! Hockey rules around here and nothing short of a few trips to the Rose Bowl will change that.

Back to the ball team - The Gophers look really good this year. They are now 31-8 and are second in the Big Ten behind #22 Michigan. Here's hopeing the Gophies make a run deep into the post-season.

M!-I!-N!-N!-E!-S!-O!-T!-A! MINNESOTA! MINNESOTA! YAAAAAAAY GOPHERS!

Reds to retire Concepcion's #13

On July 28th, the Cincinnati Reds will retire shortstop Dave Concepcion's #13. Since his retirement, no player has donned #13, and now the Reds are making it official. Concepcion was a huge part of the "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s that won back to back World Series titles in '75-'76. By today's standards, his numbers certainly don't seem stellar - .267, 101 HR, 950 RBI, .972 fielding percentage. However, I understand the Reds' logic. He was one of the greatest shortstops of his era and was a fan favorite, and not to mention a 9-time all-star.

His number is being retired as part of a trend. Over the past 5 seasons, the Reds have retired Sparky Anderson's #10, Tony Perez's #24, and now Concepcion's #13, all members of the Big Red Machine. Members of this groups also retired include Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. Much like the 1982 AL Championship team in Milwaukee, this group of players in Cincinnati is a special bunch that means a lot to the fans and the city. I don't necessarily agree that numbers should be retired ad nauseum - most certainly, Barry Larkin's number will also be retired in the next 5 years, and let's not foget the ongoing Pete Rose controversy. However, with teams with 26 World Championships as the Yankees, or a 130-year history as the Reds have, there is an exception. Eight numbers, not including Jackie Robinson, in the grand scheme of the Reds is not really a lot.

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
Twins W (15-11)
Brewers W (17-9)
Reds W (13-13)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Trip Update


The large number of rainouts in April works to our benefit. The Brewers were scheduled to play to play the Cardinals on Friday, April 13 at Busch Stadium but the game was rained out. Luckily for us the game was rescheduled as part of a day/night doubleheader on Saturday, July 28. That happens to be the day we planned to be in Saint Louis. Now we get to cheer on the Brewers once more in hostile territory.




In addition, my friend Lyndsay Jo who lives in North Carolina noticed that we had a travel day between Washington, DC and Savannah, GA. So, we're stopping to visit her and also catch the Montgomery Biscuits vs. Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, NC. The Mudcats are the AA affiliate of the Florida Marlins. The addition of this game means we will see a contest at every level of professional baseball.

77 days, 52 games!!!

April in Review

MLB Leaders through 04.30:

Batting Average:

(1) Derrek Lee, ChC [.392]; (2) Matt Holliday, COL; (3) Todd Helton, COL; (4) Aaron Rowand, PHI; (5) Joe Mauer, MIN

Homeruns:

(1) Alex Rodriguez, NYY [14]; (2) Ian Kinsler, TEX; (2) Jimmy Rollins, PHI; (4) Barry Bonds, SF; (4) Chipper Jones, ATL

Runs Batted In:

(1) Alex Rodriguez, NYY [34]; (2) Magglio Ordonez, DET; (3) Jeff Francoeur, ATL; (3) Adrian Gonzalez, SD; (5) Carlos Beltran, NYM; (5) Vladimir Guerrero, LAA

Stolen Bases:

(1) Jose Reyes, NYM [17]; (2) Juan Pierre, LAD; (3) Kenny Lofton, TEX; (4) Julio Lugo, BOS; (4) Brian Roberts, BAL; (4) Grady Sizemore, CLE

Wins:

(1) Josh Beckett, BOS [5]; (1) Dontrelle Willis, FLA; (2) Six players tied [4]

Earned Run Average:

(1) John Maine, NYM [1.35]; (2) Tim Hudson, ATL; (3) Matt Cain, SF; (4) Ian Snell, PIT; (5) Danny Haren, OAK

Strikeouts:

(1) Jake Peavy, SD [46]; (2) Johan Santana, MIN; (3) Erik Bedard, BAL; (4) Daisuke Matusaka, BOS; (5) Cole Hamels, PHI; (5) James Shields, TB

Saves:

(1) Francisco Cordero, MIL [10]; (1) Jose Valverde, ARI; (2) Joe Borowski, CLE; (2) Al Reyes, TB; (2) Francisco Rodriguez, LAA

Division Leaders through 04.30:

NL East: (1) Atlanta [16-9]; (2) NY Mets [-0.5]

NL Central: (1) Milwaukee [16-9]; (2) Pittsburgh [-3.5]

NL West: (1) Arizona [16-11]; (2) LA Dodgers [-0.5]

AL East: (1) Boston [16-8]; (2) Toronto [-3.5]

AL Central: (1) Cleveland [14-8]; (2) Minnesota [-1.5]

AL West: (1) LA Angels [15-11]; (2) Seattle [-2.0]

LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:

Twins off

Brewers W (16-9)

Reds off