Tag:Davey Johnson
Posted on: October 6, 2011 7:35 pm
 

R.I.P: 2011 Washington Nationals

NationalsBy Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series... 

Team name: Washington Nationals
Record: 80-81, third place, 21.5 GB
Manager: Jim Riggleman/Davey Johnson
Best hitter: Mike Morse -- .303/.360/.550, 31 HR, 95 RBI
Best pitcher: Jordan Zimmermann -- 8-11, 161 1/3 IP, 3.18 ERA, 31 BB, 124 K

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Nats were exactly 13-13 at the end of April, and it was a trend that continued all the way through the first half, with the club jumping out to a 46-46 record in the first half. It was an unexpected surge for Washington, who was expected to continue along its growth, but at a slower clip. It was quite the impressive display, especially since the club didn't have Stephen Strasburg and big-ticket signing Jayson Werth struggling to a .215/.319/.362 first half, along with Ian Desmond (.223/.264/.308).

The second half saw the return of Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang along with rebounds from Werth and Desmond. But those improvements didn't show up on the field, with a 34-35 record. In essence the team was exactly the same. Players who fell off in the second-half include Danny Espinosa, Laynce Nix, Livan Hernandez and Zimmermann, who was shut down at the end of August.

2012 AUDIT

The Nationals are in a pretty good position for 2012. Stephen Strasburg is back from Tommy John surgery and looking as electric as ever. Paired with Jordan Zimmermann, Washington has a strong one-two punch in the rotation. Offensively, the team is coming along and with a rebound year from Jayson Werth could be sneaky-good. This is a team on the rise, and the Nats smell blood in the NL East.

FREE AGENTS

Rick Ankiel, CF
Todd Coffey, RP
Alex Cora, IF
Jonny Gomes, OF
Livan Hernandez, SP
Laynce Nix, OF
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Chien-Ming Wang, SP

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Bring back Davey Johnson as manager. He wants to come back and there's no reason not to keep Johnson. The team seemed to respond to him and he has enormous cachet. Plus, and this is just speculation, but he would probably sign a cheaper deal than any of the other big-name managers available.
  • Sign Prince Fielder. While Albert Pujols would be a great get, Fielder is younger and frankly, more gettable. It would be the splash Washington needs to make the fan base perk up and put the club in prime position to contend in the next several years. The Nats have long said that the money will be there when it's time to compete. Owner Ted Lerner time to step up. The club will have limited flexibility if there is no payroll bump. If Lerner is miserly with his money, the rest of the moves here still should occur, but Adam LaRoche would simply remain as first baseman.
  • What to do with incumbent first baseman LaRoche if the team can sign Fielder? Tough call. His trade value is near zero and coming off the bench isn't a great idea. Washington either needs to bite the bullet and chew up the remaining $9 million on his deal ($8 million due in 2012, $1 million buyout in 2013 on a $10 million mutual option), or trade him in a swap of hefty contracts.
  • In the R.I.P. piece for the Tampa Bay Rays, I said that the Rays need to trade B.J. Upton to the Nats for Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina. (Washington would likely also need to give up a solid minor-leaguer.) This would fulfill Washington's need for a center fielder, and Upton could fetch some nice compensatory picks if he has a great year and departs town as a free agent.
  • Moving Desmond allows the Nationals to put second baseman Danny Espinosa back at his natural spot of shortstop, and reports suggest Espinosa could be an even better fielder than Desmond. To fill the second-base vacancy, Washington can promote Stephen Lombardozzi.
  • The rest of the team's needs have to be fulfilled for small money, short years or through internal replacements from the minors with Upton, Fielder and Jayson Werth occupying a big chunk of payroll. The bench needs some fortification on offense. Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston Jr., Kelly Johnson, or Mark DeRosa would all make sense.
  • Extend Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is one of the best third baseman -- no, one of the best players -- in the game. He's a free agent after 2013, and the Nats simply cannot let him go.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 11:48 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:00 pm
 

Pepper: Scutaro stumble costs Red Sox

Scutaro

By Evan Brunell


The Red Sox authored an unimaginable collapse, riding a 7-20 September all the way toward falling out of the playoffs at the last moment. As Boston fell to Baltimore 4-3, the Rays walked off against the Yankees 8-7 in an amazing end to the season. There's one play that stands out when looking back at how Boston blew Game 162 against the Orioles, and it appears to have been influenced by Red Sox Nation invading Camden Yards.

The setting: Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro is on first base in the eighth inning with Boston up 3-2. Carl Crawford at the plate. He slices a line drive to left fielder Nolan Reimold, who dove in an attempt to catch the ball. Scutaro, rounding second, heard cheers from the crowd. Scutaro, having briefly lost sight of the ball, paused, thinking cheers meant Reimold had made the catch. Except that Camden Yards is sometimes called Fenway Park South and it was no exception Wednesday. So the cheers actually meant Reimold had missed the ball.

"I heard the screaming, but I don't know if it was their crowd or our crowd, so I don't know if he made the play or not," Scutaro told the Providence Journal. "I just got a bad read. I should have just kept going."

Scutaro picked it back up once he realized what happened, and third base coach Tim Bogar tried to send him home anyways. The ball took a few hops to reach Matt Wieters, but it reached him before Scutaro did. Out.

Who knows if the Orioles would still have tied the game up or won in the ninth, but that extra insurance run and the wasted opportunity will haunt the dreams of Red Sox players all offseason.

"It seems like, the whole September, nothing works out for us," Scutaro said. "Everything went different ways and everything was against us, pretty much. I guess it was our destiny to be out of the playoffs. Nothing worked out. We didn't play good enough. What can I say? That's baseball."

Wakefield returning: Tim Wakefield has decided he wants to play another year and intends to return to the Red Sox. “I’ve definitely made up my mind that I definitely want to come back next year,” Wakefield told Fox Sports. “I have another goal in front of me that I’d like to accomplish, and that’s the all-time record for the Red Sox in wins. I’m only seven away. I think the fans deserve an opportunity to watch me chase that record. We’ll see what happens.”

Pavanostache: Carl Pavano had a mustache in 2010 that drew all manner of attention and was dubbed the Pavanostache, and enjoyed one of his best seasons. He didn't rock it at all in 2011 -- until Wednesday's final game, where he tossed his first shutout of the year, throwing a five-hitter. Does the mustache have some mystical power we don't know about? (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Payroll rising: The Marlins' payroll will rise, but president David Samson reined in expectations, saying that it won't reach as high as $100 million. The Marlins will set a record for payroll at the very least, he says, but payroll figures to top out at $80 million. (Miami Herald)

Moneyball: The controversy over Moneyball continues, and the subject of both the book and movie finally weighed in. GM Billy Beane responded to allegations from manager Art Howe that Beane had a hand in crafting Howe's negative portrayal in the movie. "I was wondering who was going to be the first guy to think I produced, wrote or directed this movie," Beane told the San Jose Mercury News, saying he wasn't involved in making the movie. "Now I have my answer. [Howe's] comments are completely misguided."

Skippering: Davey Johnson wants to return to the Nationals in 2012, but Washington is going to continue with interviewing other internal candidates. It still appears likely Johnson will return. (MASN)

Arrested: Milton Bradley has been arrested for the second time this year after allegedly swinging a bat at his wife and missing. He was booked on felony assault, released on bail and is due back in court Oct. 18. (Los Angeles Times)

Affair: Yankees GM Brian Cashman has just been caught up in what could be a messy affair. He is alleged to have entered into a relationship with a woman in 2009 who was married. (Deadspin)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: September 19, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 10:32 am
 

Pepper: Crawford apologizes to Red Sox fans



By Matt Snyder


With the Rays climbing to within two games of the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race, it's going to be a fun final two weeks for baseball fans. Some interesting perspective on the drama comes from current Red Sox and former Rays' left fielder Carl Crawford.

Crawford played nine seasons and 1,253 regular-season games for the Rays. He's easily the best player in the history of the young franchise at this point, but he walked this past offseason for a seven-year, $142 million deal and signed with the Red Sox. And he's now having the worst season of his career, from an individual standpoint.

In a diary entry for ESPN.com, Crawford notes that hears the boos from "haters" when the Red Sox visit Tampa Bay and that those fans need to realize he's going to be coming back for six more years. Two more entries of note:

"If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated. I definitely wouldn't want to lose to those guys and watch them get into the playoffs while we go home. That would just be devastating to me."

And ...

"I want to end the diary saying something to the fans of Boston. I just want to say I'm sorry for the year I've had. You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that. Hopefully when we get into these playoffs, I can be the real Carl Crawford that I know I am. We'll see."

I love seeing that kind of accountability from someone who could easily just blow everyone off and count his millions.

Ironman: Speaking of the Rays, Johnny Damon has now tied Pete Rose and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Hank Aaron with an impressive streak. Damon has now played in at least 140 games in 16 different seasons, making it a four-way tie atop the all-time record book (TampaBay.com). Does anyone doubt Damon can do it again next year and set the record? I sure don't.

More from Damon: This is funny, and true. Damon points out that Red Sox fans have to root for the Yankees now. “They’re going to have to root for them if they want a chance at the postseason,” Damon said (BostonHerald.com). “They couldn’t root for me when I played in New York. Now they have to root for the whole team.” Man, how much are Yankees fans relishing this?

Happy Birthday: Hall of Famer Joe Morgan turns 68 Monday (Hardball Times). The two-time MVP is widely considered the best second baseman to ever play the game (and was also a broadcaster for years, but we'll leave that alone, being his birthday and all ... )

While we're here: Speaking of Joe, he just led the world's largest chicken dance. Check it out (via Big League Stew):



Sigh: Tigers manager Jim Leyland says he isn't an "on-base percentage guy." (MLB.com) Look, Leyland knows a lot more about baseball than I do, which is quite an obvious fact. But that doesn't mean he can't be wrong about certain things. I just don't understand what it is with the so-called "old-school mentality" that prevents people from grasping that OBP is the percentage of times batters don't make an out. I don't get how you can not be an OBP guy. You go to the plate with a bat. The main object is to not make an out. It's very, very simple. Leyland, thankfully, doesn't say he likes batting average, but instead slugging. Slugging percentage is much more important than average, but OBP is much more important. Think about it. Even if you're just churning out singles and walks over and over, you're still scoring runs. Slugging is very important, too, which is why OPS has gotten more and more run in recent years.

Humbled Ozzie: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently made a trip to the Negro Baseball League Museum in Kansas City and came away with a renewed appreciation for everything he has. "It’s so different, and sometimes you shake your head at what these guys went through all this stuff for baseball to be better now than then," he said (Chicago Tribune).

Shoot him up: Phillies slugging first baseman Ryan Howard has bursitis in his left ankle, and he'll have a cortisone shot to help him deal with the issue the rest of the season. (MLB.com)

Johan 'felt good:' Mets ace Johan Santana threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday and he "felt good." (ESPN New York)

Johnson wants Wang back: Chien-Ming Wang has been a bit inconsistent in his return to the hill this season, but he's shown flashes of being solid -- like in his quality-start win Sunday. It will be tough to squeeze into the Nationals' rotation next season, especially if they land a free agent like C.J. Wilson, but current Nats manager Davey Johnson says he'd bring Wang back. "As far as I'm concerned, he's a keeper," Johnson said (MASN Sports).

Don't rush: Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa underwent Tommy John surgery June 3, but he's looking to be back by opening day of next season. That wouldn't be unheard of, but it would be just 10 months after a procedure which typically has a 10-14 month recovery period. So it would certainly be a quick recovery. Jim Tracy, his manager, wants De La Rosa to be patient. “I told him (De La Rosa) about Dr. Jobe and the importance of following the program and don’t try to deviate,’’ said Tracy (DenverPost.com). “Don’t try to speed it up. If you do that and you follow the program and you don’t try to speed it up, you’ll feel like you have a bionic arm. Because it will completely heal and you’ll basically have a brand new elbow.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:51 pm
 

Earthquake shakes MLB

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Orioles are in Minnesota, so they only heard about today's earthquake -- but the Maryland Stadium Authority isn't taking any chances with Camden Yards, inspecting the Orioles' home after Tuesday afternoon's earthquake, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority told the paper that he and a structural engineer were checking both Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL's Ravens, on Tuesday. The Ravens have a preseason game against the Redskins on Thursday while the Orioles return home Friday to start a series against the Yankees.

"This is certainly a precautionary measure, but it seems appropriate given the magnitude of the earthquake," Michael Frenz told the newspaper. "There is no reason [to believe] it's not safe, but we have a lot of people coming in, so we want to make sure we're protecting public safety and the real estate asset."

The Nationals delayed Tuesday's game by 20 minutes because of the earthquake, also delaying the opening of the gates while Nationals Park was inspected. Nationals manager Davey Johnson was at the ballpark when the earthquake hit.

"I had my feet up on my desk and I was watching highlights of yesterday's games," Johnson told the Associated Press. "I looked down and my arms started shaking. I said, 'Am I having a tremor here?' And then the table next to me started shaking and I said, 'Oh, earthquake.'"

He was in better shape than the Diamondbacks. Arizona's team bus got stuck in traffic after the earthquake, delaying some players' arrival at the park for hours.

In Philadelphia, Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence tweeted about the earthquake right after it happened:

 

The earthquake could be felt in New York, but most of the A's players said they didn't feel it.

"it's like a state of panic here," Conor Jackson, a native of Southern California, told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "They're such rookies."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 28, 2011 11:47 pm
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Wright powering Mets



By Matt Snyder


David Wright, Mets. The Mets completed a four-game sweep of the Reds with a 10-9 victory Thursday afternoon, and Wright went 3-5 with two runs and an RBI. Since coming off the disabled list, Wright is scorching hot, as he's gone 15-33 (.455) with three doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. The Mets are 5-2 in that seven-game span and -- don't look now -- trail the Braves by 6 1/2 games in the Wild Card race. Maybe they should've kept Carlos Beltran?

Mark Trumbo, Angels. The Angels roughed up the Tigers' pitching staff to the tune of 12 runs on 17 hits. The rookie Trumbo got things started in the second with a two-run homer and ended the game with five RBI. He ended up a single shy of the cycle on his 3-5 day. The Angels kept pace with the Rangers and are still just two games out in the AL West.

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros. Granted, the Cardinals were missing Lance Berkman, but Rodriguez likely upped his trade value a bit in his last start before the non-waiver deadline. He worked seven innings in a 5-3 win, allowing just five hits and one earned run. He struck out six and walked only one. The best part? He worked on top. He threw a first-pitch strike to 22 of the 26 batters he faced (Alyson Footer via Twitter).



A's bullpen. The A's got five runs in the first inning from their anemic offense and also received a quality start from Rich Harden. Yet they still ended up losing 10-8 to the Rays. Craig Breslow, Brad Ziegler and Brian Fuentes had a pretty big hand in the loss. The trio combined to allow five hits, three walks and seven earned runs in the top of the seventh inning. It's pretty tough to win a game when the bullpen coughs up a seven-spot.

Mark Reynolds, Orioles. He's got loads of power, but it comes at quite the price. Reynolds went 0-3 with a strikeout Thursday, while also committing an error at third base when he was unable to haul in an attempted pickoff throw. Only four players in the majors have struck out more often than Reynolds, but he's now the league leader in errors. It's probably time to move him to DH, so only his strikeouts are an issue -- and you can live with those from a guy hitting lots of home runs.

Davey Johnson, Nationals. Was Jim Riggleman really doing that great a job managing? It's probably a mere coincidence -- though the Marlins managerial change has made them into a different team -- but Johnson is 9-17 now as manager of the Nats. They were 39-37 when he took over. After a 5-2 loss to Jack McKeon's Marlins Thursday, the Nats have now lost five in a row and seven of eight. They're 3-9 since the All-Star break and are now in last place by 2 1/2 games.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: July 7, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Pepper: Hurdle responds to Bochy comments



Barry Zito seeks his third straight win since coming off the DL while Jered Weaver looks to keep his hot streak going. Eye on Baseball Blogger Matt Snyder joins Lauren Shehadi to discuss those storylines and more in this edition of Baseball Today.

By Evan Brunell


ALL-STAR CRITICISM: Giants manager Bruce Bochy wasn't happy about criticism that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Marlins manager Jack McKeon leveled about his choices on who made the All-Star roster. Hurdle was annoyed that Andrew McCutchen hadn't made the team while McKeon questioned the selection of Bochy's player in Tim Lincecum.

Well, Hurdle fired back after hearing Bochy's comments, specifically that Hurdle and McKeon never lobbied for their players while other managers did, so how can they speak out against the selections?

"I don't think lobbying is a part of what you do in that position," said Hurdle, who has experience with the All-Star Game, managing it in 2008 when he represented the Rockies. "He's earned that opportunity by winning the National League championship. I just have never lobbied, and I never got any calls from any other managers lobbying the year I did it."

Hurdle did apologize if his comments were hurtful to Bochy.

"I have the most professional respect for Boch," Hurdle said. "He's a better manager than I'll ever be. My feelings came from the heart. Diplomacy, I guess, wasn't at the top of my list that day, and I can understand that as well.

"I've been on the other end of that. I just know that I took it with a grain of salt, and he felt he made the best decision for the National League because that's his job to represent. I wish the National League nothing but the most success that we go out and win the game.

"We've known each other back to when we were 16 years old. I can understand he's disappointed in what I had to say. I can deal with that."

McCutchen still has a chance to get on the roster as Ryan Braun from Milwaukee is hobbled by an inflamed tendon, and if he cannot play this weekend, will pull out of the game. (MLB.com)

ALL-STAR INVITE: Albert Pujols says he would be honored to go to the All-Star Game should he be selected as a replacement. Pujols missed his chance at going to the game thanks to his wrist injury, but could still squeak in as players pull out because of injuries or other reasons. It's possible Pujols could replace Braun. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

DODGER DEBACLE: More information in the saga that just won't go away. MLB has filed a motion that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt should not have the right to see various documents that McCourt is requesting, alleging that releasing the documents would turn the bankruptcy court hearing into "a multi-ringed sideshow of mini-trials on his personal disputes." (Los Angeles Times)

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Davey Johnson has never ordered a suicide squeeze, per his own recollections. That changed Wednesday night for the Nationals. Wilson Ramos dropped a successful bunt, allowing Mike Morse to cross the plate with what turned out to be the winning run. (CSN Washington)

WHAT EYE PROBLEM? Mike Stanton visited an ophthalmologist Wednesday and received eye drops to combat an eye infection that has sent him spiraling into a slump. He's received eye drops and apparently they worked as he slammed a walk-off home run against the Phillies on Wednesday night to give the Marlins a victory. (MLB.com)

YOU'RE NO PUJOLS: Apparently Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo is hoping to pull an Albert Pujols and get back on the field earlier than expected. After breaking his left thumb and staring at a diagnosis of eight-to-10 weeks out, Choo is telling friends he believes he can be back in early August. Given how fast Pujols returned, I suppose you can't rule it out, but ... well, don't go wagering on an early Choo return. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

YEAH AND NO: That was the Dodgers' Andre Ethier's answer when asked if he was pleased with his performance so far. Hitting a career-high .317 is great, but Ethier's seven home runs are a sudden loss of power for someone who slammed 31 two seasons ago. (Los Angeles Times)

WORKHORSE: Justin Verlander has made 37 consecutive starts of 100-plus pitches, which is tops in baseball all the way back to 1999, and probably a bit farther back, too. Second place boasts Felix Hernandez at 32 consecutive games from 2009-10, while Randy Johnson pops up multiple times. (Baseball-Reference)

UNSAVORY COMPARISON: Just three months into Jayson Werth's massive seven-year deal with Washington, and he's already being compared to another player who was a colossal bust on his own big deal, not that it was his fault for the team throwing ill-advised money at him. "Him" is Alfonso Soriano, and that's definitely company Werth does not want to be associated with. (Washington Post)

JONES HURTING: Chipper Jones admitted he shouldn't have played Tuesday after he received a cortisone shot for a meniscus tear as he is trying to avoid surgery. “I just didn’t feel right [Tuesday]," he said. "Not having that first step quickness, you favor it. It’s hard to stay on back of it right-handed, swinging the bat. Just one of those things we’ve got to continue to monitor and deal with.” For his part, Jones says he was perfectly fine for Wednesday's game. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FIGGINS BENCHED: Finally. Chone Figgins has been benched and has easily become one of the largest albatrosses in the game. Figgin's replacement is Kyle Seager, who was promoted from the minors and will stay at third for the foreseeable future. (Seattle Times)

BARGAIN: Who were the best bargains signed as free agents in the winter? There are some worthy candidates in Bartolo Colon, Erik Bedard, Ryan Vogelsong and Brandon McCarthy. Fine seasons, all. But the best bargain is another pitcher, Phil Humber. Hard to disagree. (MLB Daily Dish)

CRAWFORD EN ROUTE: The Red Sox can't wait to get Carl Crawford back, and it looks as if that will happen after the first series back, which is in Tropicana Field. The Sox want to avoid Crawford playing on artificial turf right away, so a July 18 return in Baltimore appears likely (Providence Journal)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 4:56 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 7:57 pm
 

On Deck: Battle in the Bronx

OD

By Matt Snyder


Five days games Wednesday, but that leaves 10 for the night time. We've heard -- and will continue to hear -- plenty about the Red Sox-Phillies series, so let's mix it up and check out three different games.

Division Leaders Square Off: Yeah, the Red Sox are actually in second place, so there's only one game between two teams in first place Wednesday, and that comes to us from the Bronx. The Yankees enter Wednesday night with a three-game winning streak and a 1-1/2 game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East. The Brewers have a two-game lead in the NL Central, but will be looking for a measure of revenge after being pummelled 12-2 by the Yankees Tuesday evening. Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.95) gets the nod for the Brewers, and he's 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in his last eight starts at Yankee Stadium (including both old and new). The Yankees send A.J. Burnett (7-6, 4.15), but the true draw in this game is the power on each side. Of the six players in the majors with 20-plus home runs on the season, three are playing in this game -- and that doesn't include Ryan Braun, A-Rod or a host of other sluggers. Milwaukee at New York (AL), 7:05 p.m. ET. Watch Live Scoring

Looking for No. 1: Davey Johnson took over as the Nationals manager Monday and he's lost his first two games. This comes after a stretch where the Nationals won 13 of 15 games and pushed themselves into the Wild Card picture. Wednesday, they'll look to get their new skipper his first victory against the Angels, who are 1-1/2 games out in the AL West. Upon first glance, the pitching matchup should favor the Angels, as it's Dan Haren (7-5, 3.05) against Jordan Zimmermann (5-6, 2.85), but look deeper. Zimmermann is 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA, 23 strikeouts and only six walks in June. Haren, on the other hand, is 3-3 with a 5.75 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in his last six starts. Washington at Los Angeles (AL), 7:05 p.m. ET. Watch Live Scoring

Picking Up Steam: Don't look now, but the hottest team in baseball is the defending World Series champions. The Giants have won seven games in a row. They've outscored opponents 34-16 in that span. Things shouldn't change much Wednesday night in Chicago, as the Giants send ace Tim Lincecum (6-6, 3.16) to the hill against the 32-48 Cubs. Lincecum scuffled a bit earlier this month, but looked just fine last time out, as the tossed seven shutout innings and struck out 12 in a win over the Twins. Ryan Dempster (5-6, 5.31) takes the hill for the Cubs, who are in fifth place in the NL Central and 12 games out of first place. San Francisco at Chicago (NL), 8:05 p.m. ET. Watch Live Scoring

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: June 28, 2011 9:31 am
Edited on: June 28, 2011 10:07 am
 

Pepper: Royals going to six-man rotation



BASEBALL TODAY: Will the Boston-Philly series live up to expectations with Josh Beckett facing Cliff Lee in the first of a three-game set? Will filing for bankruptcy protection save the Dodgers? C. Trent Rosencrans joins Lauren Shehadi to break it all down. Click on the video above to watch.

By Matt Snyder

TREND-SETTERS: The White Sox made news earlier this season when they shifted to a six-man rotation, as Philip Humber has been throwing far too well to remove from the rotation, and the other five members are all certainly good enough to merit remaining in the rotation. The Giants have faced questions on doing so when everyone is completely healthy, considering Ryan Vogelsong's ascent, but manager Bruce Bochy remains steadfast that they won't be going to six. The Royals, however, are ready to jump aboard with the White Sox plan (Kansas City Star). Their rotation is a bit less formidable than the White Sox or Giants, but the move comes with good, decent reasons. Rookie Danny Duffy is making progress in his development, so the Royals don't want to send him back down to the farm. Kyle Davies and his 7.46 ERA are returning from injury, while Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar and Felipe Paulino are out of options. Also, Jeff Francis has accrued enough service time in the bigs that he could reject an assignment to the minors and become a free agent. So if the Royals want to keep everyone, they have to go to six. Of course, they could move someone to the bullpen, but they don't want to do that. Instead they'll just carry less position players, which isn't a horrible thing in the AL, I guess. Still, seems a bit radical to force six into a rotation with so much mediocrity.

POT, MEET KETTLE? I personally stay out of the business where you label entire fan bases as more stupid, obnoxious, smart, respectful, etc. The reason is very simple: Every single fan base has morons. Every single fan base has intelligent fans. Every fan base has jerks, and every fan base has kind and respectful fans. I immediately disregard any comment that contains "all (insert team) fans are (insert insult)." This doesn't seem to be the majority opinion, however, as it's fun for fans to mock other fan bases and label them. With that in mind, I thought it was funny that a Philadelphia writer thought Boston fans have become obnoxious (Boston Herald's "Behind Enemy Lines" feature). Because, you know, tons of opposing fans point to Philly fans as obnoxious themselves. Honestly, it's too bad the Phillies and Red Sox are in different leagues. That could be a pretty sweet rivalry on many levels. I guess we'll have to settle for the World Series this year? Maybe?

TRIPLE-DOUBLE: In the Cubs' 7-3 win over the Rockies, three players hit two home runs each -- Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena for the Cubs and Carlos Gonzalez for the Rockies. No, this wasn't a game played in Coors Field, but the wind blowing out at Wrigley can make things quite hitter-friendly. It was the first time this had happened since 2006 and only the 13th time it happened since 2000. (Baseball-Reference blog)

MAYBE THIS TIME: Mat Gamel of the Brewers was once touted as the next big power bat to come through Milwaukee's system, but things stalled a bit. In 2009, he was given 148 plate appearances for the Brewers and hit just .242 with 54 strikeouts. Last season he was pretty bad when given a chance, though he was only granted 17 plate appearances. Still, he's only 25 and is tearing up Triple-A so far in 2011. He's hitting .321 with 18 homers, 58 RBI, 54 runs, 21 doubles and a .957 OPS. He's especially picked up the pace in June, as he's hit 10 of his home runs this month. With six games in AL parks coming this week, the Brewers have summoned him (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) and will likely use him as a DH or first baseman -- with Prince Fielder then serving as DH. If Gamel hits well, it will be interesting to see what the Brewers do moving forward. They're going to be in contention, but there's really no good defensive place for Gamel. And it's entirely possible he's the replacement at first for Fielder, if he walks as expected, next season.

SAVING J.J.: Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz was unavailable both Saturday and Sunday, but he's not injured. Instead, manager Kirk Gibson noted he's trying to "develop a bullpen" and also make sure Putz is still in tip-top shape come August and September. Putz picked up saves on three straight days prior to being unavailable, so it made perfect sense. (MLB.com)

DAVEY'S FIRST ROAD TRIP: Nationals new manager -- and the last one for 2011, presumably -- Davey Johnson flew with his ballclub from Chicago to Los Angeles and made a point to have an individual conversation with every player on the flight. One area he wants to improve immediately is the offense. “I definitely think this club has been an underachiever offensively. I don’t like to give up outs. I’ll bunt when I have to. I’ll hit and run when I feel like it. I think this club hasn’t quite come into it’s own. It doesn’t really know how good an offensive club it can be. It definitely has a chance to be a good one.” (Washington Times) What's funny is that Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman (and maybe Ian Desmond) are due to get hot, so that should improve the offense naturally. And Johnson will get some of the credit. Which is part of the give-and-take, of course. If the team starts playing worse, he'll get the blame, too.

JONNY COOL: Jonny Gomes of the Reds broke into the bigs for the Rays. He returned to Tropicana Field Monday night in interleague play, and his former teammates had nothing bad to say about him. In fact, they really like him. Andy Sonnanstine, B.J. Upton and James Shields in particular had high praise for Gomes as a teammate (TBO.com).

FALLACIOUS CLAIM: Josh Hamilton has been awful during the day, and he actually got an optometrist to agree with his assertion that the cause of this was the fact that Hamilton has blue eyes. It sounds ridiculous, and Fangraphs.com illustrates that it is, based upon historical data of blue-eyed players hitting during the day vs. their numbers at night. Best example: Mark Grace and his deep-blue eyes. He played tons of day games for the Cubs and was great throughout his career in day games.

"NEANDERTHALS: The legalization of gay marriage in New York has been a big source of conversation, apparently, in the Mets' clubhouse. Color commentator and formet Met Ron Darling has been particularly outspoken in favor of the passage, though many of the current players are reluctant to publicly speak about the issue -- and it's hard to blame them, as any answer would likely anger at least one fan. An interesting quote from an unnamed player, courtesy of the New York Daily News, is that most players believe professional sports locker rooms aren't ready to fully accept an openly gay teammate because "most of us are still Neanderthals."

DUSTY BOBBLEHEAD: I'm not as big a fan of bobbleheads as many fans, but the Dusty Baker one the Reds are giving away this coming Saturday is pretty cool, simply because it has a bin of toothpicks on it. We'll leave you with a video of the Reds players promoting the giveaway with glasses and the signature toothpick in the video below ...



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