Category:MLB
Posted on: June 22, 2008 9:21 pm
 

Campaign's over for three managers

Guys get hired and guys get fired all the time.

You work with them, enjoy some more than others and roll with it.

When Toronto fired John Gibbons, I couldn't help but smile while recalling a small moment from two springs ago.

Somehow, a few years back, I acquired a button that read: "George W. Bush: The Best Reason Yet for Canadian Citizenship."

Figuring I had the perfect person to whom it would make a funny gift, I brought it with me to Florida a couple of years ago and gave it to my buddy Jeff Blair, who covers baseball for the Toronto Globe and Mail. You know -- he's smart, pays attention to what's going on in the world, has a sense of humor, lives in Canada.

He laughed when I gave it to him that morning at Blue Jays camp, then got a devilish twinkle in his eyes.

When the workout was finished and maybe 15 of us reporters met with Gibbons, Blair waited until the session was about to start when he made a big elaborate presentation of the button to Gibbons.

Told him, "Scott Miller wanted me to give you this present. ..."

Gibbons is a Texas native.

He's a hard-core Republican.

And there Blair was, selling me out, telling the skipper that I brought the button for him.

Gibbons took the button from Blair, read it and started laughing. I, of course, immediately accused Blair of being an ungracious recipient of a gift, telling Gibbons that it was not meant for him at all.

The way the entire thing played out was pretty funny all around, and Gibbons and I joked about it a handful of times over these two years since -- me asking if he's been wearing his button, and him saying an unprintable word or two through a big smile. He's a good man, and a good baseball man, and I'm sure we'll see him somewhere around the game after he's finished de-compressing.

Which I'm sure he needs right about now. But sorry, John ... I don't have any parting gifts for you.

****

Speaking of Blair, this is one terrific quote from Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios that appeared in his story the day Gibbons was fired: "I don't want to talk about what happened today. We can talk about other stuff. How about boats?"

****

As San Diego manager Bud Black was saying the other day after Gibbons (Blue Jays), John McLaren (Mariners) and Willie Randolph (Mets) all were fired last week, "As baseball people, you're hardened to that sort of thing. It doesn't make it any easier, but you realize these things happen.

"It goes back to your days as a player. You have friends who get traded or released, and you know these guys are doing everything they can to help the team win, exhausting everything in their power."

****

My job is to stay as plugged in as possible, and I work very hard at it, but I've gotta say: I had NO idea that Willie Randolph was fired by Mr. Met.

This clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart is the television equivalent of crushing a fastball down the middle.

****

I've always gravitated more toward the personalities in baseball than the numbers, but still, this is absolutely mind-boggling:

When the Lakers blew that 24 point lead in Game 4 of the NBA Finals earlier this month, it was officially only the biggest collapse in 37 years ... because no records of Finals games before 1971 are available.

Say what?

That is absolutely stunning.

That same week, when Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th homer, I wondered how many at-bats it took him to move from 500 to 600 compared with Barry Bonds. I e-mailed David Vincent, home run expert for the Society for American Baseball Research, and within 15 minutes -- literally -- I had an answer.

It took Griffey 1,012 more at-bats than Bonds.

But don't ask the NBA about anything pre-1971.

Likes: Summer heat. ... C.C. Sabathia with the bat. ... Detroit's Marcus Thames: Eight consecutive hits were home runs, then he doubled on Friday and then walloped another homer on Saturday. Making it nine homers in a 10-hit stretch. ... The Drive-By Truckers at the Belly-Up Tavern in Solana Beach, Calif., on Friday night. Rockin' good time.

Dislikes: Man, these are ugly days for Houston. I'm not talking about the Astros losing nine of their past 11 games. I'm talking about those mid-1970s rainbow uniforms they wore Saturday night in Tampa Bay.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well we got no choice
"All the girls and boys
"Makin' all that noise
"'Cause they found new toys
"Well we can't salute ya
"Can't find a flag
"If that don't suit ya
"That's a drag"

-- Alice Cooper, School's Out

Posted on: June 17, 2008 1:05 am
Edited on: June 17, 2008 1:11 am
 

Ramblings of a madman

My God! A pitcher running the bases?

What could possibly be next?

A pitcher catching an infield pop-up? A pitcher fielding a ground ball?

Nooooo! Not that! Anything but that!

"My only message is simple: The National League needs to join the 21st century," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner huffed in the wake of Chien-Ming Wang's injured foot. "They need to grow up and join the 21st century."

Look, obviously pitchers should remain hermetically sealed and be packed in styrofoam peanuts between starts. We can all agree on that. Right?

But this problem of pitchers running the bases in NL games and interleague games ... hmmm.

OK, I got it. How about if we have ghost runners when a pitcher reaches base, like we did when we were kids and didn't have enough players to fill out the sides in pick-up games?

A pitcher reaches base, he's immediately yanked off the field and placed in a protective oxygen-chamber, or humidor, and replaced by a ghost runner who shall advance as many bases as the batter.

Oh, and ghost owners, too. That would be an improvement.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 16, 2008 4:31 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2008 4:32 pm
 

Lost at sea while Sexson cashes in

They sacrificed hitting coach Jeff Pentland last week and then fired general manager Bill Bavasi on Monday.

Now, if the Seattle Mariners really want to show their players and fans they mean business, they'll pull the plug on the miserable Richie Sexson at first base, play someone who at least has a chance and swallow whole what's left of Sexson's $14 million this season.

The club's play this season has been humiliating from all angles. The 22-45 record is the majors' worst, they were swept by Washington (who had the majors' worst record only a few days ago) over the weekend, they've lost seven consecutive home games and trail the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West by 17 1/2 games.

Bavasi, Mariners' GM since November, 2003, has been a short leash ever since that bizarre day two Septembers ago when Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln extended the contracts of both Bavasi and then-manager Mike Hargrove's contract while publicly affirming that each was on Lincoln's "hot seat."

What kind of message was that?

If you didn't have complete faith in them, why extend them?

Make no mistake, that's part of the reason the Mariners are in the shape they're in. It took the hands of many to muck things up this badly, not just Bavasi. The hiring of Hargrove back in October, 2004, was uninspired as well.

In retrospect, the fact that that Mariners were surprisingly competitive last season may have been the worst thing that could have happened to them. All it did was delay the inevitable: That this is a roster that needs to be blown to smithereens.

Sexson (.212, nine homers, 23 RBI, 64 strikeouts in 193 at-bats) continues to gum up the works. Jose Vidro as a designated hitter is an argument to simply let the pitchers bat. Adrian Beltre (.227) is a miserable situational hitter. Hell, most of these guys are: Somehow, Seattle won two of three in Toronto last week while scoring all of six runs. Against the Nationals over the weekend, they got 10 in three games.

So Lee Elia, Pentland's replacement, didn't come with a magic wand. Big surprise. That meltdown day earlier this month on which president Chuck Armstrong delivered a pre-game blistering to manager John McLaren and his coaching staff while McLaren issued a post-game tirade and Bavasi took away post-game food and towels and forced the players to stand by their lockers and face the media didn't work, either. Really?

Bavasi's assistant, Lee Pelekoudas, will take over as GM on an interim basis, mainly because somebody must fill the spot. The moves with Pentland and Bavasi are only the beginning.

This is a club in dire need of a complete overhaul, from the executive offices to the clubhouse.

Posted on: June 13, 2008 11:14 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2008 11:54 pm
 

Somebody take these targets off Atlanta's back

Not that Atlanta's recent run of injuries has bordered on the absurd, but a baseball came zooming out of the sky to knock slugger Chipper Jones out of the lineup Friday night in Anaheim.

Just like a meteor or something.

Actually, what happened was this: Jones, leading the majors with a .414 batting average, took a cut during batting practice, drilled the ball skyward ... but it slammed into one of the batting cage poles and ricocheted straight down, slamming into his left eye. Fortunately, the Braves announced late Saturday that X-rays were negative and are listing Jones as day-to-day.

For any other team, it might have been a freak thing.

For the Braves, who took a six-game losing streak into the weekend and were an embarrassing 7-24 on the road, it was business as usual.

The Braves currently have 10 players on the disabled list -- key players, like John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton, Mark Kotsay, Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan and a whole host of others.

Then there's reliever Rafael Soriano, who was just activated on June 2 but still can't (or won't) pitch on consecutive days.

And then there's Jair Jurrjens, who was scratched from Wednesday's start in Chicago when he turned an ankle falling down the stairs outside of the Wrigley Field visting clubhouse.

"We've had tough luck," said Tim Hudson, the rare member of the opening day rotation still standing, was saying not long before Jones took the ball off of his coconut and was lost Friday night. "Smoltz, Soriano ... nagging injuries throughout the year.

"Glavine's down. It's tough. We're not going to throw a pity party. It seems like every team is going through it. But we've been hit with some tough ones."

Even before Jones was taken for precautionary X-rays Friday night, the Braves put Smoltz on a conference call at midday to discuss his shoulder surgery. The legendary right-hander, though finished for the season, was optimistic on the call that he will come back.

Meantime, the Braves announced that tests revealed a small tear in Glavine's elbow but that he won't need surgery and should be back around the All-Star break.

It's not good at the back end of the bullpen, either, where Moylan last year developed into one of manager Bobby Cox's most trusted set-up men. Moylan had Tommy John ligament transfer surgery earlier this season.

"His stuff was as dirty as anyone's in the game," Hudson said.

Entering this weekend, 17 disabled list moves had cost the Braves 507 games.

Likes: The Iowa Boy Scouts. Now those are scouts. ... The halo on the Big A outside Angels Stadium being lit on nights following a victory but remaining dark on nights following a loss. ... David Letterman's Top Ten Signs an NBA Game is Fixed the other night, which included: 10. Game begins 20 minutes before visiting team arrives. 7. Missed three-pointers count for two points if they're "pretty close." 3. The team loses even though it led in points, delegates and the popular vote. ... The cab that Dave O'Brien, beat man for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Mark Bowman, of MLB.com, was involved in an accident on the Dan Ryan Freeway in Chicago on Friday morning as the pair were attempting to travel to Southern California. Good news is, it was a minor fender-bender and everyone was OK. But O'Brien, vice-president of the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America, and Bowman were forced to unload their bags from the cab and frantically hail another mode of transportation right there on the freeway. A Super Shuttle picked them up.

Dislikes: Sad, sad day when Tim Russert suddenly passes away at the far-too-young age of 58. Prayers for his family.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mama, take this badge off of me
"I can't use it anymore.
"It's gettin' dark, too dark for me to see
"I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door."

-- Bob Dylan, Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Posted on: June 12, 2008 8:09 pm
 

Down the road with Wood and Prior


You missed what undoubtedly was one of the season's more touching conversations last week. So did I.

See, you and I weren't privy to it when Cubs closer Kerry Wood picked up the telephone and called his old rotation-mate, Mark Prior.

Prior, battling more pain, was forced to abort another comeback attempt -- this one with San Diego -- last week to undergo another surgery. This time, Prior had another tear in his shoulder. This makes it two season-ending surgeries in two years for Prior.

Ironically, the 27-year-old right-hander was undergoing surgery while the Cubs were in San Diego last week. Wood phoned him just before Prior went under the knife.

"He's had the same s--- before," Wood said. "Hopefully, he'll get through this. He's been through it before."

There's nobody else in the world who could talk with either of these two men as knowingly and honestly as they can talk with each other. Can't be. Nobody has lived through what Wood and Prior lived through in Chicago in the early 2000s, attempting to live up to those incredibly lofty (and, as it turned out, unreal) expectations, battling the injuries, never quite living up to what Cubs fans hoped.

Five outs from the 2003 World Series and it never would get any better than that. Prior started Games 2 and 6 against Florida in the '03 NL Championship Series; Wood started Games 3 and 7.

When the Cubs blew it, everybody braced for Prior and Wood to lead them to the promised land in '04 or, surely, by '05.

Never happened. There was soreness and pain and ice and the disabled list.

Now Wood's career as a starter is ostensibly finished, and he's thriving as the Cubs' closer.

Prior already seems washed up at 27. He's finished for this season, but vows to make another comeback attempt in 2009.

"He'll get through this, and hopefully he gets the chance to be healthy and pitch again," Wood said. "And if he doesn't, he's got a great family.

"He'll be OK."

Likes: David Ortiz becoming a U.S. citizen. How cool is it that Big Papi cares enough to do that? ... Tampa Bay. What an exciting, athletic, smart team. ... Kerry Wood's success as Cubs closer. He's been through so much, and he's so competitive, it's nice to see him finally healthy and having some success. ... The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. ... WGN running Nostalgia Night, or whatever it's called, and breaking out the WKRP in Cincinnati reruns. ... Correcting an old error by picking up a two-disc Dusty Springfield set. The error: Buying the Shelby Lynne disc of her interpreting some of Dusty's classics. No soul at all in that disc. Teaches me a lesson to just go for the original in the first place. Valuable lesson in a lot of areas.

Dislikes: Come on, give Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball from home run No. 600. The bickering is ridiculous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well she was blond and tall
"She was 23
"Brought into the world
"To get the best of me
"And she never paid back
"Half what she stole
"She wanted my money
"So I gave her my soul"

-- Mudcrutch, The Wrong Thing to Do


Posted on: June 10, 2008 11:49 pm
 

Boats, beaches, AC and the Rays

Not only is one Tampa resident with a pretty good major-league background happy to see Tampa Bay's ascent this season, he's thrilled at the prospect of the Rays finally getting closer to a new ballpark, too.

But you can rest assured that Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who managed the Rays from 2003-2005, would do things a bit differently if someone handed him a draftsman's table and pencil.

"I hope so," he said when someone asked him whether he thinks the fans eventually will turn out to watch this Rays team during a conversation last week. "I hope the fans do turn out.

"I wasn't really crazy about the idea they had for a new ballpark, though."

The initial drawings for Tampa Bay's new baseball stadium look very cool. Plans are for it to be built on the site of historical Al Lang Field, the longtime spring training facility, right on the St. Petersburg waterfront.

It resembles a big sailboat, with a retractable roof that will be comprised of a light, weatherproof fabric. The idea is to shield the field from rain while leaving an open-air feel to the park. The club is advertising "sweeping waterfront views."

Mostly sounds pretty good.

What's not to like?

"I think they need (a park) like Houston's," Piniella said. "Open-air tent, Al Lang Field ... there's no parking down there. It's not an air-conditioned dome, which is what they need.

"It rains quite a bit in Florida in the summer in the late afternoon. It's muggy. If I had anything to do with it, which I don't, I'd build a ballpark just like Houston's. It would work in Tampa and it would work in Miami.

"They've got that tent thing. A hurricane comes, there won't be a tent there anymore."

Whatever, the feeling here is, anything is better than the catwalks in Tropicana Field. And the St. Pete waterfront is a beautiful location.

Now, all they need is -- gulp -- to secure the funding to get it done. Right now it must be approved via public referendum, so the pressure is on the Rays to get it onto the November ballot in the city of St. Petersburg.

They do that, they've got a chance to be in a new park by Opening Day 2012.

They don't, the battle continues.

Likes: Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th. Here's to the The Kid doing it the right way. ... Longtime Mets beat writer Marty Noble, now covering the team for mlb.com, acknowledging that pitcher Wil Ledezma spells his first name oddly but concluding that "you can't blame a pitcher for giving up an extra 'L'." ... Marc Topkin, veteran Tampa Bay beat writer for the St. Petersburg Times, delivering a box of In-N-Out burgers to the Rays' radio men, Andy Freed and Dave Wills, at Angels Stadium before Tuesday's game. Inexplicably, neither of the two -- both in their fourth seasons -- had ever had In-N-Out. ... Bob Nightengale's feature on Mike Scioscia in USA Today, specifically the revelation that Scioscia proposed to his wife of 23 years, Anne, over a drive-thru dinner of In-N-Out burgers. I told Scioscia on Tuesday that that might be my favorite thing I've heard this season. "That double-double was good," Scioscia responded, grinning broadly. I think he meant it tasted even better after his then-fiance said yes, but I can't be sure. ... Tampa Bay outfielders Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. Not only are they talented on the field, they get it off of the field. ... The latest disc from the Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation's Dark. Some terrific stuff on there.

Dislikes: Let's just say I had to fill up my car with gas today.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"He likes to drink a beer or two every now and again,
"He always had more dogs than he ever had friends
"Bob ain't light in the loafers
"He might kneel but he never bends over"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Bob

Posted on: June 9, 2008 11:27 pm
 

Griffey's 600th means even more today

Think about this for a minute:

It took Ken Griffey Jr. a total of 1,722 at-bats to move from career homer No. 500 to career homer 600, which he slugged on Monday night in Florida.

It took Barry Bonds only 710 at-bats to cover the same distance from 500 to 600.

Each man hit No. 600 when he was 38.

Think there was a level playing field?

Granted, Griffey has had his share of injuries, which is why nearly four years elapsed between No. 500, struck on June 20, 2004, and 600. He missed the second half of the 2004 season with a torn hamstring, and he missed nearly a month of the 2006 season with a strained knee.

It took Bonds barely more than one year to move from 500 to 600 -- from April 17, 2001, to Aug. 9, 2002.

The years can be skewed. Say one player stays healthy and the other is injury-plagued -- well, of course it will take longer for the player battling the disabled list.

But at-bats are a pretty good barometer.

I knew Bonds moved along at a breakneck clip in the early 2000s. But when I contacted home run guru David Vincent, who tracks homers for the Society for American Baseball Research and is the country's premier expert on the subject, even I was stunned.

The fact that it took Griffey roughly 1,000 more at-bats than Bonds to move from 500 to 600 is staggering. Even suspecting what most of us suspect about Bonds and the Steroid Era.

A junkie (home runs, not human growth hormone) could spend hours poring over Vincent's fascinating spreadsheets.

A handful of other relative home run numbers gleaned from Vincent's numbers:

Of the six members of the 600-homer club, nobody was even remotely as quick as Bonds in moving from No. 500 to 600. It took Babe Ruth 1,120 at-bats to do so, Sammy Sosa 1,605, Hank Aaron 1,402 and Willie Mays 1,981.

Time-wise, it took Ruth barely more than two years (Aug. 11, 1929, to Aug. 21, 1931) to go from 500 to 600, Aaron a little less than three years (July 14, 1968, to April 27, 1971), Mays nearly four years on the nose (Sept. 13, 1965, to Sept. 22, 1969) and Sosa a little more than four years (April 4, 2003, to June 20, 2007).

Of course, Sosa was out of the game in 2006 -- partly for reasons beyond suspicious -- else he would have gotten there more quickly.

Bonds finished -- if he is indeed finished -- with 762 home runs in 9,847 at-bats.

Griffey currently is at 600 in 9,045 at-bats. And had he not lost an estimated 450 games to the disabled list from the time he arrived in Cincinnati in 2000 through 2005, his number today undoubtedly would be far higher than 600.

Probably not as high as 762.

But at least Griffey almost certainly can look himself in the mirror today and know he is the first clean guy to join the 600 club since Aaron in 1971.

In a statistics-driven game that is still wiping the steroids muck off of the record book, some things are more important than the raw numbers.

Posted on: June 5, 2008 1:52 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2008 2:04 pm
 

Good ship Mariner sinking quickly

I can't tell you how disgusted I am by the incident in Seattle.

The two lesbians making out in the Safeco Field stands the other night who were told by an usher to knock it off, thus provoking outrage all over the city?

Heck, no.

The appalling, revolting and utterly reprehensible play of the Mariners, baseball's most underachieving team.

The Mariners are one loose bolt from the wheels completely coming off. I don't think I've ever heard of a day quite like the one they had on Wednesday:

-- Club president Chuck Armstrong aired out manager John McLaren and his coaches behind closed doors before that afternoon's game with the Angels, and media reports from Safeco were that Armstrong's displeasure could be heard by others, through the door, loud and clear.

-- McLaren delivered a brutally frank, expletive-filled tirade minutes after the Angels finished sweeping the Mariners.

-- In the immediate aftermath of the loss, general manager Bill Bavasi ordered the Mariners players to be stationed at their lockers and face up to their embarrassing play.

-- Losing pitcher Carlos Silva, who's only been a Mariner for two months, said afterward that certain players were more concerned with getting their hits than how the team fares.

I don't know what you think of public displays of affection by a couple  of women.

I do know that the way some of these Mariners are stealing money from the club -- hello, Richie Sexson -- is completely immoral.

It's evident that wholesale housecleaning is coming soon. It has to. By the time this sewage spill of a season is finished, the Mariners probably are going to have to wind up replacing Bavasi and McLaren at a minimum.

And starting with Sexson -- who is owed $16 million in this, the final season of his contract -- they're going to have to blow up this roster and start anew.

I don't particularly enjoy being subjected to any public displays of affection -- be it heterosexual or otherwise.

But I'll tell you this: If you're sitting in the Safeco Field stands, even watching two baboons grope each other would be better viewing than the Mariners.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com