Posted on: August 22, 2011 1:48 pm
All this talk about Dan Uggla, Andre Ethier and hitting streaks this season, the Rangers have had quite the hit streak of their own lately, you know:
Nearly two weeks ago, Aug. 11 to be exact, snapped a streak of 40 consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures in Dallas. A record? Close: It just missed the 1980 Dallas-area record of 42 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.
That the Rangers played on, unaffected, and continued to thrive is yet another testament to the current group of strong-willed players constructed by club president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington: When was the last time you heard talk that the Rangers won't make it to October because they'll wilt in the heat?
Used to be an annual topic of conversation.
Yet this summer, the hottest on record in Dallas since Pat Corrales' Rangers went 76-85 and finished fourth in the AL West in '80, so far hasn't even come close to melting Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Co.
As the Red Sox arrive for a three-game series starting with an excellent pitching match-up Monday -- new Boston acquisition Erik Bedard vs. C.J. Wilson -- the first-place Rangers have produced their third-best record ever after 128 games (73-55).
"We monitor it," manager Ron Washington says of the heat. "We go out in it, we don't go out in it, we've still gotta play in it.
"You work in it less. We'll have weeks where we will have worked out in the heat for three days, and on four days we did not. But you've gotta get your work in to get used to it."
During the 40-day streak of temps of 100 or higher, the Rangers played 22 home games. They went 16-6.
"It's our home-field advantage," pitching coach Mike Maddux says. "We take our pitchers out in the heat of day. That's when we do our running, and throw in the bullpen.
"We see it as a challenge: 'I'm going to out-last the other guy.'"
The absence of third baseman Adrian Beltre, out since July 22 with a strained left hamstring, has hobbled the Rangers more than the heat has suffocated them.
And it remains scorching: When the 40-day streak of 100 ended on Aug. 11, it wasn't exactly with a cooling trend. The temperature reached 98 that day.
More of the same is awaiting the Red Sox and Rangers this week: Highs of 104 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday, 102 Wednesday and back up to 104 Thursday.
The Angels follow Boston in on Friday for another AL West showdown. Again, the high is predicted to be 104 on Friday.
"There are nights when we're dragging," Washington says. "But really, who wouldn't drag in that stuff?"
Likes: Absolutely fantastic job by the Padres on Sunday in the ceremony retiring legendary closer Trevor Hoffman's No. 51. One of the best I've ever seen. They presented him with a 1958 Cadillac convertible, based on the stories Hoffman has told regarding how his late father, Ed, loved to drive the family around in a convertible. They brought plenty of ex-teammates and coaches back. And in the best move of the day, the Padres tracked down an old video of Ed Hoffman singing the national anthem at Fenway Park on opening day in 1981 when Trevor's brother, Glenn, played for the Red Sox. Watching Trevor, his wife Tracy and his mother Nikki watch that video -- and brothers Greg and Glenn -- if your eyes weren't moist, then you weren't human. ... Reading the book ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun. Some entertaining stories, and it's written at a fast-moving clip (oral-history style). But it's a guilty read, too: I can't help but think, don't I have more important things to read? ... If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to Netflix (or rent or whatever) Win Win on DVD. It's terrific. Paul Giamatti as a small-town New Jersey lawyer and wrestling coach who is struggling in both areas. ... College football in less than two weeks.
Dislikes: Where, oh where, are the exciting playoff races?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"In between the stops at the Cracker Barrel
"And 40 movies with Will Ferrell
"I need some way to occupy my time
"So I'm writing you a road song
"I sure hope you don't mind"
-- Fountains of Wayne, A Road Song
Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:03 pm
Well, that sure went pffft in a hurry at the Big A.
Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum on May 11: "Kendrys worked as hard as any athlete I've ever worked with in coming back from a devastating injury, and he hasn't been able to do it."
So, to review how this week has gone for the Angels: Morales to the surgeon's table (again), and Vernon Wells to the disabled list (groin). Groan, and grin. What are you going to do? Especially with a big weekend series coming up in Texas.
After Wells left in the fourth inning Monday, Kendrick started each of the next two games in left field.
Total major-league time in the outfield for Kendrick since 2006 until now: Two-thirds of an inning, in center field, last year. Mostly, Kendrick has played second base for the Angels, with some first base mixed in.
"There's no question he can move around," Scioscia says. "Howie's a terrific athlete. He has the speed to play center field. Outfield is a great option for a guy with his athleticism."
The overriding factor is that the Angels want to make sure Kendrick's bat stays in the lineup. He's hitting .320 through the first 38 games, with a .381 on-base percentage. Torii Hunter has been predicting for years that Kendrick one day will win a batting title. Until now, nobody ever figured it could be as an outfielder.
But while Morales is out for the season, the Angels do not expect Wells to be out much more than a couple of weeks. So don't get any ideas about Kendrick permanently moving to the outfield.
"We're doing this purely on a need basis," Scioscia says. "He shags balls, he's fine tracking the ball, he runs good routes ... I don't think it's too far removed to ask a player to do what he's doing."
-- Kendrick's move is a little like that of the Twins' Michael Cuddyer in reverse. When Orlando Hudson went down last year, manager Ron Gardenhire for a time moved Cuddyer, a former high school shortstop, from right field to second base.
-- Three key young players playing unexpected pivotal roles for the Angels each was drafted under Eddie Bane, who was fired as the Angels' director of scouting last fall: Pitcher Tyler Chatwood (second round, 2008), first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo (18th round, 2004) and catcher Hank Conger (first round, 2006). Also chosen under Bane: Mike Trout, currently at Double-A Arkansas and listed by Baseball America as the game's second-best prospect. Just sayin'.
-- Talk to me about that Giants' pitching: Look who's back in first place in the NL West following a picture-perfect homestand in which they swept division rivals Colorado (three games) and Arizona (three more). And as is always the case with San Francisco, the prime reasons for the surge are cats named Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, etc. In making their move this week, the Giants, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first team in major league history to sweep a homestand of six-or-more games without scoring more than four runs in any game.
-- Most stunning statistic of the year: Tampa Bay through midweek had the best bullpen in the American League based on its league-leading 2.71 ERA (fourth-best in the majors). For a team that was forced to replace seven of its top eighth relievers from 2010 over the winter (based on innings pitched), you sure couldn't tell.
-- The flip side of that preceding Rays' bullpen statistic, though, is this: As it so often is with good bullpens, no small part of the Rays' success can be attributed to a knockout rotation that works deep into games and does not overtax the relievers. While the Rays' bullpen ERA is the AL's best, their 93 innings pitched are the fewest of any big league bullpen.
-- A few more things on this crazy White Sox six-man rotation: Pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen have instructed the four starters not named Mark Buehrle or Jake Peavy -- that would be John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson and Phil Humber -- to be prepared to work out of the bullpen, if needed, on the second and third days after their starts. "We don't want to use them, and we'll try not to use them," Cooper says.
-- Another benefit, from the Sox's view, of the six-man rotation: "If one of them is at seven innings and 95 pitches, he can go back out there because he'll have an extra day [before his next start]," Cooper says. The pitching coach also has delivered a pre-emptive strike against any moaning by someone claiming to be thrown off rhythm after a loss: He's told each of his starters that "the only people who have a right to be thrown out of whack by this are the opposing hitters, not us."
-- One side benefit of Jake Peavy's last minor-league rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte, at Toledo, last week: He was able to share a beer and catch up with ex-teammate Phil Nevin following the game. Nevin is managing the Mud Hens.
-- Cool promotion of the year: Farmer John, which makes Dodger Dogs, is donating 30,000 pounds of food to local food banks on the heels of Andre Ethier's 30-game hitting streak. Farmer John already is donating 1,000 pounds of food for every Ethier homer this year.
-- News that Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew has entered hospice care and is in the final days of his treatment for cancer is a blow. Killebrew is one of the game's true gentlemen, just a prince of a man who means so much to the Twins family. Prayers for him and family on this incredibly sad weekend.
Likes: The Orioles continue to show grit under manager Buck Showalter. Thursday night's win over Seattle was a terrific game, scoreless into the 12th, and it was one the old Orioles would have lost when the Mariners scored in the top of the 12th. ... Who is this Carlos Beltran man who slugged three homers the other day? ... SiriusXM radio and the MLB package. So cool to be able to listen to every game and each team's broadcasting crew. ... Steve Earle on Treme last week. ... The Cars on tour beginning Thursday night in Los Angeles. What the heck, as long as Ric Ocasek is along for the ride. ...
Dislikes: Ernie Harwell, Sparky Anderson, and now Harmon Killebrew says he is in his final days. We've lost some really special people over the past year, some all-time nice guys.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"As time wore on you proved
-- The Decemberists, The Mariner's Revenge Song
Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:43 pm
-- The Yankees are doing exactly what they need to do in the first few weeks of the season, and that's take advantage of home cooking. They opened with 11 of 14 games at home, and through May 1, they play 18 of their first 25 games at home. So far, they're 10-5 at home, and they've got a chance to continue to pad their home record while they play 46 of their first 79 games at Yankee Stadium. The flip side, and the reason it is important for Joe Girardi's club to build up as much collateral at home as possible: From Aug 1 through season's end, the Yankees are home just 20 times (nine home games in August and 11 in September).
-- Zo-Rilla is back: Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist has crushed four homers in his past five games, including one each in Thursday's day-night doubleheader in Minnesota. He had a monster doubleheader, collecting 10 RBI, giving him 18 over his last five games and 25 for the season. Impressive, yes, but his best moment might have come right after the game when he quipped to reporters, "This must be what it's like to feel like Sam Fuld."
-- Tampa Bay is 13-3 since April 10 which, yes, is the best record in the majors since that date.
-- Kansas City was the last team in the majors to lose a series this season, and now look at the Royals: six losses in a row. The Yankees were the last team in the majors to lose consecutive games, to the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.
-- Seattle's historically bad offense last summer looks positively Ruthian compared to what the Padres are doing (or, rather, NOT doing) so far this season. San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez-less lineup has been shut out seven times in the month of April. That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a major-league record. When the Padres score just ONE run, they're 9-9.
-- Yes, it's a different deal this year for the Padres from their 90-win team of a year ago. Ryan Ludwick (.202, four homers, 11 RBI), Brad Hawpe (.143, 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats), Orlando Hudson (.238, .300 on-base percentage) and Jason Bartlett (.231) have gotten off to miserably slow starts, and there are growing questions regarding whether cavernous Petco Park is defeating hitters mentally. That was one key to last year's group -- which included David Eckstein, the Hairston brothers, Jerry Jr. and Scott, and Tony Gwynn Jr. -- the bottom line was winning, and there was no griping about Petco. "You've got to be mentally tough to get through some things," Padres manager Bud Black says. "That's part of being a total player, part of being a total, major league professional player. It works the same way if you're a pitcher in a small park. It works the same way for pitchers in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Houston."
-- The Dodgers' Andre Ethier takes a 24-game hitting streak into this weekend's series with San Diego, but it could be in jeopardy Friday night. Ethier lifetime is hitting .077 (1 for 13) against Padres starter Clayton Richard.
Likes: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying the other day he has his closer -- outfielder Brent Lillibridge -- following Lillibridge's great, diving catches in Yankee Stadium. ... Andre Ethier's hitting streak at 24 games. ... The way Brandon Phillips always refers to the "Redlegs", not the "Reds", in his tweets (@DatDudeBP). ... Great casting on Hawii Five-O. Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan (son of James) are really good together. ... First listen reaction to Steve Earle's new disc I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive: Outstanding. The disc might even be better than the title.
Dislikes: If you see me at Fast Five, please come up and say hello. Maybe that would then distract me from my next move: Jumping off of a bridge. Man, summer movie season stinks.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now listen youngster, be on your way
-- Little Esther, Aged and Mellow Blues
Tags: Andre Ethier, Ben Zobrist, Brad Hawpe, Brandon Phillips, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Jason Bartlett, Joe Girardi, Kansas City Royals, Little Esther, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Orlando Hudson, Ozzie Guillen, Ryan Ludwick, Sam Fuld, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Steve Earle, Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: April 8, 2011 9:15 pm
Nevertheless, they were sad, disappointed and stunned -- stunned at Friday's news, and surprised that whatever system of checks and balances Manny uses, that he would put himself in a position to get zapped again.
"That's bad," said shortstop Rafael Furcal, a teammate of Manny's from 2008-2010. "Oh my God.
"I promise you, he does not want to retire. I don't know what happened.
"For me, it's sad."
Ramirez abruptly retired Friday, just five games into Tampa Bay's season, rather than face the penalty for a second drug bust: A 100-game suspension.
Throughout the game, people were adjusting their views of what he accomplished during his 19-year career, which now includes becoming the first (and, so far, only) player to get popped twice for failing PED tests.
"A little bit," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, Ramirez's hitting coach in Los Angeles from the time he landed on July 31, 2008, until the club allowed the White Sox to take him as a waiver claim last Aug. 30. "It's hard not to wonder what's what.
"You just don't know. That's the hardest part."
Part of not knowing the "what's what" with Ramirez, from the Dodgers' perspective, now includes his torrid run two-month run immediately upon joining the club in '08 during which he pretty much carried the Dodgers into the playoffs.
"I think you look at all guys, when it comes out like that," Mattingly said. "You wonder about the last seven or eight years. You wonder about Boston [where Manny played from 2001-2008].
"You wonder about all of it."
Though echoes of Ramirez's Dodgers past continue to reverberate in the organization, it's not like he left behind many close friends. Outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both said they texted some with Manny during the winter but had not heard from him since spring training started. Furcal said he hasn't been in contact with Ramirez since he left Los Angeles last August.
"I didn't think this would happen again," Ethier said. "I don't think if this hadn't happened, [retirement] would be his decision.
"Unfortunately, circumstances forced him out of the game. I don't know if he felt uncomfortable, or he didn't have the confidence, to be the old Manny."
Or, perhaps, the skills.
"I don't even know what to say," Kemp said. "I haven't talked to him in awhile."
Furcal said the news "caught me by surprise" when a reporter told him what had happened with Ramirez shortly after the shortstop's arrival in the clubhouse Friday afternoon.
"That's bad," Furcal said. "He's still young. He's only 38 years old. He can still play.
"You never know what happens in other people's minds."
The Dodgers still owe Ramirez roughly $20 million in deferred salary through 2013. That is money still owed that will not be affected by his retirement.
Posted on: May 16, 2010 8:29 pm
The most significant thing about the Dodgers' seven-game winning streak is found behind the numbers:
They've put all of that together without shortstop Rafael Furcal (strained hamstring) and opening day starter Vicente Padilla (right elbow soreness), who are on the disabled list, and they've won the last two games without Andre Ethier (fractured right pinky).
The Ethier loss is still fluid, and the Dodgers will not know until later this week whether they'll have to place him on the disabled list.
If he misses significant time, it will make life tough on the Dodgers because, as Sunday's games started, Ethier led the NL in all three Triple Crown categories: Batting average (.392), home runs (11) and RBI (38). In fact, he leads the majors in two of those categories -- average and RBI.
Manager Joe Torre said following Sunday's 1-0 win in San Diego that the plan is to "wait a couple of days" and "let some of the soreness come out. Then we'll see what he can do with it and decide if that's enough.
"The last thing I want is for him to go out and do something and get into bad habits."
Ethier injured himself in the batting cage before Saturday night's game while in the midst of his regular pre-game routine. Torre said Ethier's right pinky finger -- on his bottom hand as the lefty swings the bat -- always has had a tendency to slip off the knob and sort of fall behind the bat handle. That leaves the bat handle threading through Ethier's right ring and pinky fingers.
The fracture is in the area of the first knuckle of Ethier's right pinky -- the one closest to the fingernail.
Torre said the trainers will place the finger in "some kind of splint" to immobilize it and hope it calms down in a day or two.
"A lot depends on what we find out over the next couple of days," Torre said. "As far as his comfort level."
"It's big because we've put a streak together for ourselves where we've played good baseball and gotten good pitching," Torre said. "We were fumbling around early trying to get a good feel."
"It's been good," said first baseman James Loney, whose clutch home run helped win Saturday's game.
The Dodgers now are 17-7 in games when they hit at least one homer, and 3-10 when they don't homer.
One other significant stat: They're now 12-3 in games against NL West opponents. Cleaning up within the division is exactly how they won the NL West in 2009: They went 46-26 against the Padres, Giants, Rockies and Diamondbacks.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:31 pm
Unless you were watching it already: Fabulous running catch by Pittsburgh left-fielder Lastings Milledge to rob Andre Ethier of extra bases with one out in the third inning Monday. Milledge had a long run before making the grab practically over his shoulder on the left-center warning track.
Pretty cool way to spend his 25th birthday, by the way. Milledge, not Ethier.
Posted on: October 14, 2008 2:26 am
LOS ANGELES -- Remember how we talked about how much the Los Angeles Dodgers have grown? Like, in the aftermath of Game 3?
Well, now we're in the aftermath of Philadelphia's 7-5 Game 4 win.
And what we've learned is the Dodgers still have lots of maturing to do.
So what happens?
Up next, Andre Ethier swings at the first pitch. He doesn't look a couple over. He doesn't make Romero work at all. Just swings away. And grounds into a double play.
The Dodgers now trail 3 games to 1, and they're in a world of hurt with Cole Hamels starting Game 5 for Philadelphia.
"It was big, man," Romero said of Ethier's double-play ground ball. "Eighth inning, you don't want a rally. I had tried to work Rafael away, because he's productive when people come in on him."
But Romero worked him too far away.
Then he couldn't believe his good fortune when Ethier hacked at the first pitch, and beat it into the ground toward shortstop.
"I really thought he was going to take one pitch," Romero said. "Yes, he's a good hitter. Maybe he saw the pitch he wanted, in his wheelhouse. But it was a good pitch. I'm happy with it."
He should be. The Phillies, with just one World Series win in their history, are one triumph away from getting a chance at No. 2.
Ethier? Many more poorly executed at-bats like that, he and his mates will be starting their winter very soon.