Tag:Van Morrison
Posted on: May 20, 2008 4:20 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2008 4:39 pm

I thought he HAD retired

Mike Piazza formally announced his retirement Tuesday. No farewell tour, no rocking chairs and no standing ovations.

Another character from baseball's Steroids Era just sort of quietly disappearing into the good night.

He finishes with 427 home runs (39th on baseball's all-time list); 1,335 RBI (80th); a .922 OPS (47th) and 12 All-Star appearances. No catcher in major-league history hit more homers than Piazza -- he passed Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk in 2004.

All of this, and yet I'm going to need every bit of his required five-year waiting period to wrestle with the question of whether I'm going to check his name when it appears on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Because nearly as surprising as his ascent from being a 62nd-round draft pick was the fact that his name did not appear in last winter's Mitchell Report.

Bulked up as he was during the peak of his career, Piazza did not pass the eye test in the late 1990s and early 2000s while clubbing 30-plus homers a season. And he did not pass the eye test again toward the end of his career when he mysteriously seemed to wither away.

Is it fair?

If Piazza never juiced then, hell, no.

But if those offensive numbers are artificially inflated, well, then, is THAT fair to all of the other players who did things the right way?

It's terrible that this is the prism through which we must view things today. But by irresponsibly opposing drug testing for years, Don Fehr and the players' union have brought this on themselves.

Likes: What a great story, Jon Lester throwing a no-hitter. ... That the only other no-hitter ever pitched against Kansas City was by none other than Nolan Ryan. ... The Cubs' Geovany Soto cracking an inside-the-park homer. That's the only play more exciting than a triple. ... This Los Angeles Times story on singer Sly Stone's interest in making a comeback. It contains one of the best quotes I've read anywhere all year. Context: A "golden moment" for Sly and the Family Stone was at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, during which the band performed the song Higher and a crowd of 400,000 sang the words back. Now, from the story, here's Sly: "Everybody I saw was full of peace, it was a spirit there that was just peaceful and cool. The thing I really remember is I went to whatever was the main street there and I got a bologna sandwich. And it was so hot. And I never open a sandwich to look what's going on, but somehow I thought that time that I would do that. Because it was hot and I didn't think bologna sandwiches were hot. And I opened it and there were people running across the meat. And, I thought, 'Whoa.'" ...

Dislikes: Don't want to hear any more about the umpires blowing Carlos Delgado home run call against the Yankees the other night. It was an 11-2 game. The Mets won. Because it was in New York, though, we're going to hear about it for weeks, and the periodic debate about instant replay will be going strong. ... Madonna's new disc, Hard Candy. Not that I'm a big Madonna fan to begin with, but I do enjoy all sorts of music and I like some of Madonna's earlier stuff -- Material Girl, Angel, whatever. But I picked up Hard Candy for my wife for Mother's Day, and most of it gives meaning to the word "monotony." It stinks.

"Into this life we're born
"Baby, sometimes we don't know why
"And time seems to go by so fast
"In the twinkling of an eye
"Let's enjoy it while we can
"Won't you help me sing my song
"From the dark end of the street
"To the bright side of the road"

-- Van Morrison, Bright Side of the Road

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 20, 2008 4:11 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2008 4:16 pm
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Posted on: April 26, 2008 1:28 am

Look out, here comes the Big Unit

Brandon Webb is 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA, Micah Owings is 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA and Dan Haren is 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA. The Arizona Diamondbacks, with baseball's best record (17-6), already have that invincible look, that this-is-the-year feeling.

And if Randy Johnson continues his slow, steady ascent, there's no telling how high these Snakes can go.

Johnson still didn't look like his old, dominant self in his third start of 2008 Friday night, but nobody expects him to -- and he doesn't need to be that guy, anyway. In limiting the punchless San Diego Padres to a run and three hits over six innings in a 5-1 whipping, Johnson evened his record at 1-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.70.

These are solid numbers for any starting pitcher.

For a 44-year-old on a team simply looking for a consistent No. 3 or 4 starter?


Johnson doesn't go 97, 98 m.p.h. like he once did, but following two back surgeries in two years, he's got enough and he's getting better. Arizona manager Bob Melvin noted one 96 m.p.h. fastball Friday, one at 95 and several at 94.

"His velocity picked up considerably," Melvin said. The skipper noted that the Big Unit's location was better, his split-finger fastball was improved and he consistently pounded the strike zone with his inside fastball as well.

"I feel like I'm getting where I want to be," Johnson said. "I'm still not happy -- I'm walking too many people (two Friday; nine in his three starts), but it's a step in the right direction."

Johnson came back tentatively against San Francisco on April 14, throwing 90 pitches over five innings, walking four and striking out seven in a no-decision. The Giants thought he looked OK, but not much more.

Johnson was marginally better six days later, throwing 104 pitches over 5 2/3 innings in a 9-4 loss Sunday, walking three and striking out seven. Though he surrendered six runs, only four were earned, and he held the Padres to one run through five innings.

Friday night? Six innings, longest outing of the season, and it took him only 94 pitches. Granted, the Padres are less dangerous than a neutered kitten right now, but Johnson pretty much kept it in cruise control. And, he sacrifice bunted in the third, singled up the middle in the fourth, sprung off of the mound in the fifth to make a play on Scott Hairston's weak chopper toward third ... in other words, he played the game.

"That was a heck of a play," Melvin said of fielding Hairston's ball. "I was thinking to myself, 'Don't even try that.'"

He did, though, despite the fact that in a very limited spring training, he did very little fielding work and not much hitting, either.

He spoke afterward of needing to make sure everything he does is constructive, done for a purpose. He doesn't need to be Rickey Henderson on the bases, he said, noting a play last year in which he slid into third base.

"My back wasn't the same after that," said Johnson, who was not able to pitch after June last year.

"There are going to have to be times when I may have to miss a start," he said while plotting for continued strength and the stamina and health to make it all the way to the finish line this year. "I don't want to, but that's the way it is."

If Johnson misses a start here or there in exchange for pitching fairly regularly for the rest of the season, it's a bargain the Diamondbacks will gladly strike.


While Johnson was good, San Diego's lineup right now is terrible. The Padres have managed only six runs in their past 62 innings in Petco Park, and they now have not homered in their past 86 innings at Petco. Their last homer at home came way back on April 4, when Brian Giles slammed one in the sixth inning of a game with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ouch.

Likes: Tampa Bay, four-game winning streak and 12 wins matching their most ever after their first 23 games. ... Washington outfielder Elijah Dukes spending several hours cleaning cages and mopping at a Tampa, Fla.-area zoo in the past week as part of a deal to shorten his probation from a drug charge. ... San Diego's Brian Giles having Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London played for his at-bats at home on the nights Randy Wolf starts. ... Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery giving two thumbs up to the Mudcrutch show at San Francisco's Fillmore Theater last week. Mudcrutch? Looking forward to the new disc coming out next week from the group, which is the reformation of an old Florida band and Tom Petty's current side project. And Petty is playing bass. ... Tina Fey on David Letterman the other night. ... Tyler Hansborough staying at North Carolina for his senior season. ... Friday Night Lights returning for another season next year.

Dislikes: Shark attack off the coast of Solana Beach, a small community north of San Diego. I know a guy who knows the guy who was killed, and it's a sad, sad tale. ... The truck crashing into the train station in Chicago on Friday, killing two. Man, what an ugly day. ... Friends' reviews on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Thought it looked like a solid flick from the previews a few weeks ago. Couple of friends saw it and now it'll be a rental.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And all the girls walk by
"Dressed up for each other"

-- Van Morrison, Wild Night

Posted on: March 19, 2008 10:46 pm

Day ahead in Japan, day behind here

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Boston and Oakland players took an admirable and righteous stand Wednesday before departing for Japan. Who doesn't think the lowly coaches and trainers should be compensated? Especially if the players are earning $40,000 each?

But before delivering too much praise, let's all take a breath and remember that it was the players who dropped the ball on this one to start with.

While negotiating their deal last fall, the players negotiated to make sure they were taken care of, but nobody bothered to think about the managers and coaches.

Had they done so then, Wednesday's drama/Keystone Kops routine would have been deftly avoided.

That would have been the best option of all.

And though it was important to get it right in the end, this entire thing wound up making baseball look silly -- and revealing how uninformed the players really are.

While Boston's camp in Florida was the nerve center, the Athletics pretty much just played follow the leader all day. I was in their clubhouse at 8 a.m. Pacific time, and all the A's were hearing at that point was rumors.

"I was under the impression that the coaches and everybody would be taken care of," veteran reliever Alan Embree said.

He could have been speaking for everybody else, pretty much. The Red Sox also were under the same impression, apparently, until the last minute.

As the A's heard about what was going on and tried to keep track of the situation by watching television (ESPN was scheduled to broadcast the Boston-Toronto game, which started late because of the Red Sox players' meeting), several phone calls were exchanged from the Oakland to the Boston clubhouses. Athletics first baseman Mike Sweeney spoke with Boston pitcher Curt Schilling, among other calls.

"I want to go to Japan," Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby said. "We're all packed up. But it's not right. I'm glad they're doing something about it."

The Athletics went into their own team meeting not long after Crosby spoke. During that, across the country, the Red Sox took the field to play Toronto. Negotiations patched things up.

Just as quickly as the storm broke out, the skies cleared.

And the planes took off for Japan.

The most astute comment of the day came from Oakland player representative Huston Street: "From here on our, there has to be more communication on every front and less assumed.

"This isn't a small-time operation."

Even though on Wednesday, it looked like one.

Likes: An item printed from the Internet posted on a bulletin board in the Oakland clubhouse entitled, "17 Ways to Make Your Trip to Japan 10 Times More Enjoyable". ... A's general manager Billy Beane standing in the Oakland dugout before his club's Cactus League finale with the Los Angeles Angels, shooting the breeze while wearing "Arsenal" shorts -- an English professional soccer team -- and a T-shirt. Looked like he was going straight into the weight room. ... This quip from one of the San Francisco writers before Wednesday night's game with the Cubs when a reporter asked what the clubhouse access times are: "Bonds is gone. There is no policy. Do what you want."

Dislikes: Knowing Ted Williams' head is still frozen somewhere near Scottsdale Stadium. ... Thinking of the sad, early death of Kirby Puckett every time I drive by the Scottsdale Hospital right across the street from the stadium. It's where Puckett was first taken when he had his stroke two springs ago.

Sunblock day? Yes, but still not real hot. Sunny and a comfortable 75 or so.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"You can't stop us on the road to freedom
"You cant stop us cause our eyes can see
"Men with insight, men in granite
"Knights in armor intent on chivalry"

-- Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey

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