Tag:Zac Brown Band
Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:54 pm
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"People are understanding how good we are"

LOS ANGELES -- Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino declined Monday to address his three-game suspension for his role in Friday night's brawl in San Francisco.

But he was happy to discuss the latest test the Phillies passed with phlying colors, winning three of four games over the weekend and beating the Giants at their own game, pitching.

Statement series?

Naw, let's not go there Victorino said. But as the weeks roll by and the Phillies blaze on toward what is shaping up to be another very special season, let's just say that leaving the Giants in ruins over the weekend just reinforced what some folks have been believing for a long time.

"Best team in baseball," one scout says.

"I don't want to use the word 'statement'," Victorino said. "But it shows we can do it. Not that we ever doubted that we can, but they're the champs. To be the champs, you have to beat the champs.

"In October, it's all about 5-7-7 [the round-by-round best-of series']. We tip our caps to the Giants for beating us last year. But I think this was a test for us, and we're good.

"I think people are understanding how good we are. We won in San Francisco because of our pitching. And they didn't even face our No. 1."

Instead, Roy Halladay was slotted to pitch the series opener against the Dodgers here Monday night, and the Phillies are making Jimmy Rollins look conservative. It was Rollins who predicted in February the Phillies would win 100 games.

It made headlines at the time because, well, in February, any sort of bold statement makes headlines.

But all you can say as the Phils maintain a pace to win 103 games is, the season is playing out just as many thought it could for them.

Winners of nine of their past 10 heading into this Dodgers series, they owned the game's best record at 74-40. Last time they had played at least 113 games and suffered only 40 losses, it was 1976.

Charlie Manuel's club is an equal opportunity outfit, shredding left-handed starters (against whom they're 21-9) and right-handers (53-31) alike.

Though they're only seventh in the NL in runs scored, their pitching is so dominant that their run differential (+127) is third-best in the game, trailing only the Yankees (+167) and Boston (+144).

Phillies starters lead all major-league rotations in wins (55), ERA (2.96), strikesouts (640), complete games (14, six from Halladay), quality starts (76) and fewest runs allowed (261).

Are the Phillies reaching their potential that, as far back as spring training, was set in the stratosphere?

"It's hard for us to say because we're striving to get to the World Series and win it," starter Cole Hamels said. "It's definitely a good question for when we're in the World Series.

"We definitely like our chances. We're confident. Guys are at their peaks. In '08 when we ended up winning, we were trying to find it and we ended up finding it."

As for the San Francisco series, Hamels said, "We're playing the right type of baseball. That's what you have to do in August. It's very tough for teams. It's 100 degrees, you've been pitching for 22, 24 starts [Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 24 starts], your body's fighting it, and you have to keep pushing.

"It's the countdown."

He meant for stretch-run baseball in September, and playoff ball in October.

But for the Phillies, there's a lot of counting going on right now.

And the numbers are adding up impressively.

Likes: GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland extended in Detroit. They've earned their keep by keeping the Tigers relevant. ... A few days off in early August right after the trade deadline, summer sun still warm, the days long and free. ... Sandy Point in Ferndale, Wash., quarterback Jake Locker's land, right down there on Puget Sound. Beautiful. ... The oh-so-fresh halibut and salmon at Barlean's fishery down the road. Few things finer on the grill with the sun dropping behind the ocean water. ... The burritos at Chihuahua's in town. ... Jimmy Buffett's Encores disc. ... The new disc from John Hiatt, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. Not as good as Slow Turning or Perfectly Good Guitar, but that's setting the bar awfully high. Check out I Love That Girl, Detroit Made and Adios to California.

Dislikes: All the best to Colorado right-hander Juan Nicasio. One minute, you're pitching in the majors. The next, you've got a broken bone in your neck after being hit by a line drive, and you don't know if you'll ever pitch again. Tough summer for the Rockies. Hope we see Nicasio back soon.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Wrote a note, said 'Be back in a minute'
"Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
"Don't think anybody's gonna miss me anyway
"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishin' my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"Now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowin' wind thru my hair
"Only worry in the world
"Is the tide gonna reach my chair
"Sunrise, there's a fire in the sky
"Never been so happy
"Never felt so high
"And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep

Posted on: June 16, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Gardenhire: "This will give me teaching tools"

Out of the ruins, sometimes, come plans.

Whatever happens the rest of the way in this odd Twins season -- they've now won 11 of 13 after falling 20 games below .500 -- what's already happened will shape what the club does next spring.

Nobody could have predicted that Minnesota would have put 15 players on the disabled list so far this season -- most in the majors. But what the Twins never would have predicted would be the fundamental mistakes they've had to endure.

An organization that prides itself on doing the little things right has, at times over the early part of the season, watched a train wreck in that department. Missed signs, missed relay throws, baserunning blunders.

"It gives me a tool," manager Ron Gardenhire says. "That's one of the things I've already thought about for next year. This will give me teaching tools."

In other words, when Gardenhire and his staff call for yet another round of fundamental drills in Fort Myers, Fla., next spring, there will be no room for questioning from the players.

Gardenhire's immediate rebuttal will be, hey, remember that time in Chicago last May when Alexi Casilla screwed up on the bases, or when Danny Valencia botched a rundown?

Ironic thing is, Minnesota emphasizes fundamentals as much as any team in the bigs in the spring.

But the flip side is, that's why the mistakes aren't tolerable.

Yes, the Twins have had to count on players they never would have imagined would fit into their plans in 2011 -- like Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dinkelman. But as far as they're concerned, while some players may be more talented than others, everybody can execute the fundamental part of the game ... whether your name is Joe Mauer or Trevor Plouffe.

Likes: Seattle calling up rookie second baseman Dustin Ackley. ... Brian Gordon on the hill for the Yankees on Thursday. ... Former colleague George Dohrmann's excellent piece on Jim Tressel and the Ohio State football mess in Sports Illustrated. ... Brad Paisley's new tune Eastwood featuring the voice -- and whistling talents -- of the song's inspiration, Clint Eastwood. ... Modern Family.

Dislikes: Poor Edwin Rodriguez. The Marlins are sinking fast -- they've lost 15 of 16 now, and seven in a row -- and if we know anything about Florida owner Jeffrey Loria, it's that he wastes no time in aiming a sharp knife at his managers. Hey Edwin, duck!

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishing my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"'Cause now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
"Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep



Posted on: June 7, 2011 9:56 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 10:48 pm
 

Love Letter: The Jose Bautista edition

KANSAS CITY -- So in my season predictions coming out of spring training, I picked Toronto fourth and included this line: "Jose Bautista hits 54 home runs again, I'll key in 'Oh Canada' and wake to it each morning next winter on my iPod alarm clock." As if anybody is supposed to take these things to heart. Well, ahem. That was back in March. Two months later, this is what I get from my man Chris. ...

From: Chris

Hi Scott,

Re. your comment on Bautista just before the season started, I live in Canada and have some great renditions of 'Oh Canada' I could send you so you don't have to listen to the same one every morning this coming winter. Peace.

What if I pick Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup. Could we call it even then, Chris?

Likes: Buck Martinez, former catcher and Toronto's outstanding television man. ... Another former catcher, Gregg Zaun, broadcasting for the Blue Jays. Zaunie is one of the good ones. ... Another helping of Arthur Bryant's burnt ends today. ... The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, as I wrote about the other day. Make it a priority if you get to Kansas City. ... Planet Sub downtown here. Cool vibe, great sandwiches. The tuna fish with bacon was a winner the other day. ... The Zac Brown Band's Knee Deep, with special guest Jimmy Buffett. ... The Kansas City Star. Excellent newspaper. ... Fountains everywhere you look in downtown KC. It really is very cool. ... The fans in Kauffman Stadium singing along loudly to Garth Brooks' Friends in Low Places in the middle of the sixth inning each night. Excellent.

Dislikes:
Aw, ran out of time in Kansas City and didn't get to tour the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th and Vine District. Next time. And the All-Star Game is here next July. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"No more pencils
"No more books
"No more teacher's
"Dirty looks
"Well, we got no class
"And we got no principals
"We ain't got no innocence
"We can't even think of a word that rhymes"

-- Alice Cooper, School's Out


Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Rays even series with Texas, Yankees win

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.

As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.

Now?

Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.

Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.

The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.

Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.

Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.

The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.

"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."

Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.

"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."

Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.

What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.

"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."

Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.

Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
"Not where you live, the car you drive, or the price tag on your clothes
"There`s no dollar sign on a piece of mind this I`ve come to know
"So if you agree have a drink with me
"Raise your glasses for a toast
"To a little bit of chicken fried
"Cold beer on a Friday night
"A pair of jeans that fit just right
"And the radio up"

-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

Posted on: March 14, 2010 12:22 am
 

Ian Kennedy's new start in the desert

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Go ahead, let Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes write another chapter in their endless "Will he start or will he relieve?" saga this spring.

From his perch in the desert, right-hander Ian Kennedy is perfectly content to have left the No. 4 train to the Bronx behind.

He's making his pitch toward the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation and, though they're not handing him the job, they are giving him what might be the most important guarantee he could get: They view him as a starter, period. The bullpen is not an option.

"We'd like him to win the job," manager A.J. Hinch says. "We feel like he's going to win the job."

As Hinch says, they're not handing out jobs. Kennedy must earn his keep. But you get the idea. ...

"It's nice, because when I was with the Yankees, I didn't know this spring if I was going to relieve or start, what my role was," Kennedy says. "If they wanted me to start in Triple-A. ...

"Coming here, they said, 'Here's what you could have. You've got to just do what you do.' That's the advantage of being here. If you look around, there's a lot of good, young players here. That's what I'm excited about."

Having missed most of '09 with an aneurysm near his right shoulder, Kennedy is doing his normal spring work and feeling good. The Diamondbacks' rotation is somewhat in flux because of ace Brandon Webb's slow return from shoulder surgery.

Kennedy figured to line up as the No. 4 starter behind Webb, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson -- though with Webb expected to start on the disabled list, Kennedy could find himself pitching the third game of the season against San Diego.

He's spent a lot of time with Webb this spring which, among other things, has resulted in Kennedy adding a sinker to his repertoire. That first came up during the Arizona Fall League.

"I talk to Webby a lot," Kennedy says. "He's usually in the training room, and I've asked him a lot of questions so far about pitching, trying to pick his brain on how he can throw that great of a two-seamer [sinking fastball]."

Sunblock Day? Finally, some sun and some 70-degree weather. And don't look now, but they're predicting highs of 83 and 84 Tuesday and Wednesday in Phoenix.

Likes: Diamondbacks bench coach Kirk Gibson and former major leaguer Brett Butler, now managing at Triple-A Reno, giving hands-on lessons on baserunning the other day on one of the back fields. I hope the younger Diamondbacks in particular were listening, there's a lot of wisdom to be learned from those two men. ... The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch off of I-10 on the way south to Tucson. Never fails to amuse. And no, I didn't stop and pet the deer (one of the options listed in the extravagant signage). ... Picacho Peak, between Casa Grande and Tucson off of I-10. My friend Steve Gilbert of MLB.com informed me that the westernmost battle of the Civil War was waged there. It's now a state park, and there's a re-enactment of the battle each year. ... Watching the Big East title game Saturday night on television, great scene at the end after West Virginia won and they blasted John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads over the speaker system in Madison Square Garden with the Mountaineer fans singing loudly, especially to the lines in which Denver sings, "To the place, I belong, West Virginia. ..." Sounded great on television.

Dislikes: So I hear there's going to be a "big announcement" on a Detroit radio station Friday night from Alto Reed, saxophone player for Bob Seger. A summer tour, perhaps? How cool would that be? Uh, no. The announcement, according to the crack Web site Segerfile.com, is that the sax guy will be joining the radio station's on-air staff. Yawn.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
"Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes
"There`s no dollar sign on a piece of mind, this I`ve come to know
"So if you agree have a drink with me
"Raise your glasses for a toast
"To a little bit of chicken fried
"Cold beer on a Friday night
"A pair of jeans that fit just right
"And the radio up"

-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

Posted on: March 3, 2010 4:33 pm
 

Tryin' to reason with exhibition schedule season

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The changing spring training landscape is presenting some clubs with scheduling dilemmas, not the least of which is teams which already face divisional rivals 18 or 19 times a summer because of the unbalanced schedule facing those clubs even more in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

In Florida, with Baltimore having moved to the Gulf Coast side (Sarasota) from Fort Lauderdale, all five AL East clubs are within a two-hour drive of each other. Tampa Bay is just down the road in Port Charlotte, the Red Sox are a little further down the road in Fort Myers and the Yankees and Blue Jays not far north in the Tampa area.

Result: Tampa Bay is scheduled to play AL East foes in 16 of 31 Grapefruit League games. The Orioles play AL East rivals in 15 of 32 games. And so on.

The Dodgers' move to the Cactus League last spring made for more NL West spring matchups. In Vero Beach, Fla., the Dodgers didn't see any of their NL West rivals all spring. This year, Los Angeles plays NL West opponents in eight of 28 Cactus League games.

Aside from the simple fact that you get bored playing the same teams over and over, are there advantages to seeing divisional rivals so often in the spring? Disadvantages?

"There are two schools of thought on that," Baltimore president and general manager Andy MacPhail says. "One, is that you need to hide, or camouflage, what you have. The other is that what you're afraid of letting your opponent see, you get the same benefit with your opponent.

"There's probably some validity to both points of view."

The Yankees, for example, could pitch Joba Chamberlain in a 'B' game one day this spring rather than against Boston, thus not allowing Red Sox hitters the luxury of seeing Joba until the meaningful games begin. Or they could shuttle Joba into a minor-league game.

There was the spring in Arizona several years ago when Curt Schilling did just that, facing either the White Sox in each of his spring starts or the Diamondbacks minor-leaguers. His preference was to not reveal anything to the Rockies, Giants or Padres until he had to.

Meantime, the defections of the Orioles and Dodgers from Florida's East Coast has made the Cardinals and Marlins (Jupiter) and Mets (Port St. Lucie) adjust travel plans. That trio must play each other more often, and make a couple of extra trips north to face the Nationals (Viera).

It's that, or hike clear across the state, or way up to the Orlando area.

Sunblock Day? Technically, because the sun is out. But the game-time temp for Baltimore's first-ever game here in Sarasota today was 54 degrees, with a howling wind making it feel like high 40s or low 50s.

Likes: Thanks to Johnny Damon for playing along when I hit him with this quiz on Detroit and Michigan the other day. Not everybody would have been such a good sport. ... Thanks also to the Jefferson High School track team in Tampa, which graciously shared its facilities with me the other afternoon when I actually got outside for one of my few outdoor runs over the past couple of weeks in this chilly state. Jefferson, by the way, is the alma mater of Tony La Russa and Tino Martinez. ... Great line in Baseball Prospectus in comparing the struggles of the Orioles, Expos and Brewers in its 2010 edition: "The Expos were a ward of the state, while the Brewers were a ward of the Selig family, and in both cases, the clubs were the baseball equivalent of inmates in dire Dickensian orphanages." ... In the tweet world, it will be hard to top one of Dave O'Brien's from several days ago. O'Brien, who does a great job covering the Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tweeted something about closer Billy Wagner's "flannel shirt." Only he dropped the "r" in shirt. Fairly soon after came another tweet from O'Brien, explaining that's what happens sometimes when you're trying to work the keyboard on a cell phone.

Dislikes: Jay McGwire. What a sleaze. Can you get any lower than writing a book to cash in on your brother's name? Jay and Mark apparently are estranged. This oughta keep them that way. ... Watched the monologue of Jay Leno's return to late night Monday. It was even lamer than his monologues used to be. David Letterman remains the king in my book, and Conan O'Brien got jobbed.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The senioritas don't care-o
"When there's no dinero"

-- Zac Brown Band, Toes

 

Posted on: February 17, 2010 4:08 pm
 

Up in the Air

TAMPA -- Touched down in Florida on Tuesday night and felt like George Clooney in the movie during a coast-to-coast day of travel.

It's always a culture shock -- albeit, a very cool culture shock -- packing up and heading toward spring training following a winter at home. The pitchers and catchers, the sun, the familiar old faces, it's all very inviting. But saying farewell to your family and moving out of your house for six weeks, not so much.

Anyway, when you've been writing baseball as long as I have (20-some years now), the last few days of winter always make for a weird feeling, sort of like those last few days of summer when you were a kid. Probably, there was a big part of you that was excited to see old friends and get started on the new year. And probably, there was another part that dreaded the early morning alarms, the long year and all that homework. Because you knew what was ahead of you.

First leg of my flight, I was lucky enough to, against all odds, change from a middle seat in the back to an exit row at the last minute. Second leg, I went from seat 43D to an aisle in row 23. Yes! The flights were on time, the baggage made it through and hotel check-in was smooth.

Now here we are, and I can tell you this because it happens every year: The moment I walk into the first camp, it's like stepping into the first chapter of a great book that whisks you through until the end. All you want to do is keep reading. Every season is like that, it's why we all keep coming back.

So buckle up and let's go. Come with me through my Grapefruit League travels over the next three weeks. You can ride shotgun. We'll roam from camp to camp, visit with Joba Chamberlain and many others, soak up some sun (hopefully, soon) and smell the leather of the new gloves. Heck, we'll probably pull off the freeway every now and again when we spot a Dairy Queen, too.

Check back here every day. The columns will be front and center, my colleague Danny Knobler and I will have plenty of video reports throughout the spring and I'll stock some off-the-beaten-track slices of camp life -- the anecdotes, the music, the food -- right here in Bull Pennings.

As I tell my friends and neighbors, when you have to pack shorts and sunblock for your job, you've got a pretty sweet gig. And much of the pleasure, as with certain desserts and, yes, great books, is in the sharing.

Sunblock Day? Technically, I suppose, because the sun was out. But let's just say the stuff you've heard about the Florida cold is right on: The car temperature read "49 degrees" when I left the hotel at 9 this morning, and it read "59" when I left Yankees camp around 1:30. Brrrr.

Likes: New Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez's relief upon hearing that Atlanta starter Jair Jurjjen's shoulder injury doesn't appear serious. That's great news for the Braves and Jurjjens, and good news for Vazquez because he became good friends with Jurjjens. "I'm going to call him this afternoon," Vazquez said, smiling. ... Yanks manager Joe Girardi met the press from a front table in an auxiliary tent outside of Legends Field on Wednesday, and what a pleasure it was to be in the same tent as the infamous Alex Rodriguez press conference a year ago and not have to listen to steroids talk. I don't know who was more relieved, Girardi, the Yankees or media members. ... Up in the Air was a terrific movie, incidentally. Perfect role for Clooney. ... Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Delicious, especially the bacon cheeseburger the other night. ... The Foundation, the Grammy-winning disc by the Zac Brown Band, is great fun. Especially Toes (sample lyrics below) and Chicken Fried (lyrics in coming days).

Dislikes: Aw, the mean rental car lady couldn't be talked into a convertible. Cold as it is here, she probably was doing me a favor.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, the plane touched down
"Just about 3 o'clock
"And the city's still on my mind
"Bikinis and palm trees danced in my head
"I was still in the baggage line
"Concrete and cars are their own prison bars
"Like this life I'm living in
"But the plane brought me farther
"I'm surrounded by water
"And I'm not going back again"

-- Toes, Zac Brown Band

 

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