Posted on: August 18, 2011 3:14 pm
Jim Thome. Carlos Zambrano. Discuss. ...
FROM: Jack M.
Re.: Thome's 600th HR, like his career, comes with class, style
I attended a charity auction in the Peoria area in the winter following the 2002 season. The organizers reached out to Thome, asking if he could attend. He said he couldn't, due to a prior commitment, but donated various autographed items to the auction. Then, on the night of the auction, he showed up unannounced about a half-hour before it began, donated a sizable check, and gave a short speech. After this, he went to the airport and flew back to his prior commitment -- being introduced as a member of the Phillies. The guy's whole life was changing, and he made time for a small auction back home. Ever since then, I root for Jim Thome -- even against my favorite teams.
I know there are those who say, bottom line, it's about what they do on the field. And that's true. But watching a class act like Thome join the 600 club sure is more fun than watching a miscreant who can barely squeeze his enlarged head through the front entrance to 600.
Greetings! The difference between the Big Zero and Jim Thome, there is a reason why I cannot support certain players. And for the Union to file a grievance? The Big Zero CLEANED OUT HIS LOCKER. One may say that was done in the Heat of the Moment but, having played COLLEGIATE baseball, do you realize just how long it takes to do that ? The Big Zero has earned his nickname, and I wish the spoiled little child well with whatever he does in life.
You must be hell on wheels at the dart board, your points are so accurate. And very magnanimous to wish Zambrano well, by the way.
FROM: Wayne A.
Scott: If you check the background of Jim Thome, I believe you will find he went through high school at Limestone H.S. in Bartonville, Ill., which is across I-474 from Peoria. Almost everyone says he is from Peoria. If I am incorrect on this matter please correct me.
I checked, and you're right. Apologies to good ol' Limestone/Bartonville. I expect to see a Paul Bunyan-like statue of Thome there one day.
Re.: After yet another Zambrano meltdown, will Cubs learn lesson?
ZOOM-brano -- the Jim Piersall of this decade. Haven't we all seen enough of this emotional infant? A bowel movement with teeth is what he is.
Oh, man ... hold on ... I'm still doubled over in laughter ... I'll get to an answer in a moment. ... hahahahahaha.
FROM: Terry F.
I don't think that Z should be on the DQ List. This isn't really about Zambrano. He is what he is. This is about the Cubs. I agree with you in that they need to pay him whatever they owe him and move on. They supported him in his first fight, which was a mistake. When the second fight occurred, or perhaps before as there were plenty of other incidents like throwing the umpire out, they should have traded him or released him. Zambrano is responsible for his own actions, but the Cubs deserve far more blame than Zambrano this time, because they knew what they were dealing with and they let it happen.
Really hard to argue against those well-reasoned points. Cubs, your move.
Well done. Great article. However, it's not so easy cutting loose a guy making that much cabbage knowing you're NOT going to get ANYTHING in return. Are you forgetting the Cubs had two extensive injuries in their starting rotation this year? They even tried trading Carlos before the deadline. They even put him on waivers. NOBODY claimed him. Nobody wants him. The Cubs best hope is Carlos really does retire so it voids the contract. The very last thing the Cubs will do is let him go via release and by suggesting that, you don't know as much as you think you do.
Yeah, the Cubs never should have extended him in the first place. But if you remember, at the time of his extension, MANY teams would have paid top dollar for him based on his numbers. He was one of the top pitching free agents out there that year. The Cubs best solution is to do what they did. Let him sit for a month and NOT pay him. Let things cool off. See what he says in a month. If he retires? Awesome. If not? Move him to the Restricted list so he doesn't pitch again this year and try once again to move him in the offseason. If by Spring Training he's still hanging around like a snot, THEN you release him.
Cabbage. Love the term. And you're right, Zambrano is making so much cabbage even Peter Rabbit would be exquisitely jealous -- and better behaved.
FROM: Dorothy B.
He should be fired. I didn't watch all the game, but figured with that many home runs against him, he'd throw a fit and he did.
See? If you can see these things coming, why can't the Cubs?
I know he's a f------ nut, but why was he still in the game after giving up five homers?
Legitimate characterization of the Big Z(ero), and legitimate point regarding the Cubs.
FROM: Dan S.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Giants need to fix their puny offense
Understand your column about Giants offense, but on the other hand they have three people in the ERA leaders and one at 3.5. Their game is low scoring, if they keep the opposing team in the game then they have a chance. If they had an offense like Cincy, for example, and score seven to eight runs but the pitchers give up eight or nine, what good is the high scoring offense? Sure it would take pressure off their pitchers to get four runs early.
Valid points, and we see the troubles the Reds are having. But isn't there a middle ground somewhere the Giants could find? The best argument right now is how banged up they are.
You're right on target. As a longtime Giants fan, it's really frustrating to see such futility at the plate. Outside of maybe Sandoval and Schierholtz, all the rest are hitting well below their career avg's. Belt could be a spark...two dingers [the other day] in Florida was a good start.
The Giants need a few new Belt loops.
Likes: The season Michael Young is having for the Rangers. ... Merle Haggard's take on Texas manager Ron Washington's lovely phrase, "That's the way baseball go." It's now a Haggard song, and you can download it on iTunes. The money goes to Rangers charities. ... Modern Family. Terrific characters and snappy writing. ... Steve Earle's book I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Very entertaining read, with lots of colorful, skid-row characters. Let's just say one of the main characters is a junkie doctor who helped country legend Hank Williams score dope and may have been the last person to see Williams alive (fiction, this book is fiction). Earle's CD of the same name is terrific, too -- especially the track Waiting For the Sky to Fall.
Dislikes: Being a captive audience to merchants on the other side of the airport security screening and paying something like $12 for a small "breakfast" to go at Starbucks. Highway robbery is what it is. In this crappy economy and in these days in which airplanes have scrapped food, that's got to be a great business to go into: Running a food shop between the security screening and the flight gates. I imagine those people all live in mansions, with servants, eating prime rib and lobster every evening.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"
-- John Prine, It's a Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: August 15, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 4:11 pm
In hindsight, the highlight in outfielder Delmon Young's tenure with the Twins came in the spring of 2010, his first day in camp, when he arrived in noticeably better shape than he had been in '09.
"We re-signed Carl Pavano, so I know I'm going to be running quite a bit [chasing balls in the outfield]," Young quipped upon arrival.
It was a funny line but, alas, the optimism of even an in-shape Young was never fully realized in Minnesota. And when the Twins finally shipped him to Detroit on Monday, it capped months of quiet effort on their part to move him in a market that never materialized.
So Young joins the pennant race in Detroit for spare parts -- minor-league lefty Cole Nelson and a player to be named later -- in an intradivision AL Central trade that is attention-grabbing for two reasons: One, because it's rare to see division rivals swap players, especially this close to the stretch run. And two, because it's a clear signal that the Twins, a team that never gives up, are cashing in their chips on 2011.
It's another smooth move for the Tigers, adding depth to an already potent lineup (fifth in the AL in runs scored) that can use an immediate boost because it is ailing. Carlos Guillen (sore wrist) is back on the disabled list and outfielder Brennan Boesch (sprained right thumb) has not started in any of the Tigers' past four games. Meantime, designated hitter Victor Martinez has been playing with a sprained knee and Magglio Ordonez has been looking tired, driving in just four runs so far this month.
Also, the Tigers traded outfielder Casper Wells to Seattle last month for starting pitcher Doug Fister.
Still, the Tigers remain in the drivers' seat in a nip-and-tuck AL Central, leading Cleveland by just 2 1/2 games and stuck-in-neutral Chicago by four games. Both the Indians and the White Sox are close enough to make a serious move, especially given Detroit's current thinned-out lineup due to injury and the Wells deal.
Young gives manager Jim Leyland a veteran piece with playoff experience, and maybe the new surroundings will help jump-start a man whose brother, Dmitri Young, is a Tigers alum. Young, after working himself into perhaps the best shape of his life in 2010, batted .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI. However, so far in 2011, he's hitting just .266 with four homers and 32 RBIs.
Young's diminishing returns and increasing salary has had the Twins open to trading him at least as far back as last winter. He's earning $5.375 million this summer and is arbitration-eligible again this winter. Minnesota now can use that money for any number of things, from plugging in holes elsewhere on the roster (they rank 13th in the AL in runs scored, and their 4.65 bullpen ERA is last in the AL) to perhaps taking a run at re-signing Michael Cuddyer, who is a free agent this winter.
Ironically, the Twins open a three-game series in Detroit this evening. So Young does not have to travel too far to join his new team.
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:26 am
Looking to plug an organizational hole in center field, the Nationals have approached the Twins about a possible deal involving center fielder Denard Span, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com Wednesday night.
The Twins want Nationals closer Drew Storen in return in a deal that could expand. The talks were first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com.
Washington has been involved in multiple talks for a center fielder this week, including Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton and, before he was dealt to Toronto, St. Louis' Colby Rasmus. The Nationals currently are going with Roger Bernadina but really are not in love with any of their long-term candidates going forward.
Minnesota, according to one source, is not shopping Span but became interested when approached by the Nationals. The emergence of Ben Revere this season could make Span expendable.
Furthermore, the Twins, who Wednesday gained another game on Detroit with a win over Texas, now are six games back and continue to view the AL Central as a winnable division. They came into July intent on acquiring bullpen help and think they could accomplish that in a Span deal to Washington.
The Twins are looking at relief help not only this year, but for 2012. Both Joe Nathan and Matt Capps could become free agents this winter.
Minnesota holds a $12.5 million option for 2012 on Nathan, or a $2 million buyout. The Twins are not expected to pick up the option, though they could negotiate a new deal to bring Nathan back.
Meanwhile, Capps' contract is up after 2011 and he will be a free agent this winter.
Acquiring Storen not only would add late-innings depth during this summer's stretch run, it also could give the Twins a long-term solution at closer if Capps and Nathan both leave this winter.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 12:03 am
You bet the rumors swirling around his Tampa Bay batting helmet have gotten B.J. Upton's attention.
"Thanks for all the support on twitter - I appreciate it," he tweeted from his @BJUPTON2 account Tuesday -- presumably as Atlanta, or Cincinnati, or San Francisco phoned Rays general manager Andrew Friedman yet again.
"Now I know how my brother felt this offseason," came another tweet from Upton. "Anyone hear any good trade rumors this week? Still here!"
Matter of fact, the buzz grew louder Tuesday surrounding Upton. Several industry sources believe that the Rays, at 9 1/2 games out in the AL East, will dump Upton by Sunday's non-waiver trading deadline the same way they dumped Matt Garza and bade farewell to free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Grant Balfour last winter.
Money -- the lack of it, thanks in no small part to horrible attendance in Tropicana Field -- remains a significant problem for the Rays. And it's not getting any better.
Several clubs are looking for the kind of spark that Upton (.229, 15 homers, 53 RBIs, 23 steals, terrific defense) can provide. He would fit perfectly in San Francisco, especially if the Giants fall short in their quest to obtain the Mets' Carlos Beltran. The Giants, according to sources, have interest. So, too, do the Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals and, possibly, the Phillies writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
And B.J. is right -- brother Justin, Arizona's right-fielder -- went through a similar stretch last winter.
"I've talked to him, and we laugh about it," Justin told me Tuesday afternoon. "When it comes down to it, like last winter with me, it's out of your control. You just have to do your thing, see what happens and let it be."
Difference is, Arizona is committed to Justin Upton, 23. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers made that clear last winter when he traded third baseman Mark Reynolds to Baltimore.
The Rays? Not so much with B.J., 26 -- much to Upton's chagrin.
"Obviously, he's played his whole career there and he lives there," says Justin, who said the brothers probably talk four or five times a week. "He wants to stay. It's always tough in a situation like that."
Ubaldo Jimenez to Yankees?
The Yankees appear to be in the best shape to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez if the Rockies decide to deal him, as colleague Danny Knobler writes. Here are takes from two scouts who have watched Jimenez pitch in recent days:
Scout one: "Quite frankly, he's not the same guy as he was last year. Before, when he needed to go get it, he'd hit 100 m.p.h. When I saw him in Denver, he'd reach back to muscle up and it was 95. [Atlanta's] Scott Proctor threw harder. If Ubaldo at sea level is 91, 92, 93, he's not the same guy."
Scout two: "I can't imagine Jimenez going anywhere. If he's on a real frickin' contender, he's a No. 3 right now. Something's missing."
Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:
--Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he thinks Friday and Saturday will be the key days when the trade market loosens up and the action begins. "There are a lot of clubs out there with scouts looking at minor league clubs right now," Towers says.
-- While you might think they're looking to replace injured shortstop Stephen Drew, Towers says he is looking for pitching, pitching and pitching. Starting and/or relief.
-- The Giants, Rangers and Phillies have scouts in Cincinnati this week watching Mets' outfielder Carlos Beltran as New York GM Sandy Alderson enters the crucial final days before making one of the more significant decisions in recent Mets history. "Beltran looks real good right now," another scout who has been watching in Cincinnati this week says. "He's looking healthy."
-- One club that has spoken with Washington say closer Drew Storen can be obtained in the right deal.
-- Rival clubs say the Angels are diving into the trade market after owner Arte Moreno, hesitant at first, now has approved additional payroll for midseason help. While the Angels are looking for a third baseman, they would send shortstop Erick Aybar to the Mets for Jose Reyes straight up and take the rest of Reyes' $9 million 2011 salary if New York would bite (the Mets won't, they're keeping Reyes). "I'd do that if I'm the Mets," one NL executive says. "They're not going to be able to re-sign him. How can you give Reyes 10 years at $20 million [each] when he's hurt all the time?
-- Minnesota doggedly has insisted it can win a weak AL Central for the past month, and Tuesday night's comeback win in Texas was a big one. If the Twins do decide to become sellers, don't be surprised if they make outfielder Delmon Young available.
-- Well, in a weak market for starting pitchers, look who's coming off of the disabled list to start Friday for Seattle: Erik Bedard. He'll start against Tampa Bay unless something happens between now and Friday, and you can bet the scouts will swarm Safeco Field. Bedard has not thrown more than 100 innings in a season since 2007. He's at 90 now, so look out.
-- Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey continues to draw interest and Minnesota is expected to deal him.
-- The Marlins are looking to add, not subtract, and do not intend to deal closer Leo Nunez unless blown away with an offer. Florida is moving into a new stadium next season and has not gained near the momentum they had hoped this summer.
-- About that odd timing of Milwaukee acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez and announcing it just after the All-Star Game ended? Rodriguez's former agent Paul Kinzer had failed to submit proper paperwork for K-Rod's 10-team no-trade list -- Milwaukee was on it -- and with K-Rod having hired Scott Boras recently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was afraid Boras would correct the oversight. That's why, once the Mets and Brewers agreed to the deal, Alderson wanted it finalized as soon as possible, afraid that if they waited even one more day, Boras would get the list in and K-Rod would have power to scotch the deal.
-- Wonder what's taking so long for the trades to happen this week? Wonder why you read some rumors that turn out to be badly off the trail? Some insight from legendary executive Pat Gillick's Hall of Fame speech on Sunday: "As a young scout I, remember hiding up in trees with binoculars so no other scout would know I was interested in a prospect. I remember the assumed names or clever tactics we all used to get an edge and throw others off the scent."
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, B.J. Upton, Carlos Beltran, Drew Storen, Erik Bedard, Florida Marlins, Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Upton, Kevin Slowey, Kevin Towers, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Pat Gillick, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals
Posted on: July 13, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 2:34 pm
PHOENIX -- Funny story from the dugout of the American League during Tuesday night's All-Star Game, passed along by Twins beat man extraordinaire and Minnesota cult hero LaVelle E. Neal III:
Midgame, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera started feeling soreness in his right oblique. So AL manager Ron Washington approached Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer and, looking to sub him into the game and knowing he was going to have to remove Cabrera, asked Cuddyer if he'd rather play first base or third.
First, Cuddyer said. No question.
See, Cuddyer hates third. It's about the only position he hasn't played with the Twins.
Not long after, with Washington also looking to get Texas' Michael Young into the game, word circulated that Young would prefer to play first over third because, then, he would have played every infield position in an All-Star Game.
Sorry, Cuddyer said, smiling and slapping Young on the back. I got first.
Dislikes: Too many All-Stars at 84, too many starting pitchers not playing for the American League (Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander, David Price, James Shields, etc.) and too many substitutions. The game needs revamping. Again.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
-- The Cars, Magic
Posted on: July 7, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 3:45 pm
Hot fun in the summertime. ...
FROM: Michael S.
Hmm, let's find out if I can see through all of the smoke from whatever it is I'm not inhaling: Berkman has started 62 games in the outfield for St. Louis this season, 19 at first base and two as a DH. So apparently, Mr. Michael, Berkman IS an outfielder. And I'm just high on life.
FROM: Frank D
Great job on your All-Star picks. I agree 100! You are by far the best writer on the site.
Don't tell that to Doyel. He just won a fancy award as the second-best columnist in the country and he might get his feelings hurt.
FROM: Thomas H.
So a team's position in the standings should factor into a player's inclusion in the All-Star starting lineup? These are INDIVIDUAL selections, not team awards. And how do you know that Rickie Weeks has made a better contribution to the Brewers than Brandon Phillips to the Reds? If you are going that route, then also include the contribution in the clubhouse, where Phillips is outstanding.
Your points are well taken. I'm a huge Phillips fan. Both he and Weeks are having great years. But on this one, I'm right.
FROM: John D.
First part of your argument is correct: A Yankee shouldn't be starting at shortstop. However, good as Hardy has been, you lose me with your second part. The correct answer is, Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera should be starting.
FROM: Adam S.
Adrian Gonzalez is the runaway MVP in the AL so far? You may want to take another look at Jose Bautista's numbers. Bautista's OBP is 63 points higher, his SLG is 85 points higher, he has more HR's, over 40 more BB's, more Runs, and fewer K's. Don't get me wrong, Gonzalez is having a great year, but I think Bautista has the edge right now, and I'm not sure it is even close. Other than that one argument, I enjoyed the article quite a bit.
I was overzealous (and careless) with my use of the word "runaway." You, sir, are correct. But given what Gonzalez has brought to the Red Sox, and given how he's propped them up into second place in the division, I'm still gonzo over Gonzo.
FROM: Capt. Hook
I'm not sure about your GM skills, much less your math skills, if you think San Diego's current resurgence will stop them from thinking trade. With 80 games left, if they go 56-24 (.700) and San Francisco creeps along at their current .586 over their remaining schedule, the Padres would win by one game. Well, playing .700 may be just a little far-fetched, ya think? Hmmm. Sell the farm, Padres, as the Fantasy of Mr. Miller is just that: A fantasy.
Come on now, read the entire column, not just the headline. I pinpointed the exact time the Padres will start to deal, about a week after the All-Star Game. All I said by pointing toward the Padres' current "resurgence" is that it will delay their plans to trade until later in July. I never suggested they would get back into the race. That would be silly now, wouldn't it?
How about the suicide squeeze bunt he masterfully called on Wednesday night? Guy is 68 years old and called it for the first time in his managerial career. He's a keeper.
FROM: Josh M.
Not only is he the most underrated player in The Show, he's the Twins most INVALUABLE player. Some really smart guy called that one way back during spring training in this column.
I've been a Dodgers fan since 1960. Every cheap shot you threw at McCourt is well-deserved and earned. However, the parking lot beating had no place in this story. It doesn't hurt me as a Dodgers fan, but, as a compassionate human being, I hurt for the Giants fan and his family. I urge you to post a sincere apology and then refrain from such distasteful attempts of Andrew Dice humor.
Look, it was not a cheap attempt at humor, and yes, I'm sorry to those who were offended by that line. But the tragic parking lot beating this year is part of the overall body of McCourt's shoddy and irresponsible work as "caretaker" of the Dodgers. And I'm offended at being compared to a class-less, trailer-trash comic like Andrew Dice Clay.
MARK CUBAN, all that's right. Baseball don't like his type. Get rid of the CAR SALESMAN BUD SELIG. He did nothing about steroids.
Not sure that Mark Cuban is all that's right. But compared to Frank McCourt, a common house rat is all that's right, so I guess your point is well taken.
Likes: Mid-season, and the All-Star Game. Still, by far, the coolest All-Star Game in all of sports. Not even close.
Dislikes: Super 8. Just because today's technology can produce cool special effects, it doesn't always mean the more, the better. Just sayin'.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The moon beams we can dream on, when the working day is done
-- Eddie Hinton, Everybody Needs Love
Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Asdrubal Cabrera, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Davey Johnson, Derek Jeter, Frank McCourt, J.J. Hardy, Jose Bautista, Lance Berkman, Los Angeles Dodgers, Michael Cuddyer, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rickie Weeks, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals
Posted on: July 6, 2011 6:45 pm
Hall of Famer Paul Molitor ranks ninth on baseball's all-time hit list at 3,319, just after Honus Wagner (3,415) and just in front of Eddie Collins (3,315).
Not only will he be watching as Derek Jeter becomes the 28th player to join the group, he's one of just a handful of players in baseball history who actually can relate to what the Yankees shortstop is going through now that he's just four knocks away from the milestone hit.
"You hope that as you approach it, you're swinging well and it doesn't become too much about sliding into it vs. marching into it," Molitor says. "You always separate individual goals and team wins as you approach, and you hope it's something where the experience allows you to feel pleasure in those things instead of the pressure."
With Robin Yount as a teammate in Milwaukee before Molitor punched out No. 3,000 while playing for Minnesota in 1996, a then-unknowing Molitor -- dubbed "The Ignitor" with the Brewers -- got a sneak peek of what was to come for him back in 1992.
"I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to watch Robin do it a few years before myself," Molitor said of Yount, whose 3,000th came on Sept. 9, 1992, a single against Cleveland's Jose Mesa in Milwaukee's County Stadium. "I got a glimpse into the way you go about your business with that while trying to help the team win."
Jeter will become the first player ever to hit 3,000 as a Yankee, which puts him into his own unique and extraordinary category. But given what the Yankees represent and Jeter's consistent attitude throughout his career, the whole individual goals vs. team goals thing is extremely relevant. Jeter already has expressed some awkwardness about all eyes being on him.
On the other hand, as we've seen over the years, outside of a contentious contract negotiation, there is little that ruffles Jeter.
"Derek has never been one to be phased by too many outside influences," Molitor says. "He's always had an amazing ability to take the emotion out of at-bats, whether it's in October or during regular season at-bats.
"He's had a remarkable career. It's going to be a pretty special accomplishment."
Likes: Molitor remains the only one of the 27 members of the 3,000-hit club to triple for his historic hit. He did it against the Royals' Jose Rosado on Sept. 16, 1996. How'd he do that at 39? "You have to pay the outfielders off on the high fly balls into the gap," he joked.
Dislikes: Quick thumbs from umpires Joe West and Angel Hernandez. Those two are brutal.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Hot town, summer in the city
-- Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?
Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.
Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.
Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.
The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).
"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."
Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.
"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.
"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."
Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.
"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."
As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.
"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."
-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."
-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.
-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.
-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.
-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.
-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.
-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"
-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.
-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."
-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.
-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.
Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.
Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Driving in to Darlington County
-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County
Tags: Albert Pujols, Boston Red Sox, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago Cubs, Colby Rasmus, Daniel Descalso, Derek Jeter, Erik Bedard, Florida Marlins, Jack McKeon, Jason Isbell, Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals, Kerry Wood, Los Angeles Angels, Mariano Rivera, Michael Cuddyer, Mike Cameron, Mike Scioscia, Minnesota Twins, Modern Family, Ned Yost, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Ludwick, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals