Posted on: May 1, 2011 7:09 pm
The Brewers played all of April without Zack Greinke. The Rays basically played all of April without Evan Longoria.
The Brewers survived. And so did the Rays.
This week, Greinke comes off the disabled list. So does Longoria.
And thanks to the hard work done by their teammates, they come back to teams that were far from buried in their absence.
Greinke, remember, was the biggest addition the Brewers made to a rotation that finished 27th in baseball in ERA last year, and a dead-last 30th the year before. Then Greinke decided to play basketball before spring training, and a broken rib cost him the season's first month.
Without him, the Brewer starters finished April with a 3.56 ERA, good for sixth in baseball.
The Brewers are a game under .500, at 13-14, but in the wacky National League Central, that leaves them only 2 1/2 games out of first place.
The Rays, at 15-13, face the same 2 1/2-game deficit in the American League East. They went an impressive 15-11 without Longoria, set to return Tuesday after missing a full month with an oblique injury.
When Longoria was hurt, the Rays were not only winless, they seemed punchless. Some people (yeah, that would include me) wondered if they'd score any runs without their star third baseman, especially after Manny Ramirez's sudden retirement.
Some people (yeah, that would include me) thought there was a chance the Rays could be buried in the AL East standings by the time Longoria came back.
They scored runs, and they're not buried -- even though the combined OPS of Rays third baseman (mostly Felipe Lopez and Sean Rodriguez) has been .595, worse than every AL team but the Tigers.
Now Longoria is coming back. And so is Greinke.
On to 3 to watch:
1. Two years ago, the Angels finally won a playoff series from the Red Sox. It felt huge. It felt like a big change. And ever since, the Angels basically haven't beaten the Red Sox at anything. They've lost 13 of 14 to Boston from the start of 2010, and they lost free-agent target Carl Crawford to the Red Sox last winter, too. You wonder if that changes this week, especially after Jered Weaver had to scratch from Sunday's start at Tampa Bay because of a stomach virus. Instead, Weaver will start Angels at Red Sox, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Weaver, who has won each of his first six starts, was the only Angels starter the Red Sox didn't face in their four-game sweep a week and half back in Anaheim.
2. Longoria hit .385 last year against Toronto, the opponent when he returns to the lineup in Blue Jays at Rays, Tuesday night (6:40 ET) at Tropicana Field. Then again, maybe last year's numbers mean nothing. After all, Jose Bautista hit .233 last year against the Rays, and his four home runs in 18 games were the fewest he hit against any AL East opponent. In his first three games against the Rays this year, Bautista was 6-for-8, with three home runs.
3. Greinke was well aware of how the Brewer starters pitched in his absence. "I was thinking, 'Do they even want me back, or are they going to make him stay down there a little while longer?'" he told reporters covering the Brewers. No, one month without Greinke was plenty, and the team will welcome him back for Brewers at Braves, Wednesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field. Manager Ron Roenicke said Greinke would be limited at about 90 pitches, but that may not be a problem. This is a guy who once threw a complete-game shutout, with 10 strikeouts, on just 104 pitches, and had another complete-game win, with 12 strikeouts, on 105 pitches.
Posted on: October 27, 2008 8:16 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Welke saw the replay, but not in time to change his call.
He knows that the television cameras pretty clearly showed Evan Longoria tagging Jimmy Rollins out in the first inning of Game 4. Welke, the third-base umpire on Sunday night, didn't see the tag and called Rollins safe.
"At the time I called it, I thought I was right," Welke said.
He knows now that he wasn't right. We know from watching replays that there have already been quite a few plays in this World Series where the umpires weren't right.
But Welke isn't ready for baseball to expand the limited replay system that was approved in August.
"I think where we're at is a good start," he said tonight. "I would assume at some point (expanded use of replay) is going to happen, but maybe not in my career. If I stay healthy, I'll probably work for 4-5 more years."
Welke, the crew chief for the World Series, still feels bad about missing the call Sunday.
"My goal as an umpire is to not have anything to do with who wins the game," Welke said. "If that's a 3-2 game, I walk off the field feeling sick to my stomach. If it's 10-2, I feel bad."
Posted on: October 26, 2008 7:30 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2008 7:42 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- Yes, those are ear flaps on the caps that some of the Rays are wearing for the games in Philadelphia.
If you watched Game 3 Saturday, you no doubt saw that manager Joe Maddon was wearing one of the specially-made caps with flaps, although he never had reason to pull the flaps down over his ears. It didn't get that cold Saturday night and it's not that cold yet tonight.
But temperatures could be in the mid-40s by the start of Game 5 on Monday. The Rays are prepared.
"We call it the Elmer Fudd," Rays home clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland said. "New Era came out with them last year, and we got them in spring training. This is the first time we've used them. I don't' know what the actual name for them is, but we call them the Elmer Fudd.
"I think the players are hoping it'll get cold enough so they can wear them."
A couple of other World Series items of interest:
-- While some people questioned Evan Longoria's decision to try to make a play on Carlos Ruiz's game-winning hit in Game 3, the Rays knew that the ball was unlikely to roll foul. In their World Series scouting report, the Rays read that the way the baselines at Citizens Bank Park play, balls very rarely roll foul.
-- White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome flew to Philadelphia to visit his former teammates and former manager before Game 4. Thome played for the Phillies from 2003-05, and also played for Phils manager Charlie Manuel in Cleveland.
"When I left Cleveland to come here, this is why I came here, to get to the World Series," Thome said. "And now it's almost like I'm living it. I wish we were here playing against them, but it didn't work out that way."
Posted on: October 11, 2008 4:51 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2008 5:20 pm
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In their 2-0 loss to the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Rays made two outs while swinging at 3-0 pitches. One of them was among the biggest outs of the game, a Carlos Pena fly ball with two on and nobody out in the eighth.
So did manager Joe Maddon err by green-lighting Pena and, before that, Evan Longoria (who flied out to end the sixth)?
Fans tend to say yes. Fans tend to complain when hitters swing at 3-0 pitches, just as they tend to complain when hitters swing at the first pitch.
But the stats say most middle-of-the-order hitters become unbelievable hitters when they put the first pitch in play. Pena is 3-for-6 in his regular-season career on 3-0, with two home runs and a double (including a grand slam off Dan Haren this year). David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau, among others, all hit .500 or better when they put a 3-0 pitch in play (all stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com).
OK, but wouldn't they have just as good a chance at 3-1 or 3-2?
Not necessarily. When Pena doesn't put the 3-0 pitch in play, he becomes a .190 hitter.
"It's something we've done all year," Maddon said today. "With Pena, taking everything into consideration, I felt pretty good about it actually. If he doesn't top-spin that ball, it might have hit the back wall."
Pena said Friday night that Maddon spoke to him after the eighth-inning at-bat, telling him he had taken exactly the right approach.
By the way, the stats also show that some hitters won't swing 3-0 even when given a green light. Neither J.D. Drew nor Kevin Youkilis has ever put a 3-0 pitch in play, and Wade Boggs did it just seven times in his entire career -- going 2-for-7.
While Maddon didn't second-guess his decision to let Pena swing 3-0, he also didn't dispute Ortiz's contention that the Rays had a different look in their faces Friday from what he saw in the regular season.
"I agree, and I did see it," Maddon said. "That's why I thought it primarily manifested itself in the pitches we swung at. However, (the Red Sox) had kind of the same look themselves."
Posted on: September 30, 2008 1:36 pm
The great thing about awards is that you can argue about who deserves them. And the great thing about the 2008 awards for me is that for the first time in almost 20 years, I don't have an actual vote on any of them.
That means I'm completely free to tell you what I think, and you're completely free to totally ignore it.
And as much as I respect Scott Miller, I'm also completely prepared to tell him where he's wrong.
You can read Scott's picks for the postseason awards here, if you haven't already.
To save time and avoid repetition, I'll just say I agree completely with Scott on the AL Cy Young award (Cliff Lee), and on both managers of the year (Joe Maddon, Lou Piniella). I agree with him on both rookies of the year (Evan Longoria, Geovany Soto), although the AL decision is a tough one, with Longoria getting just a small edge over Alexei Ramirez.
No argument on executives of the year, either (Andrew Friedman and Doug Melvin).
Of course, those were the easy picks.
The MVPs were the tough ones. Too many candidates in the National League, not nearly enough in the AL.
But think about who had the most effect on this season. What will you remember about 2008?
In the NL, you'll remember how Manny Ramirez changed the Dodgers into winners, and how CC Sabathia did the same for the Brewers. You'll remember all those Ryan Howard home runs that put the Phillies over the top in the East. I'd put all three of them of them ahead of Albert Pujols, who had a very nice season but only turned the Cardinals into fringe wild-card contenders. The MVP: Manny.
In the AL, Dustin Pedroia is a nice pick. But it's the wrong pick, because Francisco Rodriguez's 62 saves made the difference this year. Sure the Angels won by about 50 games, but if you don't think a closer can be valuable, ask all those teams that are sitting home in October primarily because they didn't have one. The MVP: K-Rod.
That leaves the NL Cy Young. I admire what Tim Lincecum did. I love Sabathia. But Johan Santana didn't lose after June, and he nearly pulled a flawed Mets team into the playoffs. Yes, I know that Sabathia DID pull his team into the playoffs, but I'll give the edge to the guy who was there all year. The Cy Young: Johan.
Tags: Albert Pujols, Alexei Ramirez, Andrew Friedman, Angels, Brewers, Cardinals, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Dodgers, Doug Melvin, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Francisco Rodriguez, Geovany Soto, Joe Maddon, Johan Santana, Lou Piniella, Manny Ramirez, Mets, Phillies, Ryan Howard, Scott Miller, Tim Lincecum