Posted on: May 23, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 4:34 pm

A's Fuentes is making (losing) history

In 16-plus years as a Yankees reliever, Mariano Rivera only once lost as many as six games in a season -- and never more than six.

In 47 games with the A's, Brian Fuentes now has six losses.

According to baseball-reference.com, only one relief pitcher since 1919 has ever lost more games this early in a season. Gene Garber lost seven of the first 47 games with the 1979 Braves (who, not coincidentally, were 18-29 on the way to a 94-loss season). Before Fuentes, the only pitcher in the last 20 years to lose six of his team's first 47 games was Vic Darensbourg, who did it with the fire-sale Marlins of 1998.

Yes, I realize that wins and losses don't tell the full story for any pitcher. But when your closer keeps losing games (and Fuentes is the A's closer, with Andrew Bailey on the disabled list), you've got trouble.

Seven times this year, A's manager Bob Geren has put Fuentes in a tie game. He lost five of those games, an amazing (and devastating) stat for a pitcher who almost never works more than one inning. Fuentes' other loss came after one of his two blown saves.

If you're wondering how the A's could be below .500 this year despite a rotation that has by far the lowest ERA in baseball (2.67, which is 0.38 better than the second-best Mariners), obviously their weak lineup is part of the answer. But so is Fuentes.

Posted on: May 16, 2011 12:25 am

Red Sox hit .500 mark, on the road to . . .

NEW YORK -- Exactly a month ago, when the Red Sox fell to 2-10, I wrote about the 2001 Oakland A's, who also started 2-10 in a season of great expectations.

Those A's would go on to win 102 games. They didn't reach .500 until May 22, after the 44th game of their schedule.

I'm not going to guess how many games these Red Sox will win. I will tell you that after this weekend's sweep of the Yankees, which ended with a 7-5 win Sunday night, the Red Sox are now 20-20, at .500 one week (or four games, if you prefer) ahead of the A's 2001 pace.

Is the comparison valid?

Yes and no.

The A's went 19-8 in July, 22-7 in August and 23-4 from Sept. 1 on, which is what it takes to get to 100 wins after such a lousy start. The Red Sox have been great for the last month (their 18-10 record is a 104-win pace over a full season), but they'd need to be even better to finish with triple-digit wins (they'd need to go 80-42, a 127-win pace over a full season).

Still, by getting back to .500 this quickly, the Red Sox showed how crazy it was to dismiss them as pretenders because of their horrible first two weeks.

"It actually feels good," said manager Terry Francona, who had played down the .500 talk before. "Hopefully, this is moving forward, and not getting to .500 and take a deep breath."

Francona said Sunday afternoon that the way the Red Sox play matters more to him on a daily basis than their record does. And the way the Red Sox played against the Yankees (who had an absolutely horrible weekend themselves) pleased Francona.

"We're making strides," Francona said. "We're coming. We're getting better."

And, for now, they're ahead of the pace set by the 2001 A's.

The 102-win 2001 A's.

Category: MLB
Tags: A's, Red Sox, Yankees
Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 11:38 pm

Tony's team plays on, even without him here

CHICAGO -- Two decades ago, I moved to Michigan to cover the Tigers.

Or, as some people there would have told you, I moved there to cover Sparky Anderson.

In those years, people never asked, "How are the Tigers going to do this year?"

It was always, "How's Sparky going to do this year?"

In those days, the Tigers were Sparky. Sparky was the Tigers.

And that's pretty much how it is with the Cardinals and Tony La Russa.

No team is baseball is as defined by its manager as this one is. No manager in baseball is as synonymous with his team as this one.

The Cardinals are not Albert Pujols, any more than the Tigers of the 1980s were Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker or Jack Morris.

The Cardinals are Tony La Russa. And that's what made Tuesday such a strange night.

The Cardinals were at Wrigley Field. La Russa was in Arizona.

He'll be gone all week, the Cardinals announced late in Tuesday night's 6-4 win over the Cubs. The Cardinals hope he can return to the dugout when the team comes home next week, but even that isn't certain.

For now, La Russa is where he needs to be, finally dealing with a health condition diagnosed as shingles. For weeks, La Russa's players and coaches have watched him struggle with it. They've seen his swollen faces and his watery eyes.

"You could see on his face, he was struggling," said Chris Carpenter, Tuesday night's winning pitcher for the La Russa-less Cards.

When the Cardinals were in Los Angeles four weeks ago, the Cardinals players and coaches were telling La Russa to go to the hospital.

He refused.

"He doesn't want to let anyone down," said Dave McKay, La Russa's longtime first-base coach. "Ask him how he's doing, and he says, 'I'm OK.'

"And you know he's going through hell."

He doesn't want to be away. La Russa phoned in Tuesday night's lineup to acting manager Joe Pettini, and Pettini said he expects a phone call and a lineup every day this week.

"He's going to know everything that's going on," Pettini said, noting that he had voice mail from La Russa when Tuesday's game ended. "I was just hoping I didn't have to take my phone down to the dugout."

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, who talked to La Russa during Tuesday's game, said the manager understands that rest and medication are what the doctors have prescribed.

But everyone around La Russa understands how tough it is for him to be away.

"He's never missed a game," said McKay, who joined La Russa with the A's in 1989 and moved with him to St. Louis in 1996. "I've never even seen him ill, although a lot of that is that he wouldn't want you to know it if he was."

He would never want you to think that he wasn't in control, and he always wants the Cardinals to play the game right and to conduct themselves right. Just as Anderson did, La Russa insists that his players treat clubhouse attendants and flight attendants with respect.

And he insists that his players care as much and compete as hard as he does.

"The way we play on the field, how hard we play, is a reflection of our manager," said reserve catcher Gerald Laird, who came to the Cardinals this year and found that La Russa was everything he expected him to be.

It doesn't work for every player. We all know about the guys who have had run-ins with La Russa, the guys the Cardinals have traded away because they didn't mesh with La Russa.

We also know that whatever happens with his health this week, La Russa's time in St. Louis could be coming to an end. He's 66 years old, and once again operating in the final year of his contract.

One of these years, he actually will walk away from the Cardinals, although the thinking in baseball has been that if Pujols stays, then La Russa will stay, too.

Meanwhile, the thinking on the South Side of Chicago has been that La Russa is the one manager that Jerry Reinsdorf would be happy to get back, the one guy he wouldn't mind replacing Ozzie Guillen with.

At this point, that would feel strange, even though La Russa did manage the White Sox for nine years. At this point, it's even strange to look back and see La Russa in an A's uniform, even though he managed that team for 10 years and won his first World Series there.

He is the Cardinals, and the Cardinals are him.

"He treats the organization like it's his," McKay said. "The guy's tireless. He treats it like he owns it."

That's why it was so hard for him to leave. That's why it was so strange to see the Cardinals without him.

"His influence is with this club," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

There's no doubt about that. La Russa's coaches have been with him for years, and they'll run the game the way he would, as much as they can.

Pettini will be the acting manager, with Dave Duncan handling the pitching and McKay and Jose Oquendo running their part of the operation.

It's still La Russa's team. It still will be his team.

And even as you ask how Tony is doing, it's still right to ask how Tony's team is doing.

Posted on: May 3, 2011 4:36 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 6:49 pm

What will baseball do about its DUI problem?

Baseball suspended Ozzie Guillen for tweeting during a game.

Shin-Soo Choo was arrested for driving under the influence, and he isn't expected to miss a game.

We shouldn't be surprised. Choo is the sixth baseball player to face DUI charges this year alone.

Not one of the six has missed a regular-season game because of it.

I'm not sure what the proper penalty should be. Choo, like the others, does face legal charges.

But like the others, he won't face any baseball charges. There's no precedent for punishing players for off-field matters, and for now the Basic Agreement between the players and owners doesn't provide for it.

With six DUI incidents this year, you can be sure the owners will raise the issue in this summer's negotiations on a new Basic Agreement.

Meanwhile, baseball gets another black eye.

Fortunately, none of the players cited for DUI so far this year seems to have hurt anyone. But fans remember that Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver two years ago, and one fan suggested to me on Twitter that any player getting a DUI should be forced to donate a month's salary to the Adenhart Memorial Fund.

So far, that's not happening.

All we can do is present the ugly list, with the ugly details, and hope that the next player who goes out drinking remembers that he has enough money to afford a cab home -- and that the potential cost to his reputation is a lot more than the price of that cab ride:

The list:

-- Adam Kennedy, Mariners, Jan. 26 in Newport Beach, Calif. Kennedy signed with the Mariners on Jan. 10. Not even three weeks later, he was calling Seattle reporters to apologize to fans, after he was caught driving over the limit. "Regettable is an understatement," Kennedy told the Seattle Times.

-- Austin Kearns, Indians, Feb. 12 in Nicholasville, Ky. Police said Kearns was driving down an emergency lane without headlights, and was weaving. No wonder he didn't tell the Indians about it until the arrest became public several weeks later.

-- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, Feb. 16 in St. Lucie County, Fla. This was the ugliest of all of them, with Cabrera allegedly firing threats and drinking Scotch in front of police officers. Baseball worked out a treatment plan for Cabrera, but said he would face penalties if he didn't stick to the plan.

-- Coco Crisp, A's, March 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Crisp was stopped at 2:15 a.m., driving a 2009 Rolls Royce Phantom with an expired license.

-- Derek Lowe, Braves, April 28 in Atlanta. Another bad one. According to police, Lowe was drag-racing another car, while drunk, on Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

-- Shin-soo Choo, Indians, May 2 in Sheffield Lake, Ohio. The details are still to emerge on this one, but Choo was picked up early Monday morning. Police said he blew a 0.20 on the Breathalyzer test, more than twice the legal limit. Police also said he asked an officer for directions to his (Choo's) home, then was weaving as he drove away and was pulled over.

Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:45 pm

3 to watch: The starting pitching matters edition

In some ways, the Yankee rotation has been better than advertised.

Freddy Garcia has started twice and still hasn't allowed a run. Bartolo Colon made it to the seventh inning in winning his only start. The often shaky A.J. Burnett is 3-0 in four starts.

Put together, the Yankee starters have a 7-3 record and a not-terrible 4.62 ERA, and that's even though they've lost four other potential wins to blown saves.

Not bad, as long as you ignore that other very significant stat: innings pitched.

Put together, the Yankee starters have pitched fewer innings than any other rotation in baseball.

Normally, and not surprisingly, teams like that don't win. It's been 11 years since the team that finished 30th in starters innings had a winning record, and longer than that since a team like that made it to the playoffs.

So far, the Yankees have gotten by, in part because they're scoring so many runs (more than six a game) and in part because four scheduled off days and three rainouts have helped the Yankees rest their bullpen.

The rain may not be over, but there's not a scheduled day on the Yankees' schedule either of the next two weeks.

On the other hand, the Yankees may have something better than an off day. They've got four games the next four games against the struggling White Sox.

Only one Yankee starter this year has finished seven innings (and CC Sabathia has done it just twice in five starts). By contrast, eight of the last 10 pitchers who started a game against the White Sox have finished at least seven innings, combining for a 1.90 ERA.

So maybe this is the week things turn around for the Yankee starters.

Either that, or maybe this is the week that short outings by starters start affecting the Yankees' record.

On to 3 to watch:

1. One thing to remember about Burnett: While his 2010 season was one of the worst ever by a Yankee starter, he was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first six starts. So what should we make of Burnett's 3-0 record and 4.37 ERA in his first four starts this year? Maybe we'll know more after he makes his fifth start, in White Sox at Yankees, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. Why's that? Because in two years as a Yankee, Burnett has faced the White Sox twice. He lost both games, allowing 15 runs on 18 hits in just eight combined innings.

2. When Jered Weaver beat the Rangers last week, he became the first pitcher since Dave Stewart in 1990 to go 5-0 in his team's first 18 games. Stewart went on to make it 6-0 in the A's first 22 games that year. Weaver can't do that, but he'll go for 6-0 in 23 games when he starts in A's at Angels, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. One note of caution: Weaver has just one win in his last 11 starts against the A's, dating back to September 2007. Weaver has a tough opponent in Gio Gonzalez, who has a 1.80 ERA through his first four starts.

3. As Scott Miller points out in Weekend Buzz, the Red Sox have recovered quite nicely from their 0-6, and then 2-10, start. In fact, if the Sox follow up their weekend sweep in Anaheim by winning their first two games in Baltimore, they could have a winning record by the time they finish Red Sox at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. That's basically unheard of. While teams have recovered from 2-10 starts to finish over .500 (and even to win 100-plus games), it usually takes a month, or two months, or even three months. The Red Sox have a chance to do it in 11 days. It's a nice pitching matchup Tuesday, with Josh Beckett facing Jeremy Guthrie.

Posted on: April 22, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 7:09 pm

It's been a cold (and low-scoring) April

Stats can lie. STATS Inc. doesn't.

So what should we make of the latest offering from the Chicago-based statistics service, which reported Friday that scoring in baseball is at a 19-year low for the first month of the season?

According to STATS, major-league games are averaging just 4.31 runs, down from 4.55 in April last year and the lowest since a 4.12 average in April 1992.

STATS suggests colder weather as a factor, and that's reasonable. It has been colder than normal in much of the country. I know for a fact it was cold and windy on Thursday night at Citi Field . . . when the Mets (9) and Astros (1) combined for 10 runs.

CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller points out that the Padres have contributed (or not contributed) to the lack of scoring. The Padres have just 60 runs in 19 games, and have already been shut out five times (and they face Roy Halladay on Sunday).

Has it been cold in San Diego?

Scott tells me it has been.

Others will no doubt point to steroid testing, and there's little doubt that's a longer-term factor. STATS listed the six lowest-scoring Aprils in the last 20 years, and four of them have been in the last five years (2009 was the exception). None of the six were in the probable peak steroid years, between 1994 and 2006.

It's also possible that there are just more good hitters than good pitchers right now. Scouts talk about how hard it is to find good position players, and several teams with strong pitching (A's, Giants, Padres, Mariners) are offensively-challenged.

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 16, 2011 1:21 pm

From 2-10 to 102 wins? It has been done

NEW YORK -- The A's were supposed to be good in 2001.

They'd won 91 games the year before. They'd added Johnny Damon over the winter.

And they started 2-10.

"It was disheartening," said Eric Chavez, the third baseman on that team. "Because going into the season, people were expecting big things."

They started 2-10. Eventually, they delivered big things.

The A's won 102 games that year, the second-most in the majors.

So yes, Boston, it can be done.

"I mean, it was early," said Chavez, now an extra infielder with the Yankees. "If it had been later in the year, we'd have been packing our bags. The thing about good teams is they can run off a lot of wins in a row, and make up ground fast."

The A's did just that. They made it back to .500 by late May, and in early August they went on a 10-game winning streak. They won 53 out of 68 at one point.

"There was never any panic in that clubhouse," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, a coach on that A's team. "We always said, 'We'll get them in the second half.'

"It was an amazing group, a group of grinders -- a little bit like this [Texas] team."

Are the Red Sox like that, too?

We'll find out.

"If anybody thinks [the Red Sox are done], come see me at the All-Star break," Chavez said.

Posted on: April 7, 2011 6:04 pm

3 to watch: The no snowing in Minnesota edition

It was cold on opening day at Yankee Stadium. It was colder, at least according to the thermometer, the next day at Citizens Bank Park.

On Thursday at Progressive Field, the game-time temperature was 38 degrees.

And now it's time for baseball in Minnesota?

Sure is, and the forecast for Friday's first pitch of the year at Target Field is a very reasonable 61 degrees.

How about we move all early-season games to Minnesota? And play them outdoors.

We all thought the Twins were taking a huge gamble with the weather, when they moved out of the Metrodome and played their first outdoor home games since 1981. We all thought they'd be playing doubleheaders all summer, to make up for all those games that would be snowed out.

Then they had one game rained out all season. The NFL's Vikings, who still play indoors, had more weather postponements than the Twins did.

Target Field became one of the best baseball stories of the entire summer, a beautiful park (maybe baseball's best) with daily sellouts and a great baseball atmosphere.

And the weather turned out to be no problem at all.

"We had one rainout, and one suspended game, and other than that we never put the tarp on the field during a game," general manager Bill Smith said.

That can't happen again this year?

"Why not?" Smith said.

"I'm counting on it," Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said with a smile. "I'm not holding my breath. But I am counting on it."

The Twins opened with a week of games away from home (one of which, on Wednesday in New York, was rained out). But Smith is not among those who believe baseball should avoid opening in cold climates.

He wants the Twins to open at home sometimes.

"You tell me whether the weather in Minnesota is going to be better this week or next week," he said. "It's one week."

There is rain in the forecast for Sunday, when the Twins are scheduled to play their third home game against the A's.

But no snow.

"We're done with that," Smith said.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Are you starting to believe in the Orioles' young pitching staff? I am, but I'm anxious to see how they do over the weekend against the Rangers. I'm especially anxious to see how Zach Britton does, when he makes his second big-league start in Rangers at Orioles, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Camden Yards .

2. The Twins did fine with the weather last year, and opening day looks good. But aren't they tempting fate by scheduling their second home game for an evening start. Actually, the reason for the start time for A's at Twins, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Target Field , is that a Friday home opener provided the Twins with no makeup date in the event of a rainout. If Friday's game had to be postponed -- there's no rain in the forecast -- the plan was to make it up at noon local time on Saturday, meaning that people with opening day tickets would still be able to see the opener.

3. Back in February, when I ranked baseball's most untradeable contracts , I didn't include Josh Beckett on the list. I'm beginning to think I should have, because in the year since he signed his four-year, $68 million extension, Beckett hasn't looked like a $15.75 million a year pitcher. Health was no doubt part of the reason for last year's 5.78 ERA, but Beckett wasn't good this spring and wasn't great in his first regular-season start, Tuesday in Cleveland. Add in the fact that the Red Sox are 0-6, and that the Yankees are in town, and that CC Sabathia will be his mound opponent, and there will be more focus than ever on Beckett in Yankees at Red Sox, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Fenway Park .

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