May 2006

The Fielder’s Choice Awards

FielderThey?ve got the "Viewer’s Choice Awards" and the "People’s Choice Awards," both of which draw consistent ratings. So why not take advantage of a choice thing and celebrate the most spectacular groundball force outs of the baseball season at the "Fielder?s Choice Awards"? As for a host, none other than former Tigers powerhouse Cecil Fielder would have to do the honors. …

Does Angels right-hander "Bartolo Colon" remind you of something fragrant, such as a cologne, or something not so fragrant, such as a colon? …

Is it any coincidence that Dave Philly played for Philadelphia Phillies from 1958-59? …

Forget about "The Lone Star Series." And kick "The Silver Boot" to the
curb. The best name for the intrastate, Interleague battle between the
Astros and the Rangers is as simple as Houston, Texas: "Houston-Texas." …

With a Major League-leading two three-double games, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell is the LeBron James of baseball. Because he, too, has mastered the "triple-double."

The 365-Day DL

PavanoCarl Pavano, who hasn’t seen big-league action since last June because of various injuries and is out indefinitely with a bone chip above his right elbow, shouldn’t be on the maximum 60-day disabled list, never mind the 15-day DL. The Yankees right-hander deserves his own, special list, one that unmistakably reflects what a tumultuous year it’s been for him: The 365-day DL. …

Who’s the athletic director of the elusive Abercrombie & Fitch Athletic Department? Where are its headquarters? Does it have a baseball division? How do I become a member? And does it matter if I’m not a fad-following, mall-meandering teenage boy? …

Is it any coincidence that Dave Philly played for the Philadelphia Phillies, from 1958-59? …

Bledsoe_3Commissioner Bud Selig’s "three strikes and you?re out" steroid policy
for MLB has sent shockwaves throughout the sports world. And while an
equally clever "three and out" plan has yet to be proposed by NFL
commish Paul Tagliabue, that hasn’t stopped insiders from giving it a
nickname: The Bledsoe Special. …

A’s outfielder Jay Payton considers himself a great baserunner even though he doesn’t steal bases. "I have the speed, but I just don’t steal," said 33-year-old journeyman, who recently swiped his first bag in his 145th game as an American Leaguer. "I know how to run the bases. It’s about getting a good jump off the bat, or getting a good secondary lead." In a related story, zero-time All-Star Jay Payton considers himself an All-Star even though he’s never made the All-Star team. Making the All-Star team, after all, is just not his style.

The Denial

PalmeirofingerIt’s a good thing former Viagra spokesman Rafael Palmeiro denied ever using steroids, not performance-enhancing drugs. …

Interleague Play is like communism. It works in theory, offering "dream matchups" like Mets-Yankees, White Sox-Cubs and Dodgers-Angels. But in reality, the competitive spirit isn’t all there. …

Prior to George W. Bush, Richard M. Nixon was the last active president to throw out the first pitch in Cincinnati. The location? Riverfront Stadium. The occasion? The 1970 All-Star Game. The political climate? Vietnam ugly, as the nation was entrenched in an ideological war against  ?- who else?  ?- the Reds. …

Junior100_1The long ball aside, there’s no such thing as a bases-clearing hit. Because when it’s all said and done, there’s a guy on base. …

In a frivolous turn of events, an "LA man" is suing the Los Angeles
Angels of Anaheim for sex and age discrimination after being denied a
red nylon tote bag during a Mother’s Day promotion at Angels Stadium.
More to follow on whether the case will be tried in Los Angeles or
Anaheim, but wherever it takes place, rest assured that such maternally
paternal Hollywood favorites as "Mr. Mom," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and
"Junior" will be used as primary exhibits in the prosecution’s
argument. …

Having whiffed 33 times in 105 at-bats, Padres center fielder Mike Cameron is on a mission to make better contact at the plate so as to make better use of his speed on the basepaths. "Baseball’s like life," Cameron said. "You’ve got to be bold or it’ll pass you by." Just like a third strike.

The Department Store

HamelsAsk people in Philadelphia about Phillies southpaw Cole Hamels, andthey’ll tell you he’s a mega-prospect, a savior, a future All-Star. But
ask me about Cole Hammels, and I?ll tell you he sounds like a men’s
department store, a glorious hybrid of Kohl’s, Cole Haan and Kenneth
Cole. …

In a startling revelation, Barry Bonds admitted to being conscious of his pursuit of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron on the game’s all-time home run list. "This thing, it’s like chasing two ghosts, you know?" said the Giants slugger. "I can imagine what Roger Maris went through." Two ghosts, eh? Somebody tell Barry that Hammerin’ Hank ain’t dead just yet. …

ClichesIn spite of his 22 years, 6-foot-7 Mets pitching prospect Mike Pelfrey is undaunted by the prospect of pitching in New York. "I never feel pressure. … I always tell myself wherever I’m at, I’m here for a reason. … I just need to go out and do it. Just got to put it all together. … You have to roll with adversity. If you can’t handle criticism, you’re going to fail. It’s about turning the page," said Pelfrey, reading directly from his favorite list of clichés. …

Who says pro ballplayers are selfish? Marlins southpaw Dontrelle Willis, for one, gives $100 to injured war veterans for every strikeout he records on the mound as part of "Strikeouts for Troops." Still no word on whether fellow strikeout artist Mark Bellhorn of the Padres will join the cause by donating $100 for every time he whiffs at the plate. …

And I don’t care what the injury report says. Yankees right-hander Carl
Pavano, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues for 11 months, shouldn’t
be on the 15-day disabled list.

 

The Texas Rangers Of The Texas Rangers

Norris50Tom Hicks is the owner. Buck Showalter is the manager. Hank Blalock isthe third baseman. R.A. Dickey is the pitcher. Which begs the question:
Can the Texas Rangers possibly sound any more like the Texas Rangers?

Seemingly destined for their ninth losing season in as many years of
existence, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are considering dropping the
"Devil" in their name as part of a larger rebranding effort. And while
the move is anything but official, that hasn?t stopped insiders from
giving it a nickname: "The Exorcism." …

It might sound off base, but maybe a home run shouldn’t count toward on-base percentage. Because when it’s all said and done, the batter’s not on base. …

Abercrombie_2Is Marlins rookie Reggie Abercrombie a member of the elusive A&F
Athletic Department? If so, how long before the center fielder?s jersey
skyrockets in popularity among trend-hungry, mall-infesting teenage
boys throughout the country? Will it be artificially faded and
fictitiously dated? And what does Fitch think about all this? …

Clearly enjoying pitcher-friendly confines of San Diego?s PETCO Park, Padres right-hander Chan Ho Park recently extended his home shutout streak to 16 innings. More to follow on the organization?s plan to celebrate the accomplishment by renaming the stadium ?- what else? ?- CHANHO Park.

The Pierre Apparent

Pierre2Nothing against the Cubs center fielder, but for the love of consistency, what kind of a name is Juan Pierre? Is the Mobile, Ala., native supposed to be some kind of French Spaniard or Spanish Frenchman? Either way, it seems only fitting that the team’s "Pierre apparent" in center is none other than fellow "oxymoron" Angel Pagan. …

How can it be that baseball’s Giles Brothers ?- Brave Marcus and Padre
Brian ?- are both ranked among the National League leaders in walks? Is
it that a "good eye" runs in the family? Or does it all come down to
patient parenting? …

Giles_4The baseball thesaurus seemingly has a synonym for everything. An
inning is a frame, a batter a hitter, a pitcher a hurler, a forkball a
splitter, a walk a free pass, an ally a gap, a homer a jack, a bomb, a
dinger. But the save is the black sheep of ballpark terminology. The
save is, well, a save, nothing more, nothing less, blessed with neither
synonym nor antonym. The save is so linguistically neglected, in fact,
that its opposite is the "blown save." Once again: The blown save.
That’s like charging a pitcher with a "blown out" for allowing a hit or
giving a batter a "blown hit" for recording an out. For lack of a
better word, it?s "thoughtless." ?

NakedgunWas it a strike or a ball? A hit or an error? Was he safe or out? And did he check it or go around? For more than a century, baseball has relied upon the "better judgment" of umpires and official scorers to decide the fate of its game. So why does discretion get thrown out the window in ground-rule situations? A double should be the minimum award for a ground-rule hit, not the only one. Circumstance matters. The trajectory of the ball matters, as does its pace. The dimensions of the field matter. The positioning and quickness of the outfielders matter. And the speed of the runner matters. In most cases, awarding a double is the correct ground-rule judgment. But that doesn?t mean that a "ground-rule triple" or even a "ground-rule inside-the-park home run" should be out of the question.

The F-Baum

Baumanyes_1If Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is "A-Rod," is former Red Sox and White Sox reliever Frank Baumann "F-Baum"? …

What about Twins right-hander Brad Radke? Is he "B-Rad," or "Brad"? You bet he is. ?

Likewise, Cardinals reliever Braden Looper is "B-Loop," or "Bloop." …

Aramis_3Fellow Redbird Albert Pujols is "A-Pu," or "Apu." …

Rays infielder Ty Wigginton is ?T-Wig,? or ?Twig.? …

Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge is ?B-Inge,? or ?Binge.? …

And Orioles catcher Javy Lopez is ?- you guessed it ?- ?J-Lo.? ?

Even with fragrant All-Stars Bartolo Colon and Aramis Ramirez on board, my fantasy squad stinks. Go figure. ?

Something tells me that Angels right-hander Chris Bootcheck ?- not a Dallas-area orthotics specialist ?- was behind the decision by Rangers right fielder Kevin Mench to check his shoe size and ultimately relieve his long-suffering feet.

The Hit Buntsman

BuntsmanThe term "hit batsman" doesn’t sit well with me. Who decided that a batter becomes a batsman when he gets hit by a pitch? Is a batsman supposed to be the baseball equivalent of a casualty of war? Or is it the plural of batman gone terribly wrong? And if a batter gets beaned while attempting to bunt, does he suddenly become a "hit buntsman"? …

Is a grown-up bat boy a bat man? And is Batman nothing more than a grown-up bat boy? …

Rarely does an injury boil down to Mike Tyson’s reading level, but Mets rookie right-hander Brian Bannister is on the 15-day disabled list with a
grade 1 hamstring strain. …

Is it any coincidence that Mets color man Keith Hernandez is a Just For Men pitchman? …

And for those of you who think Hernandez might lose his endorsement deal with the hair coloring giant for saying the dugout is just for men, consider this: Just For Men is just for men. …

DieselIn Oakland, A’s third baseman Eric Chavez has quietly dispelled the notion that he’s a slow starter by hitting .314 with 10 homers and 26 RBIs in his first 29 games. In a related story, first-string Blue Jays catcher Benjie Molina has been chugging around the bases in Toronto like a diesel-powered bus, cementing his reputation as ?- you guessed it ?- a slow starter. …

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove applauded right-hander Joel Pineiro for escaping a no-out, bases-loaded jam unscathed in a recent victory over the Red Sox. "I wouldn’t want to be on the mound (in that situation)," said the veteran skipper. "I’d want to be somewhere in Tibet, probably." Which makes sense ?- at least philosophically. After all, Hargrove has managed to find baseball’s "Middle Way," sporting a decidedly mediocre .501 winning percentage in 15 seasons at the big-league helm.

The Off-Base Percentage

Mccarver_4At least on the surface, Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez and Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver don?t appear to have a lot in common. But a new statistical analysis suggests otherwise. In 2005, Manny posted a .400 on-base percentage. So it wouldn?t be incorrect to say that the eccentric slugger ?- much like his babbling counterpart ?- was off base 60 percent of the time. ?

Whenever I hear the attendance at a baseball game, it sounds pretty precise to me. Like 35,167 at Fenway Park, 49,619 at Yankee Stadium, or 38,916 at Wrigley Field. This is exactitude at its finest, the ballpark figure ?- anything but a ballpark figure. ?

Relievers don’t deserve earned run averages. Never have. Assigning a nine-inning projection to an inning or so of work is pure statistical folly. If I run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, does that mean I can run 400 yards in 43 seconds? Not a chance. So why should we give a guy credit for a full day of work when he can’t even make it to lunch? ?

With a nominal Minor League background and sporadic big-league experience, 24-year-old Red Sox outfielder Wily Mo Pena is like a raw piece of meat. He could use a bit of seasoning. ?

As of Opening Day, the average Major League salary was $2.87 million, up nearly nine percent from 2005. Amazingly, MLB boasts 409 millionaires, or about 100 less than MC Hammer?s entourage had in 1991. ?

Marten_1Funny how ?Shoeless? Joe Jackson and Doc Martin were teammates on the 1908 Philadelphia Athletics. ?

New Mets closer Billy Wagner isn?t about to apologize for using the same entrance music ?- Metallica?s ?Enter Sandman? ?- as Yankees counterpart Mariano Rivera. ?Lord forbid, the Earth should crumble if two people have it,? said Wagner, reading directly from Rivera?s favorite Bible verse. …

So, how many times do you see a guy make a great play in the field and lead off the next half-inning with a hit? Who cares? I’m still trying to figure out how many times you see a guy get a hit and lead off the next half-inning with a great defensive play. And while I’ve yet to figure it out, I’ll guarantee this: The answer to both questions is the same.