June 2006

The Irony

If he didn?t already, Astros second baseman Craig Biggio knows the bitter taste of irony after his 14th annual Sunshine Kids Celebrity Golf Classic was recently spoiled by a torrential downpour. ?

Mudslide_1Speaking of which, the good people at the Marlins recognized the beginning of the 2006 hurricane season with ?Hurricane Awareness Night,? during which the first 10,000 fans received a free flashlight. More to follow on whether the Dodgers will recognize ?Mudslide Awareness Night? by serving an iced blend of vodka, Kahlua and Bailey?s to fans 21 and over. ?

The Astros killed two birds with one stone with their selection of Max Sapp in the first round of the MLB draft, getting both a catcher of the future and a face for their soon-to-be-launched line of ballpark syrup. ?

Is it any coincidence that Padres manager Bruce Bochy?s favorite pinch-runner is Ben Johnson? ?

If Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is ?A-Rod,? is Mets ace Pedro Martinez ?P-Mart?? What about Indians backstop Victor Martinez? Is he ?V-Mart?? And don?t those sound more like cheap convenience stores than big-league nicknames?

The Mountain Man

Mountain_manIn 2005, no starter reached the 250-inning mark for the first time in big-league history ?- a sad reflection on the state of baseball. With all the pitcher pampering running roughshod over today?s game, consider that Frank Mountain threw 503 innings over 59 starts for the 1883 Columbus Buckeyes.

Talk about a man ?- a Mountain Man ?- living up to his name.

Frank Mountain didn?t need a pitch count, never mind an innings report. Heck, he didn?t even keep track of starts.

Frank Mountain trapped fur in the offseason, carried a muzzle loader and a butcher knife, dressed in animal pelts and sported the beard of God.

Frank Mountain traded himself to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1885 for an old pint of whiskey, with no regrets.

Frank Mountain stared Death straight in the eyes and vanquished him with a fastball.

And Frank Mountain threw a 20-inning, complete-game shutout on a three-legged horse with no name.

The Prior Groundhog Day

GroundhogdayOpening day might be in early April, but the baseball season doesn?t officially begin until Cubs right-hander Mark Prior emerges from the disabled list after a long winter of R&R (that?s rest and rehabilitation).

This year?s debut showcased a shadow of a man (seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings), a sign that perhaps Prior ?- he of the strained right shoulder ?- should return to the DL for another six weeks. Indeed, the four gopher balls he served up were no coincidence.

It?s always something with the 25-year-old gas master:

Prior to the shoulder, it was the elbow.
Prior to the elbow, it was ? the elbow.
Prior to the elbow, it was the Achilles?.
And prior to the Achilles?, it was the shoulder.

The moral of the story? Don?t be shocked when Prior goes back on the shelf. And don?t blink an eye when Groundhog Day repeats itself upon his next return.

The Sore Calf

CalfIn a questionable turn of events, Jeromy Burnitz recently took some time away from the Pirates to nurse a sore calf. Still no word on why the calf was sore and ?- more importantly ?- why the veteran right fielder skipped work to tend to a young cow. ?

Would the story of Justin Morneau?s life be a Morneaugraphy? And would a biopic about the Twins first baseman be a Morneaugraphic film? ?

Seemingly unaware that Veteran?s Day is November 11, the Washington Nationals hosted ?Veterans Appreciation Day? on June 14. More to follow on the organization?s plan to celebrate ?Christmas in July.? …

JohnsonWhen Yankees southpaw Randy Johnson and Indians right-hander Jason Johnson recently squared off, it was the first time in 2006 that two pitchers with the same last night had faced each other. So who was the better man? Who else? Johnson. ?

A?s team trainer Larry Davis was happy to report that Mark Ellis is recovering nicely from a broken hand, adding that the only thing the second baseman can?t do is hit and throw. Which begs the question: What can he do? …

Which Chad would make the better butler: Dodgers right-hander Billingsley or Jets quarterback Pennington? I?m going with Billingsley, since Pennington?s chronic shoulder problems could hinder his tray-lifting ability down the road.

The Moises Fly Trap

Mrmiyagi_2His right ankle 90 percent healed, Moises Alou was recently activated from the disabled list after running on the basepaths and catching flies. Still no word on whether the Giants outfielder used a sweaty old glove or a fresh set of chopsticks to nab the feisty insects. ?

Originally the ?Brown Stockings,? then the ?Browns,? the St. Louis Cardinals tried the name ?Perfectos? in 1899, only to sound more like an international supervillain conglomerate than a big-league franchise. More to follow on why the name lasted only a year, although many believe the Justice League had a hand in its hasty demise. ?

If you think that?s odd, consider that the Los Angeles Dodgers captured two pennants in six seasons as the ?Brooklyn Bridegrooms? in the late 19th century. So why the name change? I?m not exactly sure, but I?m guessing it had something to do with the players getting married. ?

Nap2Not surprisingly, the Cleveland Indians were named the ?Naps? for their first 14 years of existence, if for no other reason than to celebrate the raw boredom that defines their host city. ?

As for the Cubs, they were called the ?Chicago Orphans" from 1898-1902. Rumor has it that the team quickly lost interest in the name upon realizing that it sounded way too much like a Broadway musical. ?

And the Atlanta Braves were named the ?Boston Beaneaters? from 1883-1906, during which they farted their way to six pennants and one playoff appearance.

The King Of Pop

SmoothcriminalSomething tells me that if"Smooth Criminal" Michael Jackson wrote a song about enigmatic Red
Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, the refrain would go something like, ?Manny are you
OK? So, Manny are you OK? Are you OK, Manny? Manny are you OK? So, Manny are
you OK? Are you OK, Manny?? …

His quirkiness notwithstanding, with 30 or more homers and 100-plus RBIs in 10 of his first 11 full big-league seasons, Manny — not MJ — is the real "King of Pop." ? 

Shortstop Ramon Martinez is
the first Dodgers player named Ramon Martinez since — you guessed it — Ramon
Martinez, who anchored LA?s pitching staff in the early ?90s. ?

RamonmartinezWhy do they always say ?paid
attendance?? Other than the players, who isn?t paying? Are random people
getting in for free? Or is this just a way of ?admitting? that a few people
snuck in? And if everyone really is paying — which I think they are — why
qualify it? …

If a walk?s as good as a
hit, is a walk and a steal as good as a double? And is a double and a steal as
good as a triple? What about a double steal? How good is that? Beyond the
confusion, at least we can all agree that a walk?s as good as a hit — a base
hit, that is.

The Winnebago

Winnebago315Do you know what the "B.J." in first-year Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan stands for? Judging by the fact that his real name is "Robert Victor," I’m not exactly sure. Seems to me we should be calling him "R.V.," or possibly even "The Winnebago" (much like his automotive counterpart, the 6-foot-6, 249-pound Ryan is quite imposing). That is, unless he’s been named after his new team all along.  …

The Red Sox recently recalled right-hander Jermaine Van Buren from Triple-A Pawtucket, if for no other reason than to complement fellow ex-presidential namesake Trot Nixon on the 25-man roster. …

Padres southpaw Shawn Estes said he’s "98 percent" sure he?s going to have Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery on his left elbow. When asked how he arrived at that number, Estes said he was two percent unsure about the move and "just did the math." …

On the road back from inflammation in his pitching shoulder, Angels right-hander Bartolo Colon is reportedly throwing at 50 percent, or a "Semi-Colon." …

Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon, meanwhile, has a broken sesamoid bone in his right foot, debunking the widely accepted notion that the funny bone is a nerve.