Saturday, December 20, 2003

Who Are These Dopes And Why Are They Ruining Baseball?

"The players association's intransigence and the arbitrary nature of its action are responsible for the deal's demise today. Reports that negotiations are continuing and shall continue are inaccurate." -- Lucky Luccino, on the end of Renaissance of the Red Sox, stillborn, half-term aborted.

It's another sign of the out-of-touch with the corporate world encroaching, imposing its stamp upon the sanctity and holy purity of the world of sports when it takes a degree in Quantitative Macroeconomics and Contracts Law to understand the anatomy of a baseball trade gone sour. Does anyone else get a headache trying to sort that A-Rod, for whom the contract was written, was willing to diminish the value of his contract, through deferrals, by $28 million; union lawyer Gene Orza would allow only $12 million?

Saturday, December 13, 2003

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

"Goodness gracious me!" said Henny-penny; "the sky's a-going to fall: I must go and tell the king."

One thing that has been not missed in these days in England: the Beatlemania-like hysteria over The Madness of King George, Mad Scientist George and His Bad Chemistry Clubhouse, the rise and fall of Chemical George, and a string of other epithets to describe the ruination of the Evil Empire, the last, vile twistings and strainings of the death row prisoner as he suffers his fatal injection. Despite the defections and sour reasoning, King George is still around to save the day and the sky has not yet fallen.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Torre's Headache City: Mad Scientist George and His Bad Chemistry

Wouldn't it be a beautiful little clubhouse, Sheffield, Keven Brown, Lofton: one whiner after another. Why didn't they pick Manny off the waiver wire again? Chemical George, mixing up toxic clubhouse auras. Off his rocker. Mad with doom.

A sad man in his final hours, Chemical George.

Poor Joe Torre. The man who got too much credit for everything from an adoring media, get's nothing from his Boss but a kick in the teeth for insubordination and another episode of Steinbrenner Knows Best (awww, carrots again tonight pa?). Yes give us high paid malcontents and clubhouse cancers. Fly the Yankee flag.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Steinbrenner Soiled Again By His Own Stupidity

The good news just keeps getting better. Sox snag Yankee-killing Schilling. Sheffield, the petulant and troubled free agent only an idiot would sign begins his whine early, in preseason, before the contract is even signed, and demands more money from Slimebrenner. Now, the best news we could hope for:

Pettitte spurns Yankees and signs with Astros.

Is it bigger news that the Red Sox, suddenly the money bags of the AL East, offered, $54 million over four years to the Yankees final offer was almost half that.

Very quickly, the Yankees traded Jeff Weaver and a few bodies to the Dodgers for Kevin Brown.

On paper, this could work out better in the long run. Brown is old and oft-injured, but when healthy, despite his own rotten fish clubhouse personality, he can be one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball. It sorts out that he'll end up costing the Yankees less than Pettitte would have over the years and after all, it isn't win next year, it is win now. Should Brown be healthy for the year, he could be the staff ace, eclipsing even Mussina. Brown, too, has had his moments at Yankee Stadium. Overall, he's 12-3 with a 2.50 ERA against the Yankees, his top win total vs. an opponent and although he hasn't pitched in the AL in awhile, this IS after all, a pitcher who went 14-9 with a staggering 2.39 ERA. At one point, before the injuries set in, he won 9 straight giving up 9 earned runs over 65 innings, a 0.80 ERA.

So while, from the outside, at the onset, this looks like a Yankee loss, combined with the possibility that Sheffield may have whined his way out of a Yankee uniform, these seeming harbingers of Yankee doom might actually turn out to be godsends.

Let's hope not, of course. Let's hope for more failure and futility, but let's not get too jacked up on Yankee blood letting just yet.

Perhaps even richer, is the rampant speculation that now with Pettitte signed, Roger Clemens won't be far behind. Richard Justice reports:

Could Roger Clemens be lured into joining Pettitte and giving the Astros a devastating one-two combination, in terms of pitching performance and marketing potential? The Astros intend to find out. Even as team owner Drayton McLane made possibly his most dramatic acquisition since purchasing the franchise, he admitted he has one more in mind.

"I will call Roger at the appropriate time," he said. "We'll talk."

As for the two of them pitching for the Astros next season, Pettitte said: "Five days ago, I'd have said no. Now, I don't know. If he gives me any opening to say he might think about it, I'm going to jump on it pretty good. That would be awesome."

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Off Seasons Are the Kick In the Balls

The real imbalance of baseball is the Off Season.

That's when money matters: on paper.

Newspaper you read every morning hoping desperately for news on who's in, who's out, trade rumours, free agent signings on page four:

In certain cities, there is no off season. The team sucked last year. There were no 162 games because none of them mattered. Loss is Loss. And Loss is loss after loss after loss.

The offseason are franchises that stand against the wall for execution as some junior high dance waiting to be ignorant and hoping not to be mocked.

Will Milwaukee re-sign Gary Sheffield? Fuck no. How could they?

So imagine yourself a stinking Brewers fan and you've got Bud Selig underpants and Bud Selig dishwashing liquid in your house and you've got no fucking hope that there will be improvement. Bud Selig to daughter, for example, is a precedent of bad decision making and why the hopes of Brewers fans are like a spreading rot.

Hey! What's going on in the Devil Rays camp these days?

Yup. Big fucking excitement. Heart attacks. Lou Piniella farts at charity dinner for corpses and doesn't apologise immediately! No one wants Son of Bitch Ben Grieve who can't hit nepotism pussy if it hit HIM in the face first.

Puke him out in bloody chunks-like stomach cancer or miscarriages into the toilet .

There's you're fucking off season.

No Fucking Hope

And no Fucking Hope for the future.

Some cities gets hope and somes gets losers, naive, bloodless servility.


Win Hope!

Defeat envy!

(just checking if anyone was reading)

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Human Headache Waiting To Happen

The marriage made in hell: sourpuss and whiner extraordinaire, Gary Sheffield has, in the words of one baseball exec: "changed his mind and wanted more money."

Now there's a shock. What a relief it was a few seasons ago when the Mets were thinking about getting him from the Dodgers and cooler heads prevailed. The head case that is Sheffield will not survive the media spotlight of New York. He whines too often, he's too outspoken when there is nothing to say: Prima Donna's don't usually last in NYC with perhaps the exception of Reggie Jackson and even he too left one day.

As The Daily News reports it:

"There is still a chance a contract with Sheffield will get done, of course. But according to baseball sources, Sheffield upset the Yankees when he called George Steinbrenner - who is personally handling the negotiations - in the last few days and demanded that the contract be increased to $42 million over three years. The original pact had been for three years and $39 million and the two sides were haggling over how some of the money would be deferred, because the Yankees want the average annual value of the deal to be $11 million.

Friends of Sheffield's have been warning that he was pushing Steinbrenner too far with his latest gambit. No official said the negotiations were completely shut down, but Steinbrenner is probably unhappy that Sheffield tried to get more millions when The Boss thought the deal was nearly sealed."

So, although as a Yankee-hater, whilst I'd have loved to have seen Sheffield scuttle Yankee harmony all season next year, even MORE savory will be the hat-in-hand Sheffield, shuffling from team to team trying to find another idiot big enough to take on a headcase for millions of wasted dollars.

In a related issue, let's not listen to the normally rational Bill Madden in the Daily News who thinks the Mets should go crazy and try and swing for Vlad. Bad idea, methinks. Terrible makeup, this Vlad, despite his numbers and one should consider what a such an enormous salary increase would do. Too sensitive for the NY market. He's better off in Baltimore where he can disappoint in peace and make no difference to any team.

And before I forget, reservations now to jump on the Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl bandwagon?

C'mon. Everyone already knows: KC Chiefs - St Louis Rams Final to see Vermeil meet his old team.

Monday, December 08, 2003

The Superstah Cometh

The Kaz man, Kazuo Matsui and the Mets appear to have agreed on a deal to bring him to the Blue and Orange.

"The switch-hitting Matsui is known for his speed, defense and batting average and is sometimes compared to Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners' star from Japan. Unlike the stoic Ichiro, though, Matsui is outgoing and flashy, at least by Japanese standards.

Matsui is a native of Osaka, which is known for its straight-talking people. At the news conference near Tokyo, Matsui spoke confidently and happily about his desire to play in America, a marked change from Hideki Matsui, who is no relation, who apologized profusely when he said goodbye to Japanese baseball last year to join the Yankees.

When Kazuo Matsui turned professional, he changed the Chinese characters of his first name to mean "top earner in the middle," a nod to his desire to be the best shortstop possible.

Matsui's signing was the Mets' first move of the off-season and was a clear signal that the franchise, after two straight last-place finishes, is more interested in a quick turnaround than any painstaking rebuilding process. Still, the Mets have indicated they will be relatively modest as they move through the winter, and the acquisition of Matsui may be as bold as they get."

Of course, while this was the blueprint for the Mets' offseason, my other little plans, the resigning of Shannon Stewart by the Twins and of Hasegawa by the Mariners means I don't think the Mets should trade the whining, selfish Sheman Mike Piazza anymore. No, leave him in another year, let him platoon at first with a host of others and here's a potential lineup:

1B-Jason Phillips/Mike Piazza
2B- Reyes
C-Piazza, Phillips

HOLES: CF and RF and almost the entire bullpen and #3/4 starter depending on where one slots Trachsel.

The beauty of this signing is that it can only mean that they are going to make another run, take another shot, load the guns again. They wouldn't sign the Kaz Man and leave him hanging with no one but the injury prone Floyd the injury prone Reyes and the sensitive Piazza to back him up would they? Nah. They will make some more signings before it's all over.

If we take a look at players not offered arb by their respective teams and are now unrestricted free agents, we see that Mike Cameron is now available to play CF for the Mets. Cameron, who turns 31 next month, won his second Gold Glove last season, committing only four errors in 492 chances for a .992 fielding percentage. Cameron hit .253 last season with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs. Something else to consider is the fact that he also set a franchise single-season record with 176 strikeouts in 2002.

Budget accomodations: Cheaper alternative to Cameron is infamous streak-hitter and 36 year-old Reggie Sanders whom the Pirates let free. Sanders batted .287 with 31 homers and 85 RBI last season in 130 games. For his career, which also includes stints in Arizona and San Francisco, he has a career 2.68 average with 249 homers and 802 RBI.

They say Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon might be available in a trade, but at what cost? Will the Sox be trying to dump a little more salary to make way for A-Rod and other off season signings?

Why not sign Reds reject Eric Owens on the cheap? Sure, he doesn't hit for power, but he adds speed and can play all three outfield positions. More speed cannot hurt the Mets plus, even if Cedeno started over Owens in RF, Owens could always be used to spell Sanders in CF or take over when Cliff Floyd suffers his inevitable season-altering injury in Spring Training.

Last word on cheap OF alternatives might be the Jose Cruz Jr, the man who failed to catch a routine fly ball that helped the Marlins' game-winning 11th-inning rally in Game 3. He is another switch-hitter to join Kaz and give greater versatility to the Mets batting order. .250-20-68 is steady enough provided he comes cheap. Plus, more speed (30 homers, 30 sbs in 2001). It appears the Mets would only have to outbid the Rangers and Devil Rays...

So let's look at a batting order that looks like this perhaps:

Jose Cruz Jr -LF
Reggie Sanders-CF
Jason Phillips-1B

perhaps this beats me previous lineup in a previous blog of:

Shannon Stewart (resigned with Twins)- LF
Kaz -ss
Reyes - 2b
Floyd - Lf
Ty Wigginton - 3b
Travis Lee - (still a Free Agent, unstricted) 1B
Aaron Rowand - (still untraded on the White Sox) CF
Jason Phillips - C

Yes, now that the Mets have Kaz, they should keep Piazza and roll the dice somemore.

Another good Pirate reject might be pitcher Julian Tavarez, 3-3 record and a 3.66 ERA. Other bullpen wish list might include Tim Worrell, whom the Giants set free. Worrell, 36, had a great year, saving 38 games after replacing injured closer Robb Nen. He might not be cheap and thus, might not be worth it in the end.

Who WOULD be worth it, just for the comedic value alone: If you noted, the Mariners declined to offer arbitration to ARMANDOGEDDON. Wouldn't it be funny to see him back at Shea? Yeah. Almost as funny as seeing his barber, Rey Sanchez, also a free agent no one wants, join him. Gaaaak!

Another ex-Oriole and ex-Mariner, Arthur Rhodes, is hanging around with nowhere to go to augment someone's bullpen.

What would Sidney Ponson cost to add to the starting rotation? Of course, he seems to be on the list of alot of teams. He had an initial salary of $4.25 million last year, which is manageable for most teams. He has a very shaky past with the Orioles though, despite last season and the question is, will he fulfill that promise finally, or revert back to his frustrating inconsistencies of the past?

A REAL low budget move might be to sign, as #4 starter: John Burkett is a free man from the Red Sox now. He's gone 109-84 pitching in the National League. Plenty of experience.
Looks like Millwood might stick with the Phillies after all.

I like the rumour that Vlad Guerrero is going to the Orioles. Guerrero, a four-time all-star, made $11.5 million last year for the Expos, and he hit .330 with 25 homers and 79 RBI while missing 39 games because of a herniated disk.

Glad to hear the human headache Gary Sheffield will ink with King George. Those two pigs deserve each other and it spells certain horrific chemistry for the Yankees yet again combined with Giambi's knee problems, the uncertainty over what to do with Bernie in CF and Soriano at 2B. The lack of a starting rotation: So far, Mussina, ex-Expo Javier Vasquez, whom is compared by the Baseball Crank, Choke Weaver, maybe the 40-going-on-100 David Wells coming off back surgery, definately not Clemens and perhaps not Pettite if the Astros can make themselves appealing. A rotten season indeed in store for the Yankees. Oh! If only it were true!

Is it not delicious, the rumours that A-Rod will go to the Red Sox for that whining Dominican, Manny Ramirez.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

No Hundred Years War, but England To Meet France In Their Opener

There were many possible scenarios for the English side prior to this morning's draw for the groupings of the Euro 2004. Probably the worst case scenario was what happened to Germany, the unlucky nation from the second pot of four who were the ones getting stuck with Holland. Going into this draw, one knew straight away that whomever got stuck with Holland was going to have the toughest group because it meant Holland plus a number one seed to battle against.

England could have been stuck, in theory, with France AND Holland. Conversely, they could have lucked out an drew Sweden, Latvia and Russia as well. So other than not getting Holland from the third pot which would have sealed a group of death, the other main concern for England was obviously not to get stuck with France. They did, and they drew France as the opening match of the tournament for both nations. Sunday the 13th at the Stadium of Light in Lisboa.

In theory, England might be happy, having drawn France that they drew them as the first match of their ride. On the other hand, France, having been upset already in the opening match of the World Cup two summers ago, will not only take England more seriously than they did Senegal, but will clearly have the motivation of having something to prove as well since they were humiliated in the 2002 World Cup already and do not want a repeat performance. They've shown their resolve with a perfect qualifying record, quite a feat over 8 matches, even if it was only the likes of Cyprus, Malta, Israel and Slovenia.

Realistically, England would be happy with a draw against France, which would be enough, in a likelihood, to propel them into the second round, perhaps against Spain or Portugal. Following France, they'll meet Switzerland and then Croatia both teams they should be able to beat, in theory anyway and perhaps even on paper. I don't get any wild fantasies about Switzerland going very far. Sure, they won their qualifying group but let's face it: a qualifying group of Russia, Ireland, Georgia and Albania, is hardly a gauntlet to run. Sven says ""Swiss football is progressing very quickly - at youth level they are very strong. The Yakin brothers have been excellent for FC Basle, and Stephane Chapuisat is still a dangerous striker." but this is a lot of diplomatic bullshit. Switzerland are not scary. Perhaps compared to Latvia they are, but England should beat them readily.

Croatia are a good side with alot of young talent that have potential if they're given their chance, to create unwanted surprises. Should England lose to France, this match, in my mind, the final of the first round in Coimbra, is key. Sven notes here that "We played Croatia recently and even though we won 3-1 the Croatians showed that they are a good team. Teams from Eastern Europe do tend to be technically very solid, physically strong and are very very good at keeping hold of the ball. Their passing game is often frustrating because they can keep to ball for so long! I think that they are good - they beat Slovenia away to qualify and that is not easy so maybe they can do well in Portugal."

The early odds have England rated fifth behind France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Considering they have to play France first and then would likely face either Portugal or Spain in the second round, depending on which one finishes first in the group. Then again, let's not count Greece out too quickly. Greece are my darkhorse team. Given Spain's history of dismal performances in tournaments and given Portugal's outrageous underachieving in the World Cup, you might see Greece squeak into second place and qualify for the next round, perhaps against France, which would leave England stuck playing Portugal in Lisboa. Not a good taste.

Local Derbys In Portugal

You might look at them as derbys, given the hatred and rivalry sure to sweat out of these nations when they meet. My favorite one will be Germany-Holland. It's a big bias but if Dick Advocaat uses his head again and keeps the Dutch team young and hungry by leaving the egomaniacs and lazy mercenary stars on the bench like he did in that second match against Scotland, I don't think Germany will win this match. In fact, they will lose this match because they are still too old and uninspired. Yes, the Germans aren't bad tournament players. They know what it takes to win in these tournaments but I don't see the demonstrations that they are so much better than they were in Euro2000. The best result would be a severe and demoralizing thrashing because if Holland wish to advance, they are most certainly going to have to beat Germany to do it. This is the first match of their group and will be followed quickly by Holland having to try and overcome a Czech team that already humiliated them once in the qualifiers while Germany will toying with Latvia. So a victory by Holland over Germany is the key to their chances.

Spain-Portugal: More neighbors facing each other straight away in the first round. Spain beat Portugal in a friendly in September, in Portugal, it should be noted, by a 3-0 margin. Sure "just" a friendly but don't doubt that Spain are always eager to kick down their lesser cousins. Unfortunately for Portugal, this match comes at the end of the round with both teams likely equal unless Greece happens to pull off an upset early on. Greece will face Portugal in the opening match of the tournament and frankly, the pressure on Portugal might be a little too daunting. Greece might very well earn a draw, keeping them on pace for a spot into the second round. Spain, who plays Greece only after meeting a Russian team that will lucky to come away with a point in this tournament, will not be as prone to upset. They are better than Greece and they are better than Russia and by then, they will be better than Portugal.

Denmark-Sweden: Peter Schmeichel seemed a little unhappy in the draw that Denmark got, having to face both Sweden and Italy as well as Bulgaria. He noted that he was worried this grouping was even more severe than the Germany, Czech, Holland Group but frankly, I don't think Sweden are going to make it out of the round and Latvia, even though they beat Turkey to get here, are everyone's best bet for worst team of the tournament. Yes, Italy will be strong and probably unbeatable but

My take on how it all pans out is like this:


Portugal and Greece tie the opener. Spain win their first two matches and draw against Portugal. Spain first with 7 points, Portugal second with 5 points.


France will beat England handily in the first match but England will be able to crawl back against Switzerland and Croatia to make it as the second place finisher.


Italy is the class of the group and will coast through unmolested leaving Sweden and Denmark to battle it out while Bulgaria tries to sneak up on everyone. Denmark, Sweden and Bulgaria all won their qualifying groups and frankly, Sweden, having to play Poland and Hungary, had the toughest entry. Sweden will defeat Denmark, just as Schmeichel seems convinced, and Bulgaria is my bet to pull of a series of ties and earn in over Sweden for the second place spot.


One would hope that Germany are pummeled not only by Holland but by the Czech Republic, as well, avenging their Euro 1996 Finals loss. The Czechs are the class of this group and even though Holland, playing to potential, could beat them as easily as they themselves were beaten by the Czechs in the qualifying round, they have some sort of disease when it comes to playing in pressure over the years. The finish will be the Czechs and then the Dutch.

This leaves the following second round matches:

Spain to play England which is a match that England could seriously win, even if Spain are confident by having made topped the host nation in the opening round. England, playing better defence, win 2-1.

Portugal would then have the misfortune of meeting France and France, who beat them on penalties the last time around in 2000, will not have as tough a time at it, winning 3-1.

Italy would then face the Dutch in what could theoretically be a beautiful match with the strong Italian defence facing the firepower of the Dutch. Italy win, 1-0, as they win all their bloody matches.

Finally, Bulgaria would face the Czech Republic and would defeat them.

Sadly, England then plays Italy. Italy breaks-a-their little hearts, winning on penalties.

France and Bulgaria meet and perhaps this time, Bulgaria pull out an upset and lose to Italy in the finals.

Crazy speculation but let's face it: after the craziness and unpredictability of the World Cup, who is going to guess that there might not be a big suprise making it to the final?

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop

"I guess I hate the Yankees now," Schilling said last night following his trade to the Boston Red Sox.

It's one of those blurbs you read and think, nahh, it's just wishful thinking, vicious rumour, propaganda from Theoland. But it's true, it's official and the first shot has been fired across the bow of the 2004 season.

You might think it's too good to be true: two Yankee humiliations within a month and it isn't even Christmas yet. The humiliating shutout loss to the Marlins for the World Championship was the poke in the eye with the stick and the trade of Curt Schilling to the Red Sox for what amounts to Casey Fossum and a load of chuff is the follow-up kick to the balls. The fact that they were Steinbrenner's balls that took the blow only makes the video replay all the more delicious in slow-motion, over and over, and you must wonder what is going on in poor little Brian Cashman's mind, the repercussions of King George's wrath at the failure and humiliation of having their arch enemies sign the best player available in the off season. And make no mistake about it: Bartolo Colon and Javier Vasquez, if you look at the record books, have won zero World Series games against the Yankees and zero World Championships. They aren't going to bring the title to the Bronx and neither will Gary Sheffield.

What does the coup of Curt Schilling to Boston mean? King George twists in the wind a little longer, sputters harder, turns a deeper shade of purple and will open his little Yankee pocketbook to Overspend on the Overrated yet another season in a row. All for naught. You'd think three successive years of failure and the dismal excuse of a baseball team over in Queens would teach King George he can't buy his way to the top anymore.

I'm skeptical about the whole thing though. Same way I was skeptical about the Phillies signing Jim Thome and trading for Kevin Millwood and beating their puny little chests about what world beaters they were before they'd even had a chance to get no-hit in Spring Training. There's something a little too obvious about trading for Curt Schilling that makes me think the Red Sox are just a disaster waiting to happen.

You've still got the biggest whiner in baseball to contend with in his contract season. If Pedro were a team player, not a quitter and a loser and a choke artist and a Yankee hero, you could say that this dynamic trio, this Pedro and Schilling and Lowe, would seal the season, end the "curse", slash the misery, breath hope into the tiny lungs of Boston. But Pedro is a season-long menstrual cycle whose cramps will become more intense as the season wears on. He isn't winning material, let's face it. How many shots against the Yankees did he have last year and how many times did he fail to close the deal?

With the trade for Schilling the Red Sox have only added by one, the number of pitchers who are Yankee-killahs on the Red Sox staff. Before Boston wakes up with the smelling salts, it should remember that a staff of one does not a World Champion make.

Nevertheless, it's good to watch King George squirm in the interim.


Will someone please tell me why an aging, third-rate defensive catching liability with declining offensive numbers who refuses to do what is best for the team by moving to first base and selfishly persists on a trying to forge a false legacy, is a beloved commodity? Why is trading Mike Piazza so unappealing?

Because one thing for certain, the Mets will never go anywhere with him again and if the Met ownership werent' such sentimental fools, they'd demand Piazza be traded, they'd never have signed a washout like Tom Glavine, they'd dump Al Leiter while he still has a few gallons in the tank, and they'd hire someone to go and break Fat Mo's knees, just to make sure he doesn't get any cheeky thoughts about returning to wreak havoc on the Mets once again.

In return for Piazza we should net a few good, young pitchers and a stick. I wouldn't take any pitchers from the O's. They're all damaged goods. The O's had what, like 200 draft picks over a two year period and they used 99% of them on pitchers and 90% are already on the DL or recovering from some sort of major surgery that leaves their pitching arms dangling from their shoulder sockets by a few stringy tendons. Taking O's pitchers for Piazza would be like buying a house while watching it burn down. In fact, there is very little appeal in anything Orioles-like. And frankly, what makes anyone think they could convince Piazza to sign off on a trade to a terminal organization like the Baltimore Orioles? Would you want to play for a schmuck like Peter Angelos?

Texas has no pitchers to trade and since pitching is what they most sorely need, other than the salary relief of dumping A-Rod, Texas isn't an attractive alternative.

So where does it leave us? American League team with alot of good, young pitchers: how about the Chicago White Sox? Wouldn't Mike Like Chicago, just like the other Mike did? Mike and the implausibly redeemable Frank Thomas could trade off and on between DH and the field, Mike could catch to his heart's content when Frank is bone weary and Paul Konerko feels like hitting, and frankly, when you look at the other catching possibilities, what have you got in Chicago? The 60 year old Sandy Alomar and the .234 bat of Miguel Olivo? Imagine the batting order on a good day this would produce: Thomas (42-105 .267), Piazza (31-101 .305 in a normal season), Ordonez (29-99 .317), Lee (31-119 .291), Everett (28-92 .287), the ever-declining Konerko and the up-and-coming Crede. Not to mention the heart-warming reunion with Roberto Alomar this trade would produce. So the White Sox get a sorely-needed catcher and a big bat to add the heat to opposing pitching staffs, what do the Mets get?

Let's have a Damaso Marte (4-2 1.58 11 saves) for starters. Would the Sox squawk about giving him up? Did they squawk about heaving out our future closer in the form of Royce Ring in return for the dustbin of second base malcontents, Roberto Alomar? No, they were happy about it. So while we're at it, we'll keep our designs modest, and ask for Aaron Rowand, who the Sox have no room for in the outfield, to play centerfield at Shea and maybe dip into their Minor Leagues for a Tetsu Yofu because frankly, hasn't everyone always wanted their very own Tetsu Yofu to root for in their miserable little lives? And let's point out that he went 9-8 with a 3.50 ERA in AA last year. He could be next season's D-Train waiting to happen, who knows?

So there you have it Sportsfans: Mike Piazza to the Chicago White Sox for Damaso Marte, Aaron Rowand and Tetsu Yofu.

Now, after Fat Mo's knee caps have been dealt with and Piazza's salary has been jettisoned, the next bit of business is the pitching. Let's face it, Leiter, Glavine and Trachsel aren't going to scare anyone as a starting trio. Personally, I'd like to see both Glavine and Leiter gone. I don't care about what hard workers they are or what wonderful little community helpers they are or how much class they have. They've both seen their best years, now far behind them and keeping them around just so Wilpon can play daddy-for-hire just isn't worth it. Glavine belongs on a team where he doesn't need to be the first or second starter on the staff, somewhere he can wallow in obscurity and find himself for a final burst before the end of his career. 300 wins indeed. Ha! I'd trade him to anyone who would take him for anything they'd give us. Why not the Texas Rangers? They're a gullible lot. And Al Leiter would look very happy in St Louis and here again, I don't care what we get in return, just gut the starting rotation because it won't carry the Mets anywhere but down like a lead weight next season. Gut and rebuild and keep the sappy Mr Wilpon out of the baseball business decisions.

And while I'm on it, none of this will come to pass because like complete and unrepentant idiots, the Met brain trust couldn't be arsed to offer Omar Minaya the GM job straight up. Did they really think he was going to leave the Expos to play second fiddle to a talentless headscratcher like Jim Duquette? Sweet Jesus, that was stupid. But consistent at least. Sort of like: hey, let's fire one of the best managers in baseball but KEEP a complete drooling moron like Steve Phillips as GM because he's done such a bang-up job ruining the team with his bad decisions. It's one of the reasons you learn to love to hate the Mess Mismanagement. If there is a wrong decision to be made, by god, they will find it and they will make sure that they do it.

So it's certain that Glavine and Leiter will be at the head of the rotation, even if someone had the guts to trade Piazza. Glavine and Leiter might not be bad if you threw in Sidney Ponson. Maybe Miguel Batista is still going unsigned by the D-backs despite the loss of Schilling's salary. It's almost beginning to look like a rotation. I can't be arsed about Aaron Heilman at the moment. I'm still too excited about having Tetsu Yofu. So if you can sign Ponson and Batista or some other sod, like Shawn Estes and you've still got Trachsel to kick around and you've got a bunch of promising kids still a year or two away from the rotation, it isn't looking too pathetic. Then sign the mighty righty Shigetoshi Hasegawa to compliment the lefty Damaso Marte in the bullpen. It's a start. It isn't first division material, oh no, but it isn't hey, let's watch the Single A Mets lose another gut-churner to the effin Milwaukee Brewers again, either.

Problems in centerfield? Answered by the Piazza trade when they picked up Aaron Rowand. Solid and unspectacular and cheap. No head case. Just the sort of steadiness you need. Ideally, your CF is also fast and could lead off. Can we say that about Rowand, well, with a little luck and imagination, perhaps. But he's no Roger Cedeno out there. He isn't going to get hurt by getting hit in the head with a fly ball. In fact, I'd even venture to say that he might be another Rip Repulski out there and who can quibble with that? But you've got a must or two hanging on out there and one of them is Kaz Matsui because Kaz Matsui brings the pizazz to make up for the Piazza buzz loss and if a team in New York can't have some Kaz, they just aren't going to cut it. King George wants him too and now is the time, not next week or the week after, to go all out, recruit like your franchise depended on it, romance, wine and dine, make him feel like royalty. Now that isn't an easy thing to do when you're trying to sell a dump like Shea Stadium over the history of Yankee Stadium. If the standard deal is 3 years for $21 million, go for 5 years and $45 million. Yes, it's reckless and crazy but not as reckless and crazy as it was to give a washout like Tom Glavine a fat salary for another three years when he's already been washed up for a year and a half. Take a chance, generate a buzz, get noticed. Because otherwise, he's going to be winning for someone else down the road and it will be rubbed in the noses of Met fans for the entirety of his career. He is the cornerstone of the future middle with Reyes.

So, you've done the impossible: dumped Piazza and signed Kaz away from everyone else. Whew. You still have no power to speak of. You might have Kaz leading off and Jose Reyes behind him. You might have Reyes followed by Cliff Floyd but then you've got a big hole, like a pulled tooth, in the clean up spot. Here you will need free agent help because re-signing a stiff like Tony Clark isn't going to cut it. You won't or shouldn't or can't afford Guerrero and Sheffield is a BIG misadventure waiting to happen. You have two positions open, two positions that could supply a little power combined but not alot singularly: So you sign Tampa Bay's Travis Lee (.275-19-70) for a reasonable amount and get solid defense at first base if somewhat pedestrian production at the plate. Then to make up for it, you sign Shannon Stewart to a deal. Not this Shannon Stewart, the other one. The one who will be the leadoff hitter for the Mets.

Stewart - LF
Kaz -ss
Reyes - 2b
Floyd - Lf
Ty Wigginton - 3b
Travis Lee - 1B
Rowand - CF
Jason Phillips - C




Damaso Marte (L)
Shigetoshi Hasegawa (R)
John Franco (L)

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Transatlantic Brawls

“Welcome To Hell” –-banners fluttering from every corner of Sukru Saracoglu Stadium during yesterday's England-Turkey battle.

"When this series began, everyone knew it was going to be quite a battle. It was going to be very emotional, a lot of intensity. But I think we've upgraded it from a battle to a war." Red Sox manager Grady Little.


You’d be hard-pressed to choose just which of the unrest-riddled matches yesterday, both of which nearly erupted into full-scale riots and the kind of anarchic chaos which occasionally makes a sporting event eerie, was the most fascinating. One was fought between the two predominate American cities and biggest rivals on the East Coast in a skirmish for the third game of a potential seven game series to decide the American League Baseball Championship, and the other was an international football battle with a Euro 2004 berth at stake.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Prior To Wood Warm-Up?

Yes, as predicted yesterday, the Marlins beat the Cubs in the opening game of the series because, frankly, with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood up next to face the Marlins, if they hadn't won this morning, they might never have won a game in the series...

Still, culminating with one homer after another, the opening match of the series will probably be the headiest offensive assault we'll see:

NLCS Records Set:

7 homeruns in one game.

4 triples in one game.

3 homeruns in one inning by one team (Marlins, in the third)

17 extra base hits in one game.

Wonder how many fans were whining about a corked bat when Sammy Sosa nailed that game-tying homerun in the bottom of the 9th...

Yankees-Red Sox

We can point out a few obvious items to begin with: The Boston Red Sox, regardless of the claims of their fans, did not "win" their series against the Oakland A's so much as the Oakland A's lost it. The Red Sox Nation should think about that when pondering their signs of grandeur and destiny.

Is it really that big a deal that the Yankees rotation didn't give up 20 runs in four games again like they did last season getting knocked out by the Anaheim Angels? It's a little early to start congratulating yourself for not failing when you allege to have the best starting rotation in all of baseball, isn't it?

That said, Sports Amnesia remembers that the ALCS will play out thusly:

The Red Sox will take Game One in Yankee Stadium, adding fuel to the fire of the imagination of the Red Sox Nation.

They will then nip Andy Pettitte behind super-hero Derek Lowe to take a 2-0 lead in the series with the next 3 games in Fenway sending the Red Sox Nation into a feeding-frenzy of anticipation but then...

Game Three will be Roger Clemens' swan song, his final pitching performance in Fenway Park and he will be facing none other than Pedro Martinez who may or may not come down with the flu. Let's face it, Pedro hasn't been Mr. Clutch all season and the Yankees will win after he peters out in the 7th leaving the Sox bullpen to blow the game.

David Wells will then lead the Yankees to tie the series at two apiece swinging the hysterical ladder of momentum in the opposite direction.

Yankees win another to make it three to two and to keep the visiting team's perfect record of away victories intact.

Lowe will do it again for the Sox in Game Six in Yankee Stadium and then:

Game Seven will rematch Clemens against Pedro and I'll tell you, if it gets that far, I'll give my prediction on the day before because by then, I'll have to keep a close eye on Pedro's flu-like symptoms.

Vital England Match in Peril?

Threatening to throw a monkey wrench in an already highly anticipated match,the England football squad last night voted unanimously to strike unless Rio Ferdinand was reinstated to the squad.

The players said that they would not travel to Turkey for Saturday’s vital European Championship qualification match unless Ferdinand, who was dropped from the team for failing to take a random drugs test, was given his place back.

If they DO strike, guess I'll just have to forget my plans of spending the afternoon getting faced in the Queen's Head and watch Ireland trounce Romania in the World Cup of Rugby instead.

Quite A Drop-Off In Talent

ESPN, who will never let it go, reports that Phil Jackson, the Lakers coach and Michael Jordan's former coach in Chicago, intimated in a published report that he has reluctantly considered a scenario in which Jordan would play for him if Kobe Bryant is unable to.

Somehow, the 40 year old thrice-retired Jordan hardly seems an equal replacement for Kobe. After all, this isn't 1998 anymore.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Choking, Swallowing and Surviving

"...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)

When Terrence Long took an inside fastball for another called third strike, the Boston bench and bullpen emptied onto the field in celebration and even from the radio, you could imagine the hearts spilling open in relief. All around the Red Sox Nation, the immediate notion that still looming ahead were the Yankees, was forgotten as Boston got its fourth playoff series victory since its last World Series title in 1918.

Oakland, on the other hand, have now lost nine straight games in which they could have clinched postseason advancement, extending a major league record for choking.

At least they didn't, like their AL West counterparts the Mariners, start their choke a month before the season was over for the second year in a row.

In some ways, you have to admire the fans of teams who come all the way to the opponents home field, watch their teams win the series and then stay so late celebrating, the losing team's PA has to broadcast warnings and threats to get them to leave. Like the apathetic fans of the Braves, who couldn't have gotten a ticket in Wrigley if they'd tried, A's fans were always at a distinct disadvantage in this series. It was a nice touch when an A's fan posted a large green sign simply reading "1918"; next to it was a picture of Babe Ruth on the facing of the Coliseum's upper deck.

Several hundred Red Sox fans gathered behind the Boston dugout 90 minutes before the game, cheering and clapping while their team warmed up. A few players rewarded the fans by throwing candy, wristbands and other treats into the stands.

You might not have surmised it based upon my anti-Pedro rants and Manny Ramirez attitude-bashing a month or two ago, I have to admit that I never had any serious doubts that the Red Sox were going to make it to the postseason when their only competition were the choking Seattle Mariners and Armandogeddon. However, certainly when they were down 0-2 with neither Pedro nor Lowe available, I didn't expect the Red Sox to pull this series out. I guess only a Red Sox fan would have had such faith. With limited news coverage, seeing that the Red Sox had lost the first two games of the series, I'd just assumed Manny and Pedro had come down with another variation of The Dominican Flu.

By the way, a belated condolence card to the Royal Blog. A month from now, after all the hoopla of the World Series dies down, few outside of Kansas City are going to remember how interesting the Royals made the season.

Somehow, Larry Bowa survived a team collapse and still hasn't been fired yet.

Bring on the Yankees?

The Red Sox will face the Yankees in the playoffs for just the second time, the first being a 4-1 loss in the 1999 ALCS. New York won 10 of 19 games against Boston during the regular season, but the Red Sox frequently teed off on Yankees pitchers. The Yankees had three one-run victories against the Sox.

And, down to the Marlins and the Cubs in the NLCS, it's looking more and more that the End of The World is neigh upon us.

Should the Cubs and Red Sox face each other in the World Series, which of course, they will because I am outside of America again and the last time I was living outside of America in 2000, the first Subway Series in 44 years materialized out of nowhere, people everywhere around the world will prepare for the End of the World as prophesied by <Nostradamus


Tim Kurkjian had it right and because I am too far away from the action to do a precise analysis, here is what he had to say:

The Cubs won their first postseason series since 1908. The Marlins are the fifth team in National League history to make it to the playoffs in a season in which they were 10 games under .500. The Cubs won 19 games in September, the most in that month since 1945, the last time they went to the World Series. The Marlins have the best record in baseball since mid-May. The Cubs have this incredibly loyal fan base that has been begging for a pennant for over 50 years. The Marlins fan base recently went from 5,000 to 65,000.

My hands-down Rookie of the Year, the single best rookie story of the year, former Cub farmhand, the D-Train, Dontrelle Willis, whom I thought some month and a half ago had obviously lost his magic, pitched a third of inning in a Game Two victory over the Giants and then lasted 5 1/3 unimpressive innings against the Giants in a decisive Game Four which the Marlins won anyway. He is scheduled to start Game 4 against Matt Clement, the guy the Cubs traded D-Train for.

Prediction: My take in the crystal ball I have in the cottage here on the NLSC is that the Marlins will win the opener at Wrigley and will then lose the next two games of the Series. The Marlins will then even the Series at home in Game 4 before the combined forces of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior fell them for good with the Cubs advancing to the World Series, 4 games to 2.

Meanwhile, Back in England

Two pretty enormous events will happen this weekend besides the little internet transistor broadcasting the NLCS and the ALCS games.

First of all, the 2003 World Cup of Rugby kicks off this Friday with Australia playing Argentina. While normally not one to follow rugby, having played a few times now here for the Shipston-On-Stour third team, and the sore bones to prove it, I've rapidly developing an affection for it.

Adding to the excitement is the fact that England is the top-ranked side in the world and have a very good chance of winning it all.

Of course, that's if they can avoid what England coach Clive Woodard called media sledging.

Yesterday, having an afternoon pint in the White Bear, I overhead the ultimate sad tale for a rugby fan, applicable to all sports fans of course. As a few of the locals were going over England's schedule in the first round, the guy next to me tells them to have a look at the match on the Saturday, October 18th match beginning at 1 in the afternoon, he says. As it turns out, the match is England against South Africa, quite possibly the biggest match of the first round.

"And guess whose getting married on that date at that time?" he muttered, pointing his stubby finger to his chest. "The best man nearly had a heart attack when he found out." And then of course, the usual suggestions followed, having a chat with the vicar about changing the time of the wedding (nevermind the bride), seeing if a small tv could be brought in over the altar, etc., with the sound turned down "low" (not "off", mind you)...

All akin of course, to having not had the foresight to know your team was going to make the World Series and scheduling an October wedding on the wrong date, at the wrong time.

On Saturday, England plays Turkey in a qualifying match for the Euro2004 football tournament, their biggest match of this round. They need only tie Turkey in Istanbul to advance but a loss would mean they could only qualify via a second-place playoff.

Adding tension to the match is the fact that the English fans have been warned to stay away from Turkey, in particular by the English national coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, who warned fans that they could "risk to be injured and even risk your life" if they insist upon travelling to Turkey for the make-or-break qualifier.

Can you imagine Grady Little telling the Red Sox Nation not to go to New York because they risked their lives by doing so?

FA head of media Adrian Bevington added: "We would like to strongly reaffirm the position of ourselves, the Government and the police that no fans should travel to Turkey."

Of course they will and of course, there will be trouble.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Baseball For Breakfast
"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll

Well, it's a first for me. Having fallen asleep too early for the 3.00 am audio broadcast here of the Red Sox-A's opening playoff game, I woke a little after 7 this morning fully expecting the game to have already concluded. Imagine my high-spirited surprise

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Not Missing the Mets
"If all the year were playing holidays; To sport would be as tedious as to work."
William Shakespeare from 'The First Part of King Henry the IV'

One of the questions people invariably get around to asking me around here, perhaps one of the first in fact, is always something cleverly obstrusive along the lines of "what made you come here from New York?, " and they always ask this question with a disbelieving lilt in their voice given that a more polar opposite location couldn't be found between Blackwell, Warwickshire and Manhattan. And it probably couldn't. This is a village of about 10 families. The nearest pub is almost two miles away and of course, perhaps thankfully, there are no Mets, no Jets and no Knicks anywhere to be found.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Cue The Lounge Music

Due to relocation to The West Midlands, Sports Amnesia will be temporarily unavailable during the rest of September.

In the meantime, the Red Sox will probably not relive 1918 and become World Champions.

Nor will there be an All-Chicago World Series.

Game Called
by Grantland Rice

Game called...across the field of play,
The dusk has come, the hour is late,
The fight is done, and lost or won,
The player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
The stands are bare, the park is still,
But through the night, there shines the light,
Of home behind the silent hill.

Game called...where in the golden light,
The bugle rolled the reveille,
The shadows creep, where night falls deep,
And taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
The final cheer and jeer have passed,
But in the night, beyond the fight,
The player finds his rest at last.

Game called...upon the field of life,
The darkness gathers far and wide,
The dream is done, the score is spun,
That stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat,
Is chalked against the player’s name,
But down the roll, the final scroll,
Shows only how he played the game.

("Game Called" by Grantland Rice, "Baseball Ballads", Copyright 1910 The Tennessean Co.)

Had this been an actual emergency, sports fans would have been alerted about where to turn for further information.

If you get bored staring at the same pages over and over, check out some of my links to the left, or read about the Eleven Greatest Pennant Races of All-Time or even
Grantland Rice's article, The Four Horsemen.

If you would like to be advised when Sports Amnesia resumes its regularly scheduled programming, please send an email
and you will be updated the minute the new computers have been installed in the local pubs and printing can begin anew.

Until then, you can sing along to the Baseball Songs or read Pafko At The Wall which, in my mind, is the best writing about baseball, ever.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Twins Knock Down The Wall

With the White Sox losing in the 10th inning the Red Sox and first place open for the taking and the Twins down 5-4 with two outs in the ninth against Angels super closer Troy Percival, it didn't seem like the AL Central standings would alter significantly. But with one man on the Twins showing guts and one man on the White Sox showing cowardice, the AL Central is tied once again.
Killing Kardinals

"We have to go out there," Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano said after Game 1, "and kill the Cardinals."

Looks like the biggest news of the day is how the umpire killed the Cubs instead.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The Day The Phillies Died

Bill Lyon, as he does so often in the Philadelphia Inquirer, induced the perfect analogy in his opening paragraph today:

"Under a sky the color of dirty dishwater, the Phillies spent Labor Day in grinding labor, finally delivering an excruciating 13-9 loss that required 4 hours and 4 minutes, and was like watching a cat hack up a hair ball."

Monday, September 01, 2003

Red Sox Fans Cheer Clemens Despite Demoralizing Loss

You have to wonder if it was touching to see the crowd at Fenway give Clemens a standing ovation or an indication that Fenway fans are growing too soft. After all, Clemens or not, when was the last time you saw 34,482 Red Sox fans cheering one of the Damn Yankees? And yes, they can wax poetic about how "proud and grateful" they are for his 192 victories in a Red Sox uniform. They can relish the three Cy Young awards he won with them. They can clap and hoot him for being the first pitcher to win 100 games on Lansdowne Street or for for his team-leading Clemens, we can wallow in sentimental slush but how can you ignore losing yet another crucial series to the Yankees in humiliating fashion?

How can you be distracted by Clemens' last game in Fenway when you're getting dusted once more by your arch-rivals, having your nose rubbed in your second-rate status and the man you're standing up to cheer for has just pitched 6 2/3 innings to beat you? How can you root, even after all he's done with your franchise, for a guy who made it loud and clear he doesn't want anything to do with your uniform when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame? Have the Red Sox fans no pride?

"I play 20 years, work my tail off, they're not going to tell me what hat I'm wearing," Clemens said about wearing his beloved Yankees hat to the Hall of Fame. "I promise you that. There might be a vacant seat there. I'll take my mother and we'll go to Palm Springs and invite all y'all and we'll have our own celebration."

So the man they stood cheering instead of pelting with rotten eggs and garbage yesterday said he'd rather skip the Hall of Fame ceremonies all together than get stuck wearing a loser Red Sox cap. It was the Yankees or bust.

And so Clemens tipped his hat to them -- all of them, Jackie MacMullan wrote for the Globe today. He tipped it to the bleachers, to left field, then right field. He waved to everyone he could in Fenway Park, like a grand marshal in a parade, then retreated to the tunnel that led to the Yankees clubhouse.

I Can't Play, I've Got The Dominican Flu

Maybe it was mildly funny when Pedro Martinez called in sick for a big game against the Oakland A's a week and a half ago because of flu-like symptoms. It became less funny when he tried to blame weakness from those same flu symptoms for pitching like crap against the Yankees on Saturday even though he mowed down the Mariners in his first post-flu start earlier that week. Now it turns out he probably gave it to one of his teammates.

Coincidence of coincidences, fellow Dominican Manny Ramirez is now rumoured to have the same flu that struck Pedro and missed all three games of the Yankee series. Amazing, isn't it? 25 guys on a team and the only two people struck by this mysterious throat infection are Dominicans.

According to some sources, WBZ-TV in particular, poor little Manny, too enfeebled by his Dominican flu, never even made it to Fenway Park yesterday and was spotted Saturday night in the bar of the Boston hotel in which he lives.

Boston Herald noted this morning that, "According to reports that aired on two local television stations yesterday, Ramirez was seen on Saturday night in a hotel bar, where the player had reportedly gone to greet New York Yankees third base coach Willie Randolph. While Ramirez lives in the same hotel and reportedly does not drink, his mere presence there raised obvious questions about his commitment to the Red Sox given that he did not participate in the recent weekend series against New York because of illness."

Isn't the irony striking that two of the biggest stars on the Red Sox, both Dominican, both came down with a flu that kept them out of important games? Sox general manager Theo Epstein offered a terse "no comment" about Ramirez.

Now here's another item to raise the eyebrows: yet another Dominican star, Albert Pujols, missed four games with flulike symptoms recently.

Could it be the Dulce de mani? Let's hope not.

Original Marlin Returns: With All-Star Mike Lowell now out for the season with a broken left hand, the Marlins traded for Jeff Conine from the Orioles yesterday for two quality minor league prospects -- Double-A right-hander Denny Bautista and Class-A right-hander Donald Levinski. Bautista, a 6-foot-5, 170-pounder from the Dominican Republic, was 12-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 25 starts for Class-A Jupiter and Double-A Carolina. He pitched in the Future's Game in Chicago. Levinski, who is 4-11 with a 4.03 ERA in 21 starts at Jupiter, was acquired in July of 2002 from Montreal as part of the Cliff Floyd trade.

Conine, known as Mr. Marlin when he wore Florida teal from 1993-97, is batting .290 with 15 home runs and 80 RBIs this season for Baltimore. In 35 games since the All-Star Break, he is hitting .302 and has three homers and 17 runs batted in. He adds the pop to the lineup that will be missed in Lowell's absence and was acquired within a half-hour of the midnight, Aug. 31 waiver-trade deadline.

In the meantime, the Marlins kept pace with the Phillies, completing their sweep of the Montreal Expos and nearly extinguishing the Expos hopes before they've really had a chance to blossom. Mark Redman, the religious nutter who has the biblical verse of Philippians 4:13 written in block letters beneath the bill of his cap so he can read it for inspiration while on the mound, struck out ten in six innings work to win his 11th game. Jesus must have not been paying attention to Redman prior to last night's game because Redman had been on a three game losing streak.

The "inspiring" bible passage states: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The Marlins won 5-3.

Rain Drops Royals Further Behind In AL Central Race

They were crushed 10-3 in a big series against Anaheim on Friday. Their game Saturday was rained out and rescheduled as a doubleheader for Sunday. Brian Anderson, recently acquired from the Indians, who won his first game with the Royals last week was not so lucky on Sunday, getting pounded for 8 hits and 6 earned runs in 6 innings as the Royals lost the opening game of that doubleheader, 7-4. The second game was postponed due to the miserable weather Kansas City is having and not to avoid the inevitability of another loss. No official makeup date has been set, but the game would likely be played on Sept. 29 at Kauffman Stadium if there are pennant race ramifications. They began this weekend on Friday even with the White Sox for first place but are now 1 1/2 games back of those same White Sox and tied with the Twins for second. Now they'll go down to Texas to face the Rangers again, whom they just swept three games in a row from last week in KC.

The Angels now move on to try and have an effect on the race for the Twins while the White Sox will open a tough series at home against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Do Or Die For Cubs in NL Central

If the Cubs don't make the postseason this season, or even if they do, their upcoming 5-game showdown with the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals over the next four days at home is going to be a crucial factor. The Cardinals just gained first place yesterday after they beat the Reds 5-0 behind by Albert Pujols' 2 homeruns while the Astros, who went a pitiable 13-15 for the month of August, lost yet again, this time 3-1 to the San Diego Padres. It's interesting to note the role the Padres have had in the NL races. Since being swept in a three game series by the Marlins, the Padres have taken two of three against the Expos, the Diamondbacks and now, the Astros.

In any case, the opener of this urgent 5-game series against the Cardinals will see Cubs ace and Cy Young candidate, Mark Prior (13-5, 2.47) taking the mound against the Cardinals ace, Woody Williams (14-6, 3.44) this afternoon at Wrigley. Williams went winless in August despite a 3.31 ERA, his best since May. However, Williams is no stranger to the Cubs. He's already started four games against them this season and is 2-0 with a 2.35 ERA against them and the Cubs have lost four of their last five games. Another interesting stat to note for this series is that Chicago is 5-13 against left-handed starters at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately for the Cards, Williams is a righty, and they have no good lefty starters to speak of.

Prior, who has given up only 3 runs in his last 5 starts and is 5-0 since coming off the DL, is also a familiar face to Cardinals hitters. He's faced them three times this season and is 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA. In his last start against them, he gave up six hits and allowed a run while striking out 6 in 8 innings of work. This game should be, as Keith Jackson used to say, "a dandy."

Unfortunately, unless you get WGN on cable or live in the St. Louis area, you probably aren't going to get to see this game. Oh, no. Instead, the wizards at ESPN will show you EAST CAROLINA VS CINCINNATI, a college football game with enormous ramifications in the world of sports that about 10 people in the entire country want to see. On ESPN 2 you won't get to see it either but at least you'll get to see the Red Sox face the Phillies. The Phillies helped officially eliminate the NY Mets from the playoffs, the bastids. They can't beat anyone else in the league but they sweep the Mets three straight. Go Red Sox.

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Trib has a nice paean to a rare September that features both the White Sox AND the Cubs in playoff races.

"Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House the last time both the White Sox and Cubs entered September within five games of first place. The best players in baseball were Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. Babe Ruth was 10 years old.

The year was 1908."

RIP: Claude Passeau: who died at 94,never fully recovering from a broken hip. Passeau had a 3.32 career ERA, compared to his league average of 3.71, was a five-time All-Star and won 120 games lifetime. He was 20-13 for Chicago in 1940 and won 19 in 1942 before 1945 when he went 17-9 with a 2.46 ERA as the Cubs won the National League by three games over the St. Louis Cardinals and went on to face the Detroit Tigers and Hank Greenberg in the World Series. Claude pitched his World Series debut in Game Three and allowed only a second inning single to Rudy York while pitching a complete game, one-hit shutout.

He also pitched Game Six, giving up five hits and three runs in six and two-thirds innings in a do-or-die situation before the Cubs finally prevailed with a run in the bottom of the 12th inning, forcing a Game Seven which they ended up losing.

The following year he made his first error since September 21, 1941, ending his streak with an all-time pitcher's fielding record of 273 consecutive errorless chances. Passeau set the mark using the small glove in the National League. He received permission from the commissioner to use a modified glove because the fingers on his left hand were affected by a gunshot wound incurred as a youngster.

He retired the following year.

Happy Labor Day to all readers of Sports Amnesia. Seems like everyone else celebrates it in May

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Wild Card Wonderment
"Wild is the wind
Give me more than one caress, satisfy this hungriness
Let the wind blow through your heart
For wild is the wind, wild is the wind"

David Bowie, Wild Is The Wind

Through yesterday, 17 of the 30 teams in the Major Leagues were either:

a) leading their division
b) leading a Wild Card race
c) within 2 1/2 games of the Wild Card leader.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Traffic Jam For NL Wildcard
"I'm not the only soul who's accused of hit and run
Tire tracks all across your back
I can see you had your fun
But darlin' can't you see my signals turn from green to red
And with you I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead"

Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown Traffic

Florida 70-63 .526 ----
Houston 70-63 .526 ----
Montreal 71 64 .526 ----
Philly 70 63 .526 ----
St. Louis 70 63 .526 ----
Arizona 69 64 .519 1
Cubs 68 64 .515 1.5
LA 68 64 .515 1.5

It almost boggles the mind. There are endless scenarios and possibilies on how this NL Wildcard traffic jam will ultimately resolve itself but for the moment, it's either a statistician's nightmare or dream. In the meantime, at least seven teams in seven cities are well within spitting distance and another two or three have logical chances if you consider all the illogical events that has led to this tie-up in the first place.

Puerto Rican Playoffs

Let's address the first absurd possibility: that the NL Wildcard will be decided, in part, in Puerto Rico. The Montreal Expos will play seven of their next nine games in tiny Estadio Hiram Bithorn, which holds 17,000 fans. More evidence of the genius of Baboon Selig, ultimate baseball subversive and a lasting member of the All-Time Laughingstocks. In a sense though, it does cobble together a semblance of internationalism. Before each game there are three (count 'em, three) national anthems sung. First, the Canadian anthem, performed entirely in English, then the Puerto Rican anthem in Spanish, and finally, the American anthem in English. A few more national anthems and they could qualify for the International Song Festival before each game.

What's even more absurd is that the Expos will play more games the rest of the season in Puerto Rico than they will at home in Olympic Stadium, where the Expos have an inordinate amount of success. The sweep of the Phillies last night was the second straight four-game sweep at Olympic Stadium for the Expos, who are 36-17 at the Big O. Now they're going to embark upon a season finale that will see them play only 6 of their final 27 games at home. It would be nice to recall that the Expos record is 10-5 in Puerto Rico at this point but it ain't easy because of some misguided sense of despotic idiocy, Montreal games played in Puerto Rico are designated as "home" games, not as "neutral" games so ESPN makes no distinction when you try to decipher the Expos schedule on their uselessly chaotic multi-media jumble of counterproductive and dysfunctional information. (sorry, that mini-rant is the result of poring over 10 different useless google searches without an answer to the burning "Expos record in Puerto Rico" question...)

In any event, back in late May and June the Expos were away for 25 consecutive days, beginning that stretch 32-18, 14 games above .500 and only two games back of Atlanta, the leader in the NL East Division. When they returned to Montreal on July 7, after playing 32 of 38 games on the road, their record had fallen to 47-41, nine games back of the Braves. When the Expos returned from their second trip to Puerto Rico in June, they conceded that tiredness had played a role in their slump.

"There's no doubt about it," Montreal catcher Brian Schneider said. "It's a natural thing. When things get tough your body adjusts to it and you overcome things. I have no doubt that we'll be ready and won't be tired."

Bud Selig doesn't want the Montreal Expos in the Major Leagues. Perhaps this is just his way of saying farewell.

Cy Young Sewn Up?

Eric Gagne earned his 44th straight save this season, setting a major league record as he closed out the Los Angeles Dodgers' 6-3 win Thursday night over the Houston Astros. Gagne beat Tom Gordon's 1998 record of 43 in a row to begin a season. Gordon still holds the record for consecutive saves overall, with 54. It was Gagne's 52nd straight save, dating to last season. Gagne has saved nearly two-thirds of Los Angeles' 68 wins. In '98 when Gordon saved 46 the year 43 of them were in a row, he saved 50% of the Red Sox's 92 victories.

Javier Vazquez threw eight shutout innings to extend his scoreless streak to a National League high 26 innings He has 27 strikeouts over the 26-inning scoreless streak. He's now 6-2 with a 1.68 ERA since the All-Star break. But he's not even the hottest pitcher on the Expos. Livian Hernandez is 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA since the break. Is it any wonder the Expos are riding a wave to the NL Wildcard race? That's almost comparable to Mark Prior's 5-0 0.69 ERA since the All-Star break, or Russ Ortiz 6-1 3.71 and Nomo's 6-2 2.55.

Reyes Is The Kings

"Reyes" is a Spanish for "kings," as though there were more than. Does this mean that we are seeing double? Jose must be. Last night he homered from both sides of the plate against the Atlanta Braves. The 20-year-old phenom also became the youngest player in major-league history to do so. Oh yeah, the second homerun of the night was a decisive two-out, two-run jack in the ninth as Kings Reyes drove in every run in the Mets' 3-1 victory over the Braves last night.

Reyes didn't even begin switch-hitting until after starting to play professional ball in 2000 and had never homered from both sides in the minors. He is batting .313 with 5 home runs and 32 runs batted in through 66 games. His 13 steals lead the Mets. Since the All-Star Game break, Reyes has the most multiple-hit games (21) in the league, and he had a 17-game hitting streak, the longest by a rookie this season.

Wow, that's alot of good news for Mets fans.

In the field, Reyes also made a spectacular backhand play to force out Robert Fick at second for the first out of the ninth. He has 21 multi-hit games since the All-Star break, most in the NL.

With the D-Train derailed, I think a very good argument can begun to be made for Jose Reyes as NL Rookie of the Year.

In the meantime, the Mets are "only" 10 games out of the wild card with 30 games to go. With the way things have gone lately and with the way teams in the NL Wildcard race just seem to lose, over and over and over again, as though no one wants to make it to the postseason, why couldn't the Mets make a run?

"We won't have psychologists calling us. We'll have hospitals with straitjackets," Al Leiter said of the possibility. "We're playing all these teams. If nothing else, we could make it miserable for them."

They can start with the phree-phalling Phillies whom they open a series at Shea Stadium against with Kevin Millwood facing Steve Trachsel, who goes for his team-high 14th win and fifth straight. Philadelphia roughed him up (1 2/3 innings pitched, seven earned runs, eight hits) the last time they met at Shea.

The Philly Inquirer reported that following last night's sweep at the hands of the Expos, Larry Bowa's emotions finally boiled over into a tirade behind clubhouse doors that one veteran player described as an all-timer, one of the worst explosions he has ever seen from the manager. The clubhouse became an even uglier scene several minutes later when pitcher Brett Myers and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan became involved in a heated, obscenity-laden argument in which angry demands for more respect were made.

Phillies have dropped to 1-9 on this four-city, 13-game road trip. If the Mets were able to sweep them, the Phillies could become the Seattle Mariners of the National League and we might witness some sort of frothing on-field cataclysm from Bowa, who must have his players wrapped tighter than Joan Rivers'face by now.

From Hero To...Rapist?

Earlier this month, Marlins backup catcher Ramon Castro, hit a game-winning home run Aug. 12 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 13th inning. Yesterday, he was arrested, jailed and charged with four counts of sexual misconduct after a 28-year-old woman told police she was raped by the player in the team's hotel early Thursday morning. Castro, who is married and has two young daughters, cooperated with police during their daylong investigation.

The Cardinals hope a similar fate doesn't await their new hero, Kerry Robinson. The Cards are back in a first-place tie with Houston in the National League Central race after Robinson's bottom-of-the-ninth homerun gave the Cards a 3-2 victory. The 384-foot blast off lefthander Mike Remlinger (5-5) was Kerry Robinson's first since May 29, 2002, and occurred five pitches after he showed bunt on Remlinger's first offering. The victory comes on a quasi-heroic effort by Matt Morris who, just one start removed from the disabled list and battling on a gippy left ankle allowed only four hits, walked one in seven excellent innings that can give Cardinals fans even more hope.

And because Mark Prior and Kerry Wood can't throw 150 pitches a game, the Cubs' chances with a distressing and pitiable bullpen, are fading fast.

The Cubs arguably held the edge in each game's pitching matchup against the Cardinals, but each night their bullpen imploded. They allowed three runs in the ninth inning of their 7-4 win Tuesday, four runs in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 4-2 loss and Robinson's blast Thursday.

Then again, the Cubs have lost 42 of their last 54 games in Busch Stadium, so maybe these implosions of failure were to be expected.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball, JERKijan

Now all I need is for someone to explain to me why, in the middle of the most confusing and stimulating playoff races in years, ESPN's Tim Kurkijan, as though living on another planet, in another time zone, stumbling through life like a somnambulist, is wondering about which teams are going to make it in 2004.

What's the matter, is he afraid someone is going to get the jump on him? Who cares?

Tim Kurkijan, soothsayer, fortunes told for cheap. Tell us Timmy, in your infinite knowledge of the future, WHO is going to win THIS year?

What an idiot.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Loser's Roll Call
Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas ... with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether." Hunter S. Thompson

Sometimes, a team gets hot at the right time and pulls away from the pack while other times, teams go stone cold and drop completely from a playoff race into oblivion. I don't know if it's the season, if it's the parity, or if it's just that everyone's bullpen sucks and no lead in anything is ever safe in baseball anymore, but there are quite a few teams in the thick of a playoff hunt and few, if any of them, seem capable of putting anything together.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Les Expos Créent La Folie"

You've gotta wonder which was the bigger news that came out of last night's game: The continued collapse of the Phloundering Phillies or the fact that following the Expos dramatic 14-10 victory last night, which included overcoming an early 8-0 deficit, the NL Wildcard race has turned into a wild, seven team free-for-all where anything is possible:

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Marlins Idle Their Way Back To Wildcard Tie

Thank those Phillies, you last half-dozen Marlin fans with hopes of postseason prayers being answered. Of course, it took the Marlins having the night off and not having the chance to lose another game themselves to make it happen, but since the Phillies and my least favorite pitcher got hammered in Montreal last night by a 12-1 margin, the Marlins are tied for the NL Wildcard once again. New life. Fresh start. Even the Expos have pulled to within three games of the NL Wildcard lead. Can the Mets be far behind?

The Phillies meanwhile, not only dropped to 1-6 on this four-city, 13-game road trip and have lost 12 in their previous 15 road games, but are now a sizzling 10-12 for the month of August. Since the All-Star break, they are 18-20 and if you subtract that aberration of a five game winning streak which concluded a week ago, you have to scratch your head and wonder how the Phillies have managed to stay in the wild card hunt at all. Sure, other than Pat Burrell, they can hit. But they led the league in runners left on base with 998. Their pitching is ranked 11th in the NL since the All-Star break. Here's what ugly looks like:

Kevin Millwood 2-3 4.32 ERA
Randy Wolf 2-5 6.60 ERA
Vincent Padilla 3-1 4.12 ERA
Brett Meyers 3-1 4.57 ERA
B. Duckworth 1-4 5.68 ERA

That's the starting rotation's numbers since the All-Star break.

Unfortunately, these stats do not incorporate a very significant factor in analyzing umpire Jim Wolf's games and that is, How Does The Game Effect The Phillies Phactor" His brother Randy could have used the help last night. Wolf suffered the worst start of his major-league career. In just 1 2/3 innings, he allowed nine runs, six hits and four walks and also hit a batter. It supports a growing trend: In his last six starts, he is 1-4 with a 9.30 ERA. In 30 innings, he has allowed 37 hits, 33 runs, 31 earned runs and 18 walks, with 25 strikeouts.

The already-apocryphal future of the Phillies rotation took a blow when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote Sunday that Millwood "has reportedly confided to friends he does not wish to return to the Phillies." That would be consistent with some recent clubhouse rumblings that have indicated Millwood will be tough for the Phillies to re-sign. Maybe not having Larry Bowa yank him out of the middle of a 3-2 game, like he did the other night in Milwaukee, would have helped. Too late now. Mets fans can continue the silly dream that they will outbid George Steinbrenner for Millwood's services next season.

As for the Marlins, they will start another push, this time through Pittsburgh which should be infinitely easier than pushing through Colorado and San Francisco. Through Saturday, the Marlins were 4-20 in their past four trips to Colorado and San Francisco. Mike Lowell is 1-for-20 with two RBIs on the road trip, while Ivan Rodriguez is 5-for-18 (.278) with no runs batted in.

Here's my favorite quote from the weekend: "I'm here now to provide depth to the pitching staff," said pitcher Rick Helling, signed this weekend by the Marlins, who was 7-8 (5.71 ERA) with the Orioles before being released. "Depth to the pitching staff" is code for I suck but instead of wasting a good arm on a few innings of work in meaningless games, there's always me.

Who's Your Bitch Now?

A little over a year after coughing up a huge first place lead to the Oakland A's, the Seattle Mariners are at it again. Last night's 8-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays combined with a despondant 8-1 loss of Seattle to Boston as Pedro the Lion won his 12th consecutive victory over Seattle, has evened an AL West race that once seemed just about over. Hey, we all thought after Mulder went down that the A's were toast for the season but all of the sudden, they've learned how to hit. The A's have scored 36 runs in the last three games. Miquel Tejada went 15-for-31 as Oakland went 5-2 on a trip to Boston and Toronto.

The biggest disappointment regarding the Mariners getting swept by the Red Sox is that they were never really in any of the games enough to allow us to see another big Meltdown by Armandogeddon. Sure, there were a few nailbiters, but Armando has been kept from any meaningful outings since manager Bob Melvin pulled him out of the fire in a game against the Red Sox last week when he almost blew a 9-4 lead on his own. Perhaps now we can say it is perhaps poetic justice that a choke-artist closer has been remanded to a choke-artist team and let it stew there for awhile.

The Mariners rotation is 3-9, with a 6.40 earned-run average in their last 15 games. They've got plenty of closers but no starters who can keep them in the game long enough to matter.

Here's another nugget for those Seattle Mariners who demanded a king's ransom from the Mets to get their man as manager, Lou Piniella. Since July 3rd, Piniella's Devil Rays, whom the Mariners face next, have gone 24-23 while the Mariners have gone 22-25. Even the Mets are 13-6 over the last three weeks.

But it's important to remember that these are pennant races and pennant races, like wildcard races, are going to have still more ups and downs, lowest of lows and highest of highs. Just a week ago, Red Sox fans were suicidal and now the Mariners have a turn at trying not to panic. The only thing predictable, as they say, is that things will be unpredictable. Who would have thought last week that there would be a three-way tie for the AL Wildcard? So take heart Mariners fans. After all, you could have the burden of being a Cub or a White Sox fan.

Matchups I Don't Want To Miss

Esteban Loiaza takes his career-high 16 victories and his career-high 149 strikeouts to face the old master Roger Clemens. Over the last three years, Loiaza is 5-3 with a 3.96 ERA in eight starts against the Yankees tonight. Clemens, on the other hand, is pitching against the White Sox for the 39th time in his career and is 20-10 with a 2.83 ERA in his career against the White Sox.

Can Brian Anderson jump right in an replace Kevin Appier for the Royals? After being acquired in a trade with Cleveland Monday, Anderson will go right to work for the Royals. He is 1-1 with an 0.81 earned run average in his last three starts for the Indians. He has a 2.87 ERA over his last 15 starts.

Mark Prior is 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA in four starts since coming off the disabled list. His next victims are the St. Louis Cardinals in a see-saw, three-way battle for first place in the NL Central while Houston will face the Dodgers.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Tight Squeeze


Houston 68-62 .523 --
St. Louis 68-62 .523 --
Chicago 67-62 .519 1/2

Cubs beat the Diamondbacks, also fighting for a playoff spot, 5-3. In two August starts against the Diamondbacks including last night's victory, Matt Clement is 2-0 while allowing three earned runs and eight hits in 15 innings, while striking out 16. This is nothing new. Clement threw a three-hit shutout on Aug. 24, 2002 at Arizona.

The Cubs reached their 67-win total of 2002 with 33 games left. Cubs starters have a 1.88 ERA in their 53 victories this season. That's how you offset an offense that entered Sunday's game with a .236 average in August, averaging 3.6 runs per game with a .302 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage. Sausage-beater Simon is already an improvement. Last night he went 3-for-5 and is 9-for-23 (.391) with six RBIs since joining the Cubs.

The Cardinals have a 2-27 record when scoring fewer than three runs. Yesterday, behind Brett Tomko, the Cards shut out the Phillies 3-0 to take this series two games to three at home. Tomko also was a main participant in a shutout in his last start at Busch, a 3-0 win over Florida on Aug. 7. Before those two games, Tomko had been 0-5 in 17 career starts at Busch.

"We kind of came out of Philadelphia last week with our tail between our legs," Cards 3B Scott Rolen said. "There were a lot of guys getting hit by pitches, just a lot of things going on. We get swept there, we drop the first game here and then we turn it around and win the series after all that. It shows a little something about this team." Rolen enjoyed a huge game against his former team, with two doubles, a single, two runs and several stellar defensive plays.

After a less than impressive debut with the Cards on Saturday, reliever Mike DeJean earned a save by pitching one shutout ninth innning with usual closer Jason Isringhausen having thrown 34 pitches on Saturday. DeJean was a closer in Milwaukee last year, accumulating 27 saves. He was especially good in September, when he was six for six in save opportunities with a 1.46 ERA.

Hitting machine Albert Pujols is hitless in three games since returning from his illness. Pujols will carry an 0-for-12 stretch into the three-game series with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. The longest previous hitless streak in his career was 0 for 14, which he did twice in 2001. He could go hitless for another 97 at-bats and his batting average would still be above .300.

Houston's Jeriome Robertson, coming off two ineffective outings against the Chicago Cubs, held Cincinnati to two runs on four hits over seven innings to earn his 12th win of the year, tops among all National League rookies. Step down Dontrelle. Or step up and help the Marlins back on their feet. What was once a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year is now up for debate again.

The Astros, winners of just five of their last 13 games, evened their homestand record to 3-3 with six more to play after Monday's off day.

"We've been losing a lot of games lately, so we have to play hard," said Hidalgo, who fell a double shy of the cycle, came through with an RBI triple into the left-center gap, capping the scoring before a crowd of 35,730. "We just have to go on a tear as a team, because we have a good team that can do anything."

The Cardinals will play 26 of their final 32 games against teams within the NL Central division. The Cubs have 27 of their remaining 33 versus the NL Central. The Astros, on the other hand, will play more than half of their remaining games -- that's 18 of 32 -- against teams from the NL West. Since we don't really consider the Dodgers a contender over here, this looks like a fluff schedule that should help the Astros take the Central Title.

The Astros host the Dodgers and Padres to close out the current homestand and will travel to Los Angeles and San Diego to begin a three-city road trip. Houston will play 14 games against the NL Central -- four in Milwaukee (Sept. 8-11), three versus St. Louis (Sept. 12-14), three at St. Louis (Sept. 19-21) and four versus Milwaukee (Sept. 25-28).

What A Difference Less Than A Week Makes

Hey, think back to Thursday morning, 4 days ago. The Red Sox had just blown a big lead in yet another bullpen meltdown to the A's and had fallen two games back for the AL Wildcard race. Despite their victory, the A's were still no where within sniffing distance of the Mariners and now suddenly, after Boston's fourth straight win and Seattle's fifth consecutive loss, which is its longest losing streak since Sept. 9-14, 2002, the Sox are tied with the A's again for the Wildcard and the A's, perhaps incredibly, after suffering the shocking loss of Mark Mulder, are only a game behind the Mariners for the AL West lead!

On the 15th of August, the A's were five games behind the Mariners and looked to catch only the Red Sox for the Wildcard. Should the Mariners begin, with Pedro the Lion due to take the mound for the Sox today, to hit the panic button? A year ago yesterday, the Mariners gave up the first place lead they'd held for four and a half months and finished in third place. Suddenly, history is looking like an ugly woman getting ready to crash another party. The Mariners are under .500 in August (10-12). In the past 13 games entering last night, the Mariners had only one starting pitcher work more than six innings. Seattle has had a winning record in Boston only once in the last 17 seasons, 4-2 in 2001.

In perhaps what could be considered loud harbinger of opposite cars going in opposite directions, The A's pounded Toronto 17-2 yesterday to cut that once-overwhelming lead to one single little game.

Rich Lederer has a nice tribute to Bobby Bonds over at Rich;s Weekend Baseball Beat.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Home On The Range
'Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day"

The White Sox big homestand, during which they've won all six games they've played plus 10 of their last 12 and has seen them propelled into first place, concludes today. Frank Thomas will be one of the sadder White Sox to say goodbye since he's hit 26 of his 34 home runs at home. Only four AL teams have won fewer road games than the Sox and after today's conclusion to a seven-game homestand, 16 of the Sox' final 31 games are on the road. Only three of their road games will be against a team with a losing home record--the Detroit Tigers next week. Next stop: Yankee Stadium.

On the other hand, neither the Royals nor the Twins seem to prefer playing at home. So far, the Royals have pulled out the last two of three in the Metrodome. Just last weekend, the Twins beat KC two out of three in Kauffman Stadium. Last night, the Twins went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners and lost 4-3. Aaron Guiel, the one who hit the game-deciding three run homer, was playing in Mexico when the Royals signed him to a minor league deal in 2001.

From the Here Is What You Get For The Fourth Lowest Payroll In Baseball Department: The Royals have a Dodge Buck Night for Tuesday's game against Texas at Kauffman Stadium. Hot dogs, small soft drinks and small packages of peanuts are $1 each. Wouldn't it be more exciting to have a Burn Buck Night instead and burn Texas manager Buck Showalter in effigy, charging "only" a buck for spectators who might want to take a swing at it with a stick and try to knock a wad of hundred dollar bills from a burning pinata? Kansas City will play 22 of its next 23 games against clubs with losing records.

Not that I've got anything against Buck Showalter. For awhile, he was the poor man's Tony LaRussa. But if his track record is any indication, the Texas Rangers won't win a World Championship until after Showalter leaves the team. The Yankees and the Diamondbacks both had spectacular success on the spoils of Showalter's astute evaluations and burn-out level intensity.

Smoked Marlin Recipe

"Shred the marlin pitching game by game and put some pepper, a tsp. mustard and a tbsp. vinegar, set aside. Put some miscues and failed late inning rallies and olive oil in a pan, add 1/2 chopped Dontrelle and cook until it's transparent, put the marlin and cook 10 minutes. Blend a small can of tomato McKeon with a garlic clove and serrano pepper put it over the fish and cook for 5 minutes in a football stadium on Dan Marino Blvd. Put some olives and some canned losses on a long road trip and turn off the heat as soon as it boils. You can serve it with rice and stuff it in third place, out of the wildcard race."

I'm officially hopping off the Marlins bandwagon. That sucking sound you just heard was all 17 Marlins fans jumping off the bandwagon at the same time. How do you root against the Giants the day Bobby Bonds finally dies?

It isn't just the five consecutive losses but inflaming the sore is the performance of Dontrelle Willis. We've been waiting in vain for The D Train ever since he outdueled Randy Johnson, the apex of his performance this season. Since then, his numbers are disturbing. The kind of numbers that leads your team to a third place finish and sitting out the post season. He's lost his sparkle, dulled his spitshine. Since that night at the end of July when Randy Johnson was outflayed, Dontrelle has started four games, pitching a total of 21 innings. In 21 innings, he managed to lose two games and surrender 17 earned runs for an ERA of 7.29. You don't run to the postseason by breaking through a 7.29 ERA finish line. Marlins manager McKeon said he does not believe Willis is fatigued, though the pitcher is nearing his single-season high in innings. Willis has thrown 149 2/3 innings between Double A Carolina and the Marlins -- eight innings fewer than last season.

NL Central Changing of the Guards

While Dontrelle fades into the wallpaper, another pitcher emerges to shape the NL races. Matt Morris. Morris, who has been troubled by shoulder miseries, fractured a bone in his hand, then sprained an ankle, held the Philadelphia Phillies to one run in five sharp innings yesterday just as the Cardinals pitching staff prospects were going into cardiac arrest while Sterling Hitchcock and Mike DeJean were summoned to revive it. If Morris can return to his April or May form, when he was 2-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA respectively, the Cardinals might be able to hold their spot in first place which they now co-hold with Houston, a half-game ahead of the Cubs.

In yesterday's 5-3 victory over Philly saw newcomer Sterling Hitchcock get a victory in his first appearance for the Cardinals. One inning pitched, one victory. As a Yankee, Hitchcock was like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, needing oil to be able to walk or talk. Now he's in St. Louis and the next thing you know, one hit, one walk and one strikeout later, he's already got a win in his first game as a Cardinal. Mike DeJean's debut was slightly less miraculous. He gave up two runs, a walk and two hits in his one inning. Two pitchers fired out of the starter's gun in two different directions. They will likely be appearing at home again for the big showdown against the Cubs beginning on Tuesday.

If Mark McGwire were still playing in a Cardinals uniform this season, would he have made any difference in the race? What would it have been like to have Pujols hitting ahead of McGwire, or vice-versa? Would that be like Hack Wilson, or Ernie Banks, hitting behind Sammy Sosa?


How Many Wolfs To Spoil The Stew?

"The angles are crazy," Cameron said. "I went back as far I could to try to make a play and I jumped. Anytime I jump I have it lined up and I thought I had it. Then I hit that damn monster and that popped it loose."

This helped keep the Red Sox even with the A's yesterday. Can the Red Sox Nation exhale now?

One member of the Red Sox Nation, yesterday's home-plate umpire Jim Wolf, must have by now. Wolf, brother of Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf, is clearly rooting for a Red Sox-Phillies World Series. For some crazy reason, he's allowed to umpire games that the Phillies primary competition, the Florida Marlins, are playing in, making one questionable call after another, three in one game that cost the Marlins a victory. Yesterday, he's calling a strikezone on Mariners' pitcher Freddy Garcia that a tailor couldn't have slid a needle through and then he blows a call on Mariner John Mabry, saying he didn't touch home-plate when he did.

"I thought I got it, but I'm not the one that counts," it was reported that Mabry, whose earlier double had keyed a three-run second inning, said. "I pointed at the plate and said, 'There's my skid mark.' Not only did I manage to get my front foot on the plate, but also my trail foot."

Whose going to be the home-plate umpire for tonight's series finale, John Henry?

The Mariners fourth loss in a row is allowing the crippled A's to regain a sense of equilibrium after the news of Mark Mulder's stress fracture. It's only two games now. The question is, can a patchwork rotation keep pace with the Mariners when they face each other six of the last nine games of the season or will the A's pick up another arm before then?