Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-6-28

6/28/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Top of the 1st
CHEER UP, PITTSBURGH!
Attention all Pirates fans – turn that frown into a smile, or at least a grimace, things are not as bad as they seem. I know it may seem hopeless right now, but remember it’s darkest before the dawn; gray skies are going to clear up, so put on a happy face and remember there have been many who have had it worse than you.

Yes, I know Mark Buehrle and the Chicago White Sox beat you guys 4-2 last night. And yes, I am aware that this brings your team record-tying losing streak to 12 games, but remember your forebears. In 1890, the Pittsburgh Alleghenies lost 23 straight games and went 23-113 on the season. Even that was a blessing, as you may or may not know if that team wasn’t so bad and they weren’t so embarrassed, they wouldn’t have changed their name to the Pirates.

Back in those pre-historic times, the 1889 Louisville Colonels lost 26 straight games, not winning a game from May 22 to June 22. The 1899 Cleveland franchise lost 24 straight games. Not only that, they were called the “Spiders.” Yuck!

So, folks, stop singing “I’m a Loser,” remember, we are fam-a-lee!

Again, I am aware that the current Pirates’ losing streak matches the 12-game streak in 1939 as their longest in baseball’s modern era, but don’t forget, only 21 years after that the Pirates won the World Series. Way to go Maz!

Think about this – in 1961, while the rest of the baseball world was loving that last honest assault on the Babe’s single season home run record as Maris and Mantle were slamming unjuiced homers, the Phillies, managed by Gene Mauch, were losing 23 consecutive games.

Your Pennsylvania neighbors in Philadelphia have a history of showing their brotherly love to opposing teams. Before the A’s moved to Kansas City and from there to Oakland, they learned about losing in Philly. The 1890 Philadelphia A’s lost 22 in a row. The 1916 and 1943 A’s each lost 20 in a row, while the 1920 A’s did their best losing 18 straight.

You think that’s bad, Pennsylvanians? In 1906, the Boston Americans, who became the Red Sox, lost 20 straight games from May 1 to May 24. In the midst of that streak, and beyond, from May 17-June 8, the Boston Beaneaters, who fortunately eventually became the Braves, lost 19 straight.

The people in Washington certainly know about losing, and not just because of all the polticos who live there and not because of the Generals, the patsies of the Harlem Globetrotters. The old Washington Senators in both 1948 and 1959 lost 18 straight games and the progenitors of the current Washington Nationals, the Montreal Expos, in the same 1969 season of the Miracle Mets, the Canadian entry lost 20 straight. As baseball fans in D.C. were waiting for baseball to return, they rooted for the 1988 Baltimore Orioles as they lost 21 straight at the start of the season.

I mention the Mets because in their debut season in 1962, the Mets lost their first nine and then 111 after that finishing at 40-120-1. The 2006 Pirates are 26-52, those 1962 Mets were five games worse at 21-57. And, the Pirates don’t even have the worst record in baseball. The Kansas City Royals despite winning 9 of 12 are still 25-50, the same losing percentage as the Bucs. Don’t forget this hotRoyals team lost 19 straight just last season.

Pirates fans should take a measure of solace in knowing that while losers lose, so do winners. The 2000 World Champion Yankees lost 15 of their final 18 games, including six in a row. The 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins had two six-game losing streak and a five-gamer.

Okay Pittsburghians while you are sulking about your team there are two dates this season to make you feel better: July 11 is the All-Star Game, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and October 1 is the last game of the season.

Smile!

Top of the 2nd
PETER GAMMONS
Peter Gammons, probably the best-known and simply the best baseball writer of the last 50 years, is resting in intensive care after undergoing an operation to treat a brain aneurysm yesterday.

Gammons lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, but was at his residence on Cape Cod when he was stricken. According to an official of the Baseball Writers Association of America, he was discovered unconscious in his car by a passerby. He was taken to Falmouth Hospital and then transported by helicopter to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where the surgery was performed.

Gammons’ doctors were optimistic about his recovery.

Gammons has a CD of original compositions and covers, titled “Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old,” coming out on July 4. Proceeds from sales of the CD benefit charity.

I cannot put into words how much I respect and treasure Peter Gammons. I hope those of you who pray, will put in a good word for “The Commissioner.”

Top of the 3rd
MAYBE ROGER SHOULD RECONSIDER
It’s not that Roger Clemens has pitched poorly in his return to the Astros, it’s just that the Astros have faced two teams from the AL Central. Last night they had the misfortune of facing the Tigers, the team with the best record in baseball.

Clemens threw six strong innings before giving up a pair of one-out walks in the 7th. On his final pitch, a 3-1 pitch to Carlos Guillen, Clemens pumped his fist to celebrate a second strike and that Magglio Ordonez was caught stealing for a second out. However, the ump called the pitch ball four giving Guillen a walk and Ordonez second base.

Dan Wheeler then gave up a double to Craig Monroe bringing home the first run of the game and a second run scored on shortstop Adam Everett’s throwing error. Monroe then scored when Morgan Ensberg bobbled a grounder, making it 3-0. Alexis Gomez gave Detroit the 4-0 final with his first career homer, a shot to right-center off Fernando Nieve.

Clemens allowed two runs, one earned and three hits with two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He is now 0-2 with a 2.38 ERA. Clemens didn’t record his first strikeout until the 5th inning making it only the second time in Clemens’ last 132 starts that he failed to strike a batter out over the first four innings.

Nate Robertson (8-3) threw seven scoreless innings giving up six hits and three walks while striking out four. He has lost only one of his last 13 starts. The “Zoom Man”, Joel Zumaya pitched the 8th, and Todd Jones pitched a perfect ninth.

Last season, the Astros were shut out in nine of Clemens’ 32 starts, one shutout short of the 10 shutouts the Cubs had when Ferguson Jenkins started in 1968.

The Tigers, who have the best record in baseball, have won five straight and 15 of 17. Since losing two of three against the Chicago White Sox, Detroit has won six straight series and will go for its second straight sweep today. Detroit has shut out 10 opponents this season, more than any other team and the most it has had before the All-Star break since 1969 when it had 12.

The pitcher Roger faced in his debut, Francisco Liriano threw seven sharp innings to help the Minnesota Twins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-2. Liriano (8-1) allowed two runs and five hits, striking out eight for the Twins. He has now won six of seven starts. His ERA is 1.76 and opponents are hitting .170 against the 22-year-old over that span.

He received high praise from the pitcher he defeated last night, Derek Lowe, “It’s very early in his career, but I was very fortunate to see Pedro (Martinez) in Boston. Liriano is very similar as far as velocity, throwing any pitch at any time. When you have that kind of stuff, it’s easy to be as poised as he is.”

Minnesota, 26-10 at the Metrodome, has won nine straight at home, holding each opponent to less than four runs, the first time the team has done that since it relocated from Washington in 1961. The team ERA in those games is 1.39.

Joe Mauer had a career-high five hits to help Liriano and the Twins who have won six straight and 14 of 15. Mauer has at least four hits in a game four times this season, and is the first Minnesota player since Kirby Puckett on July 25-26, 1988, to have at least four hits in back-to-back games. He went 5-for-5 against the Dodgers to raise his batting average to .389, tops in baseball, after going 4-for-5 Monday. Only one other catcher in the last five seasons recorded consecutive starts with four or more hits: Victor Martinez (Aug. 25-26, 2005). Mauer is batting .469 (61-for-130) since May 19, the date of Liriano’s first start of the season for the Twins. Mauer now has 100 hits in 257 at-bats this season. Over the last six seasons, the only other player to reach the 100-hit mark in as few at-bats as Mauer was Derrek Lee in 2005 (255 AB). Meanwhile Justin Morneau has hit safely in 17 of 18 games, batting .403 in that stretch.

The Twins are 12-2 in interleague play; the AL Central is 49-19.

Top of the 4th
PERHAPS RED SOX WOULD HAVE BEEN A BETTER FIT
Mike Lowell and Alex Gonzalez homered and rookie Jon Lester earned his third win without a loss in four starts as the Red Sox beat the Mets 9-4 for their 10th consecutive victory, all in interleague play. The Sox had no problems with Mets rookie Alay Soler who gave up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. The BoSox are the only team not to lose to a rookie starter this season. Boston has faced four rookie starters, whose combined record against the Sox is 0-3 with a 10.07 ERA.

The Red Sox went their 14th consecutive game without an error, the longest streak in the majors this season. The AL record is 15.

The Red Sox swept three-game series against the Braves, Nationals and Phillies and are 12-1 in interleague play. Overall, the AL is leading the NL, 117-70

Top of the 5th
WHY WE LOVE THE TARPONS
Last Saturday night, the Devil Rays wore replica uniforms of the minor league 1975 Tampa Tarpons as part of a 1970s turn back the clock promotion. The Braves wore replicas of their 1970s uniform. Not only that Rays and Braves players dressed in vintage 1970s clothing and haircuts shown on RaysVision. As he introduced the lineups, Rays public address announcer Bill Couch couldn’t stop giggling.

Among the highlights were Carl Crawford in a lime green dress shirt and top hat, Jonny Gomes as a long, curly haired rocker, rookie pitcher Tim Corcoran in a blue prom tux, who picked up his first major league win that night, and Atlanta’s Andruw Jones sporting a giant afro.

Red cleats were ordered for several players, among them Rocco Baldelli, Crawford and Josh Paul. Equipment manager Chris Westmoreland even went so far as to order red batting gloves, red wristbands and red catching gear. Catcher Toby Hall dyed his goatee red for the occasion.
Songs from the 1970s were played between innings, and fans came dressed in 1970 garb.
Three stars from that decade – George Foster of the Reds; Dave Kingman, who played for several teams; and Tommy John, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and helped pioneer the elbow surgery that now bears his name, each threw out a first pitch.

Rays hitting coach Steve Henderson played for the Tarpons and after the victory, manager Joe Maddon was asked if he might want to wear the red and white Tarpons uniforms again, given the way his team played. “We bleed Rays green around here,” Maddon said, “so we’ll be back in the greens.”

Top of the 6th
JUST IN CASE…
YOU HAVEN’T HEARD
Phillies pitcher Brett Myers will take a leave of absence through the All-Star break, saying he has embarrassed his family and the team with his arrest last Friday in Boston for striking his wife on a street not far from Fenway Park. He was freed after his wife posted $200 bail, and he faces an Aug. 4 court date on assault charges. Myers, Philadelphia’s best pitcher, said yesterday he asked the team for time off so he can “concentrate on this matter and make plans for whatever assistance is appropriate.”

YOU HAVEN’T SEEN
Joe Mikulik went on a Lou Pinella tirade during a Class A game. Mikulik’s Asheville Tourists attempted to pick off Koby Clemens, and after the umpire called Clemens safe, Mikulik’s meltdown began.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tBFSrm3yFE

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 6/28/2006
Happy birthday, Groove
BOND ROYAL

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 6/28/2006
Last year, Carl Crawford became the fifth player since World War II with 30 doubles, 15 triples and 15 home runs in a season. Name the other four. Two of them did it in 1984. Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 6/28/06
Happy 63rd birthday to this great Red Sox shortstop
POLITE OR CLERIC? – RICO PETROCELLI

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 6/28/06
Which baseball original does Derek Jeter share a birthday with?
Abner Doubleday – June 26

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Neither Babe Ruth nor Mark McLiar ever hit a home run in a 1-0 victory.

Top of the 9th
JULIO FRANCO’S TEAMMATES
We’re tracking Julio Franco’s career year by year using his teammates as a frame of reference.

In 2001, with the Atlanta Braves, Franco’s teammates included Gary Sheffield, Darren Bragg, B.J. Surhoff, Keith Lockhart and John Smoltz.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.