Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-7-10

7/10/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Yesterday was Hector Lopez’ 77th birthday

Monday, July 10, 2006

Top of the 1st
OVER TIME
Yesterday was another typical Boston summer day; too hot for me in the mid-80’s, too humid for me, too sunny for me. It was ideal for Mrs. Ball as she and friend Amy had a play date to walk and talk and talk and walk. But if you add all these ingredients together it was a wonderful day for Billy-Ball to crank up the AC and the fan, turn on the television and literally watch the wide world of sports.

I started my day in England (as is my wont) watching tennis as Roger Federer battled Rafael Nadal on Centre Court. This was a great match between two players appropriately ranked numbers one and two and the quality of play was indicative of their stature. That would prove to be a unique characteristic as my day rolled on.

The No. 1-ranked Federer vanquished his nemesis, No. 2 Nadal, 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3 for a fourth consecutive Wimbledon championship and eighth Grand Slam title. Let me discuss momentarily those parenthetical numbers I just shared, because they too were an indicator of my day ahead.

For those of you who are unaware, at 6-6, tennis players play overtime in which they serve to one another for points with the first reaching six (you must win by two) winning the set. The parentheses are enclosing the losing number. While this “serve-off” is a variation from the actual game, at least in its play it replicates the game itself. While I would prefer in a championship match to have each set played to a natural conclusion, this is an acceptable alternative.

At this point, I started watching a movie and enjoying my lunch (es). Please note that the parenthetical addition does reflect overtime in the eating process. You will be happy to learn that I maintained the integrity of the sport throughout the process.

I looked at the clock and it was approaching 2:15 and I figured I should pay a visit to Berlin and check out the two finalists, purportedly the two best teams in the world of soccer, Billy-Ball goes to the World Cup finals. Now, I arrived just in time to see a penalty shot by Zidane to give France a 1-0 lead. This was around the 6 minute point and marked the highlight for this country other than some vin et fromage to help pass the boredom.

I will be honest, I love watching my daughter’s team play soccer and can’t bear just about any other game. This match showed why. There were few shots on goal and anytime there was the hint of contact some player took a dive by feigning contact. One Italian player did win an Emmy for best acting in a sporting event.

My biggest problem with soccer is that it very quickly puts me to sleep. This final was no exception. As I drifted off to sleep, I was awakened by the raised voice of the announcer as the Italians put the ball into the net 12 minutes later on Materazzi’s header off a corner kick. Now we’re talking. I had watched and slept through a number of games and this was the first time in a couple of weeks where some country actually tied the score. Here’s what I had been hoping for and looking forward to. Prove me wrong. Create good situations with end to end action. Shots on net. Scoring opportunities. Great plays by the keepers. You don’t need scores, we just want some action.

All I got was sloppiness and maliciousness. Rarely did Italy threaten over the final 75 minutes. They did take numerous dives and France did make numerous forays into Italy’s defense only to produce nil (see, I’m talking soccer talk). Regulation time (plus :53 seconds or some obscure added time) came to an end with the score still knotted at 1.

There were flashes of excitement but they were briefer than a cherry bomb on the 4th of July. Seeing all the phony collapses to the ground Zidane clearly thought this was professional wresting and delivered his head full bore to the chest of an Italian defender that went unseen by referee who had been making numerous phantom calls for the last two hours. The Italians sought assistance and in an act that I describe as “soccer succor” Zidane was tossed from the game.

Perhaps he was as bored as I was and didn’t want to see the joke of what represents a conclusion to what is purported to be the world’s greatest sporting event. Now while this is going on, I’m checking in on the Yankees blowing a 5-0 lead to Tampa Bay (the Rays would eventually win this one 6-5, with a great throw by Rocco Baldelli and later a spectacular catch). I was checking in on the Mets who eventually topped Florida, 7-6. I was checking in on the Nationals who blew a 7-1 lead and would lose 10-9 to the Padres. I was checking in on the Braves who defeated the fading Reds.

And, I was checking the Sox play the Sox but first I watched the anti-climactic, the absurd, the inane shootout that brought Italy the World Cup which indicates that on this day they were the best at a five-shot shootout and nothing more than that. Anyone who says otherwise has been simply caught up in the hype of what this sporting event should be, a grueling battle to the end. But it wussed out and with endings like that it will never achieve its desired acceptance in the US amongst a broad, rabid fan base.

Then, on the other hand…

“In the 15th I told the umpires we should have a Home Run Derby to win this,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I saw that Italy won the World Cup [on penalty kicks] and I thought we should do the same thing.”

Baseball is far from perfect (okay, maybe not that far) but at least it knows how to end a game…the same way you started it. Yes, the Sox met Sox in Chicago yesterday and it went on and on. With the Red just one out from defeating Jose Contreras (!) and the White Sox, Jermaine Dye slammed a homer of Jonathan Papelbon and the Sox-Sox went into extras 3-3.

It’s after 5 and I’ve been watching stuff for 7+ hours and Mookie is now watching my every move. He is long overdue for his walk, but I try to explain the game is tied. He responds the Red Sox just scored two in the top of the 11th, let’s hit the road. He’s right and we do.

Now I get alerts on my cell phone when final scores come in and as I’m walking Mook and talking on the cell to the E-Man, I get no signal. This is odd. But I really don’t give it a second thought until I return about 30 minutes later from my walk.

I entered the family room and I reach to turn on the television, but I don’t. I’ve watched enough. I head to the computer to read the recap. No recap. The White Sox tied it in the bottom of the 11th and we’re now in the bottom of the 12th and the television and the game is back on.

No, there are no batters feigning getting hit by a pitch when the ball is thrown inside, a la my soccer mates, there are two tired teams slogging it out. Relief pitchers come and go. Occasionally we see a beautiful play in the field, but neither team is giving in. The teams used eight pitchers each and combined to throw 570 pitches.

Unlike soccer players, “We’re not going to quit because we’re in extra innings and everybody is tired,” Jermaine Dye said. “There were some crazy things going on out there.”

“You got to keep going and keep running out there,” Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. He and Jason Varitek caught the entire game and were 2-for-15 between them, with Varitek suffering through an 0-for-8 day that included a walk.

“It was mentally and physically exhausting trying to concentrate for that many pitches,” Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta said. But, they played on and I watched on and on.

Even Big Papi was tired and he was just DH-ing, “I have an idea for you,” Ortiz said. “I figure that in baseball you can do something like that. Play 15 innings, and if no one scores a run in the 15th, the manager of our team picks one of their players, the manager of their team picks one of ours, and you have a Home Run Derby. Ten swings.”

But that’s not how baseball works. You just keep playing THE GAME. You play it at the end, the way it starts. Perhaps with a little more fatigue, “Once you get to the 12th inning, bats are about a half-second slow,” White Sox reliever Brandon McCarthy said. “I don’t think guys were seeing the ball that well either. But anytime you get those guys to go 2-for-15 (Boston’s David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were a combined 2-for-15) you’ve had a great game.”

Pittsburgh beat Houston 8-7 in 18 innings on May 27. The game lasted 5 hours and 49 minutes and had been the majors’ longest game this season by innings and time…before yesterday.

By the time it was over the White Sox beat the Red Sox 6-5 in 19 innings. It was the 77th game in major-league history that lasted at least 19 innings, but it was only the second of those 77 games that took place between two teams each 20-plus games above .500. The other was in 1912, when the Washington Senators beat the Philadelphia Athletics, also in 19 innings.

Don’t ask Trot Nixon if he had fun. He went 0-for-9, the largest 0-fer for any major-league player in 15 years, since Texas’s Rafael P*lmeiro went 0-for-9 in an 18-inning game at Kansas City on June 6, 1991. Nixon’s 0-for-9 performance leaves him hitless in 11 straight at-bats, his first double-digit streak of the year. Jason Varitek, hitting directly behind Nixon in the order, went 0-for-8. The last time two major-league teammates each had eight or more at-bats without a hit in the same game was on June 3, 1989, when the Dodgers’ John Shelby (0-for-10) and Mike Davis (0-for-8) did it in a 22-inning game at Houston.

The game took 6-hours and 19-minutes and as I switched over to the Cardinals/Astros game, I took one look and turned it off. I had enough. I was done. It was a good decision because that game went overtime as well, with the Cards winning, 7-5 in 12.

You’ll excuse me if I pass on the Home Run Derby tonight because just my luck it will end in a tie and they will decide it by playing a regular game.

Top of the 2nd
QUICK HITS
Roy Halladay became the majors’ first 12-game winner, Aaron Hill had four hits for the second consecutive game and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals 11-3

Aaron Sele (6-2) allowed four hits and one run while walking two and striking out a season-high seven in six strong innings, Nomar Garciaparra extended his hitting streak to 21 games, and the Dodgers beat All-Star Jason Schmidt and the San Francisco Giants 3-1 Sunday. Sele is 6-0 with a 1.65 ERA in seven starts at Dodger Stadium this season.

Mark Teixeira and Gary Matthews Jr. hit two-run homers off All-Star left-hander Johan Santana and the Texas Rangers beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-2. It was Teixeira’s first homer in 13 games and the first time in 40 starts that Santana allowed more than one homer in a game. He lost his first decision in 10 starts (five victories) since May 17.

Kendry Morales hit a go-ahead, two-run triple to help Ervin Santana win his sixth consecutive decision as the Angels wrapped up a 6-1 road trip defeating the A’s, 4-2.

Cole Hamels pitched five solid innings to win for the first time in over a month, and the Philadelphia Phillies took their first series in that same span, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-3.

Orlando Hudson and Luis Gonzalez homered, as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Colorado Rockies, 8-5, completing a three-game sweep.

Top of the 3rd
THE WRIGHT STUFF
Mets’ third baseman David Wright will be participating in tonight’s BALCO Home Run Derby and his choice of batting practice pitcher may be the key to his success. The Mets manager and former Yankees coach, Willie Randolph, served as the pitcher for Jason Giambi in 2002 when the Yankees first baseman won the competition. After Jose Lima gave up a grand slam homer to pitcher Dontrelle Willis, “David should get Jose to throw to him,” one teammate said in typical clubhouse sarcasm. “He’d win for sure.”
Wright is one of eight contestants in the Home Run Derby the night before the All-Star Game at PNC Park. Lima will not be one of the so-called batting practice pitchers.

But Wright has chosen his Mets teammate, and fellow All-Star, Paul Lo Duca to be his man servant for this event. The Mets catcher campaigned for the assignment that usually goes to a legitimate batting practice pitcher and LoDuca, a former high school pitcher is confident he can handle the gig. “We’ve talked about it,” Wright said, “That’s all talked about. He wants to do it. He promises he can throw good BP. So we’ll see. I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to take my normal swing. But I did tell him to try to elevate his pitches.”

Lima is available having been released by the Mets after another horrid performance.

Top of the 4th
TORRE’S MVP
Joe Torre was asked who the Yankees MVP was for the first half of the season. His answer is more telling for who’s not on it than who is not on it. Torre picked Derek Jeter, citing the shortstop’s reliability, but named Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano as the rest of the pool from which he was choosing.

Top of the 5th
THE KNOCK ON WOOD
Cubs P Kerry Wood was diagnosed with a partial tear in his rotator cuff. He’s out for the rest of the season and there is also speculation that his career is in jeopardy.

Bottom of the 5th
GAG ME
Eric Gagne will have season-ending surgery Saturday to repair a herniated disc in his lower back, the latest injury to sideline the Los Angeles Dodgers’ All-Star closer. The injury had nothing to do with baseball-related activity, because Gagne has been on the disabled list with elbow problems that have limited him to 16 appearances since the beginning of last season. He underwent surgery on April 7 to remove a nerve from his pitching elbow. The three-time All-Star missed the first 51 games and made only two appearances after that. Gagne’s 2005 season also ended prematurely when he underwent elbow surgery.

Top of the 6th
LOOOOOOOOOOONG RELIEF
On this date in 1932, the Philadelphia A’s topped the Cleveland Indians, 18-17 in 18 innings. Ed Rommel was the winning pitcher entering the game to start the 2nd inning, pitching 17 innings allowing 29 hits, 9 walks and 14 runs.

The losing pitcher was Wes Ferrell, who pitched the last 11.1 innings, allowing 12 hits, 4 walks and 8 runs.

Johnny Burnett set the major league record for hits in a game, going 9 for 11. Rommel also collected three hits as a batter and Jimmie Foxx hit three homers for Philadelphia.

The game only took 4:05 to play.

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 7/10/2006
On this date in 1962, the Hall of Famer had three hits in the All-Star Game
BELT RECENT ROMEO

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 7/10/2006
Who was the winning pitcher in Boston’s comeback win over the Yanks in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS? He didn’t appear in the World Series, and he’s no longer active.
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 7/9/06
Happy birthday to this perfect game pitcher
RANK REBEL – LEN BARKER

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 7/9/06
Only one righthanded hitter born in the last 100 years has a career batting average over .330 and he’s still alive.
Albert Pujols

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Johnny Vander Meer holds the Reds career record among pitchers for most walks issued. Vander Meer gave up 1,072 walks in 11 seasons with Cincinnati (1937-49).

Top of the 9th
LONG SOX
The White Sox played one of the longest games in franchise history yesterday. A total of 16 pitchers were used, and the game took six hours, 19 minutes.
Innings Date Opp. Score Sox pitcher of record
25* May 8-9, 1984 Milwaukee 7-6 Tom Seaver
22 June 12, 1967 @Washington 5-6 John Buzhardt
21 May 26-28, 1973 Cleveland 6-3 Wilbur Wood
21 May 24, 1929 Detroit 5-6 Ted Lyons
19** July 9, 2006 Boston 6-5 Cliff Politte
* American League record for innings; major-league record for time — eight hours, six minutes.
** Four other games in White Sox history lasted 19 innings.

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.