Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-7-11

7/11/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top of the 1st
MID-TERM GRADES
My highest grade here at the break goes to the Detroit Tigers who had a three-year record that was the worst in the game and now have the best record in the baseball. A+ for the boys of Motown who are coming off 14 straight losing seasons.

I’ve decided to be a tough grader this season (I don’t want any of the academics out there accusing me of grade inflation) and the only other team I’m giving a pure A for the first half are the Metsies, the beast of the NL East. Omar Minaya has put together a team that can hit, run and have fun. The biggest question awaiting this team is how they can avoid being a disappointment in the post-season with their suspect pitching.

Okay, I will be a little softer here granting A- to the Cardinals, the White Sox and the Red Sox all probably deserve B+. Each team has played well, but has shown unexpected soft spots and considering their competition should more dominant. It’s hard to criticize first place teams (and the White Sox who have the second best record in baseball), which is why I gave them the benefit of the doubt with the grade. The Cards seemed genuinely shook when Pujols was injured, and when he returned. The ChiSox are playing very well and may actually survive Brian Anderson in centerfield. The BoSox young pitchers better not realize how important they are otherwise they may choke on a Big Apple.

Eight teams get some form of B.

The only pure B+ team would be the Yankees. If you asked the Yankees at the start of the season if they would be happy to be just three games behind Boston while playing without Matsui and Sheffield they would tell you, quite correctly, that they would be thrilled. But, oh that pitching! The Red Sox still may not pull it off this season, but their upside is tremendous while its drool cup time for the Yankee pitching staff.

I give a solid B to the Blue Jays, who still may be a factor in the AL East and, somewhat hesitantly, I also give a solid B to the A’s who should win the AL West.

B minuses abound – The overachieving Reds and Rockies, who are both very close to being good. The Dodgers, who could be the surprising strength out of the NL West. The Padres who won’t be. The Padres are leading the NL West but that could change in a heartbeat. The Twins who must be looking to next year.

Seventeen teams get a C+ or lower.

Giving the Giants a C+ is very nice of me.

Mediocrity cannot be spelled without C which is the grade for the Rangers, the Diamondbacks, the Brewers and the Astros.

C minus for the Angels, who many people picked to go…all…the…way, and the Mariners.

D for the disappointing Cleveland Indians, Phillies and Braves, who this year won’t collapse in the post-season. The Orioles get a D, but the Marlins and Rays get D+ for effort.

D- for the Cubs, who are so ugly, and Nationals, who play in Washington where everyone plays poorly.

F for the Pirates and Royals.

The AL Manager of the First Half is a no-brainer as Jim Leyland has shown his Tigers that you can make things happen with the right attitude. While Leyland grabs all the first place votes second place could be divided between Ron Gardenhire and Joe Torre.

The NL MVP for the First Half is Albert Pujols whose strained oblique muscle only makes his numbers look mortal. The remaining votes would be divided between Carlos Beltran and David Wright.

It really gets murky from this point on.

The nice and easy NL Manager of the First Half would be Willie Randolph, but if you are like Ike and Tina and you always do it nice and rough, your vote goes to Joe Girardi who has been magnificent in Florida. Jerry Narron is solid in third place and Clint Hurdle comes in fourth.

How does Tom Glavine sound for NL Cy Young Award for the First Half? If that doesn’t work for you, how about Brandon Webb? Bronson Arroyo? Chris Capuano? Brad Penny? Josh Johnson? Aaron Sele? Help me out here, nobody really stands out.

The problem is the opposite in the AL. There are too many good candidates for AL Cy Young Award for the First Half. Francisco Liriano has been amazing, but I may have to pull the trigger for Roy Halladay. Kenny Rogers and Johan Santana could also take honors. Then there are Ervin Santana and Jose Contreras. There’s also Justin Verlander and Scott Kazmir. Don’t forget Curt Schilling and Eric Bedard. If you are comfortable giving it to a reliever, Jonathan Paplebon and B.J. Ryan are deserving candidates.

There is also no clear cut winner for AL First Half MVP. Where would the Red Sox be without Manny Ramirez? The Yankees without Jason Giambi or Derek Jeter? The White Sox without Jim Thome or Jermaine Dye? The Twins without Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau? But after all is said and done, I say nobody has a greater offensive impact on the game than Big Papi. David Ortiz is dangerous in his first at bat and extremely dangerous in his last at bat.

Can you imagine a season where Jonathan Paplebon, who has been practically lights out as the Red Sox closer, who has an astronomically low ERA, finishes second or even third for AL Rookie of the Year for the First Half? Francisco Liriano gets my vote, but it hurts because both Little Papi and Justin Verlander are both so very good.

The NL First Half Rookie of the Year is nowhere near as exciting. Prince Fielder gets all the press, but Ryan Zimmerman gets my vote. Dan Ugglia, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson (rookie pitcher of the first half) are all from the Marlins and that bodes well for the team that needs to move.

Jim Thome and Nomah are the Comeback Players for their respective leagues in this first half

That’s it for me – office hours are open at bill@billy-ball.com

Top of the 2nd
MY PICK
In tonight’s All-Star Game is the NL, which hasn’t won an All-Star Game since 1996. Everybody is talking about the AL dominance, so my pick is relatively safe. I base it on the fact that each of the four All-Star games in Pittsburgh, two at Forbes Field and two at Three Rivers Stadium were won by the NL. The precedent is absolutely valueless and so is my prediction.

Top of the 3rd
THE LONE RANGERS
The Texas Rangers are the only team in the majors that had at least one starting player in each of the last 14 All-Star Games (1992-2005). Kevin Brown, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael P*lmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira all contributed to that streak. But neither of the two Rangers selected to this year’s squad is slated to start (Michael Young and Gary Matthews Jr.).

Top of the 4th
HOME RUN DERBY – PART I
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have never had a player compete.

Top of the 5th
GETTING READY TO VISIT COOPERSTOWN?
The Baseball Hall of Fame’s largest inductee class ever will take place on July 30 in Cooperstown.

This year’s 18 inductees will top the 11 of 1946. Bruce Sutter, who was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in January, will be joined by 17 greats from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues eras. Those 17 are players Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Biz Mackey, Jose Mendez, Louis Santop, Mule Suttles, Ben Taylor, Cristobal Torriente and Jud Wilson and executives Effa Manley, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, Sol White and J.L. Wilkinson.

Manley becomes the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sutter’s plaque cap will feature the St. Louis Cardinals logo. He is the lone living inductee and will speak during the induction ceremony, which begins at 1:30 p.m. at Clark Sports Center.

In addition, Gene Elston, longtime voice of the Houston Astros, will receive the 2006 Ford C. Frick award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting, and Rocky Mountain News sportswriter Tracy Ringolsby, who has covered baseball for 30 years, will receive the 2005 J.G. Taylor Spink award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

Thursday, July 27

11:30 a.m. — “Queen of the Negro Leagues” book signing; 1:30 p.m. — “Red Legs and Black Sox” book signing. Friday, July 28

8:30 a.m. — PLAY Ball with Ozzie Smith (with special guests George Brett, Ryne Sandberg and Buck O’Neil); 12:30 p.m. — Satchel Paige statue dedication; 2:30 p.m. — “Big Bam” book signing; 7 p.m. — “Everyone’s Hero” sneak preview. Saturday, July 29

9:30 a.m. — Sandlot Story: Oneonta Tigers; 11 a.m. — “The Black Aces” signing, featuring Jim “Mudcat” Grant and others; 2 p.m. — New York-Penn League game (Tri-City ValleyCats vs. Oneonta Tigers); 3 p.m. — Connecting Generations family trivia show with Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Harmon Killebrew, Tom Seaver and Don Sutton; 7 p.m. — Red carpet arrivals. Sunday, July 30

10 a.m. — A visit with Roger Kahn; 1:30 p.m. — Induction ceremony at Clark Sports Center. Monday, July 31

10:30 a.m. — Legends Series with Bruce Sutter and other Hall of Famers; 1 p.m. — Legends for Youth skills clinic.

Top of the 6th
MISQUOTED?
Leo Durocher is widely known for the quote, “Nice guys finish last.” But the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t exactly say it, according to Ralph Keyes, who examined the origins of 450 famous quotes in his new book “The Quote Verifier.”

In going through microfilm of the July, 1946 copies of New York’s Journal-American Keyes found that he league-leading Dodgers were about to play the seventh-place New York Giants, and a radio reporter asked Durocher why he couldn’t be nicer, the manager waved at the Giants’ dugout and said, “The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place.”

The next day, Frank Graham of the Journal-American wrote a column titled “Leo Doesn’t Like Nice Guys.” A reprint of the column in Baseball Digest said nice guys were in “last place,” instead of “seventh place.” Durocher’s words were subsequently compressed into the very quotable “Nice Guys Finish Last.”
“Verdict: Credit the concept to Durocher, its pithy version to the press,” writes Keyes,

Here’s one more – In 1920, when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was being tried for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, a sportswriter quoted a little boy as asking Jackson outside the courthouse, “It ain’t so, Joe, is it?” That quote was polished to “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

But other sportswriters present at the scene did not include any variation of the quote. And it’s not the type of quote most reporters would gloss over. Jackson, himself, always denied it happened, later calling it “the biggest joke of all.”

Verdict: Joe said ‘it ain’t so’ was never said, and he probably was right,” Keyes writes.

Ozzie Guillen is hoping to hire Keyes to determine what he means as soon as he says it.

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 7/11/2006
On this date in 1985, this pitcher became the first to record 4,000 strikeouts.
RAN A NYLON

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 7/11/2006
Since 1900, a player has stolen 80 bases in a season 23 times. Name the six who did it a combined 14 times in the ’80s.
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 7/11/06
On this date in 1962, the Hall of Famer had three hits in the All-Star Game
BELT RECENT ROMEO – Roberto Clemente

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 7/11/06
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.
Curtis Leskanic.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Former pitcher Dave Stewart contributes as a podcaster for a new fantasy sports site called No Boundaries Experience (nbx.com), and said, “If I had to make a comparison between Eck and Mariano Rivera, I’d take Mariano Rivera in a minute.” Stewart’s show, “Throwin’ Heat,” posts Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Top of the 9th
HOME RUN DERBY PART II
Ryan Howard of the Phillies won the BALCO sponsored event, but it still won’t save Charlie Manuel’s job.

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.