Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-7-6

7/6/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Top of the 1st
BUD RUINED THE ALL-STAR GAME
I’m not looking forward to the All-Star Game next week. I used to love it; I loved the opportunity to see the best that baseball had to offer in a relaxed setting of fun of the game. Players would play hard enough to show their skills, to show their pride, to show how much fun they were having being in this highly selective fraternity.

Now, we have players who don’t want to participate, who shouldn’t be invited to participate, who resent they weren’t asked to participate, in a game that “counts.”

Manny Ramirez has made it perfectly clear through his Boston manager Terry Francona that he doesn’t want to be in Pittsburgh next week. Manny anticipates that his knee is really going to need to rest next Tuesday night and that he can’t play three innings. Manny’s knee is really bad explains Francona because Manny doesn’t talk to the media. The Sox are constantly making sure that Manny’s knee doesn’t flare up which is why Manny has missed four of the Sox first 81 games this season. Gee, it must be killing him. Almost as bad as his hamstrings in 2000 and in 2003 when he opted out of the All-Star games. We need a three-strike rule, don’t you think? Three opt-outs and you are off the ballot.

By the way, Manny was the fans leading voting getter. This troubles me as well. Manny is having a good season, but he’s no Joe Mauer. He’s good but he simply doesn’t deserve to be the top vote getter. Ichiro was the top choice of his peers among outfielders, collecting 454 players votes to 343 for Ramirez.

The problem here is that fans shouldn’t be getting the vote. I know it’s the fun, populist thing to do (and great for ad revenue), but it doesn’t work and it certainly doesn’t work if the game is to actually mean something. It has been impossible to listen to a game these past five weeks and not hear the local announcers encouraging listeners to “stuff” the ballot boxes for their local favorites…no matter what kind of season they are having. For the most part, the fans mentality is don’t vote for the best, don’t vote for history, vote a straight ticket, my team right or wrong. How can we forget 1989 when despite having retired May 29, Mike Schmidt was elected to start at third base for the N.L. in the All-Star Game and the A’s outfielder Jose C*nsec*, who had not played all season because of a wrist injury, was picked to start for the A.L..

I agree with Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays (we could vote for the use of “Devil” or not?). “I like the idea of the players voting exclusively, I really do,” Maddon said. “They vote for the first team, and then you just go down the pecking order of the votes and choose the rest of your team.
“I understand the fan involvement and I think that’s great, but I believe when you are recognized by your peers, that is the truest and highest compliment you can receive.”

Not only that, but the fans would then get something they deserve as well – to see the best in the game all gathered on one field.

Which brings us to this year’s punching bag – Mark Redman. I have never met Mr. Redman, but I bet he is a good guy. At least I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I will even grant that he may be a pretty good pitcher. After all, despite his 58-70 lifetime record, he has made 170 big league starts and how many wannabes can make that claim? My issue with Mark Redman is that he is not an All-Star. He has a record this season of 5-4 with a 5.60 ERA. My problem with Mark Redman is that he is on the All-Star team. He is on the All-Star team and Francisco Liriano, Curt Schilling and Justin Verlander are not.

Why? Because the Kansas City Royals must have a representative in this All-Star game, just like every team must have a player. Quality doesn’t matter. Quality doesn’t count. Yet, and yet, the All-Star game does count. It counts by awarding the winning league home field advantage. So some American League team’s success in the World Series may be determined by the ability of Mark Redman to successfully retire real All-Stars. How do you think Ozzie Guillen is going to feel about bringing in Redman when he knows that to repeat as champion, he may need to win this game?

Do you think my rant has no meaning? Just remember, the team with the home-field advantage has won 20 of the past 25 World Series.

As I have been scanning various websites, invariably I see polls asking the question whether the All-Star game should determine home-field advantage. I have yet to see a poll that the vote is less than a resounding “NO.” So here’s what I would suggest to improve the All-Star game:
1. Play the game for fun. The team with the best regular season record should have the home field advantage in the World Series, not the All-Star winner.
2. Remove the requirement that every team must have a representative
3. Make the DH part of the game no matter what the venue
4. Expand the roster to include two “veteran exemptions” for each squad to enable the fans to see a player who may be passed his prime. The veteran could only receive the exemption once in his career.
5. Have a “return to the game” exemption for catchers so that the only unused player on the bench doesn’t have to be the third catcher on the squad.
6. Give the vote to the players…and give the game back to the fans.

Top of the 2nd
WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS
* The Dodgers’ Nomar Garciaparra extended his hitting streak to 17 games.
* Derrick Turnbow recorded four outs in the Brewers’ 6-5 win over the Reds. It was the first time Turnbow pitched more than one inning since May 22, 2005, 86 appearances making it the longest in Brewers’ history. It was the third-longest current streak in the majors, behind Eddie Guardado (97) and Trevor Hoffman (93).
* Mike Mussina raised his record to 10-3 in the Yankees’ 11-3 win over the Indians. Mussina is now the first pitcher in American League history to win 10 or more games in each of 15 consecutive seasons. The previous record of 14 straight seasons was shared by Eddie Plank (1901-1914), Hooks Dauss (1913-1926), and Jim Kaat (1962-1975). He also tied the AL record for most seasons with 10 wins by the All-Star break. This was Mussina’s eighth, equaling Jim Palmer’s mark. One big difference: Palmer posted a total of eight 20-win seasons; Mussina has never won more than 19 games in a season.
* Detroit’s Kenny Rogers leads active pitchers with 21 victories against the A’s. Rogers, who once pitched for the A’s, improved his career record at McAfee Coliseum to 25-4 in the Tigers’ 10-4 victory over Oakland.
* Bartolo Colon pitched a four-hit shutout over the Mariners for his first win of the season. Jamie Moyer, took the loss and has been the starting pitcher in five of the MLB-leading 10 games in which Seattle has failed to score this season.
* Cleveland third baseman Aaron Boone had three errors, including two in the Yankees’ eight-run 4th in the Yankees 11-3 victory. The Yankees stole six bases. Johnny Damon left in the 3rd inning with a slight muscle pull in his stomach.
* Chuck James became the first Braves rookie in 23 years to win his first three starts in the Braves’ 14-4 victory over the Cardinals.
* Since June 7, the Rockies have scored 162 runs, the most in the National League during that span, a major improvement for a team that ranks in 10th in the NL in runs for the season with 396. The Chicago White Sox lead the majors since June 7 with 185 runs. The Rockies, Dodgers and Padres are all tied for first in the NL West at 44-40.
* San Diego snapped an 11-game losing streak to Philadelphia dating to 2004.
* The five-run 1st gave the Mets 70 opening-inning runs this season, second to the White Sox, who have 78. The Mets scored their five runs on four hits and didn’t get another run or hit in the rest of their 5-0 victory over the Pirates. The Mets are the first NL team this season with 50 wins.
* Carl Crawford stole second base, third base, and home (not all in the same inning) in the Devil Rays’ 5-2 win over the Red Sox. The last player to steal second, third, and home in the same game was Tom Goodwin of the Rockies in 2000. The last AL player was Gerald Williams of the Yankees in 1996. The red Sox have now lost seven straight to American League teams.

Top of the 3rd
NIGHTMARE VS. DREAM
The song of the day (to be caught in your head) is “Dream Weaver” by REO Speedwagon as we talk about the Weaver brothers. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Angels traded “nightmare” right-hander Jeff Weaver to the St. Louis Cardinals for minor-league outfielder Terry Evans. Weaver, 29, was designated for assignment by the Angels last Friday after going 6-10 with a 6.29 earned-run average in 16 starts this season. He signed a one-year, $8.3 million contract with Los Angeles as a free agent during the offseason.

The Cardinals will assume Weaver’s contract, but the Angels will give St. Louis an undisclosed amount of cash in the deal.

Weaver’s tenure with the Angels ended in strange fashion last Friday as the club called up his 23-year-old brother, Jered “Dream” Weaver from Class AAA Salt Lake to replace him in the rotation and on the roster. The rookie right-hander is 5-0 in his first five starts for Los Angeles, including a 7-1 victory over the Mariners on Monday night. In each of his first five major-league games, Weaver has started, earned a win, lasted at least six innings and allowed no more than two runs.

The last pitcher who started his big-league career with such a streak was Don Schwall, who did it for the Red Sox in 1961. The last player to do it before Schwall was Boo Ferriss for the 1945 Red Sox; he followed that formula in each of his first seven starts.
In the era of the designated hitter, the only other American League pitcher to simply win his first five major league starts was Ben McDonald for the 1990 Orioles.

Top of the 4th
MIGGY GETTING IN BIGGY TROUBLE
Miguel Tejada leads the Orioles in hitting, homers and RBIs. But the team is quietly worried that the formerly outgoing and engaging star has turned introverted, even surly, much of the time. Fans have begun complaining that Tejada doesn’t run out ground balls, and the team admitted that the former MVP had been fined for arriving late to the ballpark. “If he’s showing up late, is he doing everything he needs to do to prepare to be the leader of this team?” Jim Palmer told the Baltimore Sun. “We all like Miguel, but do you hear about [Derek] Jeter or [Albert] Pujols getting fined? Do they have these problems?”

Top of the 5th
BUCKY UPDATE
Bucky Jacobsen is playing for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Jacobsen, who played for the Mariners in 2004, is the designated hitter for Long Island and was hitting .272 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs in 53 games. Jacobsen is tied for the team lead in home runs and is all alone in first place with 41 strikeouts.

Top of the 6th
HE’S BACK, HE’S GONE, BUT HE’S STILL BACK
Only one game into his comeback, Jose C*nsec* was traded from the San Diego Surf Dawgs to the Long Beach Armada for Cuban pitcher Yoankis Turino. In C*nsec*`s debut, he went 0-for-3, striking out all three times, and was hit by a pitch

In a telephone interview, C*nsec* said he requested the trade because his 9-year-old daughter, Josie, will be spending the rest of the summer living with him and he didn’t want “to drag her around to hotels.”

Long Beach is about 25 miles south of Los Angeles, where C*nsec* lives.

Armada Manager Darrell Evans said he was not concerned how bad C*nsec* looked in his return, “Although he had a rough first game, I’m sure Jose will get his timing down and provide us a strong bat in the middle of the order,” Evans said.

C*nsec*, who has acknowledged use of steroids in the past, said he doesn’t recall how long it’s been since he stopped, “I haven’t used any type of illegal drugs, I can’t remember how long to be honest with you.”

Before Monday’s game for the Surf Dawgs in Chico, C*nsec* made critical comments about how baseball officials are handling the new, stricter steroids policy and said a “cleanup” in the commissioner’s office was needed. He suggested Major League Baseball will discipline only certain players and might even hide the truth when it comes to big-name stars and positive tests. He plans to fight baseball to bring out the truth.

“They’re mafia, point blank, they’re mafia,” C*nsec* said. “I don’t think Major League Baseball is enthused about finding out the truth. There needs to be a major cleanup in Major League Baseball. I think they are treading on very thin ice, and [commissioner] Bud Selig has to be very careful what he’s doing because his job is on the line.”

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 7/6/2006
His homer in the 1942 All-Star game was the only one he hit all season.
I MOCK WEENY

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 7/6/2006
Not counting pitchers, five MVPs in the last 50 years hit fewer than 10 home runs. Three came in a four-year period, only one in the last 25 years. Name them.
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 7/5/06
Happy birthday, Sarge.
GAYEST WARMTH – GARY MATHEWS

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 7/5/06
Name the only two pitchers who have struck out more than 2,000 batters and lost fewer than 100 games.
Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Cleveland’s Travis Hafner is just the fifth player to hit four grand slams before the All-Star break. The others are Lou Gehrig, Yankees, 1934; Sid Gordon, Boston Braves, 1950; Jim Gentile, Orioles, 1951; and Jim Northrup, Tigers, 1968.

Top of the 9th
INJURY OF THE WEEK
Brewers reliever Matt Wise cut the middle finger on his pitching hand while reaching for the aluminum salad tongs in the postgame spread. Wise strained his shoulder on a railing in early May while in the Brewers’ bullpen in San Diego, heading for the bathroom

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.