Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-9-18

9/18/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday Ryne Sandberg

Monday, September 18, 2006

Top of the 1st
COMEBACK PLAYER
Take it from one who is already looking to win the Comeback Writer of the Year next season, the Comeback Player of the Year Award may seem like another bogus sponsoring MLB opportunity but for those nominated…okay, it is another shameful example of MLB turning everything they can into a NASCAR moment.

Of course, the fact that the Comeback Player of the Year Award is sponsored by Viagra makes it even more tasteless.

“Mommy, mommy, I voted on-line for Comeback Player of the Year sponsored by Viagra!”

“Could they send any samples to your father?”

This is an award is given to a player who was injured or lousy last year. I actually think it would be more fun to name potential nominees at the end of each season (note to self: let’s do that). There are two versions of this award. The legitimate version is the older one awarded by The Sporting News given to one player in each league who has reemerged as a star in that season. It was established in 1965. The winner in each league is selected by the TSN editorial staff.

The Erectile Dysfunction version is the MLB take and it includes fan voting of six nominees in each league. In the National League, the nominees are Nomar Garciaparra coming back questionable training techniques and an over inflated ego, Johnny Estrada, a better than average catcher who suffered from a bad back and a concussion last season; Carlos Beltran, who suffered from high expectations from high expectations in his first season in a Mets uniform; Scott Rolen, an All-Star third baseman who always seem on the verge of some kind of injury; Joe Borowski, who is a mediocre reliever whose career fell of the table so far he was signed in the off-season by the Marlins; and Edgar Renteria, who appeared so depressed playing in a Boston uniform that he was last year’s Samaritans Player of the Year.

My vote goes to Beltran and his 40 homers and 114 RBI. The architect behind Beltran’s comeback however is Omar Minaya who put together a strong enough team that took the spotlight off of Beltran. Probably the smartest moves were picking up Carlos Delgado and Julio Franco to serve in the capacity of mentors and support network.

In the American League, last year’s losers and this year’s nominees are: Magglio Ordonez, who like the rest of the Tigers is having a resurgent year despite being sidelined early in the season with a hernia operation, the injury the result of lifting his hefty paycheck. After a combined 17 homers over the last two seasons, Magglio has hit 20 this year and is hitting close to .300 and is on his way to driving home 100. Jim Thome’s return to the AL and the DH slot has been a great success for both the White Sox and the Phils who traded him away. Last season, Thome was saddled with injuries and only hit 7 homers, drove home 30 and batted a less than his weight .207. This season his numbers are 39, 100, and .285. More importantly, he totally opened the first base slot for Ryan Howard for the Phils. Curt Schilling, last year suffered from lingering results from his dangling ankle in his 2004 championship season (by the way, if you still want to purchase the Curt Schilling Bobble Ankle, contact me). This season, Schilling came in to the season in shape (and the remnants of his over-inflated ego) and astutely understanding that he needed to make the transition from a power pitcher to a savvy veteran pitcher. Schilling has won two-thirds of his decisions and has an ERA of just over four. Next is Corey Patterson who was so awful last season for the Cubs that he was sent to the minors. This year, with low expectations playing for Orioles, Patterson has stolen 41 bases and made a significant contribution to the Orioles fourth place position. The Mariners’ Rafael Soriano has a great season working out of the pen and pitching in a fashion reminiscent to his 2003 season, his only other memorable season in the majors.

The winner in the AL has to be Frank Thomas, the A’s candidate for the MVP as well. The Big Hurt is hitting .280 and ranks fifth in the A.L. in homers (38) and is tied for ninth in RBIs (105). All season long he has been an impact player for Oakland. Thomas, who played 108 games over the previous two seasons, said he has been surprised by the crowd vocally backing him for the award.

GM Billy Beane has said, “”When we got Jermaine (Dye) for that half of a year (in 2001), he had the same impact,” Beane said. “We had a good team, he was the perfect addition and we went through the roof. But for a whole season, no, nothing like this.”

Yesterday, Thomas hit a three run homer that not only enabled the A’s to complete a three-game sweep of Chicago, but may have finished off his former team’s post-season chances. “I was saying on the air that you can forget about just comeback player of the year,” said Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, the longtime broadcaster for the White Sox who made a point to visit Thomas in the A’s clubhouse. “What he’s done has put himself in the ring for the MVP. He just put his head right in there.”

White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said: “Look at his numbers. Look at what he’s done for the team. Look at where Oakland is. They have a great chance to go to the playoffs. Without a doubt Frank Thomas should be included in the MVP race. It all comes down to how many hits you get and when you get them, and he’s gotten them at big times and gotten a lot of them.”

The biggest shame in this whole foolish exercise is that Rocco Baldelli of the Rays was not one of the nominees. Baldelli, is playing a standout center field for the Devil Rays after missing last season with major elbow and knee injuries, “It doesn’t really bother me,” he said. “If it was Most Difficult Comeback of the Year, hopefully I’d get that award. But there’s no award for that. You can basically have a bad year and be Comeback Player of the Year.”

Hitting over .300 with 13 homers and about 50 RBI, Baldelli deserves at least consideration for the Comeback Player of the Year. On the other hand, this 24-year old has a bright future ahead of him and when he does cop an MVP it will make for a great storyline.

Bottom line, no player should ever hope he is in the position where he needs to wins this award.

Top of the 2nd
THE OL’ SWITCHEROO
The “ol’ switcheroo” is not to be confused with “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” but it is what happened in the NL West yesterday.

The Padres topped the Dodgers yesterday, 2-1 and moved ahead of the Los Angelenos into first place. The Padres are a half-game up in the division and has won eight of the last nine meetings between the two teams. The Padres are 13-4 overall against Los Angeles and 7-1 at Dodger Stadium. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy.

The score was tied at 1 on homers by each team’s Russell (Branyon and Martin), when pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge singled home the go-ahead run in the 9th and Trevor Hoffman earned his 475th career save. Hoffman has 39 saves in 43 chances, and his career total is just three shy of Lee Smith’s major league record. Russell Martin’s homer was off Cla Meredith and ended Meredith’s franchise-record string of 34 scoreless innings. The San Diego reliever hadn’t allowed a run in 28 appearances dating to July 17.

The Padres, atop the division for the first time since Aug. 9, go for their third straight win in the four-game set on tonight at Dodger Stadium, their final regular-season meeting.

Top of the 3rd
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
New York, New York so many losses this weekend, we had to name it twice.

Both New York teams had the opportunity this weekend to clinch their division titles. The Mets just had to win one of three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates while the Yanks had to win four to clinch or three to ensure a tie in their four game set with the Red Sox.

The Mets won none and the Yanks lost three of four.

Top of the 4th
SORIANO STEALS THE BASE…LITERALLY
Alfonso Soriano became the fourth player in major league history to record 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season when he swiped second base in the 1st inning on Saturday. Jose Canseco (Oakland, 1988), Barry B*nds (San Francisco, 1996) and Alex Rodriguez (Seattle, 1998) are the others.

Through Saturday, Soriano had 40 steals and 45 home runs.

After the steal, Soriano called time, removed the base and handed it to a groundskeeper. The game was delayed for a moment while the crowd of 24,252 at R.F.K. Stadium rose for a standing ovation. Soriano tipped his helmet to the crowd.

Top of the 5th
100 MPH WRIST PAIN
The Tigers exciting rookie reliever Joel Zumaya is battling tendinitis in his pitching wrist. He got a cortisone shot in the wrist last Monday and is dealing with pain spreading up his forearm.

Welcome to the overuse of the big leagues, rook.

Zumaya has appeared in 56 games, thrown 72.2 innings, given up just 47 hit hits, 17 runs and struck out 85.

Top of the 6th
TWO FOR ICHIRO
Saturday, Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki stole his AL single-season record 33rd consecutive base in the 3rd inning of the Mariner’s game against Kansas City. Suzuki’s stolen base broke the league record for consecutive swipes previously held by Kansas City’s Willie Wilson, who was successful on 32 straight attempts in 1980. Vince Coleman holds the major league record with 44 straight steals for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1989.

Ichiro also singled in his first two at-bats to extend his own major league record for consecutive 200-hit seasons to begin a career to six. He led off the game with a single up the middle, and then followed with a single to left in the 3rd. The major league record for consecutive 200-hit seasons is eight by Willie Keeler between 1894-1901. Wade Boggs (1983-89) holds the American League record with seven straight.

Top of the 7th
LAST LICKS
On this date in 1976, in his last Major League appearance as a player, Cleveland manager Frank Robinson pinch-hit in the 8th inning and singled against Rudy May of the Orioles.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Atlanta defeated the Marlins 8-7 yesterday in 10 innings. The Marlins scored four times in the top of the 10th and the Braves rallied for five runs in the bottom of the inning. It was the first time in franchise history that the Braves had won a game in which they trailed by four-or-more runs during extra innings. Since 1981, there have been only two other games in which the winning team rebounded from a deficit of at least four runs in the 10th inning or later. On April 21, 1991, the Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-12 responding to Chicago’s five 11th-inning runs with six of their own. Monday is the second anniversary of the other such game (Sept. 18, 2004), when the White Sox posted a 9-8, 12-inning walk-off win against the Tigers, after each team scored four runs in the 10th inning.

Top of the 9th
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD BY THE SPORTING NEWS
Year American League Team(s) Year National League Team(s)
1965 Norm Cash (1) Detroit 1965 Vern Law (1) Pittsburgh
1966 Boog Powell (1) Baltimore 1966 Phil Regan (1) Los Angeles
1967 Dean Chance (1) Minnesota 1967 Mike McCormick (1) San Francisco
1968 Ken Harrelson (1) Boston 1968 Alex Johnson (1) Cincinnati
1969 Tony Conigliaro (1) Boston 1969 Tommie Agee (1) New York
1970 Clyde Wright (1) California 1970 Jim Hickman (1) Chicago
1971 Norm Cash (2) Detroit 1971 Al Downing (1) Los Angeles
1972 Luis Tiant (1) Boston 1972 Bobby Tolan (1) Cincinnati
1973 John Hiller (1) Detroit 1973 Davey Johnson (1) Atlanta
1974 Fergie Jenkins (1) Texas 1974 Jimmy Wynn (1) Los Angeles
1975 Boog Powell (2) Cleveland 1975 Randy Jones (1) San Diego
1976 Dock Ellis (1) New York 1976 Tommy John (1) Los Angeles
1977 Eric Soderholm (1) Chicago 1977 Willie McCovey (1) San Francisco
1978 Mike Caldwell (1) Milwaukee 1978 Willie Stargell (1) Pittsburgh
1979 Willie Horton (1) Seattle 1979 Lou Brock (1) St. Louis
1980 Matt Keough (1) Oakland 1980 Jerry Reuss (1) Los Angeles
1981 Richie Zisk (1) Seattle 1981 Bob Knepper (1) Houston
1982 Andre Thornton (1) Cleveland 1982 Joe Morgan (1) San Francisco
1983 Alan Trammell (1) Detroit 1983 John Denny (1) Philadelphia
1984 Dave Kingman (1) Oakland 1984 Joaquin Andujar (1) St. Louis
1985 Gorman Thomas (1) Seattle 1985 Rick Reuschel (1) Pittsburgh
1986 John Candelaria (1) California 1986 Ray Knight (1) New York
1987 Bret Saberhagen (1) Kansas City 1987 Rick Sutcliffe (1) Chicago
1988 Storm Davis (1) Oakland 1988 Tim Leary (1) Los Angeles
1989 Bert Blyleven (1) California 1989 Lonnie Smith (1) Atlanta
1990 Dave Winfield (1) California 1990 John Tudor (1) St. Louis
1991 Jose Guzman (1) Texas 1991 Terry Pendleton (1) Atlanta
1992 Rick Sutcliffe (2) Baltimore 1992 Gary Sheffield (1) San Diego
1993 Bo Jackson (1) Chicago 1993 Andres Galarraga (1) Colorado
1994 Jose Canseco (1) Oakland 1994 Tim Wallach (1) Los Angeles
1995 Tim Wakefield (1) Boston 1995 Ron Gant (1) Cincinnati
1996 Kevin Elster (1) Texas 1996 Eric Davis (1) Cincinnati
1997 David Justice (1) Cleveland 1997 Darren Daulton (1) Philadelphia
& Florida
1998 Bret Saberhagen (2) Boston 1998 Greg Vaughn (1) San Diego
1999 John Jaha (1) Oakland 1999 Rickey Henderson (1) New York
2000 Frank Thomas (1) Chicago 2000 Andres Galarraga (2) Atlanta
2001 Ruben Sierra (1) Texas 2001 Matt Morris (1) St. Louis
2002 Tim Salmon (1) Anaheim 2002 Mike Lieberthal (1) Philadelphia
2003 Gil Meche (1) Seattle 2003 Javy Lopez (1) Atlanta
2004 Paul Konerko (1) Chicago 2004 Chris Carpenter (1) St. Louis
2005 Jason Giambi (1) New York 2005 Ken Griffey, Jr. (1) Cincinnati

Bottom of the 9th
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