Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-9-7

9/7/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Top of the 1st
CAN THIS SEASON GET WORSE FOR THEO? NO-NO MEANS YES
The lives of Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino have officially moved from a Freudian drama to one of Greek mythology. Allow me for a moment to briefly recount the stories of Daedulus and Icarus.

Icarus (Theo) was the son of the inventor Daedalus (Larry). King Minos of Crete (Bud Selig) imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus in the Labyrinth (Boston) to punish Daedalus for their involvement in killing the monster called the Minotaur (Yankees) and to escape with Minos’ daughter, Ariadne (the hearts of America). Daedalus knew that Minos controlled any escape routes by land or sea, but Minos could not prevent an escape by flight. So Daedalus used his skills to build wings for himself and Icarus. He used wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of birds’ wings.
When their wings were ready, Daedalus warned Icarus to fly at medium altitude. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax of his wings, and the sea could dampen the feathers if he flew too low.

Once they had escaped Crete (becoming America’s team), Icarus became exhilarated by flight. Ignoring his father’s warning, he flew higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and Theo fell into the water and drowned. Lucchino looked down to see feathers (gorilla suit) floating in the waves, and having realized what had happened, he buried his son on an island which would be called Icaria (Brookline).

Okay, perhaps I’ve taken a little poetic license here, but you get the point. Theo’s clean-out of the 2004 team Championship Team and the required reshaping has left Theo and the Sox struggling and on the verge of missing the playoffs.

All this is brought to mind because of the no-hitter thrown by former Sox farmhand, Annibal Sanchez for the Florida Marlins. The final out was recorded by their shortstop Hanley Ramirez, another former Sox prospect. Sanchez and Ramirez went to the Marlins in exchange for pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell.

At the time of trade, the 31-year old Lowell was coming off a season in which he hit .236 with eight homers and 58 RBI while winning the NL Gold Glove at third base. He averaged 24 homers and 94 RBI per season in the five years before that. Carrying a large contract, $9 million for 2006 (and another $9 million for 2007), Lowell was the required baggage for anyone who wanted to acquire Josh Beckett.

Ramirez was the top prospect in the Sox organization. He is 22 years old and had hit .271 with six homers and 52 RBI at Double-A Portland last year. Ramirez was selected for the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game as well as the Futures Game for the World team. Ramirez was twice named the Red Sox top prospect by Baseball America. Ramirez makes $327,000 this season and won’t be arbitration eligible for a number of years.

Beckett was the bright light of this deal. Despite the fact that he had problems with his shoulder and recurring blisters on his right middle finger, Beckett still went 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA last season. At 26, entering his arbitration year following five impressive seasons, Beckett is earning $4,325,000 this season. With Beckett’s 97 mph fastball, and nasty curve, the Sox signed Beckett, early this season, to a $30 million contract which includes a $2 million signing bonus, a $6 million salary for 2007, a $9.5 million salary for 2008, a $10.5 million salary for 2009, and a $12 million club option for 2010. The option becomes automatic if Beckett makes 28 starts in 2009 or he has a total of 56 starts in 2008 and 2009.

Sanchez, throws a fastball, the hard slider and a curve and missed all of 2003 following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. Earlier this year, he was a sub-.500 pitcher for the Carolina Mudcats before coming up to the Marlins in June.

The big story on this pitcher was that he didn’t have poise in difficult situations and he couldn’t control his emotions. He had a tendency to overthrow in pressure situations. The reason why the Marlins are contending for a Wild Card spot and the Red Sox are about to be eliminated from the post-season hunt, is that this inability to perform in tight situations was a problem that each pitcher has had and in the quiet of Florida, Sanchez has been able to overcome it. In the pressure cooker known as Fenway Park, Beckett has not.

This trade, this moment when Theo flew to close to the sun, is just one of several mistakes made by this front office. It is why on July 4th the Red Sox were in first place in the AL East, four games up over the Yankees and today they are 9 games back. And it is why the Marlins are the first team since 1899 to go from 20 games under .500 to one game over .500, just 3 games out of the Wild Card lead.

For the season –
Mike Lowell is hitting .286 with 17 homers and 67 RBI. He has scored 66 runs.

Hanley Ramirez is hitting .283 in his rookie season, with 13 homers and 49 RBI. He has scored 104 runs and stolen 44 bases.

Josh Beckett has thrown 176 innings, has a record of 14-10, an ERA of 5.11 and struck out 138, while walking 66. He has surrendered 33 homers.

Anibal Sanchez, brought up in June has thrown 89.1 innings and has a record of 7-2, an ERA of 2.89 and struck out 53 while walking 39. He has surrendered 7 homers.

But, the numbers tell only part of the story.

The Sox had to trade for Beckett because they had lost Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, had David Wells with a balky knee, balky back, and balky head, an inconsistent Matt Clement, a .500 knuckleball pitcher in Tim Wakefield, and an aging Curt Schilling. They were losing Johnny Damon and trying to build a team based on strong defense and a combination fo young and old pitching. With the exception Jonathan Papelbon, everybody on the staff was over-rated.

They also had an inexpensive Bronson Arroyo who they traded for Wily Mo Pena as Theo tried to repeat the magic of when the Orioles traded Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson.

But magic deals like that are rare. It takes guts to trade a starting pitcher and most of the time you simply fall into the sea.

Top of the 2nd
FOUR MARLINS NO-HITTERS
Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter was the fourth in Marlins history in the last 11 seasons and the first since A.J. Burnett at San Diego, May 12, 2001. It is the first at home since Al Leiter in 1996, against the Rockies. Kevin Brown threw one on the road in 1997.

The last team with so many no-hitters in such a short span was the Yankees, who had four of them over the course of seven seasons from 1993 to 1999 (Jim Abbott, Dwight Gooden, David Wells and David Cone).

Top of the 3rd
THE SECOND VENEZUELAN
Sanchez is the second Venezuelan native to throw a no-hitter, joining Wilson Alvarez of the 1991 White Sox. Sanchez was seven years old at the time of the Alvarez no-hitter.

On the subject of Venezuelans, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, who is Venezuelan, made his major league debut in last night’s game. Montero went 0 for 3 against Sanchez, a fellow Venezuelan whom he had faced earlier this season in the Double-A Southern League. Montero was in the lineup all three times Sanchez, pitching for Carolina, started against Tennessee.

“I didn’t see too much different,” Montero said. “In Double-A, there were probably more free-swinging guys swinging at the first pitch. But he mixed it up good.”

Top of the 4th
THE NO-HITTER DROUGHT
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sanchez’s performance ended a stretch of 6,364 major league games between no-hitters. The longest gap previously was 4,015 games from Sept. 30, 1984, to Sept. 19, 1986.

As for the amount of days, the span of two years, 110 days is the longest gap between no-hitters since World War II, when two years and 241 days passed between Lon Warneke’s no-hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 30, 1941, and Jim Tobin’s no-no for the Boston Braves on April 27, 1944.

The last no-hitter thrown was Randy Johnson’s Perfect game, while pitching for the Diamondbacks on May 18, 2004. Luis Gonzalez and Chad Tracy both participated in the Johnson and Sanchez no-hitters.

Time Between Modern Day No-Hitters
3 years, 44 days Aug. 8, 1931-Sept. 21, 1934
2 years, 260 days Aug. 21, 1926-May 8, 1929
2 years, 241 days Aug. 30, 1941-April 27, 1944
2 years, 110 days May 18, 2004-Sept. 6, 2006

Top of the 5th
LUCKY 13
This was only the 13th major-league start for Sanchez and this no-hitter was nothing easy. Arizona is tied for fourth in the NL with a .269 batting average, ranks second in the NL in hits and ninth in on-base percentage.

Top of the 6th
THE EMBATTLED MANAGER
Joe Girardi will be getting a lot of votes for NL Manager of the Year this season, for the remarkable job he has done with the Marlins. He may also be fired by owner Jeff Loria, but that’s a whole other story. Last night, Girardi became the first man since Jeff Torborg to both catch and manage a no-hitter.

Top of the 7th
PIE IN THE FACE
In the post game on-the-field celebration, Sanchez received a whipped cream pie in the face from fellow rookie Hanley Ramirez. A pie in the face is pretty standard fare for rookies who are in the midst of getting media attention.

The most recent no-hitter by a rookie was by Bud Smith of St. Louis, who beat San Diego 4-0 on Sept. 1, 2001. The Marlins had six rookies on the field last night, including Sanchez. That’s the most rookies to play in the winning side of a no-hitter since 1957, when the major leagues established its first official rule to define the rookie status of players.

There have been 19 rookie no-hitters in baseball since 1900. The last had been by St. Louis’ Bud Smith on Sept. 3, 2001. Last night was the first September no-hitter since Smith’s.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Sanchez went 3-6 this season for Double-A Carolina before joining the Marlins, and on June 25 became the second starting pitcher in 10 seasons to win his major league debut as a visitor at Yankee Stadium.

Top of the 9th
ABOUT THE GAME
Sanchez (7-2) walked four and pitched around an error. The 22-year-old right-hander struck out six and threw 103 pitches. He benefited from three defensive gems by teammates, including a 4-3-6 double play in the 8th. Left fielder Josh Willingham made a diving catch on a shallow fly ball hit by Chad Tracy to end the 4th inning, and Ramirez had to go behind the bag at second to glove a ground ball hit by Stephen Drew in the 7th, turning a 360 before throwing on to first to beat Drew by a half-step.

In the 5th, Carlos Quentin led off the inning by hitting a ground ball that third baseman Miguel Cabrera backhanded from one knee. Cabrera’s throw to first was in time but was high and pulled first baseman Mike Jacobs off the bag, allowing Quentin to reach safely.
But official scorer Ron Jernick ruled it an error, preserving the no-hitter. Cabrera didn’t argue. ”That was a bad throw,” said Cabrera, who gladly accepted the error. “But I didn’t want to look [at the scoreboard]. I was afraid they would put up a hit.” When the scoreboard flashed “E5,” you could hear some people in the stands let out a small applause.

I was just thinking about a win, because I want to help the team make the wild card,” Sanchez said.

The amazing Marlins remained three games behind wild-card leader San Diego, which beat Colorado 2-0 in 11 innings. The Marlins have won 14 of 17.

Word began to spread on the Diamondbacks bench around the 5th or 6th inning, players mentioning what was happening and how they could keep from being on the wrong side of history. According to the Arizona Republic, Sanchez, the hitters said, had everything working. He was throwing his low-90s fastball for strikes on both sides of the plate. His slider had bite. He used his change-up against left-handers, keeping them honest.

“In the midst of the wild-card race, we have a player who steps up and throws a no-hitter,” rookie manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s pretty amazing, that they’ve grown up that much.”

Last licks went to Eric Byrnes who grounded out to Ramirez. ”I cried because I was excited,” said Sanchez, who carried off the field on the shoulders of pitchers Dontrelle Willis and Matt Herges. Willis, who was watching from inside the dugout, said he didn’t realize that Sanchez had thrown a no-hitter until everyone sprang to their feet and ran onto the field.

Afterward, Sanchez walked into a packed interview room, and looked up at a replay of the mob of teammates on the mound. He seemed transfixed.

“That,” Sanchez said, “was the best moment of my life.”

The crowd was announced at 12,561, but the number of people in the stands appeared to be less than half that.

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.