Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-10-31

10/31/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…

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Just 152 days until Opening Day, 2007
Joe DiMaggio, referring to Opening Day: “You look forward to it like a birthday party whey you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Top of the 1st
IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE – Susan Sarandon, as Annie Savoy in Bull Durham: “I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. And the only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball.”

It’s hard for me to believe the season is over. Speaking of things hard to believe, I am completing my seventh year of writing Billy-Ball. The word “blog” wasn’t even invented when I started this.

This was a strange year for me in that this was my first season that I spent a good portion (actually not so good) on the Disabled List. I never expected that it would take two surgeries and 12 weeks of recovery to resume writing Billy-Ball on a daily basis. I’m not a religious man, with the exception of Annie Savoy’s belief, but that doesn’t stop me from being thankful and grateful.

It begins with the love of my two daughters, Elizabeth and Jennifer, who always make me feel better. They each have ways making things seem better. My in-law family is such a wonderful source of love and support as well. I have had wonderful friends and neighbors who have helped me and supported me and provided so much assistance to me and my family. I am not naming them for fear that I will leave someone out.

I also have to make sure I thank Chris Morin and the team at Sports and Physical Therapy for working so hard and letting me vent my insanity three times a week.

Believe me when I tell you that the support and good wishes of the Billy-Ball community played a key role in my recovery as well. Then again, you do understand that the ability to spend a few hours with you each day, in the creation of Billy-Ball, could only be justified by the great support that I receive from you each day of the baseball season.

It makes me think of something that Tony Phillips, the former Oakland Athletics
second baseman said after being placed on the disabled list with a broken leg during his 18th major league season, “If it so happens that I never play again, I know that I left everything I had out there on the field. That’s the first thing Sparky (Anderson) taught me. ‘Did you do everything out there to be the best player you could?’ If you did, and something happens, it can’t bother you. That’s my peace of mind.”

I’ve always had that kind of peace of mind regarding the time and effort I spend on Billy-Ball and there is one reason for that…the fabulous Mrs. Ball. You have no idea how much Maxie has done to enable me to have the freedom to follow my baseball dreams, which begin with Billy-Ball.

This season that was only part of it. Those of you who are part of a family know that there are roles that each partner plays. During my extended recuperative period, Max would work all day, and take care of all of the chores, and then take care of me as I lay on the couch, most of the time in pain. Caregivers are never appreciated enough and there are really not enough ways to say “thank you.”

In the category of “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” I have to say that this was a pretty fun baseball season. The Tigers were a particular joy this season. Their joie de baseball was a delight for all fans. I am also very happy for the Cardinals. St. Louis is a terrific baseball community with simply great fans and they deserve the pleasure of a championship.

Some other passing thoughts – Please don’t extend the All-Star break. It’s long enough (and boring enough as it is).

While I remain a naysayer of the D.H., I am a supporter of the Wild Card which I believe adds tremendous excitement for fans throughout baseball with the exception of Pittsburgh and Kansas City. We’ve now witnessed five straight World Series that involved at least one wild-card team, which is a concern. There is talk about giving wild card teams fewer home games. But those wild cards that reached those World Series averaged 94.5 wins per season and if I’m not mistaken, that’s 11.5 more wins than the World Champs had this regular season.

One solution has the wild card hosting Game One of the division series – and then playing the final four games on the road. I would take a more radical approach, I would like to see two wild card teams from each league qualify and then meet in a one-game winner take all playoff to see who would continue in the post-season. This would force the wild cards to use their best pitcher and their entire team even before any of the division winners even have to play.

World Series games have to start at 7:30 p.m. or 7:45 p.m. No more games starting after 8 p.m. In addition, the time is right to have Saturday World Series games played during the late afternoon. I don’t think either of these suggestions requires explanation.

I bring up the point about “explanation” only because I know sometimes I get so excited about sharing information with all of you that I find it very difficult to stop writing. Well, I guess there are greater faults to have. Oh on the subject of faults. I do sincerely apologize for all the typos and all the really stupid errors that are included in Billy-Ball. Some errors are worse than others, I just hate when I make an E-1. That logic is uncomfortably similar to Yogi Berra’s explanation on why the New York Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates: “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Having given you my thank yous and my mea culpas, it is now time to say goodbye until next season. I will be checking in periodically with book reviews, comments, snide remarks, news updates, and holiday wishes. The fact that I am not writing each day should not be a deterrent to you. Please write to me, I love to hear from you.

I will answer the question I hear most frequently, by giving you Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby answer to the same question, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Stay well and I’ll be looking out the window for you.

Top of the 2nd
THE TOP FIVE QUESTIONS (PLUS ONE) OF THE HOT STOVE LEAGUE – Mickey Rivers (Happy birthday, Mickey): “I don’t get upset over things I can’t control, because if I can’t control them there’s no use getting upset. And I don’t get upset over the things I can control, because if I can control them there’s no use in getting upset.”

1. Who will sign Japanese starting pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka? Matsuzaka is the Scott Boras-represented Seibu right-hander who could cost $20 million simply for the right to negotiate with him. Matsuzaka was 17-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 200 strikeouts this year, and he impressed many major league scouts last March during the World Baseball Classic, where he was selected MVP as Japan won the title. Look for the Yankees to go strong after Matsuzaka and they will be most likely bidding against the Dodgers (no surprise), Mariners (no surprise), Red Sox (no surprise) and Mets (no surprise).
2. Who will sign Barry B*nds? B*nds is 22 homers away from breaking Aaron’s record of 755, is 42 with two tender knees, is coming off elbow surgery and who knows if he will be indicted for perjury or tax evasion.
3. What will the Yankees do with A-Rod (and Sheffield)? Will the Angels go after him? What about Lou Pinella and the Cubs? Watch the daily transactions; if you see a team has hired a new psychologist, you know they are going after A-Rod (or Sheffield).
4. What will the Red Sox do with Manny Ramirez? The only one having fun in the Sox organization with Manny being Manny seems to be Manny himself. David Ortiz is very concerned as to who will hit behind him. Watch the daily transactions; if you see a team has hired a new oncologist, you know they are going after Manny.
5. Who will be the surprise big spender this off-season? The Tigers are proof that you have to spend to win, but you have to shop wisely.
6. Here’s the elephant in the room, how will the steroid story unfold? The Mitchell Report will come out this off-season and Hall of Fame voters need to make their intentions clear on Mark McLiar, fortunately (for them) they just can avoid the issue this year by just voting for Tony and Cal.

Top of the 3rd
FREE AGENT FILINGS – Tom Grieve, Texas G.M., explaining why his club wouldn’t be signing free agent Bob Horner: “He said he was embarrassed by Atlanta’s $4.2 million offer. We didn’t want to add to the embarrassment.”

Okay folks, baseball teams are flush with money and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that eliminated the deadline free agents faced to re-sign with their former teams. In the past, players had to re-sign by Dec. 7 (or Jan. 8 if offered salary arbitration) or else could not return to their former teams until May 1. Don’t complain to me when you see some of the dollars that will be tossed around.

Here are some of the players who have filed already:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
BALTIMORE (5) – Chris Gomez, ss; LaTroy Hawkins, rhp; Kevin Millar, 1b; Russ Ortiz, rhp; Chris Widger, c.

BOSTON (5) – Alex Gonzalez, ss; Gabe Kapler, of; Mark Loretta, 3b; Doug Mirabelli, c; Trot Nixon, of.

CHICAGO (2) – Sandy Alomar Jr., c; David Riske, rhp.

CLEVELAND (2) – Aaron Boone, 3b; Lou Merloni, 2b.

DETROIT (2) – Matt Stairs, of; Jamie Walker, lhp.

KANSAS CITY (2) – Paul Bako, c; Doug Mientkiewicz, 1b.

LOS ANGELES (3) – Darin Erstad, c; Adam Kennedy, 2b; J.C. Romero, lhp.

MINNESOTA (3) – Phil Nevin, 1b; Shannon Stewart, of; Rondell White, of.

NEW YORK (4) – Miguel Cairo, 2b; Octavio Dotel, rhp; Tanyon Sturtze, rhp; Craig Wilson, of.

OAKLAND (2) – Jay Payton, of; Frank Thomas, 1b.

SEATTLE (1) – Gil Meche, rhp.

TAMPA BAY (1) – Tomas Perez, ss.

TEXAS (7) – Rod Barajas, c; Mark DeRosa, ss; Adam Eaton, rhp; Carlos Lee, of; Gary Matthews Jr., of; Vicente Padilla, rhp; Eric Young, 2b.

TORONTO (4) – Frank Catalanotto, of; Ted Lilly, lhp; Justin Speier, rhp; Gregg Zaun, c.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
ARIZONA (4) – Miguel Batista, rhp; Craig Counsell, 2b; Damion Easley, 2b; Luis Gonzalez, of.

ATLANTA (4) – Danys Baez, rhp; Todd Pratt, c; John Thomson, rhp; Daryle Ward, 1b.

BALCO (1) – Barry B*nds, lf;

CHICAGO (5) – Henry Blanco, c; Wade Miller, rhp; Juan Pierre, of; Aramis Ramirez, 3b; Kerry Wood, rhp.

CINCINNATI (6) – Royce Clayton, ss; Ryan Franklin, rhp; Todd Hollandsworth, of; Jason Johnson, rhp; David Weathers, rhp; c-Paul Wilson, rhp.

COLORADO (2) – c-Ray King, lhp; Tom Martin, lhp.

FLORIDA (4) – Joe Borowski, rhp; Wes Helms, 3b; Matt Herges, rhp; Brian Moehler, rhp.

HOUSTON (2) – Aubrey Huff, 3b; Russ Springer, rhp.

LOS ANGELES (5) – Einar Diaz, c; Nomar Garciaparra, 1b; Julio Lugo, ss; Ramon E. Martinez, 2b; Aaron Sele, rhp.

MILWAUKEE (5) – David Bell, 3b; Jeff Cirillo, 3b; Tony Graffanino, 2b; Rick Helling, rhp; Tomo Ohka, rhp.

NEW YORK (11) – Chad Bradford, rhp; Cliff Floyd, of; Orlando Hernandez, rhp; Roberto Hernandez, rhp; c-Yusaku Iriki, rhp; Ricky Ledee, of; Guillermo Mota, rhp; Steve Trachsel, rhp; Michael Tucker, rf; Jose Valentin, 2b; Chris Woodward, ss.

PHILADELPHIA (5) – Aaron Fultz, lhp; Mike Lieberthal, c; Arthur Rhodes, lhp; Rick White, rhp; Randy Wolf, lhp.

PITTSBURGH (1) – Joe Randa, 3b.

ST. LOUIS (5) – Ronnie Belliard, 2b; Gary Bennett, c; Jason Marquis, rhp; Scott Spiezio, 1b; Jose Vizcaino, ss.

SAN DIEGO (8) – Geoff Blum, 3b; Doug Brocail, rhp; Alan Embree, lhp; Shawn Estes, lhp; Dave Roberts, of; Rudy Seanez, rhp; Todd Walker, 2b; Woody Williams, rhp.

SAN FRANCISCO (7) – Moises Alou, rf; Ray Durham, 2b; Todd Greene, c; Shea Hillenbrand, 1b; Steve Kline, lhp; Jason Schmidt, rhp; Mike Stanton, lhp.

WASHINGTON (4) – Tony Armas Jr., rhp; Robert Fick, 1b; Jose Guillen, of; Alfonso Soriano, 2b.

Top of the 4th
THE HUTCH AWARD – Fred Hutchinson: “The ones who work the hardest are the ones who make it, the ones who win. Sometimes that’s the only difference. If you don’t work hard at this game, you might as well hang them up. Sweat is your only salvation.”

A national committee of major-league baseball and media representatives has released a list of 10 players, one of whom will go on to receive the prestigious Hutch Award in January. The 2006 Hutch Award finalists are:
— Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds
— Orlando Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks
— Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
— Mark Loretta, Boston Red Sox
— Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
— Brad Radke, Minnesota Twins
— Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
— Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox
— Dontrelle Willis, Florida Marlins
— Barry Zito, Oakland Athletics
The 2006 Hutch Award recipient will be selected in mid-November through a vote of all surviving former awardees. Through the years 41 players have been honored. Mickey Mantle accepted the inaugural award in 1965, the year after baseball great Fred Hutchinson (known as “Hutch”) succumbed to cancer at age 45. Hall-of-Famers Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrezemski, Al Kaline, Wille McCovey and Lou Brock all have received the Hutch Award, and in more recent years Jamie Moyer, Trevor Hoffman and Craig Biggio have joined their ranks. The Hutch Award is given annually to the major-league baseball player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Hutch. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — which was named in Hutch’s honor by his brother Bill, a surgeon — is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the understanding, treatment and prevention of cancer and other potentially fatal diseases.
Each year in January or February the award is presented in Seattle, Hutch’s hometown and the site of the renowned cancer center that bears his name. While in Seattle, Hutch Award recipients often visit with young cancer patients undergoing treatment on the Hutchinson Center campus. For more information about the Hutch Award including a full list of recipients, visit www.fhcrc.org/hutchaward.

Top of the 5th
INDEPENDENT BASEBALL FANS – Kenneth Turan: “Baseball endures at least in part because it is a contemplative sport that delights in nuances. Not a brazen game, eager to sell its thrills cheaply, but rather an understated affair that must be courted if its to be loved.”

The third annual, The Independent Minor Leagues: 2006 Season in Review, is ready to ship. Added features this year include a list of all former Independent Baseball players (1993-2006) who have gone on to play in the major leagues and a list of former Independent employees (managers, coaches, umpires, etc.) working in the affiliated leagues. All of the Independent Baseball Insider columns of ’06 also are in the nearly 150-page spiral-bound book. The roster of Independent players now with major league organizations and composite Independent statistics continue to be featured.

The price is $18 plus $3 shipping and handling and may be ordered via check through the address below or via credit card at http://www.wirzandassociates.com/ .

Top of the 6th
BECOME A MEMBER OF THE HALL – Art Hill: “With those who don’t give a damn about baseball I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them.”

Save 25% now through November 13th on an Individual level or higher membership* and stay connected to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame with these great benefits: