Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-4-10

4/10/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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On April 10, 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey announced he had purchased the contract of Jackie Robinson from the Montreal Royals.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Top of the 1st
GOOGLE THIS, BUD
If you Google Commissioner Bud Selig, you will learn, amongst other things, that he still can’t tell us how he and baseball will react to the inevitable record-breaking 756th home run when it is hit by Barry B*nds. We don’t even know if Selig will recognize the record or would want to qualify the feats of this Giant pain in the asterisk.

We really know very little.

I’m still waiting to hear Bud’s reaction to B*nds breaking McGw*re’s single season record. But then again, Bud’s reaction to events is quite frequently not in anyone’s best interests (outside of the owners). When Selig considered the 1994 player lockout to be irreparable (you might remember that so called “strike” really was owner versus owner in how much to pay players), instead of forcing the hand of anyone, he called off the World Series. When Selig considered the 2002 All-Star Game to be irreparable (this like the owner dispute was another tie), he called off the game after 11 innings.

Then when baseball was celebrating the massive muscles of McGw*re, B*nds and S*sa, Bud closed his eyes, held his nose, and let us all continuing reveling in the stench. Did I or any respected journalist speak out? No. But then again I wouldn’t have known a steroid if you injected one in my b*tt. Yet, somehow I simply can’t believe that the owners who were bathing themselves in the dollars brought in by inflated homers and speeding pitches approaching three figures were not aware that there was something chemically amiss going on. I can’t believe that these guys remained oblivious to the fact that players had to keep re-ordering caps, throughout the season, another size larger. Don’t tell me that Bud did not know what was going on.

“With Kafka-esque logic, Selig has argued that because there were no steroids tests before 2003, there is nothing to investigate,” wrote SI’s Tom Verducci. “But of course there were no tests because the owners and players didn’t want them, and public opinion and the threat of congressional intervention had yet to force their hands.”

But this isn’t about rehashing the steroid scandal that has barely unfolded. This is about Googling Bud Selig where we learn about baseball’s tribute to Jackie Robinson this coming Sunday and players wearing number 42 to honor him. Wait, this terrifically creative idea wasn’t Bud’s idea, it was Ken Griffey’s.

“He called me at home on a Sunday night,” Selig said. “I was coming from Phoenix. It was late, so I didn’t call him back.

“The next morning by the time I got to the office he was already on the phone. We had a great conversation. It says a lot about him.”

And not a whole lot about Bud.

Google some and learn that Bud has addressed the baseball’s schedule problems because of the cold weather: “Games have been getting snowed out for a long time,” he said. “It’s very difficult . . . you can’t please everyone. We’ve had some warm Aprils. This year has been a disaster.” Aprils are usually gorgeous I guess which is why on April 2, the schedule included Florida AT Washington, Atlanta AT Philadelphia, Arizona AT Colorado, Tampa Bay was AT New York and Toronto’s domed Jays was AT Detroit.

”Second-guessing about the schedule is just ludicrous,” the commissioner told the Associated Press yesterday. ”There is no other solution.” Yet, yet, baseball officials reportedly have contacted outside sources to examine the schedule. Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks alternatives can be found, “They have not done a good job of scheduling,” he said. “When you’ve got Tampa Bay and Toronto playing [each other], and both have domes. That’s not too smart, is it?”

Bud doesn’t want to say too much for fear of messing with the golden egg. Public be damned, this is all about money. Do you ever wonder why we now have so many night games in April? Think about it as you’re at home watching. Your regional cable company makes more money at night because they can charge higher advertising rates. There wouldn’t be so many April games to lose if baseball scheduled some doubleheaders. But as you know, you can’t charge fans double for a doubleheader and no owner wants to miss a date at the box office. Even when make-up games are rescheduled invariably they are day-night doubleheaders which allow for two separate admissions.

Yes it’s money that makes the game go `round and Buddy-Boy gets the credit. As Murray Chass of the NY Times tells us, when we Google Bud, in 1992, when Selig became acting commissioner, M.L.B.’s gross revenue was $1.2 billion. It was $5.2 billion last year, is projected to be at least $5.6 billion this year and is expected to reach $6 billion in 2008.

Google will also tell us that the Comi$$ioner earned $14.5 million in fiscal 2005, according to a report by SportsBusiness Journal. That’s the same amount that Senator Curt Schilling earned in 2005 and Selig didn’t even have to have a bloody sock the season before.

Granted, Selig is the CEO and deserves to be paid the big bucks, just like Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. Hockey players, you ask? No, they are chief executive and co-founders of Google. Last year, Schmidt’s package totaled $557,466, including $532,755 for personal security. Page’s pay totaled $38,519, with most of the money covering personal transportation, logistics and security. Brin’s 2006 pay consisted solely of a $1 salary and $1,723 bonus. Google paid the same salary and holiday bonus to Schmidt and Page.

I guess Google didn’t have as good a year as Major League Baseball.

Top of the 2nd
HOME SWEET HOME
In Toronto’s 31st home opener, the Jays defeated Kansas City Royals, 9-1, before a sellout crowd of 50,125. A.J. Burnett allowed just three hits in 6 2-3 innings of work against a lineup that has managed just 20 runs in seven games. Kansas City Royals manager Buddy Bell was ejected from the game against the Blue Jays after plate umpire Paul Nauret allowed Toronto’s Reed Johnson to score from first on a ground-rule double that a fan interfered with. Bell kept screaming, “Get me out of here! Get me out of here!” until Nauret threw him out.

Albert Pujols doubled and scored the only run Braden Looper needed in his first career victory as a starter, and the Cardinals spoiled Pittsburgh’s home opener with a 3-0 victory yesterday. The other thing that spoiled is that the Pirates are the home team. The Buccos have scored three-or-fewer runs in each of its last 14 home openers (1994-2007), the longest streak of that type for any team in major league history. No other team has ever failed to score more than three runs in even 10 consecutive home openers.

In the home opener at Shea Stadium yesterday, the Mets registered a comeback victory, scoring eight runs in the 7th and 8th innings combined on their way to an 11-5 win over the Phillies in front of 56,227 fans. Jimmy Rollins’ Phils are now 1-6 and everybody’s favorite team to beat.

Jeff Francis allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings and the Rockies beat Los Angeles 6-3 to snap the Dodgers’ four-game winning streak and spoil their home opener. Garrett Atkins homered and drove in his first three runs of the season and Jeff Baker, filling in at first base for Todd Helton, had three hits including an RBI triple for the Rockies. Helton will have regularly scheduled days off this season to keep him sharp and healthy.

The Astros welcomed Lou Piniella to the Friendly Confines and beat the Cubs 5-3. Craig Biggio had two hits (both doubles) and scored two runs for Houston. Last year Biggio had only one multiple-hit game on the road after the All-Star break (August 2 in San Diego); he hit .122 on the road after the break (14-for-115).

Daniel Cabrera allowed two runs in 7 2/3 innings, Kevin Millar homered in a four-run 3rd, and Baltimore launched the home portion of its schedule by defeating the Detroit Tigers, 6-2. The crowd of 48,159 was the second-largest for an opener in the 16-year history of Camden Yards.

Scott Podsednik broke a tie with his 5th inning solo homer, Jim Thome hit a tying shot an inning earlier and the White Sox spoiled Oakland’s home opener with a 4-1 victory. White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen was relishing the rare victory in Oakland, though still frustrated with the A’s alcohol-free clubhouse that has been dry since last season.
“We never do that,” he said after coming out to the clubhouse to hang with his team. “It’s weird to win here the first time in 20 years and not have a beer to celebrate.”

The Diamondbacks improved to 4-6 in home openers after defeating the Reds, 3-2. The Diamondbacks, rallied from a 2-0, 6th inning deficit against Bronson Arroyo to win their fifth straight. Brandon Lyon (1-0) pitched a scoreless 8th inning and Jose Valverde got three outs for his fourth save in five opportunities.

Top of the 3rd
NOW THAT’S A COLD START
Brandon Inge is still 0-for-April going hitless in three at-bats, with two strikeouts, in Monday’s 6-2 loss, making the Tigers third baseman 0-for-20 in 2007. Since 1970, only three other major league players were 0-for-20 or worse in their team’s first six games of the season: Willie Stargell was 0-for-21 for the 1970 Pirates, Ozzie Smith was 0-for-26 for the 1979 Padres and Torey Lovullo was 0-for-20 for the 1989 Tigers.

Top of the 4th
SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS…AGAIN
Mike Hampton will have surgery on his left elbow today in New York, and the Braves pitcher will miss his second straight season. Hampton, who had elbow ligament-replacement surgery Sept. 26, 2005, was injured again while batting during spring training.

The news is better, but not great, for the Cards’ ace Chris Carpenter who went on the 15-day disabled list with arthritis and an impingement in his right elbow.

And, Dodgers right-hander Jason Schmidt left the home opener because of tightness in his right hamstring. He is day-to-day. According to the Los Angeles Times Schmidt was known as a hypochondriac when he was with Giants, “For two to three years I was fearful,” he said. “Every time I’d get sick, I thought I had cancer. I never looked at it from a realistic point of view. I could have stubbed my toe and thought I had cancer.” Schmidt’s mother died of brain cancer at 53. Schmidt, who earlier hit his seventh career homer, walked off the field and was relieved by Mark Hendrickson. He allowed four runs, three earned, and seven hits. He struck out six and walked none.

Top of the 5th
AS ADVERTISED
Great game yesterday as San Diego’s Chris Young, Cla Meredith, and Trevor Hoffman combined to throw a five hit shutout over the slumping Giants, 1-0. San Francisco’s Matt Cain took a no-hitter into the 7th inning before leaving the game as the hard luck loser, pitching seven innings while allowing just one run on one hit. He walked 5 and struck out 4. Cain (0-1) held the Padres hitless until Khalil Greene hit a leadoff double down the left-field line in the 7th inning. Russell Branyan walked and Jose Cruz Jr. hit a sacrifice bunt before Blum, pinch hitting for Young (1-0), hit a sacrifice fly down the right-field line to score Greene. Hoffman pitched the 9th for his second save in as many chances and extended his career record to 484.

San Diego’s bullpen extended its season-opening scoreless streak to 20 2-3 innings. San Diego got only two hits. The Giants lost their fourth straight and dropped to 1-6. Their only win was in the third game of a season-opening series against the Padres in San Francisco. It was the third time since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 that they lost six of their first seven games. The other two times were 1967 and 1980.

It was the same pitching matchup as last Wednesday, when neither Cain nor Young got a decision in San Diego’s 5-3 win at San Francisco.

This is the Giants’ 50th season in San Francisco and during that period they have lost only one other game in which they allowed only one run and two-or-fewer hits. On September 20, 1998, the Dodgers had only two hits against the Giants, but one of them was a solo home run by Trenidad Hubbard off Shawn Estes in the first inning, in a 1-0 victory.

Top of the 6th
FENWAY TITIVATED
It will be another cold opening day at Fenway today, so I hope Dice-K has some hot miso soup. Of course, Fenway will be sold out and there will be more fans than ever. The Red Sox have added a new bleacher section on the roof deck in right field called “Conigliaro’s Corner” with 200 seats that will be sold for $25 apiece, marketed specifically for families. More than 16,000 extra tickets for the temporary metal bleachers will be available this season in Conigliaro’s Corner. Starting in May, the section will be reserved for the team’s Red Sox Nation members on Saturdays and Red Sox Kid Nation members on Sundays.

There is a new boardroom on the luxury suite level and the first-ever women’s bathroom on the third-base concourse, as well as cupholders for field box seats.
About half of the luxury suites have been completely redone, and ramps and stairways have been reconfigured to make it easier for fans, and especially disabled ones, to move around. Later this season a bleacher grill will open.

There is also a new batting cage for visiting teams, new standing room behind the third-base grandstand and a locker room for ushers and concession staff.

Structural improvements such as added sprinklers and electrical upgrades won’t be visible to fans but will allow the Red Sox to increase the legal capacity to 38,805 — 1,151 more than last year and about 2,500 more than the capacity before renovations began under the current owners.

The Red Sox have sold out 307 consecutive games and they have already sold 2,626,983 tickets for 2007 — the highest number ever sold before opening day, and enough to guarantee the sixth-highest final season total in franchise history.

Finally, the Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement behind the outfield bleachers proclaims “Welcome to Fenway” in Japanese,

The Mariners, who open with the Sox today, are 139-191 all-time against the Red Sox. They won the 2006 season series 6-4. Great match-up tomorrow – Felix Hernandez (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0, 1.29).

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
Let’s see how rusty the Mariners are in the Red Sox home opener.
Nice matchup in the Angels – Indians game

Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Mariners Red Sox 2:05 p.m. Weaver (0-0) Beckett (1-0)
Astros Cubs 2:20 p.m. Sampson (0-0) Marquis (0-0)
Angels Indians 7:05 p.m. Santana (1-0) Sabathia (1-0)
Tigers Orioles 7:05 p.m. Robertson (1-0) Wright (0-1)
Brewers Marlins 7:05 p.m. Vargas (0-0) Vanden Hurk (0-0)
Cardinals Pirates 7:05 p.m. Keisler (0-0) Gorzelanny (1-0)
Royals Blue Jays 7:07 p.m. Greinke (0-1) Towers (0-0)
Nationals Braves 7:35 p.m. Chico (0-0) Hudson (0-0)
Devil Rays Rangers 8:05 p.m. Seo (0-0) Wright (0-0)
Yankees Twins 8:10 p.m. Pettitte (0-0) Bonser (0-0)
Reds D-Backs 9:40 p.m. Lohse (0-0) Gonzalez (0-0)
White Sox Athletics 10:05 p.m. Garland (0-0) Gaudin (0-0)
Giants Padres 10:05 p.m. Morris (1-0) Hensley (0-1)
Rockies Dodgers 10:10 p.m. Lopez (1-0) Tomko (0-0)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent singled in the 1st yesterday against the Rockies, giving him a seven-game hitting streak this season and a 12-game streak dating to last year.

Top of the 9th
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM VERSUS CLEVELAND INDIANS OF MILWAUKEE
The snow in Cleveland yesterday was still so deep that not only was the Mariners quadruple-header called off yesterday, but the Indians’ home series against the Angels, scheduled to start today, has been moved to Milwaukee.

The teams will play a three-game series beginning tonight in a ballpark that has a retractable roof, unlike Jacobs Field. The opener and tomorrow’s game will be played at 7:05 (EDT), with Thursday’s game scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

While a snowy, rainy mix stopped falling yesterday, the grounds crew was unable to get the surface in shape after three days of snow. About a foot of snow remained on the field yesterday afternoon with workers shoveling it into small carts to be hauled away. Plows were loading snow into trucks in left field as more fell from the sky.

It’s the first time weather has forced a series to be moved since the Marlins played the Montreal Expos on Sept. 13-14, 2004, in Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field because of Hurricane Ivan.

Bottom of the 9th
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