Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-4-9

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Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Top of the 1st
IT’S NO FUN (say it fast)
In a perverse sense, the highlight of this past baseball weekend took place in Cleveland, where no official baseball was played…only snow ball. The forecast for this weekend Cleveland, where the Indians would be opening their season against the Mariners, was for snow showers. Granted it was expected to be cold with a high of 34 degrees expected for Opening Day on Friday. Well, they got that part right. You see weather forecasters are about as accurate as baseball forecasters. Cleveland was whacked with an Easter blizzard.

I was listening to the Friday night’s game that started with the temperature hovering at comfy 31 degrees. Comfy, that is, if you weren’t at the Jake. You can say many negative things about Adrian Beltre, but don’t tell me that under normal conditions he’s making three errors in a game, and it’s even less likely that he makes the errors in a mere four innings of play. But, the Mariners third baseman couldn’t feel his fingers. Obviously, the Mariners starting pitcher, Horacio Ramirez, didn’t have much of a feel either as he had thrown 98 pitches and walked six batters over those same four innings.

But the Indians’ starter Paul Byrd (as in Admiral Byrd, who explored the Antarctic) didn’t seem to have the same kind of trouble. He was winning 4-0 and he was perfect through four.

The Indians had hoped to begin the game at 4:05 p.m., but first pitch was delayed until 5:02 because of flurries. I would bet that GM Mark Shapiro, given the chance to do it all over agin, would have started on time. “It was one of the most disappointing, grueling days of my career,” Shapiro said in a telephone conference call with reporters Saturday. “That being said, I’ve replayed it a thousand times in my head, and it was the alignment of very unusual and difficult circumstances. I’m not sure, on anyone’s part that things could have been done differently to avoid what was extremely tough and painful.”

“The thought was, once we got to that point at 4:45, we had a fairly clear evening,” he said. “We got lake-effect snow that was not on the radar. Obviously, forecasting weather is a difficult job in Cleveland, Ohio.”

Two more delays followed but here we were in the top of the 5th, Byrd had lost his perfect game but not his no-hitter as with two outs the bases were filled via walks. The count was 1-2 on Seattle’s Jose Lopez, meaning the Indians were one strike from an official game and one strike from victory if the game would have to be called, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove came on the field to discuss the conditions with the umpires.

“I couldn’t see nothing,” Lopez said. “They pitched a fastball, first pitch, right down the middle, and I jumped outside from home plate. I couldn’t see nothing.”

Lopez finally signaled Hargrove in the dugout. He said the home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez told him “one more pitch” and that he barely got his bat on the ball to stay alive. Hargrove left the dugout at that point and he, Marquez, and then Tribe manager Eric Wedge argued next to home plate. Grover kept explaining that his batters were having trouble seeing. Shapiro watched the snow increase in intensity and watched his former special assistant explain snow to the umpires. He talked, it snowed. He talked more, it snowed more. He talked harder, it snowed harder. He stopped talking, so did the game.

The umps now had no choice but to stop the action one strike away from an official game and just hope. Crew chief Rick Reed delayed the game for 77 minutes and gave up. It was no game. It was if nothing had ever happened. Asked if Byrd should have been allowed to finish, Shapiro sighed and said: “I don’t know. From an Indians vantage point, certainly. But again, the umpire was doing his job. We were at the point of putting players at risk.” Shapiro has already put his star catcher, Victor Martinez on the DL because he pulled a quadriceps muscle running down to first in the snow.

“I thought Mike did his job,” Shapiro said.

“I didn’t go out and stall,” Hargrove said. “You couldn’t see the ball when I went out and you couldn’t see the ball when I left. I wasn’t trying to stall.

So, what is baseball to do?

There are those who suggest that teams should open the season in warmer climes, or at least in domed stadium. I don’t buy it. The longer a team is away from home at the start of the season, the greater the disadvantage for the team and for attendance and fan involvement in general. It’s also a disadvantage for the warm weather and dome teams who don’t want to play too many home games in April and May. Like most teams, they want to play the majority of their home games during the summer when school is out and attendance rises and they too want home games down the stretch.

As Shapiro points out, “It was 70 degrees and sunny Monday in Cleveland when we opened our season in Chicago this year,” said Shapiro. “I just don’t think you can go on a month-long road trip in April.”

He’s right, but baseball has no business scheduling teams that come to town only once a year during these opening weeks. The Mariners have no more visits scheduled for Cleveland this season. Nor do the Angels who are supposed to be coming in next. This is the bane of the unbalanced schedule. So here’s what happened, Friday’s home opener was postponed, then so was Saturday’s day-night doubleheader, then so was Sunday’s traditional doubleheader. Teams shouldn’t be considering doubleheaders this early in the season.

On top of that now we don’t know when these teams will be able to make up these games. It is uncertain if the two teams will be able to play today because there is at least 18 inches of snow on the field, and there is snow in the stands. So these teams will have at a minimum two games to make up and perhaps four. And the Mariners have a day game tomorrow in Boston. And since the Mariners aren’t scheduled to return to Cleveland again this year and the Indians only come to Seattle once, for the next-to-last series of the season, the situation is a slushy mess.

The Mariners and the Indians both have June 11 off, and Major League Baseball could press to have a doubleheader played that day, when Seattle will be en route from New York to Detroit.

The third team in the equation is the Angels. The Angels are supposed to travel to Cleveland today. But now they are waiting to hear from the commissioner’s office whether they should leave or stay put because baseball is considering moving the three-game set from Cleveland to California.

“There’s been discussion but no decision. We’re monitoring the weather in Cleveland,” Bob “the Weasel” DuPuy of the Commissioner’s Office said last night. The forecast in Cleveland calls for more cool weather, but no snow. Rain is possible Wednesday. A switch would not be easy, there are tickets to be sold, flights to be booked and the Angels play in Boston on Friday night and ordinarily there is a day off following a cross-country flight.

“We’re just examining every alternative, but our plans are to play the series here,” Shapiro said. “Right now, the weather looks like it’s going to break a little bit temperature-wise, and our grounds crew is prepared for a hard days’ work.”

The only thing that is certain is that from that point hence, Mike Hargrove, who was known as a player as “The Human Rain Delay”, will now, as a manager, be known as “The Human Snow Delay.”

Check out the snow, Friday:
Opening Day Time Lapse (04/06/2007)
Watch as the Cleveland Indians and Jacobs Field grounds crew battle the Seattle Mariners and the snow.

Top of the 2nd
After their 6-4 loss to the Marlins yesterday, the Phillies are 1-5 for the third time in four seasons and the second year in a row. And it’s not as if the Marlins didn’t do everything in their power to give the game to the Phils. Marlins pitchers issued 11 walks to go along and allowed seven hits. The Phillies went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, dropping their season average in those situations to .200.

“We couldn’t get a big hit,” Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. “We will get them. When? That’s the big question. We will get them. It’s just a matter of time before we get them.” Let’s hope they get some before Charlie gets the axe for his team’s ineptitude.

According to Elias, over the past seven seasons (2000-2006), only one major league team scored fewer than five runs in a nine-inning loss in which it had at least 11 walks and seven or more hits (Rockies vs. Giants, 7-4, Sept. 20, 2006). The Phillies hadn’t lost in such fashion since June 2, 1937 (8-4 vs. Cincinnati).

Top of the 3rd
It’s awfully early for Torre and Terry to be pressing the panic buttons don’t you think? I mean I agree that neither the Yankees or the BoSox right now looks as if they are post-season material but are these managers so short-sighted they are willing to put two key pitchers at risk?

In yesterday’s 6-4 loss to Orioles, Darrell Rasner became the latest Yankees starter to stink out the joint. Yankees starters have allowed 27 runs, 24 earned, and 36 hits in 21 2-3 innings for a 9.97 ERA. So on a 41-degree day with snow flurries who comes out of the bullpen? Andy Pettitte to throw one inning and fortunately not throw his back out as he got work in readying himself for his start tomorrow. It was the only Pettitte’s ninth career relief appearance. Torre has made 22 calls to the bullpen in these first five games.

Meanwhile deep in the heart of Texas, the Red Sox bullpen looked as if it were ready to squander a strong start from Senator Schilling. In the 8th inning they had already given one back and held a precarious 3-2 lead with runners on the corners. Almost in defiance of logic, Francona brought in Papelbon to get Michael Young, the 2005 AL batting champion and a .300 career hitter, on a called third strike. He then retired switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira on an inning-ending infield popout. Sammy S?sa hit an infield popout leading off the 9th before Papelbon struck out Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson.

It wasn’t warm in Texas last night and I simply can’t imagine that anybody on the medical side of the team felt comfortable seeing Paplebon in for five outs.

These two moves simply do not make long term sense.

Top of the 4th
Royals closer David Riske thought Ivan Rodriguez would be bunting with two runners on base and none out in the 9th, with the Tigers trailing 2-0.

“That’s what I get for thinking,” Riske said. And that’s why you’re in KC.

Instead of the bunt sign, Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave Rodriguez the green light and he hit a three-run homer off Riske to give the Tigers a 3-2 win. Rodriguez hit the first pitch he saw out of the park. It was the 20th career home run against the Royals for Rodriguez, a .352 hitter at Kauffman Stadium.

Of the cities Pudge Rodriguez has played in as a visitor, Kansas City is his favorite:
Ballpark AVG HR RBI
Kauffman Stadium, K.C. .352 12 56
Tropicana Field, T.B. .338 9 23
Metrodome, Minnesota .327 9 35
Camden Yards, Bal. .322 11 32
Rogers Centre, Toronto .316 9 41
Kingdome, Seattle* .301 7 27
County Stadium, Mil.* .300 1 13

*Dearly departed ballparks

Rookie of the Year favorite Alex Gordon was 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts and is in a 1-for-19 slump with 8 strikeouts and no walks.

Top of the 5th
Hideki Matsui wound up on the disabled list for the second consecutive season yesterday after playing 1,768 consecutive games from 1994 until last May. A day after Matsui strained his left hamstring running out a grounder, the Yankees put him on the 15-day DL. New York planned to recall Kevin Thompson from Triple-A Scranton.

“When you play baseball this long, these things happen. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Matsui said.

Top of the 6th
You got to feel for Scott Kazmir of the Devil Rays any mistake he makes and he is going to be in the locker without a win. The Blue Jays’ Reed Johnson hit a 3-run homer, and Vernon Wells and combined with Roy Halladay’s pitching, Kazmir was a loser. Kazmir allowed four runs, six hits, two walks and struck out 10 in seven innings. Kazmir’s first eight outs came on strikeouts, including one stretch when he struck out six consecutive batters to set a team record. The left-hander, who ended the 2006 season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, is winless in seven starts dating to a 2-0 shutout of Boston last July 3. Kazmir threw 80 of 111 pitches for strikes. He has nine of Tampa Bay’s 17 10-strikeout games.

Halladay won for the first time since last August, He had gone winless in seven starts including his final six last year – since beating Baltimore on Aug. 20. He gave up three runs, seven hits and three walks over seven innings. He struck out seven.

Top of the 7th
Nice matchup of young pitchers in New York and San Diego today.
We’ll see if the Indians and Mariners play baseball or snowball today.
The Yanks and Twins have pitchers going today that each needs to be good for this season to be successful.

Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Phillies Mets 1:10 p.m. Hamels (0-0) Maine (1-0)
Cardinals Pirates 1:35 p.m. Looper (0-1) Snell (0-0)
Astros Cubs 2:20 p.m. Williams (0-1) Lilly (1-0)
Tigers Orioles 3:05 p.m. Durbin (0-0) Cabrera (0-1)
Mariners Indians GM 1: 4:05 p.m. Weaver (0-0) Sabathia (1-0)
Mariners Indians GM 2: TBD Hernandez (1-0) Carmona (0-0)
Rockies Dodgers 4:10 p.m. Francis (0-0) Schmidt (1-0)
Brewers Marlins 7:05 p.m. Suppan (0-1) Sanchez (0-0)
Yankees Twins 7:05 p.m. Pavano (0-0) Ponson (0-0)
Royals Blue Jays 7:15 p.m. Perez (0-1) Burnett (0-1)
Devil Rays Rangers 8:05 p.m. Jackson (0-0) McCarthy (0-1)
Reds D-Backs 9:40 p.m. Arroyo (0-1) Davis (0-1)
White Sox Athletics 10:05 p.m. Contreras (0-1) Harden (1-0)
Giants Padres 10:05 p.m. Cain (0-0) Young (0-0)

Top of the 8th
The New York Mets have both the majors’ oldest (Julio Franco, born August 23, 1958) and youngest (Lastings Milledge, born April 5, 1985) players on their active roster. That’s 26.5 years that separate the two and when they complete the carbon-dating on El Duque my bet is that they will find that he is 26.5 years older than Franco.

Top of the 9th
The Mariners took advantage of the weather by playing at the ballpark anyway. They threw snowballs, built snowmen, and pretended they were gay children making snow angels.
Notable Mariners postponements in the past two decades:
Date Park Games Reason for postponement
July 19-21, ’94 Kingdome 3 Falling ceiling tiles shut down Kingdome for rest of year
May 2, ’96 Kingdome 1 5.4 earthquake struck in 7th inning; game finished next day
Sept. 6-7, ’96 Jacobs Field 2 M’s, Tribe done in by remnants of Hurricane Fran
Aug. 14, ’97 Camden Yards 1 Bad breaker switch knocked out ballpark lights
April 17, ’00 Comiskey 1 White Sox asked for — and got — postponement due to cold
Sept. 11-16, ’01 Angels Stadium 6 All MLB action canceled due to terrorist attacks on 9/11
April 6-8, ’07 Jacobs Field 3 All wiped out by snow; doubleheader slated Monday

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports,,, 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.