Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-5-15

5/15/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, May 14, 2007

Top of the 1st
THE LAST AND ONLY SEASON FOR GOMER
Harold “Gomer” Hodge passed away yesterday. He was 63 years old and suffered from A.L.S. and dementia. Baseball is filled with people who you always remember and loaded with those who you will never forget. Somewhere falling in between the cracks are guys like Gomer Hodge.

He was a 27-year-old rookie and in his last and only season, Hodge was a member of the 1971 Cleveland Indians, not a particularly good team. The Tribe was 60-102 and I presume that was the only type of team that Gomer could have played on. He played in 80 games, had 83 at bats and he hit .205. I guess he wasn’t much of a fielder either. He played only eight games in the field, three at first, three at third, and two at second. He mainly pinch-hit, there was no DH then. He told Russell Schneider, who covered Hodge for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and wrote about him in his book “Whatever Happened to Super Joe?”, “My best position was hitting.”

Hodge was born in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, just 138 miles south of Mt. Airy. Mt. Airy was supposedly the basis for the fictional town of Mayberry, the home of The Andy Griffith Show. I mention that because all accounts of Harold Hodge say that he sounded so much like actor Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show, that everybody just called him Gomer.

In 1971, Gomer appeared in the Indians Opening Day, and opening loss, against the Detroit Tigers. Hodge pinch hit an infield single for Steve Dunning off of Mickey Lolich. Gomer got in to game two as well, pinch-hitting a double off of Sonny Siebert of the Boston Red Sox and then stayed in to play second base and singled off of Ken Tatum with two outs in 9th and drove home two runs to enable Cleveland to walk-off to victory, 3-2.

Hodge’s next appearance was in game 4, once again pinch-hitting, and once again facing Ken Tatum, and once again Gomer delivered, hitting a double that drove home the final run in Cleveland’s 7-2 victory. The rookie was now 4-for-4, and he told the writers, in his Gomer Pylesian fashion, “Gollee, fellas, I’m hittin’ 4.000!”

Well that soon came to an end and by September 3 his averaged had drifted down to .194. By this time, manager Alvin Dark had been fired and Jerry Lipon was leading the Indians who were about 30 games under .500. Playing at Fenway, pinch-hitting for Steve Hargan, Hodge hit the last and only homer of his career, going long off of Roger Moret. “Right over the Green Monster,” he told Schneider.

That was his last RBI (9) and his last run scored (3). Hodge made his last appearance on September 26, pinch-hitting and striking out against Jim Palmer, who was picking up his 20th win.

Hodge was sent back to the minors in 1972, finished at 28, where he drifted around, playing coaching, and managing. His last stop was with Triple A Pawtucket where he coached the Paw Sox in 2001.

Two years ago he contracted ALS which left him limited to communicating with his wife and friends through simple hand movements.

Yesterday he died and today he is gone; gone, but not forgotten.

Top of the 2nd
MAYBE WE NEED A DF
One argument used by proponents of the Designated Hitter is that occasionally pitchers would get injured while batting and running the bases and you don’t want to lose a pitcher that way. Well, Billy-Ball today proposes a DF, a Designated Fielder, whose sole job would be to field for the pitcher.

Last night, the Washington Nationals’ Jason Bergmann took a no-hitter into the 8th inning and got his first major league win as a starter, leading the Washington Haplesses over the Atlanta Braves, 2-1. Brian McCann put an end to Bergman’s no-hit hopes with a leadoff homer in the 8th.

Bergmann’s opponent was John Smoltz who pitched well until he was injured with two outs in the bottom of the 7th…fielding. Smoltz was assisting in a rundown and tagged Austin Kearns. Immediately after applying the tag at chest level, Smoltz fell to the ground in obvious pain. He then got up, looked at his hand and slammed his glove to the ground in frustration. He left the field after being examined by a trainer. He had dislocated the pinky finger on his pitching hand. The Braves said there was a chance he wouldn’t miss a start.

“I knew right away. It was ‘pop,’ my finger,” Smoltz told reporters. “I thought it was broke. It happened so fast and the pain was so great…. It was just a normal rundown, not like a run to first where he was trying to get to the bag. Just flukey.”

In Kevin Millwood’s first start since coming off the disabled list, Millwood gave up a 1st inning grand slam to Casey Kotchman and left after five outs with an aggravated hamstring in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-2 victory over the Rangers. Millwood (2-4), who had been sidelined since April 28 with a strained left hamstring, allowed four runs and three hits with three walks.

“I kind of misstepped, actually to the first batter in the game,” Millwood said. “It got sorer as I went on. In the second inning, I couldn’t get out over my front leg. It’s not easy to pitch that way.”

Perhaps we need a DP (Designated Pitcher) as well.

Top of the 3rd
VINTAGE
He is indeed like a great martini…something to be savored
Greg Maddux needed only 96 pitches to throw a complete game five-hitter as the San Diego Padres beat Cincinnati 7-1. Maddux retired the first 16 batters he faced, struck out five and walked none. He picked up his 109th career complete game and first since Sept. 27, 2005, for the Chicago Cubs in a 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh.

“You can probably turn back the clock five, 10, 15 years, and you’ve seen games like that out of him before,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “Maybe a little different style, but still the same substance. He was efficient, threw strikes, had them off balance, pitched in, pitched out, pitched up, pitched down. It was an outstanding game.”

I’m beginning to see that they might someday say the same thing about Daisuke Matsuzaka (5-2) who pitched his first complete game as Boston defeated Detroit, 7-1. Dice-K got 16 outs on grounders and five on strikeouts. He allowed no walks for the first time in his eight starts. After three mediocre outings in which he allowed 17 runs, the right-hander has given up just two runs in his last two games covering 16 innings.

Maddux also picked up win No. 336, putting him six behind tying Tim Keefe for ninth on the career list. (SEE the Top of the 9th)

Top of the 4th
THE KING RETURNS
After a 26-day injury layoff Felix Hernandez returns tonight for the Mariners to face the Angels. According to the Seattle Times, Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said that Hernandez would throw “65 to 75 pitches” tonight. Hernandez, meanwhile, said he hoped to throw 80-85 pitches, adding, “It’s not my decision. They are going to make that decision, and that’s fine.” Hernandez knows that means the Angels are liable to try to wait him out, hoping to get him to his pitch count as quickly as possible. “I’m going to have to throw first-pitch strikes and get ahead real fast,” Hernandez said.

Despite the Mariners team ERA of 4.91 (through Sunday), 12th out of 14 teams in the American League and 27th of 30 overall (Taking out Jeff “The Great Deceiver” Weaver’s 14.32 ERA helps a bit, improving the overall team ERA to 4.58, which would be ninth in the AL and 23rd overall.), the Mariners are still over .500 and with Hernandez back could be a factor in the AL Far From the Best West

Felix had been the most dominating pitcher in baseball through his first two starts, throwing 17 shutout innings against Oakland and Boston before the strained right forearm outing in Minnesota where he was clobbered. For the season, he is 2-1 with a 1.56 earned-run average.

Top of the 5th
THE WORD OF THE DAY
The word of the day is “carapace.” Carapace, pronounce, KAIR-uh-pace, is a noun which is the thick shell that covers the back of the turtle, the crab, and other animals.

Used in a sentence, “If Josh Beckett, Cy Young candidate for the Boston Red Sox, had a carapace on his pitching hand, he would not have suffered from the cut on his middle finger which will force him to miss his turn on Friday and perhaps land him on the DL.”

Top of the 6th
A FULL YEAR OF BASEBALL?

The start of the World Series is being pushed back an extra day to Oct. 24, meaning Game 7 is scheduled for November for the first time. Because of extra off-days during the postseason, a team sweeping the NL championship series would have eight days off before its World Series opener.

Major League Baseball announced last summer that the Series would start on a Tuesday beginning in 2007 under the sport’s new network television contracts. In recent months, the decision was made to push it back an extra day to Wednesday.

“Starting the World Series in the middle of the week, when television viewership is historically higher, will provide more fans with the opportunity to watch the games,” said Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer. “The additional off-days throughout the postseason will give us greater flexibility to facilitate travel and protect against poor weather.”
Like perhaps, snow?

Because of the schedule changes, there will be an extra day off between the end of the regular season and the postseason openers on Oct. 3, and there will be three additional days off during the postseason. One will be between Games 4 and 5 of the division series, when teams had complained about playing without a travel day.

“Maybe it will be over by Thanksgiving,” Oakland’s Mike Piazza said after the announcement.

I suggest that spring training begin on Christmas Eve, what a nice present to all the boys and girls to wake up Christmas morning to the sounds and sights of baseball.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
Pittsburgh 17-20 (Home: 7-10) Florida 16-22 (Road: 6-11)
FLA: S. Mitre (0-2, 2.13), PIT: P. Maholm (2-4, 5.40)
Milwaukee 25-13 (Road: 9-8) Philadelphia 18-20 (Home: 9-8)
MIL: C. Vargas (3-0, 2.65) PHI: A. Eaton (3-3, 7.42)
Atlanta 24-14 (Road: 11-7) Washington 13-25 (Home: 8-10)
ATL: T. Hudson (4-1, 1.83) WAS: J. Williams (0-4, 6.11)
Chi Cubs 17-19 (Road: 9-8) NY Mets 24-13 (Home: 10-8)
CHC: C. Zambrano (3-3, 5.83) NYM: J. Maine (5-0, 1.79)
San Francisco 19-18 (Road: 8-8) Houston 18-19 (Home: 8-9)
SF: M. Morris (4-1, 3.11) HOU: W. Williams (1-5, 5.10)
Arizona 20-19 (Road: 8-10) Colorado 16-22 (Home: 8-9)
ARI: R. Johnson (0-2, 6.00) COL: J. Hirsh (2-3, 4.10)
Cincinnati 15-24 (Road: 7-12) San Diego 21-18 (Home: 11-7)
CIN: A. Harang (5-1, 5.04) SD: D. Wells (1-2, 6.32
St. Louis 16-20 (Road: 9-9) LA Dodgers 23-16 (Home: 11-8
STL: A. Wainwright (3-2, 5.01) LAD: D. Lowe (3-4, 3.61)
Minnesota 18-19 (Road: 8-6) Cleveland 21-14 (Home: 11-3) FSNO, STO
MIN: R. Ortiz (3-3, 3.80) CLE: P. Byrd (2-1, 2.84)
Detroit 23-14 (Road: 13-7) 7 Boston 26-11 (Home: 12-5)
DET: J. Verlander (3-1, 2.83) BOS: T. Wakefield (4-3, 1.79)
Baltimore 18-21 (Road: 6-13) Toronto 16-22 (Home: 10-11)
BAL: D. Cabrera (3-3, 4.59) TOR: J. Litsch (0-0, NA)
Texas 15-23 (Road: 5-13) Tampa Bay 15-22 (Home: 8-9)
TEX: R. Tejeda (3-3, 4.87) TB: J. Shields (3-0, 3.10)
NY Yankees 17-19 (Road: 7-10) Chi White Sox 18-16 (Home: 7-8)
NYY: M. Mussina (2-1, 4.76) CWS: J. Danks (1-4, 4.33)
Kansas City 13-26 (Road: 6-12) Oakland 19-18 (Home: 8-9)
KC: B. Bannister (0-2, 4.60) OAK: J. Kennedy (1-2, 2.83)
LA Angels 22-17 (Road: 8-11) Seattle 17-16 (Home: 10-7)
LAA: K. Escobar (4-1, 2.21) SEA: F. Hernandez (2-1, 1.56)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Gil Meche threw seven shutout innings for the Royals in Oakland Monday night. Meche has not allowed an earned run in 27 innings pitched on the road this season. According to our friends at Elias, over the last 15 years, only one pitcher began a season with 27 or more innings on the road without allowing an earned run: Houston’s Roger Clemens did not allow an earned run in his first 35 road innings in 2005.

John Buck broke up a scoreless game with a two-run homer in the 9th inning against Justin Duchscherer and the Kansas City Royals defeated Oakland, 2-1. The Royals won consecutive games for just the third time this season.

Top of the 9th
300 WINS LIST
(x-active)
1. Cy Young 511
2. Walter Johnson 417
3. Grover Cleveland Alexander 373
3. Christy Mathewson 373
5. Pud Galvin 365
6. Warren Spahn 363
7. Kid Nichols 361
8. x-Roger Clemens 348
9. Tim Keefe 342
10. x-Greg Maddux 336
11. Steve Carlton 329
12. John Clarkson 328
13. Eddie Plank 326
14. Nolan Ryan 324
14. Don Sutton 324
16. Phil Niekro 318
17. Gaylord Perry 314
18. Tom Seaver 311
19. Hoss Radbourn 309
20. Mickey Welch 307
21. Lefty Grove 300
21. Early Wynn 300

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.