Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-6-29

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Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday to Harmon Killebrew

Friday, June 29, 2007

Top of the 1st
Big day in the milestone category yesterday as Blue Jay Frank Thomas drove a 1-2 pitch from right-hander Carlos Silva over the left field fence at the Metrodome for his 500th career home run, his 13th of the season. Then in Houston (as planned), Craig Biggio’s third hit of the night, an RBI single to center field was the 3,000th of his 20-year career, and as the Houston Chronicle described it, “sending the sellout crowd of 42,537 into a five-minute ovation unlike anything seen in Houston outside the 2005 World Series and the Rockets’ 1994 and 1995 NBA titles.”

Biggio was the 27th man to collect 3,000 hits. He was also the 27th man to collect 2,999 hits but nobody seemed to care about that. We are fascinated, enthralled, and obsessed with round numbers. The number 3,000 means so much because we believe that the person who ends with 2,999 will be haunted the rest of his life by just falling short.

The 500 mark used to represent what was so frequently described as “an exclusive club.” Thomas became the 21st player to hit 500. The list includes three other active players (Barry B*nds, Sammy S*sa and Ken Griffey Jr.) and six who have hit their 500th within the last decade (including Eddie Murray, Mark McGw*re and Rafael Palm*iro). Any club that includes Raffy Palm*iro doesn’t feel that exclusive anymore. By the way, right behind Thomas is Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff with 493 homers. That means at 499 Thomas was still in the club. Gehrig, you may recall, didn’t hang around trying to reach 500; he died. McGriff had 478 homers after the 2002 season, 491 after the 2003 season, and was released with a .181 batting average by the Devil Rays on July 28, 2004 futilely trying to change his millstone into a milestone.

There was a similar moment for one of the players trying to get into the 400 homer club, and it’s not the one who is in the Hall of Fame. Al Kaline finished with 399 homers but that was because only once in his final seven years did he hit over 20 homers (21 in 1969). Kaline did not see it as milestone worthy of continuing and dragging his lifetime batting average down any farther (Kaline hit .255 and .262 his last two seasons); he ended his career at .297. Andres Gallaraga saw a milestone that he desperately wanted to reach but could not hang on long enough to remove his millstone. The same was true with Dale Murphy who finished with 398 homers.

A .300 career batting average is totally different set of circumstances in that is not something achievable by single swings of the bat and takes much longer to influence. Like in the case of my favorite battery, Al Kaline (go ahead say his name fast and you’ll get the joke), and I still feel badly about Mickey Mantle who hung around at the request of the moribund Yankees (the team drew just over a million fans his last three seasons), only to see his career batting average fall to .298.

Let’s try and not be so obsessed with the round numbers, they should be interesting to us solely as a frame of reference. A good example is Ryan Howard hitting his 100th career homer in his 325th game two nights ago, becoming the fastest player to reach that total. Of course, the bandbox of a ballpark that he plays in and the tightly wound baseball has some effect on that as well. Numbers remain relative because Thomas’ ranking on the all-time homer list is based on the players before him, not the round number.

Round numbers require no thought and consequently are nowhere near as much fun. I am a contrarian (Mrs. Ball probably would describe me as simply a pain in the butt) and I stay away from round numbers. I encourage projects to be completed on the 23rd of the month. My alarm is set for 5:14 every morning. I like leaving tips of $6.52.

Okay, I admit it, there is one round number I would however like to see. I would be thrilled if Barry B*nds ended his career with 750 homers. Reaching, but not exceeding, that milestone would remove baseball’s millstone.

Top of the 2nd
I guess my favorite recollection of the game in which Frank Thomas hit his 500th homer will be that in the 9th inning, Thomas was ejected by plate umpire Mark Wegner after being called out on strikes for the second time in the game. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to argue and also got tossed.

“I’m probably the first to get 500 home runs and get thrown out of the ballgame,” Thomas said. “That’s something I didn’t want to happen, but the moment just got the best of me.”

A nice touch for Thomas was that Todd Eisenlohr, a 24-year-old graphic designer from Pennock, Minn., offered him the “historic” ball. Eisenlohr, part of a group celebrating his mother’s birthday, reached across two seats to catch the ball — which, according to the New York Times, might have hit his father on the head. Eisenlohr accepted an autographed jersey from Thomas, a ball and a bat in exchange. Thomas said he would keep the ball unless the Baseball Hall of Fame requested it.

Minnesota defeated the Jays, 8-5.

A two-time American League Most Valuable Player during his 16 seasons in Chicago, he is the White Sox’s all-time leader in many categories, including runs, on-base percentage, walks, doubles and RBIs in addition to home runs. His career batting average stood at .321 as recently as 2000 but has slipped to .303 as he has played through leg injuries that have left him as one of the slowest runners in baseball. He ranks among the top 20 all-time in both on-base percentage (.423, 16th) and slugging (.562, 18th) and for good measure is 10th in sacrifice flies.

Thomas never has been linked to steroids, often speaking out against their use, “With me, I have nothing to hide,” Thomas told a Congressional committee. “I have my reputation on the line. … What questions do you want to ask me? I’m going to tell you the truth.”

During his statement to that committee, Thomas said he never had used steroids and supported the moves by Major League Baseball and the players union to strengthen procedures to test for steroids.

“Steroids are dangerous and the public should be educated about them, and in particular, parents should make sure their children are aware that steroids can be bad for their health,” Thomas said in his statement, “I support this new policy as a very good first step in eliminating steroid use from the sport I love. I have been a major-league ballplayer for 15 years. Throughout my career, I have not used steroids. Ever.”

Top of the 3rd
There is everything to like and respect Craig Biggio and all of baseball should be happy for his achievement. In this momentous game, Biggio had five hits for just the second time in his career. Not only that, Carlos Lee hit a grand slam in the 11th inning to give the Houston Astros an 8-5 (same score as in Thomas’ game) win over the Colorado Rockies.

Biggio’s 3,000th hit came one day shy of the 19th anniversary of his first career hit, a single off Orel Hershiser on June 29, 1988. Biggio dragged Jeff Bagwell, a teammate of his for 15 seasons, onto the field after reaching the mark. After all the two went through together, he wanted to share the moment with him.

“I wanted him on that field, between the lines one more time with me to really let the fans say goodbye, say hello, say thank you for so many things,” Biggio said. “To me that was what it was about. He deserved it and I deserved it in a way. I just wanted him to enjoy it and be happy one more time with me.”

Of the 27 men to collect 3,000 hits, he became just the ninth to get all 3,000 with one team. He joins Hall of Famers Stan Musial (St Louis Cardinals), Carl Yastrzemski (Boston Red Sox), Cal Ripken Jr. (Baltimore Orioles), George Brett (Kansas City Royals), Robin Yount (Brewers), Tony Gwynn (San Diego Padres), Al Kaline (Detroit Tigers) and Roberto Clemente (Pittsburgh Pirates).

Top of the 4th
One of the things I really like about Red Sox manager Terry Francona is his understanding and appreciation of the Red Sox fanatics. Ned Yost seems to have a similar sensibility in Milwaukee. Here’s why I say that:

Like most managers, Yost gets loads of mail from second-guessers. Long ago, Yost has found a special home for these in circular file that he keeps by his desk. However, a week or so ago, he got a letter from a fan from La Crosse, Wisconsin that indicated his displeasure with the fact that native son Damian Miller didn’t play last year on La Crosse Day. “They informed me that La Crosse Day was Wednesday the 27th and they wanted to see Damian Miller play,” said Yost. “So I circled it on my calendar to make sure that Damian Miller was going to play on La Crosse Day.”

Miller responded by going 3-for-5, including a three-run, walk-off home run with one down in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Brewers a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros. It was only the second game-winning homer of Miller’s career and first since May 9, 2000, when he hit a grand slam for Arizona off Los Angeles’ Orel Hershiser.

“It was perfect timing,” said Miller,”The stars were lined up perfectly today. I got a few pitches to hit and made (La Crosse fans) happy.”

“I made up for last year,” Yost added. “Hopefully, they’re satisfied now.”

Top of the 5th
Until he went to see his chiropractor in Orlando on Monday, Johnny Damon thought he was hurting from some type of abdominal injury, but it turns out that four of his ribs were “out of place,” something the chiropractor was able to fix with a pair of adjustments.

Mrs. Ball had ribs out of his place when she was pregnant. You don’t think that Johnny is expecting, do you?

If he is, remember you read it here first.

Top of the 6th
With the Tigers defeating Texas yesterday, the Indians victory over the A’s keeps the Tribe a half game out of first. The Indians are now 27-12 at home battling the Angels 29-13 for the best home record in the AL. So where are the Indian fans? Only 22,921 (less than 53% of capacity) were at yesterday’s game. Even though it was cloudy, it was a perfect 78 degrees.

Yesterday was no exception either. The Indians rank 25th overall in the majors in attendance having drawn less than 900,000 fans thus far. They are ahead of only Washington (lousy team), Pittsburgh (lousy team), Kansas City (lousy team), Florida (lousy team), and Tampa Bay (lousy team).

The Indians sold out 455 straight games from June 7, 1995, through April 2, 2001. They’ve had one sellout this season.

Lret’s go Cleveland – step it up!

Top of the 7th
LA Angels of Anaheim at Baltimore Orioles, 7:05 pm
(R) Kelvim Escobar (9-3) vs. (R) Steve Trachsel (5-6)
Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers, 7:05 pm
(L) Johan Santana (8-6) vs. (R) Justin Verlander (9-2)
Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees, 7:05 pm
(L) Joe Kennedy (2-5) vs. (R) Mike Mussina (3-5)
Texas Rangers at Boston Red Sox, 7:05 pm
(R) Jamey Wright (1-1) vs. (R) Tim Wakefield (7-8)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Cleveland Indians, 7:05 pm
(R) Edwin Jackson (1-8) vs. (R) Jake Westbrook (1-3)
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals, 8:10 pm
(R) Jose Contreras (5-8) vs. (R) Brian Bannister (4-4)
Toronto Blue Jays at Seattle Mariners, 10:05 pm
(R) Dustin McGowan (4-3) vs. (L) Jarrod Washburn (6-6)
New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies, 1:35 pm
(R) Orlando Hernandez (3-3) vs. (R) J.D. Durbin (0-0)
Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs, 2:20 pm
(R) Yovani Gallardo (1-0) vs. (L) Rich Hill (5-5)
Atlanta Braves at Florida Marlins, 7:05 pm
(L) Chuck James (6-7) vs. (R) Josh Johnson (0-2)
Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates, 7:05 pm
(L) Matt Chico (3-5) vs. (R) Ian Snell (6-5)
New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies, 7:05 pm
(R) John Maine (8-4) vs. (L) Cole Hamels (9-3)
St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 pm
(R) Adam Wainwright (6-6) vs. (R) Bronson Arroyo (2-9)
Colorado Rockies at Houston Astros, 8:05 pm
(R) Josh Fogg (3-6) vs. (R) Chris Sampson (6-5)
Arizona Diamondbacks at San Francisco Giants, 10:15 pm
(R) Livan Hernandez (5-5) vs. (R) Matt Morris (7-4)
San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:40 pm
(R) Chris Young (7-3) vs. (L) Hong-Chih Kuo (1-3)

Top of the 8th
As we celebrate Craig Biggio’s 3,000 hits and Frank Thomas’s 500 homers, we should pay homage to the only players who hit both 500 homers and 3,000 hits.

Hank Aaron had 775 homers amongst his 3,771 hits.
Willie Mays had 660 homers amongst his 3,283 hits.
Eddie Murray had 504 homers amongst his 3,225 hits.
Raffy Palm*iro had 520 tainted homers amongst his 3,020 tainted hits.

Frank Thomas has 2,321 hits.
Craig Biggio has 286 homers.

Top of the 9th
Not a bad week considering that I was exhausted from too much soccer last weekend and prostrate from too much heat this week.

Thank you all for all your support as always. I apologize if I am behind in my responses to your e-mails I am proud to say I have been providing web content for the Alliance for Climate Protection and they will be launching their new site next week in anticipation of the Live Earth concerts of 07/07/07.

I will remind you next week to check out the site and I encourage you to do all you can in our battle to cool the planet. Start by recycling Billy-Ball – share it with someone, anyone, and everyone.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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.