Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-8-10

8/10/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Friday, August 10, 2007

Top of the 1st
HITTING THE ROAD
Okay, I’m lucky enough to be heading to the great Northwest and getting to see my daughter Elizabeth and F-O-B-B at Ivar’s one of the must go restaurants in and around Seattle.

Before I head out, I thought I would take a brief tour around the majors:

AL East
1. Since the break the Red Sox are 16-11 and the Yankees 21-8. The differential seems greater. The Red Sox have to focus on the road ahead and ignore the rear-view mirror. I have way more faith in the bullpen then I do in the starting rotation.
2. The Yankees season may come down to how they play over the next 20 games. The Indians, host the Yankees at Jacobs Field for a three-game weekend series, after which the Yanks come home. After a three-game visit from the Orioles, the Yankees play four against the Tigers and then hit the road heading to Anaheim for three with the AL West-leading Angels and four in Detroit. When they return from Detroit, the Red Sox await for three before the D-Rays come to The Stadium.
3. The Blue Jays can beat anybody, they can also lose to anybody…and they do. Frank Thomas is getting hot and some of the young pitchers are coming through lately. It can’t be easy being a Blue Jay fan.
4. Baltimore Orioles there are moments of sun that break through the clouds on this overcast team, but not enough to go out and buy any Coppertone. The Mariners, the past three nights in Camden Yards, pounded out 49 hits and 31 runs in a three-game sweep. Yet, the Orioles have Eric Bedard going tonight and he can cause any team grief.
5. Tampa Bay may be awful but they have two starters, now going back-to-back in the rotation, who can make lives miserable. Just ask the Tigers. James Shields and Scott Kazmir stopped Detroit the last two nights and could do the same to the Red Sox or the Yankees and each of those teams are counting on getting fat off of Tampa Bay. The 25-year-old right-hander and the 23-year-old left-hander have winning records 9-7 on a team 26 games under .500 (44-70), and have the ability to beat the league’s best teams, and likely will improve and have the potential to be big winners for a long time. On the other hand, before beating the Tigers in Detroit Tampa Bay had lost eight straight road games and 19 of 21. Their last back-to-back road wins came June 17-18.

AL Central
1. How bad have things gotten in the AL Central? Cleveland has lost 14 of 27 games coming out of the All-Star break and has moved ahead of Detroit and into first place. Yesterday, the Indians won for just the seventh time in their last 17 games but increased their lead in the AL Central to 1 1/2 games over Detroit.
2. Two statements say it all for the Tigers; Detroit starters have won just one of the team’s last 22 games. “The little extra spark we had last year is not here. We better find it. We’re playing like it doesn’t mean enough to us.” — Tigers manager Jim Leyland. The Tigers are 5-14 in their last 19 games
3. After their 1-0 loss to the Royals yesterday, Minnesota has been shutout 11 time this year, most in the majors. It doesn’t matter how your pitchers do when you “hit” like that.
4. The White Sox are 8 games under .500 and I suspect on their Ozzie Guillen Farewell Tour.
5. Buddy Bell picked up his 500th win as a manager yesterday and the Royals are playing some of their best ball in years. They still stink, just not as much.

AL West
1. I think the Angels are a strange club. In many ways they are in the top five in baseball and you can’t count them out of any game as exhibited by their 27 comeback win. On the other hand, they make no moves at the trading deadline, are 4-4 this month and 13-12 since the All-Star break. Their next five opponents have a combined record of 305-246 with match-ups with Seattle, Boston (twice), Minnesota, Toronto (twice) and New York.
2. If the Mariners win this division this year, they will look at their just completed sweep of the Orioles as moment in which they got their act together. Led by Ichiro who had three hits and scored twice in each game, Seattle scored in 16 of 27 innings and batted .395 while outscoring Baltimore by 16 runs.
3. I find it odd not talking about the A’s this time of year, but there really isn’t very much to say. Here’s why: they, are 10-19 over the last 29 games…are 17-31 since they were a season high eight games over .500 on June 15. They have won back-to-back games just four times since June 16 and have not won more than two in a row since winning three straight, June 13-15. They have finished with a winning record in each of the previous eight seasons, which is the third longest active streak in the Majors behind the Yankees (14) and Boston (9) and that is in jeopardy this season.
4. I continue to feel humiliated that I played a longshot and picked the texas rangers to finish first. They are showing some signs of life lately, however. They are 3-5 in August, 12-14 since the All-Star Break and since June 14 the club is 27-22 which is tied for the third most wins in the AL since that date. I’m whistling past the cemetery here.

NL East
1. The Mets could still lose this division and that would be a shame but unless they start operating on all cylinders, this team will sputter out. The concern has be whether John Maine is wearing out. Over his past two starts, Maine ERA has gone from 2.92 to 3.53, and he’s walked six batters in his past eight innings. Maine is 7-7 since the middle of May and he needs to be better than that.
2. The Braves made great deals at the trading deadline and they are beginning to play inspired baseball. Not only that, the Braves have won all four series between the teams this year, going 8-4 overall.
3. The Phils are hurting. Yesterday they picked up Russell Branyan from Cleveland for cash (which should tell you what people think of Branyon). Branyan began this season with San Diego, and hit .197 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 61 games. He was released on July 28, signed with Cleveland on Monday and played one game at Triple-A Buffalo. He’s also played for Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay. In parts of 10 seasons in the majors, Branyan has a career average of .229 with 118 homers and 293 RBIs in 688 games. He’s not the answer.
4. The Nats are tied with the Marlins for last which means we should congratulate Manny Acta for the fine job he’s done this season with the Washingtonians.

NL Central
1. The Brewers are drifting down toward the .500 mark and second baseman Tony Graffinino is now lost for the season with a torn ligament. Milwaukee recalled second baseman Rickie Weeks, who was batting .212 when he was optioned on July 31. Since J.J.une 25, J.J. Hardy has no homers and only nine RBI. This division will get uglier.
2. The Cubs are hurting even more. They lost Alfonso Soriano with a torn quad and Aramis Ramirez has a wrist so sore it needed a cortisone injection.
3. This should tell you how the St. Louis Cardinals are doing: Tony La Russa has batted the pitcher eighth in the lineup for the six straight games in an effort to spark the defending World Series champions. Maybe he figures they can hit better than they pitch. The Cards rank 16th in the league in ERA.
4. Houston remains hopeful, but only because the division leaders are doing so poorly. Fifteen of their final 48 games are against the Brewers and Cubs. The Astros are 31-25 at home, and 20-38 on the road.
5. The Reds had a four game winning streak broken yesterday, but we’re not sure it should count because they were playing the reeling Dodgers.
6. The Pirates are hitting.253 with runners in scoring position, which ranks 26th out of baseball’s 30 teams and that’s just one of their problems. The Pirates have lost seven of eight series since the All-Star break, 18 of 23 games.

NL West
1. The Arizona Diamondbacks have won eight of nine series since the All-Star break and is 15-3 since dropping back-to-back games July 19-20. That’s how you take charge in a division best with parity.
2. San Diego can be summed up with these stats: they are 16th in the league in hitting, 13th in runs scored, 16th in on-base percentage, first in ERA, first in OPS, first in WHIP, and first in quality starts.
3. Not only did the Dodgers score yesterday, they won, and I don’t know which is bigger news. LA had lost six straight and had been shut out in their previous three games and four of their past five. In the six game losing streak they were 1-for-43 with runners in scoring position.
4. In case you haven’t been paying attention, even with yesterday’s loss to the Cubs, the Rockies have won 15 of their last 19 at home. In the 25 games since the break, Garrett Atkins is batting .364 with 29 RBI.
5. The last place Giants….Mmm, that was yummy. Yesterday, as the Giants lost to Washington, it marked the 30th straight Giants game that was sold out at home or on the road, although many fans chose not to use their tickets.

Have a great week and I look forward to reading your e-mails on my return!

Top of the 2nd
IN A NEW TWIST
Rick Ankiel returned to the major leagues last night as an outfielder and hit a three-run homer in the 7th inning as the Cardinals defeated the Padres, 5-0. After failing in his attempt to rejoin the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher, Ankiel went 1-4 as he replaced utilityman Scott Spiezio, who is entering a treatment program for a substance-abuse problem and will be put on Major League Baseball’s restricted list.

Ankiel was hitting .267 with 32 homers and 89 runs batted in at Class AAA Memphis. He also struck out 90 times.

Top of the 3rd
ENVOY CAL
Cal Ripken has been named a special sports envoy for the State Department and in that capacity in October he will visit China as America’s second special sports envoy. Michelle Kwan, five-time world figure skating champion, was chosen as the country’s first such envoy in 2006.

On Monday, Ripken will be introduced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a Washington news conference.

“This will be a really cool trip,” Ripken said. “Bringing baseball to a country where the game is not fully established will be challenging and exciting.”

Ripken will not be paid for the work, but travel expenses are paid by the State Department. Ripken has never been to China.

“I do like Chinese food, though,” he said.

Top of the 4th
CAN’T TELL THE PLAYERS WITH A SCORECARD
Every Cleveland Indians player will wear No. 14 tonight in honor of Larry Doby, who became the first African American to play in the American League 60 years ago. The Indians retired No. 14 in 1994. Mike Veeck, whose late father, Bill, owned the Indians when Cleveland signed Doby told The State, of Columbia, S.C., last month, “They don’t want to retire his number like they did for Jackie, and I think that’s disgraceful,” Veeck said. “We make all these noises about race. What better thing to have than two black men’s numbers as the only numbers retired across the league?”

By the way today is Rocky Colavito’s birthday and six years since the death of Lou Boudreau.

The Indians will honor Andre Thornton, Jim Bagby Sr., Mike Garcia and Charles Nagy as they induct them into the Indians Hall of Fame tomorrow night.

Top of the 5th
IT STAYS UGLY FOR WALLY
Former New York Mets star Wally Backman stepped down as manager of the independent South Georgia Peanuts on Tuesday after numerous conflicts with South Coast League officials, which included being suspended for a combined 14 games in a little more than two months. The Peanuts won the SCL’s first-half title.

Backman first was suspended three games for bumping an umpire during a June 12 game at the Aiken Foxhounds and suspended three more for an altercation in the press box with the broadcaster and general manager of the Anderson Joes on June 26. He then took an eight-game suspension on behalf of his coaching staff when the team was pulled off the field and forfeited a game, which was proceeded by a benches-clearing melee, July 20 at Macon. Backman had already been ejected from the game for a separate incident when the forfeit occurred.

Backman took umbrage Monday with the league when it suspended two of his players for 10 games after a drug test came back with a diluted sample from what the SCL alleged was a masking agent. He responded with a 228-word release and news conference, which called out the league medical director Rob Desantis for “not doing his job properly.”

Managing the Peanuts was Backman’s first job at any level of professional baseball since he was hired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks on November 1, 2004, then fired four days later in a whirlwind of controversy when the organization became aware of previous charges for DUI and assault.

Top of the 6th
FROM GENE
F-O-B-B Gene Schmittgens and a great Cardinals fans sent me this link to a terrific column by Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which speaks to the complicit relationship between Barry B*nds and MLB.
http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/columnists.nsf/berniemiklasz/story/08008200A565C5C68625733200113E39?OpenDocument

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
Nice match-up in Baltimore tonight
Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Red Sox Orioles 7:05 p.m. Matsuzaka (13-8) Bedard (12-4)
Yankees Indians 7:05 p.m. Hughes (1-1) Carmona (13-6)
Athletics Tigers 7:05 p.m. Blanton (9-8) Tata (1-1)
Marlins Mets 7:10 p.m. Barone (0-0) Lawrence (1-0)
Padres Reds 7:10 p.m. Ledezma (3-3) Belisle (6-8)
Braves Phillies 7:35 p.m. James (9-8) Hamels (12-5)
Brewers Astros 8:05 p.m. Bush (9-8) Jennings (2-7)
Dodgers Cardinals 8:10 p.m. Penny (13-3) Wainwright (10-8)
Blue Jays Royals 8:10 p.m. Marcum (8-4) Meche (7-9)
Mariners White Sox 8:11 p.m. Washburn (8-8) Vazquez (9-6)
Devil Rays Rangers 8:35 p.m. Sonnanstine (1-7) McCarthy (5-8)
Cubs Rockies 9:05 p.m. Marquis (8-7) Cook (8-6)
Nationals D-Backs 9:40 p.m. Chico (5-6) Hernandez (7-7)
Twins Angels 10:05 p.m. Baker (6-4) Escobar (11-6)
Pirates Giants 10:15 p.m. Morris (7-7) Ortiz (2-2)

Saturday, August 11, 2007
Nice match-up in Detroit

Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Red Sox Orioles 3:55 p.m. Beckett (14-5) Burres (5-5)
Dodgers Cardinals 3:55 p.m. Lowe (8-10) Looper (9-9)
Pirates Giants 3:55 p.m. Armas (1-3) Lincecum (6-2)
Padres Reds 3:55 p.m. Germano (6-6) Livingston (2-2)
Braves Phillies 7:05 p.m. Cormier (0-2) Eaton (9-7)
Brewers Astros 7:05 p.m. Suppan (8-9) Rodriguez (7-10)
Yankees Indians 7:05 p.m. Mussina (7-7) Byrd (10-4)
Athletics Tigers 7:05 p.m. Haren (13-3) Verlander (11-4)
Mariners White Sox 7:05 p.m. Batista (11-8) Floyd (1-1)
Marlins Mets 7:10 p.m. Olsen (9-9) Glavine (10-6)
Blue Jays Royals 7:10 p.m. McGowan (8-5) Nunez (1-0)
Cubs Rockies 8:05 p.m. Hill (6-6) Fogg (6-7)
Nationals D-Backs 8:05 p.m. Lannan (1-0) Webb (11-8)
Devil Rays Rangers 8:35 p.m. Jackson (2-11) Rheinecker (1-0)
Twins Angels 9:05 p.m. Silva (9-12) Lackey (14-6)

Top of the 8th
CURRENT STANDINGS
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Red Sox 69 45 .605 –
Yankees 63 51 .553 6
Blue Jays 57 56 .504 11.5
Orioles 52 61 .460 16.5
Devil Rays 44 70 .386 25

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
TEAM W L PCT GB
Indians 65 50 .565 –
Tigers 63 51 .553 1.5
Twins 58 56 .509 6.5
White Sox 53 61 .465 11.5
Royals 50 63 .442 14

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Angels 66 47 .584 –
Mariners 63 49 .563 2.5
A’s 55 60 .478 12
Rangers 49 65 .430 17.5

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Mets 64 50 .561 –
Braves 61 54 .530 3.5
Phillies 60 54 .526 4
Nationals 53 62 .461 11.5
Marlins 53 62 .461 11.5

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
TEAM W L PCT GB
Brewers 60 55 .522 –
Cubs 59 55 .518 0.5
Cardinals 53 59 .473 5.5
Astros 51 63 .447 8.5
Reds 49 65 .430 10.5
Pirates 45 66 .405 13

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
TEAM W L PCT GB
Diamondbacks 65 51 .560 –
Padres 61 53 .535 3
Dodgers 59 55 .518 5
Rockies 59 55 .518 5
Giants 49 64 .434 14.5

Top of the 9th
HAVE A GOOD WEEK
Thank you all for your kind attention and feedback this week. Now that Shrek has hit his homer I can go on vacation in piece. While I’m away DO SOME SHOPPING http://billy-ball.com/mall.asp and if there are stores you would like to be added, please let me know and I will do my best. All you have to do is click an icon and shop as usual, it’s as simple as that.

Stay healthy in my absence, please drop an e-mail, bill@billy-ball.com and remember stay cool and keep our planet cool.

See you soon.

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.