Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-8-2

8/2/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday, Grady Sizemore, Huston Street and Tim Wakefield

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Top of the 1st
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
I have never denied how lucky I am. Lucky to be have a wonderful family, lucky to have great friends, lucky to have baseball as part of my life, lucky to be doing things I love. Last night, I felt lucky as I always do when a friend takes me to a ballgame, but it was a really different experience last night.

Last night I sat with Brian Reich in seats that were three rows off the field right by the Red Sox on-deck circle. Each player as he prepared to bat was about three yards from me. It was unlike anything I had experienced, but for reasons I totally didn’t expect. I found I was watching the players, the individuals and not the game.

I started scoring the game as usual in the top of the 1st but gave that up by the top of the 2nd. You can’t watch the players, watch the game, watch for your safety as foul pops approach you, and score at the same time.

I couldn’t help but stare at each player as they prepared to bat. I found I was hardly ever looking at the scoreboard which was filled with information. I more than once lost track of the number of outs in an inning. All of these were characteristics that were unfamiliar to me but I was lost watching the game within a game.

I was fascinated that Dustin Pedroia looks so young that this appears to be a summer job. He has a youthful exuberance that allows him still to respond to his surroundings. Kevin Youkilis was the only Sox who put himself in the position to watch the Orioles pitcher as he pitched and seemed to time his warm-up swings in response to the pitches. Youk was the only one who truly showed emotion when he lined a shot that was grabbed by the third baseman. He wants those to drop in.

As Big Papi and Manny waited for a reliever to take his warm-up pitches they stood three feet apart swinging their bats, staying loose, not talking to one another. There is very little communication between teammates on the field. Most of the talking is between the players of different teams.

David Ortiz swings the bat hard in the on-deck area and you can hear it when he slaps his hands together. He is a big man, but looked small when new Celtic Kevin Garnett was introduced and threw out the first ball. They know each other from Ortiz’ Minnesota days and when they hugged Garnett dwarfed Big Papi.

Manny has a glazed look and looks smaller than I have ever seen him. No belly, even his arms look smaller (http://billy-ball.com/B-B-Pics.htm). If a ball rolled to where one of the players was standing, invariably they would pick it up and toss it to a fan in the stands. A ball rolled to within three feet of Manny and he was oblivious. The ump had to call the bat boy to pick it up.

Jason Varitek is huge, much bigger than Manny. Watch him during the game and you will see a terrific athlete always backing up the first baseman on infield grounders. He talks to some batters early in the game but by the middle of the game on, it’s all business.

The two most impressive fielders to watch last night were Mike Lowell and Miguel Tejada. Each approach ground balls differently but consistently are totally prepared and in position. We noticed early on that the infield does have some undulation to it and saw the ball hit a dead spot that caused Tejada to commit an error. Julio Lugo made a great stop going to his left. He’s the only player who makes furtive glances into the stands. Watching the development of a double play is one of baseball beautiful dances. Pedroia is magnificent at making the turn at second. Youkilis is a gifted first baseman.

An 87 mph fastball, slow by big league standards is still very fast. Jonathan Paplebon at 95 mph is so nasty it should be illegal. His pitches were an “in your face” message not only to the Orioles but to Eric Gagne.

The whole night I felt like I was looking through a microscope seeing things I’ve never seen before. The Sox won 5-4, but last night for me the game was just an afterthought;

Top of the 2nd
CHECK THE FLAG ATOP WRIGLEY
The New York Mets got three run homers from Ramon Castro and Marlon Anderson and defeated the Brewers, 8-5 and knocked Milwaukee into second place. With the Cubs beating Philadelphia, 5-4 on Brett Myers’ bases-loaded wild pitch in the bottom of the 9th, the Cubbies moved into first place by .001.

“You people make too much out of first place,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella told reporters. “It’s the first of August.”

But in response, Paul Sullivan reporter for the Chicago Tribune appropriately writes in response, “But is it really possible to make too much out of being in first place when you were 8 1/2 games out on June 23, when you’re coming off a 96-loss season, and when you haven’t won a World Series in 99 years?”

Since Lou Piniella’s June 2 tirade the Cubs have the best record (35-18) in baseball.

If you need further proof that hell has frozen over – Kerry Wood, who sat in the Cubs dugout in uniform, is expected to be available to play Friday against New York for the first time this year. He’ll be a middle reliever.

Top of the 3rd
YANKEES SALUTE THE SIMPSONS
The Yankees are doing their part to promote “The Simpsons Movie” because everybody is homer happy. Well, almost everybody. Alex Rodriguez remained stuck at 499 career homers, going 0-for-4 in the New York Yankees’ 8-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, but Jorge Posada homered twice, and Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Shelley Duncan also connected to give the Yankees 13 home runs in two games. That tied the team record for a two-game span set in a doubleheader at the Philadelphia Athletics on June 28, 1939.

A-Rod is 0-21 matching the longest hitless streak of his big league career and is hitless since he went deep at Kansas City last Wednesday, dropping his season average to .295.

Andy Pettitte (7-7) improved to 3-1 in his last six starts, allowing one run and six hits in seven innings as New York won its third straight and closed within two of Cleveland for the AL wild-card lead.

Top of the 4th
THE WEAVERS CAN’T WIN
One night after the Angels beat up Jeff Weaver, the Mariners had their way with younger brother Jared as they defeated the Halos 8-7 in 12 innings. Yuniesky Betancourt grounded a single through the left side of a five-man infield to score Adrian Beltre with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning to enable the Mariners to take two of three from the Angels and pulled back to within three games of the AL West leaders despite a rare blown save by All-Star closer J.J. Putz. Eric O’Flaherty (7-0) got the final out of the top of the 12th as Seattle won for the fifth time in six games.

Adam Jones, who has been starring at Triple-A Tacoma, will join Seattle on Friday, manager John McLaren said. Jones is hitting .314 with 25 homers and 84 RBI. He turned 22 yesterday.

Top of the 5th
BILL ROBINSON
Bill Robinson, a longtime outfielder who played on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1979 World Series champions and was the batting coach for World Series winners with the Mets and Florida Marlins, died Sunday in Las Vegas. He was 64.

Robinson, who was in Las Vegas to work with the 51s, was found dead in his hotel room at Paris Las Vegas on Sunday morning — only hours after he threw batting practice and coached first base for the 51s in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Round Rock at Cashman Field.

Robinson was in his second season in the Dodger organization following four years as a member of the Florida Marlins coaching staff, where he was the hitting coach for the 2003 World Championship team. He also served in that role for the New York Mets from 1984-89, which included their 1986 World Championship.

Robinson was envisioned as a future star when the Yankees obtained him in November 1966 from the Atlanta Braves for third baseman Clete Boyer. He was even referred to at times as “a new Mickey Mantle.”

Robinson played for the Phillies in the early 1970s, then had his most notable success with the Pirates from 1975 to 1982, twice hitting .300. Playing in a lineup that included Willie Stargell and Dave Parker, Robinson hit 24 home runs for the team that won the 1979 World Series, defeating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games.

Robinson hit 166 home runs and had a career batting average of .258 in 16 major league seasons. His last at bat was as a member of the Phillies on May 23, 1983, when he pinch-hit for Ivan DeJesus and struck out looking against Fernando Valenzuela.

Top of the 6th
TAKING STOCK OF B*NDS
This guy is killing me.

I’ve made my feelings about Barry B*nds abundantly clear, but in spite of that by no means do I intend to ignore the milestone that B*nds will achieve with two more homers.

Just hit them already.

The B*nds watch is blocking other pieces being published, other stories being written and seemingly putting B*nds and the writers covering him in a testy mood.

I go to bed thinking about him and I wake up and immediately check on him. Like soccer, he has become an annoying, yet intrinsic part of my existence.

When I went to bed last night he was working on an oh-fer and this morning I found that he finished the night 0-for-3 with an intentional walk in the Giants 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. B*nds’ .186 average in July was his lowest in a month since April 1991 when he hit .177, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That includes months in which he had at least 15 at-bats.

Former Giant Brett Tomko is scheduled to pitch the series finale tonight for the Dodgers. The right-hander has given up one homer to Bonds in 22 at-bats with 13 walks.

Unless he hits two tonight, you can take stock of B*nds here in the Top of the 6th tomorrow, dammit.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
The Minnesota Twins have postponed today’s game against Kansas City following a bridge collapse near the Metrodome, and team president Dave St. Peter said their weekend series with Cleveland also could be affected.

Time Away Home Away Starter Home Starter
12:05 pm Texas Cleveland Jamey Wright Jake Westbrook
12:35 pm St. Louis Pittsburgh Anthony Reyes Shane Youman
1:05 pm Baltimore Boston Jeremy Guthrie Tim Wakefield
1:05 pm Chi. White Sox N.Y. Yankees Jon Garland Roger Clemens
2:05 pm N.Y. Mets Milwaukee Brian Lawrence Chris Capuano
2:20 pm Philadelphia Chi. Cubs Kyle Lohse Sean Marshall
3:35 pm Arizona San Diego Yusmeiro Petit Jake Peavy

7:05 pm Cincinnati Washington Phil Dumatrait Mike Bacsik
7:05 pm Colorado Florida Jason Hirsh Rick Vanden Hurk
7:35 pm Houston Atlanta Woody Williams Jo-Jo Reyes

10:05 pm L.A. Angels Oakland Joe Saunders Chad Gaudin
10:10 pm San Francisco L.A. Dodgers Barry Zito Brett Tomko
Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Buddy Bell announced that he was resigning as manager of the last-place Kansas City Royals effective at the end of the season. He will join the Royals’ front office in 2008 as a senior adviser to general manager Dayton Moore. Last September, Bell had surgery to remove a cancerous growth in his throat.

Before becoming the Royals’ 14th manager on May 31, 2005, Bell managed the Detroit Tigers from 1996-1998 and the Colorado Rockies from 2000-2002. His record with Colorado was 161-185 .465, with Detroit 184-277 .399, and with Kansas City 152- 228 .400.

Top of the 9th
NEED A SCORECARD?
Billy-Ball.com to the rescue – download either:
http://billy-ball.com/documents/scorecard2.pdf
http://billy-ball.com/documents/pcscorecard.pdf – this has pitch count

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.