Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-8-29

8/29/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday to three people whose careers are going nowhere: Roy Oswalt, John McCain, and Michael Jackson

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Top of the 1st
THE BACK-UP
Take a quick look at the roster of your favorite team. The stars come to mind first, the starting rotation is next, followed by the closer, then comes the catcher, and the complete infield and outfield. That leaves you with eight or nine players mainly comprised of replaceable set-up men in the bullpen, your utility infielders, the number four outfielder and perhaps the guy who plays the corner infield positions and the outfield.

Who’d we leave out?

There is one guy who is invariably forgotten but he is a must for every team – the back-up catcher. There are about fifty of them, who, one time or another, have been behind the plate this season for less than 40 games. He’s the one who most often is the last one off the bench and most frequently doesn’t get into the All-Star Game.

I was reading about one recently who played in 227 games in his career and yet had six, yes, SIX, World Series rings. His name was Charlie Silvera and from 1948 to 1956 was a member of the New York Yankees, before ending his career playing one season with the Cubs (Silvera, batted .208 in 26 games with the Cubs, five more than he had played in during his last two seasons with the Yankees). His job was simple…backup to Yogi Berra.

“Yogi caught every . . . damn game,” Silvera, 82, recently told a reporter “You know, we had doubleheaders in those days, but he was a horse. He played every damn game.”

He played for teams that won a record five consecutive World Series championships from 1949 to ’53. The Yankees reached the World Series in seven of Silvera’s eight full seasons in New York, six times emerging victorious.

Silvera, over 10 major league seasons, totaled 482 at-bats. In 1950, one of his championship seasons, he didn’t bat until June 17, two months into the season. And though his lifetime batting average was .282 (including .327 in 1952), he hit only one home run.

“July 4, 1951,” Silvera says. “It was off of Fred Sanford of the Washington Senators, July 4, 1951, in Yankee Stadium. It was the only day I caught a doubleheader in the big leagues. I still have the ball which I hit down the left-field line. It was 301 feet to the pole, and I hit it 310.” That was another championship season.

He played with nine Hall of Famers. He roomed with six, including Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. And before Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, it was Silvera who warmed up Don Larsen in the bullpen.

Opposing players gave him a hard time referring to him, “Jesse James, the payroll bandit.” They asked if his paychecks came gift-wrapped. Adds Silvera, laughing, “They’d say, ‘Do you use anything on the bench to keep your fanny from getting sore?’ I had a lot of fun with it.”

He appeared in only one World Series game, going 0 for 2 at Yankee Stadium in a 1-0 Game 2 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 6, 1949. Still it was another championship season. He was awarded championship rings celebrating the ’49, ’50, ’51 and ’52 titles, opted for a silver cigarette case in ’53, was presented with a belt buckle commemorating the Yankees’ American League pennant in ’55 and won another ring in ’56. He added a sixth championship ring as a scout for the Florida Marlins in 1997.

He still wears the first ring he won as a Yankee. “That’s when I did most of my playing, in ’49,” says Silvera, who batted .315 in a career-high 130 at-bats in 1949, his first full major league season. “Yogi’s thumb was broken and I played about the last six weeks of the season. He came back right before the Series. I played the second game and that was it. I never even got to pinch-hit after that.”

After retiring Swede coached for the Minnesota Twins under Billy Martin, and then the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers. He has also scouted for the Washington Senators, Atlanta Braves, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, and Florida Marlins and still does some work as an advance scout for the Chicago Cubs. “I scout the teams the Cubs will be playing. I look for tendencies: Who hits and runs, what the count was, if there was a squeeze or a steal. Little things that I send along to the advance scout. I don’t tell him how to pitch to hitters.” I guess all those years on the bench made him a good watcher.

Does Silvera have regrets as to his plight of being the ultimate back-up?

In his words, “Couldn’t be duplicated. It’s a storybook. You can’t script it any better.”

Top of the 2nd
THE WEEK THUS FAR
A number of teams kept their chances in the “slim” category, while others moved closer to “none.”

Johnny Damon’s two-run homer in the 7th inning against the increasingly annoying Daisuke Matsuzaka broke a 3-3 tie and led the Yankees past the Red Sox, 5-3. Damon, now the Yankees left fielder and designated hitter finally is looking healthy and displaying the energy the Yankees need for the September stretch. He was hitting .231 on July 20. Since then, Damon is 42 for 118 (.356 average) with 4 homers and 21 runs batted in.

It was the 22nd time in 27 starts that Matsuzaka has pitched at least six innings. “He leads our team in quality starts, innings pitched and strikeouts, yet doesn’t have the wins that a couple guys have,” pitching coach John Farrell told the New York Times’ Murray Chass, alluding to the 16-game winners Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield. “But in terms of his physical preparation and the adjustments he has had to go through, both off the field and on the field, he’s made a very successful transition.” Dice-K, on the other hand, seems even more deliberate on the mound and seems to be putting his teammates into a somnambulistic state. It’s no wonder that he gets so little run support. While this loss in no way puts the Sox divisional title dreams in jeopardy, manager Tito Francona has to be concerned that Manny Ramirez and his replacement Bobby Kielty both left the game with lower back stiffness. Perhaps of even greater concern was that J.D. Drew didn’t.

Trailing 2-0 in the 8th, the Phillies, fooled by Tom Glavine through seven innings, tied the score in the 8th on Aaron Rowand’s swinging bunt that traveled about 30 feet. They then won the game 4-2 on a two-run homer by Ryan Howard off Guillermo Mota in the 10th inning. The Phillies activated Adam Eaton from the DL last night to start against the Mets. He had been sidelined with shoulder inflammation. Eaton began the night with a 6.36 earned run average but he, and the Philly relievers limited the Mets to six hits and no run runs following Carlos Delgado’s two-run homer in the 2nd inning. Phillies closer Brett Myers pitched two perfect innings. Mota, on the other hand, has allowed runs in six of his last seven appearances, 12 over all in eight and a third innings for a 12.96 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in the 15 times that Mota has pitched a full inning followed by part of another one, he has allowed 13 earned runs over all for a 4.39 earned run average. The Mets have now lost three in a row while the Phillies have won three straight.

Alejandro De Aza’s 11th-inning sacrifice fly gave the Florida Marlins a 4-3 victory over Atlanta. Atlanta struck out 19 times as the Marlins, with the worst record in the National League , won for just the second time in 14 games.

Good night for the Padres as Brandon Webb (14-9) allowed a season-high six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and had his six-game winning streak snapped as the Pads beat Arizona 6-4 to pull within one game of the division-leading Diamondbacks. Webb allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked three. Justin Germano beat Webb for the second time in their three matchups this year. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings, struck out four and walked three. Germano won for the first time since July 15, snapping a string of four losses in seven starts. Trevor Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances, extending his career record to 517.

San Diego has won seven of nine overall and is back to a game behind Arizona for the first time since Aug. 7. San Diego had a one-game lead at the All-Star break, over the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Diamondbacks 3