Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-9-24

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The only spin here is on my screwball – Happy birthday, Kevin Millar.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Top of the 1st
Yesterday, 40,519 fans, the largest crowd of the season, made their way to RFK Stadium to say goodbye to their Washington Nationals and good riddance to RFK. The home team won, 5-3 over the Philadelphia Phillies.

The pregame ceremony featured eight former Washington Senators including the gentle giant, slugger Frank Howard, who played such an important part of the prior incarnation of a team in the nation’s capital. RFK hosted the Senators from 1962 to 1971, when they relocated to become the Texas Rangers. For three years, it has been a temporary home for the Nationals, who moved from Montreal before the 2005 season. It was RFK’s 1,046th regular season baseball game.

The game ended with a strikeout of Jayson Werth by pitcher Chad Cordero at 3:39 p.m. Home plate was dug out by team owner Theodore Lerner and Manager Manny Acta in a fitting postgame ceremony.

The Nationals’ outfielder Ryan Church pretty much summed up the sentiments about leaving.

So, Ryan, anything you’re going to miss about the place?


Nothing at all?


Then, after thinking about it for a few moments, Church said: “Opening day 2005. That’s it.”

“There’s a lot of things I won’t miss,” said catcher Brian Schneider, part of the crew of former Expos who brought baseball back to Washington. “The dugouts are tiny — two people can’t walk next to each other without going up on the steps. At times, the smell in the dugouts gets to you. But, you know, it’s an old stadium, so you can’t expect it to smell great and you can’t expect it to be spacious.”

The Nationals played their first game at RFK on April 14, 2005 and the win yesterday gave the Nationals a winning record (122-121) during their 3-year stay at RFK. The (expansion) Senators went 363-441 (.451) at RFK from 1962-71.

The last hit was recorded by the Phils’ Aaron Rowan, who also had the last RBI. The last run scored was by Chase Utley. The final win went to Luis Ayala. The final loss to Antonio Alfonseca. The final home run was hit by Chase Utley on September 22.

I look forward to sharing with you the stories of the final days of the Washington Senators in my book that will be out in February.

Top of the 2nd
As we hurry to the end of the season, we rush to judgment:

y–Red Sox 92 64 .590 –
Yankees 90 65 .581 1.5
e–Blue Jays 78 77 .503 13.5
e–Orioles 66 89 .426 25.5
e-Devil Rays 64 92 .410 28

x–Indians 92 63 .594 –
d–Tigers 85 71 .545 7.5
e–Twins 76 79 .490 16
e–White Sox 68 88 .436 24.5
e–Royals 67 88 .432 25

x–Angels 92 64 .590 –
d–Mariners 83 72 .535 8.5
e–A’s 75 82 .478 17.5
e–Rangers 72 84 .462 20

Mets 87 68 .561 –
Phillies 85 71 .545 2.5
Braves 82 74 .526 5.5
e–Nationals 69 87 .442 18.5
e–Marlins 66 90 .423 21.5

Cubs 83 73 .532 –
Brewers 79 76 .510 3.5
e–Cardinals 73 82 .471 9.5
e–Reds 71 85 .455 12
e–Astros 68 88 .436 15
e–Pirates 66 90 .423 17

Diamondbacks 88 68 .564 –
Padres 85 70 .548 2.5
Rockies 84 72 .538 4
d–Dodgers 80 76 .513 8
e–Giants 69 87 .442 19

x–clinched the division title
y–clinched a postseason berth
d–mathematically eliminated from winning the division title
e–mathematically eliminated from the postseason

Wild Card Standings
NY Yankees 90 65 .581 –
Detroit 85 71 .545 5.5
Seattle 83 72 .535 7

San Diego
85 70 .548 –
85 71 .545 .5
84 72 .538 1.5
82 74 .526 3.5
LA Dodgers
80 76 .513 5.5
79 76 .510 6

If Fox Sports is looking for a ratings getter this fall television season they may have found one, “Umpires Gone Wild!!!!” If there is even one aspect of truth of what happened in the San Diego – Colorado yesterday, then MLB should borrow NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or NBA Commissioner David Stern to dole out some appropriate punishment.

Here’s a version of what happened: In the 5th inning yesterday, plate umpire Brian Runge called Milton Bradley out on strikes to end the inning. Now everybody knows Bradley has anger issues, but reportedly all he did was linger at the plate – much as he did Sept. 4 in Arizona when he was ejected by Phil Cuzzi – before removing his gloves. He then turned to move toward the field, he flung his bat to the ground, but not in the direction of Runge.

We now move to the 8th inning when Runge asked Bradley, “Did you throw your bat at me?” Both Bradley and Runge agreed that Bradley’s response was: “No.” From this point on we get into a game of “He Said, He Said.”

Bradley said he then asked Runge if that’s what first base ump Mike Winters had told Runge. “I said, ‘No, No.’ ” Runge told The Associated Press. “I told (Bradley) I didn’t think he had (thrown the bat at me). I told him to calm down.”

Then, shortly after Bradley arrived at first base via a single, Bradley said Winters called him “a (expletive) piece of (expletive).” Padres first-base coach Bobby Meacham said,
“In my 26 years of baseball, that was the most disconcerting conversation I have heard from an umpire to a player. The way Winters responded was bizarre. It was almost like he wanted to agitate the situation. “I was appalled. That’s why the game stopped. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Meacham. “Milton did not use foul language. The umpire, absolutely. He called Milton a name (apparently after Bradley had pointed in the direction of a fan who was booing Winters). That’s when I stepped on the field and said, ‘You cannot do that.’ “Even before that, I was saying this is wrong, this is ridiculous. The name that Winters called Milton, had he said it to me, I would have rushed him. No one is going to take that.”

Asked whether what Winters said had racial overtones, Meacham, who, like Bradley, is black, replied, “It smacked of that tone.” Meacham said when Winters told the other members of the crew what had happened, “he lied.”

“Milton held his cool until something was said by Winters that would have had me sprinting at the umpires,” said Meacham. “Me, Milton and Todd Helton (the Rockies’ first baseman) are the only three people who know what was said.”

Helton took the baseball equivalent of the Fifth Amendment, saying, “It was very interesting.”

Bradley, meantime, twisted his right knee as manager Bud Black was pulling him away from Winters and flung Bradley to the turf. Afterward, Bradley said he was going to take “some action.” “I’m a target, no doubt about it,” said Bradley. “This was the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen. That guy (Winters) is definitely going to lie in his report. “When does the harping on me stop? He needs to be reprimanded.”

As I said, if even one part of this is true Bud Selig and Bob Dupuy should attempt to emulate the action of the two commissioners who look out for their sport and rid baseball of Winters.

Read my AL assessment of the final week:

The following teams play seven games this week: Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, N.Y. Mets, N.Y. Yankees, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis and Toronto.

* Delmon Young hit a two-run homer against knuckler Tim Wakefield and the Devil Rays beat the Red Sox, 5-4.
* The Red Sox magic number is 6.
* The Red Sox became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot, rallying on ninth-inning home runs by Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 8-6 on Saturday. The victory assured the Red Sox of at least the AL wild-card spot.
* Terry Francona is the first manager to lead the Red Sox into the playoffs three times.
* Tim Wakefield entered the game 9-0 at Tropicana Field and 19-2 overall against Tampa Bay, but he has allowed 21 runs in his last 17 2/3 innings.
* Boston won the season series against the Devil Rays, 13-5.
* Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez (strained left oblique) missed his 24th consecutive game. He still feels discomfort while running, but took batting practice and played catch.

* The Yankees celebrated Joba Chamberlain’s 22nd birthday by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 7-5 and by rewriting Joba Rules. The primary rule has been that Chamberlain rest a day if he pitches an inning and rests two days if he pitches two innings; he is not to appear in back-to-back games. Chamberlain pitched two innings Friday, so he shouldn’t have been available yesterday. But the Blue Jays and Yankees had played 24 innings and nine hours 45 minutes of baseball through the first two games of this four-game series, so Torre checked with both general manager Brian Cashman and minor-league pitching co-ordinator Nardi Contreras to see whether it was all right to use Chamberlain. My bet is that he “begged” more than “checked.” Chamberlain came in for the first time in his career with men on base, entering in the 8th inning with two on after Matt Stairs’s 20th home run, against Luis Vizcaino. Chamberlain, who had entered in the middle of an inning for the first time Friday night (with the bases empty), struck out Adam Lind on five sliders, then whipped through the Blue Jays in order in the 9th for his first save. Chamberlain, who has given up one earned run in 21 2/3 innings pitched, striking out 31 batters and walking six.
* Yankee first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz is 10-for-23 (.435) with seven RBIs since returning from the DL on Sept. 1.
* The Yankees are a season-high 25 games over .500 .

* Jake Westbrook struck out a career-high nine and Grady Sizemore had four hits as the Indians beat the A’s 6-2 to clinch their first AL Central title since 2001.
* Cleveland has 43 come-from-behind wins, including 13 in their final at-bat at home.
* There is new tradition at the Jake as Trot Nixon surprises teammates who are being interviewed on TV following home wins with a whipped-cream pie to the face.
* During their wild postgame celebration, the Tribe ripped through 150 bottles of champagne — French and domestic — and 30 cases of beer were dumped, gulped and sloshed around before another 20 cases were ordered.
* The Indians’ Victor Martinez hit four home runs against Justin Verlander, twice as many as any team has hit off Verlander.

* The Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-2, as Justin Verlander won his 18th game of the season, one more than he won a year ago in his Rookie of the Year debut. His ERA slipped to 3.68, just above last year’s 3.63. He pitched 186 innings a year ago but will likely pass the 200-inning mark in his final start, next weekend at Chicago. He had 124 strikeouts in 31 starts in 2006 and has jumped to 176 strikeouts in 30 starts this season.
* The Tigers need 25 hits in their final six games to break the franchise record of 1,611, set in 1937. They are within 16 total bases of the 1987 team record of 2,548.

* John Lackey’s win in the Angels’ 7-4 victory over the Mariners yesterday gave him an 8-4 record with a 3.31 ERA in 16 starts at home this season. More importantly, the Angels clinched the division title earlier than any of the other five times. The 1979 club locked up the West on Sept. 25.
* Here’s something to watch for: Kelvim Escobar has an inflamed throwing shoulder, an injury that flared up two starts ago in Baltimore, got considerably worse after Monday night’s game against Tampa Bay and forced Escobar to be scratched from Saturday’s game against Seattle. Escobar has given up 20 earned runs and 29 hits in 17 2/3 innings of his last four starts, an earned-run average of 10.19.
* Researcher Trent McCotter of the Society of American Baseball Research discovered that from May 26-Sept. 18, the Angels’ Chone Figgins batted .400, going 132-for-330. It’s the second longest stretch of maintaining a .400 average by an Angel in the last 35 years. Rod Carew went 370 at-bats from August of 1982 to June of 1983, collecting 148 hits in the process. Darin Erstad also had a similar streak from June 3 to July 25 in 2000, going 80-for-200 (.400).
* The Angels’ finished their home schedule 54-27, matching the 2002 World Series championship team for the best mark in franchise history.
* The Halos 34th sellout crowd boosted their total home attendance to 3,365,632.
* Believe it or not, the Mariners can still make the playoffs. First, they have to win all their games. Then, the Yankees have to lose all their games without the Tigers getting hot. Then, Osama bin Laden has to register for the South Carolina primary as a Republican. That would put the Mariners in a one-game playoff at Yankee Stadium next Monday.
* The Mariners (82-72) finished their road schedule 39-41, four games worse than last season.
* The Mariners were 20 games over .500 on Aug. 24.

* The Mets bullpen is shakier than a bowl of Jell-O during a tsunami, but David Wright’s single in the 11th gave New York a huge 7-6 win in Florida against the Marlins. After the Mets took a 6-3 lead with four runs in the top of the 8th, thanks to Carlos Delgado’s three-run homer, Aaron Heilman allowed two Marlins runs in the bottom of the inning and Billy Wagner allowed Dan Uggla’s tying home run to lead off the 9th.
* The Mets reduced their magic number for clinching the NL East title to five.
* Mets starter John Maine gave up three earned runs in five-plus innings, matching a career best with nine strikeouts.
* Yesterday, Moises Alou singled to top David Wright’s team hitting-streak record of 26 straight games, set in 2006-07. Alou also eclipsed Cleveland’s Casey Blake for the longest hitting streak in the majors this year.
* Carlos Delgado’s home run yesterday was the 431st of his career, tying him with Cal Ripken Jr. for 37th on the all-time list.
* Wagner has five blown saves in 39 chances.
* The Mets improved to 9-53 when trailing after six innings.
* The Metsies were 47-34 on the road this season.
* The Mets now return home for their last seven games of the regular season.
* Philip Humber will make his first big-league start on Wednesday in order to give Pedro Martinez an extra day of rest. He has made four appearances in the big leagues, all out of the bullpen. El Duque’s foot injury continues to prevent him from pitching.

* The Washington Nationals beat the Phillies 5-3 in the final game at RFK
* The Phils’ Cole Hamels pitched five innings yesterday in his second start since missing a month with a strained left elbow, giving up one run and two hits. He didn’t factor in the decision and hasn’t lost in his last seven starts. His last loss was July 19.
* Ryan Howard tied Adam Dunn’s major league record by striking out for the 195th time. He’s played in only 138 games this season.
* Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to a team-season-high 18 games

* Derrick Lee homered and Carlos Zambrano earned his career-best 17th win to help the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-0. Zambrano allowed just three hits in six innings but was forced to leave with cramping in his forearm and legs while warming up for the top of the 7th. Zambrano (17-13) walked three and struck out six, fanning his first four batters. Kerry Wood replaced Zambrano and pitched two innings. Michael Wuertz completed the three-hit shutout.
* The Cubs have won 10 of 12.
* Manager Lou Piniella got his 1,602nd managerial victory, tying him with Fred Clarke for 15th place all-time. He’s 17 wins away from tying Ralph Houk for 14th.
* The Cubs hit 10 homers during the three-game sweep of the Pirates and now have 38 homers in September to tie a franchise mark for the month set in 2004.
* Derrek Lee has hit at least 20 homers seven times.
* The Cubs have thrown eight shutouts this season.
* The Pirates have been shut out 12 times.
* Chicago has a 19-22 record against southpaws this season but is 6-1 against them in September and 9-3 since Aug. 16.
* The Cubs’ final home crowd of 41,364 brought the 81-game regular season total to 3,252,462, a franchise record.

* Atlanta rallied for four runs in the 7th inning, handing the Brewers a 7-4 loss.
* Milwaukee lost for the fourth time in five games.
* The Brewers have blown a three-run lead 16 times this year.
* Milwaukee dropped to 12-9 in September.
* The Brewers are 12-22 at Turner Field, which opened in 1997.
* The Brewers, who begin a three-game series against St. Louis today, have lost six straight to the Cardinals.

* The Diamondbacks lost 7-1 to Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers as Los Angeles stopped a seven-game losing streak. Juan Pierre had four hits and James Loney added three, including a two-run homer. Tony Abreu also connected for the Dodgers
* In his last three starts, Arizona pitcher Doug Davis (13-12, 4.27 ERA) has allowed 12 earned runs and 25 hits in 12 2-3 innings.
* Arizona went 50-31 at home this season, the third-most victories in team history. The Diamondbacks won 55 home games in 2002 and 52 in 1999, winning the division both years.
* Arizona’s regular-season finale drew 43,372. The Diamondbacks drew 2,325,233, their highest attendance since 2004.
* The Diamondbacks are an NL-best 41-25 since the All-Star break, and they have won 16 of 21 series in that span.
* Diamondbacks’ 12 pinch-hit home runs are the most in the majors.
* Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley won for the fifth time in six decisions. Billingsley did not win a game between July 23 and Aug. 23.
* Scott Proctor has not allowed an earned run in 13 1-3 innings, dating to Aug. 24 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. In September, Proctor has struck out 12 and allowed six hits in 9 1-3 innings.
* The Dodgers went 39-42 on the road this year.

* The Rockies 7-3 win yesterday gave them an impressive three-game sweep of the wild card-leading Padres. Greg Maddux, of aching back fame, was rocked for the second time in three starts, giving up five runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings. He has given up 14 runs on 25 hits in 12 innings (a 10.50 ERA) over his past three starts.
* Mike Cameron suffered what was described as a bruised thumb and finger on his right hand when he was apparently stepped on by Bradley while unsuccessfully trying to catch Garrett Atkins’ drive to left-center that went for an inside-the-park home run.
* Atkins’ inside-the-parker was the first of his career, the first for a Rockies player this season and the ninth in franchise history.
* With three away games left, the Rockies have tied the 1997 club record of 36 road wins.
* Jeff Francis’ 17th win matched Kevin Ritz (1996) and Pedro Astacio (1999) for the franchise single-season record.
* Milton Bradley said the knee that buckled while he was being restrained during his argument with first-base umpire Mike Winters “might end my season.”
* The Padres never led in the three-game set against the Rockies and scored six runs on 17 hits over 32 innings.
* Colorado right fielder Brad Hawpe went 8-for-13 with a double, two homers and five RBI. Todd Helton was 5-for-14 for the series, with three RBI. The Rockies bullpen allowed two runs on five hits over 13 1/3 innings in the series.
* The Padres finished the season with an 8-10 record against both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks.

Top of the 3rd
There is so much sniping going on in Dodger Town that you are safer walking the streets of Baghdad wearing a t-shirt that reads “It’s just another Sunni day!” Dylan Hernandez writes in the LA Times that word got back to the Dodgers’ clubhouse on Friday that Jeff Kent had criticized the team’s younger players, and James Loney wasn’t pleased. Matt Kemp said he was disappointed. And Manager Grady Little admitted that clubhouse cohesion has been “quite a challenge” with a significant number of his players being on one extreme or the other of the age spectrum.

Kent said of the younger players: “I don’t know why they don’t get it.” Of what they don’t get, Kent said, “A lot of things. Professionalism. How to manufacture a run. How to keep your emotions in it. There’s just a lot of things that go on with playing 162 games.” He added: “It’s close to the end of the season. And a career for me too. I’m running out of time. A lot of kids in here, they don’t understand that.”

Loney and Kemp acknowledged that their inexperience has resulted in mistakes, but denied they lack a sense of urgency. “The younger guys, we work hard, we play hard,” Kemp said. “We’re trying to make a name in the game for ourselves. The older guys, they’ve already made their names for themselves. We don’t want to get that bad rap, that we don’t want to win or we don’t want to play hard, because you won’t make it far in this game.” Loney said the sizable generation gap in the clubhouse, and the fact there are few players in their prime to bridge the gap between young and old, probably resulted in some misunderstandings.

Asked if manager Grady Little had adequately managed the personalities on the team, Loney replied, “I don’t really have anything to say on that.” Which brings me to a column by T.J. Simers who reports, “The other day in Colorado, A Martinez, who covers every home and away game for radio, went on TV, telling the KCAL Think Blue pregame audience the manager of the Dodgers has lost his grip on the team.

“The sentiment is that Grady [Little] is starting to lose some of these guys and may have been losing them for a couple of weeks now,” Martinez said on TV, while indicating that he was getting this from a number of unnamed Dodger players.”

The manager responded, “I have never lost a clubhouse in my life,” Little said. “That hurts, putting that out there with so many people listening and believing what he has to say.”

LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke writes, “Turns out, the clubhouse has been more eccentric than eclectic. The kids have driven veterans crazy with mistakes. The veterans have driven their manager nutty over lineup decisions.

The fans have turned on nearly all of them, howling at Little, chastising Colletti, booing the first bad pitch, begging for the sort of mass firings they once abhorred.”

What a mess. Clearly they need a surge.

Top of the 4th
Barry B*nds has repeatedly failed to show up for the Giants annual team photo.

He won’t be in it next year either.

Top of the 5th
Alex Rodriguez’ agent Scott Boras denies says he has had talks with any of the possible bidders for the Chicago Cubs about his prized client, reports the contrary.

Rodriguez can opt out of the final three years of his contract with the New York Yankees, which calls for him to receive $27 million in each of the next three seasons and possible suitors include the Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, both Los Angeles franchises, the Detroit Tigers, and, if they can figure out a place to play him, the Mets.

According to the website, “A source with knowledge of the situation says Boras knows which group is most likely to be awarded the team. The source says Boras has already been in touch with that group about the possibility of a contract that could reach $30 million a year over the next 10 years while deferring a certain portion of money toward an eventual stake in the franchise.”

John Canning, chairman of private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, is thought to be a favorite to buy the team from Tribune Co., which is in the process of being purchased by an entity controlled by real estate investor Sam Zell. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban submitted an application to examine the Cubs’ finances.
Speaking before Sunday’s 7-5 win over Toronto, Rodriguez said the report was “nonsense,” as far as he knew (please note the disclaimer).

“Great players with great demand create great rumors,” Boras said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “While I would enjoy having lunch with Mark Cuban and Canning, at this point of the year that conversation would not include Alex Rodriguez. I have not talked to anyone.”

Top of the 6th
On this date in 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.

So it goes

Top of the 7th
My latest streak is 5, thanks to strong weekend playing MLB Fantasy Survivor.

I’m going with 20 benitosantiagos on the Padres tonight.

Here’s where you can play:

Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees, 1:05 pm
(R) AJ Burnett (9-7) vs. (R) Roger Clemens (6-6)
Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles, 7:05 pm
(R) Gil Meche (9-12) vs. (R) Daniel Cabrera (9-17)
Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers, 7:05 pm
(R) Carlos Silva (12-14) vs. (L) Nate Robertson (8-12)
LA Angels of Anaheim at Texas Rangers, 8:05 pm
(R) Ervin Santana (7-13) vs. (R) Armando Galarraga (0-0)

Washington Nationals at New York Mets, 7:10 pm
(L) Matt Chico (5-9) vs. (R) Mike Pelfrey (3-7)
St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers, 8:05 pm
(R) Adam Wainwright (13-11) vs. (R) Dave Bush (11-10)
San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants, 10:15 pm
(R) Chris Young (9-7) vs. (L) Barry Zito (9-13)

Top of the 8th
In in what might have been his last home game for Minnesota, Torii Hunter, who went 1-for-3 and scored twice. Just before the top of the 9th inning began, manager Ron Gardenhire sent Jason Tyner in for Hunter to let the popular All-Star center fielder acknowledge the crowd while he jogged off. Teammate Michael Cuddyer told him not to cry, but Hunter was overwhelmed by the time he reached the dugout. Hunter, who becomes a free agent after the World Series, makes $12 million this year. He has a .290 average, 28 homers, a career-high 104 RBIs and plays Gold Glove defense.

“We’re going to do everything we can,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “As much as these fans love this young man, I think that’s going to go a long ways in the decision to keep him here. I think he should be a Minnesota Twin for the rest of his life. That’s my opinion. I don’t open the checkbook, but that’s my opinion.”

My opinion as well.

Top of the 9th
Paul and Teri Fields of Michigan City, Indiana have a new baby born Sept. 12 at an Indiana hospital. His name is Wrigley Alexander Fields. The two Cubs fans planned the name for years before their son’s birth.

Good thing they were not Abbott & Costello fans or the boy would be named Sidney.

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.