Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-4-18

4/18/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Friday, April 18, 2008

Top of the 1st
FORTY-FOUR AND NO MORE (THANK GOODNESS)
There is something ironic about the fact that Damion Easley scored on Joel Hanrahan’s second wild pitch in the 14th inning and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 last night on the 44th anniversary of the first game at Shea Stadium, because back in those days the wild pitch was an integral part of the Mets offensive weaponry. They were coming off their first two seasons of their existence, in which they played in the Polo Grounds, the old home of the New York Giants, and had won a grand total of 91 games and they were in their brand, spanking new home Shea Stadium or perhaps had it been a French restaurant Chez Stadium.

It’s hard to believe in this day and age of sponsored name ballparks, but Shea Stadium was actually named after someone, William Shea, who worked hard to achieve the dream of bringing National League baseball back to New York City after the departure of the Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Shea was a lawyer with great political connections well liked and respected in all circles. He reminds me of Alex Bok who will achieve the dream of bringing minor league baseball to Boston (just be patient). The writer Nicholas Pileggi described Shea in 1974 in New York magazine as the “unofficial chairman of the state’s unofficial permanent government.”

Bill Shea made things happen even though to most everyone he was an unknown to the point that one day he was introduced by a master of ceremonies as the man for whom Shea Stadium was named — “Bill Stadium.” The new stadium was built as part of the centerpiece of the 1964 Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadows, a section of the borough of Queens. 1964 was the dawn of the space age and the fair’s theme was “Man in a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” Forty-four years later, the tag line still mystifies me and basically the Fair itself was a dud.

But while the Unisphere was the focal point of the fair, the baseball world looked with excitement towards this new modern stadium that would feature usherettes in chic outfits sporting 1900’s style derbies. On April 16, 1964, the city prepared to dedicate the new ballpark and found that after a brief thunderstorm, the new sod in the outfield was so waterlogged that visitors sank in the outfield to the tops of their shoes and while the infield was covered, it only hid another pool of water. Initial reports that day was that everything was ready in the ballpark except for the playing field. It was definitely the new home of the Mets.

Not exactly going out on a limb, on April 17, 1964 the New York Times wrote in an editorial entitled, “Our Mets Back Home,” “They are fresh from an initial two game losing streak in Philadelphia. The season is young, but Casey Stengel has brought his team quickly back to its old form. We confidently predict a third year of glorious unsuccess for the Mets.”

At 2:12 pm on that Opener, Jack Fisher threw a strike to Dick Schofield on the first pitch. In the 2nd, Willie Stargell got Shea’s first hit, a line drive homer. Stargell ended the day with four hits, two runs scored and two RBI. The game ended with the Pirates on top, 4-3 scoring a run in the 9th on a base hit by Bill Mazeroski. After another loss to the Bucs, and after a four game losing streak, the Mets topped Pittsburgh, 6-0. This was a big improvement – they had lost nine straight to open 1962 and eight straight to open 1963.

No one will miss Shea Stadium with it’s symmetrical, boring playing area, traffic jams, and constant planes passing overhead. But I can’t help thinking about that very first Opening Day that I watched on television as I rushed home from school and I kept wishing and hoping, as Dusty Springfield sang, that the Mets would draw a walk because then we were only three wild pitches away from scoring.

Top of the 2nd
10 YEARS OF DIAMONDBACKS
The Diamondbacks will unveil their 10th anniversary team before Saturday’s nationally televised game on Fox, as selected in a vote of the fans.
Here is Diamondback beat reporter Jack Magruder’s ballot:
Manager: Buck Showalter
Catcher: Damian Miller
First base: Erubiel Durazo
Second base: Jay Bell
Shortstop: Tony Womack
Third base: Matt Williams
Left field: Luis Gonzalez
Center field: Steve Finley
Right field: David Dellucci
Reserves: Chris Snyder, Tony Clark, Greg Colbrunn, Orlando Hudson, Craig Counsell, Eric Byrnes
Starting rotation: Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, Curt Schilling, Brian Anderson, Omar Daal
Bullpen: Jose Valverde, Gregg Olson, Matt Mantei, Miguel Batista, Byung-Hyun Kim, Greg Swindell.

Top of the 3rd
OLD MAN TEJ*DA
Astros general manager Ed Wade was recently informed that Miguel Tej*da was actually born on May 25, 1974, as opposed to May 25, 1976, as listed in the club’s media guide. The slick-fielding Astros shortstop is actually 33 years old and will soon be 34.

“In the course of media interviews, it was brought to our attention that the date we carry for Tej*da, the year of birth, is incorrect,” Wade said. “His green card, his driver’s license, everything that he uses personally shows ’74 as his date of birth. In the media guide, that type of information shows ’76. We told Miguel we were going to go ahead and make the appropriate changes and all the information was put forward. But the fact of the matter is he’s playing like he was 25.”

Now he has two reasons for asterisks.

Top of the 4th
JUST DON’T EAT THE DOG FOOD
Here’s a neat review of the new food lineup at San Diego’s Petco Field By Peter Rowe and Lori Weisberg of the San Diego Union Tribune

PLAYER: Corned Beef Slider
SCOUTING REPORT: Petite in size, huge in flavor. Dabbed with Thousand Island dressing, these lightly grilled sandwiches are laden with lean corned beef brisket. Accompanying fries, though, are lukewarm and chewy. $10.95 for three sliders.
POSITION: Club 19
FINAL SCORE: Major leaguer

PLAYER: Donovan’s Hamburger
SCOUTING REPORT: Topped with thick tomato slice and lettuce, a 6-ounce burger of prime filet has great grill flavor. Bests Petco’s basic stadium burger, but not as seductive as one would expect from its Donovan’s Steak & Chop House pedigree. $11.50.
POSITION: Baja Bistro; PCL Bar & Grill
FINAL SCORE: Utility player

PLAYER: Donovan’s Steak Burrito
SCOUTING REPORT: Wrapped in flour tortilla, thin slices of prime rib-eye and filet are tender, well-seasoned with salt and pepper. Dab of sour cream adds nice tang. Comes with waffle fries. $11.50.
POSITION: Baja Bistro; PCL Bar & Grill
FINAL SCORE: Major leaguer

PLAYER: RubyBurger With Cheese
SCOUTING REPORT: Gooey cheddar spills over grilled patty, served with shredded lettuce and tomato slice. In era of fast-food Angus burgers, this offering is dated. $7.50.
POSITION: Home plate concourse
FINAL SCORE: You’re out!

PLAYER: Ruby’s Parmesan Fries
SCOUTING REPORT: More blue than parmesan cheese flavor here; either way, yummy. Enough for two, but served lukewarm. Available in garlic and Cajun styles, too. $6.
POSITION: Home plate concourse
FINAL SCORE: Utility player

PLAYER: Fresh Roasted Peanuts
SCOUTING REPORT: We snagged the season’s first bag of unsalted hot nuts. Oops. They looked like French Roast coffee beans, tasted like peanut briquets. $4.50.
POSITION: Section 124
FINAL SCORE: Despite season-opening loss, you gotta believe. Major leaguer – with tweaking.

PLAYER: Turkey Wrap
SCOUTING REPORT: “Friar Fit” choice, this wrap features taste-free pressed turkey. Chipotle mayo sauce (served separately) adds needed zest; accompanying seedless flame grapes a nice, sweet touch. $7.
POSITION: Mercado
FINAL SCORE: Minor leaguer

PLAYER: Smoothies
SCOUTING REPORT: Three flavors of icy, fruity concoctions, perfect codas to a heavy ballpark meal. Loved the Sunshine Passion, a summery mix of passion fruit, peach, orange and strawberry. $7.50
POSITION: Mercado
FINAL SCORE: Major leaguer

PLAYER: Fresh Fruit Cup and Yogurt Parfaits
SCOUTING REPORT: Winning “Friar Fit” offerings showcase county’s bounty: farm-fresh strawberries, blackberries, melon, whatever’s in season. In parfait, fruit sweetens yogurt and granola. Cup: $6.50. Parfait: $6.75.
POSITION: Mercado
FINAL SCORE: Major leaguers

PLAYER: Southwest Salad
SCOUTING REPORT: Lotsa lettuce, tortilla strips, grilled chicken and – “Friar Fit” strikes again – fat-free dressing. Fresh, filling, satisfying. $6.50.
POSITION: Mercado
FINAL SCORE: Utility player

PLAYER: Chicken Caesar Salad
SCOUTING REPORT: Grilled chicken skewer, wrapped in fried corn tortilla, is flavorful. Mound of lettuce, scattered corn kernels, bit of parmesan, few tortilla strips? Boring. Decent cilantro Caesar dressing. $6.50.
POSITION: Mercado

FINAL SCORE: Minor leaguer

PLAYER: Tequila Lime Shooters
SCOUTING REPORT: Despite not-piquant-enough sauce, shooter scores with firm, tender shrimp. $9.75 for three.
POSITION: Club 19
FINAL SCORE: Major leaguer

PLAYER: Pork Tenderloin Tacos
SCOUTING REPORT: Pork is tender and taco has nice bite. Cold Cotija cheese, though, is jarring when you bite into warm taco. Accompanied by bland rice with minced cilantro. $10.95 for three.
POSITION: Club 19
FINAL SCORE: Minor leaguer

PLAYER: Gorditas
SCOUTING REPORT: Your choice – pork carnitas or shredded beef. Our take – too salty and overspiced. Served with Mexicali rice. $12 for three.
POSITION: Baja Bistro
FINAL SCORE: You’re out!

PLAYER: Saffron Potato Tacos
SCOUTING REPORT: Lightly spiced potatoes neither mushy nor crunchy – they’re just right, especially with salsa. Cotija cheese adds creamy accent. $10.25 for three.
POSITION: Baja Bistro
FINAL SCORE: Major leaguer

PLAYER: Cheesecake
SCOUTING REPORT: Sweet, tart, creamy – not quite Cheesecake Factory caliber, but nice alternative to Cracker Jack. $7.95.
POSITION: Club 19
FINAL SCORE: Utility player

Top of the 5th
IS BUCHHOLTZ READY?
I asked former third baseman and current international scout Mike Pagliarulo yesterday “Is Clay Buchholz ready to be a major league pitcher?”

Here is Pags response:
“Major league pitcher” can be interpreted in several ways:
Some feel pitchers who make it to the major leagues deserve the moniker “major league pitchers.” Others will say a pitcher needs to be in the league for three or so years before they deserve it. And still others will use that phrase only when describing a good major league pitcher.

My personal interpretation is that a major league pitcher is someone who has continued success pitching at the major league level. Getting to the majors comes from having the right mental and physical abilities. The physical part of this is self-explanatory, and the mental? You can’t have a player come to New York City, even if he has the best tools, if he can’t deal with the pressure.

Staying in the majors involves a different skill set. It takes the ability to identify strengths, weaknesses and tendencies in the opposition (and yourself!) and the ability to make the proper adjustments. The ability to make adjustments is something that is learned through organizational development and from teammates.

So how does this relate to Buchholz? He is a mature kid who is capable of pitching in the big leagues from a mental perspective. His stuff (physical ability) is of major league caliber. And he has one of baseball’s best catchers and leaders (Jason Varitek) supporting him, as well as a good organizational support team (Terry Francona, John Farrell, Bob Tewksbury, etc.). As a whole, these factors make Buchholz ready to be in the majors now – and put him in line to be a successful major leaguer with some more time under his belt.

What Buchholz needs to work on now is trusting his fastball. It’s apparent that he doesn’t want to pitch to contact with his fastball – and other major leaguers, scouts and coaches are able to identify this pattern. When Buchholz trusts his fastball and realizes that all of them aren’t going to get hit, he’ll be able to make adjustments quicker and keep batters off balance.

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
The Twins have a pitcher by the name of Pat Neshek. Pat has a blog site in which leads with: “I really have no purpose for this page. I figured hey, why not start a webpage about my life in baseball and talk about everything that goes on in it, especially autographs. I really have no clue what it will amount to but I know it will be good. I guess what I want is to interact with the fans and make them learn and laugh. Have fun and let me know what you think!

If you need anything signed or want to trade signed hockey/baseball cards for my cards (signed cards of me) send items with SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope)….”

Fun site and seems like a nice guy and today’s winner.
Send your suggestions for a site to be recognized to bill@billy-ball.com with the subject SOTD.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Yankees (Phil Hughes) at Orioles (Daniel Cabrera), 7:05
Rangers (Luis Mendoza) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka), 7:05
Tigers (Kenny Rogers) at Blue Jays (David Purcey), 7:07
White Sox (Javier Vazquez) at Rays (Jeff Niemann), 7:10
Indians (Cliff Lee) at Twins (Francisco Liriano), 8:10
Mariners (R.A. Dickey) at Angels (Joe Saunders), 10:05
Royals (Brian Bannister) at A’s (Chad Gaudin), 10:05

NL
Pirates (Ian Snell) at Cubs (Jason Marquis), 2:20
Mets (Johan Santana) at Phillies (Cole Hamels), 7:05
Brewers (Ben Sheets) at Reds (Bronson Arroyo), 7:10
Nationals (Tim Redding) at Marlins (Andrew Miller), 7:10
Dodgers (Derek Lowe) at Braves (Jeff Bennett), 7:35
Rockies (Franklin Morales) at Astros (Chris Sampson), 8:05
Giants (Matt Cain) at Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer), 8:15
Padres (Chris Young) at Diamondbacks (Dan Haren), 9:40
Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
I’m not a big fan of reporting hitting streaks too early, but Milton Bradley has hit in 12 straight and that should be reported so that when the streak ends you can blame me for putting the whammy on him.

Top of the 9th
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND
Thanks all your support this week – I love hearing from you and thanks for all the book orders, I really love getting them. So far the book has been greeted with great reviews and when you get yours (I sent out about 30 yesterday) please hype it on Amazon or Facebook or wherever you go.

See you on Monday.

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.

Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sports, http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427 or from your favorite bookstore worldwide.

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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.