Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-7-21

7/21/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…
By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, July 21, 2008

Top of the 1st
THE TRADING DEADLINE IS SOON…TOO SOON
The Milwaukee Brewers picked up second baseman Ray Durham from the Giants yesterday in exchange for two minor leaguers, with both clubs waiting until after the teams played Sunday to announce the swap. This was because Durham didn’t want to play his first game for Milwaukee against the Giants, team he has been with for six years. “Personally it was out of respect for the guys in this locker room,” Durham said, saying his goodbyes in the Giants’ clubhouse. “It really was a stipulation I asked for.”

A class act by Durham and a good deal for the Brewers because their new second baseman is hitting .293 while their current mix of second basemen have been hitting .222, the worst at that position in the majors. This is the second big deal for the Brewers who picked up CC Sabathia from the Indians before the All-Star break. They are chasing the Cubs who picked up Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from the A’s to bolster their pitcher staff. Meanwhile the Phils picked up Joe Blanton from the A’s to fix up their pitching woes.

All this and we are still over a week away from the trading deadline.

But, think how exciting this would be if we were still three weeks away from the deadline. Think of the possibilities of deals if the trading deadline was set to be at 4:00 PM Eastern time the second Monday of August.

As parity is arriving in MLB, the extra time makes sense. Teams must decide NOW whether they are buyers or sellers. They must know NOW if they are part of a pennant race or not. And I think it’s way too early and by being way too early baseball is cheating itself of excitement and cheating the fans of some their favorite players.

You have to hand it to the Brewers for insisting on their deal with the Indians before the break as they have already gotten three good starts out of Sabathia. From Cleveland’s perspective, they know where they will be three weeks from now and pulling off the deal was smart for them. But look at the strip mining that has taken place in Oakland. They have lost 40% of their starting pitching and while it may not have made a huge difference, the AL West is the only division without a race as the Angels are up by 9 games. But after being swept by the Yankees this weekend, the As are in fourth place for the wild card slot and seem to be fading from the picture, way too early, might I add.

There are 14 teams beyond the division leaders who are still in Wild Card contention. Where will they stand on the second Monday in August? Will there be more sellers then? Would that produce better deals? I tend to think so.

Then there is the question as to what will buyers want this season? There is an unknown element this season that is the 500-pound elephant in the room, how will some of these 37+ year old players continue to play as the season progresses without Pez dispensers of greenies, steroids, and artificial “sweeteners” that have been a part of the game for so long. I think we are seeing already some of the older players acting their age and teams in general responding to the rigors of travel with horrid road records. Teams will need some fresh bodies by mid-August.

Note that I am suggesting just a couple of weeks of delay. I don’t want MLB to turn into the NHL where it feels as if a trade can be made between the second and third periods of Game 6 off the Stanley Cup Finals. But a reasonable delay to create more trades, more excitement, more engagement with players on both the major and minor league level. Just remember when a trade is made including prospects and almost-ready-for-prime-time-players takes place, minor league fans are deprived of their favorite players as well.

As a matter of fact, since we are playing with the calendar, let’s move the expansion of the rosters to the first Monday following Labor Day and give minor league teams another week to make some money while the weather is good. In addition, the post-season rosters should then be set the first Sunday after Labor Day.

Clearly, this is a contractual issue that must be resolved, but I think for the good of the game, it is a very do-able alternative.

Here is the existing calendar:
JULY 31, 2008
Non-waiver trade deadline (4 p.m. ET)
AUG. 31, 2008
* Any player unconditionally released between this date and Opening Day of next season may not be re-signed to a Major League contract by the releasing team until May 15 of the following season.
* Postseason eligibility lists established at midnight ET
SEPT. 1, 2008
Active player limit expands from 25 to 40 players
SEPT. 28, 2008
Final day of the 2008 regular season

Now compare that with my idea and after you look at the standings you will see how much more excitement could be generated. I personally think it’s such a good idea that it will assuredly not take place.

What do you think?

Top of the 2nd
SWEEPS
Francisco Rodriguez became the fastest pitcher to reach 40 saves and the Angels beat the Boston Red Sox 5-3 yesterday for their fifth straight victory, their 60th victory of the year and a sweep of their three-game set. The Angels hadn’t swept a three-game series from Boston since 2001, and hadn’t done it at home in 10 years. They’ve also lost nine straight playoff games to the Red Sox, including first-round sweeps in 2004 and last year. Once again the Sox bullpen looked very vulnerable. Meanwhile, the AL West leaders, 39-18 against teams with winning records, are a season-high 22 games over .500 and lead second-place Oakland by nine games. None of the other five division leaders has more than a two-game cushion. The Red Sox lost for the 10th time in 12 road games and remained 1 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay.

Aaron Miles’ walkoff grand slam, the first game-ending hit of his career, helped the St. Louis Cardinals recover from another blown save by Jason Isringhausen in a 9-5 victory over San Diego to complete a four-game sweep. Aaron Miles’ walk-off grand slam was the fourth in the bigs this season and the first walk-off granny allowed by the Padres since May 22, 1974, when Milt May lifted the Astros. Gary Bennett was the last Cardinal to hit a walk-off slam which he did against the Cubs on Aug. 27, 2006. It was the Cards’ 10th game-ending grand slam.

Colorado Rockies completed a four-game sweep by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 11-3. Matt Holliday and Jeff Baker homered and had three hits each, Clint Barmes had three hits and Ian Stewart was 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs for the Rockies, who swept a four-game series for the first time this season.

The Yankees (53-45) won their seventh straight at home and climbed a season-best eight games over .500 finishing a three game sweep over the A’s, 2-1. The winning streak at Yankee Stadium is their longest since last September. The A’s have scored just nine runs while losing five in a row. Pettitte outpitched All-Star Justin Duchscherer who took the loss despite allowing fewer than two runs for the 11th consecutive start.

Wild ending to this game saw Mariano Rivera get the first out and then give up a single to the very impressive Ryan Sweeney. Then Bobby Crosby followed with a high fly to right that gave Bobby Abreu problems as he looked into the sun. He made the grab, and then dropped the ball, and first base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ruled that Abreu never caught it. The right fielder immediately threw to second trying to catch Sweeney, who had retreated to first base, but the throw sailed over Jeter’s head. Backing up the play, Alex Rodriguez cut it off and made the toss to Jeter just in time to force out Sweeney. Score that a 9-5-6 forceout. Rajai Davis came in to run for Crosby and Jose Molina threw him out, game over. Molina has now thrown out 26 of 53 runners attempting to steal this season.

Top of the 3rd
MARLINS WALKOFF – TIGHTEN NL EAST
Jorge Cantu had his second walk-off hit of the season (third of career) as the Marlins won their second straight over the Phils, 3-2 in 11 innings. It was the Marlins’ ninth walk-off victory, and their 27th comeback win of the season. “A lot of walk-offs — unbelievable,” Cantu said. “It tells me we never give up. I’ve never seen something like that, the walkoffs by one team.”

By winning two of three games in the series, the Marlins closed to within one-half game of the Phillies and New York Mets, who are tied for the division lead.

Top of the 4th
N.G. FOR A.J.
Hard to believe but it appears that there is little interest in acquiring A.J. Burnett. “I don’t see A.J. going anywhere,” Blue Jay general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. “There never has been a lot of talk from other teams.” He was asked if that’s surprising. “No, not really,” Ricciardi replied. “We didn’t get one call on anybody, to be honest.”

Burnett (10-9) seems to be healthy but is earning $12 million, has a 15-team no-trade list, and can (and probably will) opt out of his current contract at the end of the season and negotiate as a free agent rather than spend the next two seasons with the Jays. The Jays are looking for at least two prime prospects.

Top of the 5th
UNDER .500 MAY BE ALL THEY NEED
Brandon Webb fell short of his picking up his major league-leading 14th win as reliever Brandon Lyon gave up five runs and five hits for his fifth blown save. The Dodgers used a five-run 9th inning to defeat Arizona, 6-5. Los Angeles is now 2-45 when trailing after eight innings. But more importantly they are tied for first with the D-Backs with a record of 48-50.

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
“It’s not an error, but I think I made the bloopers for life. I had a bad jump, but I still went for it. I missed the ball and that was it. I felt like I was swimming in a swamp right there.” — Boston’s Manny Ramirez on his futile dive for a ball he had no chance of catching in the Red Sox’s 11-3 loss to Anaheim.

In case you missed it – so did Manny.
http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/videopage?videoId=3496241&categoryId=2378529

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Blue Jays (Jesse Litsch) at Orioles (Radhames Liz), 7:05
Twins (Nick Blackburn) at Yankees (Sidney Ponson), 7:05
A’s (Dana Eveland) at Rays (Scott Kazmir), 7:10
Tigers (Zach Miner) at Royals (Luke Hochevar), 8:10
Rangers (Eric Hurley) at White Sox (Javier Vazquez), 8:11
Indians (Paul Byrd) at Angels (Ervin Santana), 10:05
Red Sox (Jon Lester) at Mariners (Jarrod Washburn), 10:10

NL
Brewers (Seth McClung) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro), 7:05
Padres (Josh Banks) at Reds (Homer Bailey), 7:10
Braves (Jorge Campillo) at Marlins (Chris Volstad), 7:10
Pirates (John Van Benschoten) at Astros (Runelvys Hernandez), 8:05
Dodgers (Eric Stults) at Rockies (Kip Wells), 9:05
Cubs (Rich Harden) at Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson), 9:40

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Before Saturday, the last-time the Yankees won on a walk-off HBP was July 15, 1965 when Steve Ridzik of the Washington Senators hit Clete Boyer in the bottom of the 12th to give the Yankees a 2-1 win. Ray Barker scored.

Greg Maddux, was unable to hold a three-run lead Friday night and the Cardinals pulled away for an 11-7 win over the Padres at Busch Stadium. Maddux gave up six runs, stretching his victory drought to 13 consecutive starts, matching the future Hall of Famer’s career high, set in 1990 with the Cubs.

Top of the 9th
YOUNG AT HEART
Eric Young, who hit a home run in the first home-field at-bat in the history of the franchise, will officially retire as a Rockies player. Young now works for ESPN, but plans are for him to sign a Rockies contract in September so he can have a day on which to officially retire. It’s similar to what the Rockies did with Vinny Castilla, another fan favorite from the team’s original roster.

Happy birthday to B-B B-I-L, Eric Pyenson!

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.