Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-7-8

7/8/2008
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

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Top of the 1st
THEY’VE GOT THAT WINNING FEELING
I was on the air last week talking baseball with the folks at AM 1570, “The Score,” in Appleton, Wisconsin and they asked me about the AL East and whether the Rays have what it takes to win the division. I replied that I thought they had everything, pitching, hitting, speed, fielding, a good manager, a good bullpen, but the only thing they didn’t have was winning experience.

Then I pointed out that those uniforms begin to feel pretty tight in the second half of August and into September. At this point, the host Justin Hall and I both immediately turned our attention to the local Milwaukee Brewers, who in some respects were last year’s Rays. You might recall that last July 1, the Brewers had the best record in the National League, 47-34, .580. You also might recall that when the Milwaukee season ended, their record was 83-79, .512. That means as their uniforms got tighter, they ended the season 36-45 and out of the playoffs.

Having the ability to win is not the same as having the ability to actual succeed in the big leagues. The better you are, the better teams play against you. The more successful you are, the more important games become. The more important the games are, the more pressure is felt.

The Brewers collapse last season was nowhere near as precipitous as the Mets downfall was last season. Much of the blame went on the shoulders of shortstop Jose Reyes whose game changed dramatically as September went on. The Phils’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins talked to the New York Times about his own play and the play of his New York rival.

“Sometimes it takes a year or two, but with me, it took three,” Rollins said in a recent interview with the Times. “I was the same way until I figured out who the heck I was. I could run, I could play, I was fast, but it was all raw ability. But now, I’m showing off my raw ability, with learning, with knowledge. I’ve learned the game. I understand the game. You come out of that, you’re a completely different player.”

You simply can’t teach experience which is why the Brewers trade this week for CC Sabathia is so huge. Sabathia is indeed the kind of pitcher who can help this team pressure the Cubs and if that doesn’t succeed, still lead the Brewers to a Wild Card berth and the post-season a place that they haven’t been since Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. It is hard to imagine that the Wild Card will come from the West in the NL this season, so the competition will be from the second (or perhaps third) place finisher in the NL East and the NL Central scramble between the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals.

The Brewers quick acquisition gives them more than CC’s two starts before the All-Star break and his starts in the rest of July. It gives them an advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies both of whom would have been more than happy to rent Sabathia for the rest of the season.

Don’t be fooled, this is nothing more than a rental. It wasn’t too long ago that teams would be reticent to pull the trigger on a trade for a player who was to be a free agent at season’s end, sometimes even asking for a window of opportunity to negotiate an extended contract. It’s different today and not because there is a “win now” mentality.

It’s different today because teams now truly value the strength of a farm system and the Brewers know that losing CC Sabathia will result in two compensatory draft choices. Milwaukee will then hope they can land another Matt LaPorta, their No. 1 draft choice of last year, who over his first 114 minor-league games after being taken seventh overall in last year’s MLB draft, has 32 home runs and 97 RBI and has slugged .609 and with a 1.002 OPS. In addition to LaPorta going to Cleveland, the Brewers gave up Zach Jackson, a Class AAA left-hander; and Rob Bryson, a Class A right-hander, to the Indians. A player to be named could be Taylor Green, a third baseman who was Milwaukee’s minor league player of the year in 2007.

But the Brewers realize that this may their chance, even their only chance for awhile, because not only will Sabathia leave at season’s end, but their existing ace, Ben Sheets, is also a free agent following the World Series. But the opportunity to land the 2007 American League Cy Young award winner was one they couldn’t pass up. Sabathia, who went 19-7 last year, has a 6-8 record with a 3.83 earned run average in 18 starts for the Indians this season. Sabathia was 5-3 with a 1.93 E.R.A. in his last 11 starts.

“We just felt that we needed to go for it at this point,” Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said at a news conference. “We feel that this is a year that gives us a chance.”

Bottom line: with Sabathia joining Sheets, the Brewers have a 1-2 punch that could be as effective as any in the major leagues.

Or may this is the bottom line: Miller Park will be sold out tonight for CC’s debut. About 3,500 tickets were available as of late last night and people were waiting at the ticket windows at Miller Park this morning when they opened at 9 a.m.
The Brewers typically sell about 3,000 tickets a day. Yesterday, the team sold more than 27,000, including 9,000 for tonight’s game against Colorado.

Lest you forget, not only have the Brewers landed an ace, but an ace with playoff experience. “I’m not going to say I’m not going to be excited, because I am,” Sabathia said. “But I know I have a job to do. Just go out and compete, stay under control.

“I’m just coming in and trying to fit in and do my job. Baseball’s hard enough to play without added pressure. That’s something that I don’t think about or worry about.”

Sabathia does have one concern however moving to the NL, “I’m more worried about my (batting) average going down,” he said. CC has a career .300 average with two home runs and seven runs batted in.

The guy knows how to pitch, he’s great in the clubhouse and he knows how to hit, but most importantly…he knows how to win.

Top of the 2nd
CLOSE BUT NO PERFECTO
Hiroki Kuroda took a perfect game into the 8th inning and settled for a one-hitter, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-0 victory and into a tie for first place. The right-hander retired the first 21 batters before Mark Teixeira lined his 70th pitch into the right field corner for a double leading off the 8th. “My main concern was that he was the leadoff hitter in that inning, it was a 2-2 count and I didn’t want to walk him because I didn’t have that big of a lead,” Kuroda said through a translator. “I was concentrating more on not allowing any runs. I wasn’t really nervous, but I felt the pressure from the fans because they were expecting something big.” The complete game was the second in 15 starts for Kuroda, who beat the Cubs 3-0 with a four-hitter and had a career-high 11 strikeouts on June 6.

Teixeira was the only baserunner for the Braves, who had flown across the country after waiting through a 1-hour, 50-minute rain delay in a 7-6, 17-inning victory over Houston on Sunday — the longest game ever at Turner Field.

“We don’t want to have a perfect game thrown against us, but Kuroda was great tonight — probably the best pitching performance we’ve seen all year,” Teixeira said. “His stuff was great — a mid-90s fastball, putting it exactly where he wanted it, sinking his fastball at 90 to get you to ground out or miss. He probably made one mistake all night, and I just got lucky enough to put a good swing on it. It definitely was the most hittable pitch I saw all night.”

Kuroda (5-6) was attempting to become the first Dodger to throw a no-hitter since Sept. 17, 1996, when countryman Hideo Nomo beat Colorado 9-0 at Coors Field. Kuroda, 33, signed with the Dodgers in December as a free agent after 11 seasons with Hiroshima of the Japanese Central League. He threw 91 pitches and struck out six in a game that lasted just 2 hours and 3 minutes. The last pitcher to no-hit the Braves was Randy Johnson, who threw a perfect game for Arizona on May 18, 2004, at Turner Field. No Dodger has thrown a no-hitter at Chavez Ravine since Ramon Martinez’s 7-0 gem against Florida on July 14, 1995.

The win moved the Dodgers in a tie for first in the NL Worst with idle Arizona, with a 44-45 record. With only five games left before the All-Star break, the Braves (42-48) are assured of going into the break under .500 for only the third time in the last 18 seasons. It also happened in 1991 (39-40) and 2006 (40-49).

Top of the 3rd
OH FER ELEVEN
It’s not just batters who go through “oh fer” periods. When Florida beat the Padres last night, 3-1, it meant that Greg Maddux’s winless streak had stretched to 11 games. Maddux (3-7) has been winless since getting his 350th win by beating the Rockies May 10. The winless streak is the second-longest of his Hall of Fame career, surpassed by only a 13-game spell in 1990 with the Cubs. He is 0-4 with a 4.14 ERA during the slide.

The last-place Padres (35-55) scored fewer than three runs for the 37th time, suffered their ninth consecutive loss at home and fell to 35-55. They were hitless with men in scoring position for the second consecutive game. In the past three games, their hit ters have 28 strikeouts and one walk.

Maddux’s strong performance was witnessed by several scouts, including Gary Hughes, the special assistant to Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. The Cubs might be in the trade market for pitching and today might take a look at Padres left-hander Randy Wolf.

Top of the 4th
NICE BASEBALL STORY
Adam Bender is just like any other 8-year-old, sports-loving boy, playing baseball, soccer or football. And he does it all on one leg. Adam lost his left leg to cancer when he was 1. His dad, Chris Bender said Adam had a tumor in his left leg that never reduced in size and led to the amputation. He’s been playing baseball since he was 6. The Little League catcher impressed Reds personnel so much that they invited him to Sunday’s game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Lexington, Kentucky boy was treated like royalty at the ball park. He had his own news conference in the Reds’ dugout, shook hands with several players, and appeared on Fox Sports Net’s telecast.

Washington’s Willie Harris even gave him a souvenir: his bat.

Adam was a little camera shy, but when asked to pick the player to catch the opening pitch, he chose his favorite, “Adam Dunn,” Adam said.

Clad in a Dunn jersey and walking with crutches, when Adam reached the mound, he dropped his crutches and hopped to his launching spot.

His catcher was impressed. “It’s amazing. Puts everything in perspective,” Dunn said.

Afterward, Dunn told his new friend to stick around after the game because he had a little something for him.

When the game ended, Bender got to take the field again, this time running the bases with his cousins trailing behind.

Then Adam Dunn delivered on his promise, giving Bender his home run ball from the game.

“We didn’t know what he was planning to give,” said the Adam’s mother, Michelle Bender, “and then when they said they couldn’t find him I thought well maybe he went in the shower and forgot… and then when you saw him walk out there it was like ‘wow’…you know, he followed through and I saw Adam’s face light up…it was neat.”

Here’s Adam in action: http://video.nbc11.com/player/?id=259689
Here’s Adam with Dunn: http://www.kypost.com/content/wcposhared/story.aspx?content_id=811e9a34-dccb-4a88-aa1f-2a18c44765f5

Top of the 5th
REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM: ALL-STAR GAMES
By Harvey Frommer

All kinds of hype, hoopla and probably histrionics will be part of the scene for Yankee Stadium’s final All-Star Game set for the 15th of July 2008. This will be the fourth mid-summer classic staged at the “House That Ruth Built.”

The first one at the Stadium took place on the eleventh of July 1939 before 62,892. The big ballpark in the Bronx was chosen as the site to coincide with the World’s Fair of 1939. As the American League lineups were announced, a fan bellowed: “Make Joe McCarthy play an All-Star American League team. We can beat them, but we can’t beat the Yankees!”

Marse Joe McCarthy paid the fan no heed. Six starters were Yankees: Red Rolfe, Bill Dickey, George Selkirk, Joe Gordon, Red Ruffing and Joe DiMaggio. Other Yankees on the AL squad included Frank Crosetti, Lefty Gomez and Johnny Murphy. In all, counting McCarthy, there were ten Yankees on the All-Star team. The half dozen position starters played the entire game.

Lou Gehrig was there, too, an honorary member of the American League team. It was just a week after his “luckiest man” speech at the Stadium.

McCarthy pitched Red Ruffing for three innings, then brought in Tommy Bridges and closed out with rookie, twenty-year-old Bob Feller who was touched for but one hit in his 3 2/3 innings. Later he said: “I was never nervous on a pitching mound. I just reared back and let them go.”

One of the big moments of the game for the home town fans was Joe DiMaggio’s fifth inning dinger highlighting the 3-1 American League triumph. After the All-Star break, the Yanks went on a tear winning 35 of 49 games.

From 1959 to 1962, Major League Baseball conducted two All-Star Games. Yankee Stadium hosted baseball’s second All-Star Game in three days. On July 13th, seven Yankees were on the American League squad: starters Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle , Roger Maris and Bill Skowron. The Yankee reserves were Jim Coates and Elston Howard.

The first All-Star game of 1960 had been played two day’s before. Perhaps that was why attendance was just 38,362 for this second one.

Whitey Ford started for the American League against Pittsburgh’s Vernon Law. Al Lopez was the AL manager and Walt Alston was the National League pilot. For many New York baseball fans, the special appeal of the game was the return of the great Willie Mays to the city he starred in. The “Say Hey Kid” went three for four – one of his hits was a home run. The National League prevailed, 6-0.

On July 19, 1977 Yankee Stadium was once more the site of the All-Star Game. The teams prepared to square off before 56,683. The managerial match up was Billy Martin of the Yankees against Sparky Anderson of Cincinnati. Joe DiMaggio was the AL Honorary Captain and Willie Mays had that role for the National League.

DAN MARENG0: I had a seat behind home plate in the upper deck. I knew the press always made a big deal about the feud between Munson and Fisk. I looked down and the two guys were around the batting cage enjoying a conversation with each other, smiling. What do you believe?

Willie Randolph recalled: “I was a young kid in that All-Star Game, in front of my hometown fans, my family, playing in the game with guys I had grown up idolizing like Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew.”

ROD CAREW: To play in the All-Star game with my mom there in the stands was a thrill. Just being in Yankee Stadium was an incentive to do well. The fans are special.
They’ll root for you if they like you. I think they knew I was from New York so they gave me a good ovation that day and every time I played in the Stadium.

Pitcher Jim Palmer took the mound for the AL. He lasted two innings, gave up five runs on five hits, walked one and was the losing pitcher. Joe Morgan led off the game with a home run.

DENNIS ECKERSLEY: I was like 22 years old. Before the game, Billy Martin — who was a nut but I loved him –told me I was going to pitch the fourth through sixth innings. Well, our starter Jim Palmer couldn’t get out of the third. They lit him up. I came in a little earlier and pitched two scoreless innings.

The National League prevailed in 1977, 7-5, and the 48th All-Star game was a matter of record.

Now Yankee Stadium, the place of mystique and memories, awaits its fourth and final All Star Game. All kinds of history will be made and millions will be watching.
Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books His REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) will be published in September.

His “BOOK TOUR” for REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM (as of July 7)
September 3 Wednesday/talk/signing 7:30 PM Barnes & Noble, 396 Ave. Americas NY (8th St.) (212) 674-8780
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September 4, 7:45 PM Varsity Letters 302 Broome St. NYC 212-334-9676
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September 5th, 7pm Friday Book Revue 313 New York Avenue Huntington, NY 11743 Ph. 631-271-1442
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Sept. 20, 2008 / 7 p.m. Northshire Bookstore 4869 Main Street Manchester Center, VT 05255 802-362-3565
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September 26 afternoon Fall for the Book Festival George Mason University Fairfax, VA 22030 Phone: (703) 993-3986 FftB@gmu.edu www.fallforthebook.org
==========================================================October 11th. Dartmouth Bookstore, Hanover, NH (afternoon) bksdartmouth@bncollege.com
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October 25, 2008 ..Saturday 11:30 AM Books & Greetings 271 Livingston Street, Northvale,NJ 07647 201-784-2665
==========================================================December 4 Thursday 7PM /RJ JULIA, Madison, CT 800 747 3247 talk and signing
==========================================================

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
In honor of the success of two Japanese pitchers last night, our site of the day is the blog of former MLB manager and current Chiba Lotte Marines manager, Bobby Valentine.

http://www.bobbysway.jp/

It’s published once a month.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Royals (Gil Meche) at Rays (Matt Garza), 12:40
Twins (Scott Baker) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka), 7:05
Angels (Ervin Santana) at Rangers (Luis Mendoza), 8:05
Mariners (Jarrod Washburn) at A’s (Dana Eveland), 10:05

NL
Mets (Pedro Martinez) at Phillies (Adam Eaton), 7:05
Astros (Runelvys Hernandez) at Pirates (Phil Dumatrait), 7:05
Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez) at Brewers (Seth McClung), 8:05
Marlins (Ricky Nolasco) at Padres (Greg Maddux), 10:05
Braves (Jorge Campillo) at Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda), 10:10

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Hiroki Kuroda was not the only Japanese pitcher with a shockingly good performance last night. Last night, Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched the first 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits, in Boston’s 1-0 win over the Twins. The 7 1/3 innings was a season high for Matsuzaka.

It was Boston’s major league high 10th shutout. Dice-K, who hadn’t pitched beyond five innings in his three starts since returning from the DL on June 21, has never had a complete game shutout.

Top of the 9th
THE LATEST YANKEES PRESS RELEASE
The things you do when you’re in third place:

YANKEES URGE FANS TO VOTE JASON GIAMBI FOR FINAL ALL-STAR SPOT; ANNOUNCE “SUPPORT THE `STACHE” INITIATIVE
**The American Mustache Institute officially backs Giambi as their candidate**

The New York Yankees are urging fans to “Support the `Stache” and vote for first baseman Jason Giambi on Major League Baseball’s Final All-Star Ballot.
Fans can cast their votes for Giambi at www.yankees.com, or by texting `A2′ to 36197 (or 88555 for those Yankees fans in Canada). Voting ends at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 10. Yankees fans are urged to vote early and often. By voting online, fans will be entered to win one of five authentic Jason Giambi autographed prizes.

The American Mustache Institute officially offered their support for Giambi’s All-Star candidacy today.

“It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that Jason Giambi’s hitting prowess plus a fashionable mustache, equals a bona fide All-Star,” said Aaron Perlut, Executive Director of The American Mustache Institute. “Giambi’s significant first-half production as well as his powerful lip fur – indicating great intellect and good looks – make two very compelling reasons for his place on the American League All-Star roster.”

Giambi is batting .256 (63-for-246) with 13 doubles, 18 home runs, 53RBI and 44BB in 78 games this season, leading the team in walks, tying for tops in homers and ranking second in RBI. He is currently tied for fifth in the American League in home runs, ranks seventh with a .393 on-base percentage and ninth with a .537 slugging percentage. In addition, Giambi leads the AL, averaging one home run every 13.7 at-bats and ranks second with 1RBI per 4.6 at-bats.

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.