Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-4-5

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Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Top of the 1st
Now why would Billy-Ball be writing about the defending NL champ Houston Astros going over the .500 mark at this point in the season? Because, this is the season they are going to do it.

It doesn’t take much to fall to .500. Of the teams that have played two games this season, only Milwaukee has managed to win both. Take a look at the AL West and already you will find all the teams at .500 having split their two games played. The same is true for the Astros and that’s who we will be watching these days.

The Mets and the Astros debuted in the National League in 1962. Those early years they were known as the Houston Colt .45s. On April 24, 1962, the Houston Colt .45s defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3 behind pitcher Hal Woodeshick to improve its record to 6-5. Two days later, however, St. Louis won the series finale 3-2, and then the Colts lost 2-1 to the Milwaukee Braves on April 27 to fall a game below .500.

The team has been under .500 ever since.

Entering the 2006 season, the Astros all-time record was 3,497 wins and 3,503 defeats. The Astros’ low point was in 1978 when they fell 224 games below .500. The Houston turn-around has taken place in the Craig Biggio era. In his first full season, 1989, the Astros began the year 149 games below .500. Since then, they’ve won 1,416 and lost 1,273 — 143 more wins than losses.

Which means that as we started this season, and today after two games played, the Houston franchise is a mere six games under .500. And they are not the only team within reach of the land of plenty. It would take a huge year, but the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, may also reach the magic number this year as they started the season 23 games under .500. They certainly will reach it next season.

It should come as no surprise to you that the Yankees are the most games over .500 entering this season with a record of 9,192-7,029 losses, or 2,163 games over. The NY/San Francisco Giants are next 1,489 over .500. It will come as very little surprise to the City of Brotherly Love that Philadelphia Phillies fans will have a long wait to hit the .500 mark, at 8,679-9,879 the Phils could win every game for the next seven years and still be looking up at .500.

Top of the 2nd
New York Yankees 9192-7029 .567
New York/San Francisco Giants 10037-8548 .540
Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers 9706-8818 .524
St. Louis Cardinals 9683-9034 .517
Boston Red Sox 8358-7884 .515
Chicago Cubs 9835-9286 .514
Cleveland Indians 8302-7946 .511
Pittsburgh Pirates 9489-9196 .508
Cincinnati Reds 9520-9204 .508
Chicago White Sox 8210-8020 .506
Detroit Tigers 8221-8050 .505
Arizona Diamondbacks 652-644 .503
Houston Astros 3497-3503 .499571
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves 9533-9556 .499
Toronto Blue Jays 2258-2315 .494
Kansas City Royals 2872-2983 .491
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3507-3653 .490
Kansas City/Philadelphia/Oakland Athletics 7870-8343 .485
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals 2836-3024 .484
Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins 7788-8448 .480
St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles 7742-8487 .477
New York Mets 3311-3677 .474
Florida Marlins 963-1076 .472
Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers 2761-3100 .471
Seattle Mariners 2149-2424 .470
Philadelphia Phillies 8679-9879 .468
Washington Senators/Texas Rangers 3336-3807 .467
Colorado Rockies 949-1094 .465
San Diego Padres 2693-3174 .459
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 518-775 .401

For future reference this chart can be found in the Bullpen –

Top of the 3rd
It was a good news/bad news day in Chicago yesterday. The good news for the White Sox is that they received their World Series rings in a pre-game ceremony. The loudest ovation went to Aaron Rowand, the popular center fielder traded in the offseason to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jim Thome. Rowand was able to make the ceremony because the Phillies had an off-day.

The bad news for the Sox was that they had to play a game after the ceremony, which they lost 8-2 to the Indians which was good news for them. Aaron Boone led the Tribe with a homer, four hits and four RBI.

The bad news for the Clevelanders is that their ace lefty C.C. Sabathia was put on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to be out three to five weeks with a strained right oblique muscle. His injury is similar to one he had a year ago, when he began the season on the DL after hurting the muscle in spring training. He missed six weeks but still finished 15-10. Sabathia said he’s been steadfast with his conditioning. He pulled out of pitching for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic so he would be ready for the season, another sign of his resolve to be the Indians’ No. 1 starter.

Top of the 4th
At the White Sox ring ceremony yesterday, each ring was delivered individually on a silver platter to each Sox player that participated on the 2005 World Series championship team by 44 men, dressed in tuxedos with white gloves. The ring waiters made a dramatic entrance through the center-field wall amid a cloud of white smoke.

After they received the rings, they were congratulated by Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Sox general manager Ken Williams. Now there’s a crew that you really want to make sure you scrub up after you shake hands with.

Aaron Rowand was asked how often he would wear the ring, “All the time,” he said. That should endear him to his Phillies teammates.

Other players no longer on the team who made it back for the ceremony were Orlando Hernandez, now with the Arizona Diamondbacks; Willie Harris, who scored the winning run in the World Series clincher and now in the Red Sox farm system; and reserve outfielder Timo Perez. Other former players who couldn’t appear, such as Frank Thomas and Geoff Blum, were listed on the outfield scoreboard.

Rings were also presented to Luis Aparico and Carlton Fisk, living White Sox Hall-of-Famers, and families of past team owners, including Charles Comiskey, Mary Frances Veeck and John Allyn.

In all, 432 rings were made for the team’s players, staff and employees and were designed by Reinsdorf’s wife, Martyl, who also designed five of the six championship rings for the Chicago Bulls. The rings are made of a 14-karat yellow gold with a 14-karat white gold insert. Each one contains 95 diamonds of various sizes equaling more than two carats.
The total number of diamonds set was 56,000.

Top of the 5th
This particular Billy-Ball seems to have a running theme and this fits right in. There are two sides of looking at everything and throughout the season we will try to look at life through both sides now in our “Half-full/Half-empty” feature.

Every glass can be perceived as half-full and half-empty and clearly, the trade to acquire Mark Loretta has enormous upsides for the Boston Red Sox. Loretta is a lifetime .301 hitter and there is every reason to think that his 55 point drop in average last season was an aberration caused by injury.

Looking at the “half-empty” side of this glass, the Sox gave up back-up catcher and Tim Wakefield’s batterymate, Doug Mirabelli, to acquire Loretta. Don’t minimize that departure. Yesterday, Mirabelli’s replacement, Josh Bard, made his first appearance catching Wakefield. Prior to yesterday, Bard had caught 1198 innings over four seasons with the Indians, and he allowed nine passed balls (one per 133 innings). He never allowed more than one in a game. Yesterday, in his first game catching Wakefield, Bard allowed three passed balls in the first three innings.

And how did Wakefield do? Well, he allowed four runs in the 1st inning, the first time Wakefield allowed more than three first-inning runs since April 8, 1997 — a span of 222 starts. By the time Wake left the game, he had pitched 3.2 inning and given up seven runs on seven hits.

Texas beat Boston, 7-4.

Top of the 6th
Last Friday, more than 500 people bid on items from the estate of former owner of the Cincinnati Reds Marge Schott. The auction took in $142,725 for Schott’s foundation. Restaurateur Scott Snow bid $14,950 for one of Marge’s two available copies of the 1990 World Series trophy while the other trophy went for $18,400 to an anonymous telephone bidder.

The largest winning bid was for Marge’s Nazi memorabilia from a phone bidder only identified as “Adolf from Argentina.”

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 4/5/2006
On this date in 1998, he won the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first game.

What did Frank Robinson do in the first at-bat of his major league debut at Crosley Field on Opening Day 1956?
Send your answers to

Bottom of the 7th
Happy birthday to the man dubbed “Superjew” by rival manager Rocky Bridges after he led the California League in batting and home runs in 1965.

Where and when did Hank Aaron make his major league debut?
Crosley Field on Opening Day 1954 – Aaron made his major league debut against the Reds on April 13, 1954 and went 0-for-5.

Top of the 8th
The Padres and the Giants were rained out in san Diego yesterday. It was just the 16th rainout in the Padres’ 38-year history and the first at Petco Park, which opened in 2004. The Padres had played 635 consecutive home games since they were washed out on May 12, 1998, at Qualcomm Stadium.

Top of the 9th
My dad, who died a little over three years ago, would have been 97 today. He loved his family and he loved baseball. He always wanted to check and see how his Mets were doing. But he was very realistic about them – he always hoped for the best and would expect the worst. He would have loved David Wright, he always bemoaned the longstanding problem the Mets had at third base.

He was an impeccably honest man and would have had nothing but disrespect for Barry B*nds. He was smart and perceptive up to the end. As he lay in a semi-coma on his death bed, he would occasionally awaken and ask what was going on in the world. He would always ask if we were at war yet, this was months before Iraq started, as he had nothing but enmity for W.

Those who knew him, still miss him. He truly was a gentle man.

Happy birthday, Pop.

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.