May 2009

Mets Sick, Hurt

The New York Mets who aren’t hurt are sick – a flu that raced through the team and the visiting Marlins. And the ones who aren’t sick might have been made so by the continuing struggles of J.J. Putz.

Angel Pagan started hopping after Hanley Ramirez’s fourth-inning double, and quickly exited with what the Mets cheerfully described as “right groin discomfort” (perhaps a subject for a different blog). He was declared “day to day.”
Of course he was. He was a Met position player who attempted to use two limbs at the same time.
Pagan is only on the roster because of Carlos Delgado’s injury, and was only in the lineup because of Carlos Beltran’s stomach flu. This is his third notable injury in two years in a New York uniform, quite an accomplishment for a guy who was only playing in his 43rd game over that span. Jeremy Reed replaced Pagan, and Fernando Tatis remained available. Ron Swoboda was also in the house at Citifield if it came to that.
John Maine exited after a brief bit of stunting in the top of the 7th. Like Beltran, and Saturday’s Florida starter Josh Johnson, he began to get the icks in the bottom of the 6th, but not quickly enough for the Mets to get up the bullpen. So Maine sucked it up and came out to the mound in the 7th, tied his shoe, and signaled to the dugout. That gave Jerry Manuel the right to bring Pedro Feliciano in with an infinite number of warmups.
He might’ve tried that with Putz, whose season looks acceptable on paper, but whose stats (1-3, 3.81 ERA, 2 Saves, 10 Holds) hide a worried fear. The Met hierarchy continues to wonder if he isn’t hurt. Entering with a three-zip lead. A walk, two hits, and the inevitable Ramirez first-pitch RBI single off Bobby Parnell, and Putz had given back two-thirds of the lead. The action on his breaking pitches seems to be less than last year before his elbow problems, and his strikeout to walk ratio is now a scary 19:18 (it was 104:13 in 2006; 356:122 lifetime).
Putz exited to booing and an unspoken question that seems to be racing towards Met management: when will they have to start breaking in Parnell as, at minimum, Putz’s co-equal as a bridge to Francisco Rodriguez?
On the other hand, 20-year old Fernando Martinez is beginning to make converts. His 8th inning RBI double opened up a 1-0 game, and while his manager said pre-game that he could not currently call him a “good” defensive outfielder, another part of Manuel’s response – about the team having to bear with him as he grows – suggested Martinez remains in position to claim the rightfield job even when Ryan Church returns.

No Mike Pelfrey Disease

With Mike Pelfrey following his three-balk night of the “Yips” with nothing more worrisome than forgetting to get off the rubber at Fenway before asking umpire Joe West if he could blow on his fingers, it appears the list of Major League victims of “Steve Blass Disease” and its related maladies will remain at 17.

Contrary to most coverage of those unfortunate big leaguers who have suddenly lost the ability to do something extraordinarily fundamental, there appears to be an explanation that covers about a quarter of the sufferers, and maybe more.
The mystery was unlocked after the most recent full-fledged case: Rick Ankiel, who suddenly started throwing pitches for the Cardinals in the 2000 playoffs that veered off the plate by ten or fifteen degrees. Pat Jordan profiled Ankiel in The New York TimesSunday Magazineand revealed Ankiel’s father had been sentenced to prison on drug charges. Ankiel had essentially learned baseball from his father.
Earlier the same year, of course, Chuck Knoblauch’s version of “The Disease” culminated when he hit my late mother with as errant an infield throw as you could make, in 2000. It was well-known that his father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, and he had just deteriorated to the point where he no longer recognized his son. Knoblauch had not only learned the game from his father, but his father had been one of his coaches, and had traveled to literally dozens of his game every year, even in the pros.
As the Knoblauch nightmare reached its end, I was working for Fox Sports, and one of our cable baseball analysts was Steve Sax. In 1983, of course, he too had lost the ability to make the easy unpressured throw to first base. Sax revealed that throughout his crisis, his father’s health was deteriorating, and that he incorrectly believed his Dad had suffered a heart attack. Sax said he’d learned baseball from his father.
If the trend isn’t evident by now, a few months after Jordan wrote the profile on Rick Ankiel, he revealed that his own baseball career – he was a flame-thrower in the Braves’ system in the late ’50s – had really collapsed when he lost all control of his pitches. Jordan told me that he had finally decided that he lost the ability to throw strikes after a falling-out with his domineering older brother, who had taught him the game, and whose relationship with him was predicated almost exclusively on baseball.
Armed with this thread in the Ankiel, Knoblauch, Sax, and Jordan stories, I asked a psychologist friend what she made of this. It wasn’t at all implausible, she said. The pain of loss – emotionally, physically, or mortally – could easily show up in something like baseball. If a player associated baseball from childhood with an older male relative or authority figure, and something terrible happened to the male relative, or to his relationship with that relative, the unconscious could easily rebel. Part of these guys presumably couldn’t bear to play baseball during these illnesses or traumas, because baseball meant Dad or Brother. And the unconscious would try to stop them from playing by taking the easiest thing – a snap throw to first base for an infielder, an ordinary strike from a pitcher – and making it the most difficult.
The first player recognized as suffering from the “disease” – Steve Blass – suddenly lost his ability to throw strikes in the spring of 1973, after nearly eight years in the Pirates’ rotation, including a hero’s role in the 1971 World Series. His career-ending wildness has never been satisfactorily explained, although one of the theories that dovetails neatly with the psychological suggestion of an unconscious desire to stop playing baseball because baseball was a deep reminder of a lost or unavailable male role model, was that Blass was deeply affected by the death of his teammate and good friend, the all-time great Roberto Clemente, on January 1, 1973.
The psychological and family conditions of the other victims generally associated with “Blass Disease” have never been fully explored, to my knowledge. The first recorded case was catcher Clint “Scrap Iron” Courtney, who, in 1953, inexplicably lost the ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Courtney, an eminently pragmatic guy who probably would’ve laughed or swung at anybody suggesting a psychological explanation, addressed his “yip” by simply throwing the ball to the third baseman instead. Within a week, the problem had vanished. Courtney played in the bigs until 1961 and the problem never recurred.
Mackey Sasser’s identical problem in the ’90s followed a bone-rattling collision at the plate with Jim Presley of the Braves (later as a college coach, Sasser had similar troubles throwing batting practice to his team). Dave Engle, an outfielder converted to part-time catching by the Twins in the ’80s, developed the same problem, apparently after he inadvertently broke a pitcher’s nose with a return throw. Mark Wohlers, the onetime Braves’ closer, got Blass-like after an injury.
The others with sudden loss of simple skill, haven’t been analyzed psychologically, at least not within my frame of reference.As a minor league catcher, former number one draft choice Mike Ivie had trouble throwing to the mound and in pursuit of base stealers, and wound up being moved to the infield. Dale Murphy had an exaggerated version – his throws to second would often land closer to the centerfielder than either middle infielder.
The others I’ve seen included in the lists of the victims were all pitchers: Joe Cowley, Mark Davis, Clay Kirby, Sam Militello, Bruce Ruffin, Kevin Saucier, and Steve Trout (I’m on the fence on Cowley – he was wild before and after his modicums of success with the White Sox and Yankees in the mid-’80s). To my knowledge there’s also no data on the conditions of their families or their minds.
It is fascinating, though, that of all the players mentioned, the only one I know of to address the problem by seeing a sports psychologist was the old Met catcher, Mackey Sasser. And that was when the batting practice problem arose, in the job he still has, as head coach at Wallace Community College in Alabama. Sasserexplained in 2007that after eleven years dealing with it, he had finally received professional help. There he discovered that his baseball anxieties dated back to his parents’ divorce when he was ten, and how the collision with Jim Presley exacerbated them – and, his complicated relationship with… his father.

Meet Wilbur Huckle. Again.

Last month I introduced you to Wilbur Huckle, the latest apparent inductee into a very unfortunate, star-crossed club: guys who were on big league rosters, eligible to play in big league games – and never did.

Huckle, according to a scorecard owned by a photographer who works the New York ballparks, Steve Moore, was listed on the Mets’ roster in September, 1963. He never appeared in a major league game, and his two claims to fame were having been Tom Seaver’s first minor league roomate in Jacksonville in 1966, and later a Mets’ minor league manager.
Well there is a little clarification on his prospective membership in the DNP Club – and a third, delightful, claim to fame.
The ’63 scorecard turns out to list Huckle – but the listing is done in pencil, by hand, by a scout who attended the game. It assigns him uniform number 24. And it fits perfectly into the one piece of archived Huckle news found in contemporary reporting.
The San Antonio Express of September 12, 1963, reports:

HUCKLE CALLED UP TO VARSITY

San Antonio’s Wilbur Huckle, who was named the all-star shortstop in the Class A Carolina League, has joined Casey Stengel’s Mets.

So far, so Eureka! But wait, after a resume of Huckle’s brief pro career (and his signing by the same scout who found Nolan Ryan for the Mets), there’s more:

Huckle flew from Raleigh to New York Tuesday to join the parent club. “He didn’t know whether the Mets planned to play him any, or whether they just wanted him to work out with the club a few days,” his father, Allen Huckle said Wednesday. “We’ve been hoping to see his name in a box score.”

Wow. That last line – given that they never would, is particularly poignant.

Worse still, a UPIarticle from a month later, October 16, announces the addition of a dozen minor leaguers to the Mets’ off-season roster. Huckle is among them. This seems conclusive; it strains credulity to think he was added to the Met roster for a couple of days in September only to be removed, and then returned to it in October.
He appears to belong to a still more select and unfortunate club: guys who were in uniform on a major league field but didn’t even to not get in a game.
Huckle’s name, would, however, ring briefly in Mets’ history. He was with the team for most of Spring Training in ’64, and enough fans were enchanted by his handle that in that year of a presidential election, the Mets produced at least two “campaign buttons” for a fictional Huckle Presidential Campaign:
The one on the left is particularly sublime. Other than the word “Mets,” the slogan is a direct quote from the man who would ultimately be the 1964 GOP nominee, Senator Barry Goldwater.

Vin Scully, Voice Of The Yankees

The advent of the Mets’ annual visit to Dodger Stadium always reminds me of one of the greatest baseball stories nobody tells.

Let’s correct that.
A decade ago, when I was still working full-time in sports and in Los Angeles, it was the Yankees coming to town for an exhibition game, and, with them, my friend Michael Kay, at that time still a member of their radio team. Michael is usually pretty direct, but on the field before the game, he was hemming and hawing something awful until I finally blurted “out with it!” He explained he was just too nervous to introduce himself to the legendary Vin Scully, even though both were not only major league broadcasters, but also alums of Fordham University in New York.
Mike was still repeating his apology when I explained I knew exactly how he felt. When I had first worked in Los Angeles as a local sportscaster in the ’80s, it had taken me two years to screw up the courage to introduce myself to this nonpareil of my business. As I reassured Michael, Vin was easily the nicest famous person in the sport, maybe in the country. And he always had a story that in some way related to you.

Little did I know.
As Michael began to hyperventilate, I made the introductions. Vin asked about Fordham, about Mike’s youth, about his newspaper career, about the Yankees. And then came the story: “Michael, did you know; Keith, I don’t even think I told you this — I nearly became the Voice of the Yankees?”
Absolute silence for two or three beats, and then, from Kay and Olbermann, a joint “whaaaat?”
“When the Yankees let Mel Allen go in 1964, I got a phone call from the man who they had brought in to run their broadcasting operation, Craig Smith,” Vin began. “He had been in charge of the World Series broadcasts forever, so I’d known him about ten years by then. And he asked me if I’d like to come home to New York and become the lead announcer. He offered a very handsome salary, and a long contract.
“Well, I was amazed, as you can imagine. I’d found a wonderful home here in Los Angeles, but remember, this was only seven years after the Dodgers left Brooklyn. I was still a New Yorker through and through. Plus, here was a chance to work again with Red Barber. And recall, too, that this was just before the Yankee dynasty collapsed. As much as Mr. O’Malley had done here and in Brooklyn, the Yankees were still the marquee name in sports. If it had been 1958 or 1959, when I still missed New York so, I would’ve said yes before he hung up the phone.”
“So, I thought long and hard about that one. But I had a young family, and I think we had all just truly adjusted to living here – takes just about seven years, I think – and in the end I turned it down.”
Michael and I each sputtered various observations about how changed the baseball world might have been. Vin Scully doing the Yankee games? Would the franchise still have ebbed with such a benign but effective salesman at the microphone? Would the Dodgers’ roots, still growing in 1964-1965, have gone in as deeply as they did? Would CBS’s failed experiment in corporate ownership have succeeded, and George Steinbrenner never have bought the Yankees? What would have happened to the man to whom the Yankees gave the job Scully turned down? Would Joe Garagiola have ever wound up on The Game Of The Week, or The Today Show?
Vin laughed. “Oh, to tell the truth, I don’t think it’d made that much difference. It’s not very important.” He excused himself to go back to preparing for his broadcast, and, as usual, made it seem like I had done him a great favor by introducing Michael to him. After Vin had left, Michael and I sat there on the Dodger bench for a few moments in silence. Then he said “If he had been the Yankee announcer when I was growing up, I never would have dreamed of applying for a job as his gopher, let alone as his partner.” I told him that once again I knew how he felt – it was very tough knowing that my sportscasts often preceded Vin’s play-by-play on cable. It seemed somehow a sacrilege to pretend to deserve to be on the same channel.
Still, think of it: 45 years of “Hi again everybody, it’s time for Yankee Baseball!” Or maybe Steinbrenner would’ve quarreled with Vin and eased him out. Or, likeliest of all the alternate-galaxy theories: working in New York, where in the ’60s all the network and advertising executives were still located, Vin Scully would’ve gone on to the Game Of The Week, or something even higher up on the tv food chain, a lot earlier than he actually did.
Who knows – maybe he’d still be doing it – and doing it on NBC.

Avast Ye, Matey

Did you see Matt Capps of the Pirates, after Friday Night’s meltdown, warming up before last night’s tilt with the Rockies?

He was wearing a blindfold over his left eye.
Admittedly it was a white sleeve or sock, and it was over the wrong eye, but otherwise it was a mirror image of the Pirates’ old logo (not the ’90s one that appeared to show The Soup Nazi from’Seinfeld.’). And as pitching coach Joe Kerrigan stood next to him, it looked like the Pittsburgh closer had lost a bet, or was trying to do his impression of the late Eddie Feigner from the softball team “The King And His Court,” and couldn’t quite do the whole handkerchief-over-both-eyes-while-pitching trick.
“Capps was turning his head, over-rotating towards 3rd Base, causing his front shoulder to point behind the righthanders’ batter’s box,” Kerrigan tells me by e-mail from Pittsburgh. “You put a patch over his left eye, so his right eye can see the target, hence he can’t overturn. Simple playground stuff.”
Love that.
Capps and Kerrigan, according to the Pirates’ game broadcast Saturday night, were also looking at tape of the reliever’s salad days of 2007 and the comparisons to this season are not happy ones. His arm has been well behind his body – he’s expending his energy long before his arm is fully extended and he’s ready to release the ball. Kerrigan apparently diagnosed the problem as he described in the e-mail — over-rotation — and came up with the simple solution for a bullpen session (the out-of-synch release might also explain Capps’ elbow bruising and discomfort).
Unfortunately I don’t think Capps can use it in a game.
HOW ABOUT USING GAMEL IN A GAME?

Did the Brewers really call up one of the game’s top two or three power prospects so he could sit behind the bench for a week, get some DH work during inter-league, and then send him back down?
Apparently.
Third Baseman Mat Gamel was summoned Wednesday from Nashville and entering play today had gotten exactly one at bat. Even when Rickie Weeks took himself out of this afternoon’s game with soreness in his wrist, the Brewers simply moved Craig Counsell from third to second, and inserted Bill Hall at third.
Milwaukee started the day with the second best record in the NL, Counsell has been hot lately, and Ken Macha and Doug Melvin have done a lot more managing and general managing than I have, but the week’s inactivity makes no sense, not in a division as competitive and seemingly as balanced as the Central. The Brewers say they want to treat him more like Prince Fielder in 2005 than Ryan Braun in 2007 but that may not be a luxury they can afford. Gamel is either a vital component (if he can improve to bare-minimum status defensively at third), or a wonderful trading chip (if he can’t, and he has to become a corner outfielder, first baseman, or DH, none of which Milwaukee needs).
Why just have him sit around?
In short, play him (at Milwaukee or Nashville), or trade him!

Sacrifice Fly Double Play?

The McCarver Theorem was just validated again here at Yankee Stadium (go to a game, you’ll always see something, or a combination of things, you’ve never seen before), when Brian Buscher of the Twins hit into a sacrifice fly double play.

The Twins were threatening, first and third, in the second inning of a scoreless game, with one out. Buscher skied to center and Brett Gardner’s weak throw dribbled towards the plate, far behind runner Justin Morneau. But as Morneau scored, the real thrills were going on in the background. The other runner, Michael Cuddyer, not only was deked into slidinginto second base, but when he got up, he decided to turn towards third.
Yet still as Cuddyer raced back towards first, another level of misdirection played out. The Yankees didn’t bother throwing to first; catcher Francisco Cervelli instead tossed to Derek Jeter, standing at second.
Lost amid his befuddled slide, flinch towards third, and scramble back to his base of safety, Cuddyer had somehow failed to touch second on the way back. He was declared out for missing the base, while the television cameras and most in the press box thought that lead runner Morneau might have been called out for leaving too early from third.
Scoring: sacrifice fly, double play (8-2-6), RBI for Buscher.
The sage of the official scorer’s desk, Bill Shannon, claimed never to have seen it before in his umpteen years covering games. Same too for Bob Ryan and Gordon Edes of The Boston Globe. Add me to the list and you’ve got about 150 years of professional watching.
Incidentally, Mark Teixeira has just provided Empty Stadium’s mandatory explosive homer to right – a blast deep into the bleachers in right-center. 3-1 Yankees, as they still bat, bottom third.
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After All, His Initials Are D.L.

I think Jayson Stark started this Player “A” jazz. I’ve stolen from him before, I’ll steal from him again.

Player “A” has three homers, 11 RBI, and a .295 average in 23 games (just twelve as a starter).

Player “B” has three homers, 15 RBI, and a .209 average in 24 games (but was up to .294 in his last five games).

And it’s good news that Player “B” won’t go on the disabled list, and will return to his team’s line-up this week, replacing Player “A”?

They are, of course, A) Micah Hoffpauir, and B) Derrek Lee. There may be 44 guys in this country not named Hoffpauir who think it would be worth the Cubs’ while to let Hoffpauir succeed D-Lee right now. I’m one of them. It’s tough to think in those terms of a man who slammed 46 homers just four seasons ago. But considering he’s produced only two full, healthy seasons, since (averaging 21 homers and 86 RBI in each) and with this largely untreated bulging disk in his neck, is not likely to make this a third full season, nor reach those production numbers, it’s time to face the fact that he’s no longer among the game’s elite sluggers.

He hit five homers after July 1st last year. He hit .258 “close and late.” He hit .205 against the Cards last year and .239 against the Brewers. As he slides into his mid 30’s you begin to look around and say, salary considerations included, which teams would happily trade their first baseman for him, straight up?

It can get late early out there at first base. The Cubs might have been serving themselves well to put D.L. on the D.L. for two weeks and see if Hoffpauir has the chops on a daily basis, that he seems to offer sporadically. It’s a damn tough thing to bench a richly-compensated player, and a good guy, and a veteran. But, especially without Aramis Ramirez in the line-up, the Cubs need more than the vague hope that their first baseman will be healthy enough to finish the year with 20 homers and 85 RBI. Hoffpauir may not be the solution – two weeks would’ve given Chicago a better ability to guess.

I just don’t think guessing that D-Lee is going to perform worse, not better, requires very much ability at all. 

 

Manny Being Manny*

* With PEDs.

“U have no idea!” a Red Sox friend texted at the end of last July. “U haven’t heard half the stories. Ones u have r only half the truth.” The trade of texts ended with guesstimates of just how much the trade of Manny Ramirez had extended the lives of everybody in Boston from the team executives to the clubhouse attendants.
These stories constituted as wide a range of accused crimes and misdemeanors as any modern player has ever collected. But none I ever heard included a specific charge about performance enhancing drugs. That there is surprise at the 50-game suspension, at the perfect dagger through the heart of the Dodgers’ perfect start, is about the means, not ends. “Looks like a great team,” a Dodger told me not two months ago in Arizona. “Watch Manny screw it up. He got his money.”
The stories, dating back to Cleveland, ranged from unbelievable/nonsense to just unbelievable. He supposedly shirked, showed up late or not at all, forced the trade, tried to get it undone. Guys in the dugout said they saw him once picking at his nails, his glove under his arm, as a righty made contact and pulled the ball right to him (he made the catch). His personal hygiene was supposed to be indescribable. Teammates wondered if he was “all there.” As late as this spring a Dodger individual predicted a phony injury. His extraordinary natural gifts, they thought, gave him the ability to wallpaper it all. The near-.400 stretch with the Dodgers last year was an indication of what he could do if he was trying – and if he was scared.
There were some specifics. Last July 6th – maybe the first public indicator something was desperately wrong – the infamous Sunday Night game in New York when Ramirez didn’t start, and only appeared as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter against Mariano Rivera with two out and the winning run at second. Manny never took the bat off his shoulder. Not, he got called out on three Rivera cutters. He never moved. Went silently to the plate, left Boston’s last runner of the loss to fade away at second, left without comment for the clubhouse.
Last July 31st, the Red Sox and Pirates and Dodgers beat the deadline and Manny is gone. And the phone supposedly rings in Boston. It’s Manny, shocked into reality. He wasn’t happy, sure, but he was only doing what the agent suggested to get them to pick up his 2009 option (not that the agent suggested all this) and he was really sorry and he would play his heart out and he’d be there extra-early for BP and he was glad the trade hadn’t happened. And the person at the other end of the line needed several tries before he managed to get the idea through to Manny that the trade could not be undone, that he had to move to L.A., that time would not roll backwards just because Manny wanted it to.
That’s the thing that makes it surprising that we are all surprised today. All the stories about Ramirez could be total slanders. The claims about intelligence and hygiene and focus and selfishness could be utter nonsense spread to make those who survived him look better, gentler, more long-suffering. The Cookie Cutter Excuse No. 3 – my-doctor-prescribed-it-it-was-an-accident – could even be true. But the one continuous thread through every tale, true or false, is exactly the explanation for the PED user who gets caught – a presumption of invincibility and an inability to discern cause and effect.
Forgive the anonymity of the quotes – again – but this was in Glendale in March and a Dodger person (sorry) traded a greeting with Manny and then we watched as Manny joined a group stretching in the outfield. “Look at him wincing,” he said. “I’d be concerned but he told me, now that he had signed, and now that he had gotten his timing in the batting cage, since he hated spring training so much, he figured he’d pull a hamstring so he could get a few days off.” The Dodger person looked only at Manny. “He actually told me that. Look at him. He’s practicing looking hurt.”
I offered that he saw the new contract not as payment for services to be rendered, not as a lifeline to encourage a repeat of last year’s intensity, but as just desserts for what he did last year, that there when you were Manny Ramirez there were no incentives, no forward-thinking. The Dodger person squinted out towards number 99, and finally answered. “Yes. I think that may be it. But who (expletives deleted) knows. When they said that this was ‘Manny being Manny’ in Boston, we had no idea just how much that meant.”
Apparently none of us did.

Managers (Updated)

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that annually, Terry Francona lets me sit with him, on the bench, during a spring training game. This is half out of friendship and half, I think, to remind me how little I actually understand about managing – or baseball itself – compared to the pros.

Having acknowledged that, and presented the caveat, I’d still like to point out that actual major league managers have done the following things in the last few days:
Mike Scioscia sent poor Brandon Wood back to the minors – having given him, I believe, three starts during two weeks in the bigs, during which he hit the ball with authority and acquitted himself well in the field – so he could bring back Reggie Willits on the premise that “some of the outfielders are a bit nicked up.” This after explaining that previous plans for Wood were scuttled because Gary Matthews had played so well, and despite the fact that Chone Figgins and even Wood himself can play the outfield. The logical extension of this utterly illogical handling of one of the game’s premier prospects must be that the Angels hope to waste all of Wood’s options and wind up selling him on waivers, or possibly to the Samsung team of the Korean League.
Joe Girardi benches Hideki Matsui against Jon Lester Monday, even though Matsui had been hot, and particularly so against lefties. He thus instead DH’s Jorge Posada, who promptly sends himself onto the DL, requiring Joe to pinch-hit for Posada with… Matsui.
And though the Diamondbacks might be the coldest team offensively in the majors, and though he has one guy who can play first and third, another who can play first and left, and a third who can play third and second (poorly), when facing Jeff Weaver in the latter’s first major league start since 2007, Bob Melvin leaves Tony Clark on his bench. Batter-Vs-Pitcher numbers are sometimes misleading. But Clark was 7-for-11 lifetime against Weaver with two homers. The D-Backs got five hits off Weaver.
What’s worse is, if early in the week, Melvin happened to stand on a piece of paper that had fallen from the stands with the words “Play Tony Clark against Weaver” written on it, and his team had scored a run during the inning, he might’ve made the line-up change out of superstition.
Managers know 50 times as much as we do. Just not every second.
 
Postscript: Melvin deserves less tweaking, and I recall my snark. Tony Clark was put on the disabled list this afternoon (Wednesday) with continuing wrist problems. Presumably Bob knew about this Tuesday. It certainly denies us a chance for Melvin to take a re-test: Clark has four career homers against the pitcher Arizona faces tomorrow night, Chris Young.

Rockies + Bullpenwinkle

The Closer Carousel never stops; the only true accomplishment is knowing when it’s going to start spinning dangerously like the merry-go-round at the end of Hitchcock’s “Strangers On A Train,” and if the carny is going to get to the shut-off valve in time or if the entire bullpen is going to get launched in the general direction of the cotton candy machine.

As remarked here earlier it’s obvious the Nationals are in the most turmoil at the moment, but one wonders if that situation might not straighten itself out quickly and be replaced by the chaos bubbling to the surface in Colorado. Manny Corpas has pitched himself out of the top job, out of the set-up job, and probably out of the majors. Huston Street has lost the job, won it anew, but hardly gotten a firm handle on the reins. Taylor Buchholz is clearly not near a return from injury (he was just shifted to the 60-Day DL). You’re left wondering if Jason Grilli will actually wind up closing. He has the classic ’80s-’90s biography page: onetime top prospect who never quite made it as a starter and drifted around.
Of course Washington is already there, but, and this is nothing more than a hunch, that Content loud of Joe Beimel, Julian Tavarez, Kip Wells, Garrett Mock, and Joel Hanrahan will resolve itself, probably later than sooner, with Hanrahan back in the job. Again, it’s just a hunch.
NEW HOUSE, SAME RIVALRY

Terry Francona said he loved the new Yankee Stadium, but as a creature of habit, he was more than a little thrown by the disruption of his rituals from years of coming to the old one. “No better place to win on the road, no worse one to lose,” he told me from behind the desk of the visiting manager’s office, a space about four times larger than the one in the old house. The Sox were most floored by the pre-game press briefing, which exceeds what baseball used to do for the World Series: a large, carpeted, well lit room with about 140 chairs, a podium for a moderator to call on reporters for questions, two wireless microphone wranglers, and a camera platform in the back filled with equipment.
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It did look a little like Tito was addressing a sales workshop.
As to the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, now accelerated, future shock kind of way by all the intra-divisional play, he noted that “it seemed like that series in our place was a long time ago.” His charges then went out and contradicted him, waiting out a 2:20 rain delay, scratching Phil Hughes for a run in each of the first four innings, getting the benefit of Joe Girardi inexplicably benching Hideki Matsui when he’s been hitting lefties well, and outlasting two Teixeira home runs to take the first ever Sox-Yanks game in the new park.
Francona is, in fact, such a creature of habit that the charts and data taped to the dugout wall around him? He likes to print them out, and tape them up, himself.
BASEBALL BLOOPER OF THE WEEK:

It went by too fast to get an image, but when the Yankees asked their nightly trivia question, they pulled an ironic doozy. The contestant was asked to identify the oldest pitcher to win 20 for the first time. Among the choices were Mike Mussina (the correct answer), ’50s Yankees ace Vic Raschi, and Fritz Peterson, the pitcher who achieved the all-time lowest career ERA inside the original Yankee Stadium.
Except the video didn’t show Peterson, it showed his teammate Mike Kekich. And any vintage Yankee fan, or baseball expert, or student of the weird culture of the ’70s was instantly flashed back to 1973 when Peterson and Kekich exchanged more than just identities on a scoreboard. They traded wives, and families, in an infamous event that was shocking even then.
And 36 years later Kekich was mistaken for Peterson.
The real punchline to the Peterson/Kekich “trade” was not the latter’s banishment to Cleveland that summer, but the fact that while the ex-Mrs. Kekich actually married Peterson, Mrs. Peterson soon left Kekich, leaving him awaiting a Wife To Be Named Later.
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