Results tagged ‘ Yu Darvish ’

2012 Previews: A.L. West

Imagine for a second this scenario: a New York team wins consecutive pennants. They lose the first World Series to a lightning-in-a-bottle fast-finisher from the other league. They lose the next year to another one-month-wonder despite twice being one strike away from sealing the deal in Game 6. The New York team owner – one of the most famous men in sports – has to decide whether or not to retain his popular, African-American manager after the latter tests positive for cocaine. This was after he built the batting order around a recovered addict, who then falls off the wagon in the weeks before he was to get a nine-figure contract extension.

Can you picture that? It would be Armageddon every day at that ballpark as the media – not just in New York but nationally – struggled merely to decide whether these misceants were to be called the worst chokers of all time, or a bunch of druggies, or the team with the owner who needed to be run out of the game on a rail for letting such tainted underachievement continue. It would be, to adapt Dorothy Parker’s phrase to baseball, a Fresh Hell every day.

Of course, you don’t have to imagine anything here but the geography. This is not the imaginary story of the most controversial New York team of all time. It’s the 2012 Texas Rangers – and only their worst headlines – and in one of the most meaningful and revealing truths about baseball, and sports media, and America itself, they remain one of our feel good stories.

It’s not just New York, by the way. The 180 degree difference in how the New York Baseball Rangers would be treated, would also be true of the Boston Rangers or the Philadelphia Rangers or the Los Angeles Rangers. Regardless of the venue, it’s amazing, and it’s real.

And it’s relevant to a preview of the American League West because it means what is largely the same team can try it again for the third straight year – without Josh Hamilton being traded for Ken Phelps or Ron Washington being replaced by Dallas Green. There are only two notable changes: a real closer in Joe Nathan, and C.J. Wilson being swapped out for Yu Darvish.

The former move seems to reduce the variables; the latter may do the opposite. Darvish is the prototypical Japanese pitcher – with slight deception in the delivery, a mastery of five pitches and about four subtle varieties for each of them, and a rubber arm (at least for awhile). But Darvish is something Nomo and Matsuzaka and the rest are not: he is a Giant. He is 6’5”, 215, meaning he’s bigger than Nathan and Colby Lewis, and at least taller than Josh Hamilton. So the four different fastballs come in as fast as 95.

Watching Darvish against Colorado last week was watching the biggest kid in Kindergarten playfully slapping all the other ones. Half of them fell unconscious to the floor. The others? He missed them and he fell to the floor. The Rockies got their licks in, but in six at bats against him, Cargo and Tulo struck out six times and didn’t look close on any of the swinging strikes. It is almost a given (since we still condescendingly look at even Japan’s greatest veteran stars as our freshmen) that Darvish takes the Rookie Award in the AL. He may take the Cy. He may also go 12-15. The question isn’t whether or not he’ll make American batters look bad most of the time, but whether he might make American pitchers look bad most of the time.

The Rangers have competition in Orange County, but the ANGELS are the most tragically snake-bitten of all teams, and investments like the zillions spent on Wilson and Albert Pujols have always ended in tears – usually the late Gene Mauch’s. Despite the addition of Pujols and the resurrection of Kendrys “Just Shake Hands” Morales, the Cherubs are nowhere near a match for Texas offensively (hell, the ’27 Yankees might not be). The Mark Trumbo third base play comes at considerable defensive risk, and the bullpen remains a series of risky albeit probably good gambles. Ironically, for all that money, the difference-maker for Mike Scioscia might be his fifth starter, either retread Jerome Williams or rookie Garrett Richards, who at times looked lights out this spring.

There might be something to watch in SEATTLE. My affection for Jesus Montero’s opposite field power has been elaborated upon here before. But there is a flock of young hitters around him who might also blossom, and not just Dustin Ackley. Smoak, Carp (hurt), Saunders, Liddi, Gutierrez (hurt), and behind them Catricala and another Fernando Martinez might make the Mariners Wild Card eligible in a year. Probably would’ve helped if they hadn’t traded Doug Fister, because the rotation gets dicey just about the time you ask “Kevin Millwood is still alive?”

My friend Bob Melvin gets his first full year managing again, in OAKLAND. He loves to do it and was born to do it, and if anybody can drag this team back into respectability after its latest re-casting, it’s Bob. Unfortunately, even though he only played 11 games there in his career, Bob might be the best first baseman he has, and that’s a problem. The base hits get thin once you get past the exciting Jemile Weeks and the possibly exciting Yoenis Cespedes. And I won’t write anything long-winded on the latter for fear of being accusedof being Cespedes-sesquipedalian.

Sorry.

It’ll be fun watching the A’s continue their role as baseball’s breeding and/or training grounds for B+ pitchers. Mulder, Zito, Hudson,  Harden, Haren, Street, Gonzalez, Cahill, Bailey, Anderson, et al. The new names are De Los Santos, Milone, Parker, and Peacock and maybe baseball can get on the stick and get the A’s into San Jose before they become eligible for the A’s Alumni Association, too.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST FORECAST:

TEXAS wins again, with Darvish filling the Wilson vacuum. LOS ANGELES/ANAHEIM/THE OC, afflicted by some calamity, still has enough to claim a wild card. SEATTLE approaches .500, and OAKLAND does better than you’d think.

UNRELATED NOTE:

Love the Braves taking a flier on third baseman Juan Francisco. He may amount to nothing, but he is capable of a Jose Bautista like breakout, and he’s no more of a load defensively than Cabrera or Trumbo. He was dying a slow death in Cincinnati where I believe Dusty Baker never played him two games in a row. Because he isn’t 37.

The Rocket Gets To Cooperstown

This town isn’t often surprised by celebrities. It has, after all, hosted every Hall of Famer not posthumously elected, and until a few years ago it used to be visited by two major league teams a year in an annual exhibition game.

That was until Roger Clemens showed up in front of the CVS.
Just as the post-induction crowds were thinning out, Clemens suddenly showed up here, walking down Main Street unescorted at dusk, signing autographs for most of a clot of 100 or so people that came out of the shops and restaurants as the buzz spread that it really was him. He didn’t stop to chat, and he wasn’t sightseeing. The explanation was simple, and provided by other Dads in from out of town, with their twelve-year olds in tow. Clemens was merely escorting, and watching as, his youngest son Kody competed in a Cooperstown Dreams game – the little league-ish competition that has re-loaded the kid supply around here.
So, if like me, you thought you’d never see Clemens in Cooperstown, you’d be wrong – I just saw him. Thus, after three days of Pete Rose and now The Jettisoned Rocket: Cooperstown, Village of The Damned?
MARK BUEHRLE IN COOPERSTOWN?

The caretakers of history here were already promised Dewayne Wise’s glove and several other artifacts from Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. Lord knows what they’ll want now that Buehrle has taken a prospective second consecutive perfecto longer than anybody else, and retired a record 45 in a row. Did he wear anything in both games with which he could part? Would you give up your glove, your cap, your spikes?
I watched Yu Darvish’s spikes from The World Baseball Classic get unpacked in the processing room here today, and got to play in the secret vaults some more between another day of research.
You ever heard of The Temple Cup?
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OK, here is the real star of the show, a little more clearly:
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If the teams had taken it more seriously, today, this surprisingly light trophy might be “Baseball’s Holy Grail.” It was competed for by the teams finishing first and second in the National League after the 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1897 seasons, in a bid to re-create some of the post-season excitement created by the early World Series before the wars of 1890 and 1891 and the subsequent absorption of the American Association by the N.L. In three of the four years, the runners-up won, but the regular season champs claimed the title anyway. There were two sweeps of the best-of-sevens, and the other two ended 4-to-1, and after the ’97 Temple Cup, they called Pirates’ owner William Temple and gave him his Cup back.
For now it rests in cold storage at the Hall, though will soon be back on display in the 19th Century section. I’m sorry it didn’t get taken seriously; it is a cross between the Stanley Cup and the fictional cup presented to Charles Foster Kane by his newspaper staff in “Citizen Kane,” later found after Kane’s death in an endless storage area. “Welcome home Mr. Kane, From 467 Employees of the New York Inquirer.”
ROSE POST-SCRIPT:

Bud Selig has now made his point clear: he’s not budging on Pete Rose.
That wasn’t the point of my reporting on it, nor Bill Madden’s, nor anybody else’s.
The point is, there is now pressure, from at least three key Hall of Famers whom Selig respects, on Bud to reverse course. Repeating from last night: Joe Morgan, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson could be the only three Hall of Famers who would actual vote to admit Rose. The issue is whether or not Rose is made eligible for election by the Veterans’ Committee. And the reporting of this new pressure is not advocacy, it is informational.
And it’s true.

 

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