Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's official: Dotel to Atlanta for Davies

Jayson Stark just reported on Baseball Tonight that the Atlanta Braves have agreed to the Kyle Davies for Octavio Dotel trade. This happened seconds after Buster Olney, same network, reported that the Mark Teixeira deal was finalized. Apparently one of the Braves' minor league pitchers heading to Texas had to pass the physical -- if he didn't, Davies would have taken his place in the trade. As is, Davies is coming to Kansas City, Dotel's going to Atlanta and Braves GM John Schuerholz is still working the phones trying to get Bronson Arroyo from Cincinnati.

I think we have a new favorite to win the NL East. Talk about going for broke though... giving up the four best prospects in your organization -- that includes Jarrod Saltalamacchia (No. 1) and Kyle Davies (top 5, anyway) -- with more left to be traded (for Arroyo) qualifies.

I think we'll be seeing Davies, currently in Triple A, in a Kansas City Royals uniform within the week.

As the clock ticks...

Less than three hours remain till the non-waiver trade deadline, and no Royal has been told to pack up his stuff. For purely sentimental reasons, I, like others, would like to see Octavio Dotel remain on the team. After all, I have bets going -- official and non -- with several parties that the Royals will win either 78 or 79 games this year (78 was wishful thinking; 79 was the result of libations). But there really is no reason to keep Dotel, no matter how much he says he likes it in Kansas City. Look at what happened when the Washington Nationals kept Alfonso Soriano: nothing. Nothing for the rest of the season, when the team never contended for the postseason, and nothing after the season, when Soriano brushed off the Nats to sign his ridiculous contract with the Cubs. The Royals, if they keep Dotel, will be the front-runners to resign him after the season, but is that really what the Royals want? He'll be 34 in the off-season and has a history of injuries. And he's asking for three years of guaranteed money? No thanks. This is where reason has to trump sentimentality.

On the field last night, Gil Meche -- Dayton's prize signing and one that, for the moment, gives our blog's namesake currency to acquire whatever pitcher he wants with little fear of reproach -- threw seven innings of very good ball, only to be trumped by Scott Baker, who tossed eight innings of superb ball. Take out the Royals' 4th and Baker has a no-hitter. As is, the Royals' four-game winning streak is finis, though they remain over .500 for the month of July. Three games over .500, actually, so tonight's game holds meaning only as games normally hold meaning, in and of itself. Whatever happens, the Royals are assured of their second consecutive winning month, this after not having one since July 2003. Think about that for a moment.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Octavio Dotel live-blog

From MLB Trade Rumors:

UPDATE: Word via the Kansas City Star is that the Royals will get Kyle Davies in the deal. The Teixeira trade needs to be finalized first though. Nice job by Dayton Moore. Apparently he preferred Davies over Wladimir Balentien.

Dear god yes, if this is true...

The authority that is Royals Authority predicts Dotel will be moving to the Dodgers for Major League-ready second baseman Tony Abreu. I'd be ecstatic if this were true. According to Clark Fosler -- and I think this is speculation on his part, but I'd trust him -- the Dodgers "seem" (his italics) to be willing to part with shortstop Chin-Lung Hu. You know how I feel about him -- my first choice.

Of course, now that Kyle Davies is in the discussion, all that changes.8:10 p.m. CT

Not quite Crunch Time, but this is when Dayton Moore earns both his money and validates the title of this blog. Folks commenting on the KC Star Dotel-for-Davies story seem to be discouraged about Davies's record -- 4-8 with a 5.76 ERA in 17 starts -- but this is where someone has to step in and give the "don't worry about the numbers, look at his potential" spiel. He's 23, which is very young, and probably got called up before he was completely ready in '05 (when the Braves desperately needed all their rookies to produce), ala Greinke in '03, and needs maybe a half-year of seasoning in the minors before he can take the place in a Major League rotation. He was known as a control pitcher early on, but he's had to tweak his delivery and is still trying to find his form. Once he gets it, he'll be a Brian Bannister type, but with better stuff.

Here's an excerpt from the KC Star story:

The holdup appears to be on the Braves’ end and concerns their ability to work out final details on a trade earlier in the day in which they acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay from the Rangers for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus and two pitching prospects.

The non-waiver trading deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday. The Royals continue to discuss trade possibilities with other club in case talks break down with the Braves.

The Dodgers, Indians and Mariners have strongly pursued Dotel, who entered Monday’s series opener against the Twins at 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 11 saves in 14 opportunities since returning May 22 from the disabled list.


[David DeJesus made a fantastic catch running wall-wards in center to rob Torii Hunter of an RBI-double.]
8:40 p.m. CT

I'm guessing Dayton Moore, sly fox he, is playing teams off one another, namely the Dodgers, Indians and Braves. Mostly the Dodgers and Braves, who will be competing for the same pennant.

A second update out of MLB Trade Rumors (link above) says "based on this MLB.com report and reports from Sports Radio 810, the deal is not complete and Davies for Dotel was simply an offer." No word on which end the offer came from. There doesn't seem to be any scoops in that MLB.com report, so for now, we'll be watching Bob Dutton and Ken Rosenthal, who's fast becoming as synonymous with trade rumors as Kurt Cobain is to grunge.
9 p.m. CT

Dayton Moore probably isn't watching tonight's game, which is too bad because Gil Meche -- to whom he will be inextricably linked for the foreseeable future -- has six strikeouts through seven crisp innings. Unfortunately, the Royals are down 2-1 in the top of the 8th against Scott Baker, who's tossing a two-hitter.

Trade talk grapevine dry for the moment. The Braves, before all is said and done, could be acquiring a power-hitting first baseman (Mark Teixeira), an effective reliever (Octavio Dotel) and a No. 4 starter (Bronson Arroyo). Of course, they're more or less mortgaging their future, especially since they're sending their top three prospects -- including catcher/1b Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who's not that much less productive than Teixeira, if the team would just give him his deserved playing time -- to Texas.
9:14 p.m. CT

Peter Gammons just reported on Baseball Tonight that Teixeira's physical is tomorrow, which might mean, if Dayton really wants Davies, that the Davies-Dotel deal won't be done tonight. That's a lot of D's.

14 hours, 37 minutes till trade deadline.
9:24 p.m. CT

DEVELOPMENTS! DEVELOPMENTS!

But first I'd like to point out that Peter Gammons was on his way to explaining Kyle Davies to a national TV audience when Karl Ravech interrupted him with the question, "Would Bob Wickman still be the closer?" Boooo.

MLB Trade Rumors:

ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting that the Dodgers and Yankees are still talking about swapping reliever Scott Proctor and infielder Wilson Betemit. Betemit would act as A-Rod insurance and could even help out at first base this year. Proctor might be the reliever the Dodgers are craving. Keep in mind, though, that the Dodgers still might be able to sneak in a last-minute offer for Octavio Dotel.

This is bad news. In my heart of hearts, I'm holding out for Chin-Lung Hu, or Tony Abreu, or any of three other Dodgers prospects. Now it's also reported that the Dodgers might be shopping some of their youngsters for Joe Blanton. Terrible.
Gotta sneak this in: The Minnesota Timberwolves have traded Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics for -- reportedly -- forward Al Jefferson, guard Sebastian Telfair, swingman Gerald Green, forward Ryan Gomes and center Theo Ratliff. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the same team equals Eastern Conference championship. Of course, the window of time is minuscule.
10 p.m. CT

I like Kyle Davies. But can you blame any fan for looking at Wladimir Balentien's Triple A stats and not feel like Dayton's being a little shortsighted for passing up on him? The offer was there, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. One can't help but question whether Dayton's too enamored with what he knows -- Davies, from the Braves -- over what he doesn't. Seattle's fans seem to believe Balentien is the next coming of Manny Ramirez.

From U.S.S. Mariner:

Update: Octavio Dotel to Atlanta for Kyle Davies. Winner? The Mariners. Thank you, John Schuerholz, for saving us from ourselves.

That post has received 197 responses, and counting. Crazy.
11:22 p.m. CT

MLB Trade Rumors:

UPDATE 3: Mark Bowman of MLB.com says the teams are not close to finalizing a deal and John Schuerholz has yet to enter into serious negotiations.

Trust no one. From the MLB.com story:

While the Braves have made inquiries about Royals closer Octavio Dotel, an American League source said there is no validity to reports that have indicated the teams are close to finalizing a deal.

In fact, this high-ranking official said Braves general manager John Schuerholz won't be able to get into any serious trade talks until the deal to bring Texas' Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to Atlanta is finalized on the Rangers' end. It's expected to be completed on Tuesday after all necessary medical reviews are completed.


Nothing new there. Now's probably a good time to sign off for the night. In conclusion: Dotel may be traded to the Braves, who may or may not need him in 14 hours, or the Dodgers, who may or may not meet Dayton's asking price, or the Mariners, who have offered -- maybe -- or the Indians, who may or may not still matter. My money's on Balentien. I still prefer either Hu or Abreu. No clue whether any of them are even close to actually being on the table.

Probably should've done this earlier...

ru·mor
(rōō'mər), n.: a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts; unverified information received from another; hearsay.
One more thing: I think Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is on the brink of getting fleeced by Billy Beane. Just a hunch. That is all.

Denny Matthews, Octavio Dotel and the Chicago Cubs

Sometimes life has no rhyme or reason. This post is one of those times. We'll even eschew bullet points to flush out the hodgepodge.

Denny Matthews, as Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star reports, gave a knockout speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony yesterday. He was greeted with a standing ovation, spoke for 11 minutes, told several funny stories and choked up twice. Here's the KC Star story. The comments section is worth looking at.

On another front, check out some of the names bandied about in trade talks for Octavio Dotel. Tony Abreu, Chin-Lung Hu, Franklin Gutierrez, Ben Francisco, Wladimir Balentien (yes, with a W), Adam Jones. I don't know how close Dayton is to getting any of those guys -- not very would be my guess -- but this kind of (wild and completely unrealistic?) speculation over blue-chip prospects makes this time of year feel like spring all over again. I'm praying to the baseball gods to protect Dotel from injury before the 3 p.m. trading deadline tomorrow.

UPDATE: Just hit the refresh button on this website and learned that the Braves are suddenly the front-runners for Dotel. Does this really surprise anybody, that Dayton, a former assistant to Braves GM John Schuerholtz, would be dealing with the organization he knows best?

Meanwhile, in honor of the Cubs, who are just a half game back of the Brewers in the NL Central and seem intent on never losing again, I present this excellent Sports Illustrated feature. Excerpt:

Now in their 99th year of rebuilding, the Cubs' losing is just a few rungs below death and taxes on the inevitability scale. But having perfected the art of defeat, losing in tragicomic ways that challenge the mind and numb the soul, maybe at long last, to paraphrase scripture, the lion will lie down with the billy goat and the Cubs will do something as delightful as win the...

No, the Cubs don't need to be burdened by another jinx. But they are looming, within 3 1?2 games of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, despite a 3-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday that left the Cubs with a 7-3 mark for the homestand. And even the players are beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, It Could Happen. "It has to, it's inevitable," says Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot. "We keep playing hard, sooner or later it'll happen."


K was so inspired by this story that he sent me a 650-word email, excerpted below (my ellipses), and made "It's Gonna Happen" his g-chat profile liner.

...the thing that i like most about the cubs this year (and the article does a pretty good job of reflecting this) is that there's not a huge feel good warm and fuzzy outporing right now. the cubs as an organization are not pushing the hokey "believe" slogan, of which i still have a blue rubber lance bracelet. they are not trying to get you caught up in feel good, warm your heart, magical shit that they did with dusty (remember when he sprinkled some unnamed dust on the infield in september 2003?). they are just good, and playing good, no nonsense baseball.... they know it. the fans know it. the brewers know it, and are crapping their jocks right now thinking about it. it's gonna happen. it's happening.

Let's take a vote: What's the worst way for the Cubs to lose it this year?
a) Injuries take out their star players, leaving Koyie Hill as the team's cleanup hitter.
b) Carlos Zambrano decides his true calling is in the UFC and quits baseball just before the Division Series.
c) Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez fight to the death, with the winner suffering incapacitating injuries.
d) Kerry Wood, returning from injury, loses on purpose in order to get back at the organization that ruined his career.
e) Jacque Jones, finally entering the game in the 18th inning of Game 7 of the NLCS, commits three outfield errors that allow the go-ahead run to score, then strikes out in the bottom half of the inning to end the season.
f) A meteor falls on Chicago, wiping out all inhabitants just as the Cubs, 100-game winners, are about to sweep their NLCS opponent.
g) Anything involving blown saves, failure to lay down sacrifice bunts, shortstop errors on easy double-play balls and fan interference.

George Brett on Barry Bonds

ESPN, known for arena football and who's at something or other in the present moment, gave us something useful just now.

Here's what Kansas City's adopted son, George Brett, had to say about the most inglorious slugger of our times as part of SportsCenter's Sunday Conversation:

Nobody thinks it's for real. I mean, everybody I talk to. Not here. Friends, other people, you know. Obviously everywhere he goes on the road people don't think it's real. Because he gets booed everywhere. You would think with a guy like that, with no controversy, he'd get cheered.

Mr. Brett is a well-spoken man.

POSTSCRIPT 1: Congratulatons, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. And you, Emil Brown, for just being yourself.

POSTSCRIPT 2: You want a feel-good sports story that doesn't make you feel good? Iraq soccer just won 1-0 win in the Asian Cup championship game when, hours into the celebration, four died in celebratory gunfire, and suicide bombers took advantage of the momentarily unifying victory to kill at least 50*. You think either Tom Friend or Tom Rinaldi will want to touch this story now that it's been tainted by the real world?

POSTSCRIPT 3: BIG congratulations to longtime Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews. It's a well-deserved Hall of Fame bid, Mr. Matthews.

*Thanks to reader bfos for pointing out that the suicide bombings happened after the semifinals, which makes the shooting of guns after the next match all the more ridiculous.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shawn Peters sucks

The downside to leaving for a weekend at the beach is getting disconnected from everything going on in the world, including the Royals' assertion of dominance over the Rangers. We'll discuss further later -- Brian Bannister's gem, Billy Butler's continuing emergence, Leo Nunez's brilliance -- but first I'd like someone to explain to Mr. Shawn Peters that he's a moron.

Someone will bring in Dotel to set up or even close in a pinch, and K.C. will have to choose another reliever to close the door on the rare occasions when it actually wins. [HT: Lee Warren]

I commented, and was encouraged to see I wasn't the first Royals fan to do so. Called the guy a hack. Not my most creative effort, but beach + boatloads of beer sometimes will disable your brain.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Count me among those standing amid the plaudits

37,036. No one ever accused the Yankees of being a small draw. But last night, the pockets of well-wishers of evil scattered around Kauffman Stadium had nothing to cheer about, as Jorge De La Rosa and friends -- Zack Greinke (read this by Clark Fosler... make up your own mind though) and Joakim Soria -- reached deep within the crevasses of their souls to that inner reserve of mettle and manliness and managed to blank the Bombers. If the italics don't properly convey my incredulity at this occurrence, perhaps this will:

Yankees' runs, last seven games:
7
17
21
9
9
7
0 (!!!!!!!!)

Who could have guessed, especially after Melky Cabrera's double to start the game? But De La Rosa struck out Derek Jeter, Alex Gordon made a great sprawling stop at first, Buddy Bell wisely chose to walk A-Rod and the shutout was well on its way.

Perhaps energized by the fourth straight large crowd and desperate to prove they are not in fact last year's team, the Royals turned in one of their better all-around performances of the year. They had 10 hits, eight of which went for extra bases, which is kind of amazing when you think about it. Gordon almost hit for the cycle -- he needed a measly single -- and Tony Pena Jr. drew a walk, the first time in 244 plate appearances. He also hit a triple. Apt for its hustling ways, the team had three triples, raising its Major League-leading total to 33, four ahead of Detroit.

Appropriately, Gordon recorded the assist on the final out -- he made a diving stop, this time at third, and nailed the baserunner. So if you're keeping score at home: 3 for 4 with a double, triple and home run, two defensive gems and a standing ovation. You've arrived, kid.

And hopefully these Royals are here to stay.

POSTSCRIPT 1: David DeJesus got hit with another pitch. "Once again a Royal batter is hit by a pitch," Paul Splittorff said. Indeed. That makes 61 times a Royal has been plunked this season, which is five more than the Phillies.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Octavio Dotel really likes Kansas City.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Damn Yankees

A tip of the hat to Gilgamesh for taking the ball in the 8th, even though he was over 100 pitches. He has heart. Or, as the fan club sang in the musical --
You're a hero cause you've got heart
You've got heart-
You've got heart-
Meche needed to bail out the bullpen, and he did, to his personal detriment. That's called taking one for the team.


via FanHouse

This one hurts though. Ace on the mound up against a beatable Mike Mussina, and the bats go cold. The Yankees always seem to have old farts who just know how to handle young batters. And their offense has looked like the second coming of Alaric's barbarian hordes recently, averaging 11.7 runs in their last six games and sacking all that's precious and worth protecting. 11.7 runs per game is ridiculous.

One last chance to avoid a demoralizing four-game sweep tonight when Jorge De La Rosa takes on the pride of Hanshin, Kei Igawa.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

For you Kansas City Harry Potter fans out there

Rany Jazayerli speaks for you. His latest Baseball Prospectus column imagines parallels between the Kansas City Royals and Harry Potter characters.

Dayton Moore = Albus Dumbledore

Like Dumbledore, Moore works mostly behind the scenes, but always seems to be thinking several steps ahead, and despite the occasional mistake (having Snape teach Harry Occlumency; trading away Ruben Gotay), both have an uncanny knack for doing the right thing. Certainly, the level of confidence and devotion that some Royals fans have in Moore at the moment rivals Harry’s proclamation that he was "Dumbledore’s man through and through."

This while Sirius Black... er, Gil Meche... attempts to overcome his poor run support to defeat the vaunted Yankees. Keep battling, Gil. Remember, A-Rod is just another human being trying to fill his hollowness with money and massively impressive home runs.

UPDATE: Meche just gave up a home run to A-Rod, mere seconds after I typed, "A-Rod is just another human being trying to fill his hollowness with money and massively impressive home runs." Now Hideki Matsui's got one. What a ridiculous team, these Yankees.

An open letter to Scott Elarton

There's no easy way to say this, Scotty, but we're gonna need you to pack your things and be out of here by tomorrow morning. This is a tough business. There's no sense in saying sorry. You know how it goes.

We had the largest crowd here at the K since Opening Day, and, let's face it, you kinda let 'em down. Aw, hell, why mince words? Seven earned runs in less than two innings is an embarrassment. We'll shoulder some blame, of course. This organization never should have used you as a sacrificial lamb. We thought... I don't know, that maybe you were a reborn Leonidas ready to find off wolves with a spear and a loincloth. In retrospect, that was probably foolish thinking on our part. But that doesn't excuse the fact that you allowed seven runs and taxed our bullpen and basically gave us no chance to win -- and really, we were all only asking for a chance.

Anyway, everyone's turned against you, Scotty, some begrudgingly, others flagrantly. Brett's Royals calls you "terrible" and said you gave away the game. Again, we'll shoulder some blame for that, but... you did last only five outs. Royals Authority says your career's over, and you know what? I hope not. I hope you surface again someplace else where you can be happy and productive. But things do end, you know. Joe Posnanski -- who genuinely likes you -- thinks you shouldn't be allowed another start. You've touched off another rant over at Royals Review. RTC Talk is comparing you to a stork. So on and so forth.

Scotty, it's over. Your career as a Kansas City Royal is over. I don't know what your future holds, but I do know a 10.46 ERA and 2.00 WHIP isn't going to cut it. Not here.

But hey... I hear the Washington Nationals could always use another arm.

UPDATE: The Royals have released Scott Elarton.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Be afraid

Scott Elarton says he's ready and "actually kind of excited that I am pitching against the Yankees." That's good to know, because I'm practicing Lamaze breathing in anticipation of tonight's game.

Here's why.


Hoping to avoid this fate.

Elarton will be opposed by Chien-Ming Wang, the pride of Taiwan.

POSTSCRIPT: Read this SI.com article by John Donovan (via Royal Reflections). C'mon, Brian Sabean disciple Ned Colletti: give up Chin-lung Hu. Your former boss and all his friends would be proud.

Roger Clemens, we won't miss you

What happened to Roger Clemens's strikeout rate? He started his massively overpaid 2007 tenure with 21 strikeouts in 16.2 innings, but since has only 13 in 34.1. The premiere strikeout pitcher of our generation can't seem to buy one, maybe cause they're priced at $207,758 per.

Not that this should come as a surprise. Strikeout pitchers who don't retire in their prime almost always hit a wall just before hanging up their spikes. Check out the numbers on Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Tom Seaver and Don Sutton, who top the career strikeouts list for inactive players:

(Career K rate --> K rate in final season)
Ryan 9.9 --> 6.4
Carlton 8.1 --> 5.4
Blyleven 7.5 --> 5.7
Seaver 7.4 --> 6.5
Sutton 6.3 --> 4.7

This is all very obvious, nothing inspiring about it. But what this means -- truly, finally -- is that Clemens has reached the end of his road. This is a good thing, because no baseball player in the last 10 years has manipulated his image quite like Clemens and received the effusive praise and orgasmic radio raves quite like he has. Frankly, I'm tired of it. And I know deep down in some Yankees fans, they're tired of it, too. How Clemens is perceived by fans at large is almost entirely the result of a concerted effort on his part to mold himself into the idea of the genteel though ultra-competitive flame-throwing maverick, the romanticized all-American baseball cowboy. He is aware of his legend and steers its manifestation in a creepy, unnatural, Johnny Darko-type way. The media, of course, has lapped this up. They fawn over him like he's a saint, when in fact he's kind of prissy, kind of a prick and, in all likelihood, kind of a steroids user. Everything about him screams fake, from his contrived understatedness (when are people going to call him inarticulate?) to his wife's website.

That said, he can still be tough on young teams, and his domination of the Royals continued last night with a 9-2 win (it was much closer than that until the Yanks scored five in the 8th, but really, it wasn't that close). He's won 10 straight decisions against Kansas City, having last lost in 1996.

Johnny Damon was the YES Network's postgame interview. He said some good things about Kansas City -- complimented the barbecue -- said he enjoys coming back to play, but noted that "they had to do what they had to do," referring to the trade for Roberto Hernandez and Angel Berroa. That seems rather unfair to the Royals, since everyone then and now knew he had no intention of letting the small-market team sign him at a fair and affordable price. No sense dwelling on it now, of course.

POSTSCRIPT: Mike Coolbaugh: what an unbelievably freaky incident. Lee Warren offers some thoughtful words.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A return home to welcome the big bad Yankees

...Andy Phillips comes around to score, and the Yankees lead 21 to 3.
--Michael Kay, YES Network

This afternoon, I thoroughly enjoyed Kay and the wonderful Joe Girardi's extended criticism of B.J. Upton for playing too deep in center field in the 8th inning... when the Yankees led 21-3. After the inning, Kay said dryly, "At the end of 8, the Yankees with three touchdowns, Tampa Bay with a field goal."

Who pissed off the Yankees? In their last two games they've scored 38 runs on 45 hits. A-Rod hit about 30 home runs over the weekend, Hideki Matsui decided he was Godzilla all over again, even a guy named Shelley decided to get into the act. Suddenly the men in pinstripes are five games over .500 and just seven back in the loss column to the Saux.

Alas, they're about to meet their end in a vaunted little place called KC. It's one thing to beat up on the lowly Devil Rays; it's a whole new ballgame around these parts. The town's welcoming back a team that just went 5-4 against the Indians (very good), Red Sox (awesome) and Tigers (scary), so the Yanks really don't seem like that big a deal. In fact, one might say -- even with old man Roger taking the mound --- that the story here isn't the Yankees at all; it's the Royals, who are positively surging.

At the beginning of the season, the Royals couldn't win a series to save their fanny; now they're polishing off the likes of Boston and Detroit -- today, in methodical fashion, Brian Bannister bottled up the Tigers and their league-leading offense (in terms of batting average and runs scored) while the bats came through with more than enough runs. And the best part? Coupled with the White Sox' loss, the Royals are now tied for fourth in the AL Central. Officially. This is a small victory, yet it feels significant, and good.

In the 70s and 80s, Royals-Yankees was one of the best rivalries in baseball. It can be again: small market vs. ginormous market, humility vs. megalomania, good vs. evil, pretty girls vs. skanks, Winstead's vs. Generic Pizza Store No. 5,248... you get the picture of the clashing dichotomies. Let's go, Royals! Win one for the Midwest!

POSTSCRIPT: According to the YES guys, Major League Baseball had the second highest attendance total in the history of the sport Saturday, officially at 639,528 in 16 games (No. 1 if we go by average, beating the record set on July 3, 1999). The Yankees contributed with about 100,000. Overall, attendance is up 4.7 percent from this time last year. Knowing that, I have this to say, for everyone in Kansas City who doesn't have a ticket to Monday night's game: WHY NOT??? If you have any doubt about whether you should do anything -- this is the best advice I ever give, by the way -- just do it. You'll have nothing to regret.

The Soria jinx, redux

From Thursday:


The first game he pitches after that: 1.1 innings, 3 hits, 2 ER (and takes the loss)

I should've known better.



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kid Billy and Master Meche: UNITE





in...

MASTER MECHE AND THE BETRAYAL

CAST
Gil Meche.............GILGAMESH
Billy Butler...........KID BILLY
Alex Gordon.........HIS HOLINESS THE SAVIOR
Ryan Shealy.........BIG SULLY
Joakim Soria........SENOR SMOKE
Dayton Moore.....KING HERO
Kenny Rogers......THE GAMBLER
Gary Sheffield......CREAM SAUCE
Maggio Ordonez...VORPTRON
Ivan Rodriguez....SLIM FAST MAN
Jim Leyland..........Himself

Intro -- MASTER MECHE: I am Gilgamesh, Prince of Eternia, defender of the secrets of Bluecrown. This is Kid Billy, my fearless friend. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said, BY THE POWER OF BLUECROWN! I AM THE POWER! Kid Billy became Big Donkey, and I became Master Meche, the most powerful man in the universe. Only three others share this secret. Our friend HIS HOLINESS THE SAVIOR, BIG SULLY and SENOR SMOKE. Together we defend Castle Bluecrown from the evil forces of JIM LEYLAND [who chuckles wickedly].


Scene 1: On a barren dustfield surrounded by outdated doodads, punctured tires and a fortress of scrap metal -- Detroit -- Jim Leyland sits on a throne in the hollowed-out skeleton of a giant cardinal.

LEYLAND: Heheheh... dumb as you may be, old rogue, even you cannot not know what is on this piece of paper... the Secret Weapon of Sure Defeat for the Other Team! It is a thing of beauty, isn't it? Heheheh. Soon it will be unleashed and I shall rule the universe. Muahahahah.

THE GAMBLER: [Incomprehensible noises] If you unleash it, hrrrrrr, you could defeat Bluecrown at last.

LEYLAND: That's the point, nitwit. Go, summon my forces.

THE GAMBLER: [Incomprehensible noises] As you wish, Leyland.

[Cue evil music]

LEYLAND: I'll call our warriors from around the universe and bring them here to Detroit. Cream Sauce, whose knowledge of creams and clears is rivaled only by his love of flaxseed ointments, I, Leyland, command you.... Vorptron, who can see expert projections and defy them, I will need your mighty strength.... Slim Fast Man, previously known as Fat Face -- return as you are, and bring your secret weight-loss formula. Together we can take down Bluecrown and crush Master Meche once and for all.

One by one they are beamed into Detroit.

CREAM SAUCE: Why have you brought us here?

LEYLAND: To crush Bluewave and reclaim my spot as ruler of the universe! Heheheheheh.

VORPTRON: You have said that before, Leyland, yet Master Meche and his friends always find a way to trick us.

LEYLAND: But this time, I have this... the Secret Weapon of Sure Defeat for the Other Team [with echo]!

SLIM FAST MAN: Can I have some of that?

LEYLAND: Fool! It does not make you stronger. The Secret Weapon of Sure Defeat for the Other Team is a very dangerous thing. You must be aware of it, my minions. In time I will unleash it, heheheh. In time, Master Meche and his precious friends will feel what it's like ... TO LOSE! [Laughs diabolically]


Scene 2: At Castle Bluecrown, Gilgamesh is enjoying the company of his friends when he realizes the castle is under siege. After beating back the forces of evil, he decides the only proper procedure is to take the battle to the enemy. He and his friends pack for Detroit.

MASTER MECHE: By the power of Bluecrown! I AM THE POWER!

[Music plays to the tune of "Magic Dance" -- You remind me of the Master. / (What Master?) / The Master with the power. / (What power?) / The power of the Meche. / [The mess?] / The Meche. / (Mess what?) / Remind me of the Master.]



Scene 3: Detroit. Comerica Park, scene of the standoff for all time. The two sides walk to opposite sides of the base lines and glare at each other.

VORPTRON: I'm scared, Leyland.

LEYLAND, staring fiercely. Vorptron vanishes into thin air.

GAMBLER: Leyland! Hrrrrrrrrr. I'm so mad I could punch a camera. Hrrrrr.

LEYLAND: Shut up, Gambler. We didn't need him. He'll disappear in autumn anyway.

CREAM SAUCE: Look out!

His Holiness the Savior and Big Sully double-team Cream Sauce and manage to puncture a hole in his leg. His juices spill out, and he withers into the dirt. The Gambler, scared, attacks Master Meche by mistake.

MASTER MECHE: I would hedge that bet next time, Gambler.

The Gambler is twirled around Master Meche's head like a homer hanky and tossed into oblivion. Leyland is stupified, but only momentarily. He pulls out his piece of paper.

LEYLAND: Master Meche, you have done valiantly, and your friends have been better than expected. But this is where your fun ends, heheheh.

MASTER MECHE: Don't call me a friend, skull brain.

At this moment, King Hero arrives on the scene.

LEYLAND: Ah, look who decided to arrive. Just in time, Hero. Just in time.

KING HERO: I don't know what you think you know, but your time is up, Leyland. Your crude approach is a thing of the past. This game has passed you by, and it is time you relinquish the throne of your supposed empire, for it is occupied by ghosts, and you are but a relic.

LEYLAND: Why don't you have a look at this!

Leyland opens up his piece of paper, the Secret Weapon of Sure Defeat for the Other Team. King Hero looks at it and is frozen. Big Sully drops down, injured. His Holiness the Savior shields his eyes. Master Meche's mouth drops.

MASTER MECHE: What in the...!

The name Scott Elarton falls from the piece of paper. Leyland laughs, sadistically. King Hero, catatonic, makes a silent plea to his prince for help. Leyland continues laughing.

...to be continued

POSTSCRIPT: Go here to watch a complete episode of He-Man and Masters of the Universe. Remember, He-Man is Gil Meche's favorite hero, and that's awesome.

Scott Boras, you son of a bitch

From Matt Watson over at the FanHouse:

A lot of people have said that Scott Boras is ruining baseball, but usually when they say it they mean it in the economic, "big market vs. small market" kind of way. But Peter Gammons, perhaps the most respected baseball writer in the game, thinks Boras' impact has been far more tangible, that he's literally making players worse.

Gammons speaking now, from a radio interview:

He needs to be coached by people here and not by the people in California at the Scott Boras clinics. It's the same thing with [Luke] Hochevar last year when Kansas City gave him all that money, they gave him $4 million as a four-seam, curveball guy and they changed him into a two-seamer, slider guy this winter. He's got a 5.80 ERA at Double A which for $4 million doesn't hack it. With these agents there's too much tinkering. Agents don't know more about baseball than the people that coach it.

I blogged about this when the Royals selected Mike Moustakas, and folks like JoePa have been on it, too, but this bears repeating: Scott Boras is a devil. Maybe not the Devil, but one of his agents -- no pun intended, I mean this rather literally. Now, none of us are trying to decant the spirit of the man-devil into some quintessent gruel to represent all things evil -- hey, he might be a nice guy, or maybe he's even half as interesting as Ari Gold, which would make him No. 1 in my book -- but one can't help feeling, after reading any piece on Scott Boras, that the man lives by a different moral code than the rest of us, which is to say no moral code, and that he's driven by a sort of nefarious impulse to bring Milton's Pandæmonium to Earth, like Beelzebub. That's him pictured to the right, that bloodsucking piece of s...

Anyway. Just remember, all you kids thinking about striking it rich: you sleep with a devil and you're going to Hell. That simple, really.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Soria Scoreless Innings Watch

From Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star:

Things couldn’t be going much better these days for Royals rookie reliever Joakim Soria. A happy newlywed — today marks nine days — and absolute domination out of the bullpen.

Soria extended his scoreless streak to 19 1/3 innings Wednesday night by working 1 1/3 innings in a 6-5 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

That moved Soria to within three innings of the club record for consecutive scoreless innings by a reliever, held by Rusty Meacham at 22 1/3 in 1994. The overall club record for scoreless innings is 33 by Kevin Appier in 1993.

The streak nearly ended last night when Coco Crisp barely missed a game-tying home run, but, as they say, close only counts in horseshoes and the Tour de France, where the winner will probably test positive for EPO and be stripped of the title.

Scoreless innings needed: THREE

What they're saying now

Over the Monster
BEFORE

C'mon, Julian, please win this game for us. A series loss to the Royals? I can't take it, man. I know you've struggled lately, but we're facing the Royals. Yes, those Royals. You should be able to bowl every ball to first and still walk away with a 10 run lead.

AFTER (great link to YFSF)

This Royals pen has been one of the best in the Majors lately, and if you're not convinced of how tough a late-inning win is even against lesser bullpens, check out this post from YFSF from a couple days ago. If they're that hard to come by, expecting them against the likes of Dotel and Soria (the way they've been pitching lately) is almost entirely wishful thinking.
Surviving Grady
BEFORE (click on this link. Just do it, even if you a) don't like Jerry Remy, or b) like Bill Simmons)

Tonight, it's more fun with the Royals. Anything less than three wins in this series and I swear, I might just take the name of Dana Kiecker in vain.

AFTER

This is the sort of situation we should be taking advantage of. We should be marking these games as Ws before anyone even steps on the field; hell, they're the sort of games the players should just agree to not actually play, and instead go hang down at Daisy Buchanans. This is the team we should be beating soundly, followed-up by Lowell and Youk photocopying each other's asses and mailing 'em to the players' homes.
The Soxaholix (excellent all around)

A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory
BEFORE

Sox trail KC, 2-0. We better not lose a series to the Royals.

AFTER (look, a tmesis!)

Absolutely unbe-fucking-lievable.

Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bullpen beats Red Sox in spite of Odalis Perez

Kansas City will be rallying behind their robot of a starter, Odalis Perez ([updated] 5-8, 5.84 ERA), who will most definitely give up four runs in five innings.
--IDWT, 7/13/07

Odalis Perez's line tonight: (W, 5-8) 5 IP, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

And then there are those who went after him:

David Riske (H, 10) -- 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R
Jimmy Gobble (H, 8) -- 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R
Joakim Soria (H, 9) -- 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R
Octavio Dotel (S, 10) -- 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R

Perez almost didn't make it through five, but once he did, I sent this series of messages to a Red Sox fan:

Me: yes!
Me: royals lead!
Me: it's over!
Me: bullpen taking over

That's how good it's been: I get positively cocky when Buddy Bell goes to the pen. And why not? In three games against the Red Sox, who lead the Majors in on-base percentage and are sixth in runs scored, Royals relievers threw 11 innings and gave up all of two meaningless runs, from Joel Peralta.

Furthermore, the Royals aren't just good; they're deep. So deep, in fact, that Dayton Moore can execute this series of moves within two days and not blink twice:
-- Neal Musser, who threw two innings of shutout ball on Monday, gets replaced on the roster by Leo Nunez.

-- Nunez, who threw four innings on Tuesday and had just one run charged to him, gets replaced by Ryan Braun.

-- Braun's last 11 games in Omaha: 16.2 innings, seven hits, four walks, 16 strikeouts, 0.00 ERA.

Sure enough, true to my words, it was over (a scary image of Manny Ramirez hitting a walk-off two-run home run did cross my mind, however; and the Red Sox, putting their smarts on display, obviously watched tape of Soria after last night's game, because they were actually able to get the bat on a few of Soria's curveballs). Royals 6, Red Sox 5. The season series is even at three games apiece.

And that sound in Fenway is the sound of silence, sweet for the victors. Incidentally -- panic, Sox Nation, panic! -- the Yankees are just seven games back.

POSTSCRIPT: If you get a chance, check out The Royal Treatment's comprehensive catching-up-with post featuring former Royals. Impressive work.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Don't look now, but Kid Butler's been mashing of late.

In praise of the bullpen

Leo Nunez's first career start was nothing to gush about -- the Red Sox hit the ball hard to all parts of the field and put at least two baserunners on in the 1st, 3rd and 4th -- but it was, to the nth degree, effective. In the hallowed province that is Fenway Park, Nunez never lost his composure when he got into trouble and made pitches when it counted. As a result, he left the game in the 4th with a shutout intact, and with his team up 2-0, you had to feel very, very optimistic about the Royals' chances.

This, I imagine, must have come as somewhat of a shock. The feeling of optimism, that is, unbidden and uncanny. Playing against a team with the fourth best home record in baseball, at a site where earlier in the year the Orioles lost a 5-0 lead in the 9th even after recording the first out, any sane thinking being can be excused from thinking, The Royals couldn't possibly pull this out with its bullpen, could they?

Ah, but could they ever.

"If we can get to our bullpen and we can line them up the way they need to be lined up, then we're pretty good," Buddy Bell said after his team's 9-3 victory.

Indeed, these aren't yesteryear's relievers. Lefty specialist Jimmy Gobble -- who has completely rerouted his career for the better after learning his sweeping sidearm delivery -- came in and faced three batters, retiring J.D. Drew on a fly-out and making a fool out of David Ortiz. Then Zack Greinke got the chance to show off some of this stuff -- still starter material, but the Royals can afford to keep him in the bullpen through the summer -- before giving way to Joel Peralta, who struggled but was bailed out by Senor Smoke. By this point, the Royals had blown the game open -- five crisp, nothing-cheap-about-em runs in the 7th and another in the 8th -- but if there was any doubt left about the game's outcome, Soria put it to rest. He faced four batters and sent three of them back to the dugout scratching their heads, victims of absolutely unhittable curveballs that spanned the panoply of nasty. Seventeen pitches, 12 strikes -- so dominating that our friends at Royals Review were compelled to speculate (rightly) that Soria is the Royals' best reliever in many a-years.

Of course, it's not just him. The Royals have always had one guy who could be counted on -- to give you an idea of how wanting the bullpen has been, this role was once filled by Curtis Leskanic -- but this year the entire relief corps has answered the bell when called upon. As if you couldn't tell -- Royals fans: notice the hair you haven't pulled out, the curse-laden howls undelivered, the fist-shaped holes absent from your house's plaster -- here are some stats to prove it:
  • The Royals' bullpen ERA, at 3.78, is sixth best in the AL and 0.40 better than the league average. That doesn't sound spectacular until you consider how they've fared in the last seven years:

    (ERA, league average, AL rank)
    2006: 5.36, 4.21, LAST
    2005: 4.70, 3.96, 11th
    2004: 4.50, 4.23, 10th
    2003: 5.55, 4.23, LAST
    2002: 5.27, 4.21, LAST
    2001: 4.87, 4.48, 11th
    2000: 5.57, 4.60, 13th

    The abrupt turnaround from having one of the consistently worst bullpens in the league to one of the best is nothing short of remarkable. For seven years -- seven long, miserable years... and frankly, it could well extend further back -- we endured countless blown leads and agonizing late innings that made us want to start fistfights. Now, suddenly, the bullpen's stocked with great arms, some that are legitimately dominant (let's thank the stars for Soria). It's almost weird to think that guys like Soria, Dotel and Riske are wearing the same uniform previously occupied by the likes of Sean Lowe, Albie Lopez and Dan Reichert. Let's hope we never relive those dark days again.

  • Using component ERA, which is ERA based on hits and walks allowed rather than runs, the Royals rank even higher: No. 2 in the league, behind only the Red Sox.

  • The best way for relievers to get out of a jam is by the strikeout, and no bullpen in the AL has totaled more strikeouts than the Royals', who have 271. Adjusted for innings pitched -- Royals rank No. 2 in that category, by the way -- they're No. 3, behind only the Indians and Blue Jays.

What's the difference between a reliable bullpen and a Royals bullpen from 2000-06? Years of one's life, saved from stress and sorrow. Seriously.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boston Globe's article on the Kansas City Royals

Baseball beat writers have a tough job, especially when the assignment is to write 700 words on a team you care nada about, but this Boston Globe piece pretty much misses the point several times over.

"Royals bank on futures market: young stars start to pay dividends" is a fine enough headline/subhead -- made my heart jump a beat, even, in anticipation of a thought-provoking read -- but the story proves remarkably thin. Three quotes from Buddy Bell and three from Emil Brown are all you'll find that you can't anywhere else.

Yes, Emil Brown is quoted three times.

"[It's good] to see that they are willing to try to put something together, to put this team on a fast-forward track rather than slowly getting better," said Brown, who has been with the Royals since 2005.

"They want to get better right now, which is good. So that's a step in the right direction."


Actually, everything about that quote is wrong. Dayton's M.O. since day 1 has been to avoid the "fast-forward track." Thing is, though, I can't imagine Brown was saying what it looks like he's saying, that the front office is in it for the quick fix; you just think that when you read the article, in which the writer uses the Meche/Dotel signings as evidence of the Royals' commitment to winning. Typical East Coast thinking: money buys wins, happiness.

The writer then makes it look like Brown contradicts himself. "Brown said at the current pace of improvement, the Royals can be contenders by 2009." 2009 is two years away. Wouldn't, "They want to get better right now" mean "they want to get better right now"? Like, say, now, or next year at least?

Then there's this:

"They've only been small-market because they haven't went out and spent," Brown said. "But how much does it show? I don't know, because there's always going to be teams that spend more."

What does that mean???

In other news, the Dodgers have expressed strong interest in Octavio Dotel, according to the KC Star, though it's unlikely they're going to give up Matt Kemp or James Loney. I like what Dayton's doing though -- not underestimating the value of his commodity, which he purchased before the season with the express intent of selling it high when time came. Of course, by "not underestimating" I mean drastically overestimating, but if you're a Royals fan, you've got to think karma owes you one or two, considering.

The Red Sox are pretty good

And their legion of bloggers will let you know it. A compendium:
That's really only the tip of the iceberg. I'm feeling very afraid right now.

No sense beating around the bush here: the Royals are in for a tough series. They'll avoid Josh Beckett and Daisuke "Monster" Matsuzaka, but no such luck with Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia -- who all homered last night -- or this gaggle of Fenway faithful. (If you watch that video on a psychedelic drug, make sure you're wearing adult diapers.)

They call Red Sox fans a "Nation" -- recipient of the 2004 Sportsman of the Year -- capital N signifying innate metaphysical bonds that transcend geographic boundaries. With their benevolent field general and stately prime minister and massive blogger army they will troop across the free world vanquishing all foes with neither shame nor compassion. And flipping off the Yankees. Cute.

Yesterday that march was led by rookie pitcher Kason Gabbard -- yes, it's Kason, the same Kason that manufactures "vibratory, centrifugal and static screening equipment" -- who gave up just three hits and struck out eight in his complete game 4-0 win. Gabba Gabba -- who I like to call Yo Gabba Gabba -- has been nothing short of terrific at Fenway this year, and for good reason: what opponent wouldn't feel intimidated going there? Hell, I'm intimidated half the time attending Royals-Red Sox games in Kansas City. Alas, the namesake of the Ramones' first tribute album may find his days in Boston numbered -- perhaps involved in a future Octavio Dotel/Reggie Sanders trade?

The Royals counter with a rookie of their own today: Leo Nunez, who's making his first career start. In two previous appearances in Boston, Nunez is 0-1 with five earned runs in 1.1 innings, three walks, no strikeouts and one home run allowed. Good luck, kid. Remember, these guys are just like the Albuquerque Isotopes, only kind of bigger and most likely feral.

POSTSCRIPT: There's a crazy man in this video. Can you find him?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Weekend wrap-up: Royals at Indians

Kansas City will be rallying behind their robot of a starter, Odalis Perez (4-8, 5.68 ERA, 1.62 WHIP (!)), who will most definitely give up four runs in five innings.
--IDWT, 7/13/07

FRIDAY:

Odalis Perez: 4 runs, 4.2 innings.

Brilliant foresight on the part of Buddy Bell, who had Perez pitch the first game out of the All-Star break so that his bullpen would be fresh to go at least four innings.

Here's an interesting stat the Cleveland announcers cited: in innings 4-6, the Royals have been outscored by 56 runs this year, while the Indians have outscored their opponents by 43. This makes sense for the Royals: their starters are mostly young or Odalis Perez, so they're liable to begin slowing down as they face opposing hitters for the third time. Meanwhile, the bullpen that takes over after the 6th is simply dominating.

As the announcers were retelling the story of "our Papelbon" -- referenced on this message board owned by our friends in New England, in which they discuss an Octavio Dotel for Willy Mo Pena trade rumor -- Senor Smoke promptly blew two fastballs past Ryan Garko. I thought that was pretty cool.

Royals 4, Indians 5

SATURDAY:

A couple friends of mine love C.C. Sabathia, and mostly rightfully so: the man's durable, he's consistent, he's striking out more batters than ever while walking fewer, and he he's unquestionably the ace of the Indians' staff.

The Royals shelled Sabathia for 11 hits and six runs -- all earned -- in seven innings.

But remember that stat about innings 4-6? Here's how the teams fared in that span:

Indians 4, Royals 0

Luckily, KC's bullpen is awesome.

Royals 6, Indians 5

SUNDAY:

Missed the game because I was playing in an Ultimate tournament called Philly Invite in Allentown, Pa., which isn't really that close to Philadelphia but close enough for me to say I was there for loss No. 10,000... even though I wasn't, because I was home that night. We don't have to tell anyone that part though.

The Royals lost the rubber match in Cleveland, despite the efforts of newly acquired shortstop Jason Smith, who homered.

The lo-down on Smith:
29 years old
.228 in 195 ML at-bats
23rd round pick by the Chicago Cubs
Waived by Diamondbacks

KC's probably Smith's last chance to prove himself at this level. Luckily, all he has to do is outperform a man who doesn't walk. (Nice job, Dayton, to anticipate Tony Pena Jr.'s impending BA plummet. I'm afraid it's already begun.)

Royals 3, Indians 5


This one goes out to the Phillies we love

A quick tribute to a monumental achievement in sports before we return to all things Royals:

PHILLIES LOSE 10,000th GAME


First loss: May 1, 1883, to the Providence Grays
10,000th loss: July 15, 2007, to the St. Louis Cardinals

Bill Lyon, a former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, had some poignant, rather heartwarming things to say about this occasion.

It's great the Phils lost No. 10,000 at home, because for about five minutes straight, Citizens Bank Park was filled with whistling, chanting and cheering. And why not? You can accuse Philadelphians of a lot of things, but not of being ashamed of their teams, which seem so closely entwined with the city's identity.

By the ninth inning, with the outcome inevitable, the boos turned to cheers. Fans in the sellout crowd of 44,872 thumbed their noses at the dubious mark, standing and applauding. One held up a sign that read: "10,000 N Proud" as NL MVP Ryan Howard struck out to end the game.

There's a poll from the above link, in which the question is posed, "Which major league team is most synonymous with losing?" The results so far:
Cubs, 43%
Devil Rays, 18%
Royals, 16%
Phillies, 13%
(A glimpse into the national psyche.)

A couple weeks back, a Franz Lidz article in Sports Illustrated, "The Beautiful Losers," pretty much took the best approach to No. 10,000. Extended excerpt:

The existentialist Samuel Beckett exhorted, "Fail better." And no professional sports team has ever failed better or with greater frequency than the Philadelphia Phillies....

Loss number 2,657, June 29, 1921

"Not anymore. I've been traded to the Giants!"

-- Casey Stengel, gimpy-kneed Phillies outfielder, when asked if his leg hurt. Told of the swap in the Baker Bowl locker room during a rain delay, Stengel dashed half-clothed into the deluge and gleefully circled the bases, sliding into each bag.

Loss number 7,124, June 26, 1971

"We were losing by [seven runs to the Pirates] when a flaky rookie named Roger Freed led off an inning with a hit. When Roger came around to score, he figured he was done for the day. But we nearly batted around in the inning, and Roger was nowhere to be found. Eventually, one of the coaches discovered him in the sauna, where he was trying to lose weight by doing sit-ups as he ate fried chicken."

-- Larry Bowa, shortstop and future Philadelphia manager

Losses number 7,619 and 7,620, July 10, 1977

"The Phillies would win the National League East even though we took only one of the nine games we played at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Two of those losses came during a doubleheader [against the Pirates]. In the clubhouse after closing out both defeats, Tug McGraw announced he had pitched so poorly that he belonged in jail. Then he took a cab to a city jail and asked the desk sergeant to put him behind bars. The cop was happy to, and Tug spent the night in lockup."

-- Jay Johnstone, outfielder

Loss number 9,481, Sept. 24, 2000

"On Fan Appreciation Day my tires were slashed."

-- Terry Francona

Loss number 9,987, June 15, 2007

"If we have 10,000 losses and 8,800 victories, that means we're only a hundred-and-something wins away from reaching the .500 mark."

-- Charlie Manuel, arithmetically-challenged Phillies manager, after a 12-8 loss to the Tigers.

Loss number 9,988, June 17, 2007

"A local sports-radio host wants the city to celebrate the 10,000th loss with a parade. I think that would be a disgrace. The Phils are my grandfather's team, my father's team, my team, my sons' team and my grandchildren's team. We fans will endure this humiliation, and then maybe we'll start on our second 10,000."

-- Ed Deal, 61-year-old ballpark security guard

Way to go, Phils. I wonder what two cents the Iron Lung of Shibe Park might have offered if he were around.

POSTSCRIPT: A delayed link here, but check out the video of the entire Phillies dugout emptying to help the grounds crew with the tarp, which was blowing dangerously out of control.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Second half of season commences


Via Robot Comix, a pretty incredible blog, considering.

Royals return to action tonight in Cleveland against the second-place Indians. Kansas City will be rallying behind their robot of a starter, Odalis Perez (4-8, 5.68 ERA, 1.62 WHIP (!)), who will most definitely give up four runs in five innings. Luckily for him, his opponent, Jake Westbrook, has kind of sucked this year, even though some have called him a poor man's Greg Maddux. He's 1-4 with a 6.27 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, though unlike Odie, consistency is not his game. Earned runs allowed in his starts: 7, 2, 8, 3, 3, 1, 3, 1, 5. There's an inverse Fibonacci sequence hidden in there methinks.

Remember: I am Dayton of the Moores. I understand the truth that has infested you, but it is not my truth and it is not the truth of the future. Believe in this and the chains of the past will slip from you, and the past will flee from you. Baseball is here once more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Peter Gammons-Barry Bonds interview

This was from the Home Run Derby. Video here (praise to MLB.com).

Peter Gammons: Barry, given your relationship with these fans of San Francisco, was it hard for you to not participate in this Home Run Derby?
Barry Bonds: Oh, definitely, Peter, because this is my home town, these fans have supported throughout my career. It's just that I'm almost 43 years old, I wanted to do it, in my heart, I just can't do it anymore. It's just something I'm not capable of doing anymore. Y'know, everyone sits there and says, "Don't think about yourself," and I can't think about myself, I think about my team. And I'm just grateful I've been able to play as many games as I've been able to play this year, and I want to continue playing and partici/forming for my team, and that's the most important thing, is being able to participate for your team. I'm very thankful that they voted me into the All-Star game, and to have an opportunity to start here at home in front of San Francisco fans, I'm forever grateful for that.
IDWT: Given what about his relationship? With what fans? The one quoted in SI's Bonds cover story in May who said, "People here don't give a shit about Bonds and his record. Who cares? I'd rather watch my grandchildren play than that asshole"? Or the ones who decried his one-year, $15.8 million extension? Or those born out of counterculture who would embrace what others reject for the sake of satisfying some psychological aversion to orthodoxy, or common sense?

And Barry: please, please spare us from your "team is most important thing" spiel. Your team is 38-48 and 10.5 games out of first. Your team's fans, on the other hand, cared enough about you to vote you in as a starter, even if they did it fraudulently. Now let me get this straight: you can't take one hour out of your night to take a few swings? Because that's all they want, Barry: to see you take a few swings, perhaps launch one into the Cove, to give you a standing ovation because, damnit, sports fans are like the rest of us, always searching for a familiar face in a familiar place to chat with or pat on the back. And you choose -- on the most-watched pre-postseason baseball event -- to deny them that chance. Okay, Mr. Team First.

PG: At your age, what's the most difficult thing about playing every day now?
BB: The 5th inning. [Laughs.] You can feel okay the first five innings, and then it really starts weighing on you a little bit. It's trying to last the entire game, and that's the hardest part.
IDWT: Boohoo, waaaa, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, I want my greenies back! waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Oh, and you're making $15.8 million, dickhead.

PG: How much has the home run record been on your mind?
BB: It really hasn't, Peter, at all. It hasn't been... My teammates have been great, the city's been great, everyone around throughout the league and wherever I go has been great, and I haven't really thought of it. The only thing that gets me is when they change the balls. As soon as they change the balls, I haven't hit a home run, since they did it in Cincinnati. I gotta try to not see that change, because then that's what's in your mind, you know that there's something going on, and when there's no change of baseballs, then you know your mindset is just focused on the game. So I have to really try to focus myself away from that ball change.
IDWT: Everyone wherever you go has been great? Really? You sure about that?



PG: Now, have you been surprised, the reaction of fans around the league, and did you worry a little bit about it before the season?

IDWT: Uh oh, here we go. Now you've done it... and it was going so well! What's Barry going to do here? Play dumb? Give Peter the stare? Patronize him some more? Tell him to f### off?
BB: Um, what reaction are you talking about?
IDWT: Play dumb it is!

PG (his stammering): Just th-the fans, y'know, th-that fans, because of so much controversy t-that has surrounded this, did you worry that before the season that there'd be booing, there'd be a lot of, a lot of fans would get on you?
BB: Peter, I don't worry about that because, y'know, it's the same thing when you say "people." You know? It's the same thing like me sitting here saying "a third party." The thing is is that I am disappointed at people that are judging me by a third-party's comment. And actually.... The people of San Francisco know me, see me walking the streets, they know the type of person... I don't go to clubs, I don't hang out, I don't do crazy things, they know that I work hard. Everyone sees me in the gym as everyday people, stuff like that, and they actually get to see me. I feel disappointed and I feel sad about somebody that judges another person over a third-party's comments. You're allowing that person to dictate your opinion about me. And that's sad for me. That would be me, if someone said, Hey, Peter Gammons is doing so-and-so something, I'd be like, "Hold on, man, I don't know the guy, so I'm not going to jump to that conclusion." If I then have an opportunity to meet you and I do meet you, I can sit there and say, "You know, you're wrong. He's a nice man, I've had an opportunity to meet him."
IDWT: You don't want to be judged by a third party? What could you possibly mean?

The people of San Francisco know me, see me walking the streets.

IDWT: Oh yes, Barry, they see you all the time walking down Market Street and jogging in Lincoln Park. You're a true man of the people.

They know that I work hard.

IDWT: I've always felt insecure over my head size and unsure of my ability to attract fetching companions of the opposite sex, for fear my noggin's too small. Your secret, Barry. Share?

And that's sad for me.

IDWT: Tear.

$15.8 million and soon the most hallowed record in baseball. God you're a fucking prick.

I'd be like, "Hold on, man, I don't know the guy.

IDWT: You don't know Peter Gammons? And yet you act so familiar, addressing him by his first name.

If I then have an opportunity to meet you and I do meet you, I can sit there and say, "You know, you're wrong. He's a nice man, I've had an opportunity to meet him."

IDWT: Would you like to meet Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, Barry, who had their livelihoods suspended for doing their jobs without complaint past the metaphorical 5th inning? Maybe they can give you a couple pointers on how to pass the time in jail.

PG: Do you care if Bud Selig and Henry Aaron are here when you break the record?
BB: You know, I said it earlier today, as far as Hank Aaron goes, Hank has a life. You cannot predict a home run...
IDWT: Blah blah blah, whatever. Just whatever.

One last thing, B: you know the difference between your situation and your hypothetical, the one where, say, a former girlfriend accuses Gammons of, oh, reading Sports Illustrated past his bedtime?

ev·i·dence (ěv'ĭ-dəns), n.: that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.

Try that on for size. It's big, even for you.

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver discuss Barry Bonds and steroids during the All-Star Game

I only caught the last four innings of the All-Star game yesterday, and while they were good, I fear I may have missed the blog-worthy happening of the night: the Joe Buck-Tim McCarver conversation about steroids.

Does anyone have a link to a clip? Or a transcript? It happened right after the Barry Bonds in-game interview (not certain whether this was before or after Chris Young served up the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star history to eventual MVP Ichiro Suzuki). YouTube and Google Video's got nothing... yet. There's not much on the blogosphere or world wide web, either.

According to my friend K, who is cooler than you*, Buck basically apologized for Bonds (and Mark McGwire?), excusing him and other sluggers for their all-but-proven steroids use as a result of the Zeitgeist of the time. And you know what? He has a point: we did want home runs, and we did love McGwire and Sosa in that summer of '98. It's a bit unfair for us to vilify those guys on a clear conscience.

K, however, has a different opinion: CENSORED FOR INDECENT REFERENCES TO LEWD, ADULT ACTS.

I should make clear, if you haven't already figured this out, that K is a Cubs fan, so his disdain of all things St. Louis extends into the city's announcers booth. I personally have nothing against the man with the voice of velvet mixed with peanut butter, but Buck is the kind of nondescript sports media celebrity that polarizes the national fandom.

Again, if someone has a transcript or a clip of Buck/McCarver, we can begin our own earnest conversation on this topic.

POSTSCRIPTS:

1) My roommate Cranston remembers Buck's commentary for its double-animal reference: "Something like, 'It ends up being a cat-and-mouse game that leads you on a wild goose chase.'" That's three animals. Cranston -- that's his nickname because he's from the city of Cranston, Rhode Island (and you know where Rhode Islanders' baseball allegiance lies) -- also deadpanned, "I like how the Yankees players were trying to throw the game." Oh yeah, he also made a snide remark about A-Rod's white shoes.

2) Not to say Joe Buck has never expressed his opinion on Bary Bonds or steroids elsewhere, or that it hasn't been reported before, like here by the Boston Globe (specifically mentioning Buck and this year's All-Star game).

Here's what Buck said in an exclusive Yahoo Sports interview just a couple days prior:

Question: How important was it for baseball and this city that Barry Bonds got voted in to play in this game?
Very. I'm glad he's here. I'm glad he's playing in it. Everybody's got their opinions on Barry Bonds, but I would submit to you that whatever your issues are with whatever he's done -- and we can only speculate because he hasn't failed any Major League Baseball-sponsored steroids tests -- you could say the same for a lot of guys that are in the game today. The simple fact of it is, he is still the most disruptive player in any lineup in the game. And that guy deserves to be in the All-Star game. He's four home runs away from Hank Aaron and it's in his backyard -- he should be here playing in this game, period. I'm glad he is.

You're a baseball purist. Does it bother you at all that they're questioning him and calling this the Steroid Era?
It is what it is. If this is the Steroid Era, I would tell you that I think we're now in the steroid or performance enhancing drugs, whatever you want to call it -- it might not just be steroids, HGH, whatever -- it's all through sports. And if it's the Steroid Era in baseball, I would say it's the HGH Era in other sports. So it's a wild goose chase that has started now, and I don't think we'll ever have definitive answers on who was doing what, and these stories are getting older and older and we're going back years to try to... I think people are pretty much willing to accept that this is what it is, and we're going to be on a hunt for this for the rest of time, and I don't think the people testing are ever going to totally catch up with the people who are cheating.

You mention that baseball is one that's under the microscope. Why is it that this is the sport that's getting all the attention for it?
Because people care about the records. People care that Barry Bonds is breaking a record that was set by Hank Aaron. Period. And it's been said many times -- it's nothing new coming out of my mouth -- but you would struggle, even for the most ardent football fan, to have him give you a list of all the major records in the NFL. But people in baseball care. And when they care about something, then they have issue with it. I think that's what we're dealing with, and I'm glad people care. If people didn't care, then baseball would have a problem, and I think it's the pressure from the public that tries to steer this game and any game toward honest competition. And I think [the testers]'re going to try and do their best, but I don't think they'll ever get over the hump and totally eradicate performance enhancing drugs, not just from baseball but from any of these sports.

In your opinion, should commissioner Bud Selig be in attendance when he breaks the record?
Absolutely. I don't know how he can't be. I really think Bud Selig has been a wonderful commissioner -- and a lot of people like to take their shots -- he's accomplished major, major things in this game, not the least of which is revenue sharing and what he's done with the Internet and what he's done with the playoff system and the Wild Card and -- I mean, he's done a lot of good stuff for this game -- what he's done in the Pacific rim in globalizing baseball.

But I take issue with him on it... I think [attending Bonds's record-breaking game] should have been determined a long time ago. Now that's saying one thing. I think you can get on a long-time trek of trying to follow him around because he's not on a pace where he's hitting two a day anymore. But if he hasn't failed any Major League Baseball-sponsored tests, [Selig]'s gotta be there, because you're condemning your own testing policy by not being there. So I'd like to see him there, and I think at the end of the day he will be there.

* Please understand: K discovered Ryan Theriot. He discovered him the moment THE RIOT caught his ceremonial first pitch one cool night at Wrigley. Or put another way: Theriot discovered K.