July 2009 Archives

Weekend Questions

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  • WILL any of today's deadline deals amount to anything? There were a lot of them, so it's likely.
  • WHAT does MLB Trade Rumors do now that their Christmas is over?
  • WHO does Bronson Arroyo think he is, admitting he took andro and uppers in 2003?
  • WHEN will we stop hearing about trades? About 25 minutes after the 4 p.m. deadline, suddenly Jake Peavy is headed to the White Sox.
  • WILL I remember to prepare over the weekend so we have a top-notch Walkoff Walk next week? Yes, yes I will.
  • ARE the Braves locks to win the World Series this year? Yes, now that Barbaro is playing first base.

Drew Fairservice will be with you over the weekend. Laters!

Photo via Caveman 92223 (I assume this is one of those Geico guys); in the front row, third from left, is Walter Johnson

Trade Deadline Day Update!

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wow.goodbye.png Any trades get made yet today? Let's take a look:

• The Mariners traded Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers for a pair of lefthanded pitchers. Seattle, eight games back in the AL West, gets Luke French (a 133 ERA+ in five starts with the Tigers this year) and Mauricio Robles (who will report to a Mariners' Class-A affiliate).

• The Twins got Orlando Cabrera from the Athletics, he of the .683 OPS. (Jimmy Rollins' OPS is .670, for reference). The A's get Tyler Ladendorf, an infield prospect. Meanwhile in Minnesota, a Hells Angel was arrested for DUI! You just don't expect such behavior from them.

• The Indians continue their 2009 sell-off, as a "Tweet" from USA Today writer Bob Nightengale has Victor Martinez going to the Red Sox. Boston.com has a near minute-by-minute history of today's rumors.

• And, in the most important trade of the day, the Dodgers get Vinny Rottino from Milwaukee for Claudio Vargas. Look out, National League!

I will update this post as additional trades get made, just like every other baseball blog is doing today.

Update: Or I might not. It depends.

Update 2: Awwright, fine, here you go, commenting crew.

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Better?

Update 3: Jonathan Mayo writes on his Twitter that Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson are part of the V-Mart deal with the Indians. In related news, I am in a Rotisserie league with Jonathan Mayo. I traded for Evan Longoria from a team he runs with a co-owner this year. Who will make out better: Me... or the Indians?!

Update 4: Tomorrow is Victor Martinez Bobblehead Day in Cleveland. Ha!

Update 5: MLB Network reports Ken Rosenthal reports the Dodgers are working out a "blockbuster" trade with the Padres with Loney going to San Diego and Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez going to the Dodgers. And now I'm reporting this.

wow.natlanthem.jpg One of my old college housemates currently works in baseball; when he graduated, his first job was with the Atlantic City Surf. He worked a variety of jobs for the now-defunct independent league team, including selling tickets, scoring games and, of course, playing the mascot at a Quiznos opening.

But I don't know if his duties ever went as far as those of Chelsea Wargo of Ewing, N.J., who interns for the Trenton Thunder and has quite a few different jobs with the club.

Wargo runs around a lot during games. The promotions team selects most promotions contestants prior to the game. The contestants are to report to the guest services desk a half inning before their promotion. It's the promotions team's job to escort that contestant onto the field.

If the activity doesn't require contestants, like the "Dog of the Day" promotion, Wargo and the promotions team still set it up and break it down before quickly fetching whatever or whomever is needed for the next promotion.

There are promotions every half inning between the first and eighth innings, 14 in all. Adding to the crunch July 9, Wargo sang the National Anthem before the game, as she does whenever the Thunder does not have a singer lined up.

Yes, go to a Trenton Thunder game where there isn't some horrific Sony/Epic (or whatever) recording artist or local saxophonist to play the National Anthem and you'll get an intern. She has to be pretty skilled at "The Star Spangled Banner" by now; it's her second year with the team.

Update: If you want to go to the Trenton Thunder on a Tuesday, you can bring a Kraft Singles wrapper with you for a 2-for-1 deal on tickets. Who knew?

Unrelated photo by SD Dirk used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

1986 - Creepy Phillies Fans

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Today's Classic Television Friday is actually a series of commercials the Phillies apparently thought would bring fans to the Vet in 1986. The Fightins drew 1,933,335 fans to Veterans Stadium that year, good for fourth in the league, so it looks like it worked.

Times must have been tough then in Philadelphia; one of the promos is for a giveaway of a "free lunch" to kids. What, no Tom Herr glove? (I actually received this at a Phillies game once.)

Hey! It's a new feature here on Walkoff Walk, probably/definitely just for today. Let's check out the top fan facial hair of the day!

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Thanks to 3:10 to Joba for notifying Walkoff Walk of this incredible facial hair/regular hair combo package. I think we know why Land Shark Stadium is so empty now.

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or so), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He also reviewed MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, which aired Sundays on the MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5.

In the final episode of The Pen, we all learned what the show could have been. I know he was a starter at the beginning of the season, but The Pen really should have been The Chan Ho Show.

The producers gave a couple of the bullpen guys cameras to document what they did over the All-Star Break. Yes, the final episode of The Pen was pretty much exclusively about the break. Turns out the baseball highlights were necessary to carry the show, because absolutely nothing happened in this final one.

But back to Chan Ho Park. He took the camera, and put on a comedy spectacular.

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But he also had a message for Brad Lidge (oddly, not really even present in this episode).

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Look, we all know The Pen was kind of a doomed idea from the start, and the producers did a yeoman's job at times with the material. But they really blew it here. Clearly, Chan Ho Park should have been given a chance to do his stand-up.

But as you can see, not all reliever cams are created equal.

Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while your lyrics were bad like a linoleum floor.

White Sox 3, Yankees 2. Nick Swisher homered in the top of the ninth to knot this one at two, but DeWayne Wise singled home Scott Posednik (pinch running for Jim Thome) in the bottom half to give the Chisox the win. Since I'm filling in for Rob I figured I'd start with something he'd dislike, since right now I think I'd rather still be sleeping.

Braves 6, Marlins 3. Atlanta salvaged the final game of their series with the Marlins, the instant classic Battle for Second Place in the NL East. Swingin' Mike Gonzalez gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the eighth, but Brian McCann LASIK'd a three-run blast in the top of the 10th.

Brewers 7, Nationals 3. The Nationals had Mike Cameron nailed at home plate in the bottom of the seventh. Typically for Washington this season, Will Nieves missed the tag, allowing the go-ahead run to score in the seventh. Also typically for Washington this season, a bunch more runs scored afterward.

Giants 7, Phillies 2. All any sports fan in Philadelphia can talk about is the rotation, and who Cliff Lee will replace. Rodrigo Lopez has been good! they all say, forgetting the words "small sample size." Then Lopez goes out and gives up 7 runs to the Giants. Pablo Sandoval splashed a homer into McCovey Cove and drove in four runs.

This is pretty sweet: Rob went away on vacation and left me in charge. In total control! Last time I had to defer to Kris, but this time I am in total control. I'm here for a week and a day; today I plan on doing a crappy job so I'm inspired to do an awesome job next week when re-reading the day's posts. It's a foolproof plan, I tells ya.

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  • WHAT massive yet under-the-radar trade has yet to be consummated?

  • WILL anyone ever get prosecuted for leaking all these names?

  • WHEN the dust settles, can we all get psyched for some real baseball action? Cubs-Marlins, Mariners-Rangers, Phillies-Giants...this weekend will be a good one.

By this time tomorrow, I'll be sunning my doughy self on the Jersey Shore and thinking fondly of the WoWies I left behind. But fret not! Dan McQuade will be filling in tomorrow and all next week with his signature brand of hilarity and puppies. Our own Drew will be around, too, with his next installment of Kicking and Screaming. So really, I am leaving you in far better hands than my own.

See you all in ten days. Same WoW channel.

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It's a beautiful day to play some afternoon baseball; if you're headed out to the park today, try to behave and not punch any men wearing funny straw hats. Today's sked:

  • Rockies at Mets, 12:10PM: Last night's massive thunderstorms that passed through the tri-state area have paid off as the Mets and Rockies will tussle in a separate admission doubleheader at CitiField today. Johan Santana and Jason Hammel will pitch in this daytime affair as the Mets attempt to creep their way back into the discussion.

  • Padres at Reds, 12:35PM: Dismiss the Padres all you want but they've won two straight against the Reds and five out of six overall against Dusty's hapless squadron. Stud rookie Kyle Blanks has four hits so far in the series with a double, a homer, and three RBI while Adrian Gonzalez has three ding-dongs in three games.

  • Royals at Orioles, 12:35PM: Speaking of hapless teams, the Royals and Orioles have actually played some pretty good games this week but you wouldn't know it because you're too busy organizing your sock drawer. Two impressive young hurlers go at it today: Luke Hochaver for KC and Brad Bergesen for the O's. Luke is coming off a 13 K win over the Rangers while Bergesen is 6-1 at home.

  • Athletics at Red Sox, 1:35PM: If you want to know how the Yankees are in first place despite losing every single Red Sox game this year, look no further than Boston's poor performance against AL West teams in '09. The Red Stockings are a lowly 9-18 against the Left Coasters including a mediocre 4-5 against these last place Athletics. Jon Lester will try to right the ship today but watch out for Orlando Cabrera, who owns a 1.149 career OPS against the lithe lefty.

  • Nationals at Brewers, 2:05PM: Completely unrelated to this game, but Chico Harlan reports that former Nats scout Jose Rijo is running against Raul Mondesi for the position of mayor of San Cristobal, D.R. I wonder if both of them are using this story in their attack ads.

  • Astros at Cubs, 2:20PM: With a loss here, the Astros will limp into the weekend having lost 3 of 4 and fallen back to the .500 mark. JUST KILL THEM ALREADY. KILL THEM DEAD.
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The trade deadline is about thirty hours away, so while we're all furiously reloading MLB Trade Rumors, attempting mental telepathy with Ken Rosensquirrel, and praying to Allah that the Red Sox don't get Roy Halladay, let's pause for a moment and think about the dudes who are switching uniforms and cities so abruptly. Take, for example, Jack Wilson:

Jack Wilson had quite a day. He was in a cab innocently on the way to AT&T Park in San Francisco this morning about 9 a.m. when Jack Zduriencik called to tell him he had been traded to the Mariners.

Zduriencik asked him if he could rush to Seattle to get here in time for the 1:40 p.m. game with the Blue Jays. But Wilson, who told him he needed some time for closure with the ballclub he has played for since 2001.

"As much as I would have liked to be part of the game today, I said, 'Listen, I've got to say goodbye to my boys, my guys. I've been there a long time, and I wanted to make sure I had at least a half hour to thank them, thank all the coaches, the press - everybody that's been so nice to me and my family over the nine seasons.' I said I'll be there as fast as I can, but there's something I need to do with these guys."

What a good boy! Wilson says he's excited to join Seattle; no wonder because he's suffered through a year of watching his best buds leave the Pittsburgh clubhouse to head for tonier locales on the East Coast. He's lucky, too, that he had a chance to say goodbye to beat writers like Dejan Kovacevic and longtime teammates like, well, uh, Freddy Sanchez, who also got traded yesterday.

But put yourself in the mindset of someone who has worked for one organization in one city for nine years and then suddenly gets re-assigned to the Seattle branch and you only have thirty minutes to pack up your cubicle and bid farewell to Trisha the hot receptionist before you take off to make an evening meeting in your new office. It's quite the shock to the system.

So while we bitch and complain and make snide comments about the mental capacity of general managers, let's just put ourselves in the minds of professional athletes who are, believe it or not, human beings with families and lives and whatnot.

linkpunch gorillaSometimes people write better than us. Each Thursday WoW gives you our favorite baseball links we've come across.

  • Our buddy Sooze takes a deep breath and calls out some ham-and-egger 'journalist' for suggesting that perhaps Erin Andrews orchestrated the distribution of those naughty videos. The job of the sideline reporter is a thankless one but Erin handles it with grace. Babes Love Baseball.

  • Bradford Doolittle estimates and breaks down the Kansas City Royals record based on the facial hair that manager Trey Hillman is wearing. I realize covering the Royals sucks, but do we really need to know that the team performs its worst when Trey's sporting the flavor saver? Upon Further Reveiw.

  • Wezen-ball.com has been spending the past week running down some historical hot stove trades from the all-too-recent past. Check out the tale of the Randy Johnson trade from 1998 and then click around to read the rest of them. It's refreshing! wezen-ball.

  • 'Duk did a listicle countdown that is sure to pique your interest and jog your memory. It's the top ten defensive plays of the aughts, and he chose very wisely with his number one play. Big League Stew.

  • This one's for Catshirt. Patrick Sullivan argues that Dewey Evans is far more deserving of his Cooperstown plaque than Jim Rice. Baseball Analysts.

  • Carey Jones gives up corn, corn-based products, and corn-fed animals for a week. At least she (he?) had nothing to pick out of her (his?) stool. Serious Eats.

Because no baseball game had ended by the time I went to bed last night, I give you this delicious (and NSFW!) YouTube instead of your normal boring recaps:


(via White Chocolate Blog and ShareBros Skeets and Enrico)

So I am going to go home and rest. If I get sick before my big beach vacation next week, I'm blaming J.P. Ricciardi. Chat up the afternoon action here, and ask yourselves some interesting "Tonight's Questions".

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My grammar and spelling could not possibly have been more shoehorned in that alliterative blogpost title. But still! Cliff Lee is a Philly now, y'all. I don't know who to credit since I read about 382 different re-Tweets on Twitter, so I'll just link something good later on. For now:

Phillies acquire Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.

He's no Roy Halladay, but Cliff Lee is the reigning AL Cy Young winner AND a lithe lefty who pretty much doesn't walk anyone, and he's having himself a nice year despite the 7-9 record. He's got a 3.14 ERA and even if that goes up an entire run by pitching half his games in CBP, he'll still get 50% more run support. So, enjoy it, Phillies fans. Keep piling on the wins.

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Enough trade speculation! There are ballgames to be played! Short schedule of afternooners today, folks. I'll do my best to entertain you with WHIPAROUND liveglog coverage of every game between 2:30PM and 5PM. Why whiparound? Because it's the way we get by.

  • Astros at Cubs, 2:20PM: A day after losing Roy Oswalt to a possible injury and LaTroy Hawkins to a definite injury and investigation, the Astros send Mike Hampton to the mound in Wrigley. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? Oh they also lost Wesley Wright who got rushed to the hospital with a severe case of dehydration. Hey Cecil Cooper, get those bullpen guys some friggin' electrolytes.

  • Indians at Angels, 3:35PM: Last night, Angels closer Brian Fuentes was called on to save a three-run ninth inning lead. Pretty typical, right? Shame that Fuentes gave up two hits, two walks, and two runs and left the game with the bases loaded and nobody out for poor Jason Bulger, who magically escaped from danger and recorded his first big league save. Today, the Angels will use Gene Autry's rotting corpse in the closer role.

  • Pirates at Giants, 3:45PM: Zach Duke! Matt Cain! Poor hitting offenses! This one has all the makings of a fast-paced, low-scoring, pitcher's duel which probably means that it will be a dragging 12-8 clusterfmuck. Still, Cain is looking to become the NL's first thirteen-game winner and outshine Tim Lincecum. Face of the franchise is back, baby!

  • Blue Jays at Mariners, 4:40PM: Does this even count as an afternoon game? At least I'll have something to listen to on the commute home.
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Bobby Valentine is coming home, y'all! At least that's what I can deduce from his sad blog post in which he issues a teary goodbye to Chiba Lotte Marines fans. In his six years at the helm of the Marines during his second stint in Japan, Valentine led the team in 2005 to their first Japan Series win since 1974. Shame that just four years later, Bobby's Marines are among the worst teams in the Pacific League.

Add that to the fact that team ownership declared before the season even started that they could no longer afford to keep both Valentine as manager and supply the clubhouse with delicious uni on a daily basis, so Valentine was probably going to be jobless at the end of the year regardless of how poorly his team performed or how many comical moustaches he donned in the dugout.

But all of this is great news for you American teams currently employing an interim dude and/or a laid-back pre-op tranny in the position of manager. Bobby's probably coming home to get a new managing gig! If anything, he'll want to get back to the U-S-and-A to be closer to his mediocre Stamford, CT sports bar with a menu that hasn't changed since 1985. Really? I can get potato skins? Who knew?

So let's run down the possible destinations for Bobby V, and rank them in order of least likely to most likely:

  • 5. Yankees - Sure, they have the second best record in the bigs but are one bad week away from being sunk in the miasma of the A.L. Wild Card race. Gasp! If Joe Girardi fails to make the playoffs a second year in a row, expect his head to roll and the Steinbrenner Bros. to get a chubby thinking of how Bobby V. would inspire their all-star lineup with...well, whatever it is Bobby V. does to inspire players. This may include spankings.

  • 4. Astros - Cecil Cooper is not long for this world. The Astros were supposed to contend this year, despite the smarter heads who knew they'd flop on their face come deadline time. No matter, Drayton McLane is not about to experiment with an unknown quantity again and should look to replace C.C. with an experienced, smart manager. Which will make everyone wonder why they end up hiring Clint Hurdle.

  • 3. Rockies - Speaking of Clint Hurdle, his old team is winning games with the new guy Jim Tracy in charge. But keeping an interim manager around for longer than a half-season is so gauche. Instead, the Rockies will hire Bobby V. to bring his Eastern intrigue to the Colorado clubhouse along with two pallets of Asahi beer and veteran pitcher Hiroyuki Kobayashi. He loves the granola-crunching hippies.

  • 2. Nationals - Jim Riggleman just wasn't made for these times. And the Lerner family is said to be so enamored of Bobby Valentine that they named their new golden retriever puppy "Turkey Wrap", after Bobby's famed invention. For a team with severe attendance problems and made up of scrappy youngsters, the self-satisfied fame whore that is Valentine would be a perfect fit. That is, unless Bobby is snapped up by the...

  • 1. Mets - Bobby Valentine and the Mets go together like almond butter and lima beans. Make this happen, Wilpons. People who like schadenfreude need it.

Okay geniuses, where do you think Bobby Valentine will end up in 2010?

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My dad was complaining to me the other day about web gems and the like. He thinks many of the fielding plays that show up in top fielding plays of the day countdowns on ESPN are simply average ones, plays a major leaguer should be able to make. It's just one of those aspects of sports coverage that kind of annoys him. (You could say he feels this way about it: JACKED! UP!) Anybody who watches a decent amount of sports has his1 own particular bugaboos.

Delwyn Young's incredible catch from Monday night is not one of those average fielding plays elevated to Web gem status. Even with Ivy League grade inflation, some kids still have a transcript full of A+'s. On the play, a Randy Winn fly pop bounced off the heel of right fielder Garrett Jones' glove and hit his shin. Jones then kicked it into the air; second baseman Delwyn Young, who was moving in the other direction, stopped, dove, and caught the ball.

The umpire, though, ruled the ball hit the ground. No catch.

Here comes the obvious. Even Young said it right after the game: "It's a great argument for instant replay."

So far this season, I feel that a significant amount of plays -- at first base and home plate, mainly -- are called incorrectly. That's not surprising. Being an umpire is hard. But sometimes these bad calls could change a game's outcome, like earlier this year in the Athletics' comeback win over the Twins.

I dunno. I'm okay with using replay if it can help raise the accuracy of calls. I think a good system reviews any play if some official (maybe a replay official) decides it should be looked at, and probably also allows coaches to request a replay a certain number of times a game.

Sure, there are idiosyncrasies. In baseball's current replay-only-for-homers system, sometimes umpires decide not to review a play, seemingly incorrectly, like in a Phillies' loss earlier this year. Allowing a manager to challenge once or twice a game would attempt to alleviate that problem. And, yeah, it can take a while (especially in the NFL). I think it's better to get the right, especially in an important scenario (say, the playoffs).

(To me, though, it seems weird to do it for balls and strikes, even though that's the area where the ump could probably be replaced today. It would feel weird for the umpire to be removed from behind home plate. I feel silly about this.)

But let's continue on the incremental path for replay baseball has chosen. Home-run replay came in last year; next year point a few extra cameras at the bases and replay catches and plays at first and home. This might severely limit manager tirades; for me that's a vaguely good thing.

Here's a prediction: Within 100 years, most baseball umpiring will be done primarily by computers.2 Umps may remain on the field in a symbolic way. Executive umpires may program the computers (the nerds will truly have won baseball!). Humans may score the game. But I think people will want things to be accurate, eventually. The change will eventually be made when the technology is there to do it quickly and automatically.

So, yes, this is a slippery slope. Whatever. By the time this happens, we'll be dead. Let the people of the future decide their baseball rules, and let us strive to be accurate instead of traditional. Let Delwyn Young lead the way. Let's embrace the technology we're comfortable with now and expand it a little more. In that way, we'll make baseball a little better.

Or maybe we'll cause Armageddon. Either way, at least we tried.

1 Or her. Sarah really hates the Citizens Bank Park Green$ense green fact of the day. She actually yelled at the TV once when it came on, like I do several times a game. We had a moment there. Incidentally, she's anti-replay. When I showed her the Jones/Young play and how the ball didn't hit the ground, she shrugged and said, "I feel like it was close enough."
2 Don't steal this science fiction story idea from me, please.

Since they're not too interested in playing baseball much anymore, the Mets players have decided it's time to get into the fashion business. A select group of players designed their own signature line of t-shirts or jerseys to sell at the Hot Topic in the Queens Center Mall, and this is what injured reliever J.J. Putz came up with:

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Is that design similar to what the kids call the "Affliction" brand? Either way, it's got to be the most horrible shirt I've ever seen in my life. See the other designs at Biz of Baseball if you dare.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when my mind got to ramblin', like a wild geese:

Twins 5, White Sox 3: It's better to end a game with Dewayne Wise in the field and not at the plate, eh? Wise made the last out to end a late White Sox rally as Mark Buehrle came up a few innings shy of his second straight perfect game. Still, Mark set a MLB record for most consecutive batters retired at 45 but then gave up the perfect game, no-hitter, shutout, and win so he wouldn't have to go back on Letterman and fail to think up any zingers again.

Marlins 4, Braves 3: Garret Anderson was all ready to play the role of hero after his solo tater tot put Atlanta ahead 3-2 in the top of the ninth. Little did he know that Ross G. Load was lying in wait with a two-run tater tot of his own. How's that for a topper! It was a walkoff job that propelled Florida ahead of the Braves by one game in the race to finish second to the Phillies. Rafael Soriano gets the sadsack loss, blown save, and Bobby Cox' stinkeye for at least 20 hours.

Mets 4, Rockies 0: So what lesson can we take away from the Mets' fourth straight win and second against the wild card-leading Rockies? Are the Mets re-entering the wild card discussion or are the Rockies simply leaving it? Or are both happening? Either way, Mike Pelfrey pitched a gem, Jeff Francouer drove in a run, and a CitiField lemonade vendor serenaded David Pinto and his teenage daughter with a naughty limerick.

Rays 6, Yankees 2: CC Sabathia did not have his magic but the Yankees defense played like a bunch of dead retarded squirrels behind him. So there's that excuse. But anyway, Scott Kazmir took Rick Peterson's advice to heart and closed down the Yankees offense to win his first start in two months. Both Derek Jeter and A-Rod made throwing errors in the game but it was Nick Swisher's misplay of two different balls that made me want to defenestrate my TV.

Nationals 8, Brewers 3: The Nationals ding-dong brigade continues to shower down ding-dongs in Miller Park. Homers by Cristian Guzman, Nyjer Morgan, and one by Adam Dunn that nearly broke through the windows and bounded out onto Route 41 helped the Nats topple the Brew Crew for the second night running. Collin Balester earned his first '09 win by holding Milwaukee to two runs over six innings.

Tonight's Questions

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On a personal note, I'd like to say goodbye to one of the greatest magazines ever published. After ten years of faithfully reading "The New Yorker", I have let my subscription lapse because I'm tired of looking at unread issues pile up on my coffee table. So if anyone out there wants to buy any issues between July 1999 and July 2009, lemme know, because I am effete and I am a hoarder.

More baseball tomorrow, including a liveglog. Same WoW channel.

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At least that's what LaTroy Hawkins thinks. During last night's Cubs-Astros game, LaTroy walked Derrek Lee in the eighth and then basically threw a hissy-fit. After being ejected for arguing balls and strikes, the outspoken Hawkins had this to say in a post-game interview with the Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz:

"I thought it was a strike," Hawkins said. "And I told (Everitt), 'Come on, I need that pitch.' He don't need any help.' He said, 'Knock it off.' I waved him off, and he threw me out of the game. Maybe he was having a bad day. I thought he had determined who he wanted to win the game anyway."

If his theory is true (and I'll bet you $1 that it ain't), home plate umpire Mike Everitt was making bad calls against the 'Stros because he wanted the Cubs to win the game in regulation last night and head out on time for his 11:30 rezzie at Spiaggia. Which is bizarre, because anyone who's anyone knows that an umpire with dinner rezzies is going to call more strikes and fewer balls, not the other way around.

Still, if it was true, Everitt wouldn't be the only one with a rooting interest in the Cubs last night. First, the North Side Nine had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and had ample opportunity to end the game on a walkoff walk. Instead, Mike Fontenot attempted a suicide squeeze bunt but missed the pitch completely and the runner was out at home. Also, I pretty much want the Astros to lose every game so my theory holds a bit more water.

I got a (pre-recorded) phone call from the Phillies last night to thank me for bringing a group of awesome folks to the park and presumably to thank us for not murdering anyone in the parking lot. You're welcome, Phillies! Still, our little group of Lobster Baby fans can't hold a candle to this group:


Yes, that's a video from Cheezburger Night With Seattle Mariners where Northwest fans of LOLCats got together to watch a game at Safeco Field and presumably to shout out grammatically incorrect things in the Impact font. Bizarre!

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Being a Yankees fan, I confess I don't know much about the New York area beat writers that are stuck following the Mets. Granted, this ragged second-class group of reporters don't get to celebrate mystique and aura but they sure do get far more interesting scoops than their Yankee counterparts. With a team that gives you all the sturm und drang surrounding manager firings and September collapses and Gary Sheffield, being a Mets beat writer must be like selling fajitas outside a Jersey Shore bar at 2AM: you'd have to be an absolute idiot to not cash in.

So when Adam Rubin got the big Tony Bernazard-tearing-off-his-shirt scoop last week, it was his big chance to make a name for himself after six years of covering the team. I bet he had no idea it would come in this hilariously embarrassing manner, courtesy of bedraggled G.M. Omar Minaya.

During yesterday's presser where Minaya fired Bernazard, Omar decided to throw Rubin under the bus for getting that juicy scoop. He accused Rubin of having ulterior motives. Sez Omar:

And I say this because coming from Adam Rubin, okay, and Adam, you gotta understand this, Adam, for the past couple of years, has lobby for a player development position. He has lobby myself, he has lobby Tony. So when these things came out I was kind of a little bit, I had to think about it.

Here's a transcript of the rest of the presser, the juicy part, courtesy of Tommy Craggs at Deadspin:

Adam Rubin: Is what you're alleging that I tried to tear Tony down so I could take his job? Is that what you're saying?

Omar Minaya: No, no, I'm not saying that. All I'm saying was, that I know that when you wrote the reports, but I am saying, that in the past, you have, have lobby for a player, for a for a job...

Adam Rubin: If I were interested in working in player development somewhere in the major leagues at some point in my life, how did that impact this situation at all?

Omar Minaya: I said, because, when the reports came out a lot of these things were cross... I said "Who's writing these reports?" and I said well okay who's writing the reports and in the back of my mind, Adam, you have told me you have told other people in the front office that you want to work for player development in the front office.

Adam Rubin: So what you're alleging is that.. the only conclusion I can draw from that is that you're trying to allege that I tried to tear everyone down so that I could take their position. Is that what you're saying?

Omar Minaya: Adam...

Adam Rubin: It seems pretty despicable to say that.

Regardless of what motives Adam had in asking questions like that, Minaya was way out of line in calling him out in that manner. Beat writers should never be off-limits from criticism but such ridiculous, off-topic accusations like these deserve an apology (and Omar did indeed apologize during his second presser of the day). I salute the Mets TV network SNY for not pulling any punches; the broadcast trio of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling discussed the press conference during the game last night and called out Omar for his odd behavior.

What happens now? Can Rubin continue to cover a team knowing that the dude in charge has it out for him? Can Omar continue in his role as G.M. with the rest of the world knowing that he resorts to petty name-calling? Will the Mets do the smart thing and disband the entire franchise and send Johan Santana across town to pitch for the Yankees?

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when there ain't no use for ya:

Nationals 14, Brewers 6: This was like the World Series for the Nats. Washington OF Josh Willingham became just the 3rd NLer to smack two grand slams in the same game; Willingham's pair of tetra tots came in back-to-back innings. Pretty cool, but Fernando Tatis once had two king dongs in one inning. In a strange twist of fate, Tatis hit a grand slam for the Mets last night.

Royals 5, Orioles 3: Hey, Joakim Soria's furlough is finally over! The Kansas City closer got his first save opportunity in sixteen days and converted it, as is his wont. That he even had a lead to save can be partly attributed to Billy Butler's career-high five hits and Brayan "Don't Call Me Tony" Pena's go-ahead RBI infield single in the seventh. The Royals now have two wins in thirteen games while the Orioles have two wins in ten games. Yes, someone does indeed have to win these contests.

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 1: New acquisition Matt Holliday led the offensive attack with three RBI including his first inning RBI double. Meanwhile, Chris Carpenter parried and thrusted around nine Dodger hits in seven innings to snag a tidy win. After the game, Holliday put on his Affliction t-shirt and was interviewed by the studio staff back at the MLB Network. Gotta look your best on cable, ya hear?

Red Sox 8, Athletics 3: Speaking of new acquisitions, Adam La Roche must feel at home in Fenway with his old pal Jason Bay because the dude blew up with two hits, an RBI and a run as part of a 14-hit BoSox attack. Josh Beckett struck out 10 A's while walking just one; fella moves to 12-4 on the year and celebrated by purchasing twelve more Affliction shirts after the game.

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Many thanks once again to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus for guesting on the Furious Five. Will, Drew, and I talked about trade rumours, asterisks in the Hall of Fame, and that wacky Omar Minaya presser from today. Check it out now if you have a spare 30 minutes and your listening hat on.

The choice 1980s cut at the end was a live version of Camper Van Beethoven's "Eye of Fatima Pt 1" from an October 1987 show at Century Hall in Milwaukee, WI. Thanks, Internet Archive!

Tonight's Questions

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Hopefully the deadline deals will wait until tomorrow morning so we don't have to worry about posting the wholphin tonight during our podcast. Join us tomorrow for a special return from a special guy, same WoW channel.

('96 Blue Jays singalong video courtesy of Big League Stew)

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Attention, fans of blog podcasts featuring pseudo-hipsters talking about baseball and other nonsense: there is another episode of the Walkoff Walk Furious Five radio show going down tonight at 10PM EDT. Our guest tonight is Will Carroll of Under the Knife column fame at Baseball Prospectus and onetime Creampuff contributor.

We'll talk up the Hall of Fame controversies, the upcoming trade deadline, and maybe even get Will to throw the Mets a bit further under the bus. One of us! One of us!

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. Last week we looked at the system and its ability to determine balls and strikes. This week, we'll look at movement and Zack Greinke's superlative slider.

As anyone that who's favorite team features a right handed slugger not named "Albert Pujols" knows, the slider is a most bedeviling pitch. Countless times we watch our big right handed bats waving at pitches bouncing in the other batters box. "Just lay off!" we scream at the TV in unison. The combination of speed and movement make the slider a most effective pitch, and as we'll learn, most effective when thrown outside the strike zone.

Zack Greinke's slider rates as the best in baseball this season, according to Fangraphs pitch type linear weights. Friday night, he put that slider to good use in beating the Rangers. The Royals ace scattered 3 hits over 7 innings while striking out 10. Zack's slider was in fine form, registering but a single hit against his mean slide piece.

The next step in our Pitch F/x journey is movement; charting how much Zack's slider moved down and away. Comparing Friday's start to Zack's worst of the year (7 runs and two tots allowed in June against the not-yet-worsening Blue Jays) we see that more movement isn't always better. Hit the jump to get into the graphy goodness!

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The Twitterverse and baseballblogosphere are abuzz with trade rumours and frankly, I can't stand it. To wit: the endless Roy Halladay trade speculation is dragging on with enough sturm und drang to disappoint an entire province, but frankly, I don't want to hear word one about it until something really happens. Actually, I've said all month long that there is no way J.P. Ricciardi trades Halladay this year and now that J.P. has come out to say the trade is "probably unlikely", I almost want to change my song. I don't believe anything you say, J.P., any more or any less than I believe the other general managers, agents, or magic elves who report on the sport.

You see, every rumour that gets floated by mouthpieces like Jon Heyman makes me think twice about what the underlying truth is. For every trade that goes through, there are dozens of false soundbites meant to draw pageviews or improve one's standing in the speculative world of trade deadline news. I can't possibly be more irritated by sports talk radio callers who suggest wildly one-sided trades and I'm even ticked off at bloviated beat writers who print these crazy trade ideas just with the intention of ridiculing them.

For that reason, we try not to post rumours or speculation on Walkoff Walk and instead save our excitement, alliterations, and animated GIFs for when the deals actually go down. We hope that you'll stick around here through the deadline, Friday the 31st, just in case any of these so-called trades actually get consummated because it's so much more fun to discuss a trade after it happens. Especially one that we never saw coming. Get ready for the wholphin, folks.

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Because you can never have enough challenges as a MLB general manager, it seems as if Dayton Moore and the brain surgeons in Kansas City are going to solve two problems with one move: making Tony Peña Jr. evolve from a horrible hitter into a mediocre pitcher.

Manager Trey Hillman said Peña, who recently cleared waivers, threw a bullpen session under the watchful eye of pitching coach Bob McClure on Friday and will soon report to Surprise, Ariz., to work on becoming a pitcher.

"We're looking at converting him," said Hillman, who added that he sees Peña as a possible reliever.

Peña, 28, wouldn't discuss the move -- "I'm just here to work out," he said before Sunday's game -- but Hillman said Peña is on board with the decision.

"He's all for it right now, to at least take a look at it and see where it goes," Hillman said.

Peña has been good with the glove during his reign as Royals shortstop but absolutely horrible with the bat. But hey, he did take to the mound for mop-up duty last season and pitch a 1-2-3 inning, so he's automatically a better set-up guy than Kyle Farnsworth or Ron Mahay.

How bad is Tony Peña Jr at the dish? His OPS+ over the last three years have gone from a bad 66 in 2007 to an awful 7 last year to an "I can't believe it was even possible to have a negative OPS+" -32 this season. Remember, the average OPS+ is 100. If Tony Peña was a carpenter, your house would disintegrate after the first gust of wind. If Tony Peña was a software engineer, your laptop would attempt to divide by zero and give rise to a worldwide nuclear holocaust. If Tony Peña was a dog breeder, the entire Canis genus would disappear from the planet. If Tony Peña was a metaphor, I'd have beaten it to death three sentences ago.

Monday Morning Movement Memo

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Note: Baseball Before Bedtime will no longer be seen on Monday mornings so that we may bring you a quick, post-weekend update on the division and wild card races. Thus, Monday Morning Movement Memo will document which way your favorite team is headed, organized by race.

  • National League Central: The Cubs took advantage of a three-game series with a fading Reds squadron to take over first place in the mediocre-est of divisions. Dick Harden finally won a day game at Wrigley on Sunday, his first since August of last year. Lucky for him the Cubs don't play very many afternooners at home. The Cardinals stumbled into second giving up 23 runs in two losses to the Phils while the Astros lost a series to the lowly Mets and fall to two behind the first place Cubs. Time to sell, Wade.

  • American League Central: Deeeetroit used a four game series against the White Sox to make hay while the sun was shining. The Tigers won three of four to assume a two-game lead in the division and would have taken the sweep had they not suffered performance anxiety on prime time tee vee. No worries, Tigers fans. Milton Bradley is on the way to pad your division lead.

  • National League Wild Card: Colorado took two of three from San Francisco and currently enjoy a two-game lead in the wild card race. Aaron Cook finally found a team to bite on his sinker; the Giants grounded into 16 outs and got Cook out of trouble in a tidy 4-2 Rockies win on Sunday. The hot hot Braves took two of three from the Brew Crew and stay within striking distance at 3.5 behind Colorado. Atlanta's weakest link Casey Kotchman smacked a three-run tater tot to lead the offense in a 10-2 win yesterday. At .500, Milwaukee is in seventh place in the Wild Card race and fourth in their measly division.

  • American League Wild Card: The Rangers won a road series in Kansas City but failed to pick up any ground on the Wild Card leading Red Sox, who got the job done at home against Baltimore. Yesterday, Texas exploded for seven runs off (you guessed it) the Royals bullpen to win 7-2. Sidney Ponson's six scoreless frames went for naught. Tampa took two of three from Toronto and tarry four games in back of Boston in the race. It would have been a Tampa sweep but Scott Rolen's three-run dong was made of magic.

  • American League East: The Yankees and Red Sox won their respective series two games to one and maintain an uneasy 2.5 game separation between the squadrons. Oakland used a six run seventh inning on Saturday to claim their only Yankee Stadium win while Baltimore won their first Fenway game yesterday since last July. A group of people haven't been that unsuccessful in the Boston area for that long a stretch of time since Liakos' a cappella choir lost twenty straight "Big Sing" competitions at Wellesley in the 90's.

In other news, the Dodgers maintain their titanium grasp on the NL West, the Phillies continue to enjoy a 6.5 game lead over the Marlins and Braves, and the Angels' hot streak ended at eight straight wins when the Twinkies toppled them yesterday. They still have a 3.5 game lead over Andruw Jones and the Rangers.

sflove.PNGI'm a pretty simple guy with rather simple tastes. When it came to the seemingly uncomplicated task of selecting a baseball team to root for, I'm sure I wasn't alone in simply choosing the team who's stadium was in greatest proximity to my house. Beyond the team I support implicitly, my interest bounces around from team to team, following compelling players and personalities.

In spite of never passing up an opportunity to debase and deride the National League West, I can't help but be drawn to it. Though the standard of play is relatively low, the teams themselves are an interesting lot. The Dodgers; with their history, quality, and gleaming white uniforms. A family connection keeps one nostalgic eye on the Padres, but I can't help but love the 2009 San Francisco Giants. How did this happen? One sure reason is their surprising participation in the Wild Card race. Beyond that; this team has many hooks, which I will spell out listicle style:

  • Their pitching staff is unmatched. Watching Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitch 40% of your ball games is good for everyone one involved. Throw in the occasional Randy Johnson appearance/occasional Jonthan Sanchez brilliance , the tragicomedy of Barry Zito and an excellent bullpen and you've the third best staff in baseball (by FIP.) Did I mention Lincecum? Yeah, he's good.

  • They play in a sexy ballpark. There isn't much to add here. You know you'd give your first born for the opportunity to sit here multiple times this summer. It's full of humans on a regular basis which makes for a good time every time.

  • The Multi-Positional Greatness of the Kung Fu Panda Go ahead, tell me Pablo Sandoval isn't fun to watch. You can't. A big dude playing the corner infield spots, smacking the ball around to the tune of a .928 OPS, swinging at everything and anything? Consider me amused, and rooting for continued amusement.

  • Their tragic flaw. Despite the Panda's heroics, the Giants are a truly terrible offensive team. Brutal. Second last in baseball bad. They have a bright future with stud catcher Buster Posey waiting in the wings, but for now their offensive cupboard is bare. Randy Winn plays everyday and is counted on for significant offense. Aaron Rowand makes serious bank to do what, exactly? Fred Lewis, Nate Scheirholz, and Travis Ishikawa are nice pieces, but hardly knocking down the elegant red brick walls of AT&T Park.

  • They play good defense in their spacious ballpark. They rank third in baseball in UZR, tied for first in UZR/150 games, fifth in defensive efficiency. They make the most of their excellent pitching by supporting it with brilliant defense (except when the pressure's one, whoops). Defense is fun to watch, not to mention a sound investment in ballpark that won't let you score.

Add in their excellent blogosphere, their sweet, nameless home uniforms, and the irresistible appeal of sailboats and you've got yourself one converted fan. With rumours of the Giants making a big acquisition at the trade deadline swirling, you have to think they'll continue to factor into the wild card race well into September. Consider me pumped.

Weekend Questions

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  • WILL the White Sox continue to build on Buehrle's feat and topple the Tigers? Whoever wins this series gets control of the AL Central.

  • CAN Matt Holliday make it down I-95 in time to smack some tater tots at Citizens Bank Park? The fellow first-place Cardinals and Phillies throw down this weekend.

  • WHICH NL second place team will establish a better position in the Wild Card race when the Brewers and Braves tussle in Milwaukee?

  • OR does the winner of the Rockies-Giants series have the upper hand? Hey, playoff pressure is on and it's not even August yet.

I'd like to wrap up this week with a tidy bow, but I feel like something else is going to happen before we close up shop. Still, either the trade winds have just started blowing or that Matt Holliday deal was the dying bluster of a very boring deadline season. Every single contending team has needs. Every single rebuilding team still has chips to trade. You may not have seen the last of our animated wholphin.

No matter what, baseball will go on this weekend especially when we've got Rocco Baldelli's best buddy Drew "LtB" Fairservice on deck. If you have any requests for his fantastic and didactic Kicking and Screaming feature about Pitch F/x, drop him a line.

Until Monday, same WoW channel.

(Ballgame Tonite! courtesy of Flickr user Pete Zarria)

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File this under things that happened while I was on a long lunch: Oakland A's outfielder Matt Holliday was traded to the Cardinals in exchange for Brett Wallace and two other kids, Triple-A pitcher Clayton Mortensen and Double-A outfielder Shane Peterson. He joins a long line of rental players traded just before the deadline in exchange for a smattering of prospects.

This is a good trade for two very important reasons: (a) it gives the Cardinals some protection for Albert Pujols in the lineup and (b) it makes my anti-Astro screed look a whole lot more cromulent.

If you were a 1980s era purveyor of vices and you needed a celebrity spokesperson to push your wares on television, you couldn't do much better than Billy Martin. Want to sell some beer? Get Billy Martin. Sell some nudie mags? Billy Martin. Black market baby pandas? Billy Martin fuckin' loves those things. But perhaps there was no better marriage of athlete and product than Billy Martin and pipe tobacco:


I've never smoked a pipe before, but I realize that it was quite popular back in the early 1980s. But what is this "bite" concept? What does it feel/taste like when pipe tobacco "bites" you? Is it similar to the time Catshirt got really high at a Red Sox game and tried to smoke Butch Huskey's sunflower seeds and Butch Huskey bit him?

creampuffshirt.jpgHeading into the dog days we can expect a full MASH unit of Creampuffs looking for rest and relaxation before the pennant drives. Barry Zito calls dibs on the cross-dresser hoping for a dishonorable discharge!

  • Jason Marquis, Rockies: The shock league leader in wins will miss his scheduled start on Friday due to a blister on his throwing hand. Rockies manager Jim Tracy doesn't want the blister to burst; lest a single drop of the divine lifeforce which commandeered Marquis's body to guide him through a inexplicable season spill.

  • Jose Guillen, Royals: Guillen sprained his right knee putting on his shinguard in the on deck circle Wednesday. That's a trip to the DLOL, Jose. I'm going to assume that sucks too.

  • Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners: Let this be a lesson to you, kids: if you're planning to chase halfway across Michigan to catch a fly ball, don't. The surprise WAR king of centerfield is day-to-day with what was first described as "contusions to the knee and elbow" but soon revised to "face and shoulder injury." Hopefully Gutierrez will heed the Ancient Warnings of Ankiel.

  • Manny Ramirez, Dodgers: Day-to-day with a bruised left hand suffered after being hit by a pitch. I think he'll be okay.

  • Vicente Padilla, Eddie Guardado, Omar Vizquel, Rangers: Three of a growing army of Rangers players felled by disease within days. Looks like the team trip to Dengue City over the all star break wasn't such a hot idea. The spirit animal that visits Rangers casualties during fever dreams finally accumulated enough Marriot points to earn a free portable DVD player!

  • Rich Aurilia, Giants: Getting old sucks. Plucking nose hairs, trimming ear hairs, digging out your ingrown toe nailWHOOPS, looks like old man Aurillia is behind in his manscaping. More accurately, Rich has fallen behind in his baseball offense-creation hygene. Aurilia is non-plussed over being Creampuffed, refusing to sign a waiver allowing medical personal to discuss the injury. When Creampuff status is forced on you &mdash we all lose.

  • Jason Giambi, A's: The A's aging DH is out with a strained quad, the same injury that knocked their 2008 aging DH out for most of last season. It's either something in the East Bay or something about signing 40 year olds that is really catching up with Billy Beane.

  • Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays: Double Stuffed Creampuff! McGowan, already out for the year with a torn labrum, suffered damage to the meniscus in his left knee during rehabilitation workouts after his shoulder surgery! The tragic yin to Rocco Baldelli's Tommy-John-required-while-rehabbing-a-blown-knee yang.
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As if the idea of robot umpires wasn't bad enough, the nerd patrol in Japan has decided to create robot baseball players, too. University of Tokyo professor Masatoshi Ishikawa has decided that every other important scientific advance has been accomplished and has chosen to take on baseball-playing robots before sexy-time robots. Bad choice, Masa.

People, modern technology is ruining America's pastime! Instant replay, Questec machines, partially hydrogenated fats in my hot dog buns...what's next? Some sort of magic surgery that pulls ligaments out of feet and puts it in a tired elbow? So, how good are these so-called "baseball-playing" machines? The AP reports:

The pitching robot, with its three-fingered hand, can throw 90 percent of its pitches in the strike zone, won't need any relief from the bullpen and never asks for a pay rise.

Oh haha, never ask for a pay rise? SO CLEVER, AP WRITER! Because baseball players are SO greedy, unlike baseball owners, who are just wonderful charitable people. The joke's on you, AP writer. Japanese scientists are already working on a special artificial intelligence chip that will enable the "Albert Belle" functionality and sit out of spring training to demand a better contract with more delicious robot oil.

How about the batters?

The batting robot, which has a sensor to determine if pitches are strikes or balls, hits balls in the strike zone almost 100 percent of the time, doesn't swing at pitches outside the strike zone, and is guaranteed to pass all drug tests.

Oh, a steroid zinger? AP writer, you've outdone yourself now! Once again, you're a little off base. Robots will never pass drug tests because they have no blood, urine, hair, or doo-doo feces to test. Besides, advanced object-oriented programming languages used in AI software is basically just HGH.

By the time I went to bed last night, the only games that had finished were the afternoon affairs. The evening was bizarre with two games in rain delay and the only active game being a Phillies romp. So I watched old episodes of "The Soup" on my DVR. Timely!

Instead of recapping games, today I bring you a video of Mr. Perfect Mark Buehrle chilling on the clubhouse sofa and casually answering a phone call from Walkoff Walk's second-favorite White Sox fan Barry Obama:


And if you have three minutes to spare and don't mind watching some shaky-cam footage, here is a video featuring every single out of Buehrle's perfecto:


One more video: the Best Bobble Ever:


The least interesting part about Mark Buehrle's perfect game? It was the first perfect game of the Twitter Era; if you had your TweetDeck open yesterday and you followed any baseball fans, you read a lot of instant and hilarious reactions from White Sox fans and hashtag whores alike. Sharing the experience with a bunch of Internet baseball nerds was far more satisfying than sitting at home eleven years ago watching David Wells throw a perfect game knowing that I had a ticket to Yankee Stadium that day that I turned down. Whoops.

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Sometimes you eat the T-Rex and sometimes, well, the T-Rex eats you

Wow, just wow. I hope you had a chance to watch the end of that game. Simply amazing. I have chills, and my office is currently 78 degrees, so that really was something special.

Come back tomorrow for reactions and creampuffs and videos and whatever else. Wow! Same WoW channel!

linkpunch gorillaSometimes people write better than us. Each Thursday WoW gives you our favorite baseball links we've come across.

  • Former MLB pitcher Jim Parque took HGH during his career and is sorry, despite the fact that HGH was neither illegal nor banned by baseball at the time. He wants you kids to learn from his mistakes. Jim, it's okay, we forgive you for being on the White Sox, it wasn't your choice. Chicago Sun Times.

  • After years of radio silence, Bill James finally opens up on the steroid era and whether or not players who juiced deserve HOF induction. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to live to the ripe old age of 300. Better yet, his piece is in an easy-to-read PDF format. Acta Sports.

  • Sports Illustrated profiles Carl Crawford, aka The Running Man. Tampa Bay.com helpfully uploaded the PDF version of the piece. It's PDF Thursday! Party at Adobe! Sports Illustrated.

  • Shawn Hoffman tears down Lester Munson's apocalyptic ESPN.com piece decrying the monopolization of sports leagues and reassures us fans that the world will not end if the NFL continues to do business with just one hat company. I still get turned off by the MLB antitrust exemption; I've wanted to start my own pro baseball league for years. Baseball Prospectus.

  • The fine author of wezen-ball pens a thoughtful follow-up to the intentional walk brouhaha. I don't think the intentional walk should be eliminated from the game. It's a perfectly cromulent (albeit risky) strategy that punishes the Cardinals for having a player as good as Albert Pujols. wezen-ball.com

  • Is Ben Zobrist the American League MVP? Bill Marshall thinks maybe, yes, he just might be, especially because of his Gold-Glove-caliber defense at second base. It's Just Sports.

  • Ruben Amaro was once a bat-boy and is now basking in the glow of his red-hot Phillies team. Also, he's Jewish! What a mitzvah! More Hardball.

  • R.I.P. Barth. Whatevs.
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There are four, count 'em four daytime contests today to distract you from cubicle crap. Pop open a tiny MLB.tv window or tune in your transistor radio to the AM sports station and enjoy, folks.

  • Indians at Blue Jays, 12:37PM: Rzepczynski time, folks! The lithe lefty has thrown six solid innings in each of his first three starts, which makes him either a durable starter or the mark of Satan himself. The Jays look to win the home series against the Cleve and claw their way back to the .500 mark. In either Central division, they'd be rock star contenders. In the AL East, they are afterthoughts.

  • Tigers at Mariners, 1:05PM: Will Seattle be sellers or buyers at the deadline? Jarrod Washburn was on the trading block last year but never got moved. Lucky for M's fans because that southpaw is scratchin' and survivin' with a 7-6 record despite his sub-3.00 ERA. Heck, a 1-2-3 punch of King Felix, Erik Bedard, and Washburn is massively underrated in the grand rotation discussion. The Tigers try to fend off the ChiSox and avoid losing their second series in a row post-ASG.

  • Giants at Braves, 1:10PM: The Braves have never swept the Giants in a four-game set in Atlanta. But really, small sample size precludes such a feat: how often have the Giants visited Fulton County for a four-game stretch since the Braves moved to Georgia forty years ago? Anyway, the Braves are hot, the Giants are not, and Kenshin Kawakami is going to strike out many, many San Fran hitters today. Barry Zito will throw batting practice for Chipper and co.

  • Rays at White Sox, 2:05PM: B.J. Upton made an egregious oopsie in center last night that led to an Alexei Ramirez triple and a late ChiSox rally that knocked the Rays down a peg. They'll try to get back on the horse today with Scott Kazmir, who has a 7.50 ERA since his last victory on May 9th. Uh-oh, spaghetti-O's. Time for Tampa to tackle a trade and perhaps acquire a Cliff Lee-type, perhaps maybe even Cliff Lee himself. Mark Buehrle and T-Rex take the mound for the Pale Hose.
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Trust me, the last thing Jeff Francoeur needs is a black eye from a line drive he lost in the lights. The best option is totally to shield his gorgeous face, his best asset, lest he turn off all the lusty Long Island hausfraus with an ugly shiner. I know from experience, having been knocked out by a pop fly back in sixth grade that gave me a wicked black eye, ended my Little League career, and made my 12-year-old girlfriend recoil in disgust. You gotta protect the goods!

Still, you can't help but laugh at the animated version of his failure. Why? Because Frenchy's a Met now and getting joy out of Mets team failures is what we do. It's our lifeblood.

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Despite taking a two-run lead into the eighth inning, the Royals lost their ninth straight game last night and are within one quality Cliff Lee start away from the worst record in the American League. They haven't seen the .500 mark since May 22nd; remarkably, the Royals had even tasted first place a week earlier thanks to the collective misery of flyover teams in aught-nine.

But unlike their four division-mates, the Royals haven't won a division title this decade. In fact, they're living through one of the worst stretches in baseball history.

Bradford Doolittle ran the numbers and figured out that the Royals have already lost 907 games between 2000 and 2009. If they lose 56 more games this season, they'll get the 1920-29 Phillies (962 losses) off the hook for the dubious title of "worst ever team performance in a decade". Poor Butch Henline's great-grandchildren are giddy with expectation and said to be rooting for Trey Hillman to slot Willie Bloomquist at leadoff every day.

Heck, imagine if the Royals hadn't won all those games (83!) back in 2003, they'd be well on their way to breaking that record.

Of course, the Royals are not alone in their incessant commitment to failure. The Pittsburgh Pirates have something like 72 consecutive losing seasons, a point that gets belabored every time the Pirates come to your town and the TV announcers need to fill some time. But this decade, the Buccos have "only" lost 859 games. No wonder they've been trading away their best players like Adam La Roche with such fervor: they want to 'catch up' with the Royals! But maybe the Pirates' habit of shedding their entire starting lineup is strategically sound.

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When Neal Huntington came on as general manager in 2007 to replace the much-maligned Dave Littlefield, he had a choice: continue trying to win with the pieces left behind by Littlefied, a quixotic task indeed, or begin a systematic shedding of mildly expensive and sorta-talented veterans to grab onto some extremely cheap but unproven youngsters with higher ceilings.

He's raided the AL East pantry over the past two years for kids he can control and held dearly onto the best prospects already in the Pittsburgh organization. The man had a plan; a plan that could still potentially fail miserably, but a plan nonetheless.

So while the Royals continue to fumble around with bizarre free agent signings and peculiar trades that try the patience of their most devoted fans, the Pirates are making smart moves that should end the losing streak as soon as next season. And don't forget, they still have a couple of secret weapons at their disposal.

(thanks to Big League Stew)

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when you found a lot of trouble out on Avenue B:

Mariners 2, Tigers 1: The Tigers pounced early on King Felix but failed to improve on the Clete Thomas RBI single in the third. No matter, one run seemed to be enough support as Armando Galarraga was positively dealing, not allowing a hit until the fifth and leaving the game in the eighth having not allowed a run either. Shame he left a runner on base for reliever Bobby Seay, though, as Seay gave up the game winning ding-dong to Russell Branyan. King Felix earned the win with 11 K's in seven innings.

Braves 4, Giants 2: That's three straight wins for Hotlanta over the sputtering Gigantes, this latest one in shocking fashion over superstar Tim Lincecum. Of course, it wasn't really such a shock that the Braves' own Jair Jurrjens was pitching aces up, striking out nine and allowing but three hits. Yunel Escobar was the offensive achiever of the night, smacking the first right-handed tater tot off Lincecum all year long.

Astros 4, Cardinals 3: Go ahead. Keep winning, Astros. Your modicum of success now will only make your eventual disappointment that much tastier for us fans of schadenfreude. Thanks to Ryan Franklin's stinkeroo implosion and horrid blown save, the Astros are now within one game of first place in the NL Central.

Blue Jays 10, Indians 6: Marco Scutaro's two homers led the Toronto happy jack attack off Carl Pavano as the Bloo Jays collected the franchise's first five-homer game since 2006. Carl Pavano: un-worsening offenses since the beginning of time.

Angels 9, Royals 6: The Royals bullpen let in five eighth-inning runs, but hey, Joakim Soria finally got some work in, albeit to only two batters in a losing situation. How do you live like this, Royals fan?

Tonight's Questions

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Today went fast. Glad to have you as a visitor/reader/commenter/secret lover. Come back tomorrow and we'll do it all over again. Same WoW channel.

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Citizens Bank Park image by dameetch used under Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license; everything else is fairuse'd. Click for larger version.

You have to feel for Jamie Moyer right now. Sure, he's playing baseball for millions of dollars, has 9 wins despite a 5.58 ERA (77 ERA+) and occasionally gets profiled by famous livegloggers. All week, though, he's heard himself compared to Tom Watson. Imagine having to read this joke about yourself in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Jamie Moyer is still going strong at 46, 9-6 after the All-Star break. Moyer is the only player in baseball who calls his team owner, "Kid."

My pitching skills would be shot if I had to read things like that about myself. Speaking of that: Hi, I'm Dan McQuade. People actually call me "D-Mac"; Jamie Moyer calls me "Kid." Today: Phillies-Cubbies. Fightins have won 10 straight. Cubs lost last night on a Jayson Werth walkoff homer and put Carlos Zambrano on the mound this afternoon. Apparently, Cubs fans who vote in online polls want him gone! Trade that kid straight-up for Jamie Moyer!

Livebloggery after the jump.

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Wednesday means three things: it's getaway day for half of baseball, it's the day of the week I wash my undergarments, and it's Liveglog day in the U.S.A. and parts of Canadia! Today, we bring you Dan McQuade to guide your hearts and minds through the Phillies-Cubs tilt at one o'clock. Be back here then, and give your summertime linen liveglog blazer a quick steam before you show up.

Other games on the sked this fine day:

  • Brewers at Pirates, 12:35PM: Jeff Suppan and Paul Maholm stare each other down in their search for rubber. It's like Fordlandia all over again except without the sweltering Brazilian heat, the malaria-ridden mosquitoes and the rioting low-wage workers. Unless you count Jack Wilson.

  • Cubs at Phillies, 1:05PM: The Phillies steamroller looks to keep flattening their opponents, albeit in a cute cartoonish way that allows them to pop back up and re-inflate in time for the next day's game. Jamie Moyer takes the hill against his former team to which he has never lost. Carlos Zambrano is on the prowl for the Cubbies, so be on your best behavior, Mr. Home Plate Umpire.

  • Orioles at Yankees, 1:05PM: The Orioles employ a rookie right-hander named Jason Berken who carries a 1-7 record with a 6.44 ERA into this day game in the most homerriffic ballpark in all the land. I have never heard of Berken and he has never faced the Yankees before today, but I can assure you he will throw seven innings of two-hit ball and strike out 10 dudes. That's just how these things work, people.

  • Diamondbacks at Rockies, 3:10PM: I miss the days when a D-Backs/Rockies tilt meant a clash between a whole lot of teal and a heckuva lot of purple, truly a result of the wacky 90's team color-choice miasma. Nowadays, the Diamondbacks' musky Sedona Red highlights and the Rockies' seductive black home unis have a more 2000's feel. Modernity is so boring sometimes. So is watching Jon Garland pitch.

  • Twins at A's, 3:35PM: Glen Perkins will drive his Cadillac up to the front door of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, bust out his honky-tonk guitar, and strum some rhythmic boogie against a poor Athletics lineup. Seven batters will strike out. Nine will ground out. Three will get hits and four will draw walks. In the end, the Twins will win 5-2 and Perkins will celebrate with a tall chocolate milkshake and his harmonica.

  • Marlins at Padres, 3:35PM: Florida looks to sweep the cellar-dwelling Padres, an otherwise simple task but don't look past Padres starter Josh Geer. No, seriously, don't look past Josh Geer, he's standing in front of a total solar eclipse and you'll go blind.
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The National League Central is not a very good division. Unfortunately, the combined mediocrity of the division has given postseason wishes and playoff dreams to a couple of teams who frankly don't deserve to be in the conversation.

Pity poor Houston beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz who has been witness to some inspired play since the All Star break and wrote these words in response to the Astros' latest win over the division-leading Cardinals:

Could the 2009 Astros be destined for something special? I believe so.

The Astros have had turmoil in the clubhouse, major injuries to key relievers, a player out because of open-heart surgery and a coach out for nearly a month after having a cancerous kidney removed.

Still, with a rotation that many so-called baseball experts ridiculed, the Astros are on a roll. These players have a ton of pride, and you can bet that many of them are playing with chips on their shoulders, including Miguel Tejada and Ivan Rodriguez.

Tejada and Rodriguez don't want to get traded, which is why they often ask me what I'm hearing.

I told Tejada and Rodriguez Monday that if the team keeps winning and surges in the next week, there's no way they'll break up the team. Tejada is well aware of his trade-bait potential.

On an individual level, I feel for Tejada and Rodriguez despite their quixotic desires to succeed on this team. Having faith in one's team is an admirable trait and believing that a team can overcome even the most difficult obstacles is a feeling I wish more players and beat writers espoused. But taking a step back and examining the current state of the team, it makes much more sense for the 'Stros to start wheeling and dealing everything that isn't nailed down.

After all, their winning record is due mostly to luck since they have a negative run differential. They rank smack in the middle of the National League in on-base percentage, fielding independent pitching, and UZR. Having two front-line pitchers and Lance Berkman is not enough to contend even in a weak division like the NL Central, especially with an inexperienced manager like Cecil Cooper.

Worst of all, they have the second toughest remaining schedule in the NL, while their division rivals the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs have some of the easiest rows to hoe. Perhaps their upcoming weekend series with the Mets will earn a couple more wins and add momentum to the "let's not trade away our best chips" discussion, but after that, it's a steady diet of teams with winning records straight through the end of the year.

General manager Ed Wade has at least assured the fans that the Astros will not be buyers in the next ten days because the team cannot afford to add player salary or trade away prospects. Rightfully so since the Astros team coffers are bereft of fundage and I'm not exactly sure they even have any trade-worthy prospects (they have only one dude, Jason Castro, in the latest edition of Baseball America's top 100 prospects).

So yes, now is the time for Ed to explore offers for Tejada and Rodriguez and relievers like Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins. The return may not be stellar, but these guys will all be free agents at the end of the season, so ship 'em out while the gettin's good. As for beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz, I wish him good luck with his faith in a club that still trots Geoff Blum out to man the hot corner every day.

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or so), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He's also reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4.

Sadness grips the land. There is only one episode remaining of The Pen, the smash hit reality competition that has everyone talking. While we are excited for the finale, we are also sad that this incredible masterpiece of television history will have no new episodes after Sunday.

Hmm, no, that's not right. The Pen isn't a super-hit like American Idol or Dance Your Ass Off, it's a show about the Phillies' bullpen that I have somehow forced myself to get locked in to watching. Something other than sadness has me gripped.

The penultimate episode of The Pen was probably the most interesting yet, mainly because we learned about the game routines of J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge. (This was probably Episode #1 material, but who's asking? Wait: I am.) Romero and Lidge spend most of the early parts of the game chilling in the clubhouse sitting in desk chairs lounging in luxury.

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It's settled: I need to become a major league baseball reliever. I figure with today's performance enhancing drugs and the lack of mandatory PED testing for all Americans, that I've never really played the sport won't hurt me. I'm going to have to get LASIK twice to get my vision better than 20/20, Tiger Woods-style, and I'm totally writing it into my contract that they have to get me an Aeron chair for the locker room.

Speaking of performance-enhancing drugs, we learned in this week's episode that Chad Durbin just wastes Red Bull willy-nilly! That stuff's like $3.59 a can!

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There are a few other possibilities, I guess. He could be pouring several cans of Red Bull into a larger can, or he could be saying, "We don't need this Red Bull anymore, we've got five-hour energy shots!"

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when last cigarettes were all you could get:

Nationals 4, Mets 0: We rely on written crutches here at Walkoff Walk. One word I overuse to a fault is "tidy". I use it when a game is efficient and short, or if a pitcher cruises through a lineup without allowing many baserunners, or if a fielder shows adept use of his glove on a web gem. Needless to say, John Lannan's first career shutout, a two-hour four-hitter over the hapless Mets, was as tidy as tidy can be. His opponent Oliver Perez' six walks in six innings? Eh not so much.

Yankees 6, Orioles 4: This slow dreck, however, was not one bit tidy. No matter because Sergio Mitre made his gallant return to the pitchers mound and won his first game since Joe Girardi was his manager...in Florida! Oh! I fooled you good, kind reader! A-Rod scored a run and had two RBI; the Yanks are 43-22 since he came back from surgery on May 8th, the best record in the majors since that point.

Phillies 4, Cubs 1 (13): Jayson Werth's massive three-run walkoff ding-dong off Jeff Samardzija proved once again why Werth was an All Star and Matt Kemp was stuck attending the snooze-inducing ESPYs. Jimmy Rollins' third-inning tater tot put the Phils ahead but Kosuke Fukudome's RBI double in the fourth knotted it. Bluegrass band Blanton and Harden were in tune but neither factored in the decision.

Brewers 2, Pirates 0: No sparks flew and Dave Kerwin stayed away from Jason Ken Doll but Braden Looper showed the Pirates the magic stick. Fella threw seven scoreless innings and got his run support in the form of two two-out Prince Fielder RBI singles that drove in Craig Counsell. Craig Counsell is still starting? I thought the Felipe Lopez was going to clear that condition right up.

Indians 2, Blue Jays 1: Scott Downs blows a perfectly good Brett Cecil start by giving up a two-run double in the ninth to Victor Martinez. HOW DO YOU LIVE LIKE THIS, EH BLUE JAYS FANS?

Tonight's Questions

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Yesterday might have been highbrow day at Walkoff Walk, what with Drew's outstanding Pitch F/x piece but we sunk into the morass today, including that Duck Tales remix above (via Mental Floss). I'd apologize, but that's just part of the human condition y'all.

Tomorrow: get ready for a double dose of D-Mac. The latest recap of The Pen drops in the AM and Dan's gonna liveglog the Phillies-Cubs tilt at 1PM. Same WoW channel.

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The only thing more disturbing than a furry mascot is a furry mascot with naughty, illegal pictures on his computer. Scooter, the Sussex Skyhawks mascot, learned this the hard way:

A 22-year-old who suits up as the Scooter mascot at Sussex Skyhawks games was arrested for allegedly making computer files of child pornography available to other people.

Patrick A. Davenport, of Vernon, is charged with distribution of child pornography, a second-degree crime, and possession of child porn, a fourth-degree crime.

If he posts bail, Davenport is not permitted to use a computer and must have no unsupervised contact with children under age 16.

"My job is as a mascot for the Skyhawks," Davenport told the judge. "I would assume I'd have to stop mascoting, correct?"

Yes, genius. You would have to stop mascoting. Also, you'd have to stop lurking at elementary schools and going to Pittsburgh with Kevin Burkhardt.

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During last night's brutal Pittsburgh/Milwaukee tilt, Brewers pitcher Chris Smith hit Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens with a seemingly unintentional beanball. This led to a bench-clearing non-brawl where no punches were thrown and no hard feelings were consummated. This isn't hockey, people.

During the brawl, Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan had to restrain Karstens from attacking Smith while Brewers catcher Jason Kendall held Smith back from doing something dumb, until Kendall started jawing and being dumb himself, which led to Prince Fielder restraining Kendall and the benches and bullpens clearing. It was like watching a square dance. A SQUARE DANCE ON ACID.

So, what caused Jason Kendall to go all screwy? Well, let's allow Kendall to explain in the clearest way possible:

"It was fine until Dave Kerwin," Kendall said, referring to Kerrigan. Kendall continued to call Kerrigan by that incorrect name -- seemingly on purpose -- even after being promptly corrected.

"I can take a lot, but I'm not going to get yelled at," he continued. "Dave Kerwin started yelling at me...."

When asked what he thought made Kerrigan so mad, Kendall responded: "I don't know. Dave Kerwin? I have no idea."

Who the heck is Dave Kerwin? And how did the MLB.com writer know how to spell this mysterious person's last name? Couldn't it have just as easily have been "Kirwin"?

Jason Kendall is either sinisterly devious or just another scatter-brained catcher who has suffered one too many collisions at home plate. He reminds me of the dopey Angela character from the TV show "Mr. Belvedere", the best friend of Heather who could never get Mr. Belvedere's name right and would call him Mr. Bellyflop or Mr. Butterfinger. Oh, that Angela! She'll never learn!

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Texas Rangers shortstop Omar Vizquel is a veritable Renaissance man, having won several Gold Gloves in his career AND established himself as quite the post-modernist painter. Still, the revelation that Omar keeps three pet kangaroos in his Seattle home have led me to this 2007 human interest piece on MLB.com and a huge breakthrough in one of Walkoff Walk's most penetrating mysteries:

Vizquel's zoo includes chinchillas, llamas and wallaroos (a combination of a kangaroo and wallaby). The wallaroos were hopping around as the cameras rolled.

Holy moses! Omar Vizquel is breeding wallabies and kangaroos and all sorts of bizarre Australian animals for his gang of roving marsupials! This is a brand new twist in the case of the serial wallaby rapist that has plagued baseball stars since February of last year. Rickie Weeks demands vengeance! Mike Hampton too! Same with Garret Anderson and Terry Steinbach and Chien-Ming Wang and countless others.

But more importantly, isn't keeping a kangaroo in Seattle akin to having a penguin in Fort Lauderdale?

(picture stolen without a shred of permission from the good folks at With Leather)

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Why hello there! Enough of the pleasantries, go listen to last night's awesome Walkoff Walk Furious Five radio show, featuring noted Philadelphian and master podcaster Dan Levy of On the DL.

During the hilarious half hour, our little foursome talked about whether the Red Sox should trade Papelbon, if the Home Run Derby screwed up Joe Mauer's swing, and Trix cereal. The theme song, once again, was massively botched.

The song you heard at the end was a live cut of Warren Zevon's "Carmelita", obtained from the free and easy Internet Archive.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when you broke big in New Orleans:

Braves 11, Giants 3: Matt Diaz' two-run triple broke open a 3-3 game in what turned out to be a six-run seventh inning and youngster Tommy Hanson won his fifth game on the year against none losses. Fella tied the Braves mark for most K's by a rookie in a single game with 11 punchouts. Make that 12 punchouts if you count the drunken fan who attempted to grab Tommy's rosin bag after the kid emerged from the players' exit after the game was over.

Phillies 10, Cubs 1: Tater tots by the Phillies big three R's (Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Ruiz, Carlos) carried the Fightins past Ted Lilly and the Cubbies. Chicago southpaw Ted Lilly allowed a career-high nine runs in four innings, seven of them earned, and totally ruined WoW commenter Jerkwheat's ERA and WHIP for his first place fantasy team. Noted Yankee fan Jack Nicholson was in attendance and wondered where the Phanatic got his wonderful toys.

Yankees 2, Orioles 1: Hideki Matsui's walkoff ding-dong helped the Yanks win their third straight game by a score of 2-1. Thanks to homers by Eric Hinske of the Yanks and Nick Markakis of the O's, all three runs last night and eight of the nine runs in the last three games were scored on a solo dong, which proves my point that Yankee Stadium encourages homers but actually doesn't encourage run-scoring nearly as bad as joke parks like Chase Field.

Astros 3, Cardinals 2: St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse made only one mistake all night but it cost him. Carlos Lee's three-run happy jack in the fourth inning put the 'Stros up for good on moon night. Nifty hats, you guys! With Joe Thurston on first in the ninth and the Cards down one, pinch-hitter Chris Duncan ended the game with a GIDP, proving once again that not every move that Tony La Russa makes is gilded with gold leaf and paired with caramelized Trix cereal.

Tonight's Questions

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Please join us later tonight and listen live to the podcast. If we're lucky, we won't have another technical disaster and make Dan Levy wish he'd never slum it with such a fly-by-night operation. If you can't listen live, you can always check it out in the archives tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

The U.S. National Archives has entered the world of Web 2.0 and social networking and providing free content to lazy sportsbloggers. Yep, they're on Flickr. Here's a 61-year-old photograph of two famous Georges having a chance meeting on the mound:

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Yes, after a successful prep school career, former President George H.W. Bush played baseball for the Yale Bulldogs way back when and even helped the team reach the first two College World Series. The future head of the C.I.A. was lucky enough to be standing on the mound the day that retired Yankee slugger George Herman "Babe" Ruth decided to donate his manuscript of his autobiography to the Yale library.

Notice how hunched over the Babe (with obligatory cigar) appears to be. He would die later that year. Meanwhile, George H.W. Bush is still skydiving at age 85, which truly shows how fruitful a life you can experience with healthy living and, of course, signing a low-risk, early deal with Satan that covers all of your soul's free agent years.

Go ahead, search the archives and see if you can come up with something more interesting.

nerdshirt.jpgThere comes a time in every baseball nerds life where he says to himself:

Am I quite nerdy enough? Perhaps there is a new level of geekdom to which I can ascend to ensure my endless reserves of vitriol and self-loathing are properly directed.

Enter Pitch f/x, the laser guided pitch tracking system installed in every big league park. We here at Walkoff Walk are dipping our collective lily-white hand in the pitch f/x bag and seeing if we can't pull out something interesting or at least informative.

If you recall the first entry in the Walkoff Walk Book Club was As They See 'Em, a popular and informative umpiring tome. The takeaway from this study was a great deal of umpire sympathy for the scrutiny they face. Luckily for us (and the umps) Pitch F/x tracks each and every pitch, providing its speed, location, break, spin, and all manner of quasi-interesting tidbit.

With keeping everyone awake in mind, we'll forgo most of the dizzying glut of information provided and just hone in on the stuff everyone thinks they know: balls and strikes. After the jump is a graph of some select pitches from a Saturday afternoon game between the Blue Jays and Red Sox. The Sox came to bat in the top of the eighth inning trailing 6-2. Jays set up guy/emergency closer Jason Frasor entered to face Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Jason Bay. Youkilis watched ball one high, took two strikes at the knees (that he absolutely HATED) and struck out swinging on pitch inside. Ortzi quickly flew out, bringing Bay up with two out.

In the middle of Bay's at bat, home plate umpire Laz Diaz called time and proceeded to dress Youkilis down from behind the plate. Youkilis took obvious exception to the strikes called down in the zone and let Diaz know it from the dugout. Diaz warned Youkilis "that's the last time" or something to that effect, essentially telling him to shut his trap and move the hell on. Bay took a few balls and fouled a few off before Diaz wrung him up on a fastball down in the zone. Bay stood at home plate and stared off dejectedly as only a vanilla white BC boy can. The question is this: did the Sox have a case? Find out after the jump!

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We can sit here and talk about superstars powering their teams into contention until the cows come home and start demanding grazing benefits, but in reality, if a team wants to make the playoffs they'd better start upgrading at the weak positions. Look at what the Red Sox did when they jettisoned Julio Lugo; in cliched parlance we call that "addition by subtraction". The Brewers also fixed a huge problem when they acquired Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks to replace an injured Rickie Weeks and an elderly Craig Counsell at second base. Addition by addition, y'all.

So let's take a look at eight top teams in the majors as measured by overall value and try to figure out who their weakest link is without even attempting to be helpful and suggesting a possible fix. We're bloggers, not scouts or assistant general managers. We're not made of magic. But neither is Ed Wade. I digress. The listicle:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier. Ethier had a breakout 2008 that caused many folks to predict an even more improved 2009. Turns out, he's average at best. Of course on a team this good, there are no regulars who stink so for Joe Torre to have a mediocre right fielder is no reason for panic. Ethier has no arm and no range in right, and rates as the worst regular RF in baseball in UZR. Despite nearly matching his homer total from last season, his slugging % has dropped 40 points and he's on pace to strike out 50% more times, dropping his OBP in the process. Worst of all, he hasn't updated his restaurant review blog since January, leaving hungry Dodgers fans in the lurch.

  • Tampa Bay Rays: Dioner Navarro. The Rays catcher was supposed to take the next step after a 2008 year that saw him nail almost 40% of would-be basestealers and collect a tidy .330 wOBA for a pennant-winning team. Tough luck, because his runners caught percentage has fallen off a cliff, his strikeouts have gone up, and his patience is so bad, he probably couldn't even draw a walk if he faced Oliver Perez twenty times. His wOBA this year is a sub-replacement level .250. He is quite possibly the worst regular player in the American League East.

  • New York Yankees: Cody Ransom. This guy would be a mediocre player on a Triple-A team, yet he gets regular appearances at third base to spell Alex Rodriguez and his surgically-repaired graham cracker hip. He can't hit which is just fine on a team when every regular player will surpass 20 tater tots by year end, but his play in the field is simply atrocious. I don't even need to show you the numbers. Just imagine a retarded koala bear with no arms playing the hot corner and you've got Cody Ransom in a nutshell.

  • Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz. What's that you say? Ortiz is back in shape, hitting homers and entertaining the crowds with his cheery smile? Tough nuts, this dude's ouchie wrist and lack of power kept his team down in the dumps for too long. You pay a guy who has zero value with a first baseman's glove on his hand tens of millions to hit tater tots and he can't even do that one thing anymore? Still, he's raised his OPS over 150 points from his season-low .566 back on June 1st and has 11 homers in his last 30 games, so with two more good months he'll cede this position back to whoever is playing shortstop.

  • Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins. He's a leadoff hitter with a .290 on-base percentage. He's on pace to draw only 48 walks. He's a former Gold Glove-winning shortstop who's turned only 30 double plays for a pitching staff that gives him ample opportunities. Worst of all, he was caught chit-chatting with Chase Utley while this happened. Get on your horse, Jimmy.

  • Los Angeles Angels: Vladimir Guerrero. A wise old man once taught me to never kick a guy when he's down, but that wise old man is as dead as Vladdy's 2009 season, so here goes. The man who was supposed to lead the Angelheim offensive attack has played just 46 games this year with a microscopic .415 slugging percentage. His DH duties opened up a spot for Juan Rivera to succeed in the outfield, though, so Vlad has actually been quite valuable by incurring various knee and hamstring ouchies and sitting his ass out.

  • Milwaukee Brewers: Any starting pitcher whose name doesn't rhyme with Schmoschmani Schmischmardo. The Brew Crew team ace has stepped up to fill CC Sabathia's enormous pant legs with great success this year, but the rest of the staff couldn't even sniff Teddy Higuera's jock right now. With a combined ERA over 5.00 and terrible K/BB rates, the six-headed monster that is Braden Looper, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Mike Burns and Seth McClung make an entire populace long for the days of Chris Bosio.

  • Detroit Tigers: Joel Zumaya. The reliever blew his sixth save of the season over the weekend and was immediately placed on the disabled list. All copies of Guitar Hero have been taken from his house. The Tigers haven't had a solid grasp on who should set up for closer Fernando Rodney this year, but Zumaya, who gives up too many walks and tater tots, should not be THE guy. But what else can Jim Leyland do? Count on Brandon Lyon?

So, fans of the Braves, Cardinals, Twins, White Sox, Rangers, Mariners, Marlins, Giants, Rockies, and Cubbies, I ask you: which player on your team would you most like to throw under the bus so hard that he'll smell like bio-diesel fuel for a week?

Monday Morning Movement Memo

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Note: Baseball Before Bedtime will no longer be seen on Monday mornings so that we may bring you a quick, post-weekend update on the division and wild card races. Thus, Monday Morning Movement Memo will document which way your favorite team is headed, organized by race.

  • National League East: Philadelphia took three of four from Florida while rain took the Saturday night game. That left the Marlins with nothing and dropped them to the .500 mark, 7 games behind the first place Phils. The Braves won their four game series with the Mets, three games to one, dropping New York to a season-low five games under .500 thanks to scoring but nine runs in the four game set. Despite a successful weekend, the Braves lost half a game and sit 6.5 back.

  • National League Central: The Cubbies took advantage of a long series against the hapless Nationals to thrust themselves back into the conversation. Alfonso Soriano knocked two ding-dongs in the series including a two-run happy jack that sparked a seven-run fourth inning yesterday. The Brew Crew split four games with the Reds to drop into third place, while the Cardinals stay in first place after winning the rubber game with the D-Backs yesterday. The Astros piqued some interest after taking the first two against the MLB-leading Dodgers but dropped the last two and remain at .500.

  • National League Wild Card: Despite only scoring five runs in thirty-two innings and winning just one against the Pirates, the Giants remain atop the Wild Card standings by a razor-slim margin. The Rockies took three of four against the Padres and even sent two Gonzalez brothers to the hospital. They're a half game behind. The Cubs and Brewers are lurking.

  • American League East: The Yankees picked up two games thanks to their pitching-dominated sweep of the Tigers and the Blue Jays' defeat of the Red Sox. Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera made the Tigers hitters look foolish in the later innings; Hughes pitched three innings and struck out 8 while Mo saved all three wins. In his final ever start for the Jays, Roy Halladay outdueled Jon Lester in the rubber match of the series and let the Yanks move within one.

  • American League Central: The White Sox took two of three from the O's and picked up two games on the wind-swept Tigers; the Twins came within a walkoff Ian Kinsler ding-dong yesterday from sweeping the Rangers. The standings look like this now: first place Tigers, second place White Sox behind by 1.5, third place Twins behind by 2, fourth and fifth place Royals and Indians behind by approximately 20,000 leagues.

In other news, the Dodgers are still in first by a country mile in the NL West, the Angels beat the A's to stay ahead enough in the AL West, the Yankees maintain a tenuous lead in the AL Wild Card race ahead of the Rays, and this gal is in dead last in every category ever ever ever.

old man and sea.jpgJosh Johnson's good y'all. The Lord of the Fish didn't play in his first All Star game, but the skills he's put on display this season indicate he'll have plenty of opportunities in the future. Johnson is very reminiscent of a former Marlin of much regard: AJ Burnett but with slightly more...everything. Johnson is bigger (6'7), throws a little harder, and is just a little saner. In fact they compare quite nicely, even baring an more than passing resemblance. Johnson is putting together an excellent season on the back of his solid three pitch mix and imposing stature.

The Marlins are somewhat concerned with Johnson's work load this season as noted in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He's "on pace" to throw more innings this season than his entire big league career up to this point. The Verducci Rule of limiting a pitcher to 30 more innings than the previous season may not apply to a big dude like Johnson, though he's complained of shoulder weakness already this year.

The biggest concern with any (all) Marlins studs is if not when they will trade him. The penny-pinching fish already have Hanley committed to big bucks they need to make a decision on Johnson soon. He's under team control until 2011 meaning the trade talk won't begin for a another full year. He successfully auditioned for the Yankees in June, throwing 7 innings of 3 hit ball, notching 5 strikeouts and 14 groundballs! His agent sees a big deal on the horizon, throwing out numbers comparable to his spiritual mentor Burnett.

Johnson starts tonight against the division rivals in Philadelphia, whom he's been dominant against in his career. He's young, big, and already has his Tommy John surgery behind him. The world is his oyster, mostly because of his giant hands.

thomehugs.JPGLast night Jim Thome notched 7 RBI on the back of a king dong and a tri-tot. 7 ribbies is a career high and the dingers were the 556th & 557th of his long career. About the career: is Jim Thome's superlative career going to be lost in the PED shuffle?

Tom Verducci wrote a highly enjoyable piece for Sports Illustrated in February claiming Carlos Delgado was the "lost slugger of the Steroid Era. While Delgado is indeed overlooked, the very same statement could hold true for Jim Thome. He matches up very well with a player like Delgado as well as a player much more (in)famous than those two combined.

Thome continue putting up excellent Three True Outcome numbers, which could be reason for Thome's relative obscurity. No matter how many times people are told that strike outs are just another out, they still hate the big K numbers. Thome's done it nearly 2300 times in his career. Nevermind his career walk total (1600) exceeds his RBI (1500), his average is low! Using a more "complete" stat like weighted on base average, Thome comes out smelling like a rose with career wOBA of .408.

Thome isn't immune to the stink of PEDs though he's continued to put up excellent numbers and high walk totals. Perhaps Thome's bearlike build and notable charity work combine with his hometown reunion to get him off the drug hook. A strict DH since he returned to the American League; Thome never really resonated as a fielder (did you know he spent the early years of his career as a third baseman? I surely did not.) Thome will tell anyone who'll listen that his career goal is 600 home runs. He'd have to be a Hall of Fame lock at that point, right? Better yet, don't answer that.

AP image courtesy of Daylife.

Weekend Questions

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Wow, the weekend is upon us way faster than I had expected. Get out there and support your local nine this weekend, guys and gals. Or just stay in and watch the Braves-Mets on FOX tomorrow afternoon, the Twins-Rangers on MLB Net tomorrow night, the Yanks-Tigers on TBS on Sunday afternoon, or the Braves-Mets again on ESPN on Sunday evening. Thank you, television!

Or better yet, check out the free preview of MLB Extra Innings until Wednesday July 22nd. More baseball = more gooder.

Drew "LtB" Fairservice returns tomorrow with weekend goodies. See you Monday, same WoW channel.

mathnet.title.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. And he also does TV sometimes, like when he doesn't think he has the attention span for a whole movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: "The Problem of the Missing Baseball," the pilot episode of Mathnet, starring Joe Howard and Beverly Leech, written by David D. Connell and Jim Thurman and directed by Charles S. Dubin.

One of my favorite shows as a kid was Square One TV, the educational math show broadcast daily on PBS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the end of each program was a short segment of Mathnet, a Dragnet parody where detectives' knowledge of mathematics helped them solve crimes. This was a trend in the 80s; you no doubt also remember the game and show Carmen Sandiego, where you could solve crimes with your knowledge of geography and flags.

The show followed detectives George Frankly and Kate Monday in the Mathnet division of the Los Angeles Police Department. Yes, during the 1980s L.A. apparently had a division dedicated to solving crimes (usually non-violent small ones) with mathematics! Later, the NYPD would adopt the same tactic with George and Pat Tuesday. While DARE may get more press, I think Mathnet is Darryl Gates' real success story in policing. (He gets a "Special Thanks" in the credits here.)

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In the interest of journalism, I recently watched "The Problem of the Missing Baseball," a math/crime hybrid that this website says is the show's pilot. I didn't remember this episode from my childhood, but the plot was familiar; the episode opens with a group of kids looking for their missing baseball signed by Babe Ruth. They had been playing, uhm, sandlot baseball with it and it went missing after a home run. If they don't get it before the kid's father gets home, he's going to get it!

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Of course, in The Sandlot, LAPD officers do not investigate the missing baseball.

In November of 1972, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente managed the Puerto Rican team in the Amateur World Baseball Championship in Leon, Nicaragua. Hans Norbert Jaeger, a player for the German team, took this footage of Clemente stepping in to take some batting practice, perhaps to keep himself in shape or perhaps to educate the youngsters under his tutelage.


Three weeks after the championship, Clemente was in Puerto Rico when he heard of a devastating earthquake that hit Nicaragua. He organized relief efforts including food and medicine, but concerned that the supplies were not reaching the neediest folks, he got on a plane to deliver them himself.

Clemente died when the plane crashed into the ocean, but his name lives on at Roberto Clemente Field in Mannheim, Germany, built in 1975 and named in honor of a heroic player that Hans Norbert Jaeger and his teammates were in awe of during their trip to Nicaragua.

newstretcher.JPGBaseball players are often accused of being soft, of complaining about phantom injuries, and of being whiny little girls. I, for one, don't agree with those assessments but it takes a certain kind of man to get hurt over the All Star break. Lucily we have a few such Creampuffs.

  • Jay Bruce, Reds: Remember when Jay Bruce started his big league career in the most storybook way imaginable? When Jay Bruce and Joey Votto were going to terrorize the NL Central atop their dark steeds and ride into the playoffs? First Joey went down with a 1000 yard gaze and now the other Red stud is out with a fractured wrist. Bruce hasn't put up the same caliber of offensive numbers in 2009; though his defense is among the best. Sadly it was a feat of defensive derring-do that landed Bruce on the DL for 6 to 8 weeks.

  • Alan Embree, Rockies: The ageless LOOGY took a frightening line drive to the leg last Friday, fracturing his tibia and possibly ending his season. Manager Jim Tracy is optimistic Embree could return by September, as Tracy possesses intimate knowledge of Embree's deal with the devil. It keeps him in the big leagues in perpetuity and saves him 40% on moving van rentals.

  • Scott Olsen, Nationals: The former Marlin delinquent and ne'er-do-well will not make his next start due to tightness in his left lat muscle. Don't insult my intelligence Nats training staff, I know an oblique when I read a vague description of one on the internet. "Lat" is short for "latissimus dorsi" in the medical community but known as "the rape handle" in the wallaby community.

  • Jonathon Broxton/Cory Wade, Dodgers: Wade will actually head to the deel with a shoulder strain while Broxton's big toe kept him out of the All Star game. No word if Broxton's toe will keep him from closing out any more hollow victories during the Dodgers joylessly inevitable march to the NL West crown. Is there an outside chance that Broxton's injured toe is similar to the "injured toes" Shaq used to get when HE was horribly out of shape?

  • Pedro Martinez, Phillies: Pedro signed and was quickly sent to the disabled list with a case of "old man ass." Petey will spend a few weeks annoying minor leaguers with his bizarre antics before moving up to the big club where he will likely spot start and further tarnish his reputation as one of the best of his generation. Just kidding, get well soon Pedro!
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Here's what happened in baseball last night when you were waiting for the dice to roll:

Braves 5, Mets 3: No relief in Hotlanta for the Mets as their pen gave up two runs in three innings including the game-winning RBI single to Chipper Jones. Hmm, Chipper Jones coming through in the clutch against the Mets is about as expected as the morning sun rising in the east and setting on the Mets postseason hopes. In other news, Yunny Escobar and Garrett Anderson clobbered back-to-back solo dongs in the second.

Phillies 4, Marlins 0: Jamie Moyer, two Phils relievers and some nimble-toed Phils defenders combined to one-hit the Marlins. In addition to snow-coning a foul pop while reaching into the stands, Ryan Howard became the fastest player to reach 200 career tater tots. Yum-o! Raul Ibanez juiced two home run balls of his own outta Land Shark. In eight career starts in Miami, Jamie Moyer is 8-0, which once again proves my point: old Jews love Miami.

Brewers 9, Reds 6: Braden Looper led the Brewers offensive attack on a night when neither team could do much pitching, and Home Run Derby winner Prince Fielder immediately escaped the Derby-winning curse, launching one massive ding-dong and one massive foul ball that probably bounced into the Ohio River. Edwin Encarnacion went 3-for-3 with 4 RBI in a losing cause. He's 11-for-31 with 2 HR and 7 RBI since coming back on July 2.

Indians 4, Mariners 1: Cliff Lee allowed just one run in his second complete game of the year and first win in a month's time. Mariners first baseman Russell Branyan's oopsie in the second led to two runs; as M's third baseman Chris Woodward fielded a Ben Francisco grounder, he relayed it across the diamond. Branyan completely lost the ball in the sun and it whizzed past him into the stands, then sheepishly retreated to the dugout to snag a pair of shades. The moral of the story: always wear protection.

Tonight's Questions

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Baseball is back, baby! Watch it tonight, especially if you're a National League fan because there are only two American League games on the schedule. What's the deal, Bud?

See you tomorrow, same WoW channel.

(video via WFMU's Beware of the Blog)

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Second only to the hapless Washington Redskins when it comes to racist depictions of mascots (and haplessness!), the Cleveland Indians have long used a despicable and cartoonish image of a Native American as their logo. Racism ain't cool, y'all, no matter how much folks try to explain their mascot as "honoring" Indian tribes. Get real!

Anyway, this hilarious hipster T-shirt company really stuck it to Cleveland with this hilarious hipster T-shirt. White people totally do look like that guy, especially with the dollar sign floating above our heads and the little Lacoste alligator on every one of our collared shirts.

(via www.TEE.ms and Shelf Life and ShareBro Flubby)

One of the coolest parts of the All Star Game is seeing players get their video cameras out for their own personal star-gazing moments. You see, normally it's us regular schlubs who get all giddy to see stars like Curtis Granderson in the flesh, but thanks to the magic of the iPhone, we get a glimpse into who exactly makes The Grandstand's own heart go a-flutter. Hint: it's not Bud Selig.

Curtis Granderson gets ready to meet President Obama from Big League Stew on Vimeo.


"OHMIGOD IT'S PRESIDENT OBAMA! IT'S REALLY HIM! HOW DO I LOOK? I BETTER SHUT THIS PHONECAM OFF BEFORE HE COMES OVER HERE, I'M EVER SO EXCITED TO MEET HI -- oh hey, Bud Selig, what's up -- OMG BARACK OBA" - click

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As baseball emerges from its gala All Star break, the focus of fans turns to the July 31st trading deadline and which teams still have a chance to succeed. Hint: there's a lot of them! Baseball's head honcho Bud Selig likes to brag about parity in the national pastime and point out that even a small market team like Tampa Bay can win a pennant. Even President Obama made note of the competitive balance in baseball today. So, what exactly is the driving force behind the huge number of teams still in the playoff race?

Two weeks ago, just as interleague play had come to an end, Peter Gammons opined that revenue sharing was the key:

George Streinbrenner's birthday seems to be a good time for a reminder that Bud Selig's revenue sharing has flattened the baseball earth. Salary cap or no salary cap. In this century, eight different teams have won nine World Series, compared to seven different NFL teams winning 10 Super Bowls, five different NBA teams winning 10 championships.

Ask Hal Steinbrenner and John Henry how much they're funding the delicate balance of power. Ask Fred Wilpon, and he'll point out that on July 4 the Florida Marlins are buyers and believe they can win the NL East.

Gammons then lists eight teams he thinks have been all but eliminated from the playoff race; he lumps in the Blue Jays as team nine because of the tough threesome ahead of them in their division. He continues:

Otherwise, the AL East's big three are within five games of one another; the charging White Sox have made the AL Central a wild race, with three teams separated by four games; Texas and L.A. are tied in the AL West; four teams are within two games in the NL East; five teams are within four games in the NL Central; and while the Dodgers are off on "Mannygan's Island" in the NL West, the Giants and Rockies are No. 1 and 2 for the wild card.

That's how it works with revenue sharing and without a salary cap. In the last 25 World Series, 18 different franchises have won; the Yanks have won four, and the others with multiple championships are the Twins, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Marlins.

Gammons is wrong. Revenue sharing helps, but the real cog that drives competitive balance is interleague play. The 15 to 18 interleague games that each team in each league played served as a normalizer. Look: the average AL team won 55% of their interleague contests and the average NL team lost 55%. Since nearly every AL team was successful and nearly every NL team was not, and because the Wild Card and division races are isolated within their respective league, the interleague games didn't create any significant gaps in the playoff push.

For example, before interleague play started on June 11th, Tampa Bay was 6 games behind first place Boston. On July 4th, they were five games back. On June 11th, first and fifth place in the NL Central was separated by 5 games. On July 4th, it was down to 4.5 games. In the AL West, Seattle went from 4.5 back to 2.5 back. Atlanta moved 3.5 games closer to the NL East lead. I could go on but you get the point. Division races got closer this season because there was a distinct separation of power in interleague play.

So what good is revenue sharing? If anything, revenue sharing discourages parity as the supposedly small-market teams like the Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals gladly accept cash from the big boys like Boston and New York, but scoff at putting the money towards player development or salaries. The Marlins tend to succeed a bit more than the Royals because they are thrifty with their money; Kansas City's frugality comes off as ridiculous when they drop big cash on failed free agents like Kyle Farnsworth.

So today, just two weeks away from the trading deadline, there are at least 15 teams and possibly 20 who think they have a ghost of a shot at postseason play. This is good! This is also surely evidence of parity but it has nothing to do with revenue sharing. It has to do with the unbalanced schedule that was instituted over a decade ago with the Great Equalizer known as interleague play.

Give a pro athlete a night off and a Twitter-enabled mobile device and he's going to make a horse's ass of himself. Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson is no exception, attending the ESPYs last night and tweeting about lecherous broadcaster Chris Berman as Boomer attempted to conquer a new leather-clad lady.

Eagle-eyed reader Matt_T arose early this morning and captured the tweets before C.J. deleted them in an act of cowardice:

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Way to backpedal, C.J. I know you're full of shit because nobody misses his awful homer calls from back in the day...he still does them! Maybe C.J. Wilson just puts too many feet in his mouth to be trusted with a Twitter account.

Tonight's Questions

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  • WHICH fantastic anecdote is everybody's awesome grandpa telling President Obama? The one where Leo Durocher rode a tricycle with a bra on his head or the one where Juan Marichal staged a cockfight in the clubhouse?

  • WHAT are you going to do tonight with no MLB action on the docket, read a book, go outside and play, or watch the Triple-A All Star Game on ESPN2?

  • HOW close did the ass-backwards BBWAA come to making a historically stupid decision? (Hint: three members, that's how close)

  • WHAT hat size will Pedro Martinez need with that fat afro on his noggin?

Thank you for enduring a day chockful of All Star Game posts and hot Barack Obama action. We'll return you to your regular season baseball programming tomorrow, same WoW channel. You too, Willie Mays.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The.Pen.Logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. He's also reviewing MLB Network's six-episode reality show The Pen, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, airing Sundays at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Previous installments: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3.

Hey, The Pen is back! After a break last week to show Bob Costas' interview with Cal Ripken Jr. (the only MLB Network programming less exciting than The Pen), the Phillies' bullpen gets its time in the spotlight again. And what do we get?

Hot hot Brad Lidge texting action!

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Okay, maybe that's not so exciting. We also get a shot of Chase Utley doing his best Richard Nixon impression, which is a little more exciting.

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Surprised at this development? Don't be. Utley has been a Nixon fan for years, as seen in this photo.

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For whatever reason, Canada's national anthem was not performed live before the All Star Game last night. Major League Baseball decided that a perfect counterpoint to bland Sheryl Crow's rendition of "Let's Go Kick Some Ass, U-S-A" would be a canned, military band recording of "O, Canada, Keep Sending Us Your Comedians and Hockey Players" blared out over the P.A.

Canadian native, poutine sympathizer, and my arch-nemesis Justin Morneau is pissed, eh?

"I wasn't very impressed with that to tell you the truth," Morneau said. "You figure they could find somebody to come and sing the song. They have a hockey team here, the Canadian teams play here.

"It's something that didn't really go over too well. I think if it happened the other way around, if they were playing in Toronto and they did that, it would have been a lot bigger deal. But nothing you can do about it."

Way to throw your hands in the air and give up, Justin. As bloggers and commenters, we can always revise history and help MLB pick out a decent Canadian artist to rep the Great Northern Climes. Since old warbler Gordon Lightfoot was vacationing in Thailand and therefore unavailable, which other Canadian musician would you have liked to see sing "O, Canada" and make Justin Morneau happy?

With a well-played and short baseball game, the biggest controversies of the night were (a) whether President Obama bounced the first pitch to Albert Pujols, and (b) whether or not there were more folks booing him in Busch Stadium than cheering him.

Let there be no controversy: I have all the answers, people. First, the pitch:


Barry, with that unflattering cut of jeans and those white sneakers, you look like the black Seinfeld. But dude most definitely did not bounce that pitch. It was a perfect slider that even the most patient hitter would have swung at and missed completely. It was the ultimate followup to a George W. Bush fastball, fooling the hitter with its tax-and-spend deception. Obama totally capped and traded that pitch.

So, was Obama booed? Yes, of course he was. This is Missouri, the same state that gave us civil-liberties-hatin' John Ashcroft, boorish blabbermouth Rush Limbaugh, and Quantum Leap actor Scott Bakula, who hates the ozone layer and foreigners. What more would you expect from these flyover folk? Of course they're going to boo a change-up we can all believe in.

Earlier, Barry sat down with smarmy Bob Costas to chit-chat about baseball for 15 minutes:


Heck, I could even listen attentively to that guy talk about mixed martial arts for fifteen minutes. So dreamy!

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If you didn't see the bottom of the second at the All-Star Game, you missed out on the best part. Yes, some of that was the National League's three-run outburst, the only time all night the NL got anything going offensively. But Barack Obama was also in the booth in the bottom of the second, and it was the best announcing we got all night.

Obama seemed generally knowledgeable about the game, especially for someone who has better things to do. He explained his decision to wear a White Sox jacket while throwing out the first pitch, talked about ribbing the players in the locker room before the game and even did some good analysis. There was also this (in case you missed last night's liveglog):

Joe Buck: "Barack Obama in the booth with us. What an honor."
President Obama: "It is."

It's settled. The booth for this year's World Series should totally be Joe Buck, Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

There is absolutely no reason why we can't give Obama the Ford C. Frick Award even though he's not, technically, a baseball announcer. After all, he was on this year's Scientific American 10 even though he's not, technically, a scientist. Fans can vote for some of the nominees for the Frick Award; this is one election where we can all get together and show our distaste for baseball announcers in general. I mean, if a politician can do a good job in the booth, how hard can it be?

I joked last night that we fans should have done some stretching before settling in to watch the All Star Game because the FOX network has a tendency to drag these things out to four hours so they can milk the ad time. Sure, the game started way later than expected because of the numerous pre-game activities, but wow! That thing was over before 11:30PM Eastern Daylight Time! The gametime came in under two hours and thirty minutes, thanks in part to some tidy relief pitching by the AL trio of Jonny Paps, Joe Nathan, and Mariano Rivera, but also thanks to the even tidier AL outfield defense.

Overmanagin' Joe Maddon deserves some credit for lining up three fantastically good glove men in the outfield for the final innings; Curtis Granderson in center (whose biggest contribution was actually a triple that led to the game-winning run), Adam Jones in right (who drove in Grandstand with a sac fly), and Carl Crawford in left, who did this:

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Carl went over the fence to bring back a would-be-game-tying Brad Hawpe tater tot. Not only did he save the AL lead, he saved us from the prospects of extra innings that could have brought (yecch) Tim Wakefield into the game. That play also won Crawford the All Star MVP, further evidence that 2009 is the Year of the Glove. The dorky keyboard jockeys in the blogosphere know it, the gawking audience on their sofas know it, and now the scribbling electorate in the press box finally knows it.

So yes, that one counted. On NPR this morning, the commentator noted that the home-field prize had a twist this year because the AL starter Roy Halladay was on the trade block and could end up with a contending NL team in the end. This is the most ridiculous thing spoken on the radio waves since Orson Welles read War of the Worlds. Sure, the American League champion will now have home field advantage in the World Series, but it's an honor that is vastly overrated considering the National League champion has not needed it in three of the past six years it has come out on top.

Besides, Roy Halladay ain't goin' nowhere.

2009asg.magnet.jpg Homers! Outs! Balls! Strikes! Giant arch-shaped magnets! If it's those five things, it must be the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game! I've been resting up all day in preparation for what is sure to be the longest ASG since last year, when it clocked in at a sweet four hours and 50 minutes.

Dire predictions of nearly five hours of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver aside, I'm pretty psyched to bring you my pithy commentary of tonight's game. I'm Dan McQuade, of Philadelphia Will Do and Cinema Varitek "fame," and I hope you'll join me for at least some of tonight's contest.

But I know what we're all wondering about tonight's game: What does John Kruk think about it? Based on his comments before the Home Run Derby last night, I can only assume one thing: He hates it.

Yes, that's right: The one part of the All-Star Break Krukie enjoys is the home run derby. I guess he likes three-hour broadcasts consisting mostly of dead silence and ads for State Farm. Also: Nice upbeat opening to Baseball Tonight!

And with that great opening of my own, I present to you the liveglog to end all liveglogs. (After the jump.)

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  • ARE you prepared for four hours of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver tonight? Keep praying all you want for a tidy game because it ain't gonna happen.

  • WHICH starting player will stay in the game the longest? I've got my money on Hanley Ramirez; nobody wants to see Miguel Tejada coming in and spoiling the good feelings.

  • WILL Tim Wakefield make an appearance tonight, and if so, can Joe Mauer handle his knucklers?

  • WHY is Jayson Werth so smitten with Uncle Cholly?

  • WHAT kind of beer goes best with All Star Game watching? I'm thinking Bud Light in honor of the Busch fambly but feel free to correct me with esoteric choices.

That'll do it for a short day at WoW today. Come back later tonight as our buddy Dan McQuade is set to liveglog the game with colorful screencaps and hilarious commentary. Also, if you want a more immersive experience with audio and whatnot, head over to Pyle of List to hear some chuckleheads chit-chat about the game via telephone, myself included.

See you back here tomorrow for game wrap-ups and reactions. Same WoW channel.

(Busch Stadium Panorama courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Ward)

Unless you've got an insatiable love for baseball and furries, this video probably won't excite you. Here's the official 2009 All Star Mascot relay race, featuring a combination of dizzy bat, sack-racing, and sweaty, costumed, anthropomorphic weirdos:


Three things I learned from this: (1) I am glad that the Philly Phanatic was simply too cool to participate in this nonsense (2) Stomper, the Oakland A's elephant mascot, is a total cheat for not properly donning the burlap sack and (3) Mr. Red's crazy meth eyes are really from doing too much meth. Dude tackled the crap out of Fredbird in his meth-addled rage. What a jerk.

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Former Blue Jay/Athletic/White Sock/Marlin Billy Koch was arrested Saturday morning outside his Florida home after getting into a tussle with his neighbor. He's being charged with criminal mischief, battery, and possessing douchey facial hair without a permit. Here's what went down:

According to a North Port Police Department report, Koch and his wife approached their neighbor in his Jonah Drive driveway just before 2am, angry over an incident between Koch's stepchild and the neighbor. The neighbor grabbed a baseball bat to defend himself and the two wrestled while both held the bat. In the scuffle Koch punched the neighbor in the lip.

The neighbor released the bat, grabbed a shovel and closed his garage door. After the door closed, Koch hit the garage door with the bat and also hit another neighbor's car with the bat.

This is the single most relevant bat attack since that Pirates minor leaguer attacked his teammate with a bat last year but not nearly as insidious as Graeme Lloyd's sekrit gang of bat attack ninjas.

(via Fish Stripes)

The Home Run Derby participants rained down tater tots on the frothing St. Louis crowd last night like so many nickels and dimes and Brewers big bopped Prince Fielder emerged victorious in the end, but the big story of the night was the marriage of sports, entertainment and technology in the form of LASERS.

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Taking a page from the FOX network's ill-fated experiment in giving hockey pucks a glowing tail to help viewers locate a fast-moving puck, the ad wizards at ESPN decided that baseball fans needed to know the exact moment when high fly balls crossed over the outfield fences. How else would we know when to join in the Chris Berman choir and shout out "GONE!" as if we were all equally brain-dead?

The system uses radar to track the path of a speedy fly ball, and added a colorful yellow tail that turned green once the ball had officially exited the field of play. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, when the lasers actually appeared (and they didn't for most of the night), it produced a streaky squiggle that made it look like Tim Wakefield was chucking a bunch of knucklers into Big Mac Land.

Sure, this was just a silly exhibition and not a competitive baseball game, so I can't blame ESPN for dumbing it down for the hausfraus and rubes. But if ESPN considers using this technology during actual real live games, I'd be forced to shake my fist at the television screen and then write a far, far angrier blog post that nearly fifty people would read. Take that, Berman!

(picture stolen from Big League Stew)

Welcome to the first ever Walkoff Walk collaborative liveglog, featuring the embedded Cover It Live plug-in! This will either be a rousing success or an unmitigated disaster: there will be no middle ground tonight. But hey, you don't come to Walkoff Walk for actual sports news and you don't go to ESPN.com for lobster baby jokes.

Be back here at 8PM on the dot when the liveglog will officially commence. And if you can't see the liveglog below, upgrade your browser from Netscape Navigator 2.0, or just go next door to your neighbor's house because he's totally liveglogging with us.

Tonight's Questions

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  • WILL our vegetarian pal Prince Fielder do better in tonight's Home Run Derby than the last time he participated back in 2007? Fella changed pitchers, so maybe, yes, possibly, indeed.

  • CAN mid-range market American Leaguers Brandon Inge and Nelson Cruz earn some name-recognition tonight by vaulting into the finals of the Derby?

  • COULD Joe Mauer's sideburns clobber any home runs if they were removed from his face and included as the ninth and tenth participants?

  • HOW many times will the Cover It Live application crash and render our liveglog impotent?

You know the drill, peoples. Be here at 8PM on the dot for what I hope will be an excellent collaborative Home Run Derby liveglog. Bring your knowledge of St. Louis suburbs (all the way to Mattoon!) because we'll be launching a metric ton of antagonism in Chris Berman's direction. Back back back back same WoW channel!

pedrophillies.jpg Hey, look, everybody's got the news! NBC 10's John Clark. Jayson Stark. Jon Heyman. John Finger. DPOSTM's own Ken Rosenthal. And Todd Zolecki brings word from St. Louis the Phillies are open to bringing in Pedro Martinez.

Yes, it appears Pedro Martinez will be a Philadelphia Phillie by the end of the All-Star Break, despite the protests of several columnists. Will this lead to Phillies destroying the NL East and the return of profitability to Bob's Stores (pictured)? Eh, maybe, if only because the Phillies are probably going to win the NL East anyway. Even Baseball Prospectus gives them a 60% chance to win the East.

The Phillies could definitely use pitching; the team's ERA has hovered in the fives and high-fours all season. You'll note it's been improving. The Phillies are maybe looking for what the Mets got out of Martinez in 2007 (3-1, 2.57 ERA); they would like to take it without a huge September collapse.

Of course, there are the caveats: Martinez didn't have a good 2008. He might only be able to go six innings or so each start. But he also has been off MLB's radar since the end of last season and has probably not been drug tested. I'm actually not even sure if he was even subject to drug tests in the last nine months or so.

You know where I'm going here. Pedro Martinez' fastball was hitting 93 in simulated games for the Phillies, according to reports. Unlike bloggers who actually didn't say certain Phillies were on performance enhancing drugs, I'm going to wildly speculate that I am positive Pedro Martinez is back in the game due to the effects of steroids, human growth hormone, Zyrtec, LASER eye surgery, Dr. David Friendly's cleanse diet, Gatorade, cortisone shots, muscle rubs, the spirits of now-deceased dwarves and that ephedrine-free Ripped Fuel/Bronkaid mix we're all reduced to taking now.

For Phillies fans, this is kind of weird. When's the last time the Phillies have actually landed a huge name mid-season? And no, Joe Blanton doesn't count.

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As expected, stud pitchers Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay have been named by their respective managers to kick up dirt on the pitchers mound in the first inning (and maybe second!) of tomorrow night's All Star Game in St. Louis. Lincecum missed out on his first ASG appearance last year at Yankee Stadium because of dehydration, but won't let that stop him this year:

(Timmy) was asked if he would take any precautions to make sure he doesn't get sick again this year. He said he would load up on fluids to stay hydrated and have Giants teammate Matt Cain "put a leash around my neck, keep me in a room."

Sexy! But be careful, Tim. That's pretty much how former Brave Ron Gant went oh-fer his career as an All Star: by spending the night before the game in 1995 getting roped like a steer by Carlos Baerga. Kids, don't mess around with leashes or you'll Michael Hutchence yourself.

As for Doc Halladay, he earned his badge of honor because Joe Maddon employs the Rob Iracane theory of selecting All Star starters: when comparing Roy to Zack Greinke, Overmanagin' Joe went with the superstar who has put up the more impressive numbers over the past few years.

"I think Doc over the last several years has demonstrated to be possibly the best pitcher in the American League," Maddon said. "Just based on this season and a body of work, I thought that he deserved the nod."

In other words, keep trying your hardest and you might start an All Star Game in 2011, Senor Greinke.

Our first ever primetime liveglog was the 2008 Home Run Derby and it ended up being one of the quintessential moments in Walkoff Walk history, just behind the time Catshirt interviewed Chipper freakin Jones.

So to keep the good glogs going, please join us tonight at 8PM EDT as we try to make this year's derby glog even better. We're going to use the Cover It Live app to allow everyone to comment's to show up in the glog. We've even gone ahead and invited some of the best and brightest from around the web to come by and do their darndest to keep up with the WoW commenters.

Your participants tonight:

National LeagueAmerican League
Albert PujolsBrandon Inge
Ryan HowardJoe Mauer
Prince FielderCarlos Pena
Adrian GonzalezNelson Cruz

Yikes, the AL is pretty lucky that it's an individual home run hitting contest and not a team event, because they'd get crushed. I realize that Brandon Inge is among the home run leaders this year but when I think of "Brandon Inge" I dont think of "clobbering tater tots".

So come back here at 8PM to watch "Brandon Inge" prove me "completely wrong".

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Although Paul Bako's free-swinging bat prevented a shrimp-treadmillin' walkoff walk at the Walkoff Walk Field Trip: the Citizens Bank Heist, that doesn't mean the forty guys and gals who attended the event didn't have a fantastic time. In fact, simply paging through the #HEIST hashtag on Twitter turns up some awesome pictures, including commenter MDT's final scorecard.

Shame nobody took a picture of the detritus in the parking lot after the pregame tailgate where forty people went through a couple hundred cans and bottles of beer , especially Clare's pequeno bottles of Miller High Life. By the time we made it into the game, Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen had just clobbered a homer to put the visitors up 5-0. The rest of the game was a blur (except for the delicious Schmitter sandwiches) until the ninth inning.

Half of the crowd was already in traffic on I-76 by the time the Phils came up for last licks, down 7-3, but the Heist crowd was already joking that the team only needed seven straight bases-on-balls to earn the walkoff walk. Needless to say, we were shocked when the situation presented itself on a silver effing platter, only to have the platter upended when Paul Bako decided to swing at every single ball outside the strike zone. So instead of going home singing praises of shrimps on treadmills, we held our heads high knowing we had Lobster Baby pins (pictured).

Thanks to Miss Bee of Phillyist and WoW commenter rarebit for bringing said pins for the entire crowd. Heck, if I still wore that denim jacket from 1989 I'd stick that baby right next to my "Recycle or Die" pin. We were Red Sox fans, Yankees fans, Nationals fans, Braves fans, Tigers fans, and of course the requisite Phillies cabal, but we were all united by pins picturing a baby in a crustacean costume.

Miss Bee entrusted me with the leftover pins. If you West Coast/Flyover/Canuck folks want one, send me an email with the subject line "GIVE ME LOBSTER BABY OR GIVE ME AN EMPTY ENVELOPE" and I'll mail 'em out to ya.

Best part about the Heist, for me, was the fact that the forecast called for a 90% chance of thunderstorms for the duration of the game, yet the first drop didn't fall until Raul Ibanez crossed home plate with the winning run. When it comes to controlling the weather, the Chinese have nothing on the power of Lobster Baby.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when you didn't quite understand:

Astros 5, Nationals 0: Perhaps being shut out by Houston and Brian freakin Moehler was the straw that broke Manny Acta's back. Fella told ESPNDeportes.com that he was toast yesterday. Senor Jim Reeeeeeeeegleman will take over for the ailing (read: poorly-put-together) team.

Phillies 5, Pirates 1: Spurned on by the Walkoff Walk Field Trippers, the Fightins finished off Pittsburgh behind a Pedro Feliz tetra tot and some fine pitching from J.A. Happ (seven innings, one run). That one run was a homer by Pirate stud Garrett Jones, his third straight game he's collected a ding-dong. Shame that the All Star break is here to interrupt his dong streak. Also, shame he's departing homer-happy CBP.

Angels 5, Yankees 4: Also swept yesterday: the Yanks. They couldn't possibly get out of Angelheim any faster since there was really no good news for them this weekend. The AL East's second place team is now a combined 2-12 against the arch-rival Red Sox and Angels. My man CC Sabathia is pretty much alternating good starts with shit ones lately. This was a shit one.

Red Sox 6, Royals 0: Meanwhile, Josh Beckett spun a three-hit gem as the Sox swept the Royals to take a three-game AL East lead to the All Star break. Jacoby Ellsbury swiped his fortieth base of the year, becoming only the second Red Sock to ever do that feat twice in a career. In fact, the dude is only 11 stolen bases away from topping his 50 from last year and 15 away from setting the single season franchise mark, currently held by Tommy Harper. That Navajo can run!

Dodgers 7, Brewers 4: The Dodgers took the rubber game between the two NL teams that got steamrolled by the Phillies playoff train last year. The Los Angeles Fightin Torres move to MLB best 56-32 record at the midway mark, their best start since Fat Tommy Lasorda's first year as skipper in '77. That's a spicy meatball! Orlando Hudson finally earned his supper with two ding-dongs and Clayton Kershaw won his fifth straight road start. Things are so good for the Dodgers lately, you'd think their owner had made a deal with the devil. Oh wait, he's only married to the devil.

More on the #HEIST and tonight's Home Run Derby glog later...

heist!.jpgWhen I composed my irrational plea for shrimp yesterday, I didn't really think there was a chance. 2.23%? No shot, even that low percentage chance was too high. When the lowly Pirates raced out to a 3 and later 5 run lead, I had given up hope.

The drunken power of 40 people who share a great love of Jenny Lewis, gourmet food, and Guy Clark took over. The baseball gods heeded our collective plea, and intervened. Canadian saint Matt Stairs set the wheels into motion, hitting a key home run. Moments later Ryan Howard cleared the bases to tie the game. But that had to be it, right?

A ground rule double, an intentional walk and infield single loaded the bases. HOLY SHIT, THERE IS GOING TO BE A DAMN WALKOFF WALK!! But no, Paul Bako couldn't wait. He had to line the game-winning single to send 45 170 people home happy and 40 people home to the bar content but not quite delirious, all too keenly aware of how close they came.

I'm not one for hyperbole, but had last night's game ended in a walkoff walk it would have been the greatest thing in the history of the internet, possibly of all time. Instead lots of beer was imbibed and a night was unforgettable rather than the stuff of legend. I can't wait until next year. Search "#heist" on Twitter for a recap of the goodness.

Other Stuff Happened Too

Not really. The Yankees hit 5 home runs and lost. Tim Stauffer of Last Best League fame made his first start in two years. Sadly he's employed by the Padres so he lost.

Today!

Expect many quick games. Umpires like vacations also. Look for Josh Johnson and Clayton Kershaw to continue their awesomeness. No night game so go see The Hurt Locker.

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Hey baseball Gods, Drew here from Walkoff Walk. I know I don't ask for much (I'm a damn Jays fan!), but I have a special request for today and today only: I need you to rig tonight's Phillies - Pirates game to end in a walkoff walk.

Here look! I've done my best to lay out my argument for your intervention. You see, a walkoff walk is a rare thing. Many, many bizarre occurrences must all come together to provide us with the glorious shrimpy outcome. I've tried (and failed) to crunch some numbers to show how unlikely this is:

  • There have only been 6 walkoff walks this year. In about 1200 games (2400 total, we've played half the season.) 6 events out of 1200 is 0.5%. One half of one percent of all games (approx.) end in walkoff walks! Those odds are long, I don't like them.

  • The Phllies are the home team. This bodes well. The Pirates pitching staff issues walks around the league average pace though their relief core surrenders nearly 5 walks per 9 innings. That helps, a little. The Phillies are the most patient team, with most of their bench bats being free swingers. On the whole, I don't think this helps our cause much.

  • The pitching matchup is unbalanced. Cole Hamels is good. He was great in his last outing versus the Reds. He makes only his second career start verus the Pirates, one more than Pirates starter Russ Ohlendorf. Perhaps the lack of familiarity will keep both offenses in check.

  • The teams aren't well matched either. The Phillies are a first place club with strong run differential. They score 5.3 runs per game will surrendering 4.8. The Pirates are mired in last place with a poor offense (only 4.2 runs per game) but with solid run prevention (4.3 runs per game.) My real question remains: how likely are these two to play a tight game?

  • The Pirates are unlucky. This helps our case. The Pirates are a little better than their record suggests, meaning they get a raw deal on the regular. They've played 18 one run games this season (below average) and have won only 5. The Phillies are right where they should be at 11-11. The Phillies have 3 walkoff wins, the Pirates have 3 walkoff losses. The Pirates have entered the 9th tied six times, the Phillies 8.

I could go on and on, creating graphs and manufacturing relationships. Anything short of doing actual probability work. The facts remain: a walkoff walk at The Heist tonight is highly improbable but IT ISN"T IMPOSSIBLE. If I compiled all the numbers I just presented, threw them out and made up a number in my head, I'd say there was a 2.23% chance of live shrimp tonight. So we're going to need some help from you baseball Gods. Hopefully you find it in your benevolent wisdom to gift our loyal readers, commenters and crack editorial team a shrimpy send off. Please see to it they are all conscious and not incarcerated as to enjoy it.

Awesome CBP image courtesy of unofficial host Meech of The Fightins!

heisttag.jpgTo coincide with the good times/awkwardness of internet friends meeting in real life, the baseball world decided to lose its damn mind yesterday. The full scores are here, the nitty gritty of actual heists involving actual loot is below.

Firstly, the Royals completed their exhaustive search for another replacement level infielder that hates getting on base. Royals Review nicely compiles the oodles of scorn heaped upon this trade. Much of the hatred focuses on the simple fact that the Royals acquired Yuniesky Betancourt &mdash that the price tag was greater than a bag of balls seems secondary.

Mets Gm Omar Minaya clearly prescribes to the "change of scenary will do him some good" scenario as it relates to his latest acquisition Jeff Francouer. You never know, right? Perhaps the lighting at Citifield is such that it will finally allow Frenchy to discern between a ball and a strike. Ryan Church going the other way could help the Braves for a little while. Church's history of concussion problems could haunt the Braves if Chipper gets his way and the team enacts "Friday Clubhouse Compound Bow Day."

The biggest story from Friday was of course Jonathon Sanchez and his near perfect game/full-on no hitter. Luckily for Sanchez, history won't recall the overwhelming ineptitude of the Padres offense. That they were no hit for 6 innings the day before will fade from memory &mdash just as ironic replacement Juan Uribe's error that stole the perfection from under Sanchez's nose. That his father was in attendance made for excellent TV but the real story is how poorly the Giants lefty has pitched in 2009. Recently bounced from the starting rotation, Sanchez came in with a 1.50 WHIP and a walks per 9 rate over 5. He put it all together for a wonderful night, aided of course by Aaron Rowand's wallbanging ability. Congrats Jonathon, hopefully you've bought yourself at least two more starts.

Heist tag courtesy of Dan Cumming Dot Uk.

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Yep, that's all that matters this weekend. Tomorrow night's Pirates-Phillies game will feature forty of the best and brightest baseball fans descending on section 202 at Citizens Bank Park to enjoy some Cole Hamels action and put down a few adult beverages. Wish you could join us, folks from the West Coast, Flyover States and Northern Climes, but I will do my best to populate my Twitter feed with pictures of Catshirt partying down. There's even a #HEIST hashtag.

Also: there are actually two tickets available. First email, first serve.

So enjoy Drew LTB Fairservice this weekend in our absence, and come back around this joint on Monday for a very special announcement regarding the All Star Home Run Derby (hint: we're liveglogging it). Same WoW channel.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user sarowen)

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The defensive revolution marches on! Franklin Gutierrez, get ready for a huge pay raise, thanks to new-fangled computerators that will tell your boss just how friggin great you are in center field:

A new camera and software system in its final testing phases will record the exact speed and location of the ball and every player on the field, allowing the most digitized of sports to be overrun anew by hundreds of innovative statistics that will rate players more accurately, almost certainly affect their compensation and perhaps alter how the game itself is played.

Teams have begun scrambling to develop uses for the new data, which will be unveiled Saturday to a group of baseball executives, statisticians and academics, knowing it will probably become the largest single advance in baseball science since the development of the box score. Several major league executives would not publicly acknowledge their enthusiasm for the new system, to better protect their plans for leveraging it.

Other major league executives didn't publicly acknowledge their enthusiasm for the new system because, to be honest with you, Frank McCourt still can't figure out how to read those darn text messages his grandson keeps sending him, let alone use a computer.

Players are mostly upbeat about the new system; Gold Glove winning center fielder Vernon Wells thinks it's the cat's pajamas because fans in Toronto will stop whining about how overpaid he is if they knew how valuable he was defensively. Scott Rolen, on the other hand, demurs:

"I don't believe that baseball is a game that can be encapsulated that way. That's the beauty of the whole game."

Yes, Scott. Baseball's beauty can only be truly expressed in lusty poetry and metaphorical song. Embrace the now, Scott!

creampuffshirt.jpgMany creampuffs are eying the All-Star break as an opportunity to extend their creampuffery. Planning your injuries around holidays will throw off the algorithms but it's pretty much the basis of work as we all know it.

  • Chipper Jones/Kelly Johnson Braves: Ole Chip is day-to-day with a strained groin. He's only going to take a knee for a day or two and should be available for pinch hitting duties if need be. Whatever Skip needs! Kelly Johnson isn't so lucky and will require a trip to DL with an injured wrist. That's okay, he's been terrible.

  • Randy Johnson, Giants: Randy hurt his 43 year old arm swinging the bat and booting the ball around in the field in a lame, 43 year old attempt to field his position. More time for Johnson to reflect on his own greatness.

  • Torii Hunter/Vlad Guerrero, Angels: The official injury reports list "strained abductor" and "ouchy knee" but the "Old Man-itis" is tearing through the Angels like a pneumonia through a retirement community. Vlady took a wrong step before falling to his hands and needs, furiously pressing his Lifecall medallion until the trainer arrived on scene. Both men await results from MRIs and urine samples. Always with the urine samples.

  • Ronny Belisario, Dodgers: Surprisingly excellent set up man Belisario heads to the DL with a right elbow strain. Wait a minute, an effective right handed bullpen arm leads the team in appearances right up until his elbow explodes? Dr James Andrews should give Joe Torre a sailboat. Losing Belisario from the bullpen throws off the key "skinny guy leading to fat guy" dynamic that' gives the Dodgers to the best pen in the league.

  • Lil Davey Eckstein, Hank White, Padres: Two very old, very average dudes hit the DL with strained right hamstrings. The only other thing hamstrung in San Diego is their ability to evaluate talent. Pulling two good Navymen off the streets of San Diego and inserting them into the Pods lineup won't change the Friars lot in life. Noted nerd Paul DePodesta is currently petitioning the National League to allow Blanco & Eckstein to hit in tandem behind Adrian Gonzalez. He'll still walk three times a night.

  • Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees: Raped by the most popular wallaby in New York.

  • Geovany Soto/Ryan Dempster, Cubs: Paired Creampuff Craziness! Soto's come down with the dreaded oblique strain and his status for the weekend is a deep, dark secret. That's never a good sign Cubs fans, believe you me. Ryan Dempster broke his toe doing something idiotic, much to the delight of a goony kid with expensive seats. Dempster moves to the 15 day DL, forcing his brutal Harry Caray impression to the 60 day DL to make room on the 40 man roster of hilarity.
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Okay, that might be stretching the truth a bit. But Pedro Martinez says that his agent is currently in negotiations with the Philadelphia Phillies to help the aged Dominican make his gallant return to N.L. East pitching. And heck, if they can do a really quick turnaround with the signing, he can bump Cole Hamels from the hill and take his rightful place as the Official Home Team Starting Pitcher of the Walkoff Walk Field Trip: Citizens Bank Heist.

Too bad Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro is in deny, deny, deny mode:

"I'm not talking about Pedro, and I haven't talked about Pedro," Amaro said.

Well, thanks for the info, Ruben. Don't bother asking me next time you need advice on good restaurants in the North Jersey area. Still, there's no doubt that the Phillies are deeply interested:

Phillies assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld watched Martinez throw on Tuesday in a simulated game against a Phillies summer league team in the Dominican Republic and came away impressed. Martinez's fastball reportedly reached the low 90s, according to reports. ESPN.com reported that the Phillies will watch Martinez throw again at 1 p.m. ET on Friday.

Ah so. It all makes sense because the Phillies starting rotation has been a combination of 'yuck' and 'ick' so far this year. It's pretty telling when Joe Blanton (Country Joe!) has been the best pitcher over the last month.

If the Phillies can get a healthy Pedro, he can be a good replacement for Brett Myers and his graham cracker hip. It's a value deal that doesn't mean the loss of any prospects like obtaining Roy Halladay or Erik Bedard would. Plus, even if Pedro loses every single start he makes except one mid-September start in CitiField that eliminates the Mets from playoff contention, it'll be worth it for fans of schadenfreude.

In honor of tomorrow's big Walkoff Walk Field Trip to Philadelphia, aka the Citizens Bank Heist, here's a clip of WPHL-TV that aired prior to game five of the 1980 NLCS. Richie Ashburn! Harry Kalas! Astrodome! 1980s era TV graphics! What production value! As per the description on YouTube:

This aired during a time when MLB allowed a team's local TV outlet to produce its own LCS coverage, thus duplicating the game in the home market along with the network broadcast (in this case, ABC). The local stations were also allowed to simulcast the network's World Series feed. Both practices ended after the 1983 season.

So basically, if your team made the playoffs, you were lucky enough to not deal with Tim McCarver. Lucky ducks.


The Phillies would eventually topple the Astros on their way to a World Series title, and a young Maury Povich would report on the win on KYW 3 back in Philly. I learned that little tidbit when I visited the traveling Hall of Fame exhibit at the Constitution Center; at the end of the exhibit, they had a television playing 1980 World Series news clips on a fantastically endless loop.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when she was moving very slowly:

Royals 8, Red Sox 6: The Red Sox bullpen were called on to protect a moderate lead thanks to a mediocre start from middling pitcher Brad Penny. In the end, the middle relief allowed too many Royals (isn't that the name of a Disney movie? "Too Many Royals!" starring Abigail Breslin as the adorable princess) to score. The Mexicutioner nailed down the save and the Red Sox have fallen into a first place tie with the Yankees.

Giants 9, Padres 3: Tim Lincecum acquired his tenth win despite losing his quest for a no-hitter into the seventh. You'd think that was a good start but most pitchers carry no-hitter bids into the eighth against the sorry Padres, especially when walking Adrian Gonzalez in every plate appearance.

NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED LAST NIGHT.

Tonight's Questions

| | Comments (6)

Hey kids, get it while the gettin's good


  • WILL Joe Mauer even sniff .400 for the rest of the season? He's finally eligible for the batting crown, but he's got a better chance of growing 24 karat gold sideburns than hitting .400.

  • HOW many tater tots will Andruw clobber tonight? I'm guessing "none, none homers" since it's King Felix day.

  • WHY are the Nats and 'Stros even bothering to resume their rain-suspended 10-10 game? What's that, the Astros are one game under .500 and just three games back? Stinkeroo, NL Central. Stinkeroo.

  • ARE the lights back on at the Trop yet?

  • WHO had the weirdest pre-game ritual of all time? Clint Barmes eating a Subway (yecch) sandwich before every game or Bob Apodaca dropping acid and murdering a vagrant between games of every Mets doubleheader back in the 1960s?

Sorry again about the impromptu day off yesterday. I won't even begin to make excuses, so thank you for coming back today and welcoming me back into your baseball lives. Tomorrow is Friday, which means all your favorites like Creampuff and Classic TV and another YouTube video because we're lazy.

Then, after the weekend, come back on Monday night for a Very Special Home Run Derby Liveglog. Last year's Derbyglog was one of my favorite nights of the entire baseball season despite the fact that Justin Morneau sullied the House that Ruth Built with his ill-gotten tater tot victory. But having the best commenters in the baseballblogosphere can make any night memorable. Join us, please!

Until then, same WoW channel.

Baseball.Bugs.logo.jpg Each week (or not), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: Baseball Bugs, a 1946 cartoon starring Bugs Bunny. Almost all voices by Mel Blanc. Written by Michael Maltese and directed by Friz Freleng. These reviews usually contain spoilers, but if you can't guess who wins when Bugs Bunny takes on an entire team in a baseball game... well, yikes.

I love cartoons. I grew up watching the Ninja Turtles eat pizza, Garfield eat lasagna and Heathcliff eat... I dunno, garbage, maybe. (Didn't he live in a garbage dump -- or was that some supporting character?) I still love The Simpsons; the recent HD episodes look fantastic. I sat through all four Futurama movies, even that horrid second one. I was also a daily watcher of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show.

Growing up, of course, there were also great classic cartoons that would run on UHF stations (sometimes during The Bozo Show). Like you (probably), one of my favorites was the classic Looney Toons short where Bugs Bunny strikes out the side on one pitch. I recently came across the short, Baseball Bugs, and since it has been taken down from YouTube, I think it's only right to review it here. While I cannot expect to match U.S.S. Mariner's sabermetric review of the game, I will do my best. (NB to Glenn Stout: This review of Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch is the best sports article of the year. Maybe ever. And I'm pretty hard on myself, usually.)

Baseball Bugs opens with the Gas-House Gorillas defeating the Tea Totallers at the Polo Grounds. Let this be a lesson to you, kids: If you abstain from alcohol and tobacco, you will totally suck at baseball. I particularly liked one of the opening shots from the grandstand:

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You don't see fans toss their hats and beers into the air anymore, since their 59Fifty hats cost like $29.95 and their beers even more (at least at Fenway).

Diamondbacks broadcaster Todd Walsh had a huge get on Tuesday night as part of the team's efforts to hype up Mark Reynolds for the All Star Game final vote nonsense: Senator John McCain!


McCain promised to make his endorsement of Reynolds official by posting it on his Twitter account. Unfortunately, picking up a pineapple and speaking into the stem end does not count as a 'tweet', you old fart.

(via Can't Stop the Bleeding)

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Just four getaway daytime games today, fellas, as a bunch of teams start a new series tonight, their last weekend series before the All Star break.

  • Blue Jays at Rays, 12:08PM: WILL this be Roy Halladay's final start in Blue Jay grey? CAN David Price overcome his control issues against a worsening Toronto offense? IS today the day the Jays finally slip under the .500 mark?

  • Yankees at Twins, 1:10PM: Francisco Liriano wasn't even supposed to be here today. The once-lithe lefty moves up a day to cover Glen Perkins who is somewhere in Minnesota with a case of the fever shits. Alfredo Aceves makes a spot start for the Yankees, looking to sweep away the season series from Justin Morneau and his buddies, eh? Last game ever for the Yanks at the Baggiedome before it becomes exclusively a host to rodeos and demolition derbies.

  • Indians at White Sox, 2:05PM: Beating up on the Indians has helped the White Sox make up some serious ground on first place Detroit. That's actually been historically quite successful for Whites. Beating up on Indians to make up ground in Detroit.

  • Cardinals at Brewers, 2:05PM: Walkoff Walk favorite Manny being Parra makes his gallant return from the deel today in Milwaukee. He'll put his 7.52 ERA in his back pocket to face down Albert Pujols and the eight easy outs. Actually, that was one of the lesser known doo-wop groups from the fifties: Albert and the Eight Easy Outs. They'd have been more successful had their nine-part harmony not sounded as cacophonous as a truckload of raccoons in heat.
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Run by a massive, emotionless corporation for too long, it's about time the Cubs fans get their George Steinbrenner: a shrewd, hard-headed businessman with a fat wallet and a burning, bloviated desire to win. Unfortunately for the Wrigley faithful, the Tribune Corporation is stuck choosing between two Big Steins, each with less-than-desirable offers on the table.

Earlier this week, the long-awaited Cubs sale seemed to be wrapped up as a $900 million bid from the Ricketts family was submitted to MLB and bankruptcy courts for approval. Il Famiglia Ricketts made their monies from TD Ameritrade and Thomas Ricketts, the figurehead in the deal, is a lifelong Cubbies fan. Seems like a good deal, no?

Unfortunately, the $900 millon bid that had been announced in January was a little light when current Tribune Co. honcho Sam Zell weighed it in his mitts. The Ricketts pulled back some coin because the Trib pays less than market rate on the portion of the TV station bundled in the sale. The Ricketts weren't going to settle for that kind of back-scratching, no sir.

Enter a new group, headed by Marc Utay, with a higher offer but less cash upfront and more debt. What does more debt mean for an already cash-poor organization? A lower ceiling for player payroll and the possibility that manager Lou Piniella will have to take on extra duties like mowing the lawn and sweeping up the dugout.

To top it all off, Zell might retain a portion of the club so the transaction doesn't legally qualify as a sale so he can save a few hundred million in taxes. The question still remains: can either possible ownership group scrounge up enough money under their sofa cushions to keep the Cubs from having a positive cash flow and paying off Milton Bradley's $30 million contract and $5,000 monthly repair contract for the Gatorade machine? If not, this would-be sale could fester in its pending state for quite awhile.

What does this all mean? Either the Utay offer is just a red herring to get the Ricketts group to bring their offer back up a few million sheckels, or Lenny Dykstra is going to start a massive Ponzi scheme to raise enough dough to buy the Cubs.

(Many thanks to Maury Brown's Biz of Baseball for making sense of the Cubs sale.)



Because he kinda sucks at the ordinary ones. Four errors in just 240 innings at first base isn't going to win anyone a Gold Glove no matter how many outrageously awesome behind-the-back web gems the kid racks up.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when you once again gazed into the glassy-eyed stares of animatronic singing animals:

Phillies 3, Reds 2: A mid-afternoon live chat with inquisitive Yahoo readers must have sat well with Shane Victorino as the Flyin' Hawaiian knocked in the winning run in walkoff fashion for the Fightins. Jayson Werth's game-tying solo dong in the sixth was hit so hard, no questions were asked as to whether it'd leave the park.

Rays 10, Blue Jays 9: Ben Zobrist is 0-for-4 in his career against B.J. Ryan. I'm just sayin' is all. Big Zobie Zobes (my clever new nickname for the man leading the league in slugging) topped off his four-RBI sundae with a sweet and juicy walkoff single off recently-activated Jays closer Scott Downs. The 4+ hour game featured 19 runs, 31 hits, over 350 pitches, and innumerable cacophonous cowbell-toting hausfraus.

Red Sox 5, Athletics 4: Tim Wakefield is nothing more than a machine that spews knuckleballs and very un-fast fastballs and yet that machine now leads the American League in wins with eleven. Sure, wins are old-fashioned and don't always reflect a pitcher's true ability, but the 73-year-old Wakefield doesn't wake up at 4:30AM every fifth day, down a pint of prune juice, and show up to the park in an '89 Buick Skylark just to lose a hard-fought pitchers' duel. Dude shows up to win, and to get free Sweet N Low packets from the clubhouse coffee nook.

Mets 5, Dodgers 4: The Mets finally broke their days-long scoreless drought and even collected an extra base hit or two! Five runs! Wowie! They're like the '27 Yankees, except with more Dominicans. Oliver Perez returned from the minors in typical Oliver Perez form, walking only seven hitters in five innings. Sheesh. Manny's ninth-inning solo dong off K-Rod was too little, too late, just like the bid I just placed on Manny's grill.

White Sox 5, Indians 1: Jermaine Dye's three RBI and Jose Contreras' nine strikeout, six inning performance helped the ChiSox perch on the precipice of a sweep of the lowly Indians. Contreras has posted a sweet 2.06 ERA since returning from the DL a month ago; it's his second win in a week against Cleveland. Yes, those wins still count.

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My sincerest apologies to those of you who were looking for baseball and human condition coverage at Walkoff Walk today. Unfortunately, the site is taking a day off. Please go enjoy Big League Stew or any number of fine team blogs.

Tonight's Questions

| | Comments (6)
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Dear reader, please do me a favor and go home tonight and watch some baseball on television. If you don't have a television, read a good baseball book. If you can't read, go outside and have a catch with some neighborhood kids. Nothing else going on today/tonight worthy of your attention. Until tomorrow, same WoW channel.

(Vancouver Canadians Smart Car on Flickr)

Via MLB Daily Dish:


Had the Red Sox not earned those tidy World Series wins in 2004 and 2007, this moment would have been a lot more angsty and bittersweet, a broken town welcoming back their broken-down former hero. But Dave Roberts, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon, yada yada yada happened and now Nomar Garciaparra is welcomed with open arms by a bunch of self-satisfied micks. Go figure.

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If there's one thing Ken Rosenthal knows how to do, it's create a shitstorm of unsubstantiated rumours and malarkey that coats the entire baseballblogosphere with its retched brown inaccuracy. But this time, he got a quote straight from J.P. Ricciardi's mouth regarding otherworldly pitcher and eventual All Star Game starter Roy Halladay's trade prospects:

We have to see what's out there," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi says. "I'm not saying we're going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We're (leaning) more toward listening than we've ever been."

Listening! J.P. Ricciardi is actually going to listen! Take it away, Drunk Jays Fans!

I know those maybe sound like the words of a Jays fan fiercely in denial, but they're really not. This is just fucking tiresome. How many times over the years has Ricciardi said--about not just Halladay, but any player--that "if something makes sense, we at least have to listen"?

Of fucking course he'll listen! Is that seriously all you've got???

The article--which is titled "Jays' Halladay all but gone in Toronto", though I'll give Kenny Ken Ken the benefit of the doubt that he didn't title the piece--is just a cheap way for Rosenthal to exploit a tiny shift in Ricciardi's language from statements month ago, get some face time and some page views, and to give sports talk radio shows an easy topic to run with. [Cue wanking motion].

Watch those wanking motions, Stoeten! You'll make fans of pitching-desperate teams water at the mouth. Here's The 700 Level blogger Enrico warning Philadelphia faithful to temper their hopes and dreams:

Just remember, Phillies fans, last year we hoped for CC Sabathia and got Joe Blanton. To quote my favorite economist, Mr. Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get what you need."

Still, it's fun to dream of the dynamic duo of Hamels and Halladay. And for the record, I'd trade the Reading Phillies for Roy Halladay.

Jeez Enrico, I'd trade my grandmother AND my left nut for Roy Halladay but you don't see me going around publishing it on a blog, do you?

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After his Brewers squadron lost three of four to the rival Cubs over the weekend, Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun took to the media to call out his team's pitching. You see, the Cubs have Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, while the Brewers are stuck with guys like Seth McClung.

Sez the Hebrew Hammer:

"They threw the ball a lot better than our starters did," said Braun. "All four guys we saw in this series are No. 1, worst-case, No. 2 type starters. They make big pitches in big situations. You're not always going to get hits in those situations."

In the process, he sassed the higher-ups who have basically been sitting on their hands as the Brew Crew sends a bunch of chuckleheads to the mound on the four days when stud Yovani Gallardo ain't pitching:

"We're at the point right now where it would be important for us to go out there and acquire somebody," Braun said. "I think [management] would be more inclined to do that if we're winning."

Burn! Brewers G.M. Doug Melvin, who once ripped a man's heart right out of his chest cavity, was none too pleased and expressed his distaste for player-on-management crime in a phone call with the Journal Sentinal's own Tom Haudricourt:

"It was inappropriate for him to say what he said, and I'm not happy about it," Melvin said. "To make the statements he made and also get on his teammates like that, it was irresponsible on his part. It just ticked me off."

"We all work every day from 9 a.m. to midnight, and basically 12 months a year," said Melvin, referring to his baseball staff. "I'll be glad to have Ryan help if he wants to. I'll give him a badge and he can be my deputy."

Double burn! Still, I don't blame Braun for getting frustrated with his situation. After all, he signed a lowball eight-year contract last season that wipes away the first few years of free agency in order to help Milwaukee build a winner. But after the team went bye-byes in the playoffs and Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia went bye-byes in free agency, Braun looked around the locker room and said, "How are we supposed to get back to the promised land with Jeff freakin Suppan?" Pin on that badge, Ryan, and start making some calls.

Run Differential Magic with the Philadelphia Phillies

Almost 10 years ago, some high school friends and I went to a Phillies-Reds game at Veterans Stadium. On 4 September 1999, the Phillies (managed, hilariously, by Terry Francona) were, as usual, out of the race, though they had a record just above .500. The Reds (managed, even more hilariously, by Jack McKeon) were in both the wild card and division race.

We had fun in the near-empty 700 Level of the Vet -- only 16,357 attended -- but it was mainly because we enjoyed heckling the Phillies, not that they could hear us. (That's been a popular pastime in Philadelphia for ages.) Paul Byrd put the Reds down in order in the top of the first and the Phils got 2 runs in the bottom half off Pete "Rated Rookie Pete Harshnish" Harnisch.

Then we got our reasons to heckle. There were nine of them, actually, as the Reds hit a NL-record nine homers in a 22-3 win over the Phillies. It was one of those hilarious blowouts where the final reliever for the winning club (Stan Belinda, in this case) tosses three innings and gets a save. In a 22-3 game.

One of the Phillies pitchers that night was Billy Brewer, now a professional bass fisher.

Last night, the Phillies finally got revenge for the game no one on the current roster probably knows about. The Fightins destroyed the Reds last night, 22-1, though they did hit only four homers. Only four? C'mon, guys!

The Phillies got 10 runs in the first, 9 of 'em off Johnny Cueto, who was fourth in the league in ERA coming into the game but dropped out of the top 10 after lasting just 2/3 of an inning. Cole Hamels ripped a two-RBI double down the first base line to make it 6-0 after a pair of two-run homers by Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs; Chase Utley hit a three-run shot off reliever Daniel Ray Herrera to cap the first-inning scoring.

The Phillies didn't hit another homer in the game 'til the bottom of the eighth, when shortstop Paul Janish gave up a grand slam to Jayson Werth. Janish's ERA for the season is 49.50.

But I know what really drives blog traffic, and that is: Unintentionally hilarious Dusty Baker quotes. Take it away, Dust'!

"We got slaughtered as they used to say... You always think it can't get worse. My daddy told me, don't think that, because it can get worse. And it got worse."

As you all know, they no longer say "slaughtered."

Because it was a real doozy. The beginning of the show was rife with audio issues and sounded like a bad acid trip, and then we only got through three of five questions. Still, it turned out to be a quality radio program, thanks to our pal PUNTE with his professional radio voice and good conversational skills.

Check out With Leather for all your non-baseball needs and follow PUNTE on Twitter.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when you overthrew the effigy:

Phillies 22, Reds 1: There was so much history made in this game it's almost impossible to sort it all out. Let's just sum it up thusly: the Reds came to town and stunk up the joint so bad, Phillies fans for one night forgot how horrible their farts smell after eating directly out of the Phanatic's hot dog gun.

Athletics 6, Red Sox 0: Nomar's back, you guys. He snagged an RBI single in his gallant return to Fenway as youngster Brett Anderson outdueled oldster John Smoltz. Although I guess it's not really a duel when the losing pitcher gives up five runs in six innings and then has to retire to the clubhouse to take his cholesterol meds.

Royals 4, Tigers 3: In case of emergency, do not bring Fernando Rodney into a tie game late. Fella gave up the game winning tater tot to Royals sluggerino Mike Jacobs and the Tigertweetersphere was simply agog.

Rockies 1, Nationals 0: JASON MARQUIS HAS ELEVEN WINS AND JUST PITCHED A SHORT SHUTOUT. KILL IT. KILL IT DEAD.

Astros 4, Pirates 1: Mike Hampton has five wins and Miguel Tejada is an All Star. It's like I've died and gone to 2002.

Tonight's Questions

| | Comments (3)


  • WHY did that hilariously oversized monument magnet pick up non-All Stars like David Ortiz and Ryan Theriot and drag their asses all the way to St. Lou? Did they have a hankering for frozen custard?

  • WILL Kevin Millwood make up for his All Star Game snub and prove his worth against fellow snubbee Jered Weaver? It's a battle for first in the AL West, y'all.

  • WHICH eight-lettered fella will come out on top when Matt Cain leads the Giants against Sean West and the Marlins?

  • WHO is Tony Plush?

  • CAN you clear out your calendar at 10PM tonight to listen to our live Furious Five Radio Show podcast thingamajig? Tonight's very special guest is noted Reds fan PUNTE aka Monday Morning Punter from KSK and With Leather. His gentleman's name is Panda Boy.

That's it for today. Come listen to my squeaky voice tonight at 10 and we'll see you tomorrow, same WoW channel.

D.C. Sports Bog head honcho Dan Steinberg has been busy chronicling the Nationals season by way of uniform malfunctions, bobblehead misnomers and exploding hot dogs, so it almost seems too easy for him when the Nationals public address folks made this egregious error:

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Of course, by the reactions of commenters on the spelling FAIL post, not everyone thinks that Steinz' nit-picking (Nat-picking?) is so peachy keen:

creativity FAIL. come up with a new material please.

Posted by: BigNasty | July 6, 2009 12:18 PM

Dear reader, every single misstep that the Nationals commit is creative in its glorious suckitude. Don't shoot the blogging messenger.

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New York Times scribe Ingrid K. Williams took in the culture at a Japanese baseball game and noticed marked differences between the fans in the Far East when compared to our own jamook culture here on the East Coast:

As soon as the game began, so did the coordinated cheering. Led by cheer captains in the outfield bleachers, the batting team's fans chanted, sang and rhythmically banged plastic bats for every pitch to every batter. Their deafening, synchronized roar dominated the dome. Each hit ignited a burst of still louder cheers and frantic towel waving.

Yet the fans of the team in the field maintained a respectful hush, interrupted only by an exuberant wave of applause after each out. Questionable calls were never booed. No jeers rang out when an error was made. These fans radiated only love for their teams.

But the highlight of the game must have been the weird and wacky concession stands:

Fried mashed-potato balls are a pleasant substitute for French fries, but the more daring will opt for takoyaki, small dough balls filled with octopus. Hot dogs are also for sale, though it's much more fun to battle a bowl of slippery soba noodles with chopsticks. And if the Baskin-Robbins ice cream stand is familiar, some of its perplexingly named flavors -- like the refreshing Popping Shower (it's minty) -- are not.

In Japan, the Popping Shower is minty. In the Bronx, the popping shower is sticky and smells like the restroom. Quelle difference!

(photo source)

Over the weekend, Rinku Singh became the first ever citizen of India to appear in a professional baseball game here in these United States, as the GCL Pirates lost to the GCL Yankees in Bradenton, FL. He gave up three hits and a run in one inning pitched, but said he felt good after finally making his debut, which was kindly uploaded to the YouTubes:


Later, Dinesh Patel made his grand entrance into the game and threw a gem of an inning: nine pitches, seven strikes, one ground out, one fly out and one strikeout. Here's the big ground ball out that I'm certain the Rockies are taking note of today:


Congratulations to our boys for making their big rookie league debut! The future is bright! GAZAB!

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America's enemy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got 24 million votes last month in Iran's national election. Yet baseball sluggers Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez could barely cobble together 4 million votes combined in All Star voting. Both numbers seem to indicate blatant voter fraud, and I am going to change my Twitter avatar to a subtle chartreuse in protest.

Okay, maybe the voting for the MLB All Star Game had a bit more plausibility than the Iran elections (after all, my 23,928 votes for Mark Teixeira seem to have counted), but I can't help wonder what sort of cogs were spinning in the background to ensure that the two most dastardly and infamous victims of the steroid witch hunt will spend the All Star break

Look, the first All Star Game without Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez since 1994 just isn't as fun. Sure, they cheated, they cheated bad, and they cheated bad and they got caught. Does that change the fact that they electrify crowds and boost interest in the sport? Nope. So why aren't they playing in next week's big star-studded game? Who are the ad wizards who decided a smear campaign against the fallen sluggers would be wise?

The media. Some blowhards are already congratulating themselves and the fans for keeping the midsummer classic "clean" but why do columnists care so much? Shouldn't these buzzards have been secretly casting hundreds of votes for Manny so they could milk the righteous indignation for just one more column?

Bud Selig. He'll do anything in his power to push positive testers to the backburner lest his reputation as the man who presided over the steroidiest era in baseball overshadow his reputation as the man who made a fortune selling used cars.

Pharmacists. They just don't want to be associated with naughty steroids anymore, instead hoping that when people think 'drugs' and 'baseball', they think 'Rafael Palmeiro' and 'erectile dysfunction pills'.

The Colonel. Because he puts a chemical in his chicken that makes me crave it fortnightly.

Fans. These people cheer Josh Hamilton and vote for him with religious fervor despite appearing in just 35 games and amassing a .746 OPS. Meanwhile, in Manny's 30 games he's got a 1.113 OPS and A-Rod has over 50 games under his belt and a .935 OPS.

So in the end, I can point my finger at any number of institutions for keeping the All Star Game in St. Louis a Manny-free zone, but when I point that finger, three other fingers are pointing right back at me for not hiring some Iranian politicos to bring down the entire MLB.com voting system.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when it was time to sacrifice:

Phillies 2, Mets 0: A month ago, if I had told you that Joe Blanton would outduel Johan Santana in a low-scoring summertime affair at Citizens Bank Pank, you'd have been in your rights to punch me square in the face and spit on my lifeless body sprawled out on the ground. Because making crazy predictions is grounds for assault in seventeen states. That prediction turned out to be true, thanks to the Mets weak lineup that gives Santana fewer than three runs of support on average, and Jimmy Rollins' 30th career leadoff tater tot.

Marlins 5, Pirates 0: Ricky Nolasco will do anything in his power to stay out of New Orleans. The gumbo-phobe was sent to the Big Sleazy in May after amassing a bloated 9.07 ERA in nine starts; since returning from the bayou, Ricky's won four of six starts with a tidy 1.53 ERA. I guess surviving gator attacks and booze-soused bead hounds will do a lot to a man's spirit. Ricky threw eight scoreless and struck out 15 12 Pirates to help Miami, FLA take two of three.

Astros 7, Giants 1: Randy Johnson wanted to follow youngsters Ryan Sadowski and Tim Lincecum in controlling the Astros' limp bats but an errant swing at the plate proved to be his downfall. The fellow they call Big Unit got an ouchie in his shoulder when swinging at a high hard one from Roy Oswalt and had to be pulled from the game in the fourth. All Star Hunter Pence avoided any glass doors and swatted a solo dong to help the Houston scoring drive while Rich Aurilia partied like it was 1999 and broke up Oswalt's shutout with a tater tot in the eighth.

Cubs 8, Brewers 2: It was no walkoff walk, but Jake Fox' two run homer had pop enough to support Ted Lilly's Kwality Start© and send the Cubs to a three-games-to-one series win. Speaking of that walkoff walk, some Brewers fans want to take the umpires' ball-and-strike calling ability away and replace them with magical robots; some used Jake Fox' questionable walk as evidence. I'd be fully in support of any technology that increased the number of walkoff walks because (a) shrimp are delicious and (b) it would increase brand recognition for Walkoff Walk©.

Rangers 5, Rays 2: Despite the normally big-bopping team amassing just two extra-base hits, the Rangers completed a three-game sweep of the Rays behind pitching, defense, and the dark art of human sacrifice. Elvis Andrus, David Murphy, and ESPN's jolly player-of-the-game Marlon Byrd all gave up their lives for the greater good, hurling their own bodies into the dark pit of flying out deep with a runner on third. Good news, born again Christians: Josh Hamilton comes off the deel today. Bad news, fans of the K: Chris Davis is getting sent down to Triple-A to clear up roster space.

obamalitheleftlimb.jpgThere are many excellent pitchers plying their trade on this Fourth of July. Studs like Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum go today while upstarts like Tommy Hanson and Edwin Jackson pitch tonight amidst much praise and attention. But one match up in particular grabbed my attention: David Price versus Derek Holland.

Despite the mountain of hype that followed Price into the 2009 season, he started the year in the minor leagues. Since his recall and insertion into the rotation, his performance could be charitably defined as "mixed." Astronomical pitch counts resulting from poor control, Price has pitched 7 complete innings just once. Over 9 strikeouts per nine innings is good, but more than 6 walks per 9 is terrible. Add in too many line drives, too many home runs and simply a lack of strikes are causing Price to underperform. Only the Rays superlative defense keeps his ERA far below his FIP.

Derek Holland eluded my roving eye in the preseason, but after making a few relief appearances he's stepped into the vastly improved Texas rotation. His 1-5 record and his FIP near 5 may not get your attention, but Holland has all the markings of a future stud. His strong walk to K rate and good mix of pitches both point to positive results down the road, while his high BABIP and home run rate are sure to come down.

Both these young dudes (Price 23, Holland 22) are just getting their feet wet at the major league level and getting a feel for their secondary pitches (people are doing terrible things to each man's slider)but they're sure to feature prominently in the future. Better yet, they're only small parts of two franchises with very, very bright futures. Organizations that stockpiled prospects, focussed on internal improvement keying on defense, power, and pitching. Tonight could be the first of many showdowns between these two stud pitchers on an increasingly big stage. Consider me excited.

Lithe Lefty in Chief photo courtesy of Hand Research Dot Com. Naturally.

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Albert Pujols, this season, with the bases loaded:

8 PA, 6 Hits, 4 HOME RUNS, 20 RBI (of a possible 32), 1 sac fly. .857/.750/2.571 slash line for a 3.321 OPS.

Only three non-Cardinals teams have more than four grand slams in 2009. His 18 total bases are 1 behind the Royals & Reds, 2 shy of the Astros team mark.

He's not of this world. I'm dizzy. Fireworks indeed.

Image courtesy of AP Photo via Daylife

The Chicago Cubs just won on a walkoff walk over the Milwaukee Brewers! Jake Fox was the hero, drawing ball four after Geovany Soto was intentionally walked to load the bases. Mike DeFelice was the loser and allowed me to post this:


God Bless America and God Bless the Shrimp!

newstretcher.JPGLong weekend Creampuffs! Spending the holiday weekend in crutches is no fun at all, we should all pity these poor, poor wusses. It takes a real man to run a BBQ.

  • Adrian Beltre, Mariners: Beltre finally decided to have surgery on his ouchie shoulder and will miss the next 6 to 8 weeks as a result. Hurry back Adrian, you're a free agent next year!

  • MIke Lowell, Red Sox: Rob broke down the repeated hip break downs earlier this week. Lowell's trip to the DL is only for some R & R, including the All Star break in his time off is by design. He should do what I do on vacation and drink Thai whiskey while provoking in international incidents.

  • Khalil Greene, Cardinals: Deep, troubled sigh.

  • Antonio Bastardo, Phillies: El Wed-lockless came out of his last start in Tampa complaining of shoulder tightness and clearly diminished velocity. Bastardo's first few starts were excellent but things quickly turned for the young lefty. There is no timetable for his return nor the return of his father. CUZ HE'S A BASTARD.

  • Aaron Miles, Cubs: Hyperextended his elbow fighting off a wallaby. Teammates are quite disappointed as the wallaby was the only way to get Miles out of the lineup.

  • Jorge Posada, Yankees: Posada took a foul tipped-fastball to the left thumb and is currently day-to-day. Posada's pretty old, he should really live each day moment-to-moment.

  • Mark DeRosa, Cardinals: Oh no! The Cards offensive lynchpin is down with a strained tendon! Whomever will save Albert Pujols from himself? While not headed to the Differently Abled List, DeRosa missing any time at all will cause much tongue clucking among Cardinals fans. Cluck all you want, DeRosa isn't that good when he's healthy.

  • Oppression and Tyranny, Freedom Haters: Out with a case of the USAs! USAs! Have a good Fourth peoples.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, she loves you yeah yeah yeah

  • CAN Atlanta put the finishing moves on the Phillies tonight and complete the sweep? Get your business in order, Uncle Cholly. The Mets are comin'.

  • WHAT is Barry Zito going to do when Albert Pujols steps to the plate tonight? Bert is 5-for-9 lifetime against Zito with two ding-dongs.

  • HOW boring are the milquetoast Houston Astros and the snoozy games they play?

  • REMEMBER Bruce Chen? He's back, in Royals form. The ChiSox are going to roll, y'all.

  • DO you have a television set? Does your television set receive the MLB Network? The nationally broadcast game of the night is the Cubs and Brewers at 8PM EDT.

  • WILL you come with me to Guido Beach this summer? Seriously, I think that motion picture was filmed in Wildwood during my prom weekend.

This ends your official broadcasting week, friends. Be back here tomorrow, though, for a Very Special Edition of What's Up Creampuff? with our best buddy Drew fka LTB. Otherwise, enjoy your American patriotic apple pie fireworks and baseball holiday weekend.

I'm headed to Philadelphia for the Mets/Phils tilt and to scout out the city for our big upcoming Citizens Bank Heist. Leave your own plans in the comment section so we can figure out the best way to stalk you. You too, jingoistic baby.

Until Monday, same WoW channel.

linkpunch gorillaSometimes people write better than us. Each Thursday WoW gives you our favorite baseball links we've come across.

  • Erik Manning puts together the Quad-A All Star team, made up of elderly non-prospects who are excelling on the Triple-A level. Finally, Shelley Duncan gets his due. His meaningless, completely anonymous due. Fangraphs.

  • Patrick Sullivan chooses the best players at the midpoint of the season. But he puts a a twist on the affair and goes all the way back to July of 2008 to pick out the best players over the past calendar year. Hit the bricks, Marco Scutaro. Baseball Analysts.

  • J evaluates ESPN Sunday Night Baseball's broadcast trio of doom and shits his pants when Joe Morgan starts chit-chatting about BABIP without having a darn clue as to what that thing is. 3:10 to Joba.

  • It's official. Rany Jazayerli and his happy traveling party of B.P. folks were blacklisted by the Royals for calling out their horrible training staff. I've been banned by better places than Kauffman Stadium, screw 'em. Rany on the Royals.

  • Curtis Granderson took reader questions over at his column at Big League Stew. We learned that he likes Angelina Jolie's fat lips and he cannot lie. The Grandstand.

  • Karim Garcia, who once pissed in the bushes outside a bar in Florida during spring training, is alive and well and living in Korea. Diamond Notes.
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Many teams have off today, so the afternoon schedule is mostly snooz-a-rific. Six National League teams will do-si-do us towards the holiday weekend, unless your day off is Monday, and in that case, go screw.

  • Diamondbacks at Reds, 12:35PM: The two struggling lineups will go face-to-face with tough luck pitchers Aaron Harang and Doug Davis, each of whom sport sub-4.00 ERAs and losing records. If you like hitters lunging at balls outside the strike zone and whiffing, this is the game for you. Except Joey Votto, that kid's on a 10-for-25 hot streak since coming back from the deel.

  • Mets at Pirates, 12:35PM: Yesterday, I mentioned that this would be the Mets weekend series, which is ridiculous, because I'm going to root root root for the home team when the Mets visit the Phillies on Saturday. Instead, this is a mere makeup of a game postponed by rain showers back on June 3; if the Pirates hold form, it'll be a four-game sweep. Tim Redding and his 6.35 ERA will do his best to prevent that.

  • Astros at Padres, 3:35PM: Wait, these two teams have been playing each other all week long? Whoops! But hey, get excited Padres fans because your team just hired Bob Melvin! San Diego looks for the split of the four-gamer behind Kevin Correia, he of the 4-1 record with a 2.41 ERA in his last five outings.

Part of the reason batters wear helmets with earflaps nowadays is the unfortunate incident that happened to Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro back in 1967. Just two seasons removed from leading the league in homers as a 22-year-old, the outfielder was smashed in the face by a Jack Hamilton pitch, crumpling to the ground with a broken cheekbone and a damaged retina. His career lasted a few more productive years before he was forced to retire due to worsening eyesight.

At the same time his baseball career was taking off, he was signed by RCA Victor to a recording contract and made a few appearances on the Merv Griffin show, as evidenced below:


Fast fact: In Italian, Conigliaro means "rabbit". And in Gaelic, Mervyn Griffin means "rich dead closeted queer".

(video obtained thanks to the Classic Television Showbiz blog)

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When pitching half of one's games at Coors Field, it's usually a good idea to induce as many ground balls as possible and keep fly balls to a minimum. That's good for new Rockies manager Jim Tracy who can brag that he has three of the best ground ball pitchers in the National League this year.

With some neat stats via Fangraphs, here are your top pitchers in the National League as measured by ground ball-to-fly ball ratio:

FellaTeamGB/FBFIPK/9IP
Joel PineiroSTL2.773.043.84
Aaron CookCOL2.404.594.59
Jason MarquisCOL2.204.204.20
Ubaldo JimenezCOL2.053.247.40
Mike PelfreyNYM1.904.284.11

First, the non-Rockies on the list. Pineiro's success is obviously not his ability to punch out hitters with the high heat. But his sinkerball is inducing a bevy of groundballs that the Cards infielders are eating up and throwing across the diamond to Gold Glove guy Albert Pujols. He's also giving up just over one walk per nine innings pitched, one of the best rates in the game and good enough to keep runners off base when he gives up the rare tater tot.

We already know from the Mets-Brewers liveglog from yesterday that Mike Pelfrey has the ability to draw a GIDP when in trouble, and when he's walking almost as many guys as he's striking out, he's going to be in trouble a bunch. The Mets are among the worst defensive teams in the majors, mostly because half of their starting lineup lately are playing out of position. Otherwise, Pelf's ERA would be a lot better.

As for the Rockies threesome, Cook's FIP is so high because he's giving up a bunch of home runs. More than 15% of fly balls hit off of him go for tater tots, versus just 5% for teammate Ubaldo Jimenez, but Cook still has a 3.77 thanks to leaving over 77% of his runners on base, one of the top ten rates in the NL. Jimenez also strikes out a ton of dudes.

I can't explain Jason Marquis' success as a Rockies pitcher without delving into the dark arts. However, the other two pitchers in the rotation, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel, boast sub-4.00 FIPs thanks to K/9IP rates over 6.0 and HR/9IP rates under 1.0.

So while the Rockies are just middle of the pack when it comes to both fielding percentage and UZR metrics and none of the Rockies infielders are among the top three players at their position in the National League. Yet since Jim Tracy took over a month ago, the Rockies defense has been converting many more batted balls into outs.

Whether or not it's Tracy's influence on the Rockies infielders to improve their work ethic in the field, the smart fielding is helping the wormballing Colorado pitchers.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when I realized I had to let go:

Mets 1, Brewers 0: In between conversations about Canadian rock music and fat people, we followed along to Mike Pelfrey and Yovani Gallardo engaging in a good old-fashioned pitchers' duel. The Mets one run was scored when Luis Castillo smacked a grounds rule double down the third base line that could have gone for a triple had some cheesehead dame not tumbled over the tarp to grab the live ball.

Dodgers 1, Rockies 0: The second 1-0 game of the day was won on the back of a pinch hitter. Good move, Mr. Torre. With Brad Ausmus on second in the eighth inning, Joe sent in Rafael Furcal to pinch hit for eventual game-winner Ramon Troncoso. Furcal's game-winner came off hard-luck loser Jason Hammel, who went the distance and struck out five while walking none. The Dodgers are now a MLB best 17-8 in one-run games but 0-29 in games where they fail to score as many runs as the opposition. Area needs improvement, Torre!

Reds 1, Diamondbacks 0: The third 1-0 game on Wednesday was perhaps the most predictable, with a struggling Diamondbacks team facing a free-swinging Reds squadron. Joey Votto's sixth inning single plated Chris Dickerson while Johnny Cueto scattered four walks and one hit in six innings to earn a hard-fought W. The D-Backs have now lost nine of their last 11 games.

Braves 11, Phillies 1: Not a 1-0 game but at least both teams earned a run total made up solely of the digit 1. That's so binary. Jair Jurrjens waited all the way until the seventh inning before giving up his first hit of the night; by that point, his Braves friends had battered Cole Hamels and the Phils relief crew like scrod. Delicious, flaky scrod. Martin Prado made the most of his new starting job at second for manager Bobby Cox, going 2-for-4 with 3 runs and 2 RBI. Don't look now but the top four teams in the NL East are now separated by just three games.

Cardinals 2, Giants 1 (10): This one had the potential to be a 1-0 until the Giants tied the game in the eighth at one apiece. Then, in the tenth, Chunky Pablo Sandoval dropped a foul pop-up off the bat of Colby Rasmus, who then proceeded to clobber a ding dong outta the park for the walkoff win. With Albert Pujols on deck, fella was gonna get a good pitch to hit.

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Yankees infielders Alex Rodriguez and Cody Ransom, and general manager Brian Cashman served as Chefs for a Day at El Nuevo Caridad Restaurant in Washington Heights today and served some picante dishes to some special kids. I can spot at least 12 health code violations in that picture, and eleven of them are in Alex's pants.

Tonight's Question

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  • DID you enjoy the liveglog? I hope so, it ate up any time I would have had to do a proper TQ.

Please head over to the fine website Pyle of List tonight. They are trying out a new experiment in liveglogging, similar to a MST3K style with hilarious audio commentary. I wish them the best. See you tomorrow, folks. Same WoW channel.

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It was a rough June for the New York Metropolitans, ending with a loss to the Brewers that featured a sequence where Fernando Martinez dropped a pop-fly, Johan Santana walked the pitcher on four pitches, and Ryan "Hebrew Hammer" Braun doubled in three runs and scampered home on an errant throw. It was all wrapped up with a closed-door meeting where manager Jerry Manuel reportedly berated the team for losing and not accepting authority figures who seek out sex changes.

But it doesn't have to be all sad news, thanks to the Germans and their wonderful concept of schadenfreude. Just check out the poorly-cloaked glee in Will Leitch's latest piece for Daily Intel!

The worst is that the Mets haven't even looked particularly competitive. They scored a total of just three runs in the Yankees series and embarrassed themselves last night in Milwaukee, committing two ugly errors, one by Johan Santana, who lost to a journeyman 31-year-old making his second career start. The Mets are now two games under .500 and have been passed by the Marlins for second place. And the Braves are only a game and a half behind them.

Oh Will, as much as you claim to hate the Yankees and as hard as you try to be nice to the Mets, you simply cannot hide your general distaste for the flops in Flushing. Just come out of the closet and join us Mets-haters in a perfectly happy world that values a Queens collapse, even at such an early date.

Today, the Mets will try to wrap up this little series at Miller Park with a win before heading out to Pittsburgh for the holiday weekend. The Brewers, with a little help from the Giants two straight wins in St. Lou, sit alone in first place in the NL Central and send their young ace Yovani Gallardo to the hill with orders to secure the sweep. Follow along here if you want real info. Follow along here (points to glog) if you want comically awful reporting.

Courtesy of Tony Witrado and GEICO, here are your lineups:

BrewersMets
2B Craig Effin' CounsellSS Alex Cora
SS JJ Hardy2B Luis Castillo
LF Hebrew Hammer3B David Wright
1B VeggiedogsRF Ryan Church
RF Corey HartLF Nick Evans
3B Mat Gamel1B (haha) Daniel Murphy
C Jason KendallCF F-Mart
CF Jody GerutC Brian Schneider
RHP Yovani GallardoRHP Mike Pelfrey

Onto the glog! After the jump!

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Afternoon baseball has returned to its rightful place: Wednesday, y'all. Did you miss it as much as I did? Yes! Of course you did. So let's celebrate and bring back the Wednesday Afternoon Liveglog Club. Break out the blazers, friends. Here's your menu for the day, note that all times are Eastern Daylight Time because that time zone eats other time zones for breakfast with a side of crispy hash browns.

  • Nationals at Marlins, 12:10PM: The Nats and the Fish play a super-early game on getaway day in the scorching Miami heat so they can both hop on a jet out of town for....an off day tomorrow? Sure, makes sense. Josh Johnson's history against the Nationals has been rife with success, going 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA in six career starts.

  • Rays at Blue Jays, 1:07PM: Ahhhh you can call me Ray, you can call me Jay, but just don't call the Toronto offense worsening until they're in the bottom half in the AL in scoring. Which, if they continue to muster just one run per game, they'll reach within a week. James Shields is 4-2 lifetime against Ontario. Oh, and Happy Canada Day to Drew, go.jays.go, and even you, eyebleaf.

  • Red Sox at Orioles, 1:35PM: Josh Beckett totes his sixteen-inning scoreless streak (which came in two starts against the hapless Braves) into Camden Yards, mere hours after the Baltymore bats exploded on fire and incinerated the Boston bullpen. Something's gotta give,

  • Mets at Brewers, 2:05PM: I am going to resume my live-glogging duties and do my best to entertain you, as the Brew Crew looks to sweep the sad Mets out on their oft-injured rear ends. Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo, like a spicy mustard, is hot hot hot and looking to win his ninth game on the year.

  • Twins at Royals, 2:10PM: Minnesoter looks to country star Glen Perkins to take this rubber match while Kansas City sends Gil Meche out to toe the rubber. There are allegedly many drunk Twinkies fans out in Kauffman Stadium, possibly because folks in Minnesota have nothing better to do than load up the RV and tool down I-35 to Missouri.

  • Rockies at Dodgers, 3:10PM: Joe Torre's boys might finally be missing Manny Ramirez, having lost five of their past seven games and suffering the indignity of being shut out by Jason freaking Marquis in yesterday's loss. ManRam's suspension expires on Friday, so look for a rejuvenated and enthusiastic Manny to return to the lineup on Friday night.

  • Tigers at Athletics, 3:35PM: Justin Verlander is Superman at home and no good on the road. Still, the Coliseum is pretty much a pitcher's park, and Justin Verlander being a pitcher and all, I'm ready to give him the advantage over a light-hitting A's team. Tilde update: Magglio Ordonez has started three games in a row and seven of the last eight. You'll get your pieces of eight, Boras. Now cram it.
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Ask a layman like myself what a hip injury means and the first thing that comes to mind would be the fragile pelvis bones of our elderly relatives and how dangerous they can be when they suffer accidental falls. But talk to the training staff of a big league team about hip injuries and you're likely to hear tales of woe involving serious muscle tears to star players.

In fact, to call 2009 the "year of the labrum" would be an affront only to those folks who call 2009 the "year of the oblique". Somehow, every player who goes down with the hip ouchie seems to be a high-profile guy on a high-profile East Coast team.

So let's find out exactly what is hip with these recent victims:

  • Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: The news that Walkoff Walk favorite Mike Lowell went on the deel spurred this fancy listicle. After a painful 2008, Lowell had hip surgery in the off-season but continued to suffer this year, enough to have him on the shelf for a couple weeks to rest his weary labrum. Statistically, his performance this year has been about league average for a third baseman and once his little July vacation is up, he'll be back at third base for Boston. Anything to keep Youkilis at first base and David Ortiz from playing the field.

  • Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: I already had my emo moment about Alex this spring, even going so far to compare him to Bo Jackson, Mike Lowell, and even Albert Belle. I think a hot May for A-Rod brought me back in from the ledge as a Yankees fan, but his recent struggles have inspired certain brilliant folks to ponder whether the age 33 falloff is the problem. Perhaps, but Rodriguez came back too soon from rehab and started every game for a month. Maybe Joe Girardi didn't realize that playing a guy whose hip bone is connected to the muscle with some hardened chewing gum everyday was a bad idea.

  • Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: When Chase originally had his surgery to correct his painful labrum tear following the Phillies' World Series win last fall, some folks opined that in the worst case, he might be out until June. Maybe his young age had something to do with it, but the studly second baseman was back in action on April 5th and has already scored and driven in over 50 runs while posting a nearly 1.000 OPS. It would be foolish to call this a miracle of modern medicine, but it would not be foolish to praise Utley and the Phillies training staff for a quick and safe rehab.

  • Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets: I've always enjoyed Carlos' body of work, including his controversial decision to remain seated during "God Bless America" in protest to the USA's treatment of Puerto Rico. I don't agree with the reasoning but I cheer his courage and actions. Anyway, Delgado went down mid-May and is a member of the massive Met movement to medical facilities. His torn labrum is the same old, same old but as an older gentleman, his rehab will be slowed. Even if he comes back late this season, will it even be worth it for the Mets to wheel out a 37-year-old first baseman with declining skills? Especially if they're still a third place team by that point.

  • Brett Myers, SP, Phillies: Punch-drunk Brett went down at the end of May with the same affliction as his teammate Chase and saw the same doctor as his teammate Chase and underwent the same surgery as his teammate Chase. Myers might come back at the tail end of this season, but if he doesn't, the ouchie might have financial repercussions. He'll be a free agent this winter and not even The Accursed Scott Boras himself could sell damaged goods with a goatee like that.

So how do we fix these huge hip happenings and keep our favorite East Coast stars in the lineup? Maybe it's not time to start calling for the heads of assorted major league trainers, but in some situations, that might just be the hip move.

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Here's what happened in baseball last night when it killed the history:

Orioles 11, Red Sox 10: With a seemingly insurmountable nine-run lead in the seventh inning, the Red Sox kicked back and carried on as if Camden Yards was their own home park and the Orioles were their personal whipping boys. With a seven-game winning streak against the O's and having held the Baltimore boys to just one run in the last 16 innings of play, who can blame them? The answer is 'me', 'me' can blame them. The Boston bullpen imploded like a pinata stuffed with C-4 as the home team notched 5 runs in the seventh and 5 runs in the eighth to stage the massive comeback. Jonathan Papelbon blew his first career save against the O's as part of the biggest Red Sox meltdown in 20 years.

Braves 5, Phillies 4 (10): Martin Prado's big RBI single in the tenth inning, his fourth base knock of the game, helped the Braves win in walkoff fashion. Prado ended up with a double, a homer, and four RBI to go along with his career-high four hits. Atlanta overcame Mike Gonzalez' terrible eighth inning in which he allowed solo tater tots to John Mayberry and Pedro Feliz. I suppose Jeff Francouer's underwear is magical after all. UPDATE: Not if his wife was quicker to launder them.

Pirates 3, Cubs 0: In a battle of former Yankees pitchers, Ross Ohlendorf outdueled Ted Lilly and the Pirates got a very special run when Freddy Sanchez managed to score from second base on a passed ball. Brandon Moss struck out on a ball in the dirt, the ball bounced high in the air, and Sanchez slid in ahead of a Geo Soto throw that Lilly mishandled. Sanchez went 3-for-3 with two RBI while Ohlendorf's seven shutout innings featured 8 K's and no walks. That makes June the Cubs first losing month since August 2007.

Diamondbacks 6, Reds 2: Dan Haren, who somehow was part of a rumor that had him going to the Los Angeles Angels of Angelheim earlier in the day, pitched a freaking gem and even clobbered a ding-dong off Bronson Arroyo. Haren went seven innings and struck out nine free-swinging Redleg batters. His league-leading ERA is now a tidy 2.19 and would totally be starting the All Star Game if he got the same run support that Tim Lincecum's been getting. Can you believe that? The Diamondbacks are so bad offensively, I'm contrasting them with the light-hitting Giants.

Rays 4, Blue Jays 1: With two total runs scored in two nights against a rejuvenated Rays team, it's time I brought back the word "worsening" to describe the Blue Jays offensive output. Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and Willy Ay Ay Aybar all smacked solo ding dongs off Scott Richmond while Matt Garza muppeted his way to a win.