Rob Iracane: March 2009 Archives

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Kris Benson didn't stop yelling because that would have meant he lost the fight. As per Dallas area sandwich king Evan Grant, Benson has all but officially earned his spot in the Texas Rangers starting rotation after amassing a tidy 4.76 ERA in 17 spring innings pitched. Hey, it's under six! Sign him up! Manager Ron Washington opinionated that Benson was totally in his five and would relegate Scott Feldman's phone number to the speed dial on the bullpen phone. Feldman, you're f***ing out.

Ex-Pirate, ex-Met, ex-Oriole and ex-Phillies minor leaguer Benson hasn't had a good year since his age-30 season of 2004, which probably was an outlier performance considering his outrageous decline in strikeouts and increase in tater tots allowed since then. The CHONE projections expect him to have an abysmal 5.52 ERA and strike out just 36 hitters in 75 innings pitched. Which really is an improvement for the Rangers pitching staff!

So much for Texas having the best rated pitching prospects around. Ron Washington and the Rangers obviously think Scott Feldman isn't ready for primetime, while Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland will probably be aces up for the Oklahoma City Red Hawks in 2009. (Did you know that was the Rangers Triple-A affiliate? Me neither. Had to look it up. Thanks, Wikipedia.)

At least Kris' beloved spouse and noted famewhore Anna Benson has finally found a place that can appreciate her. After all, where else but Texas would an over-the-hill, beauty-pageant runner-up-finishin', brainless big-booby-monster like Anna be adored?

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you made them turn their heads:

Brewers 9, Mariners 7: I get the feeling that nobody's been reading this shoddily put together recaps about meaningless spring training games. I don't really feel bad. I barely put any effort into recapping games I didn't watch or didn't even see highlights for.

Indians 5, Padres 2: But in less than one week, real baseball is going to happen, real baseball that has real statistics and real action that counts in the real standings. It's the kind of realness that makes you want to watch a full hour of Baseball Tonight, or even better, the new MLB Network to hear recaps and see highlights.

Mets 2, Orioles 1: Call me a dreamer but the dawn of a new baseball season means that everyone has a chance to do well, even teams like the Mets and the Orioles who have shared a collective sadness for well over 20 years. But none of that matters! That's yesterday's news, people! And these recaps? Yesterday's nonsense.

Twins 3, Rays 2: I promise that once games actually start, I'm going to pay more attention to what happens with a focus on the heroes, the goats, and the game-changing plays. I'll also do my best to intersperse the recaps with plantain jokes. It's the least I can do for you, kind reader.

Tigers 3, Nationals 2: So bear with me for a couple more days with these silly recaps for meaningless games that have no bearing come Sunday night. It's what we have to do to fully prepare ourselves for a 2009 season that will be fruitful and possibly even better than expected....even for the Tigers.

Three weeks ago, Dodgers superfan Troy from West Virginia made his first ever pilgrimage to Glendale, Arizona, the new Dodgers spring training locale, to celebrate the upcoming division title and to petition G.M. Ned Colletti to resign Joe Beimel. He brought his crazy passion for Beimel with him, along with a wacky sign, because if I've learned anything from the movies, it's that people with signs get things done:


Unfortunately, it was not written in the stars for the southpaw Beimel to return to Los Angeles. The Nats mysteriously signed him despite having a laundry list of needs a mile long, with 'lefty specialist' far behind 'replacement level pitchers' and 'new general manager'. The Dodgers are now stuck working out Will Ohman to fill the LOOGY role. Hey Ned Colletti, I hear Shamwow guy has a decent left hook. Maybe he can throw a curveball.

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As per Mike Hindman at D Magazine's Inside Corner blog, ex-President and former team owner George W. Bush will throw out the first pitch at next Monday's home opener in Arlington. He hasn't shown up for a game at Arlington since 2000, when he was governor of Texas. Team owner Tom Hicks and team president Nolan Ryan invited W to open the 2009 season for the Rangers; if Bush's first pitch is a strike, he'll immediately make the roster as a fifth starter. If Bush's first pitch ends up in the dirt, he'll only end up as a long reliever.

Way back in the pre-Wild Card era of 1988, Bush headed up a team of investors to purchase the middling Texas franchise. He borrowed $600,000 to get his stake and ten years later, made a tidy 2300% profit after selling the reigning AL West division winning Rangers to Hicks. The Rangers have made exactly one playoff appearance since the sale and are obviously looking to parlay some of that ol' W magic into some new found success. I take it the entire Rangers ownership team is not familiar with Bush's VORP, or Value Over Replacement President.

UPDATE: Our wise and brilliant commenter The Colonel points out that in our earlier "When Will Dubya Show Up at a Baseball Game?" post, commenter spikerogan totally won with his prediction.

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With most teams scrambling to figure out who will pitch for them every fifth day and some teams struggling to name even their fourth starter, I thought now might be a good time to isolate the best rotations in all of baseball. After all, run prevention is the new black, and chicks totally dig the curveball. It's curved for her pleasure! How best to rank these quintets but to analyze their CHONE projections at Sean Smith's fine Baseball Projection website; I'll be listing each pitchers' predicted runs saved above replacement pitcher and adding them up because my understanding of statistics is similar to that of a chimpanzee. Actually, each 10 runs saved above replacement is worth about one extra win so that makes it easier for my primate brain to comprehend. I'll also throw in some of my own emotional prejudices to make it less of a pragmatic exercise. I'm not a robot, people.

Join me as I mix stat projections with sheer instinct as I count down the top eight collections of starting pitchers in the majors. Sorry, Orioles fans: you're the only team in the AL East that didn't make the cut, but if you follow my advice and send your hitters up north, you might have something to cheer for in 2009.

Onto the rankings!

  • 8. Toronto Blue Jays: (Halladay 50, Litsch 28, Purcey 20, Richmond 14, Cecil 11, ; total: 123): Thank goodness the Jays' pitching staff is solid because they've got that pesky "worsening offense" dragging them down. Roy Halladay will kick ass and take names, but if the Jays want to contend for third place again, lithe lefties David Purcey and Brett Cecil will have to make hay while the sun shines.

  • 7. Boston Red Sox: (Beckett 43, Matsuzaka 36, Lester 27, Penny 13, Wakefield 14; total: 133): This number can be significantly improved if Tito Francona has enough confidence in Clay Buchholz to give him a starting job after an atrocious 2008. Clay had an amazing spring and outperformed veteran Brad Penny in every way. All this competition could be for naught if Tim Wakefield's fingers finally fall off; you can't throw a knuckler without actual knuckles. Also, John Smoltz is a Red Sock now and could outperform Wakefield, Penny and Buchholz if he's healthy enough.

  • 6. San Francisco Giants: (Lincecum 41, Cain 36, Zito 14, Johnson 19, Sanchez 20; total: 130): Like Wakefield in the Sox rotation, Twitter dullard Barry Zito is the long pole in the tent in San Fran. If you or anyone you know have information that may lead to the location of Zito's fastball, last seen in Oakland circa 2005, please contact your local authorities. I expect more innings and better production out of Jonathan Sanchez than CHONE, though, because Bruce Bochy will want to work that young luscious arm as much as possible to help save his job.

  • 5. Atlanta Braves: (Vazquez 46, Lowe 36, Jurrjens 22, Kawakami 21, Campillo 13; total: 138): The X-factor in this rotation is rookie sensation Tommy Hanson, who might not come up until midseason, so I'll leave him out. Javy Vazquez and Derek Lowe are enough to give the team a chance for contention, but if the Braves had a healthy Tim Hudson to replace Jorge Campillo, this might have been the best rotation in the NL.

  • 4. Tampa Bay Rays: (Kazmir 38, Shields 43, Garza 31, Sonnanstine 34, Price 8; total: 154): David Price might not actually be the man with the plan for the fifth slot; Jeff Niemann will probably start out the year in that position. But if Price can be even half as good as he was in October 2008, the Rays have a loaded staff to roll out every single day of the week. All this even after trading Edwin Jackson to the Tigers, natch. They've got the best depth despite not having a true Cy Young candidate.

  • 3. Arizona Diamondbacks: (Webb 52, Haren 48, Jon Garland 19, Max Scherzer 19, Doug Davis 14; total: 152): Speaking of Cy Young candidates, Brandon Webb has finished in the top two of the voting for three straight years, winning the award back in 2006. Look out for 28 year old Danny Haren though; his strikeouts keep going up and his walks keep going down. This might be his turn at stardom. Also, Doug Davis had cancer.

  • 2. Los Angeles Angels: (Santana 42, Weaver 37, Lackey 37, Saunders 27, Escobar 26; total: 169): Good news/bad news. Everyone in the rotation has vet talent and experience shutting down AL hitters. Everyone in the rotation has a big fat red flashing light that says "creampuff". It's a veritable MASH unit, people! Without any injuries, this is the best rotation in baseball because the weakest link isn't too weak. But Ervin Santana has a sprained UCL, Jered Weaver has shoulder tightness, John Lackey is on the DL with a forearm strain, Kelvim Escobar is rehabbing a torn labrum, and Joe Saunders was raped by a wallaby. Nick Adenhart starts the year in the rotation; if he ends up with 15+ starts because of injuries to others, I'll move this rank all the way down to #8.

  • 1. New York Yankees: (Sabathia 59, Burnett 39, Wang 22, Pettitte 24, Chamberlain 30; total: 174): The Yankees, however, have a slightly better contingency plan if (when) A.J. Burnett hits the disabled list. One of Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves and yes, even Kei Igawa should be ready to make the two hour drive from Scranton to New York just in case. I don't buy the high walk rate and subpar ERA for Chien-Ming Wang; in fact, I think he and the rest of the Yankees' staff will do the best job preventing tater tots and free passes. They'd better anyway because their defense up the middle and in the outfield isn't going to win any Gold Gloves.

So despite numerous calls for my head, I refuse to give up the abject homerism and have predicted that my favorite team has the best collection of arms in the game. I'm not the only one who thinks so! But really, prove me wrong: which of these or the other 22 rotations do you think is the best around?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user NJ Tech Teacher)

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while they made you feel small:

Red Sox 3, Phillies 1: Jon Lester is in one-quarter season form, throwing five solid innings and allowing just one run despite putting ten men on base. The Phillies only run was scored on a bases-bloated walk, which would have been so much more exciting in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game. Chris Carter hit his sixth tater tot of the spring proving once again that something is out there.

Tigers 5, Braves 4: Jeff Francouer hit his first ding-dong of the spring; he and Casey Kotchman chased Jeremy Bonderman from the game after just four outs and a whopping 54 pitches thrown. He's probably next on the list of Tigers pitchers heading for the disabled list, most likely with a bruised ego. Javy Vazquez pitched well.

Orioles 5, Mets 1: While their new stadium was busy getting its cherry popped with a silly college game, the Mets got shut down by a parade of seven Orioles pitchers, including a perfect one inning start by rookie Koji Uehara. Uehara was done after one inning because of torrential downpours. Life in Florida...sounds like fun without retractable roofs! O's outfielder Luke Scott hit his fourth tater tot of the spring.

Rays 11, Reds 2: Scott Kazmir gave up a two-run happy jack to Jay Bruce but made up for it by driving in three runs of his own. A two RBI double off a troubled Bronson Arroyo and an RBI single later basically told his teammates, "no, I don't need the other eight runs, chaps." Or something to that effect. Matt Joyce and Gabe Kapler added two RBI.

Marlins 5, Nationals 2: All you need to know about this game: "Julian Tavarez started for the Nationals because the scheduled starter Daniel Cabrera developed neck spasms overnight after taking part in bunting and hitting drills on Saturday in Viera, Fla." It sucks to be a Nationals fan, y'all.

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Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has been barnstorming with Japan's national team in the WBC for so long, he lost out on all the fun at Mariners camp. He's missed Russell Branyan leaving upper-deckers in manager Don Wakamatsu's private bathroom, Erik Bedard giving Brandon Morrow the hotfoot at least twice a week, and the time Adrian Beltre fell asleep in the back of the team bus and ended up in Cody, Wyoming. That was quite the gaffe, Adrian!

So our favorite Seattle beat writer Geoff Baker finally had a chance to converse with Ichiro (well, to converse with Ichiro's interpreter) for the first time since last September. He skipped the nonsense "how are you feeling" questions and went right for the meat of the matter. Baker asked about Ichiro's reactions to former teammate J.J. Putz' comments that the M's had some stubborn players who weren't "team guys", citing Ichiro's lack of leadership.

"This is major league baseball,'' Ichiro said. "We're all professionals here. Is it really at a level where I have to explain to other people what the reasons are that I do some things? We're all professionals. It makes me feel like..that's like the level of a Mom telling a child 'This is why I do things.'

"So, the problem once again is, we were still at that level. Maybe that was the problem. That we were still at that level. Isn't what a professional is, that you look at other things and you try to (borrow) other things by watching and learning from others?

"This is so silly that I hate to be wasting time with this kind of thing,'' he added. "I'm surprised at this. I'm surprised.''

Burn! Either Ichiro is truly a professional and private player in the mold of Cal Ripken who prefers to let his bat and glove do the talking and sleep on separate floors from the rest of the team in hotels guarded by a dozen black ninjas, or he's just a total asshole. You decide! He also said he never felt like he was a leader of the Japanese team either, citing a more individual approach to success:

"We're baseball players ... who want to improve themselves as baseball players and also want to improve themselves as human beings. That's what's important."

This is similar to the time Ossie Vitt called out Ty Cobb for being a sour prima donna on the 1915 Tigers, except that Cobb responded by calling Vitt a dastardly coward and shooting him in the kneecap.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you lied in your hospital bed:

Yankees 10, Phillies 2: WFC stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley collected solo ding-dongs off Yanks starter Joba Chamberlain but the homer parade didn't step off until New York got into the act. Hideki Matsui, Cody Ransom, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera each homered off the Phillies pitchers, including Carlos Carrasco, who was charged for four runs in five innings. About Utley and Howard's shots, Chamberlain said, "They hit good pitches in hitter's counts. That's what they get paid to do." Heck yes, and you get paid to aim your fastball for Utley's graham cracker hip, Joba.

Mariners 10, Royals 9: Mike Sweeney drove in Ronny Cedeno in the ninth to finish up a three-run comeback for the Mariners. Russell Branyan, my starting third baseman in the WoW fantasy league, hit his fifth tater dong of the spring and that still means something even if it came off His Royal Highness Prince Sidney Ponson of Slobenia.

Blue Jays 7, Braves 5: Derek Lowe looks like a good investment, Braves fans. Dude struck out seven Jays in six innings and, despite the lack of firepower on that Toronto team, it's still a real mitzvah for the aging wormballer. Braves rookie CF Jordan Schafer's two hits raised his spring average to .383; he also notched an assist throwing out a runner at home. Home plate, not his two-month rental in Kissimmee.

Brewers 11, Rangers 10: Did you know Braden Looper juiced, y'all? Ferreals, as per beat writer Anthony Witrado, Looper was overly excited for his big start and surrendered a bunch of runs because of it. Sez Braden, "Obviously it didn't go quite as good as I wanted it to, but I felt good physically. I just wasn't able to make enough good pitches down in the zone. I felt most of them I was making decent pitches but they were missing by a little bit, so they were jam shots or bloopers." Mike Cameron scored the winning run from third on a wild pitch. Walkoff Wild Pitch has a nice ring to it.

Marlins 11, Orioles 6: Emilio Bonifacio had five RBI. Anibal Sanchez allowed eleven hits and six runs in five innings and still got the win. Anibal, you owe Emilio a five-dollar footlong falafel wrap from Al Sa'idway.

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While discussing my A.L. East preview with resident weekend guy and Blue Jays fan Lloyd the Barber in the Walkoff Walk break room, I had a thought that might help the division reach its highest potential. The Blue Jays and the Orioles should combine their best parts and create a fourth super team in the division. After all, the Jays have an above average, deep rotation while the Orioles have the bats in the lineup to hang with the big three in the division. Just imagine how many games a team with both Roy Halladay and Nick Markakis could win! Maybe even 90!

Of course, there are obstacles to this happening. To that end, I propose the following:

  • The Orioles offense packs their bags and heads for the border. You're going to switch places with the Jays offense to create a supergroup in Toronto called the Bloorioles. The Bloorioles offense of Markakis, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters will score 900 runs while the pitching staff of Halladay, Purcey, and Cecil will allow just 700, which should be good enough for 92 wins or so. Cito Gaston will remain as manager but J.P. Ricciardi will be replaced by a sentient ice cream cone with full control over roster moves and toppings.

  • This leaves an even shittier team in Baltimore, made up of original O's pitchers and Jays hitters. Sorry, Radhames Liz and Lyle Overbay, you're bunking together now! They will be called the LOLJays and will exist only to farm out 80 easy wins to the other four teams in the division. Sort of like human beings in the Matrix. Or not. I fell asleep in that movie. Fans will still show up for games because the stadium is decent enough, and the ticket prices have been lowered to 35 cents a seat. Also, free pit beef on weeknights.

  • The American League playoffs will now simply take the four best records in the league and ignore division winners. It is assumed, of course, that the Yankees, Sox, Rays, and Bloorioles will fill out these four spots, but if the A's sneak past the Sox, nobody will mind. Except the sentient ice cream cone, who has now been devoured by a peckish Theo Epstein.

  • At the end of the season, whichever team finishes in fourth place must gut its team of its worst players and merge them with the LOLJays in what will eventually become the worst team in baseball history. They'll make the 1899 Cleveland Spiders look like the 1976 Montreal freakin Canadiens.

It's a can't-miss plan that totally doesn't reek of homerism and possibly ill-fated hubris that will probably turn out to bite me in the ass later this year!

(I promise that after today, I will shut up and go back to the good old days when I wasn't allowed to write about the Yankees and Kris wasn't allowed to write about the Red Sox. I am a baseball fan first and a Yankees fan second and I owe it to our readers to provide fair and balanced coverage of every team. But really, I don't like Baltimore.)

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Cover your heads, rest of baseball. The American League East placed four of its teams among the top six in last year's final Hit List rankings at Baseball Prospectus and the whole division just got a whole lot better. Things look so grim for the A.L. West and A.L. Central in 2009; it's possible that the five teams in the A.L. East finish with better records than every other team save for the division winners. Tigers fans, Mariners fans, Indians fans, I say to you this: don't expect to win many inter-division games on the east coast this year. Yes, even against the Orioles.

New additions to the division are highlighted by the triumvirate of Yankee excess, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. But hey, oldsters like John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Jason Isringhausen showed up on a lark, and, most interesting of all, J.P. Ricciardi added zero free agents. The Xtreme Depressionⓒ is hitting Canada too, y'all! With additions come subtractions too. Say goodbye to Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, Mike Mussina, and Sidney Ponson. I guess the other teams lost players too, but who really gives a darn about Coco Crisp? Amirite?

So strap on your clapping gloves, people, and get ready to witness the audacity of high hopes, the apocalypse of high salaries, and the anxiety of high VORPs. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2009 American League East, after the jump:

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you were making bets on kentucky derby day.:

Red Sox 2, Reds 1: Clay Buchholz continued to make John Smoltz and Brad Penny look like old farts, throwing six solid innings and lowering his ERA this spring to a microscopic 0.46. Someone named Aaron Reza hit a two-run dubble off Bill Bray to win the game in the ninth.

Tigers 10, Mets 6: Remember yesterday when Kris promised he would switch his antipathy from Mets fans to Cardinals fans for 2009? Well that only holds true for him. I still want to take every opportunity to tease the Mets faithful. It's just so easy! Oliver Perez walked six hitters and allowed six runs in just over three innings of work. See?

Rangers 8, Diamondbacks 5: I hope little Ronny Warshington isn't thinking about taking any playing time away from Chris Davis. With Andruw Jones rumours floating all around, Davis did his best to prove that he should be the every day first baseman, cracking a tiebreaking seventh inning tetra tot and later saving a small English bulldog from running into traffic outside Surprise Stadium.

Indians 8, Padres 4: Carl Pavano became the first Indians pitcher to go six innings this spring while Andy Marte hit a two-run dinger to lead Cleveland to a tidy win. Not only was Pavano durable yesterday, he was good enough for manager Eric Wedge to dub him the third starter once the season starts. Good luck with that, Wedgie.

The baseballblogosphere lost one of its most clever and most thoughtful voices on Monday with the passing of John Brattain, 43. Brattain most notably wrote at The Hardball Times, his personal blog Ground Rule Trouble, and Baseball Think Factory; his tribute page at BBTF has garnered over 500 comments already. For a sample of his clever writing, head over to Baseball Analysts who have reprinted Brattain's piece on Philadelphia A's player Robert Lee "Indian Bob" Johnson from December 2005. Also, our friend Jonah Keri has a spirited remembrance of his friend John at his own website.

Online baseball writing is definitely a young person's game, so to lose someone so well known and so prolific is a total shock to the system. We're just not prepared to see someone go so soon. Even when talking about mainstream media folks who have been doing their best work online, we've got young folks like Derrick Goold, Tyler Kepner, and Geoff Baker outshining their older, crustier counterparts. We never stop and think about the fragility of human beings because we're too busy worrying about our favorite team's chances or whether or not our favorite beat writer is missing the boat with his latest column. Well now, Brattain's passing has squelched our best-laid plans for baseball writing and forced us to both recognize the preciousness of mortality and salute a life well-lived.

We at Walkoff Walk are saddened to hear this news and wish Brattain's family the best in these difficult times.

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New Jersey state senator Raymond Lesniak has decided that with his state in financial distress, it's about time to start legalizing naughty things just so they can be taxed. Today's money grab involves legalized sports gambling; Lesniak filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn a federal ban on betting on sporting events. He cites millions of untaxed dollars heading out of his fine state:

"Sports betting in the U.S. is unregulated, untaxed and illegal," Lesniak said at a Statehouse news conference. "Rather than supporting thousands of jobs, economic activity and tourism, the federal ban supports offshore operators and organized crime."

Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana are currently exempt from the ban; only Nevada has legalized the practice and we all know what a wonderful place that is to live. Lesniak claims that the law unconstitutionally regulates commerce and discriminates against the forty-six states that aren't exempt from the law. New Jersey had a chance to legalize sports gambling when the ban was enacted in 1992, but a referendum vote never left the Legislature. Thank goodness, because otherwise Atlantic City would have become a haven for crack addicts, junkie gamblers, and hookers. Oh...wait.

Legalized sports gambling would generate tons of tax dollars but that doesn't make it the right thing to do. Baseball has had its problems with gambling before; expanding the reach of betting would only increase the temptations of modern-day Pete Roses to do something unsavory. Besides, who in their right mind would want to bet on baseball? Could there possibly be a less predictable sport on a day-to-day basis? With one hundred and sixty-two games going down in just six months, it's far more common for a team's high-powered offense to strand an inordinate number of runners, or for an ace pitcher to have a bad day and poop the mound.

Count me out of sports gambling entirely, whether it's legal or illegal. I wager enough as it is, with my entire blood pressure rate dependent on the success or failures of my favorite teams.

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Let's take a hypothetical look at Ace Pitch-a-Lot, the number one starter on a hypothetical team that had great success in a hypothetical professional baseball league in 2008 and has recently made news for having arm problems. Let's say that Ace has had inflammation in his pitching elbow for a few weeks but got an MRI exam that showed no structural damage. So when asked by a hypothetical beat reporter, Ace said he didn't feel tightness anymore and, with a little bit of rest, should be ready to make his start on Opening Day.

Well of course he's not going to go out there and tell a beat reporter looking for a break that he's lost velocity because his tendons have become about as durable as a piece of braised lamb shank. Of course, I'm talking about Cole Hamels, and of course, his tendons are (probably) A-OK. Who am I to judge whether or not Hamels is going to make 35 starts in 2009? And does it really matter?

He's a professional pitcher; throwing baseballs is how he makes a living. I don't begrudge him for keeping the truth about his various pains under his hat. I don't even begrudge the beat writers for reprinting the truths and would-be untruths. I blame people like me who make a big deal out of rumors and speculation surrounding very specific ligaments and muscles for the benefits of my fandom or (even worse) my fantasy team. If Cole Hamels wants to pay lip service to appease beat writers who are scrounging for a break just to appease readers like me, so be it. Aaron Harang, too, who says this when asked if he's hurting:

"Not at all," he said. "It's spring training. I'm working on things. You've got to fine tune all your pitches. I'm going to keeping throwing a pitch no matter the results."

I pity Aaron. If any pitcher has an excuse for arm soreness, it's Harang, who memorably came into relieve an extra innings game last May and threw 63 pitches. On two days rest. He spent the rest of the season stinking up Cincinnati, which is pretty hard to do considering the town's reputation, and ended 2008 with an ERA a full run higher than that of his previous two seasons. Is Harang broken? I don't know. And now, I don't care if he keeps his hurts under his hat because it's no longer my business to know the truth. I'm ready to forgive pitchers for playing coy; it's time for me to be cool with what should remain a private sekrit between an employee and his employer, and expounded on only by experts.

(picture courtesy of Flickr use nelgdev)

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you were watchin' old Cronkite on the seven o'clock news.:

Red Sox 7, Tigers 6: Brandon Lyon is picking up right where retired Tigers closer Todd Jones left off, allowing four straight ding-dongs to the Red Sox hitters in the sixth inning. Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa all went deep off the former Red Sock and yet the Tigers only lost by one mere run. Brad Penny threw three strong innings for Boston.

Angels 10, Dodgers 4: Manny Ramirez DH'ed and went 0-for-3 in his gallant return from a hamstring injury. Life can't be all peaches and cream for Dodgers manager Joe Torre, though, as team ace Chad Billingsley left the game early with a strained groin. Whoopsie-doo!

Phillies 8, Yankees 3: Chien-Ming Wang and J.A. Happ dueled for five innings and then the Phils opened up a run assault on the Yankees pen. Brian Bruney and Dandy Don Giese gave up five runs in two combined innings, while Happ got a little bit closer to winning the fifth rotation spot with his solid outing.

Rockies 7, Brewers 1: Yovani Gallardo, who threw five no-hit innings against the D-backs in his last start, failed in his second test this spring by allowing a happy jack to Sal Fasano. Gallardo ended up giving up six runs in five innings. Ubaldo Jimenez was super sweet and I hope you got him in your fantasy leagues, dear reader.

Cubs 20, A's 5: Well that's just embarrassing, people. Paul Bako notched four hits and three RBI despite not entering the game until the sixth inning. That's what happens when you use a TomTom GPS to get to the park instead of a Garmin.

As if hiring a jingoistic rabble-rouser to be your international spokesperson for the World Baseball Classic wasn't bad enough, Bud Selig had to take it one step further and force a tired and weary Tommy Lasorda to endure a television interview while perched on a stool in the blazing sun of Dodger Stadium. Here's video evidence of what can happen when you pump an 81-year-old full of capicola and cheap house wine and ask him tough questions via a satellite hookup:


(We owe a Coke Zero to the good folks at Bugs and/or Cranks and the lusty lovers at Deadspin)

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Remember when Jaime McCourt, wife of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and new team president, chose to undermine then-free-agent Manny Ramirez by comparing his salary demands to the amount of money it would take to build 50 youth baseball fields? Well, the Dodgers eventually mended fences with Manny and super agent Scott Boras by bringing the charismatic slugger back into the fold for $45 million over two years. Well, really it was $44 million, because the McCourts insisted Manny donate $1 million to the Dodgers Dream Foundation to help build those fields for underprivileged cancer kids with twelve toes or something.

Fast forward two weeks and the public-relations-challenged legal department at the Players Union have decided now would be a good time to file a grievance against the Dodgers and twenty-one other teams for these so-called forced charitable donations.

"Players are free to choose to make donations to club charities, but clubs can't require such donations by contract," union general counsel Michael Weiner said Saturday. "Provisions that require players to make contributions to clubs' charities are unenforceable under the basic agreement. It's not a subject that the Basic Agreement permits individual bargaining on."

Article II of baseball's labor agreement states contracts can include special covenants "which actually or potentially provide additional benefits to the player."

So basically, a team can include special wording in contracts that allows for luxury boxes, use of corporate jets, and unlimited baskets of plantains. Weiner claims that forced charitable donations are not beneficial to players, and he's right, especially in Manny's case. Charity feels best when it is not an contractual obligation, but rather emerges out of the kindness of one's heart. To write it off merely as a public relations benefit as McCourt does is dishonest and, frankly, despicable:

"I have not seen the grievance, but I find it odd that in these challenging times, that we encounter a complaint against the idea of players giving back to the communities that support them," he said in a statement. "We believe there are qualities that represent the Dodger way. The player's contributions to the team, appreciation of the fans, and impact on such a supportive community all combine to help our organization live up to our core values. We seek players who embrace these values. The Ramirez provision is a blank line to be filled in with whatever number a player chooses."

Forcing players to make a donation is one thing, but forcing players to make a donation specifically to an organization that serves first to stroke the collective ego of McCourt and his wife is simply miserable. The McCourts claim that they donate money to the foundation out of their own pockets, but don't make their tax returns public, so we have no idea what percentage of their own earnings go towards charitable contributions. So while we fans can track every dollar Manny makes in salary and used grill sales, his employers continue to preen about how wonderfully giving they are and prepare for their ascent into heaven. Or for their reincarnation, depending on what exactly they believe in.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you were running across a frozen lake:

Marlins 2, Tigers 0: Florida starter Ricky Nolasco and two of his bullpen pals combined to no-hit the Tigers, still lacking four regulars from the World Baseball Classic. Nolasco faced the minimum over seven innings, erasing both baserunners allowed on double plays. Yes, even with stone hands Dan Uggla manning second base. Marlins Tigers catcher Matt Treanor was scratched with groin tightness, which doesn't sound particularly good for him, considering his past.

Reds 6, Pirates 0: Continuing the no-hit theme, Aaron Harang went six innings without allowing a hit to the Pirates or using his fastball. Says manager Dusty Baker, "He was sharp. He had a great breaking ball. Threw some good inside fast balls. That's as good an outing as I've seen in long time. He should feel very proud himself. Hopefully, we can go from here." Glad you can identify his strengths, Dusty. Now try not to bring him into an extra inning game as a reliever just two days after a start, mmkay?

Angels 18, Royals 12: What, did both teams miss all their extra points? Ho, ho! Football joke! Lots of runs scored, eh governor? Starters John Lackey and Horacio Ramirez both got pounded like delicious veal cutlets, allowing 16 combined runs and 20 combined hits in six combined innings. Hey, don't let these two share any more pitchers mounds the rest of the year. Angels first baseman Matt Brown went an astonishing 6-for-6 with two ding-dongs, a triple and three singles, and he drove in three runs to run his team-leading RBI total to 14 this spring. The teams combined for 13 tater tots, mostly because the wind was gusting up to 36 MPH out to the fences.

Rockies 4, Indians 3: I guess Cliff Lee is making progress fine-tuning his fastball. After a few starts of getting hammered by Cactus League hitters, he mowed down Rockies hitters, allowing just two runs in five innings. He'll be ready to defend his AL Cy Young award come opening day. And if he's not, then they'll throw him in Lake Erie.

Japan 9, Team America 4: Well, that happened.

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You had a tough day of lolling around watching lazy games of basketball, fella. Time to put your excitement hat on and enjoy some truly invigorating tournament action: the second semi-final of the World Baseball Classic! Last night, Korea nearly mercy-ruled Team Venezuela (unfortunately, there is no mercy rule in the final four) so the winner of tonight's Japan-USA tilt will take on Lloyd's second favorite team in the championship game on Monday. Heartburn-inducing speedballer Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the hill for Japan, while Team America counters with southern fried Roy Oswalt. Get the Maalox ready, you're going to need it.

Team America players with success against Dice-K include Derek Jeter (4-for-12 with two tater tots), Brian Roberts (6-for-12 with two doubles), and Curtis Granderson (4-for-9 with a homer and a double). Of the NL'ers on the squad, only Ryan Braun (2-for-4) and Brian McCann (0-for-2) have ever faced Matsuzaka; Adam Dunn, Jimmy Rollins, and David Wright have never matched up against the Japanese ace. Hint: he throws really fast, but let him get behind in the count and either sit on the fastball or let him walk you. It's gold! Otherwise, in limited appearances against Oswalt, Japan's MLB contingent is a combined 5-for-14 with 3 strikeouts and an RBI (Ichiro has four of the hits).

Roy is prepared to notch up to 100 pitches if he needs it. That's the limit on fragile pitcher's arms in the semifinals, and manager Davey Johnson will want to use as much of that as possible, if only to keep Jeremy Guthrie and his 14.73 ERA out of this vitally important game.

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With Japan beating Korea 6-2 last night to earn the top seed out of Pool 1, the second round of the World Baseball Classic is over and the semi-final matchups are set. Korea will face Venezuela tomorrow night and Japan takes on the United States on Sunday night, with the winners of those two games advancing to the finals on Monday night. All three games take place at Dodger Stadium, under the watchful eye of Pasta Pete himself, octogenarian ogler Tommy Lasorda.

Don't get too excited, Team America fans who are happy that Evan Longoria has joined up (he replaces an achy-breaky Chipper Jones). They'll have to face Japanese ace Dice-K, who eats pieces of Adam Dunn for breakfast. We could have had Derrek Lee playing first to replace an injured Kevin Youkilis, but we're stuck with Dunn because Lee values the health of his dumb quad or something. Japan is having their own first basemen injury problems. They lost stud Shuichi Murata last night with an ouchie hamstring; Murata leads the team with two tater tots.

The new double elimination format of the Classic has seen Japan and Korea face off four times already; they've split so far. They also faced off three times in the 2006 WBC with Korea winning the first two of those games but Japan winning the important semifinal matchup that propelled them to the 2006 title. If they both win this weekend, they'll meet for a mind-boggling fifth time this WBC in the championship game. Think their rivalry is contained between the foul lines and neatly-raked warning track-cum-zen garden? Think again:

"Because of history," says Nam Hyung Kim, a baseball writer with SportsChosun of Seoul, "there's bad memories."

That will happen when one country invades, then annexes, another, as Japan did to Korea, leaving only when expelled after World War II. Even now the suspicions and distrust run deep, leaving the nations as reluctant allies. But if the bad blood started with history, it also has become territorial and cultural. And the baseball field has not been immune to those tensions.

"It goes back to our history and tradition," agreed former Dodgers pitcher Jae Seo, who planted a South Korean flag on the mound at Angel Stadium after his country beat Japan in the quarterfinal round of the 2006 WBC, a ritual the Koreans repeated -- much to Japan's anger -- after beating Japan again this week.

At least Ichiro is reluctantly accepting his fate:

Ichiro, the Seattle Mariners' star who once called a loss to South Korea "the most humiliating day of my career" and said his goal was to prove that Korea won't be able to beat Japan "in the next 30 years." He now appears resigned to the fact the two countries, in baseball at least, might as well propose a peace.

"There is a destiny," he said through an interpreter. "It's like a girl you said goodbye to, and then you bump into the same girl again on the street so many times because there's a destiny to meet again.

"Might as well get married if we are going to meet this frequently."

Ichiro, taking baseball metaphors one step too far since 1999.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you couldn't make out any lyrics to this song:

Nationals 5, Orioles 4: Add Shairon Martis to the short list of folks who could round out the Washington rotation. The 21-year-old righty from Curacao allowed just two runs on two hits in five solid innings, while Anderson Hernandez scampered home for the winning run on an Oriole error. Martis didn't appear in the most recent WBC for the Netherlands but memorably no-hit Panama three years ago in a game shortened by the mercy rule. Seven-ninths of a no-hitter in metric is still a no-hitter.

Phillies 5, Marlins 1: Country Joe Blanton did his best yesterday to help Phillies fans forget about Cole Hamels' questionable elbow, going six strong innings and allowing just one silly hit. Ryan Howard and Marcus Giles provided the offense with RBI dubbles, and Brad Lidge sowed his royal oats in a scoreless seventh. In other Phillies news, J.C. Romero returned to Clearwater from his stint in the WBC and will enjoy soaking up the springtime sunshine for a bit.

Cardinals 9, Rays 7: Perhaps you heard a bit of this game yesterday when you switched on the Purdue-Northern Iowa college hoops tilt on the March Madness on Demand video site. Seems that CBS somehow had the baseball audio feed with the basketball video feed, a mashup that's about one-tenth as delicious as chocolate and peanut butter. The hoops audio got restored within five minutes. Oh, and Scott Kazmir got smacked around, allowing ding-dongs to Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick.

Mets 12, Astros 1: Holy crap, the Astros are 1-16-3 this spring. No wonder Mike Pelfrey threw six innings, giving up just one run. Heck, I think Walter Johnson himself could beat this year's Astros and he's been dead for decades! Even Livan Hernandez could beat this year's Astros and he's out of baseb...what's that? He's the Mets' fifth starter? Bwahahhaah!

Dodgers 3, Rockies 2: Clayton Kershaw spent his 21st birthday facing the minimum fifteen batters over five shutout innings, then went out for a nice dinner with his girlfriend and her parents. He claims to have never had a drink in his life, but tonight, Andre Ethier will take him to the local Mexi-Japanese fusion joint in Phoenix for some really good sipping Añejo and some ahi ancho taco hats.

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The American League Central is not nearly as miserable as their National League counterparts, probably because they only have five teams worth of rosters to fill up. Actually, despite the fact that no team broke the 90-win barrier last year, no team failed to win 70 games either. I'm calling this league a toss-up in 2009 and predicting that the difference between first and last place will be less than fifteen games.

Some of the exciting new arrivals in the division include two ex-Cubs who have joined up with Cleveland in Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood, White Sox rookie second basemen Chris Getz, and, for some strange reason, Sidney Ponson. The Royals will try to get something positive out of the hero pitcher of the Netherlands WBC team despite his AMAZINGLY WELL-DOCUMENTED POOR RECORD IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES, not to mention his numerous legal troubles, including the infamous judge-punching incident. Also, Adam Everett switched teams and is now a Tiger. That's fun.

So join me after the jump and read up on the division that any team could win, if they only signed Barry Bonds and Pedro Martinez to shore up their weak points:

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you were sobbing all alone:

Giants 8, Cubs 6: Alfonso Soriano started the onslaught of offense off starter Tim Lincecum with a first inning tater tot. Lincecum was eventually chased after allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings. Sounds like digital Lincecum avatar didn't establish his dominance with his fastball as he was instructed! He's probably wandering around the clubhouse sans towel right now! Cats and dogs, laying down together! It's the end of times!

Pirates 4, Twins 3 (10): Pirate Anderson Machado singled in Jeff Salazar for the winning run in the tenth. Twin starter Francisco Liriano had his first bad outing of the spring, walking four but only allowing one earned run. Everyone's favorite outfielder Eric Hinske made his gallant return to the Pittsburgh lineup after recovering from a borkened ribcage, going 0-for-2 and only pissing off seven of his teammates with his crummy attitude.

Rangers 9, Padres 4: The big news out of the Cactus League yesterday is that Texas slugger Josh Hamilton laid down a bunt that turned into a big Ranger rally. His first inning bunt single was gutsy and showed his true character of overcoming tough situations like drug addictions and third basemen who play way too far back. Fella went 3-for-3 while starter Brandon McCarthy threw four hitless innings. Wow, really? The Padres must be stinkerino.

Rays 7, Reds 3: A seven-run fifth inning carried Tampa Bay and their pitcher Jason Hammel to a tidy win over the Fightin' Dusty Bakers. Hammel went four innings, allowing three runs, and will probably get the fifth starter slot because the Rays don't want to rush David Price's precious development. Edinson Volquez threw three scoreless innings despite putting 8 runners on base and pitching with a small dog on a leash on the mound with him.

Venezuela 10, USA 6: In a game marred by rain and the fact that the US had exactly one player on its bench, the Venezuelan team advances as the winners of the round and will face the loser of the Japan/Korea match, since Japan beat and therefore eliminated Cuba. ADIOS, FIDEL!

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It's a sad day in Houston, as Astros third baseman Aaron Boone addressed a press conference to announce that he'd have open heart surgery because of a pre-existing condition involving his bicuspid aortic valve. I'm only a Doctor of Blog Title Alliteration, not a Doctor of Medicine, so I have no idea what that means. However, it's obviously a far more serious condition than Ryan Braun's silly intercostal sprain, which totally sounds made up. Get over yourself, Braun! Aaron's got a faulty aortic valve!

This won't be emergency surgery, but it's enough to end Boone's season and most likely, his career. If you thought things couldn't get more difficult for the third worst organization in baseball, think again: their biggest offseason acquisition was Pudge, the Pedro rumours were false, and now Geoff Blum is now your everyday third baseman. Says Aaron:

"I have been diagnosed with a heart condition involving my aorta and aortic valve," he said. "I'll need surgery to correct the problem. Initially my doctors thought I could delay corrective surgery for some time, but because of some variations in my condition, they are now advising me to deal with the problem sooner rather than later.

"Am I going to recover well enough to play baseball again? Probably. Will I play baseball again? I don't know at this time. We'll cross that bridge when I get there."

Here's hoping that Boone has a successful surgery, recovers quickly, and rejoins the Astros in 2011 to see them finish in sixth place for a third consecutive season.

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With the USA down 5-3 to Puerto Rico heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, I was all set to write up my take on the WBC entitled, "Top Five Big Fat Reasons Team America Pooped the Bed" (#3: Adam Dunn was too busy clogging the bases). But then, something very unusual happened: a Met had a clutch hit. David Wright's walkoff single pushed the United States to a win over their stunned protectorate and carried the red, white, and blue (as opposed to the Puerto Rican blue, white, and red...you've got it backwards, sillies!) into the semifinal round out in Los Angeles. They'll join Venezuela, Korea, and the winner of tonight's rematch of the 2006 WBC title game between Japan and Cuba.

With the bases bloated and one run already in on a walk to Kevin Youkilis, Wright blooped a single down the right field line that brought in Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. Face-of-the-game Derek Jeter and the rest of the team piled out of the dugout in celebration. Think about it: that's Yankees players and Red Sox players rejoicing together; Mets hitters and Phillies base-runners embracing in pure joy over a dramatic win. It's enough to make a fan's head explode, probably because it all happened without any pesky Twins players.

Fernando Cabrera, a two-time WBC competitor and current Red Sox minor leaguer, blew the save and took the loss. Jonathan Broxton picked up the win despite allowing a ninth-inning run; the U.S. starter Ted Lilly, typically seen watching home runs flying out of Wrigley Field, was abused for three runs in three innings thanks to tater tots by Alex Rios and Carlos Delgado. The US struggled bringing in the runs for eight innings: they left ten runners on base (four by Youkilis, who also had a gigantic solo dong).

I guess the only real disappointing part about last night's game was David Wright's inability to draw a walk and keep the possibility of a WBC game-ending walkoff walk off the table. What does Wright have against treadmill-running shrimp?

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, if you gotta go, go now.


  • WHAT does Chipper Jones have against Toronto? Perhaps our own Lloyd can take him out for a night on Bloor Street next time ol' Chip ventures across the border.

  • HOW ridiculous are the comments on my latest Big League Stew guest piece, in which I lash out at sadsack Yankees fans for bitching about ticket prices?

  • COULD the Pirates contend in 2010? Pat from WHYG,AVS must think it's possible, or else why pose the question?

  • WHAT are the three scariest words for Phillies fans? The Verducci Effect comes to mind.

  • WHO is Kris going to spend his St. Patrick's Day celebration with tonight? I have ten dollars that says it's this fine lady.

That's all for today, kind reader. Please heed the advice of our own Matt_T and try not to party too hard on this St. Patricks Day. In fact, why not stay in and watch Team America fight to the death with Puerto Rico in the WBC? We'd like you back here tomorrow morning in one piece, mmkay? Same WoW channel.

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With the injuries piling up for Team America in the WBC, manager Davey Johnson has finally dropped the atomic bomb for sports fans, using the F-word while being interviewed during the team's batting practice yesterday:

He used Kevin Youkilis as an example, saying he could never return to Boston if the Red Sox first baseman was injured playing catcher in the WBC.

"I would definitely had to gone out and said we had to forfeit this ballgame," Johnson said. "Yeah, I'd forfeit it."

Quelle horreur! Davey Johnson would rather quit the entire tournament than risk injury to some of Major League Baseball's most valuable assets? That's unheard of! There's no quitting in baseball! But really, if anything unfortunate goes down tonight in their elimination game matchup with Puerto Rico, I wouldn't begrudge Johnson for throwing in the towel instead of doing something silly, like have Youk put on the catcher's gear, have Jake Peavy pinch run for Adam Dunn or send Jimmy Rollins to clean up the clubhouse terlet after coach Marcel Lachemann had an 'accident'.

Answer Man "Downtown" David Brown thinks a little differently. He ripped into Johnson over at Big League Stew last night:

Can you imagine Tommy Lasorda considering a forfeit? Of course not. You could make a pretty good argument that Johnson should not even have admitted that the U.S. might quit, gulp, a baseball tournament? Maybe we won't always win, but shouldn't we keep trying no matter what? To Johnson, the answer appears to be no.

Well I couldn't imagine Tommy Lasorda forfeiting a tournament game, but on the same hand, I couldn't imagine him protecting young pitchers' arms from getting overworked, nor could I imagine him turning down oral treats while watching alternative lifestyle movies. The man would probably push his own grandmother into traffic to make sure Team America wins this tournament, so he's not exactly the man I want protecting my favorite team's most valuable players.

With Kris' pick Mexico getting tossed from the tournament last night, the last Walkoff Walk staff member with his preferred team still active in the World Baseball Classic is me. I win. Go Team America! Suck on it, Street Team!

Baseball Before Bedtime: Blue

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you made me feel so blue:

Yankees 12, Phillies 0: On the day that ace pitcher Cole Hamels headed back to Philly to have his ouchie elbow looked at, would-be Phils fifth starter Kyle Kendrick got his ass lit up for the fourth time this spring. Kyle gave up four runs in four innings and actually saw his ERA drop (all the way to 12.10!) as the Yankees mashed twenty hits off the WFC staff. HOW DO YOU LIVE LIKE THIS, PHILLIES FANS? Joba Chamberlain had his second straight studly start while Nick Swisher had three hits and three RBI for the Yanks.

Nationals 3, Marlins 1: Maybe being a Nationals fan will pay off sooner than we initially thought. Stud pitching prospect Jordan Zimmermann is mowing down batters in spring training as if it were his job. Well technically, it is his job, but the kid has already amassed 22 strikeouts in just 12 scoreless innings over five appearances. Dude's never thrown above double-A ball but might crack the Nats rotation this year. After all, who else they got?

Rockies 8, Diamondbacks 3: Todd Helton tater-totted while youngster Jhoulys Chacin finally gave up some runs this spring. The Rockie rookie struck out Justin Upton twice but allowed a two-run triple to someone named Evan Frey. Chacin is 24-8 with a 2.40 ERA in two minor league seasons of low-A and regular-A ball.

Twins 5, Orioles 3: Joe Crede went 3-for-3 with a home run, a double and two RBIs and finally proved to Twinkies manager Ron Gardenhire that he knows how to spell "chandelier". All in all, a successful day for Crede.

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4: Roy Halladay got slammed by three Boston ding-dongs including one to shortstop Jed Lowrie. The Blue Jays took a loss despite Travis Snider's third home run of the spring.

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The United States eliminated the upstart Dutch team (good night, sweet prince) last night in the World Baseball Classic behind the stout pitching of Roy Oswalt and some timely hitting from Jimmy Rollins and late addition Brian Roberts. But after getting mercy-ruled by Puerto Rico on Saturday night, will Tuesday night's elimination game spell curtains for our boys in red, white 'n' blue? Tonight, Puerto Rico plays Venezuela for the right to advance to the semi-finals; Team USA is stuck playing the loser of that game and they've already lost to both teams.

Our roster was built well, with a good focus on lineup speed and relief pitching. But injuries have been taking the team apart piece by piece. The latest casualties are Chipper Jones (who spent most of the WBC striking out) and Dustin Pedroia (who had just three hits in sixteen at-bats). Still, Pedroia's replacement and speedy Oriole stud Brian Roberts had three hits last night, while Derek Jeter filled in nicely for Chipper Jones in the DH slot, drawing two walks and being generally distracting to the Dutch team with his manly good looks and quiet, captain-y demeanor. The team cannot replace Jones until the next round...if they make it.

Also, outfielder Ryan Braun left the game last night with a sore right side and was replaced in the outfield by backup catcher Brian McCann. Manager Davey Johnson said he was ready to send tomorrow night's starter Ted Lilly out there with a glove and a prayer; lucky for Davey that Ryan should be healthy enough to start tomorrow night.

Team America must win a tough game on Tuesday night to advance to the semifinals. For their sake, hopefully no other injuries will befall the team.

(Jeter photo courtesy of Flickr user alaner79)

Baseball Before Bedtime: Moanin'

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday during the Ides of March:

Phillies 2, Cardinals 1: Are you hip to Chase Utley getting back to the Phils for Opening Day? Well the guy made it back to the big team's spring lineup and, despite going 0-for-2, his surgically repaired hip didn't explode or anything. Utley handled himself with aplomb in the field, making no errors. Raul Ibanez, on the other hand, was charged with an oopsie. Get used to it, Phils fans. (UPDATE: The Fightins' has footage of Ibanez' error)

Blue Jays 5, Reds 4 (10): Bobby Thigpen's son Curtis slammed a walkoff ding-dong in the tenth to lift Toronto in a game that saw them collect thirteen hits. Johnny Cueto seems to not have been hurt yet by pitching in the WBC. Blue Jay Jose Bautista went 3-for-3 and shook off hordes of autograph seekers after the game ended by escaping in a ovoidal titanium hoverpod. Note: Curtis Thigpen is not Bobby Thigpen's son. Not in this astral plane, at least.

Yankees 5, Twins 1: Jorge Posada remembered how to put his catchers gear on well enough to crouch behind the plate and help his pal Andy Pettitte smoke the Twinkies lineup. Oh, and Jorge went two-fer-two wit' two runs so you can push him up on your fantasy draft board just past Bengie Molina and under Ryan Doumit. Hideki Matsui hit a ball hard enough to bruise Twins pitcher Glen Perkins' leg but then healed it with an ancient Japanese method involving hot lava rocks and schoolgirl panties.

Tigers 3, Nationals 0: Good news, Tigers fans! Your team's pitchers combined on a tidy shutout! Good news, Tigers fans! Your team's pitchers threw seven strikeouts against just one walk. Bad news, though. It was against the hapless Nats lineup.

White Sox 15, Mariners 5: Garrett Olsen allowed five walks. Jose Contreras struck out Ken Griffey. Ozzie Guillen wrestled, killed, and ate a raccoon. Wilson Betemit smacked a happy jack. Three of these four things actually happened. I'll leave it to you to guess which one is completely false.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, nelle botti piccine ci sta il vino buono.

  • ARE Damaso Marte and Robbie Cano just a couple of sore Dominican losers, or do their aches and pains spell bad news for the Yanks?

  • AFTER Jhonny Peralta's wife was bitten by a scorpion while sleeping in a house they rented in Goodyear, Ariz, can you believe that Jhonny's first reaction was, "I don't like this." Really, Jhonny? You don't like it when your wife gets bitten by a CONSARNED SCORPION? Really?

  • DID you know that the Mariners defense was actually above average last season? If they improved their defense markedly over the winter, maybe they'll only lose 90 games in 2009!

  • HAVE you noticed that Kris is the official interviewer for baseball players here at Walkoff Walk, while I get all the requests to be interviewed? That's because I'm Clooney, while Kris Liakos is more like a geekier, Greekier Jimmy Fallon.

  • HOW good a teacher is Mark McGwire? Just ask Matt Holliday.

Brush yourself off, the week is D-U-N done. The weekend awaits, and you should sup from its hearty soup bowl full of WBC games and sunny weather. Tomorrow at 1PM, the Dutch take on Venezuela and at 8PM, the United States plays Puerto Rico, with both games going down in Miami. Let's persuade Kris to head down to Dolphin Stadium tomorrow night with his trusty camera and snap some photographs of rabid Puerto Rican fans. Until next week, same WoW channel, I bid you adieu.

(Hall of Fame bat rack photo courtesy of Flickr user coba)

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Imagine a player with a ton of speed, decent range in centerfield, all the doting attention from old school managers like Dusty Baker because of his potential to "make something happen," and a complete lack of ability to get on base. You're probably thinking about Corey Patterson. I hope you're thinking of Corey Patterson, after all the times we railed on his presence at the top of the Reds lineup last season. Well, Corey's buried on the depth chart on a terrible Washington team this year, so instead, let's turn our attention to Corey 2.0: Dewayne Wise.

Mark Gonzales at the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Ozzie Guillen is considering slotting the 31-year-old Wise in the leadoff spot for the White Sox this year:

Some of the Sox's top decision makers aren't looking at the back of Wise's baseball card, which includes a .214 lifetime major league batting average and merely pitstops at Toronto, Atlanta and Cincinnati before joining the Sox last season.

As of now, the Sox seem excited by the fact that Wise has shown the initiative as the leadoff batter, as he stole second base and scored a run in the first inning of Thursday's 9-3 loss to Kansas City, and that Wise dropped a bunt single that led to a run in the fifth.

Ugh, he's going to succeed based on "initiative"? He's currently battling 28-year-old Jerry Owens for the centerfield-slash-leadoff job; both are lefties. But Wise has a .254 career on-base-percentage. TWO FITTY FOUR. Take Barry Bonds' 2004 OBP, slice it in half, and subtract 50 points. You've got Dewayne Wise's career OBP. Take Jeff Francouer's OBP from last year, one of the worst rates in the big leagues, and you still have to subtract 40 points to get Wise's career OBP.

The five projection systems collected by Fangraphs agree that Wise will notch up to about a .300 OBP in aught-nine, but really, that's too far below league average for someone in the leadoff spot. The kid is fast, no doubt. He can hit tater tots, really, his isolated power is great for a player of his stature. But really, if Ozzie Guillen bats Dewayne Wise leadoff on opening day, we may be forced to put the dude's name on a t-shirt.

Courtesy of the Extra Bases blog at boston.com, here is ESPN's video of Manny Ramirez riding an oversized tricycle. No, I have no explanation for the porny soundtrack.


Manny was scratched from his would-be spring debut yesterday with a sore hammy, so he did the next best thing and pedaled around the parking lot. This is 20,000 times more newsworthy than your entire month of 'accomplishments'.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you thought you needed a little poison:

Marlins 16, Mets 8: There's good news, and there's bad news, and there's Mets news, which is always a melange of both. Johan Santana pitched three innings and appeared to be healthy and happy despite allowing a ding-dong to Dan Uggla. Tim Redding, a candidate for the fifth rotation spot, went two innings in relief and allowed nine runs. Wait, did I hear a niner in there?

Padres 10, Brewers 10: Walkoff Walk favorite Kyle Blanks smashed a three run tater tot off Brewers vet Jeff Suppan in a game that ended just as knotted up as your stomach after you saw Sophie's Choice. Suppan got hit hard but didn't suffer a loss, as Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, and Jason Kendall also collected homers. I guess you could call that Suppan's Rejoice.

Rangers 9, Mariners 1: Brandon McCarthy was stout for four scoreless innings and his offense backed him up with some firepower. Taylor Teagarden tater-totted and Marlon Byrd had three RBI. Jarrod Washburn took the loss. In other Mariners nooze you can't use, Seattle is about to make a deal with former Nat Chad Cordero. To pitch for them, not to sell peanuts.

Dodgers 4, South Korea 2: Manny didn't play, but Chin-lung Hu did. Hu's bases-bloated single in the bottom of the eighth lifted the Dodgers to a win over their eternal rivals, the South Koreans. The Dodgers sac-bunted thrice, a fact that ticked off beat writer Tony Jackson to no end. Tony, you are my man. The sac bunt is a big fat waste, and if Joe Torre keeps calling for it, you should give him a purple nurple. Other fun Tony Jackson fact: "The Korean roster featured eight guys whose last name was Lee and two guys whose last name was Park." Hee!

Rockies 6, Angels 4: Youngster Ian Stewart smashed a three-run happy jack off Angels starter John Lackey, part of Stewart's stellar 2-for-5 day that also saw him barehand a slow-roller at third to throw out Torii Hunter, and save a kitty from an elm tree. Huston Street is feeling much better, thank you, and retired the side in the fifth inning.

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The American League West in 2008 was all about the haves and the have-nots. The Angels had a solid pitching staff, some valuable defenders, a record-setting closer, and a fella named Mark Teixeira who came in to carry the offense down the homestretch. The A's, Mariners, and Rangers didn't have a damn thing of value between the three of 'em and allowed Anaheim to win over 100 games, a veritable paper tiger that got burned up in the playoffs.

Some folks thought the Mariners would improve on a surprise 88-win 2007 season and contend for a playoff spot in 2008. Those of us who read up on the PECOTAs and the CHONEs of the world knew better, and the M's became the first ever 100-loss $100 million team in history, the absolute pinnacle of inefficiency. The common perception of the 2009 Mariners is that they'll continue to be mired in the muck, while some folks are absolutely agog that Billy Beane went on a Xtreme Depression spending spree on what was perceived to be a mediocre team bereft of its best pieces already. But instead of proselytizing about nonsense, let's review the good and bad of each team and see how the tea leaves are lining up.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you threw your keys in their bowl:

Venezuela 5, United States 3: Derek Jeter reached base four times but was thrown out attempting to swipe second base in the ninth inning; Kevin Youkilis' strikeout at the hands of Frankie Rodriguez sealed the deal and Venezuela wins the pool. The brothers Blanco provided the offensive firepower, combining for six hits, two runs, and two RBI; catcher Henry fell a single shy of the cycle. Jeremy Guthrie takes the loss, allowing four runs in two innings. The USA will face Puerto Rico, the top seed from Pool D, this Saturday night in Miami, while Venezuela gets the Netherlands.

Braves 12, Phillies 10: Kyle Kendrick could really use a gallon of Pepto Bismol about now. Kid gave up eight runs and ten hits in an absolute drubbing by the division rival Braves, including two 2-run happy jacks by Clint "Don't Call Me Simmons" Sammons. Carlos Carrasco was seen doing a gleeful jig in the clubhouse as Kendrick got shelled. Jo-Jo Reyes gave up two runs in four innings and picked up the W, while Phillies third baseman Jason Donald went 3-for-4.

White Sox 6, Brewers 2: Mark Buehrle avoided any T-Rex attacks and threw three scoreless innings against a hapless Brewers team. Youngster Gordon Beckham laced a two-run double that would have been an easy out had it not fallen out of Trot Nixon's glove. Jim Thome has a creaky back and was scratched. Well, he was scratched, not his back.

Tigers 7, Yankees 4: The Yanks gave Justin Verlander the ol' heave-ho, chasing him for four runs on four walks and a few hits in two innings. Later, Gary Sheffield chased CC Sabathia by taking him deep deeper and gone. Sabathia gave us five runs in under two innings and later told everyone he hasn't found his cutter yet. Hey CC, check under the ENORMOUS PILES OF MONEY IN YOUR CAR TRUNK.

Cardinals 8, Marlins 4: Skip Schumaker made his fourth error at second base this spring, putting the temporary brakes on the whole "Make Skip Schumaker a Second Baseman" experiment. No, it's too late, Tony La Russa. You can't have Adam Kennedy OR David Eckstein back.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, recognize the opportunity.

  • HOW cute does Dominican shortstop Jose Reyes look with his Mets turban underneath his official WBC-endorsed team cap?

  • SHOULD we be scared of New Jersey's own Rick Porcello? Patrick Hayes thinks the Tigers' fifth starter job is his, as long as the rest of Detroit's rotation keeps stinking the jernt up.

  • WHAT are Rangers beat writer Evan Grant's top five favorite burger chains? Our pal has never been to a Five Guys, so I will forgive him for including Roger Ebert's favorite Steak-N-Shake.

  • IS the Colonel Sanders Curse the Japanese equivalent of the Curse of the Bambino? I say no, it's cute, but needs a little schoolgirl-panty-worship to make it fully weird enough.

  • WHY does it always rain on me?

That'll just about do it for today. Hurry home, kids, Team America tackles Team Venezuela for the one seed tonight at 6:30EDT on the MLB Network, followed by Team Mexico vs Team Australia elimination game at 10PM. See ya tomorrow, chuckleheads.

(photo courtesy of Flickr user random letters)

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Breaking news from the Million Dollar Arm blogosphere! It turns out that contrary to our initial investigative report, Rinku and Dinesh were not bamboozled by a shady representative of the Topps company. In fact, neither Rinku nor Dinesh had any idea who it was who offered the fellas $5 in exchange for their Manoj Hancocks, but JB Sir actually knew the chap, and he's cool with the whole transaction. Turns out this was just a huge misunderstanding, like an episode of Three's Company, or the Franco-Prussian War.

Here, in his own words from an update to their blog post, is our man Rinku and his heartfelt apology:

Topps man sir. We sorry. JB explaining that he knowing this man and he not believe man doing these things. he say we not understanding right. Dinesh and i all things new being to us. we wishing many time we just being pitcher, but we also knowing all other things too needed.

This big mistake by me and dinesh. we always sending JB first so no more mistakes. We sorry if we causing any problem. We wanting everyone forget this thing please.

JB Sir follows with his own mea culpa and apologizes on behalf of his clients, praising Topps as a 'cornerstone' of baseball products and insisting that the company would never try an underhanded move like that. He closes by saying, "The boys terrible and hope that have not upset the rep who came to visit." Yeah. Wait, what?

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Television network ABC recently rolled out its eighth season of the reality show "Dancing With the Stars", where C-list celebrities and B-list athletes couple up and dance with A-list ballroom dancers to the delight of D-list judges and former game-show hosts. I've never seen the show, but my gramma tells me that they sometimes have football players as contestants. Wikipedia tells me that such luminaries as Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Jason Taylor have taken a twirl around the parquet floor in past seasons to varying levels of success, which got me to thinking: why have we never seen a baseball player on "Dancing with the Stars"?

After all, perhaps ABC could improve on their already stellar ratings by luring this lonely baseball blogger to tune in. Heck if I knew one of our recently retired boys of summer were invited to foxtrot and tango with a comely Pole, I'd set my DVR to 'record'. Picture portly Tony Gwynn doing the mambo or mustachioed Mike Piazza tripping his way through the paso doble. It's ratings gold, I tell you!

Maybe the ad wizards at ABC take one simple glance at their subsidiary ESPN's ratings for Monday Night Football and compare it to ESPN's ratings for Sunday Night Baseball and consider it an easy pick to pluck football players for the show. After all, lots more folks watch individual football games than individual baseball games because football games are ten times more rare. Still, that doesn't completely explain why we haven't seen David Ortiz prancing around in a tu-tu yet.

Perhaps this lack of respect for the sport is just an symptom of a underlying problem: baseball has no marketable and popular stars that everyone loves anymore. Think about it: ever since your mom's favorite player Cal Ripken retired, baseball's biggest stars have either been dastardly steroid users, Yankee playboys, or Dominicans...or all three. Ask your fat Aunt Shirley to name three current players and she'll run off the names Clemens, Bonds, and A-Rod before you can tell her that two of those guys couldn't even get a contract out of Bill Veeck's cold dead hands today, while the third guy shares Aunt Shirley's bad hip problems.

So while baseball continues to increase in popularity, why do its most popular players continue to get more dastardly and controversial? And why are they being left off Middle America's favorite distraction besides county fairs? If you were to cast a current or recently-retired baseball player to appear on this show, who would it be? Curt Schilling? Mark McGwire? Rickey Henderson?

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you wrestled with tears:

Yankees 7, Reds 1: Looks like a few innings against the Reds lineup was all Joba Chamberlain needed to get aboard the express train to a sub-7.00 ERA. Joba struck out three and reached 96 MPH on the speed-o-meter and was supported on the offensive side by Shelley Duncan's three-run tater tot. Alex Gonzalez played shortstop for the Reds for the first time since September of 2007, having spent all of last season recovering from a borkened knee.

Rays 11, Blue Jays 4: David Price, the Barack Obama of baseball, made his spring debut with two shutout innings in relief and new Rays DH Pat Burrell hit a king dong to lead Tampa to a convincing win over Toronto. It wasn't all peaches and cream for Joe Maddon's squadron; outfielder and inordinate Rob Iracane mancrush Fernando Perez left the game with an ouchie wrist when diving to catch a liner and missing in the first inning. Matt Joyce was seen tenting his fingers and muttering, "Excellent" while paging through the book How To Get Ahead of Guys Named Gabe.

Cubs 8, Mariners 1: Rich Harden threw for the first time this spring in a real live competitive situation, unless you count the time last week that he played an impromptu round of beer pong with a saguaro cactus (he lost). Harden went two innings and gave up two hits, while So Taguchi provided a two RBI single for the Chicago offense. Ken Griffey went 0-for-3 but he did it with style, consarnit.

Braves 7, Astros 4: New Braves pitcher Derek Lowe threw four hitless 'n' scoreless innings and struck out six Astros. This still counts despite the low organizational ranking for Houston. Omar Infante had two RBI and a triple for the Braves.

Netherlands 2, Dominican Republic 1 (11): One of the best games I have ever seen, hands down. From Ubaldo Jimenez' record setting 10 strikeouts in just four innings to the Dutch bullpen's bending-without-breaking to the Dominican bats going absolutely cold with runners on (14 LOB)to Hanley Ramirez watching two would-be-tots fall just short of the warning track to Carlos Marmol's pickoff attempt going just wide of Willy Aybar to set up the winning run, I enjoyed every high and every low of this contest. Long live the orange.

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Pool A (stands for Asian intrigue): This pool wrapped up yesterday, which in was Monday in the United States but actually 2011 in the Eastern Hemisphere. Or something like that. Anyway, Japan advanced to the second round by winning their first two games but was then forced to play a rematch with Korea (who earlier toppled China to advance) to determine which team would end up as the top seed. Should have been a walk in the park for the Japanese, who two days earlier crushed Korea 14-2 and had a restful day off on Sunday while the Koreans toiled with an extra game. No matter, because Korea sent Jung Keun Bong to the mound to smoke out the Japanese hitters. Only Kenji Johjima and Hiroyuki Nakajima managed singles off Bong in five and a third innings, a lifetime when pitchers are limited to just 70 pitches, and Korea won a squeaker 1-0 to claim the Pool A Title.

Pool B (stands for Burrito bombs): Mexican first basemen Adrian Gonzalez smacked two tater dongs, part of a 14-3 romp over South Africa that sent those fine fellows home. Mexico awaits the loser of the Cuba/Australia game to reclaim their chance of redeeming Kris' poorly thought-out prediction.

Pool C (stands for Canadian tears): Break out the Chianti and the maccherone, Dolores: they're doin' the tarantell' on College Street in Toronto tonight! Team Italy pulled off the upset behind Chris Denorfia's four hits, three doubles, and a diving catch that robbed Joey Votto of an extra-base hit in the 7th. The Eye-talz, under the sharp tutelage of hitting coach Mike Piazza and manager Mike Hargrove, now face a tired-armed Team Venezuela again for the right to advance to the next round. Sad Canadians retreated to the open arms of Bloor Street bars and the Hockey Hall of Fame for comfort. The Carling tall boys always taste better flavored with salty tears.

Pool D (stands for Dutch tenacity): The Kingdom of the Netherlands held onto a 1-0 lead by the thinnest thread as long as they could before a trio of Dutch relievers finally folded in the eighth. Puerto Rico advances to the next round by the score of 3-1 while the Netherlands must now tangle with the Dominicans in a rematch. Puerto Rican outfielder Bernie Williams looked to be the early goat as he misplayed a ball that led to the Dutch run and was thrown out at the plate early while hustling his forty-year-old bones around the basepaths. Ian Snell did well shutting down Team Hollandaise at the outset.

Baseball Before Bedtime: Stop

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while the honey made you sick:

Red Sox 15, Pirates 14 (10): Jon Lester finished a tidy 57-pitch outing then hit the showers to let his mates muddle a one run win in a mid-March shootout. Afterwards, he denied denied denied the Yahoo Sports rumour that he was to sign a heady $30 million extension that would keep him in red socks until at least 2013, only agreeing to answer questions about American Idol. Boston's Josh Bard and Nick Green tater-totted off Tom Gorzelanny while the Pirates' Jose Tabata went 3-for-3 with 4 RBI.

A's 5, Angels 4: Sadsack Bobby Crosby demanded a trade to a team where he could start at SS, was rebuffed, and made his debut at third base all in a whirlwind week thanks to Eric Chavez' creaky joints. He fielded his one chance cleanly while playing the hot corner for the first time since he was an eleven-year-old Little Leaguer. Ironically, Jason Giambi played the game with the same lucky golden thong he's been wearing since he was eleven. Aaron Cunningham had a walkoff single with the bases bloated because he hates springtime shrimp.

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 2: Andy Pettitte came into March like a lion, recording five outs while allowing but one hit to the talented team from Toronto. Russ Adams and Travis Snider collected solo dongs for the winners while young Brett Gardner hit his third tater tot of the month. Ian Kennedy got smoked and the Yahoo recap taught me that Lyle Overbay allegedly had triple hernia surgery on New Years Eve. Ouuuchhh.

Dodgers 13, Rangers 7: Miracles do happen, people. Ned Colletti once tried to return Jason Schmidt to the store because Schmidt was broken, but the no-returns policy forced Colletti to keep the injured Jason stowed away in his closet for almost two years. Welp, Schmidt saw his first action in a long-ass time yesterday, throwing two innings and giving up a massive three-year dong to Taylor Teagarden. Also, ex-Dodger Andruw Jones tater-totted off his old team and received some heady boos, then misplayed a fly ball in the sun that turned into a triple. Whoops!

Padres 16, Diamondbacks 3: They say that spring training is a great time to experiment with new pitches. Then I suppose Diamondbacks fans won't be too sore at new pitcher Jon Garland, whose 'new pitch repertoire' cost his team six hits and six runs. You want to learn a curveball, Jonny Boy? Head down to Hiram Bithorn Stadium and have Dutch pitching coach Bert Blyleven show you a thing or two about a thing or two. Not about curveballs, no, he'll take you out to the local bars and learn ya how to down a dozen coquitos in one sitting.

Troy from West Virginia, easily the Internet's most famous Dodgers fan and Joe Beimel devotee, has decided that the re-signing of Manny Ramirez is enough to guarantee the Dodgers claim of the 2009 title to the National League West. A wee bit premature? Naturally. But what better way to enjoy a premature celebration than to ply some underage girls with alcoholic bubbly beverages?


Okay, I'm going to assume that was non-alcoholic apple cider. Troy from WV might be a hardcore fan but he's no hardcore criminal. Still, if I were Dodgers G.M. Ned Colletti I'd be pretty frightened. Notice how Troy made a threat that he'd see Ned in forty hours? I guess Troy made good on that threat. As per beat writer Tony Jackson:

Spring training can officially begin now. This morning, as I was walking from my car to the building, I saw Troy from West Virginia, clad as always in a Joe Beimel No. 97 Dodgers jersey. And no, the still-unemployed Joe Beimel wasn't with him... Anyway, here's hoping Troy can stay out of trouble in Glendale.

Tony points out that the southpaw reliever Beimel is still looking for a job. He and former Brave Will Ohman are the only two lefty specialists left on the market. With Dennys Reyes signing on with lefty-lovin' La Russa in St. Louis and Andy Sisco catching on with Oakland, Beimel and Ohman have no choice but to huddle together for warmth in their lonely, cold corner of the free agent forest.

Of course, with Troy from WV on his side, Beimel should expect a hasty phone call from a desperate Ned Colletti any day now. A desperate, duct-tape-bound and washcloth-gagged Ned Colletti.

After recording an out to end the first inning in this weekends Brewers/Cubs tilt, Chicaco infielder Micah Hoffpauir sought out some hidden wonders elsewhere on the diamond. The fine folks at Brewers blog Right Field Bleachers have provided us with an Oliver Stone-esque investigation to determine exactly what Micah's left hand was searching for:


There is nothing inside of Carlos Zambrano's crotchal region for you, Micah. DO NOT SEEK THE TREASURE.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday as you were stalking through the night:

Braves 7, Phillies 2: Braves phenom Tommy Hanson showed up displaying his finest wares. Unfortunately for his opponent, the Phillies, his finest wares are 24 karat gold-plated strikeouts. In four innings, Hanson rung up seven Phils, including Jayson Werth on a nasty curve and Ryan Howard, despite falling behind 3-0 on the lumbering lad. Marcus Giles had two hits in the loss and still hasn't quit.

Red Sox 8, Rays 2: Young buck Justin Masterson looked masterful against the rival Rays, striking out three men in three scoreless innings and doing it all while wearing a white tuxedo with top hat and tails. Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo continues to stake his claim for the starting job, going 3-for-3 with two RBI and still dragging around his bloated salary on a little red wagon all around Fort Myers.

Giants 10, A's 1: Video game spokesperson Randy Johnson had three and a third shaky but scoreless innings againt the A's while his teammates piled on ten runs on Dana Eveland and the split-squad Oakland bullpen. Left fielder Fred Lewis went 2-for-3 with a dubble and a triple, picking up two RBI and helping San Fran fans remember what it was like to have an outfielder who could slug a bit.

Twins 2, Orioles 0: Frenchy Liriano celebrated his new contract with four perfect innings against the supposedly strong starters of Baltimore. Liriano and five relievers combined to one-hit the O's; stud catcher Matt Wieters picked up the only single in the ninth inning while Twins OF Carlos Gomez clubbed a happy jack that provided the difference. Joe Nathan threw a perfect inning that would have meant a lot more had he done it in the ninth for Team USA on Saturday.

Marlins 9, Cardinals 8: Florida survived an eight-run fifth by the Cards and scored five unearned runs thanks to St. Louis' whopping six errors. Heck, there haven't been that many mistakes by a group from St. Louis since Tina married Ike. Skip Schumaker made two of the errors as he tries desperately to figure out his new position at second base. Heck, nobody's had that much trouble with second base since the time in eighth grade I got my fingers tangled up in that bra strap.

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Turn on your television sets, it's time to watch Team America travel across our northern border to take on Team Canada in the WBC! Derek Jeter looks to avenge both the USA's 2006 WBC loss to their doughy northern neighbors AND his ridiculously unfair second place finish to sham 2006 AL MVP winner Justin Morneau. Your starting pitchers today will be Jake Peavy for the US and Mike Johnson for Canada. Wait, who?

"I wish Mike all the best," said the U.S. starter, the former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy. "Is it Mike? Sorry."

Yes, it is Mike Johnson, a 33-year-old right-hander from Edmonton, Alberta, who pitched in 81 games for the Orioles and the Expos from 1997 through 2001. He was 7-14 with a 6.85 earned run average.

Oh right, that Mike Johnson. Nice burn, Peavs. Anyway, if you're looking for some intelligent analysis, don't go to Drunk Jays Fans. But if you're looking for some unbridled jingoism and seal-clubbing YouTube videos, by all means, be my guest.

Enjoy the game today, and if you're rooting for Morneau to do well, you're either Canadian or a terrorist Twins fan who hates freedom. Join us in the comments section!

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After recovering from the uproar created by false rumors that Alex Rodriguez was to have hip surgery and spend ten weeks recovering, this Yankees fan saw his worries heightened by the true story: A-Rod is not well.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Thursday that Rodriguez has a labrum tear, as well as a cyst, in his troublesome right hip. The injury will eventually require Rodriguez to go under the knife for a procedure Cashman estimated would take four months from which to recover.

Having discussed the issue all afternoon via conference call, the Yankees are proceeding carefully in the hope that Rodriguez will be able to contribute to the club for the full 2009 season, but Cashman cautioned that the prospect of surgery remains on the table.

So instead of a definite ten-week recovery period caused by a cyst-removal procedure, Alex must now play baseball in 2009 with his mind focused on his hip, a mind that is normally preoccupied by a million other things already, a mind that belongs to a person who confesses that he has trouble concentrating on his profession when faced with pointless distractions. Alex was one of the only people who knew his hip was troubling him; his own teammates found out about the cyst yesterday during lunch, when the blogosphere was already agog. But now, the news has escaped Alex' inner circle and has become just another checkmark on the collective naughty list that baseball fans and baseball media use to tut-tut the tortured player.

Yesterday, Alex was in Vail, Colorado to have his cyst aspirated. I don't know what this means and I have no desire to learn any more about what this procedure entails. All that matters is that (a) it sounds like it hurts and (b) it doesn't make Alex completely healed. True, Alex hadn't felt any pain during the '08 season and he had this cyst on his hip for at least a year. But over the offseason, he's had to take measures to relieve tightness and stiffness in his bad hip. Yes, Alex Rodriguez now officially has a bad hip (FYI, it's the right one)

Remember the last superstar athlete to have a bad hip? New York Yankees Update reminded us yesterday of the sad tale of two-sport star Bo Jackson, who had something happen far worse. See, Alex has a tear of his acetabular labrum, a ring of cartilage whose job is to prevent your femur from slipping out of its hip joint:

On January 13, 1991, while playing for the Oakland Raiders, Bo "Knows" Jackson suffered a hip injury where the femur actually did slip out of place.

This resulted in a condition called avascular necrosis resulting in a decreased blood supply to the head of his left femur and deterioration of the femoral head, ultimately requiring that the hip be replaced.

Jackson was done with football, and he missed the 1991 and 1992 baseball season, only to come back in '93 and '94 as a shell of his former self. His career was over. If my primitive medical knowledge is accurate, this same thing could happen to Alex. The chances must be small; otherwise, why would Brian Cashman or Scott Boras or Rodriguez himself allow him to continue playing? The risk must be absolutely miniscule because the danger is infinitesimal.

One of the ways this can turn out is similar to what happened to Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell last season. Sad, but this is turns out to be a good endgame situation: he didn't have any serious hip problems but faced surgery in October, missing out on Boston's stint in the ALCS. Prior to that, he faded down the stretch, making just one appearance in the last eleven games of the regular season and going 0-for-8 in the ALDS. But this was just Mike Lowell, far from the centerpiece of a loaded Red Sox team. Imagine the same thing happening to Alex Rodriguez during a fall playoffs race! He's not only a cog, he's the cog.

The worst way this situation can resolve would be the neutron bomb of player injuries: Albert Belle. Belle signed a five year deal with the Orioles after the 1998 season and played two middling years for the franchise. Unfortunately, his degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip prematurely ended his career at age 34 and the Orioles were left on the hook for the remaining three years and $39 million left on his contract. A-Rod, on the other hand, has nine years and somewhere north of $250 million left on his contract. That's a lot of money, people. That's stimulus money for a tenth of the country. That's Mega Millions lottery style money to keep people lined up at gas stations and 7-11's for hours on end.

And that shouldn't be money that Brian Cashman wants to risk. It's time right now for A-Rod to have the surgery. The Yankees need to be risk averse knowing exactly how much money is on the line, but more importantly, Alex needs to avoid any chance whatsoever of a career-ending hipsplosion.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday as you made me realise:

Mexico 7, Rockies 3: Sure, it doesn't count in the Cactus League standings but hey, the Rockies are still winless this spring. Team Mexico pounded their countryman Jorge De La Rosa for six runs over two innings while brothers Edgar and Adrian Gonzalez collected two hits apiece. Perhaps the Rox can get off the schneid today when they play the Padres.

Mets 3, Italy 2: Team Italy held the Mets scoreless for eight innings, rendering them about as impotent as a Staten Islander. But reliever Kasey Olenberger let in three runs in the ninth as the Mets walked off with, well, a walkoff win. Olenberger? That ain't Italian. This game don't count.

Canada 6, Yankees 0: Joba Chamberlain didn't record a single out and let in five runs in a loss to Team Great White North. In fact, he walked both Jason Bay and Justin Morneau with the bases loaded and even threw a wild pitch! The Yankees' first hit came in the fourth inning off the bat of super star would-be third baseman Angel Berroa. Kei Igawa threw three scoreless innings.

White Sox 4, Cubs 3: The Cubbies' ninth inning rally fell jussssssttttttt short of a win but no matter, baseball is back in Vegas! Or it was, for one day. Josh Kroeger drove in all four ChiSox runs and then returned to Hollywood to finish recording the latest Nickelback album.

Team America 10, Paul Shaffer 0:

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Alex Rodriguez' brother Joe, via ESPNDeportes.com reporter Enrique Rojas, via Big League Stew's Duk's Twitter feed is reporting that Alex will have surgery to remove a cyst on his hip. He'll miss ten weeks recovering and won't see action again until May.

"It's a big blow for the whole family. Alex is destroyed," Joe Rodriguez told ESPNdeportes.com. "We were all very excited to see him play with the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

"But the most important thing is to have a successful surgery so that Alex may continue his career."

Obviously, America is devastated to hear that our most beloved athlete, nay, our most beloved celebrity will be out of commission for such an extended time. The entire Dominican Republic will be miserable knowing their national hero won't be able to compete in the WBC. And worst of all, the friendly New York media will be stuck thinking up clever back page headlines with Alex recovering in private for such a long time.

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What else would we at Walkoff Walk do except provide a recap of a game that happened 10,000 miles away while we were sleeping and didn't watch? Team Japan, playing on their home turf at the Tokyo Dome, took down Team China 4-0 in the opening game of the WBC. Pitcher Yu Darvish held the Chinese hitless for four innings before being pulled due to extreme boredom. Shuichi Murata hit a two-run happy jack in the third inning off China starter Chenhau Li, part of a three-run outburst that basically decided the game.

So, how did the MLB representatives for Team Japan fare?

Ichiro, who batted only 3-for-23 in exhibitions leading up to the tournament, went 0-for-5 while fellow Major Leaguers Kosuke Fukudome (0-for-0, 4 BB, 1 R), Kenji Johjima (0-for-2) and Akinori Iwamura (0-for-4) also went hitless.

There's only one explanation for these four players going a collective 0-for-11: they're too Americanized! Fat and lazy! Coca-Cola and Lee Jeans! Need better work ethic! Still, that Fukudome character can take a pitch, amirite?

Team Japan will next take on the winner of tomorrow's South Korea-Chinese Taipei tilt, while China takes on the loser. If Japan wins again, they advance. If China loses again, they're doneskis. This iteration of the WBC is double elimination; it's not following the silly round-robin format from three years ago that allowed Japan to lose two games in Round Two and win the whole sack of potatoes.

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday as the ocean air fanned the flames:

Blue Jays 6, Team USA 5: When J.J. Putz became a Met and entered the depth chart behind closer Frankie Rodriguez, he pouted a bit and thought he should get some game-savin' opportunities. Well tough nuts Putz because you just blew a save as a member of Team America, allowing three hits and three runs including the walkoff hit to someone named Brian Dopirak.

Pirates 2, Twins 1: Andy LaRoche smashed a two-run ding-dong off R.A. Dickey to lead Pittsburgh over Minnesota. Andy is 4-for-8 since coming back from back ouchies. Tom Gorzelanny and Francisco Liriano both pitched well. Their families are proud. Oh, the Pirates are 7-1 this spring. It helps when none of your players leave for the WBC.

Mexico 14, Diamondbacks 4: Good news for Kris' favorite team as Team Mexico collected tater dongs from sassy senior Jorge Cantu and the Hairston Bros. Bad news for D-Backs fans because Brandon Webb got absolutely BOMBED by the caballeros, giving up four hits and six runs in just over an inning pitched. Decent news for Nick Piecoro because J Crew is having a sale on kelly green polo shirts.

Indians 5, Cubs 4: According to Bud Shaw at the Plains Dealer, "The Indians won the game in the eighth inning when Wilson Valdez's groundout to short scored Chris Gimenez from third." I don't know who any of those three people are. In other news, Carl Pavano was tattooed for four hits and three runs in two innings of work, but Fausto Carmona and Jensen Lewis each contributed two innings of scoreless pitching. What, no Kerry Wood?

Rangers 5, Royals 3: Top Texas prospect Justin Smoak smoked a three run tater tot, and that's all I need to tell you about that game.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, fortune favors the bold.

That'll do for today, piggies. I'm not really waking up that early to watch the WBC but I will certainly be watching Team America vs Team Canadia on Saturday at 2PM on ESPN. Hopefully, Davey Johnson will keep J.J. Putz in the bullpen and off the mound.

(Jorge Posada and his borkened bat courtesy of picAndrew on Flickr)

Did you hear that some members of Team America will be taping a "Top Ten" segment for the Late Show with David Letterman, set to air tomorrow night on CBS? No? C'mon, the news is all over the baseballblogosphere! Well here's the list of players who will be displaying their total lack of comedic timing with their presentation of the "Top Ten Reasons to Watch the World Baseball Classic" list:

Derek Jeter from the New York Yankees; David Wright from the New York Mets; Chipper Jones from the Atlanta Braves; Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies; Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox; Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers; Ryan Braun from the Milwaukee Brewers; Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros; and Adam Dunn from the Washington Nationals.

As cool as it seems to have the best players from Team America participating in a hilarious countdown, nothing that Jeter & the gang can say will ever compete with old Letterman gags from the Chris Elliott days or classic bits like this one with Stephen Yan of "Wok With Yan" (via Kliph Nesteroff's Classic Television Showbiz blog):


Note: contrary to popular belief, Stephen Yan is not related to Martin Yan, star of the PBS show "Yan Can Cook", or Esteban Yan, star of the 2001 Tampa Bay Devil Rays bullpen.

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The good people at XM Radio have decided that I must choose between just two games to listen to and liveglog today at 3PM. Here are our choices:

  • Cleveland Indians vs Chicago Cubs
  • Texas Rangers vs Kansas City Royals

/tumbleweeds

Well I glogged the Indians last week and I'd rather not glog at all than waste my life listening to a Royals/Rangers springtime tilt. Sorry folks, no glog today.

Instead, please enjoy this hilarious video courtesy of Big League Stew via AdFreak:

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With the World Baseball Classic on the verge of starting any day now, it's about time your Walkoff Walk editors and interns divulged our rooting interests. It's not as cut and dry as you would expect: despite my deep-seated Italian heritage, I can't imagine cheering against my native United States of America. Kris, on the other hand, is a socialist pig while Lloyd is enough of a Great White North fanboy to make Corey Koskie's head spin. Here, in our own words, are our declarative statements, good readers:

  • Rob Iracane chooses the USA: Maybe if my man idol Derek Jeter wasn't playing for Team America, this would be more of a toss-up. But the veteran Jeter's presence lends leadership to an otherwise young lineup; add in my favorite Red Sock Kevin Youkilis and some quietly awesome veteran pitchers like Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy and you've got a team that could very easily pull this thing off. Call it irrational jingoism or call it short-sighted statistical analysis: not only am I rooting for Team America, I think they're going to win the whole bowl of cherries.

  • Kris Liakos chooses Mexico: I thought about choosing Cuba because I like their rich baseball tradition and few countries love the sport as much as them. But I didn't want to be misinterpreted and attract crazy commenters. Then I was going to pick the DR because their infield is pretty awesome, but as an early season tournament, pitching will rule the day. Mexico has K-Rod and The Mexicutioner and... Elmer Dessens. Ah screw it. I'm going with Mexico because I loved The Savage Detectives and rooting for the US is something Richie Cunningham would do.

  • Lloyd the Barber chooses Canada: Canadians live for the opportunity to quietly espouse their national pride, nearly as much as they love an opportunity to jeer Americans in a safely drunken and inoffensive manner. It's pretty easy to like Canada's chances in this exhibition event. Justin Morneau, Joey Votto, Russell Martin, Matt Stairs give any team a chance to compete in a winner-take-all home run derby for all the marbles. Sadly, the WBC will be decided by playing full 9 inning baseball games. Any team who's current ace finds himself battling to become the Blue Jays fifth stater and former ace finds himself battling to make the Blue Jays as an power-hitting outfielder isn't going to beat many good teams. Playing in front of the home country fans could help them sneak into the second round, leaving them poised for a trouncing by a vastly superior nation of sun soaked Dominicans. At that point I continue the proud Canadian tradition of jumping ship! I'll move my support to my briefly adopted homeland of South Korea. DAE HAN MIN GUK.

  • Darren chooses China: Hey I'm not from China but my grandparents are. Well, they were. Their souls are gone now but that's okay with me I'm my own man you know? It's hard to be a second generation Chinese-American living in Texas but I do my own thing you know? I don't know any players on the Chinese team because none of the Astros are on it. I think Kaz Matsui is Japanese but even though he is an Astro I can't root for Japan. My father thinks baseball is a terrible sport and wishes that I were to be a volleyball player like he was in college but I do my own thing and watch baseball. So I will be rooting for China even though I don't feel any connection with China and would rather root for Team U.S.A. but Rob already has that so I'm okay, you know?

  • The Street Team chooses The Netherlands: Boyyyyy. Listen up it's Shielk Pete, The Speed Freak. I'm the commader of that WoW Street Team Crew. You know, me Dana Dollas, The Moose, Lil Pepe and Moses 'Two Step' Diaz. We know a thing or two about REPRESENTING and when we're not wheatpasting pictures of Rob to the alley next to a Williams and Sonoma we're watching bikka bikka BASEBALL. The Netherlands got sick beats and Pim Walsma. End of story. I'm gonna go take a bottle of King Cobra straight to the neck. OUT.

So there ya go. Who are y'all rooting for?

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday when you were feeling sorry for yourself:

Rays 12, Astros 2: Astro Brandon Backe got hammered while the Rays' starter Jeff Niemann was good for the second time this spring. Reid Brignac collected a happy jack.

Brewers 8, Rockies 6: The Rockies are now 0-7 in the springtime. Colorado reliever Ryan Mattheus allowed a tater tot to Trot Nixon. That should explain it.

Cardinals 15, Mets 4: Anyone who thought Freddy Garcia had the inside track on the Mets starting rotation better get their noggin looked at. Fella gave up ding-dongs to Chris Duncan and someone named Allen Craig among the four runs allowed in just two innings pitched. His ERA this spring is 32,839.27.

Giants 7, Diamondbacks 6: Randy Johnson was good against his old team, striking out SEVEN D'Backs in three solid innings. Pablo Sandoval had his first homer. Not ever, but close.

Indians 9, Royals 9: Zach Greinke got torn a new one and the game ended in a silly tie despite the Royals seven-run fifth. Alex Gordon had a tetra tot.

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Former Indians and Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel is trying to catch on with the Texas Rangers this spring. If that doesn't work out, though, he's still got a burgeoning artistic career to fall back on. Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plains Dealer catches up with the veritable Degas on the dirt, the Gauguin with a glove:

"I painted a lot the three years I was there," said Vizquel, whose artistic portraits were featured in an exhibition in September in San Francisco's Caldwell Snyder Gallery. "I wanted to show the whole thing I did during my stay there. It went great."

Vizquel told the San Francisco Chronicle that he is a fan of European figurativists Odd Nerdrum and Lucian Freud, calling them "the two most exciting contemporary artists living right now."

The painting above is entitled "Despair" and was most likely influenced by Omar's feelings towards Jose Mesa circa October 1997. I also believe this one is an homage to Jim Leyland.

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For a team that is supposed to be built on a foundation that is one part speed, two parts defense, three parts bullpen and five parts Sakrete, the collective of major leaguers repping the United States of America in the WBC looked pretty damn good just one week ago. In the last four days, however, four different players have pulled out of the competition causing manager Davey Johnson to scramble for replacements. To wit:

Grady Sizemore, OF, strained groin: Outside of Carlos Beltran, Grady was probably the best all-around center fielder in the tournament. He'll be replaced by Shane Victorino, who was originally trying to field a seventeenth team for his native Hawaii.

Brad Hawpe, OF, lacerated finger: Hawpe tore his little pinky right open sliding into second base on Friday. Here's some free career advice, Brad: next time, just get the girl to take her own bra off. Hawpe was replaced by Nats slugger Adam Dunn, who will undoubtedly be forbidden to walk on the outfield grass and will instead back up Youk at first.

Unfortunately, Cards OF Ryan Ludwick and Orioles OF Nick Markakis already turned down their invites to play nice nice with Team USA because they weren't offered starting jobs. Prima donnas! Harrumph.

Joe Nathan, RP, ouchie shoulder: Either Nathan's seventy innings per year average is catching up to him or he needs to spend some extra time in Twins camp playing Battleship with Nick Blackburn. (psst...Blackburn moves his destroyer). Nathan will be replaced with LaTroy Hawkins, who was driven out of the Bronx last year for the sin of wearing Paul O'Neill's #21.

B.J. Ryan, RP, infinite sadness: Well, at least one out of four of these departures turned out to be a positive for Team America. Someone named Joel Hanrahan will take up the empty roster spot.

Also, Angels closer Brian Fuentes is going to miss the first round of the WBC to attend to a death in the family, but promised America that he'd be back for Round Two. Bring back a mimeograph of that death certificate, Brian, or at least a picture of yourself by the coffin, or Davey Johnson will have your ass. Padres reliever Heath Bell, who must be a great pitcher since he applied to be part of the WBC team last fall and got no reply whatsoever, will pick up Fuentes' scraps in round one.

(Lego stretcher picture from Flickr, of course)

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday when you lost all self-control:

Pirates 2, Reds 1: Homer Bailey threw three scoreless frames and departed the game with his head held high and both his arms perfectly intact. The 22-year-old has faced some hard times in the majors but still has quite a long way to go before Dusty Baker overuses him to the point of injury. Zach Duke also went three innings without allowing a run but nobody cares because he is not nearly as colorful.

Tigers 7, Moccasins 1: Good news, Detroit fans! Your star pitching acquisition from the offseason, Edwin Jackson, pitched quite well and was supported by his offense in a tidy win! Of course the win came against a bunch of college kids but hey, you gotta enjoy the small victories too. Joel Zumaya pitched one shutout inning and Jeremy Bonderman got sent back to the D with an aching arm. Whoops!

Padres 4, Brewers 3: No, Trevor Hoffman did not make the trip from Brewers camp to visit his old team, but he sent his well-wishes and a 64 oz bottle of tanning cream to his old pal Brian Giles. Emil Brown inexplicably hit a three-run tater tot.

Mariners 5, White Sox 3: Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon emerged from their hyperbaric chambers just long enough to throw actual pitches off an actual mound prior to the Sox 5-3 loss to the Mariners. Someone named Reggie Corona doubled in two runs for the M's; after the game, Corona returned to his original planet of Zarklox where he can re-energize his inner strength.

Astros 5, Yankees 5: Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Hampton were the starters in this contest; Wang went two innings without allowing a run while Hampton went the same distance but allowed four runs and six hits. Good work, Ed Wade! Angel Berroa inexplicably hit a tater dong.

Via WFMU's Beware of the Blog, we learn that when Richard Nixon first saw the landmark TV show "All in the Family" (after the baseball game he was watching had ended) he was convinced it was a made-for-TV movie that glorified homosexuality. Enjoy:

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Thanks to Dan Steinberg at D.C. Sports Bog for uploading a picture of the latest incarnation of the Nationals mascot, Screech. Looks like the ad wizards behind this re-design decided that Screech would appeal to more D.C. locals if he appeared to be strung out on horse.

Inside Bay Area reports that, as per ESPN, the A's signed shortstop Orlando Cabrera to a one-year deal worth $4 million. He'll kick Bobby Crosby to the curb and join forces with Mark Ellis to create the greatest Bay Area double play combo since Mike Gallego and Tony Phillips.

Please head over to Baseball Musings for David Pinto's annual pledge drive and help him raise some dough so he doesn't have to resort to blogging from Friendly's ever again.

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After four years of being in charge of directing the the Washington Nationals franchise's roster and farm teams, Jim Bowden has finally made the most helpful move of his tenure: resigning as general manager. Bowden's big announcement yesterday comes after a federal investigation into illegal practices by the Nationals organization in the Dominican Republic involving the skimming of bonuses and the revelation that the Nats prized sixteen-year-old prospect "Esmailyn Gonzalez" was actually 20 and had a much longer name. Bowden, of course, denies any wrongdoing and claims that his hasty departure on his trusty Segway was to avoid being a distraction in Nationals camp:

"I've become a distraction, and unless you're [unsigned free agent] Manny Ramirez there's no place for distractions in baseball," he said. "I want to be able to turn the page, and I want this franchise to be able to have everybody from the media and the fans focus on what the game is about. It's about players. It's about what happens on the field."

It's true. General managers should always avoid being a distraction. Let us not forget then-Reds-GM Jim Bowden's totally non-distracting statements in July 2002 regarding a possible work stoppage:

"If players want to strike, they ought to just pick Sept. 11, because that's what it's going to do to the game," Bowden said to a stunned group of reporters before Thursday's Reds-Dodgers game in Cincinnati. "I don't think there's going to be a work stoppage. I don't think anybody's that dumb. If they do walk out, make sure it's Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let (Players' Association leader) Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do."

He was fired a year later. The Reds have not quite yet recovered from his mis-management, and the perennially last-place-finishin' Nationals might take a decade before they even catch a whiff of the playoffs. As of now, no interim G.M. has been named by the Nationals, but we should be more concerned about the well-being of another important organization. How are the good people at Fire Jim Bowden handling the sad news?

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Here's what happened in baseball yesterday when she was gone:

Padres 4, Cubs 2: Non-Cub and non-Brave Jake Peavy notched his first winter win with three innings of shutout ball. Facing a lineup of Cubs hitters was good preparation for his upcoming WBC stint since he will be called upon to fight angry bears when deployed in the Great White North of Canadia for Team USA. Don't forget to leave your wife home if she is menstruating, Jake.

White Sox 3, Dodgers 2: Chicago's new phenom shortstop Gordon Beckham should be at the top of your fantasy draft lists...in 2011. Oh, I fooled you all! Zing! Zing! Kid knocked a solo tater tot off former Expo Scott Strickland, part of a three-run ninth inning that propelled Ozzie Guillen's band of merry misfits to a come-from-behind win that nobody will ever remember because these are merely exhibition games.

Phillies 7, Braves 3: Hey Philadelphia fans still upset about possibly losing Chase Utley's April at-bats: fret no longer, because Marcus Giles is here to make you forget that Chumpley ever existed! The kid who was once afraid to drive to Vegas collected two hits and two runs and two stolen bases and totally showed up that loser Miguel Cairo (0-for-1? Hit the bricks, sister!) Brian McCann ding-donged off Chan Ho Park.

Red Sox 2, Twins 1: Believe me when I say that 2009 will be the year of the pitcher. Folks you never expected to succeed will be hitting corners and strikin' folks out with certain aplomb and guaranteeing future earnings beyond their wildest dreams. One of those gents is Kevin Slowey who held the Red Sox at bay through two perfect innings in a close loss. Hear me now and believe me later: Kevin Slowey is going to eat AL batters for breakfast in '09.

Giants 5, Brewers 2: In fact, 2009 is going to be so strong for pitchers that reigning NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum will throw at least four perfect games and twelve no-hitters while shutting out 94% of his opponents. It's like 1968 all over again except without the Elvis Presley comeback tour. Lincecum retired all nine batters he faced which is still a great accomplishment even though one of them was Trot Nixon.