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Monday, May 17, 2004

A Shoulder Made of Glaus, Part 2

Sixty days my rear end. See Jon's commentary on Shawn Green for where this is going.

Well, at least we have Dallas McPherson to look forward to. Troy, you were a great MVP in 2002 and it was a fantastic career while it lasted. I guess it's a good thing that they didn't re-sign Glaus in the offseason, huh?

Update: ESPN reports he may be out for the rest of the year. No duh, and add it's "stick a fork in him" time, but I include this for the sake of completeness; IMO his career is over, but at least he's got D-Mac behind him. Who knows, he might make a nice backup infielder. Well, he's not so good at short, and hasn't played the position since the minors. Heh, never mind.


Score Bard's New Periodic Table Of The Blogs

The Score Bard has updated his periodic table of the blogs, and I ranked "sulphur". Jon, it seems, has been merged into all-baseball.com's new listing as "Al", aluminum. Thanks, Score Bard. Always happy to get a link, especially from a quality blogger.

Update: And please, if you need something to cheer you up after Sunday's losses, know that metropolitan LA's teams aren't the only ones to lose. Read Batgirl, especially this Legovision reenactment of Troy Glaus, pre-shoulder-trauma, tagging out Henry Blanco.


A Good Man On A Bad Team

Today I was reminiscing about Benji Gil, the Rangers' first-round draft pick in 1991. He barely was able to play in the majors: he came up in 1993, skipped 1994, played -- poorly -- in 1995 through 1997, missed 1998 and 1999, and then the Angels signed him. He gave them two very good years (2001: .296/.330/.477, and 2002: .285/.307/.431), and two really bad ones. Last year, the Angels released him. He has subsequently bounced around the Indians minor leagues, and now the Rockies were the last team to kick him out after a wretched spring training.

Which brought me to the team stats page. If you scroll your eyes down, you'll see a fellow named Joe Kennedy, carrying an unexpectedly good 2.85 ERA. Looking at his peripheral stats, he's got respectable-but-not-great numbers:

K/BBBB/9K/9H/9
1.803.046.857.23

What's more, his strikeout rate, never especially good with Tampa Bay, has actually improved over his 2003 spent there. Those kind of numbers -- especially H/9 -- have got to get worse in Colorado, but who'd've believed you could get that from a journeyman pitcher at Coors Field, when the starting rotation's ERA presently stands at 7.67? Baseball Prospectus gives him a 15.0 VORP (subscription required), putting him in the neighborhood of such luminaries as Roy Halliday, Wilson Alvarez, and Ben Sheets. Given the Rocks' proclivities, I have to believe his acquisition was an accident, but however it occurred, at least the Rockies' fans have one guy they can look forward to, not unlike Barry Bonds and the Giants.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

Sheets Kickers

2004 stats to date:

Barry Zito, Moneyball stud: 5.63
Ben Sheets, Moneyball laughingstock: 2.90

This commercial message is brought to you by Mr. Small Sample Size, the king of big ERAs.


Broomsville: Reds 6, Dodgers 3

The feeling that Tinkerbell has left the room settles in hard around here, especially with the Angels' depleted lineup finally going thump in Baltimore. But settle in it has, as the Dodgers choked hard against the Reds, 6-3. In fact, the only redeeming thing to happen in baseball for me was the Cubs 4-2 win today versus the Padres, effecting a three-game sweep. (Hint to the Dodgers: based on the last two games I saw there, you might try to hit hard down the left field line. All the homers were in the general vicinity of the Western Metals building, including José Macias' fluke two-run shot today.) Have the Angels had bad luck recently? Well, how about Sammy Sosa being scratched because of a bad sneeze? Older players -- you'd think they could ask politely for a few days off!

At the very least, in today's game, Green and Beltre should have flip-flopped. And perhaps Cora could have been used in leadoff, I don't know. And now, the trip to Philly after a losing homestand. This could get ugly. Minus the hitting, the pitching isn't good enough to keep the team in close games.

The thing that bugs me is Gagné's lain fallow for so long I can't even remember the last time I saw him pitch.

Recap


Postscriptum: Is it still too early to remind people that Baseball Prospectus projected the Dodgers to finish fourth?

Orioles 4, Angels 0

As I mentioned earlier, the Mariners' blogosphere has taken a sudden culling along with the team's fortunes. It's not surprising; losses will do that to you. That's why I don't have too much to say today, especially since I left the game at about the sixth, when it became plain that the problems besetting the Angels wouldn't go away, namely Larry (Halter), Moe (Kennedy), and Curly in the infield. Okay, subtract one Stooge, but after two errors in one game and no redeeming bat activity to make up for it, I'm starting to agree a little more with Richard's call to put Amezega in at third and let Halter check his glove for holes. But, hey, at least it was a .500 road trip. That's what everyone should shoot for.

Recap


Angels 7, Orioles 4

Every team in the NL West lost yesterday, while every team in the AL West won. I'm not sure how often this happens, but it must be damn frustrating if you're a Mariners' fan: just as your team finally catches a break, beating the Yanks 13-7 in the 13th inning, everyone else does, too, as the Rangers beat the Tigers 6-1, and Oakland beat Kansas City 3-1. U.S.S. Mariner has, predictably, had trenchant commentary on the unexpectedly bleak situation in Seattle. The number of M's bloggers has collapsed faster than Saddam Hussein's army, prompting U.S.S. Mariner to trim their sidebar. And while I don't think anyone will take them up on their new fan jersey combination, the comment they passed on from one of their readers strikes me as apropos to both the Angels and Dodgers situations:
Underperformance by one person is poor performance. Underperformance by a whole team is poor management.
Well, yes, and that's why you have to wonder about how the Angels are doing. Richard has started blasting Mike for his in-game moves. Yes, I'll give you his running game is an absolute puzzler sometimes, but what about the successful double-steal the other day? Without comprehensive data to hand, I'm not going to go far with this one quantitatively. While this game was going on, we were at Petco watching the Cubs beat -- beat? No, pound -- the Padres. (We're going to a second game tonight at Petco, so neither have I got the time -- wish me luck on the traffic. Expect a mess of photo essays up in the next few days, including, hopefully, our Spring Training adventures.)

Back to the Halos. I'm starting to think I might like Wash, just a little. For one thing, I hate flyball pitchers, and for another, I hate extreme flyball pitchers. With sufficient run support, any hack on the mound can be made to look good, although to take it to the extremes the boys in St. Louis do is just crazy. Yet, eight innings and two earned runs? And now he's sporting a sub-5.00 ERA? Wowzers. If he gets below 4.00 I'll do handstands. And no, Richard, I'm not taking back anything I said about Halter. I'll agree that his rotten glovework has cost the team dearly from time to time, but he does -- sometimes -- do things that redeem him. Hey, at least he's not Eric Owens, or worse yet, Scott Spiezio -- who is now 1-42 in the clutch for the M's. So much for "clutch hitting" as an ability.

Recap


Congrats, Lakers

Congratulations to the Lakers for pulling one off. I normally couldn't give the gluteus maximus of a Rattus rattus about basketball, but Dodgerkid -- who was a little down on the team earlier -- will be happy to be proven wrong, I'm sure.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Big Unit At The Big A?

pussinboots on the Angel Fan Forums reports a Phoenix rumor that Randy Johnson wants to be traded to a contender if the team isn't in it by June, and he has a no-trade clause including the Yanks. The Angels were mentioned.

Yes, folks, Elvis has left the building.

Update: The Arizona Republic adds this coda. As usual, one misheard comment becomes a trade rumor. Sheesh.

Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson stressed Friday that the frustration he expressed one day after losing a 1-0 decision to the New York Mets' Tom Glavine shouldn't be interpreted as anything else.

"Don't read into any more about that than what it really is," Johnson said before Friday's game against Montreal.

Johnson wasn't available for comment after losing Wednesday on a home run allowed to the Mets' Kazuo Matsui for the only run of the game. He remained baffled about a question pertaining to any disappointment that only 27,750 fans - the third-smallest home crowd of the season at the time - paid to see him face Glavine.


Yet Another Injury? Colón Left Game With Back Stiffness

Maybe this was why Colón did so poorly yesterday. He had back trouble:
Colon gave up Javy Lopez's solo home run in the fourth, four more runs in the fifth, then left because of lower-back stiffness...

Pickoff Moves

Salmon, Damned

Two at bats. Two freakin' at bats. That's all it took before Salmon's knee blew out again.
"It felt fine during warm-ups and pregame, but when I actually got out there and played at game speed it hurt," Salmon said. "You can do all the practice you want, but you can't simulate a game situation. That's why they have these rehab games. I needed to see how it would react at being a little out of control on a swing and running the bases hard."

. . .

"I have very mixed emotions right now. From a player's perspective its great to get back on the field, but the injury just isn't where it is supposed to be," Salmon said. "We've got a lot of good things going on with the big club. It's a long season and I don't want to force this and drag this thing out. I'm still trying to figure things out. We'll have to see how it feels tomorrow. Right now it is tender and sore."

Salmon was supposed to play this weekend with the Quakes and possibly rejoin the Angels Tuesday, but that time table is now up in the air.

Grand. Simply grand.

Glaus At 1B?

The Angels website picked up on the possibility mentioned in yesterday's broadcast that Glaus might play first base to keep his bat in the lineup rather than have a fixed DH. The way the team's been injured this year, we'll need every break we can get.

Reds 2, Dodgers 1

The ride's over.

You'll have games like this in the course of a season, but the question is, was it avoidable? Is Ishii reverting to form? I don't know, but the number of walks points that way. But the bats, the bats... my first thought, after reading the box score, was Grabby batting leadoff? Another Tracy's-lost-his-mind moment, I thought, but 1-3 with a walk isn't too bad. The problem is the gaping hole that has become Shawn Green's bat -- .236? Enough, already -- to the bottom of the lineup with you. But -- unlike Eckstein, Mendozadom is highly unlikely for Green. Even if he continues at his current .192 pace (over the last week), it would still take him 138 four at bat games to get there. His descent has been imperceptable after his early good start; as of April 15th, he was hitting .333. On the other hand, the Reds' pitching staff is 13th in the league by ERA, so if there were ever a team he could recover his swing against, it should be Cincinnati. I'll hold off on advice to move him down the order, but if he doesn't start producing this weekend, it's time.

Recap

No Epic Battles For Us, Thanks -- We're Waving

Jon dutifully recorded Cora's epic at bat Thursday, with this hoping-to-counteract-the-stereotype close:
To anyone who might be reading this from the outside, who has bought into the stereotype of the Dodger fan, who has mocked us, please try to understand. Just try.

Dodger fans are real.

Of course they are, Jon, but that doesn't mean they actually give a damn about good baseball. I had completely forgotten about this, but letter writer Paul Haddad in today's Times reminds us that the crowd assembled was "busy doing the wave throughout most of Cora's 14-minute battle for the ages." Arrive in the third, and do the wave through the exciting bits. <expletive>

Friday, May 14, 2004

Step On Their Necks, Already: Angels 10, Orioles 9

Colón is an overpaid number two.

Here we go again. Five earned runs, five innings, four walks, five strikeouts. 4.59 ERA. Gregg didn't look so hot, either, but, hey, you gotta tip your caps. But this is pathetic.

In the ninth: Rory Markus:

Good thing he put that caveat in there, because it really is believable. Percy can't get it done anymore. If I see one more blown save where K-Rod gets pulled because of Percy's title as "closer", I'm going to punch a hole in the wall. When you're ahead, you step on their necks. Percival's ERA is now 4.26. When are they going to pull this guy? He doesn't have it.

What's wrong with this pitching staff is the GM's inability to recognize and acquire quality pitching. We should have had Javier Vazquez. Instead, we have an overpaid number two. Step on their necks, already. This should have never gone to extra innings. Christ, do I miss Donnelly.

And what was up with Figgins not getting credit for hitting for the cycle? Maybe I'm ignorant of the rules on how scoring works, but he got two bases in the tenth when the throw to the plate was wide. Isn't that a double?

Recap


A Shoulder Made Of Glaus

Again, same shoulder, and this time his knee, too. This same injury kept him out of the lineup for two months last year.
Angels general manager Bill Stoneman had no roster move to announce and said the club did not think the 15-day disabled list was immediately necessary.
Yeah. Well, whatever games he sits out are just more DL time as far as I'm concerned.

The Curse is back.

Update: This could be really bad. Even though it's his throwing shoulder, Shawn Green is the poster child for what happens after a shoulder reconstruction, and if Troy has to undergo that, chances are his labrum's done for good -- as is his ability as a power hitter.


Pickoff Moves

Yankees 7, Angels 3

David, you have three 0-4 games until Mendozahood.

José Guillen wasn't enough. In its presently depleted state, the Angels' lineup isn't enough. That was obvious yesterday, when the Yankees smacked around Angels "pitching". Lackey has never really returned to his 2002 form, and I suspect his early success may well be due to the league having not seen him. About the only good thing to come of this was his five strikeouts, but his demotion from 2002 World Series Game 7 hero (and ALDS Game 4 winner) to back-of-the-rotation scaremonger has been absolutely brutal. Lack needs to settle down and learn to pitch. And there's no place in the bullpen for him.

Note to whoever's writing the headlines over at mlb.com: Lackey was many things, but unlucky wasn't one of them.

Recap

Cubs 7, Dodgers 3

The Dodgers scoring in this game was almost like a gift, and yes, we got to see the promised Borowski/Grabowski matchup, which our rookie won. But Nomo lost the game, and after this outing, you have to wonder whether he can be effective ever again in any role. Update: I have to agree with Terry: Hideo needs DL time.

Helen complained that JoBo has looked awful this year; for whatever reason, he can't find his rhythm and has drifted into anticloserdom, giving up a mess of hits and walks. I thought at first maybe she's getting spoiled watching Gagné, but in fact Borowski seems to be undergoing an Ortizian transformation, with his H/9 nearly doubling and BB/9 tripling over last year. JoBo, you'd better stop handing out free passes. Closers can't afford to do that.

Recap

Cold Comfort

A deal's a deal, but I'd be creeped out, too, if my siblings decided to freeze my father, regardless of whether he's Ted Williams. The temptation to speak out about it publically would be pretty intense. The lawsuit brought against Bobby Jo and Mark Ferrell -- Williams' eldest daughter and son-in-law -- by Williams' estate (read: siblings) sounds too much like the kind of thing the Scientology creepos might try to pull off.

Mariners 3-way Deal?

Blecch, whether it's the PI's imagination or not:
Bavasi said no deals are near, but rumors are circulating the Red Sox and Royals are trying to entice the Mariners into a three-way trade. Boston would trade pitcher Byung Hyun Kim and, possibly, outfielder Johnny Damon to the Mariners in exchange for pitcher Freddy Garcia and minor league starter Cha Seung Baek.

If the Red Sox could get the Mariners to bite, Garcia would then be shipped to Kansas City, with outfielder Carlos Beltran going to Boston.

And this helps Seattle how, exactly? You know things are bad when the local papers start talking up rumors of trades that erode a team's value.

So, Billy, What Does Work In The Playoffs?

A good article in Hardball Times about what works in the playoffs. Two things: teams that strike out a lot don't make it, but teams that successfully steal a lot do. Bad news for the 2004 Angels, as they seem to be whiffing at a record pace.

Timmy At Rancho For Rehab

Tim Salmon will appear starting tonight at Rancho Cucamonga for a rehab assignment. Come on down, Timmy, we could sure use the help.

Brickhead

Every now and then I like to taunt the jackasses of the sporting press, such as they may be, about their obvious idiocy and failure to pay attention, dammit. One such came across the transom from one column by "JT the Brick":
McCourt was accused of only being interested in the real estate value of Dodger Stadium in L.A. and Dodger Town in Florida. He got ripped for hiring a young general manager in Paul De Podesta, who had experience in finding undervalued and unwanted talent that other teams were willing to dump. Sports talk radio hosts would base their shows around making fun of McCourt and the future of the 2004 Dodgers.
Well, we can't help guys like Plaschke who go off half-cocked. So far, hiring DePodesta has looked like an eminently sensible move, a rarity for Frank-n-Jamie, but fair's fair, and we here at 6-4-2 have to grudgingly accept the good with the bad, even if it comes from an veteran knucklehead. That is, it's hard to be anything less than grateful when he takes the advice of we lowly bloggers seriously (i.e., shut up, Frank).
And surprise, surprise, the Dodgers began Thursday with the best record in baseball (22-10) and won six games in a row.
Well, gee, after playing 33 games, I guess we can all go home now and declare the Dodgers world champeens, can't we? I mean, really now. Let's see just how much money Frank has in the 2004/2005 offseason, and whether they sign Gagné and Beltre. Jon might not think so, but it's still a real possibility that Beltre is a goner after this season. Debt service is a bitch, yanowaddimean?
Once washed-up pitcher Wilson Alvarez looks like he has found his old form. [Gee, he was that way last year, too, remember?] Adrian Beltre is batting .377 and will make the all-star team along with Paul Lo Duca, who is batting .386 while compiling 42 hits. Kazuhisa Ishii has already won five games and Eric Gagne has 10 saves and looks more dominant than last season.
Wilson was that way last year. Paulie's a well-known first-half performer. And which Gagné have you been watching? The one who had a strikeout rate lower than OP's two weeks into the season?
I applaud Frank McCourt for buying the Dodgers while other local real estate developers and movie stars held on to their money and criticized him behind closed doors. The sports media in L.A. doesn't have enough money combined to buy season tickets to the Dodgers let alone pick up the tab while the apologizing to Mr. and Mrs. McCourt in public.
Look, Jack, Eli Broad made a good faith bid long before Frank even was able to spell "Dodgers", but Fox turned him down -- remember? And the jury's still out -- in fact, they're taking an extended lunch break -- on the question of whether McCourt is anything like a good owner. Skepticism is the name of the game around here. A winning start doesn't mean he -- or the team -- can keep this up indefinitely. What happens if they swoon in September -- again?

We'll have to wait and see.

But none of that makes Frank a good owner.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Mr. Small Sample Size Presents: Angels vs Yankees!

And now, Mr. Small Sample Size presents the Angels' stats against the Yankees:
PlayerPOSGABRH2B3BHRRBITBBBSOSBCSOBPSLGAVG
C FigginsOF31425300080000.357.571.357
C Kotchman1B31315100460000.385.462.385
V GuerreroOF31265101392310.500.750.417
J DaVanonOF31144200163310.500.545.364
A Kennedy2B31123101170210.273.636.273
D EcksteinSS2900000000200.000.000.000
S Halter3B3902000120400.222.222.222
J GuillenOF28441025111000.5561.375.500
B MolinaC3811001341100.200.500.125
A AmezagaSS3710000000100.000.000.000
T Glaus3B1511001240201.200.800.200
J MolinaC1400000000300.000.000.000
We lost the series, kids, but face it: these are some damn respectable offensive numbers. If anything, this series showed just how much we missed Donnelly in the bullpen. With the big D in there, we would be walking out of this series with a win, by virtue of cleaning up on the first game. How many times did the bullpen choke in that game, three times? Sheesh.

OT: My Favorite Teacher

First off, I should say that, as I've aged, I've waxed increasingly skeptical of education's machinery. Too much of it is cant, duckspeak designed to fool a blinkered audience. When you see "My Child Is An Excellent Student At Nosebleed Elementary" bumperstickers on the back of every third car, you begin to suspect that the paeans aren't all that meaningful, and the mind inexorably begins to extrapolate that through high school and thence to college, the rubber stamp of academia. For years, I've suspected that the value of a college education in practical terms is in steep decline. When I was in college, back in the middle 80's, the problems were already apparent to anyone pursuing a liberal arts degree. Those of us in the hard sciences, and especially, engineering programs at the time were pretty smug, because the leap up in salary was enormous. Now, it's brother-can-you-spare-a-dime time for even Eta Kappa Nu types in the US, as literally hundreds of thousands of tech jobs have moved offshore. It seems there's little practical reason anymore to get into any of the technical or hard science degree programs. The market has spoken, and it wants Americans to be greeters at Wal-Mart.

Once upon a time when I wasn't so bitter about my future employment prospects should my present situation collapse, I was contemplating pursuing a straight computer science degree, simply because of the math requirements in the engineering programs. (You shouldn't read too much into this: the degree program really consists of four years of programming tricks, while navigating the tedious seas of Turing machines.) But something happened along the way that changed my mind. That something, or someone, was Kevin Shannon, then -- as now, apparently -- of Orange Coast College. I had him for precalculus, a subject I never got to in high school, victim of a series of horrible instructors there. He's the first and only math prof I have ever had who could make that light come on in my head. And now, he's received a $15,000 award for being so good.

Shannon is going to use his $15,000 to help his son go to college.

"He's 10, and he wants to be a pediatrician, so I think that will pay for about a year," said Shannon, a math teacher at Orange Coast College.

Shannon thought he was being interviewed as a finalist for teacher of the year. But when he showed up at the County Department of Education offices, he found out he had been tricked.

He was the winner.

Shannon said it must have been his students who got him over the top. "My students appreciate what I do, and they wrote letters of recommendation," he said.

Shannon's own essay helped as well.

"The value of a diamond is determined by the four Cs - cut, clarity, color and carat," he wrote. "A college education is more valuable than diamonds. In my educational philosophy, the four Cs of college teaching are connection, content, clarity and conduct. When any of these elements is missing, education loses its value."

OCC President Gene Farrell showed up to support Shannon.

"He's fun to watch teach," Farrell said. "He's so passionate about teaching. And he looks way too young to be at our school for 27 years."

Over my career, I got more out of his instruction than that pleasant but relatively small amount: I changed majors (to an Engineering program, despite the math, no longer deathly afeared of it). When I was at OCC, he was still the surfer dude fresh from UCSB, full of tales of days spent at the beach while "rotating right circular cylinders about the axis of the thumb" -- i.e., hoisting a few cans of Tecate. I wish him well, and hope he continues to help others the way he helped me. Thanks, Mr. Shannon.

Kevin Shannon, A Good Guy And A Great Teacher

Eat This! Angels 11, Yankees 2

I'm getting this out of the way now so I don't lose some vital organ later tonight: Glaus won't play for days and might end up on the DL. At this rate, it won't be the Anaheim Angels, it'll be the Anaheim Travelers. I had a feeling there was something bad happening if Glaus had to stay in the DL role for days and days. I hope Arte's enjoying the wins, 'cause Guillen's an injury magnet, man, and once he stops hitting, the rest of this team is awfully shaky.

I can't agree with Richard that Jeff could be a star, but he's a solid fourth OF for any team. The problem is when you have to rely on such guys. Between him and Figgins, neither of them take particularly good routes to the ball, and while Cinderella doesn't need to know such stuff, they do. It was especially evident last night. Nor can I go in with him on the Halter-bashing just yet, though you have to wonder just how long the team can go on with all these sub-.250 players. Hey, at least Mike benched Eckstein. It was way overdue.

Anyway, Kotch's base-clearing double was fantastic. He went 2-5 on the day, and is now hitting .250 against the fargin' Yanks. The Yankees, man. Weber, my on-again, off-again bête noir, managed a scoreless inning. Ortiz kinda redeemed himself in a teensy tiny way by closing the game out with a goose egg.

Recap

Update: Strike that about Kotch. Most of his AB's have come against the Yanks, but in fact, Mr. Small Sample Size says he's batting .333 against them so far. Hi!


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Cora's Groundhog Day At Bat: Dodgers 4, Cubs 0

Free: One win, to a National League team. Recipient must have enough hitting to get on base. Donor to provide poor fielding by pitcher, listless hitting with multiple strikeouts. Free delivery.

Man, the Cubs are givin' 'em away. Helen thought Chicago seemed lifeless on the field, possibly in reaction to the news that Kerry Wood will miss at least one start. Their bats certainly didn't have any pop, as they never advanced a runner beyond second base the whole night, and ended the night with nine strikeouts. Clement had good stuff, but -- in the most bizarre inning I've seen recently -- gave up every kind of weirdo infield hit imagineable. Alvarez singled to center, then --

Five consecutive singles. That'll wear you out just watching it, so imagine how tired it must have made Clement. He threw 25 pitches and gave up five singles. Whew.

And in the seventh, Cora's phenominal Groundhog Day at bat. Every pitch, for fourteen pitches, fouled off. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Spiezio's in the World Series seemed long, but nothing like this. New Dodger blogger On the DL (and hello to you, too, Dan!) breaks down the at bat. Helen told me at pitch 17, "He's fouled that one off to left. He's made an adjustment. He's ahead of him. He'll get a hit on the next pitch."

See ya.

A. Martinez in the postgame show said that baseball doesn't keep records on most pitches in a single at bat, but maybe they should. That was for the ages, man. And, as Helen reminds me, we have now seen both of Alex Cora's 2004 home runs, live.

Oh, yeah, and we finally got to meet Jon. And yes, we must do this again soon.

Recap


Beltre hopped around as usual after each at bat. Now we know why: he needs surgery to correct bone chips in his ankle he acquired last year. Great.

New Blog: "Haloville"

Welcome to fellow Angels blogger Jim Scully (now there's a name -- no relation to Vin, I imagine) and his new blog, Haloville.

Ishii's Gift To Me

Who would you rather have on the mound, Ishii or Wilson Alvarez? Dodger fans will rejoice -- and Cub fans grimace -- to learn that Ishii has been moved in the rotation due to a minor injury.
Manager Jim Tracy said Ishii experienced soreness where the cartilage attaches to the sternum after his last start Thursday night in Miami. The injury affected his between-starts throwing.

"He's feeling terrific now," said Tracy. "Rather than run him out there, we'll give him extra days and still have two left-handed starting pitchers against the Reds."

Ishii's really come into his own this year, albeit via the nervewracking conversion to an extreme flyball pitcher. His flyball/groundout rate is now .75, the lowest it's been in his career. If you're headed that direction, Dodger Stadium is one of the few places you can get away with it.

We'll be at the game tonight, so it should be a real treat to see Wilson in action. I make no secret that I love his comeback from the career grave of Tampa Bay and chronic injuries. He's a tough guy and a real trouper. But it's no knock on Ishii: I was lucky enough to attend Ishii's best game in the majors, me and my magic tickets. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


The Race To The Bottom

Eckstein is now four 0-4 games away from crossing the Mendoza line. That is to say, he could easily get there before this road trip is over. He's had three consecutive 0-fer games, two of them against weak teams. If he continues to hit at the rate he has over the last week (.120), he'll cross the Mendoza line in ten more 4-at-bat games, which would mean the Saturday May 22nd game against Baltimore, or earlier if he gets more at bats, later if he has a two-fer game somewhere. Regardless, Eckstein is in a profound slump. We can't afford for him to be an automatic out at the top of the order, not against the Yankees and O's. Changes are needed, now.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 3

Some games you win because the opposing team hands them to you. That was yesterday's game, which I watched, for a change, via WGN, because of the wife, doncha know. Weaver hung a mess of breaking stuff, but the Cubs failed to take advantage. Moreover, Weaver struck out a mess of Cubs in his best performance in that important ability thus far this year. His K/9 has returned to a very respectable and almost dangerous 7.25. It's also his best single-game strikeout performance to date. The long-predicted return of Jeff Weaver might just be here. It's fragile, and like spring flowers, brief, but I'll take it while it lasts.

Meantime, Dodger hitting didn't slow down, getting 15 hits on the night. Even Jason Grabowski's bat came to life, going 2-4 with a two-run homer -- yes, you read that right -- off a shaky and apparently injured Kerry Wood. Cora went 3-4 on the night and now seems to be challenging Izturis' hold on the leadoff spot in Roberts' absence. Of course, all this is against a Cubs relief corps badly ravaged by injury: Remlinger is still on the DL, and clearly Glendon Rusch is not the kind of guy you want to throw in the game for three innings. We didn't go down the Duaner and need to call in Gagné, but it's obvious to those who might have thought this would be "the first real test" of the team versus good opposition that this was not the case; the Dodgers had already taken a series from the Marlins on the road. Is that good enough, with a weak Central Division, no clear winner in the West, and a weakened NL East? Tinkerbell sightings grow increasingly common in Chavez Ravine, I'm told.

Finally, one item of extreme concern: nearly every at bat, Beltre hopped out of the batter's box after each swing. His ankle is killing him, and he needs to sit some. He absolutely did not need to be hitting in such a lopsided game; they could have and should have pulled him out by the fifth, when the score was 7-1.

Recap


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Yankees 8, Angels 7

Top 3rd

Came into this one late -- sue me.

Is there any acceptable excuse for two consecutive stupid baserunning errors? First, Figgins is sent home on a grounder to second, and then Glaus decides he can steal a base with the Human Walk Machine at the plate? Troy, you are paid for many things, but stealing bases is not one of them.

Bottom 3rd

What is up with the Yanks that the stands aren't filled? Oh, yeah, forgot, different coast thing. The Angels aren't a good team, or at least, not the Red Sox. Whatever.

Escobar gives up two consecutive walks, which Jeter and Payrod translate into runs. Damn, they're hitting him hard. Finally Escobar gets out of the inning, Angels 3, Yankees 2.

Top 4th

I'm wiping my eyes -- Jeffy actually hit something? On a 1-0 count? And a double? You've gotta be kidding me. Kotch, you don't have to drive everything into the bullpen to be effective. Ease up a bit, pal. I mean, it's not like I don't want to see something like...
Fizz: 3-2 count, Figgins on second... Brown throws from the stretch, and Kotchman rips it to deep left field! Matsui goes back, way back, and it's gone! And the Angels take the lead, 6-3!

Hud: Wow! That's his first major league hit! And how great is it to get it at Yankee Stadium? And now the Yanks have a taste of what a real prospect looks like!

In short, something like that moment in Aliens where Cpl. Hicks fires a shotgun blast into the mouth of one of the bitey guys ("Here! Eat this!"). But no. There'll be plenty of time for that. For now, all you have to be is better than Erstad.

But thank God Guillen's not in the lineup. With that slick grass in the outfield, one of his legs would fall off, but knowing José, he'd tell the Times he'd be ready to go next Tuesday. ("Merely a flesh wound!")

Freaking stupid rain delay. ... Must ... kill ... Elimidate producers ...

Okay, we're that desperate... time to tune in the Braves/Cards game. My God, the Braves have horrible announcers.

Bottom 5th

Gregg. We knew it had to end some time, and the Yankees were probably the team it had to end against, wasn't it? And now stupid Gameday Audio decides it's not going to work anymore. Jerks. Handing a K to Jason Giambi doesn't make up for the subsequent walk of Sheffield, nor for the two runs before that. Sheesh.

Thank God for Hideki Matsui. Angels 4, Yankees 4.

Top 6th

Vlad -- singles hitter no more. Dude, you rock.

Top 7th

Raise your hand: does the Brown-Quantrill slide seem vaguely familiar? Anyone? Anyone?

Bottom 8th

I can't bear it. Frankie has his B stuff on the mound today. He's not putting away the Yanks. The bench is exhausted, and the starters are mostly on the DL. Great timing. Frankie's coughed up the go-ahead runs, Angels 6, Yankees 5. Pthppt.

Top 9th

Rivera. Gagné he ain't, but he'll do, against DaVanon, Kotchman, and Molina. At least Jeffy has a nice at bat against him.

"In a year that has been so improbable..." Well, Guillen doesn't get to do his Gibson impression just yet. But Benjie does something very like it. And Kotch gets his first big-league hit, against Rivera, no less.

Bottom 9th

Ye gods, it's late over there -- nearly 1:00 AM. And Percy can't do it. Somebody sit him down, he can't handle the closer's job anymore, at least, not in tight situations. Was that not predictable? God, this game is painful to watch. You just know the Yanks are gonna win it.

Bottom 10th

And they do. Scioscia, please take a memo: The end.

Recap


Followup: The Yanks gave away tickets to September games to the remaining 3,000 or so in the stands who saw the last out. Say what you want about Steinbrenner, that was a classy move.

Angels Injury Notes

Some notes on Angels injury status: Frell, frell, frell, frelling frell.

Bucs Activate Daryle "Krispy Kreme" Ward To Replace Mondesi

Okay, I'm getting a giggle out of this: the Pirates have activated OF Daryle Ward to replace Raul Mondesi, who has abandoned his contract. Yet, he seems to be doing okay in the Pirates' minor leagues, hitting .306 with 6 HRs. Good for him, and here's hoping he resurrects his career having taken a long stare at it ending.

And You Kids Better Pay For That Window!

Abner Doubleday almost certainly did not invent -- or even codify -- a primitive version of baseball's rules in 1839, as is commonly told, but he probably did manage to popularize it. The latest incarnation of the game's origins comes to us via the AP wire, and now Pittsfield, MA lays claim to the venerable game:
PITTSFIELD, Mass. - City officials and historians released a document Tuesday that they say shows baseball was being played in Pittsfield in the late 1700s, long before legend credits Abner Doubleday with drawing up the rules of the game.

The evidence comes in a 1791 by-law to protect the windows in Pittsfield's new meeting house by banning anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building.

"It's clear that not only was baseball played here in 1791, but it was rampant," said historian John Thorn, who was researching the origins of baseball when he found a reference to the law in an 1869 book on Pittsfield's history. "It was rampant enough to have an ordinance against it."

"Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," Mayor James Ruberto said.

Now, the only question is, did the snake enter the Garden before or after the designated hitter rule? And is it true that Scott Boras tempted Jered Weaver with a $12 million apple?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Buh Bye, Haloscan

6-4-2 is now live with Blogger comments. Eventually I may do something about resurrecting the old comments, but this will be better for a couple reasons: Enjoy, all.

Guillen Update

Thanks to Stephen Smith for this one, given here by the AP:
Anaheim Angels outfielder Jose Guillen's sprained right knee and ankle was re-examined by team trainers Monday, and remained listed as day to day.

The team didn't order any further diagnostic tests, possibly indicating that the injury wasn't as serious as originally feared.

Not a bullet dodged yet, but a positive sign. He could be out for a while.

The Ugliness of Youth

My father-in-law says baby birds are the ugliest thing on earth. No feathers and all skin, they can't really fly, and they're completely at the mercy of anything coming into the nest to crush them. Here in Arkansas, all it takes to get a decent picture of something like that is a camera, a ladder, and sufficient patience:

So, yeah, Casey Kotchman, who yesterday went 0-3 with a sacrifice fly RBI gets to go through the gristmill of the Yanks and Orioles this week.

I'm not even sure this is remotely fair. On the other hand, you asked for it, kid. I sure hope he does better than 2-24 or something equally horrible. But I'm preparing for the worst.


Ken You Dig This?

A couple tidbits from Ken Rosenthal's blog:
The Angels began the week 14-3 when their super utilityman Chone Figgins started at shortstop or center field. Figgins is only 5-7 and 160 pounds, but he had batted third seven times and even started three times at third base, forming a diminutive left side of the infield with David Eckstein, who is 5-7, 165. By contrast, Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen is 6-4, 240, and St. Louis SS Edgar Renteria is 6-1, 200. . . .

The June draft might be the weakest ever, according to a veteran scout. Two potential top-five draft picks, Long Beach State RHP Jered Weaver and Florida State SS Stephen Drew, will be represented by agent Scott Boras, and talk already is circulating that Weaver, the younger brother of Dodgers RHP Jeff Weaver, will demand a bonus between $10 million and $12 million if the Padres make him the No. 1 pick. The Padres also will consider Drew (the younger brother of J.D.) and Rice RHP Jeff Niemann. But Drew wouldn't be a fit unless he moved to the outfield. Padres SS Khalil Greene is a Rookie of the Year candidate and Class AAA 2B Josh Barfield is the organization's top prospect. . . .

Weaver might fall a couple positions if he's asking for that kind of money. The Dodgers could pick him up, and Arte's got some cash, I understand...

Scioscia: Kotchman To Get "Significant ... Playing Time"

Quoth the Times:
Although the Angels also have Robb Quinlan and Shane Halter available at first base, Scioscia said Kotchman would get "a significant amount of playing time." Stoneman said he did not rule out the possibility that Kotchman could play well enough to stay in the major leagues once the Angels' injury wave abates.

"We don't have a timetable on him being here," Stoneman said. "When people get opportunities, we want them to make the most of them."

Looks like they're going to let Casey show them why he shouldn't be in the lineup rather than the other way around. Welcome to the Bronx, rook. And going against the Yankees: Kelvim Escobar, a pitcher the Yanks have good experience with, versus their new ace, ex-Dodger Kevin "Captain Happy" Brown.

(Aside: I remember reading in the Post when the Brown-for-Weaver deal went down that "Brown has functioned as an ace for the Dodgers", as if he were somehow fire-damaged goods. When healthy, he's a fine starter. How do you like your pitching staff now, Yankees?)

"Casey Kotchman is well beyond what his experience might indicate. "
   -- Mike Scioscia, on his new first baseman, called up from Double-A Arkansas Saturday night.
Let's hope so.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Donnelly Quits Rehab After Throwing Eight Pitches

From the Angels Fan Forum, Stephen Smith says Donnelly walked away from his rehab assignment after throwing eight pitches, with no reason given. The box score from that game indicates Donnelly threw 1/3 inning with no earned runs.

Does it ever end?

Update: Reader Anthony forwards this story from the Tacoma News-Tribune:

On the mound: Salt Lake's Chris Bootcheck was a hard-luck loser in the early game, giving up one run on three hits over six innings. In the second game, Brendan Donnelly appeared on rehabilitation assignment from Anaheim. He threw one pitch before being visited by the Salt Lake trainer and coaches. He remained in the game, walked Jamal Strong, threw a couple of pitches to Mickey Lopez, and then walked off the mound and to the clubhouse. Donnelly was on rehab after complications from a nose injury this spring, but he explained later that he removed himself after feeling discomfort in his elbow [emphasis mine].
Elbow. Oh, Lord.

Die, Devil Rays, Die: Part 2, The Revenge

Richard from Pearly Gates kindly delivered the link to the St. Petersburg Times story on the Romano fumble. Since I'm not sure I'll have Haloscan comments around here much longer, it behooves me to include this:
CHICAGO - The Devil Rays have made some good acquisitions, picking up Julio Lugo when the Astros didn't want him, grabbing Paul Abbott before a market developed, trading for Tino Martinez at a huge discount.

But the Jason Romano transaction was a bad deal.

The trade was made on the recommendation of a Rays senior scout, major-league consultant Syd Thrift, a former GM, expecting the former Hillsborough High star to provide depth at second base and shortstop.

The problem was Romano hadn't played the infield since the 2003 season and was no longer comfortable doing so. Rays officials knew something was wrong when they saw Romano's quotes in the local papers about not having taken ground balls in a year.

Whether Thrift thought he saw Romano play infield this spring, as he told Rays officials, or whether he just thought Romano could play the infield, as he claimed the other day, it was bad information.

Romano said as much Friday when he joined the Reds, who made it a total loss for the Rays by claiming him on waivers.

"They were looking for a middle infielder," Romano told Cincinnati writers. "They thought they saw me play infield in spring training, but I didn't play any in spring training. When I got there they saw I was more of an outfielder, and they've got a pretty good young outfield out there, so it wasn't really a good fit."

And they only found that out after they traded a promising infield prospect for him? I'm sorry, but an organization so badly run that their sole reason for being is to guarantee the rest of the teams in their division a dozen wins annually -- each -- is just wrong. They need to be contracted. This isn't just a mercy killing, it's about evening the odds for everyone in the AL West. Dammit, if we don't get any slack, neither should the Yankees.

Administrivia: Blogger Mods

I've been using Haloscan comments, but unseen to the folks reading this fine blog, Blogger just today made a number of changes to their software. Included in this is Blogger-driven commenting. I would very much like to migrate to this, as Haloscan seems to often be slow or down. While I haven't yet found a way to migrate the old Haloscan comments to the new Blogger system (and I'm still trying to figure out how to integrate the Blogger comments into my site), it's going to change soon. Sorry in advance for any rough air.

He Smokes Two Joints In The Evening: Angels 8, Devil Rays 4

Two outs, man on first. The batter strikes out. As the catcher, do you
  1. Ritually tag the batter, roll the ball to the mound, remove your face mask, and deliberately walk back to the dugout?
  2. Or do you throw the ball to second because the runner is in motion?
If you're Toby Hall, the D-Rays' catcher, you pick #2, and expose the team's basic flaw: they are fundamentally incompetent, from the players on the field to the senior management. They acquired Jason Romano only to put him on waivers and have him picked up by the Reds (duh). It amounts to a bad warmup for the series with New York and Baltimore (going from playing the worst team in the majors to some of the best). There was even -- and I wish I could find this -- a report that the Rays acquired Romano because they thought he could play short, a position he had not played in over a year.

Contract them. Contract them now.

Okay, I've got that vent out of my system.

God, please let Guillen be okay. We can't count on Halter to hit grand slams against the Yankees. Update: Guillen thinks he might be able to play Tuesday. We'll see, but that's one brave face for a guy who's been an HBP magnet. He currently leads the team with five.

Kotchman didn't embarrass himself, and actually drove in a run. Next, the Yanks. Welcome to the show, kid.

Recap


1B Casey Kotchman Promoted To Angels

Stephen Smith of Future Angels forwards this Angels press release: 1B Casey Kotchman has been promoted to Anaheim. His first appearance will probably be against the Yanks. Update: nope, he's in today's game against the D-Rays.

As Stephen says, the future starts now. Good luck, Casey.

Update: As expected, Erstad has been put on the 15-day DL, and Greg Jones was tranferred to the 60-day DL. Richard thinks this means Kotchman will be handed the job at first next year, but I can't see it. The same outfield logjam that forced Erstad to first will be here in 2005 as well, unless you think Arte's going to eat Erstad's contract.


Sermon On The Mound

One of the principle drawbacks to life in Arkansas is that the pest control people will not take calls concerning Baptists. Churches here are more commonplace than McDonalds', big as banks, frequently as rich, and better attended. Some even hire off-duty policemen to keep traffic in and out of their day-long seances flowing steadily. While I've never been much on the "my invisible friend is better than your invisible friend" questions that fuel all theology, neither have I been especially eager to ridicule those who pursue them; such questions are imponderables, and no man may say with authority (though many try) what lies beyond the wormy end awaiting us all.

Baseball, too, has its prophets; "scouts", they are called, and their annual bible is the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. I picked up a copy in Little Rock at the local Barnes & Noble. Reading therein, I found the following interesting passage on Rafael Rodriguez:

Rodriguez earned a $780,000 bonus after impressing Angels scouts in a private workout in 2002. He evokes comparisons to Ramon Ortiz and Ervin Santana, though he has been wildly inconsistent and isn't as polished at the same stage. Rodriguez was torched for a 10.17 ERA in five starts last June, then he followed up with a 5-1, 1.86 July. Rodriguez' lightning-quick arm was the first thing that caught scouts' attention. He can dial his fastball up to 97 mph and sits at 90-96. His hard slider has out-pitch potential. Rodriguez has a high-maintenance delivery that instructors have to keep close tabs on. The ball jumps out of his hand, but his command is erratic because he tends to get out of whack with his full-effort mechanics. He shows a feel for a deceptive changeup but needs a more effective weapon against lefties. He has yet to mature physically or emotionally. The Angels believe he'll turn the corner when he masters English. Rodriguez spent his first full season in low Class A at age 18, so he's ahead of schedule. He'll join the high class A rotation in 2004.
Looking at his stats on the Cedar Rapids web page, his K/9 is a strong 9.00 in 13 IP... but his BB/9 is a not-so-encouraging 6.92. His 7.62 ERA in early action doesn't bode well, either, but (a) the season is young, and (b) there's plenty of time for him to figure things out. 19? Man, that's young. Hopefully it's not another Dominican youth movement. But what bugs me most is the comparison to Ramon Ortiz... and sadly, it looks like he's earning it. With Jenks and Santana both on the DL, he's now the highest ranked active pitching prospect in the Angels' system. And that, my friends, is a problem.

What A Relief It Isn't

... to know Anderson's back pain isn't caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Time for acupuncture?

Next Stop: The Bronx

Does it disconcert anyone else following the Angels that some of their key bats are so stubbornly cold against Tampa Bay? Shane Halter's fluke grand slam aside, over the last week, average, OBP, and SLG for the team:

PlayerAvgOBPSLG
Guerrero.346.414.462
Figgins.280.345.360
Guillen.480.536.840
Eckstein.167.286.208
Glaus.391.517.826
Erstad.273.333.364
Kennedy.227.292.227
Benjie Molina.364.391.591
DaVanon.182.400.182

I here include players with ten or more at bats. Some general comments:

Here's hoping we sweep the D-Rays today, and move into the Bronx with a strong offense. It's gonna be brutal if we keep doing the same things we've been doing, in particular, keeping Eckstein in leadoff despite his ongoing slump.

A Hit, A Palpable Hit: Travs 5, Rock Hounds 4

How can you outhit your opponents by a large margin but not outscore them by much? It's easy if you have a couple well-placed holes in your lineup. And that's what happened in yesterday's Travs game, with Arkansas outhitting the Rock Hounds 15-5. McPherson went 0-3 with a walk; he seems to be cooling off after a torrid start, and looking at his line in the score tonight, he was always interrupting a rally of some kind, and once killed an inning by hitting into a 6-3 double play. Mathis had similar problems, collecting only one hit on the night, and hitting into a inning-ending 6-3 double play.

Eric Cyr's quality start -- three earned runs in six innings -- came to a screeching halt after a four-pitch walk in the seventh. Cam Esslinger replaced him on the mound, and he immediately got nailed on the foot by a hard line drive, which skied about 30 feet up; he then caught it and was able to throw out Hound Jeremy Brown but it brought the Travs' coaches to the mound immediately. Esslinger gave the thumbs up sign and tried to wave them off, but his bravado went for naught. His subsequent walk of the next batter earned him the hook, replaced by John Rouwenhorst, who finished the game and collected a save with a scoreless eighth and ninth inning.

Recap Box score


Postscriptum: I may have gotten my father-in-law infected. He hadn't been to a Travs game in over ten years, and is now thinking about getting his retiree friends to go to the park with him later in the season. As well, I taught my little nephew how to score, and if he probably couldn't do it himself quite just yet, I think he can now scribble the "K" in the frame properly. The team gave out free "Swamp Dragons" caps to the first 500 people through the gates, so we arrived early enough to pick up some for everyone. The Shreveport Swamp Dragons is a defunct Texas League team, an erstwhile Giants affiliate that only drew an average of 431 per game. (What, you thought they'd give away actual Travs hats?)

They let the kids run the bases after the game, and both my nephews elected to do so. Thanks to a stupid "battery saver" (it would be more accurately labeled "shot preventer") misfeature, I was unable to get pictures of both of them coming into home. Everyone had a great time.


Friday, May 07, 2004

Erstud or Ersdud?

Jon Weisman, normally of Dodger Thoughts but today appearing on all-baseball.com, weighs in on the softball questions handed to Darin Erstad by Times reporter Mike DiGiovanna . While everybody else in the Angels blogosphere except for Purgatory Online has had something to say about this, the only comment I have is that the problem is the reporter and the addressee. Instead of asking Erstad, "Darin, would you rather have a higher average?", the reporter should instead ask of GM Bill Stoneman:
Erstad's superior skills reside in his glove at centerfield. This year he has been assigned to first base, a position requiring no special skill to field -- indeed, it's almost the DH position for the National League, a place where guys like Fred McGriff have played without significantly harming their teams. Why does Erstad make $8 million a year for grounding out and advancing the runner?

A Minor Victory In A Green Country

Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas lies at 34.7 N, 92.3 W, Los Angeles, 34 N, 118.2 W, a latitude separation of less than a degree. The differences caused by longitude, though, couldn't be more extreme. The countryside here explodes everywhere with verdant growth much of the year. My in-laws' house, where we are staying, abuts a hillside arrayed with pine, hickory, and oak. Squirrels, myriad species of woodpeckers, titmouses, hummingbirds, deer, and foxes roam the hillside as well. Leave a field untended for ten years, they say, and it will become forest. Even downtown still has huge tracts of unbroken forest, with only the mowers of the state highway department culling the saplings out of the cloverleaf interchanges before they, too, succumb to the relentless march of the pines. Here, the Arkansas River joins the Mississippi to nearly double the volume of that already very large body of water; to an Angeleno's eye, it's a chest of endless riches.

We come here now to visit in the few weeks of spring promised to Arkansans; the weather is so variable it's impossible to characterize it broadly, except to say that ice and snow -- the elements that have plagued my winter visits thus far -- don't generally occur in April and May. So far, we've had three perfect sunny days, with little humidity. But there's still plenty of water around, which means high times for bugs, particularly mosquitoes; the local weather report includes a mosquito forecast.

The place is not without its warts. Those with sufficiently long memories recall the governor Orville Faubus, a jackass with a penchant for rabble-rousing, a man who could rally the knuckle-draggers in a crowd; he got Arkansas a black eye it has yet to entirely recover from. And the weather can range from pleasant (about eight weeks a year) to nasty (generally, high summer is insufferable, with 90+ F temperatures and humidity readings in 50-90%) to deadly (owing to the confluence of weather systems from Canada and the Caribbean, tornadoes are a constant threat). But for all that, the place has its charms.

One of them is the Travelers.

The Arkansas Travelers

A team named the Travelers has been around Little Rock for over a century, the first such team forming in 1901. In the official history, the name came from the Arkansas Traveler, a traveling minstrel common to these parts, though the horse -- Robert E. Lee's famous Traveler -- jumping through the "A" on the team's caps seems just as if not more likely. The team is jointly owned by a number of locals, much as the Green Bay Packers are. Bill Valentine, the general manager, operates the club. As you go into the park's main entrance, you can't miss his candy-apple red Cadillac. He's been here for over twenty years. Like Arte, he overflows with enthusiasm for the game and his job. Little Rock being a small place, my mother-in-law knows him, if not well, then certainly not requiring introduction, either. (Of course, it doesn't hurt to mention here that she was a classmate of Brooks Robinson. But she knows everyone here, it seems.)

The Travs' stadium, Ray Winder Field, was started in 1931, but construction had to stop because of the Depression, so it was finished in 1932. Everything here, it seems, is original equipment, or close to it, particularly the old green wooden seats in the higher stands. Ancient electric fans, turned off for last night's game, awaited the call to cool the crowd on hotter, more humid nights, perched just under the upper deck. The only evident changes: new aluminum seating for the season ticket holders, each of whom has their name engraved in the back of one of the seats. An ancient organ of unknown species rests at the very apex of the main stadium seating; above it, a catwalk to the broadcast booth. Near the dugouts, the players' wives congregated, some with strollers, most without.

Game Time

We arrived late for the game because I forgot my camera, which, as it turned out, was a complete waste anyway, since I was too busy scoring the game to properly attend to taking pictures. As a result, we missed the first half inning of the game, which meant I couldn't properly score the first three innings because I had no idea where we were in the Rockhounds lineup. Well -- no matter. The Travs eventually won the game, but the pitching on neither side was a thing of beauty; Tim Bittner, the Travs' pitcher, gave up nine hits and two walks over seven innings, while Midland's starter, Brad Weis, didn't last but four innings, giving up three earned runs and six hits.

The hitting fairly glowed red hot, but not all alike; Callaspo reached base twice on errors, Tommy Murphy, Kotchman, Gorneault, Eylward, and Duncan each getting two hits, and McPherson and Mathis each picking up one, with Eylward collecting a three-run jack -- his first homer of the season -- in the process. Moneyball poster child Jeremy Brown assembled a couple good at bats, but nothing came of it; his slow start this year (.174 average) continues apace. Not-quite-a-prospect-but-not-yet-a-suspect Freddie Bynum -- who Baseball America says "won't ever hit for much power" -- surprisingly got the most hits, going 3-5, with Mark Teahen and 2B John McCurdy both homering.

Offense aside, the most embarrassing moments of the game belonged to Dallas McPherson, who threw away two balls, one on a routine ground ball, and one on a hot shot he was barely able to field. (Apparently the scorer overruled one of those and called it an infield hit later, because the official score only shows one error.)

All in all, a fine evening. We shall return Saturday for more.

Box score Wrapup


Dodgers 9, Marlins 4

There are moments you think -- hey, this could work. The wheels haven't come off yet; the pitching, unspectacular, holds up to be just enough, the hitting, sporadic, sputtering, sometimes spectacular, sprays its way to victories.

That's what I thought reading about yesterday's victory. The caption on the picture says Ishii retired the first batter in seven frames? Man, he's going long. (But only two strikeouts?) Green getting two longballs at -- get this -- Pro Player? Beltre goes 3-5 and he's still hitting .389? And a road series win to boot?

Pinch me.


My Hero, Zero

Hardball Times already did a retrospective on Francisco Rodriguez's brief but amazing 2002 postseason and 2003 "failure".

Now he's got a 0.00 ERA in 14.1 IP. He's earning his K-Rod nickname -- 14.11 K/9? That's better than Gagné's 11.77. He's only issued three walks; that's a K/BB of 7.67. You just drop your jaw at those kinds of numbers. This kid -- and you pinch yourself saying that, because he's only 22 -- has a heck of a career in front of him. And we're the lucky ones who get to cheer him on.


Thursday, May 06, 2004

All Your Base Are Not Belong To Us

MLB has given up on the planned Spiderman promotion after much protesting by fans; even the Yanks aren't amused.
"We don't want to do anything that takes away from a fan's enjoyment of the game," said Geoffrey Ammer, president of worldwide marketing for the Columbia TriStar Marketing Group.

Many baseball purists denounced the plan, including Fay Vincent, a former baseball commissioner and president of Columbia Pictures.

That's pretty funny. Vincent for Commissioner again?

Hanrahan As The PTBNL For Bradley?

Interesting speculation at CBS Sportsline that Joel Hanrahan will be the PTBNL in the Milton Bradley trade:
Joel Hanrahan, Las Vegas (Los Angeles): He's hardly an "unheralded" Triple-A pitcher, but Hanrahan's Fantasy value was expected to lie solely in keeper leagues this season. Nevertheless, he's already making last year's late-season struggles at Las Vegas a distant memory, with a 1-1 record and 3.48 ERA in four starts. Hanrahan remains stuck deep in the Dodger depth chart, likely behind Edwin Jackson, but he's worth monitoring in the coming weeks because some say he'll be sent to Cleveland as the player to be named later in the Milton Bradley trade. Hanrahan needs to lower walk rate (10 in 20 2/3 innings), but he would fill a need for the Indians' Triple-A team, which lacks much starting pitching help for the big club. He would be in a tougher situation to succeed with Cleveland, but he would also reach the majors quicker.
If so, I would posit that DePo might have overpaid; he's sending a guy who had a bad year because of injuries.

Ray Winder Field

My wife and I are here in Arkansas and went to Ray Winder Field yesterday to pick up tickets. I'll do more on this presently -- I want to give this little niche of Americana the love it deserves -- but for now take a gander at Stephen Smith's videography of the park.

Fish Fried: Marlins 2, Dodgers 0

You knew their luck couldn't last, and as Jon observed, Tuesday night's game constituted grand larceny. So losing to the Marlins on the road came as maybe no surprise, but did Tracy have to revert to the automatic installation of Bradley in the three spot while demoting a hot Beltre into the seven hole? I'm not sure it would have mattered, not with Grabowski hitting in front of him.

Weaver did well -- finally -- giving up only five hits and two earned runs -- becoming the Dodgers' anti-Washburn, if you will -- while collecting four strikeouts in his 7.2 innings. His K/9 is now up to a very healthy 7.12, good for fifth on the team for pitchers with 10+ innings. Speaking of which, check this out:

PitcherK/9
Falkenborg13.50
Gagné12.08
Sanchez8.16
Alvarez8.10
Mota7.15
Weaver7.12
Perez6.93
Dreifort6.75
Martin6.43
Lima4.82
Nomo4.09
Ishii3.98

Obviously, guys like Falkenborg aren't going to keep doing that -- not with 0.2 IP total -- but some good things are happening for our pitching staff here:

Wrapup

Angels 6, Tigers 3

Some random points in no particular order:

Scioscia needs to choke back his creative use of Chone Figgins. Third base? Maybe in a pinch, but does he have the arm for that position? On the other hand, it makes sense if you're trying to find a way to keep his hot bat in the lineup, because...

David Eckstein's slump ain't getting better. Against Detroit, he ought to be hitting like a demon, but we're not seeing it. I've accused Figgy of being all about his average -- last year he only had 20 walks in 270 plate appearances. But Figgy has nearly twice the walks Eck has -- seven versus four -- and his OBP leads the club. Even in 2002, Eckstein had 45 walks in 702 plate appearances; it looks like he got caught in a slump this year after about April 20th -- the Texas series really beat him up. Figgins may be a far better leadoff hitter than Eckstein ever was, especially if his plate discipline is better and he has equal or superior speed. Given the somewhat depleted bench -- Shane Halter's days of hitting like Rickey Henderson seem to be over -- he's the best option we've got in the one-slot. How much longer will Mike keep Eckstein in leadoff for auld lang syne sake?

And speaking of walks, look who's second on the club: none other than José Guillen. Considering he's batting in the middle of the order and is third in plate appearances, it's maybe not unexpected, but it's good to see, anyway.

On the pitching side, Mike could have prevented those two runs in the sixth by the obvious means of pulling Escobar after he walked Carlos Peña. Gregg was already warmed up, and Escobar struggled with that at bat, throwing three consecutive balls to open it. You just knew he wasn't going to get out a slumping guy who's done well in the past but needs a chink -- like a tired pitcher -- to worm his way into an RBI or two.


Update: Mariners Wheelhouse thinks Ortiz is done, which might or might not be true; I don't think you get a K/9 over 7.00 by magic. But he's gotta be a last resort used only in blowouts, one way or the other.

Recap


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Angels 11, Kittycats 4

One of the things Bill James does so well is to start out on some point on a particular player or aspect of the game and use it as a telescope to a broader point. So it is with yesterday's 11-4 blowout of the Tigers, who, despite the additions of Pudge and Viña, are still a weak team. Unlike the Rangers, whose improved outfield defense gives flyball fiends like Chan Ho Park an actual chance, they really have no hope of being anything besides better than Cleveland. And, as James said, one thing you have to be wary of is the pitcher who gets his wins by being run-support lucky -- the fellow who has a bunch in the "W" column but a high ERA. That's Washburn today, folks, the first pitcher in the bigs in 2004 with five wins.

At Athletics Nation, Tyler's finger hovers over the panic button, and Mariners Wheelhouse has already pushed his. Is there good reason to, though, just yet? Ignore the "we've only played X games" arguments, what about the "record vs. teams playing .500 or better ball" arguments?

TeamRecord
Anaheim4-5
Oakland6-9
Seattle5-10
Texas8-2

What comes out of this is that Texas' start looks even better than before, while Seattle's slump looks worse. The two teams in the middle -- Anaheim and Oakland -- appear mediocre. But the schedule hides the Angels' problems: while the Rangers swept Boston and the Yankees beat up on the A's, the Angels faced Minnesota, a team arguably weaker than last year. Let's see where we are after the 24th, when the Angels will have seen the Yankees six times and Baltimore another six.


As If They Couldn't Call Outs Before

Rooftop Report coughs up the following hairball, via ESPN:
Spider-Man 2 movie logos will appear on first, second and third base, plus the pitching rubber, a deal between the movie studio and MLB, according to today's Wall Street Journal. (Apparently, home plate was either too sacred -- or perhaps too expensive.)
Just another way Bud Selig is -- literally -- selling out the game. God knows it's hard enough to make out calls with pristine white bases -- nooooo. Idea: why not use all that black expanse of the umpires' uniforms as a billboard instead? It would add some color to the game...

Update: Here's the "art". All your base are belong to us, indeed.


Questec'd To Death?

This is just a thought bubble, but is it possible that the umpires are getting a little too fine in their strike calls? I ask because guys like Zito, Moyer, and Maddux all seem to be having difficulties getting strikes called this year. Let's look at their peripheral stats for a moment:

PlayerCareer2004
PlayerK/9BB/9K/BBK/9BB/9K/BB
Maddux6.271.912.776.283.771.54
Moyer5.442.581.995.103.901.31
Zito7.163.402.067.143.102.30

The point of this highly unscientific survey is to see whether the umps aren't giving the hitters the benefit of a doubt. Two of the three are older guys who've made a living off the corners; maybe it's that they don't have control early in the season? Certainly, Questec has been blamed before for altering umpires' strike/ball calls. According to ESPN last June, 0.21 percent of pitches were called differently by umpires in Questec parks vs. non-Questec parks. And in any event, Zito's BB/9 actually dropped this year versus his career numbers. In private correspondance, Tyler at Athletics Nation says he thinks Zito's just leaving 'em over the plate, but in any case, it's possible we're just hearing butterfly wings flapping.


Time To Get Defensive, Mike

The Angels defense has now slipped to the point it is second-worst in the AL. While all the AL West teams are bad...

TeamOverall
Rank
Def. Eff.
OAK18th.6865
TEX19th.6865
SEA22nd.6785
ANA29th.6458

... the surprise is just how bad the Angels have become, and how much better the Rangers have become. Now, maybe some of this can be attributed to the Angels having two guys in the field who don't know their home park that well, as well as having their best centerfielder marooned at first. But as we saw with the 2002 ALDS, defense counts, and the Angels made their opportunities on the Yankees' weak infield defense. Meantime, the Rangers best friend hasn't been chemistry but improved defense (subscription required):

So why are the Rangers winning? Defense has been a huge part of the equation, especially outfield defense. The Rangers were last in the AL in Defensive Efficiency in '03, 12th in '02. They're seventh so far this year, a gain I would attribute to having a real center fielder. I've argued in the last that much of the team's perceived problems in developing pitching has been tied to their park and their poor flycatchers. With Laynce Nix and Ramon Nivar getting the bulk of playing time so far this year, the Rangers are allowing a much lower rate of doubles and triples than they did the past two years. That's the biggest reason why they're second in the AL in ERA and runs allowed.
And if the Angels are losing -- or struggling making outs against weak teams like the Tigers -- the defense has a lot to do with it as well. Vlad's bobble of a routine flyball the other night, Kennedy's recent defensive miscues, and Eckstein's hide-and-seek game with the DL (not to mention his adequate-but-never-stellar play at short) all contribute to the team's problems.

The Angels led the majors in defensive efficiency in 2002; they won't return to the postseason by giving the other guys extra outs, especially not against good teams.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Worth Repeating: Greenspun Backgrounder

A must-read at Arrive In The Third... on former Bruce McNall book-cooker Martin Greenspun. The Dodgers' amazing start has everyone applauding, but what's been forgotten (even by me from time to time) is that McCourt really doesn't have any cash flow -- in fact, thanks to debt service, he has negative cash flow -- to support any losses that might occur.

No Joshing: Dodgers 4, Marlins 3

Yeah! Belly tieing it up and winning on an error? Against last year's game six winner? Think the boys feel their oats now, just a little? Think they're missing the play of gold glove Derrick Lee after Mike Mordecai pulled a Buckner?

Man, this was a nice win. The Dodgers pulling it out in a tight game. Good stuff.

Wrapup


What Kind Of Fool Do You Take Me For?

Scioscia, on Sele re-entering the rotation:
Sele worked himself into the rotation by allowing one run over his last seven innings of relief before his solid start Saturday, though Scioscia indicated the Angels would have taken Ortiz out of the rotation even if Sele had struggled. Scioscia said he did not regret starting the season with Ortiz in the rotation even though Sele had outperformed him in the spring.

"Aaron's throwing the ball better now than he did in the spring," Scioscia said. "His couple of outings in relief definitely worked toward getting him to where he needs to be. Everything from his command to his consistency has improved."

Lessee:
Spring Training2004
PlayerERAIPK/9BB/9K/BB ERAIPK/9BB/9K/BB
Ortiz6.6624.14.442.961.50 9.2821.17.594.221.80
Sele4.24175.291.065.00 3.5215.15.283.521.50

What's surprising is that Ramon's peripheral stats actually improved in the regular season, where Sele pretty much stayed consistent with his recent years numbers, except that he's now giving up a lot more walks. A K/9 in the low 5's would be a big improvement over last year's awful 3.92. No, the real thing killing Ortiz is his team-leading 16.88 H/9, indicating a pitcher in bad luck... but given his performance, maybe not. He's getting his strikeouts but somehow is managing to find a lot of bats. Regardless, the spring numbers for both pitchers showed which way the team should have gone, and Scioscia's comments don't excuse the four losses they absorbed with Ortiz.


Monday, May 03, 2004

Angels Re-up Salt Lake Contract

The Angels renewed their contract with minor league affiliate Salt Lake, but why? Was it a business decision? It couldn't have had anything to do with aligning park effects to the big club's park.

OT: The Blog CD Game!

Okay, now that I'm heading off to Arkansas for a week to visit the inlaws and catch a couple Travs games, here's a CD game I picked up from Mariners Wheelhouse. Here are the rules:
  1. Grab the nearest CD.
  2. Put it in your CD-Player (or start your mp3-player, I-tunes, etc.).
  3. Skip to Song 3 (or load the 3rd song in your 3rd playlist)
  4. Post the first verse in your journal along with these instructions. Don’t name the band, nor the album-title.
Okay:
Way down yonder on the bayou
There lives a little girl-o
Skin so pale
Six feet high
Skinny as a rail
Just one eye
Go! And of course, add your own to the comments section. And of course, I'll continue blogging, though I doubt as often or with as much attention to the Angels or Dodgers during that time.

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