MLB General

Full Count for April 25, 2006: Rick Monday is the man

1. God Bless America: 30 years ago today, Rick Monday made the “greatest heroic act that’s ever happened on a baseball field”. After a man and his son jumped onto the field at Dodger Stadium and spread a flag out so they could burn it, Monday ran over, grabbed the flag and ran off with it. The crowd was shocked but then broke into a spontaneous rendition of God Bless America. Major League Baseball and the NFL try to manufacture this kind of patriotism all the time post-9/11 but nothing will ever come close to that one night in 1976. Monday has been offered $1M for the flag; “But the flag is not for sale. What this flag represents, you can’t buy.” (from USA Today)

2. The streak is over: Coming into last night’s White Sox-Mariners matchup, the game just didn’t seem fair. The White Sox had won 8 in a row, and the Mariners were a four-game slide. Both streaks are now over and done with, because the Mariners bested the Sox in an 11 inning brawl. Both teams had excellent games from their pitchers. Chicago starter Jon Garland allowed 3 runs over 8 innings, while Seattle’s Jamie Moyer gave up just 1 in 7 innings work. With the game tied 3-3 in the 11th, unheard of Mariners pinch hitter Yuniesky Betancourt hit a bloop single to left to score the winning run for Seattle. Chicago’s streak was the highest in the majors so far this year, and if they had won this game it would have been the team’s longest streak since 1977. They still share the MLB-best 13-5 record with the Astros.

3. The surprise of the season: Just about everyone wrote off the Reds coming into this year. Some said they had no pitching, others that they played in a murderous division. Well, they don’t, and they do, but they are still getting the job done so far this year. Last night, they scored 4 runs in the first two innings against the Nationals in a winning effort, and starter Elizardo Ramirez picked up his first career victory. This improved the Reds to a hard-to-believe 13-7 record on the year. They are tied with Houston and Chicago as the teams with the most wins in the MLB, though the Reds have one more loss than those teams.

4. And the team right below them…: St. Louis, one of the top five teams in the majors on anyone’s list, has suffered through a semi-slow start so far this year. Their record is a decent 12-7, but that puts them in 3rd place in the riotous NL Central division. Anyway, they have showed signs of their usual excellence, including in yesterday’s 7-2 win over the Pirates. Guess who homered for the Cardinals? Albert Pujols, what a surprise! It was his league-leading 12th slam of the year. Chris Carpenter continued his dominance against the Pirates as he pitched 6 strong innings to get the win. Pittsburgh has the worst record in the NL at 5-16.

5. Mr. DL wins the game: Nomar Garciaparra has joined Ken Griffey Jr. and Jeff Bagwell as players who are more often on the DL than off of it. Well, Nomar’s back, and in his 2nd game for the Dodgers, he won the game for them. With a 2-2 game coming into the 9th, the Dodgers loaded up the bases against usual stud closer Brad Lidge. Then Nomar came up, and hit a big-time grand slam off Lidge to win the game. These were his first RBIs as a Dodger. Lidge was hit with his first blown save and loss of the season.

San Francisco Giants

Barry will pass Ruth but not Hank Aaron

Steroids give you psychic abilities

It seems that Barry is giving Bud Selig and George Mitchell’s “independent” investigation a way to save face. In an interview with on Sunday, Bonds said that doesn’t think he can catch Hank Aaron because of his deteriorating knees.

Bonds will posture that he’s chasing Aaron and not Ruth but it is clear that Ruth is his target. By passing Babe Ruth but not Hank Aaron, there won’t be as much of an uproar over Bonds’ place on the all time HR list because he won’t be at the top of it. Over the weekend, Bonds hit his first HR of the season, putting him just 6 shy of breaking the Babe’s mark. Most people have already assumed he would pass Ruth’s record at some point this season so that 715th jack will get plenty of time on Sportscenter but register a collective shrug from baseball fans. Yes, there will be plenty of boos but there won’t be the protests and petitions to put an asterisk next to Bonds’ name like there would be if he got to 756.

Perhaps Barry can’t take the abuse anymore. We wonder how he could have put up with this much. This year, he’s already had a syringe (sans needle) and a tube of Icy Hot thrown at him, not to mention the banners and signs at every game. He knows he has to get through this year so that the hecklers won’t get the satisfaction of driving him from the game but there is no real incentive to go through another off season of speculation and another season of knee pain, ridicule and scrutiny just to be on top of a list that, if he were to get to reach the pinnacle of, might very well render the list inconsequential.

Plus, getting out of baseball and disappearing from view (anyone see Mark McGwire lately?) might just get the feds off his back about that pesky perjury charge.

[]: Bonds: Passing Aaron not likely
[SFGate]: Jeers, not cheers for man who would be king of swat
[Cincinnati Post]: Bonds pays for sins of baseball

MLB General

Full Count for April 24, 2006: Wake us up for the fight

Alou gets tossed

1. ‘Extracurricular activities’: The Giants and the Rockies aren’t exactly heated rivals, but they played like they were on Sunday. Ejections started piling up in the first inning, when Giants pitcher Matt Morris was tossed after hitting his second batter of the inning. Manager Felipe Alou was ejected automatically, and pitching coach Dave Righetti was thrown out as well after arguing. Jose Mesa was ejected for the Rockies for hitting Omar Vizquel, who in 2002 wrote a book which included a criticism of Mesa for blowing a save in the ’97 World Series. The Rockies won in 10 innings, 3-2.

2. Un-Uribe-able: Juan Uribe powered the White Sox to their eighth win in a row on Sunday. He hit 2 homeruns and 4 RBIs in the 7-3 win by the Sox, who completed a series sweep of the Twins. However, Jim Thome failed to score a run for the first time this year, snapping a record 17 game streak. The White Sox are now a major league best 13-5.

3. Yanks improve to .500: Jason Giambi is probably off the juice right now, but he’s still pretty powerful. The slugger crushed Orioles pitching for 2 homers and 5 RBIs, both season highs. Yanks starter Randy Johnson rebounded from a terrible loss last week with only 3 hits allowed over 8 innings. New York is finally above .500 on the year at 9-8.

4. The big 4-0: Greg Maddux’s best years may be behind him, but he’s sure forgotten that so far this year. At 40 years old, he has a 4-0 record so far this year, supplying nearly half of the Cubs 10 wins. After shutting down Albert Pujols and the Cardinals to no runs over 7 innings, Maddux’s ERA dropped to 0.99, best in the National League. The Cubs became the 4th team to reach 10 wins in what will be a crowded NL Central division this year.

5. Victory…at last: The Royals have been an absolute disaster this year. They have the worst record in the majors, have terrible pitching problems, and their most expensive player is hitting .173. Adding to that, they had yet to have a starter win a game all season. Until last night, when starter Jeremy Affeldt picked up the win against high-powered Cleveland. Overall, the Tribe was held to only 1 run and 7 hits in the 5-1 loss.

MLB General

MLB Power Rankings Roundup for Apr 21 2006

As expected, this early in the season, the rankings between sites are all over the place. However, most agree that the Red Sox, Mets, and White Sox are the top three teams in the league.

We’ll be tracking them every week on Fridays, folks, so come back to see where your team is ranked.

Here are the MLB Power Rankings by top sites this week.

Rank Sportscolumn ESPN FoxSports Sportsline USA Today
1 Red Sox White Sox Red Sox Red Sox Mets Mets
2 Mets Mets White Sox Mets Red Sox Indians
3 White Sox Red Sox Mets White Sox Indians Astros
4 Astros Indians Indians Indians Astros Cardinals
5 Cardinals Yankees Cardinals Astros Cardinals Red Sox
6 Yankees Cardinals Yankees Cardinals White Sox Giants
7 Cubs Blue Jays Braves Giants Yankees Reds
8 Indians Astros A’s Cubs Cubs White Sox
9 Giants Angels Angels A’s Brewers Cubs
10 Reds Braves Tigers Angels A’s Tigers
11-30 more more more more more more

MLB General

Full Count for April 21 2006: The AL’s other 4-win pitcher

[Editor’s Note: Sportscolumn Blog welcomes Jackson Govatos as the lead baseball blogger. Jackson’s daily feature, The Full Count, will take you through the five baseball stories you need to know.]

Erik Bedard is red hot

1. Out of nowhere: Baltimore’s Erik Bedard isn’t exactly a household name. In fact, many serious baseball fans probably don’t know who he is. That’s likely because he only had 12 career wins coming into this season. But now he’s become the second 4-0 pitcher in the AL, joining Curt Shilling. He picked up his fourth win last night against offense juggernaut Cleveland, limiting the Indians to 3 runs in 6 innings. His ERA on the season is now 2.77, and he has recorded 18 strikeouts. The Orioles’ 9-4 victory gave them a 2-1 series win over the Indians, and they became only the 5th team to record 10 wins.

2. The Disabled List Blues…: Some star players have landed on the DL within the past few days. Derrek Lee, the Cubs’ power-hitting first baseman, will be out 8 to 10 weeks with a wrist injury. He broke two bones in his wrist after colliding with the Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal. Lee’s injury will obviously be a huge blow to the Cubs’ hopes of reaching the playoffs for their first time since 2003. Additionally, the Angels’ defending Cy Young winning pitcher Bartolo Colon went on the disabled list with a much less serious injury. Though affected by an inflammatory throwing shoulder, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll only miss two starts. Colon has not been up to form so far, with an ERA above 7 and an 0-2 record.

3. Old man can play: At 47 years old, Julio Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a home run, breaking a 76-year-old record in the Mets’ comeback win over the Padres. Franco’s 2-run, pinch hit home run gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. It sparked a 6-run rally in the eighth inning that gave a Mets a 7-2 lead, which became the final score. “I hope I hit one when I’m 50,” Franco said in all honesty. The Mets win spoiled a great game for Padres ace Jake Peavy, who pitched 7 innings and only allowed 1 run. Scott Linebrink blew the save for San Diego. The Mets improved to an 11-4 record on the season, giving them the highest winning percentage in the majors.

4. Rocky relief from yesterday’s games: In three games on Thursday night, relief pitching either cost teams games or came very close to doing so. In the A’s loss to the Tigers, Oakland starter Barry Zito had his finest game of the year, with one run allowed in 7 innings pitched. But without usual closer Huston Street, who was out with an injury, the A’s bullpen was unable to hold on to a 3-1 lead. In the Giants-Diamondbacks game, San Francisco built a 6-1 lead through six innings, but usually excellent relievers Steve Kline and Tim Worrell combined to allow 5 runs. However, the Giants still won because of a three-run 9th inning. More bullpen antics occurred in Seattle’s loss to Texas. Mariners reliever Eddie Guardado, who has been awful so far this year, walked four Ranger batters in the ninth, including the game-winning run. Texas won 4-3.

5. Will Barry hit a homer in Coors Field?: The Giants open a three-game series tonight againt the Colorado Rockies in the friendly hitting park of Coors Field. If Barry is going to get his first home run of the season, this will likely be the place. Of course, most people are rooting against Bonds and his chase of the Babe Ruth/Hank Aaron records but we actually found someone rooting for him. Go figure.