You know how people are always talking about the “good ol’ days?” Well, the humiliating ol’ days would be more like it.
So, what’s more embarrassing: the steroid scandals of today or THAT?
You know how people are always talking about the “good ol’ days?” Well, the humiliating ol’ days would be more like it.
So, what’s more embarrassing: the steroid scandals of today or THAT?
Everybody is up in arms these days about steroids in professional sports, especially baseball. Now, we’re not condoning the use of illegal substances, but, in our opinion, it has gotten to a point where removing steroids and growth hormones and bull sperm or whatever else they use would actually be a disservice to the game. Just look at what happened to this L.A. Dodger after he gave up the juice.
Now, is that really so much better than guys looking like Shrek while jacking homers and throwing no-hitters?
1. Super San Diego: The Padres have won four games in a row, sending them to only one game back of the Diamondbacks for the NL West lead. San Diego started out a four game series with the lowly Pirates by winning 3-0, while the Diamondbacks lost 5-8 to the Giants. Rookie pitcher Jack Cassel was key for the Padres, with no runs or walks allowed in six innings. San Diego’s bullpen was good as usual with three near-perfect innings. The D-backs, with ace Brandon Webb pitching, still lost to San Francisco. Reliever Tony Pena, who has been great this season, was shelled for 5 runs and 2 homers in less than an inning. Arizona needs to watch out if they want to hold on to their division lead, which is looking less secure than it has been for a month.
2. It’s Getting Wilder: The NL Wild Card race, still led by the aforementioned Padres, is heating up. The Phillies and Dodgers are both within three games of the lead. The Phillies, who are 1.5 back and have won 5 straight, had a crazy 13-11 win over the Cardinals on Monday. They got out to an 11-0 lead, as Ryan Howard hit two homers to give him 40 on the season in addition to 5 RBIs. Jimmie Rollins and Aaron Rowand also homered early on. Then the Cards came back thanks to three RBIs each by Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. The Phils held on for the win though, sending the Cardinals to their 9th loss in 10 games. Philly is now only 2.5 games behind the Mets for the division lead, though the wild card seems more likely right now. The Dodgers, who are third in the wild card standings, did not play on Monday.
3. Almost Locked Up: The Angels are the team closest to clinching their division in all of baseball. Their magic number is 5, lowest in the league. The Angels just keep on winning, while Seattle’s collapse in late-August made the race uncompetitive. The Angels lead the Mariners by 8.5 games after another win. They beat the Devil Rays 10-7 despite another bad start by Kelvim Escobar. Escobar allowed five or more runs for the fourth time in his last six starts. This streak has increased his ERA from 2.68 to 3.46, though his record is oddly 2-1 in these starts. The Angels are known more for their pitching, but it has been their offense that has carried them recently. They have scored double digit runs 11 times since the All Star break. Their offense has scored the fifth-most runs in the majors despite almost no power hitters. They only rank 27th in homers this year, though their .287 team batting average, which is second only to the Yankees, is a much better indicator of how good this offense really is.
Player of the Day: Frank Thomas, Blue Jays: 3-4, 3 HRs (25), 5 RBIs in a 6-1 win over the Red Sox.
1. Lost Season, Lost GM: The Minnesota Twins have declined after winning the division last year, with an unimpressive 72-74 record. To make their situation worse, their longtime GM, Terry Ryan, announced he will resign at the end of the season. Ryan, who has been with the team for 13 years, has been a brilliant manager of a small payroll. The Twins have won 4 out of the last 5 division titles, relying mainly on homegrown talent instead of expensive free agents. Ryan, who will be replaced by assistant GM Bill Smith, has become one of the game’s most respected administrators. He will leave the Twins with an excellent talent core, with All Star caliber players in Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano (when he finally returns), Torri Hunter, Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer. The key for new GM Smith will be in keeping as many of these players as possible while staying within the franchise’s limited budget.
2. Getting Closer: The San Diego Padres lost ground on two teams with one loss. Both the Dodgers and Phillies are within 1.5 games of them for the wild card lead after the Dodgers defeated the Padres 6-3. James Loney had three hits and four RBIs, and Rafael Furcal had three runs and three steals for the Dodgers. David Wells, who was cut by the Padres a month ago, was victorious against his former teammate Greg Maddux. Wells is 3-0 since joining the Dodgers. The Phillies also gained a game on San Diego with a 12-4 rout of the Rockies. Chase Utley homered and Aaron Rowand had two RBIs as the Phils roughed up Jeff Francis for eight runs. The Phillies will travel to New York to play the Mets this weekend, while the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks and the Padres face the Giants.
3. 20 losses?: It is amazing that the Cardinals’ Kip Wells has stayed in the rotation the entire season. He is 6-17 on the year after another loss on Thursday, leading the majors in losses. Wells could challenge for 20 losses, which has not been done since Mike Maroth went 9-21 in 2003. Wells has a 5.77 ERA and 1.65 WHIP for the year, and he was 2-9 within the first two months of the year. He’s not the only player on the Cardinals with a terrible record. Anthony Reyes, who started 0-8, is 2-14 on the year, and Maroth himself is 0-4 since joining the Cardinals. These pitchers have combined for a 8-35 record this season, meaning the Cardinals are 61-40 in games they didn’t record a decision. This shows how valuable Chris Carpenter is to this team. If he was pitching instead of Wells, the Cardinals would easily be winning the division.
Player of the Day: AJ Burnett, Blue Jays: 8 innings, 4 hits, 1 runs, 8 K’s in a 2-1 win over the Yankees. Burnett’s excellent start helped end the Yanks’ seven game winning streak.
1. The Quiet Winner: Chien-Ming Wang is not a great pitcher, but, thanks mainly to the team he’s on, he’s racked up the most combined wins in baseball the last two seasons. Wang, after going 19-6 with a 3.63 ERA last year, is having a very similar season this year, at 17-6 and 3.68. His 17th win, tying him with Josh Beckett for the major league lead, came in the Yankees’ 12-3 blowout of the Mariners. Wang went 7-plus, allowing one run in his fourth consecutive win. He was supported in a big way by the Yankees’ offense, which pounded Seattle for 20 hits. Jorge Posada went 4-4 with four runs and two homers, raising his average to an elite .337. Bobby Abreu also had four hits and a homer, and Alex Rodriguez went deep again for the 46th time this year. The Yanks upped their wild card lead over the Mariners to two games with the victory. Both teams need the wild card, because they stand at seven games back in their respective divisions. It’s a shame that one of these clubs will be sitting at home during the postseason while a team from the NL Central is guaranteed a playoff spot.
2. Back in Contention: After losing 10 of 12 games in early August and falling as low as fourth place in the division, it seemed like the Dodgers’ season was nearly over. But now, thanks to a 7-2 run, Los Angeles is right back in the playoff picture. They have climbed to 3.5 back in the division and wild card races. The Dodgers continued their success with a 6-2 win over the Cubs on Tuesday. Ace Brad Penny returned to form after a bad start with seven shutdown innings. He improved to 15-4 on the year as the Dodgers received just enough offense for the victory. With David Wells added to fortify the pitching staff, the Dodgers have a legit shot at the playoffs.
3. D-back Attack: The Diamondbacks and
Padres are once again tied for the NL West lead. After San Diego won the first game of their series, the Diamondbacks routed them 9-1. Chris Young continued to struggle against Arizona, allowing 5 runs in 4 innings and losing his third straight decision. Young has a 7.32 ERA against the D-backs this season, compared with a 1.88 mark against the rest of the league. Eric Byrnes and Tony Clark both homered off Young as D-backs starter Doug Davis cruised to an easy victory. Davis, who allowed one run in seven innings, won his 13th game of the season, a career high. Over his career Davis has been the model of an average pitcher, with a 75-74 record and 4.30 ERA. This season, he has been better, and is the D-backs’ second-best starter only behind Brandon Webb. On Wednesday, the final game of this matchup for the season, Jake Peavy will pitch off three day’s rest against Livan Hernandez.
Player of the Day: Paul Lo Duca, Mets: 3-5, 2 HR, 7 RBIs in a 10-7 win over the Reds.
1. 759 and 133: Two recently set major league records were furthered in Wednesday’s Braves-Giants game. Bobby Cox, who set the major league record for most ejections with 132 on Tuesday, got tossed again while arguing a balk call on Tim Hudson. Also, ejected in separate incidents were first baseman Ryan Klesko and manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants, both for arguing balls and strikes. There was plenty of other excitement in this one besides the ejections. Barry Bonds hit homerun #759 into the stands in right-center, remarkably close to Hank Aaron’s image along the outfield wall. The crowd at Turner Field reacted mainly with boos, though a few (including me) were applauding with respect if not admiration. As far as the actual game went, the Braves won 6-3, thanks to Hudson’s excellent pitching and a sixth-inning rally. Hudson went eight innings with three runs allowed and two questionable balk calls. He is undefeated since the All Star break, and at 14-5, is among the contenders for the NL Cy Young award. The Braves won took control of this one when they scored four runs in the sixth, as they took advantage of Russ Ortiz’s inability to throw strikes. With the win they improved to 64-56 and moved passed the Phillies into second place in the NL East.
2. Here Come the Cards: Once in last place, the St. Louis Cardinals are now inching closer to the Brewers and Cubs in the NL Central. With four wins in a row (and seven wins their last ten games), the Cards are now just 3.5 game behind the Brewers for the division lead. Their pitching staff, which has taken a beating the majority of the season, is actually the reason for their recent success. Joel Pineiro, acquired from the Red Sox earlier this month, won his second start in a row on Wednesday. Pineiro pitched seven strong innings as St. Louis topped Milwaukee 8-3. Albert Pujols hit his 25th homerun and Scott Rolen went 4-5 to power the offense. Though the Cardinals still have a losing record (57-60), if they continue this success they will be viewed as a serious contender in the NL Central.
3. Nine-run ninth: The Mets scored 5 runs in the first, 5 runs in the ninth, and nothing in between. Their win over the Pirates on Thursday still wasn’t easy. Despite leading 10-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, this game was a close call for New York. The Pirates piled on 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth off Aaron Sele, including a Jason Bay two-run double. The Mets held on for the win when Billy Wagner came in for his 28th save. New York’s ninth inning was fueled by a throwing error by Pirates pitcher Shawn Chacon. After the error they scored four runs off of five straight hits. The win was the third in a row for the Mets, who kept a 3.5 game lead in the division.
Player of the Day: Russell Martin, Dodgers: 2-4, 2 HR (14), 3 RBI in a 6-3 win over Houston.
1. Where’s the Offense?: The Dodgers won’t make the playoffs unless they start hitting the ball right now. They have scored 20 runs their last 11 games, going 2-9 in that span. Roy Oswalt shut them down on Monday, with eight innings, six hits, and one run in the Astros’ 4-1 win. With another loss the Dodgers fell to 6.5 games back in the NL West, a deficit that will be hard to make up with three teams ahead of them. The Dodgers rank 23rd in runs scored this season, 27th in homeruns, and 29th in runs since the All Star break. They are hitting .226 so far in the month of August. If the hitting doesn’t magically improve within the next couple of weeks, the one-time division favorites will be out of the picture.
2. The Mariners’ Magic: Given the tough league they’re in and the teams they’re competing against, the Seattle Mariners should not be tied for the wild card lead right now. But they are at the top along with the red-hot Yankees, despite having scored 130 fewer runs than the Yanks and allowed 15 more. Looking at the expanded standings, two things stand out. The Mariners have the best record in the league against lefty pitchers (22-8) and are among the best against losing teams (39-24). They won in both of those situations on Monday, as they faced lefty Johan Santana and the 58-60 Minnesota Twins. The Mariners blew a lead in the seventh inning, but then won off Richie Sexson’s walkoff homerun. They are 66-50 now with a 12-4 record in their last sixteen games. The Mariners are certainly the surprise team in the American League this year.
3. Another Record Down: On Sunday Placido Polanco tied the major league record for consecutive errorless games at second base. On Monday, he was perfect again, breaking what was a very impressive mark. Polanco is one of three perfect American Leaguers in the field this year (excluding pitchers), along with Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki. Obviously, with second base being one of the toughest positions to field, Polanco has been far more impressive than the other two. However, the Tigers still lost on Monday, 7-2 to the A’s. Oakland pitcher Chad Gaudin ended a personal five-game losing streak and set a career-high in strikeouts with nine. The Tigers couldn’t get anything going, besides two more RBIs for Magglio Ordonez (104 on the year). They are tied with Cleveland, but that will change today as the two teams face each other.
Player of the Day: Tim Wakefield, Red Sox: 8 innings, two hits, no runs, six strikeouts in a 3-0 win over Tampa. Wakefield (14-10) has registered a decision in each of his 24 starts this season, which is approaching the top all-time in that category according to baseball-reference.com.
1. The Dodgers’ Downfall: Not too long ago the division leaders, the slumping Dodgers now find themselves in fourth place. They were passed by the Rockies on Wednesday as they lost their sixth straight game. They were shut out 1-0 by the Reds, their third shutout loss in a row and fourth in the last five games. Aaron Harang shut down the Dodgers with eight scoreless innings and eight strikeouts. Los Angeles, now 58-55, is five games back in the division but falling fast. They are 1-9 their last ten games, while the top three teams in the division have winning records their last ten. The Dodgers’ problem is clear: hitting. They have a team .211 batting average during the losing streak, while their team ERA is an excellent 3.29. It’s clear now they should have made a trade for a slugger at the trading deadline. If they cannot start hitting, they could fall completely out of the playoff picture.
2. Battle of the Best: The Angels won the first two games of their three-game set against the Red Sox. In the third, the Red Sox won 9-6 despite poor starting pitching. Jon Lester allowed five runs in three-plus innings, his worst outing of the year so far. However, the Angels’ Dustin Moseley fared even worse, with six runs and ten hits in almost five innings. Mike Lowell led the offensive charge for the Red Sox, with a 4-4 performance that included three doubles and two RBIs. Dustin Pedroia had three hits, three runs and his third homer of the season. The Red Sox are now one away from becoming the first major league team to reach 70 wins. They gained another game on the Yankees, and the division lead is now six games.
3. Bullpen Woes: Once again, the Braves built up a lead only to have it blown by their bullpen. They are starting to resemble last year’s team in this respect. Atlanta led the Mets 3-1 entering the 7th inning, but then John Smoltz allowed two runs off a Luis Castillo single. In the eighth, the recently shaky Rafael Soriano came in, allowed a solo homer to Moises Alou, and the Mets won 4-3. For Soriano, it was his sixth time in his last thirteen appearances that he allowed a run. Five of those games resulted in losses. Closer Bob Wickman has blown five saves, all on the road. If the Braves’ best relievers can’t get going, they will have no shot at making the playoffs, no matter how good their offense is.
Player of the Day: Garrett Atkins, Rockies: 4-4, 6 RBIs in a 19-4 win over the Brewers. Atkins’ career-high RBI total came as part of a 23-hit parade by the Rockies.
1. Bring on the Hit Parade: Baseball can be a strange sport sometimes. Going into to Tuesday’s game against the Phillies, the Dodgers had a five-game winning streak going and the best record in the NL. But Philadelphia made them look like a Triple-A team with a 15-3 blowout win. The Phils recorded 26 hits, including five each by Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand. Ryan Howard hit to homeruns to give him 24 on the year. Chase Utley had three RBIs to increase his league-leading total to 79. Even Phillies starter JD Durbin, who gave up one run in six innings, added three hits. Dodgers starter Mark Hendrickson was crushed for 11 hits and 7 runs in three innings, and reliever Eric Stults gave up eight hits and four runs. The Phillies now have 499 runs on the year, ranking them first in the National League and third overall in the majors.
2. The Yankees Get Closer: The Yankees are now closer to the division-leading Boston Red Sox than they’ve been in a while. With a comeback 3-2 win over Toronto combined with Boston’s loss to the Royals, the Yanks are now eight games back in the division. That’s still a lot, but for a while the lead has been double-digits. Blue Jays reliever Jeremy Accardo issued a balk in the ninth inning that tied the game, which the Yankees won in the tenth inning off a Robinson Cano RBI single. Alex Rodriguez notched his 90th RBI of the year as New York won their fourth game in a row. In Boston, the Royals teed off on Tim Wakefield for six runs in their 9-3 win. The Yankees’ upcoming schedule has been noted for its lack of winning teams, though the Red Sox don’t exactly have a murderer’s row either. They face the Devil Rays and Orioles a combined five times over the next month, so if they take care of business, it will be hard for the Yankees to catch up.
3. The Collapse Continues: The biggest losing streak in baseball right now belongs to the A’s, who have dropped nine games in a row. They are now 12 games back in the division and barely ahead of the lowly Rangers, who beat Oakland again on Tuesday. Texas’ 11-4 win was fueled by a 5-5 performance by Michael Young in addition to multiple errors by the A’s. Oakland starter Chad Gaudin, who used to be among the AL leaders in ERA, was rocked for his second straight start. This is the longest losing streak for the A’s since 1998, according to ESPN.com. They are virtually eliminated from playoff contention already.
Player of the Day: Aaron Rowand, Phillies: 5-6, 3 doubles, HR (13), 2 RBIs in a win over the Dodgers.
1. The NL’s New Leader: Either the Brewers, Mets, or Padres have held the National League’s best record for most of this season. But now, the Dodgers have the league’s top mark at 53-40. They crushed the Phillies last night 10-3 as Brad Penny improved to 11-1. Penny pitched seven innings, allowing one run and striking out eight. He joined Carlos Zambrano and Cole Hamels as the NL’s only 11-game winners. The Dodgers’ offense pounded Jamie Moyer for 10 runs, including three-run homeruns by Jeff Kent and Matt Kemp. The Dodgers have now won five in a row, but they’re still only a game up on the Padres.
2. Welcome Back: Horacio Ramirez was having a poor season for the Mariners, battling both injuries and ineffectiveness. But in his return off the DL, he looked excellent as the Mariners topped the Orioles. Ramirez allowed two runs in seven innings as Seattle won 4-2. He still has a 5.89 ERA, .317 opponents’ average, and only 15 strikeouts in nine starts. If Ramirez can continue this one good start into a string of good performances this second half, he won’t make the Mariners feel quite as stupid for trading him for stud reliever Rafael Soriano.
3. Playoff Preview?: In a matchup of two teams that could face each other in October, the Padres and Mets started a three-game set on Monday. The Padres won 5-1 behind a strong start from David Wells. Wells gave up on run in six innings in his 7th quality start in his last 11 starts. Michael Barrett powered the Padres with 3 RBIs and 3 hits. Jorge Sosa pitched well in his return from the DL, but he wasn’t supported by the offense or the bullpen. The Mets’ division lead stays at a game and a half as the Braves were pounded by the Reds.
Player of the Day: Kason Gabbard, Red Sox: 9 innings, 3 hits, no runs in a 4-0 win over the Royals.