MLB General

The Full Count: Michael Young saves the AL

Showing off his MVP trophy

1. Young talent: Michael Young wasn’t about to let the American League lose for the first time in a decade. The three-time All Star shortstop wasn’t in the best position–two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning against a future Hall of Fame closer. But Young rocked an 0-2 fastball from Trevor Hoffman into right center, scoring Jose Lopez and Troy Glaus and giving the lead to the American League. The National League, who had been leading for five innings and had been setting up the victory, suddenly found themselves trailing 3-2 and needed a desperation run off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth. They didn’t get it, as Rivera was perfect in the inning and Young made the final out. The AL stunned the NL, and they are now 9-0-1 in the last 10 All Star games. That, by the way, is the second longest streak of dominance in the game’s history (the NL went 19-1 from `63 to `82).

The NL had certainly set themselves up to win, however. Starting pitcher Brad Penny came out throwing heat, striking out Ichiro, Jeter, and Ortiz in the first inning with 95+ mile-per-hour fastballs. But he did give up a run in the second inning, as Vladimir Guerrero swung at a high fastball and it ended up in the right-field bleachers. But the National League was quick to answer that. David Wright, who finished second in Monday’s Home Run Derby, showcased the same swing as he lined a Kenny Rogers pitch into the left field stands. Carlos Beltran scored a run in the third on a double, a steal, and a passed ball that gave the National League the lead for the next five innings.

The rocking atmosphere in PNC Park was about 90% NL fans, and they supported them all they could. Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates both made some plays, and the crowd was boisterous in their support. But it wasn’t enough, so the NL will look to win in San Francisco next year.

2. Giving him up: Despite numerous rumors for years, the Devil Rays had held onto slugger Aubrey Huff for years. But that changed in the first big-name deal before the trade deadline. The Rays sent Huff to the Astros, who desperately need bats, for two minor-league prospects. Huff has been injured the past few years but has made multiple All Star appearances in the past.

3. The 83-year-old slugger: The record for the oldest professional ballplayer in history was set yesterday. Jim Eriotes appeared for the Sioux Falls Canaries, striking out in his only plate appearance. Eriotes is actually taking this seriously. He said that he doesn’t care about the record, but just wants to get a hit. We still think it’s more of a publicity stunt.

4. Giles is an ostrich: Bill Giles, part owner of the Phillies, claims that the Randy Myers incident was blown out of proportion. Giles said in an interview, “I do know what really happened was a lot less than what the public thinks happened and that’s the sad part because some bystander saw something that really didn’t happen. Brett was trying to help his wife. One of our employees [marketing manager Debbie Nocito] saw the whole thing. She said, ‘He did not hit her at all, and he didn’t grab her hair or anything.’ So all the reports were untrue, from what I understand.” Meanwhile, Phillies President David Montgomery is running damage control and saying that he explained it poorly to Giles and that the incident did happen.

5. Separation of Church and Baseball?: The Tulsa Drillers recently gave away Moses bobbleheads to 1,500 fans as part of a faith and family night. The promotion was sponsored by Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a Christian radio station. There might not be crying in baseball but there certainly is praying.

MLB General

The Full Count: Home Run Derby report

1. Pennsylvania Power: The Phillies can’t seem to win a ballgame, but they sure have power. Last night Ryan Howard became the second consecutive Phillie to win the Home Run Derby, joining teammate Bobby Abreu, who won it last year. Full Count scribe Jackson Govatos was there to take it all in. Howard came in as one of the favorites but was on the brink of elimination in the first round. He only had 4 dingers with 9 outs left, and he needed 7 to join Jermaine Dye. But then Howard’s power stroke kicked in, and he crushed 4 homeruns to get to the second round.

But even then he was still a long shot to win it all. With the new rule that homeruns carry over from round 1, Howard found himself in last place before the round even started. David Wright actually had twice Howard’s total at 16. Also, David Ortiz was looking good after crushing 10 in the first round. Ortiz quickly became a favorite at PNC Park, as flashbulbs were going off like crazy during his at-bat, and he slugged multiple balls into the Allegheny River. The fourth competitor is the second round was Florida’s Miguel Cabrera, who came into the Derby with the lowest home-run total of all competitors. But in the first round he slugged 9, launching balls into the right field stands and earning a standing ovation from the crowd.

Every second-round slugger’s total dropped off from round 1. Expect
for Howard, who electrified the crowd by slamming 10 homeruns. It was announced that Howard had the longest average total of 442 feet, and it sure felt like it. He hit balls on the fly into the river, over the ESPN tent deep in right-center, and halfway up the batter’s eye in this round. Meanwhile, David Wright’s total dropped to just two in this round, as he kept swinging on top of the ball. However, his combined total of 18 was enough to tie Howard and make it to the finals. The other competitors, Ortiz and Cabrera, were eliminated with two-round totals of 15 and 13, respectively.

Now it was time for the finals, which started more than two hours after the Derby began. Wright was up first, and he showed signs of the power that had led him to the second-best single-round total ever in the first round. Wright smacked some big flys early, but then dwindled and only put up four for the round. Anyone could then tell you that Howard, whose power was increasing as the competition wore on, would come out the champion. And he did, crushing some of the longest shots of the night. one of his hits went completely over the batter’s eye, another landed in the water, and another over the ESPN tent again. Then he had a total of four dingers with 5 outs left to play with. Howard wasted no time getting the victory, crushing a ball and electrifying the crowd. As a further exclamation point, his last shot hit the “Hit it Here” sign in right, winning one lucky fan 500 free flights. Howard is the champ, and if he participates the next few years opponents will be hard-pressed to take his title.

2. Line me up: The batting orders for the All Star game were announced yesterday. There are few surprises as far as the batting orders go. The AL will lead off Ichiro as usual, and will have a tough Ortiz-Rodriduez-Guererro 3-4-5. The NL will bat Alfonso Soriano first, and will feature hometown hero Jason Bay as the cleanup hitter. The full lineups are available here.

3. Durability over merit: The starting pitchers for the All Star game were finally announced yesterday after weeks of speculation. The starters this year were mainly based on which pitcher had had the most rest instead of which was most deserving. Brad Penny of the Dodgers and Kenny Rogers of the Tigers will be the starters. Rogers will be in the spotlight, exactly the opposite of where he was last year at this time after his cameraman-pushing incident. Penny has gotten some negative press this year because of his tirade after being taken out with 4.2 innings pitched against Atlanta on Memorial Day. Either way, both are decent choices that have performed well this year.

4. Justice is finally served: Now we can finally stop listening to people complaining over the non-selection of Francisco Liriano for the game. Liriano, who has a 1.83 ERA this year for the Twins, will replace White Sox stud Jose Contreras on the AL roster. Contreras pitched Sunday and Ozzie evidently doesn’t want him to pitch again Tuesday. On the NL roster, Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein replaces injured Jose Reyes of the Mets.

5. Break amendment: By the way, does anyone think that the All Star break should be extended? For those players who go to the game and participate in the Home Run Derby, the break is only one day. We think that a day should be added so the Futures game can be Monday, the Derby on Tuesday, the game on Wednesday, and an off day on Thursday. This would also give pitchers who pitch on Sunday an extended break before the game.

MLB General

July 11 in Sports History: All Star Edition Part 2

In 1939: The first of only three All-Star games ever to be played at Yankee Stadium saw the A.L. defeat the N.L 3-1. Joe Dimaggio homered in the fifth inning to provide the offense. Later that year, New York would become the first team to host an All-Star Game and win the World Series in the same year (they did it again in 1977 and barely lost in 1960).

In 1944: Pittsburgh hosted it’s first All-Star Game at Forbes Field. The N.L. won 7-1, but both rosters lacked the big-name stars of the day as many players were serving in World War II. It was also one of the most poorly attended All-Star Games, with just over 25,000 fans.

In 1967: In Anaheim, CA, the N.L. defeated the A.L. in 15 innings in the longest All-Star Game in history. Played during the height of the last great pitcher’s era, the two teams combined for 30 strikeouts. Tony Perez of the Cincinnati Reds won the game’s MVP award with a solo home run off Catfish Hunter in the 15th inning.

In 1989: Bo Jackson of the Kansas City Royals stole the show with a towering, 448-foott leadoff home run off the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning of the 60th All-Star Game, once again hosted by the Angels in Anaheim. Jackson also doubled, stole third and made a great defensive play to win the MVP award.

In 1995: Pitcher Hideo Nomo of the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first Japanese player to appear in an All-Star Game as he started for the National League at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Despite managing only three hits (and being no-hit through the first six innings), the N.L. scratched out the win with three solo home runs. Jeff Conine of the Florida Marlins hit the game-winner and was named MVP.

MLB General

July 10 in Sports History: All-Star Game edition

Caption Text

In 1934: Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants and the National League struck out five future Hall of Famers in a row in the second ever All-Star Game in front of his home fans at the Polo Grounds. Hubbell fanned American Leaguers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin consecutively. The AL rallied to win the game 9-7, however.

In 1940: The NL defeated the AL 4-0 in the first shutout in All-Star Game history at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis . Max West of the Boston Bees (?) hit a three-run homer in the first inning while the Junior Circuit only managed three hits.

In 1945: The All-Star Game to be played at Fenway Park in Boston was cancelled due to travel restrictions during the end of World War II. The Midsummer Classic would return to Fenway the following year.

In 1951: The NL used four home runs to pummel the AL 8-3 at Briggs Stadium (a.k.a. Tiger Stadium) in Detroit. Ralph Kiner of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a round-tripper for the third straight year.

In 1962: The NL won the first All-Star Game of two to be played that year 3-1 at D.C Stadium, the home of the Washington Senators. Roberto Clemente of the Pirates had three hits, but Maury Wills of the L.A. Dodgers won MVP honors.

In 1984: National League pitchers Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers and Dwight Gooden of the N.Y. Mets combined to break Hubbell’s consecutive strikeout record by fanning six straight at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on the 50th anniversary of Hubbell’s feat. Gooden also was the youngest All-Star ever at the age of 19.

In 1990: In a rain-soaked All-Star Game at Wrigley field, the AL shutout the NL 2-0. Six AL pitchers combined on a two-hitter. Julio Franco (!) of the Texas Rangers drove in both runs and was named MVP.

In 2001: In his final All-Star Game, the soon-to-be-retiring Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles homered to the delight of the Safeco Field crowd in Seattle, leading the AL to a 4-1 victory. The game also featured a classy gesture by Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who insisted Ripken switch positions with him at third base so Ripken could play short one final time. Although some questioned the pitch (cough-gopher ball) that Chan Ho Park served to Ripken, Ripken received what was believed to be the longest ovation in All-Star history. He and Tony Gwynn were also presented achievement awards by Commissioner Bud Selig during the game.

Chicago Cubs

The Full Count: The NL’s Worst Team

1.Bottom of the Barrel: It might not be the Pittsburgh Pirates anymore. In fact, the Chicago Cubs could be considered the worst team in the majors. They haven’t been able to buy a win, literally. Despite a payroll that borders on $100 million, they have a 31-54 record on the year. And their offense, which is last in the league in homeruns, OPS, and runs scored, provided another dismal performance on Thursday. Facing Chris Capuano and the Brewers, the Cubs were held to just 6 hits and no runs on the day. Capuano, who finished second in the NL Final Man voting, pitched like he was an All Star. He is now 10-4 on the year with a 3.21 ERA and 112 strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Cubs now only have a record one game better than the Royals’. Now that’s what we call bad.

2. Nomar and AJ win Final Vote: The voting for the final two All Stars is in. Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers and AJ Pierzynski of the White Sox were the last two players to make the cut. Garciaparra was clearly deserving as he is second in the NL in batting average. But with Pierzynski, the only reason he got voted in was because of the White Sox’s substantial fan base. The other AL nominees–Ramon Hernandez, Travis Hafner, Francisco Liriano, and Justin Verlander–probably would have made better picks. Anyway, we personally find all this talk of All Star snubs and players that shouldn’t be on the team quite ridiculous. Does anyone remember that eventual Cy Young winner Johan Santana wasn’t on the AL team in 2004? Few do now that he is a perennial All Star. So we expect Liriano, Verlander, Hafner, and Hernandez will have plenty of future opportunities to make the team. As for Pierzynski, he probably won’t get much playing time anyway with Joe Mauer also at backup catcher.

3. Derby time: The Home Run Derby participants have been finalized, and this will be the first derby in two years without any gimmicks. Last year, every player was from a different country as part of an effort to promote the World Baseball Classic. In 2004, every active member of the 500 Home Run club participated. But this year, we will go back to the tried-and-true selection process of, well, just about anybody who can hit the long ball. For the NL, David Wright of the Mets, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, and Miguel Cabrera of Florida have confirmed their participation. Albert Pujols, who is tied for the NL lead with Howard at 28 homers, withdrew from the event yesterday due to injury risk. He will be replaced by two-time Derby vet Lance Berkman, who came in second in 2004. the AL will feature 2004 winner Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz (last year’s runner-up), Troy Glaus, and Jermaine Dye. It should be one of the more fun competitions in sports as usual, and Full Count will be there live from Pittsburgh to tell you about it.

4. Ready for the Derby: David Ortiz seemed plenty ready for the Derby in his game yesterday. Facing the Devil Rays, the slugger jacked two homeruns, giving him 29 on the season. Ortiz hit a grand slam in the ninth to seal the deal on the Red Sox’s 12-5 victory. His 6 RBIs gave him 82 on the season, the major-league high by a wide margin. The win helped the Red Sox avoid a four-game sweep in Tampa. They lead the AL East by 3 games.

5. Thome performs too: Jim Thome exactly equaled David Ortiz’s impressive line in a bizarre statistical occurrence. Thome jacked two homers, six RBI, and a grand slam for the White Sox against the Orioles. According to Elias Says, that is the first time two players have had that stat line on the same day since July 28, 2003 (Marcus Giles and Rafael Palmeiro). Thome’s two jacks tied him for the major-league lead at 29 with Ortiz. Fellow All-Stars Jermaine Dye and AJ Pierzynski also went deep for Chicago, who won 11-8. By the way, White Sox starter Javier Vasquez’s run support is becoming one of the more interesting developments of the year. The White Sox have averaged 9.03 runs in his starts, a full run more over everyone else. That has given him an 8-4 record despite a 5.15 ERA.