Mike Hampton is alive and well. He's never actually been dead so the alive part of the previous statement has always held true, but the well part not so much. The man has had more injuries than the dipshits participants in the Running of the Bulls. The southpaw, now 37 years old, has yet to allow a run in 9 relief appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks this year. A 0.00 ERA is certainly impressive, but before you pop a pitch tent in your pants it has only been 3.1 innings. Does the one time 22 game winner have enough left in the tank to contribute over a full season in 2011? Doubtful, the man missed all of '06 and '07 and has been beat up over the last 3 seasons too. However, someone will take a chance on him, and might just get luckier than a frat boy dropping roofies.
House of Pain- Back from the Dead *These whiteboys could rap!!!
According to a series of questions on Sports Nation over at ESPN.com the Tampa Bay Rays fans are a bunch of nosepicking asswads. Don't believe me? See for yourself...see told ya, even the Rays players are pissed at their fans. Me, personally, I'm a Phillies fan and they have sold out every home game for about a year and a half straight. The Rays are one of the top 3 teams in baseball (along with the Yankees and Phils), but their attendance is abysmal. Unacceptable. Get out to the ballpark douchenuggets! *The above is a picture of Tropicana Field...empty as per usual.
Inspired by a line in the classic movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Seriously, though-whoever would have imagined the Reds even making it to first place, much less contending for the playoffs, given the past few seasons and the semi-dysfunctional reputation the team has acquired.
Yet another example of the wonderful dynamism of baseball.
This weekend could be very favorable for the Phillies. They have the Mets coming to town while the Braves are in Washington to take on the Doughboys. The Braves rotation right now favors them to sweep the Nationals this weekend whereas the Phillies are going to be going with Blanton and Kendrick and then Hamels on Sunday. I see the Phillies winning two out of three and have the magic number at 1 as they go on the road. Which is odd because recently they have been clinching serious games at home. Now on to this past week. It was a good week for the Phillies as well as the Twins and a terrible week for the Cardinals. First with the Phillies. They did a great job with there BIG 3 but my concern comes at the beginning of the lineup. On Tuesday, Victorino went 0-5 and provided no spark for the offense. Yes he did make some good defensive plays but his speed at the top of the lineup needs to be used to its fullest extent. My other concern this week is the amount of baserunners left on base. It was terrible. There were over ten left on base on Tuesday night. For the Twins, they are a great team right now and have alot of time to rest and build there rotation around a tough American League that will sure to be stacked with names like A-ROD and JETER come postseason time. I just hope they don't get stuck with the Yankees the first round. Don't say I didn't warn you back in the beginning of the year that the Twins will be in the playoffs due to their new stadium this year. Lets just hope they don't have a target on their back. Finally the Cardinals. Thank god they wont be making the playoffs this year. This team went from contender to pretender in a matter of a couple of weeks. They had terrific pitching but their hitting left them down. Dont be surprised if there is some major shake ups in this organization next year. Finally my predictions for MVP, CY YOUNG and ROY for the National League. MVP Joey Votto, CY YOUNG Roy Halladay and ROY Gaby Sanchez. Eat that GM-Carson.
Who's the hottest team in baseball? The Colorado Rockies. Nope, the Philadelphia Phillies. And one has to wonder where they would be without Wilson Valdez. Valdez was signed to a minor league contract and was to serve as filler at Triple-A. He didn't stay in the minors for long, as an injury to Jimmy Rollins occurred and the utilityman for the Phils at the time, Juan Castro, just wasn't getting it done. The Phightins summoned Valdez and he's been a savior at shortstop, as J-Roll has seen the DL twice and is currently hobbled by another blown tire. Wilson's glovework has been superb, especially his missile projecting arm. He's been adequate at the plate too- .258/.658, 30 r, 33 rbi, 4 hr, 5 sb in 102 games. The 32 year old is not a MLB starter by any means, but he's certainly played himself into Philly's future plans as their utility infielder, and he's the best they've in the role since Tomas Perez back in 2003.
Once upon a time back in 2000 Jay Gibbons was a Rule 5 selection by the Baltimore Orioles that went on to have a handful of productive seasons with them until completely falling down and off the map after 2007. He played decent enough defense in the outfield and at firstbase, hit for pop, and especially lit up the team that let him go (Toronto Blue Jays- 19 homeruns against). However, as mentioned Gibbons sorta vanished for a few seasons (actually went back to the minors and Indy ball), until now, and he's resurfaced with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 33 year old lefthanded batter is making quite the impression in Hollywood with a .313 average and .915 OPS. Now, this success is only in 31 games, but damn those are some mighty fine games. With starters' salaries continuing to escalate a 4th outfielder of Gibbons' pedigree and on the cheap is a helluva asset. Not sure if LA sees him in their future, but somebody will for sure.
A .225 batting average is nothing to brag about, in fact many fans would bitch about it. Batting average isn't everything though, as we know getting on base and the ability to have the hits you do collect go for extra bases matters a helluva lot too. Dan Johnson's batting average is lackluster but he boasts a solid .863 OPS due to his keen eye and power. The Tampa Bay Ray has been a bit of a sparkplug since being plugged into the lineup regularly. In 29 games the 31 year old lefthanded batting 1B/DH has scored 14 runs and collected 16 rbi on 18 hits (2 doubles, 6 homeruns) while walking 21 times. That's a small sample size, but it's enough to warrant continued plate appearance for Johnson in the remaining week of the season and in the playoffs. Next year is up in the air with the Rays, but with those numbers he's playing himself into someones future plans (he is arbitration eligible).
The rookie class of 2010 is as impressive as I ever remember it being. These guys aren't only good for rookies, some of them are already good for veterans and well on their way to stardom. Impact Bats: Jayson Heyward/ATL/OF, Austin Jackson/DET/OF, Gaby Sanchez/FLA/1B, Danny Valencia/MIN/3B, Buster Posey/SFG/C, Chris Johnson/HOU/3B, Starlin Castro/CHC/SS, Logan Morrison/FLA/OF, Jose Tabata/PIT/OF, Neil Walker/PIT/2B, John Jay/STL/OF, David Freese/STL/3B, Ian Desmond/WAS/SS, Ike Davis/NYM/1B, Brennan Boesch/DET/OF, Will Rhymes/DET/2B, Josh Thole/NYM/C, John Jaso/TBR/C, Roger Bernadina/WAS/OF, Tyler Colvin/CHC/OF, Mike Stanton/FLA/OF, Chris Heisey/CIN/OF, and Pedro Alvarez/PIT/3B.
Impact Arms: Jaime Garcia/STL/SP, Jonathan Niese/NYM/SP, Wade Davis/TBR/SP, Alexi Ogando/TEX/RP, Jonny Venters/ATL/RP, John Axford/MIL/RP, Sergio Santos/CHW/RP, Daniel Hudson/ARI/SP, Ryan Webb/SDP/RP, Stephen Strasburg/WAS/SP, Neftali Feliz/TEX/RP, Drew Storen/WAS/RP, Wilton Lopez/HOU/RP, Madison Bumgarner/SFG/SP, Jordan Smith/CIN/RP, Travis Wood/CIN/SP, Barry Enright/ARI/SP, Jhoulys Chacin/COL/SP, and Alex Sanbia/FLA/SP.
Buck Showalter is a difference maker. Fact. Since taking charge of the Baltimore Orioles they have gone 25-15, a far cry from their abysmal record of 32-73 prior to him becoming the skipper. Last night those O's blew out the Blue Jays 11-3 to win their 4th straight series for the first time since 2004. This isn't just luck, this is a change in preparation, attitude, and accountability. Showalter has his club playing for their professional lives, because the impression they make now will go along way to securing them a spot on the 2011 squad. His restructured lineup has Adam Jones and Matt Wieters batting lower and they are thriving. Luke Scott has become a legitimate power threat from the 4 hole. Rookie Josh Bell is getting valuable experience in a minimal pressure spot in the lineup batting 9th. Pitching has improved with rookie Jake Arrieta getting the ball every 5th day and Koji Uehara given the closing duties. This team is not playoff destined this year or next, but they are most definitely an improving club.
More Hardball took some time to check out the stats of the AL and NL for you and bring to light some things you might not have known. American League: *Josh Hamilton's average of .361 is 26 points higher than 2nd place Miguel Cabrera. Considering he won't be playing much over the final weeks of the season the batting title is pretty much in the bag for him.
*Jose Bautista has blasted 46 homeruns, 10 more than 2nd place Paul Konerko.
*Juan Pierre has always been pesky on the base paths and this year is no different has he has collected 55 stolen bases, 11 more than 2nd place Rajai Davis.
*Slow-footed Mark Teixeira leads the league in runs scored with 104.
*Daric Barton of the Oakland A's is the only player in the Majors with a triple digit walk total- 100 on the nose.
*The Tampa Bay Rays have 3 members of their lineup in the top 10 in strikeouts- BJ Upton 142, Carlos Pena 140, and Evan Longoria 120.
*Daniel Bard has been the best setup man with 29 holds.
National League: *Dexter Fowler leads the league in triple with 12, but only has 377 at bats.
*Jayson Werth's 44 doubles lead the league. His previous career best was 26.
*Michael Bourn has become quite the theft, swiping 50 bags, 17 more than anybody else in the league.
*Teammates Luke Gregerson (35) and Mike Adams (32) are by far the top two setup men in the NL.
*Roy Halladay has almost 20 more innings pitched than #2 Chris Carpenter.
I am a Cardinal fan at heart. I love my team. When someone does something obviously wrong and overly aggressive against one of the team members wearing the Birds on the Bat, you can bet I get fired up.
This past week, during a game with the Washington Nationals, Nyjer Morgan gave an aggressive shove to Bryan Anderson as he crossed the plate. Anderson was standing a step in front of the plate, without the ball, and not blocking it at all. I was livid and wanted Morgan's head on a platter.
Later in the week, Morgan would connect with a catcher in a game against the Florida Marlins. This time, the catcher, Brett Hayes, had the ball and was blocking the plate. In a hard nosed play, Morgan lowered his shoulder and knocked Hayes in a massive collision that would separate the catcher's left shoulder and end his season.
When I heard of the incident, I was immediately upset. I started rambling about how Morgan was going to cause issues across the league and had to be stopped. When I arrived at home and watched the replay I quickly changed my mind. This was a hard nosed, old school, baseball play.
The next game the Marlins played to the crowd and addressed the situation the way most Major League teams would - they hit Morgan with a pitch in the fourth inning. The Marlins, who were up by 11 runs, felt they had handled the issue sufficiently. The umpires warned both benches, Morgan quietly took his place at first base, and play resumed.
Morgan, obviously upset, felt it best to take his aggression out through his abilities on the field. He immediately stole second base. This is another old school move that many players of yesterday would do after being hit by a pitch to prove that they were not hurt. Message sent and received. Then Morgan stole third. This was more than a player stating that he was not hurt. This was a player saying, "I am going to make you pay". He would later score.
Now, somewhere in the Florida dugout, the players decided that the issue was not over with. In the sixth, when Morgan came back to the plate, he was hit again. Enough was enough and Morgan charged the mound, setting off one of the largest base-brawls in recent memory. The scene would end with Morgan leaving the field, yelling at the crowd, and looking like he was at a tryout for professional wrestling.
Morgan has been suspended for this and many other issues over the last few weeks. The league has dealt with him in what they feel was an appropriate manner and I agree. But this column is seldom interesting if all I do is agree, now is it?
What do I disagree with? The Florida Marlins over reacted and put themselves in a position for this to happen, not to mention put Morgan in a position to retaliate.
Yeah, I said it, the Marlins were not held accountable for their actions. Sure, there were suspensions. Seriously, though, this team needs to reevaluate their feeling of what they do and what stresses them out.
You are baseball players. You are competitive by nature and hard working, I get that. One of your players was severely hurt in an incident you did not agree with. I get that too.
All things considered, Hayes was hurt on a play that was very clean by most standards. If you disagree, you hit him the next time it is possible. You did that. He stole two bases while down by eleven and you decided to hit him again. I get....wait....no, I do not get that. He closed the lead from eleven to ten by aggressive play after being hit by a pitch. Where in the unwritten codes of baseball do you feel this went wrong? Are you just ticked off that the player you now hate can still run the bases and is sticking it to you? Tough. Hitting him a second time was basically sending the message that the first time was not enough because he did not charge the mound. The first time was excusable and part of the game. The second time was irresponsible and borderline childish.
Nyjer Morgan has done a lot of things wrong and deserves what baseball does with him. His reaction to the Marlins was simply that of a player who had enough and was not going to stand there and allow someone to hurt him simply because they were upset at his aggressive play.
Keep knocking catchers down, Mr. Morgan, I miss a player that feels he should play as hard as possible within the rules and welcome your aggressive nature.
Bill Ivie is the editor for i70baseball.com and hosts i70baseball radio every Monday night on BlogTalkRadio.com.
September is my 2nd favorite month of the baseball season, April being my 1st love because it means the sport I devote my life to is back on the big stage. Anyway, September is great for call-ups as the rosters expand up to 40 players and the hunt for October playoffs is a win-or-go-home scenario.
Today I want to focus on the quest for the postseason. The Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers each hold an 8 game lead in their division with the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics barely hanging on by a string. The other division are a far more highly contested battle. In the AL East you have the New York Yankees holding it down while the Tampa Bay Rays are 2.5 back. Both teams seem destined for the playoffs, but each would like to claim the division title. In the AL Central the Minnesota Twins are 3.5 up on the Chicago White Sox, but don't be so quick to hand it over to the Twinkies just yet because the new Manny Ramirez spearheaded offensive attack of the Pale Booties ain't ready to give up. Then there's the NL East with the Philadelphia Phillies trailing the sentimental Atlanta Braves (bye-bye Bobby Cox!) by a game. My guess is both teams make the playoffs, with the Phils finally overcoming the Braves in the final series of the season (Phils have a 3 game advantage in the Wild Card). Then the NL West has become closer over the past week due to the San Diego Padres going on a huge slide (9 straight losses) and the San Francisco Giants continuing to play well...now only 2 back. The Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and Colorado Rockies hold on to a slim chance for the Wild Cards, but would need a miracle to reach the postseason.
Told ya September is fun.
*Remember those douchey Dane Cook "There's Only One October" commercials? Awful.
According to an article on this website called "The Daily Caller", people who lean towards the conservative end of the political spectrum, love baseball!
The article states that conservative-leaning individuals, particularly elite conservatives like Charlie Krauthammer and George Will, tend to like baseball more that other American sports because it's merit-based and the rules haven't changed all that much in the 100+ years that baseball has existed in this great country.
But that's not to say that ALL baseball fans are conservative! Like all sports, baseball's fans share a variety of political beliefs, but individuals political views are but a minute trifle in the greater scheme of things. What unites all baseball fans is the fact that we go to baseball games because, well, it's fun! It's a great way to spend the afternoon with friends and family, away from the crazy hustle-bustle of the world. We go to baseball games to GET AWAY FROM politics, and when the two cross paths, the result is often an ugly mess.
With that in mind, have a great Labor Day weekend everyone! tamtam