Monday, June 29, 2009

Interleague play: It's an all-American (League) tradition

Boy, are National League teams glad that interleague play has ended!

Once again, the American League dominated the NL, 137-114, in the 251 interleague games this season.

Just look what interleague did for some teams:

The Anaheim Angels, with an interleague-best record of 14-4, moved 2 ½ games ahead of the Texas Rangers (9-9 in interleague) in the AL West.

The Tampa Bay Rays were 13-5 in interleague, jumping back into the AL East race.

Toronto was only 7-11, thus falling one game behind Tampa Bay in the East.

The only other AL teams with losing records – Cleveland and Oakland (5-13 each) and Kansas City (8-10) – are virtually out of the pennant races.

In the NL, the Colorado Rockies were an interleague-high of 11-4, getting back into the NL West (and wild card) races.

The Los Angeles Dodgers only went 9-9, but they’re so far out front in the West that nobody’s going to catch them.

Florida (10-8) and San Francisco and St. Louis (both 9-6) were the lone other NL teams with winning records.

On the other end, it’s no surprise that the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks were each 5-10 … but a bigger surprise that Milwaukee and the New York Mets were also 5-10.

All in all, it’s just nice that teams will be playing within their own leagues from now on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson: Memories of 1993 Super Bowl (non) "Thriller"

Those of us who attended the 1993 Super Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., didn’t exactly see a “Thriller” when the Dallas Cowboys whipped the Buffalo Bills, 52-17.

But we did get to see Michael Jackson perform live at halftime; which was quite a thrill for all of his fans watching worldwide.

Besides Jackson, there were quite a few memories (good and bad) from that Super Bowl:

The game was originally set for Tempe, Ariz., but the NFL switched plans because Arizona was among 23 states not celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday back then.

Troy Aikman, now a minority owner of the San Diego Padres, was named the game’s MVP after passing for 273 yards and four touchdowns.

Leon Lett of the Cowboys became infamous when he ran backwards toward the endzone and was tackled from way behind by a hustling Don Beebe of Buffalo.

Buffalo set a Super Bowl record with nine turnovers on the way to the third of its four straight Super Bowl losses.

Then there were more memories:

Garth Brooks sang the National Anthem.

O.J. Simpson performed the pregame coin toss (this was before he killed his wife.)

It was the last Super Bowl in the Los Angeles area, since the Rams and Raiders left LA after the next year.

All in all, there were a lot of thrilling memories for a Super Bowl that was such a dud!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

World Baseball Classic: A pitcher's nightmare?

Is the World Baseball Classic harmful to pitchers?

Don’t ask the Boston Red Sox about Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Don’t ask the San Diego Padres about Jake Peavy.

And maybe you shouldn’t even ask the Houston Astros about Roy Oswalt.

Coincidence or not, two of the three pitched in the WBC and are now out for long periods of time. And the third, Oswalt, hasn’t been the same this year since pitching in the WBC.

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona has gone so far as to suggest Matsuzaka’s ailing right shoulder – which could keep him sidelined the rest of the season, -- is likely the result of pitching in the WBC.

And to think this is a guy Boston invested more than $100 million into …

Peavy had perhaps his worst year ever in an injury-plagued 2006 (11-14, 4.09 ERA) after pitching in the WBC. This season, he pitched in the WBC, is 6-6 with a 3.97 ERA and could miss a couple months with a bum ankle.

So much for a guy the Padres are trying to trade away along with his $50-plus million contract ...

As for Oswalt, he seems to be OK physically. But what’s with his sub par 3-4 record and 4.48 ERA?

So much for a guy who’s supposed to be the ace of the Astros ...

All told, maybe the WBC should take place after the season, when pitchers are in top form.

Otherwise, you might expect some top pitchers to take a fall every three years after the WBC.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Los Angeles Dodgers: Best team in MLB -- without Manny!

Albuquerque, New Mexico, get ready!

The Manny Ramirez soap opera/show is coming to town starting Tuesday, June 23.

Yes, Ramirez will officially begin his “rehab” (for baseball, not drugs) when he joins the Albuquerque Isotopes for a four-game series against the Nashville Sounds, leaders of the Pacific Coast League American North division.

Sorry, Albuquerque, but it’s a circus when Manny comes to town. There’s going to be plenty of out-of-town media for the show, but at least it’ll bring a few extra bucks to the local economy.

Interestingly, Manny’s drug-related suspension does not end until the Los Angeles Dodgers play July 3 at the San Diego Padres. But according to the MLB collective bargaining agreement, he can begin a minor-league rehab 10 days earlier.

His projected schedule?

Ramirez will go to Class A Inland Empire for a three-game series starting Saturday, June 27. Following that stint, he'll work out in Los Angeles on July 1, travel with the Dodgers to San Diego on July 2 and rejoin the lineup on July 3, according to the Los Angeles Times.

So, how have the Dodgers fared without Ramirez?

Seems like they’ve hardly missed him at all. They are 25-16 in Ramirez's 50-game absence – the best record in baseball during that time

So much for the theory that as Manny goes, so go the Dodgers!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Padres need to cut ties with Giles, Floyd

The San Diego Padres need to get on with their youth movement and cut ties with Brian Giles and Cliff Floyd.

Without a doubt, Floyd will be the easier choice.

He was brought in at a salary of $750,000 to be a designated hitter at American League parks. The Padres finish interleague play June 28 at the Texas Rangers, so getting rid of Floyd after then should be a no-brainer … unless the team wants to keep a guy batting .125 with no extra base hits who is incapable of running the bases.

Giles will be a much tougher decision.

First of all, he’s making $9 million this year. The Padres would have to eat well more than $5 million of that to cut him now. (And, yes, they could have bought him out in the offseason for $3 million.)

But who knew he would be batting .191 on June 19 with two home runs … not to mention the fact his arm is now well below-average for a right fielder?

Giles may be declining because of age. Or his descent could be due to the mentor factor of going through an ugly lawsuit with his ex-girlfriend where all sorts of woman-beating accusations have come out against Giles.

The Padres need to find out if Drew Macias can be their right fielder for the future.

In a small sampling earlier this season, Macias was leading the team with a .435 on-base percentage. Additionally, all five of his hits (four doubles, one home run) were for extra bases.

Sure, they are bringing up spring training sensation Kyle Blanks this weekend. Sadly, they will probably discover that they are rushing him … especially as a true first baseman playing the outfield.

The Padres will likely finish last with or without Giles and Floyd. It’s high time they discover what the future holds with players such as Macias.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Felix Hernandez: Best young pitcher in MLB?

If you needed a pitcher to win one game for you with everything on the line, my pick would be Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays.

But what if you could have a pitcher to build your staff around for the next 10 years?

The surprise pick here is Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.

Hernandez, 23, doesn’t get much attention because he plays for a mediocre team in the far away Pacific Northwest.

But when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to argue with someone who is 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA, a 96 mph fastball and some nasty stuff to go with it.

Furthermore, Hernandez has allowed only three earned runs over 35 innings in his last five starts. (And remember, he is facing better hitters in the American League.)


For a duo, you can’t beat Tim Lincecum, 25, and Matt Cain, 24, of the San Francisco Giants.

Lincecum, last year’s NL Cy Young winner, is already 6-1 with a 2.66 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 88 innings. Cain, who looks like he may win the Cy Young this year, is 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA.

As for other young pitchers on the rise, how about Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals or even Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers?

Greinke, 25, is 8-2 with a 1.72 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings.

But he has “slipped” in his last three starts, allowing 11 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings.

Kershaw, 21, may be the most intriguing of all. He doesn’t have the stats at 3-5 with a 4.13 ERA, but he has the stuff to at least be compared to Dodger great Sandy Koufax at the same age.

When Koufax was 21, he was also all over the place with his pitches like Kershaw. As time progresses, we’ll see whether lefty Kershaw progresses to a point where he can be compared to left-hander Koufax in his prime.

Hernandez. The San Francisco duo. Greinke. Kershaw. You probably can’t go wrong with any of them over the long haul.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Are San Diego Padres now MLB's worst team?

Even with Jake Peavy, the San Diego Padres were among the worst teams in MLB.

Now that Peavy will likely be out a couple months with an injured ankle, the ultimate question for the 2009 season has become: Are the Padres now the worst team in MLB?

The Padres have an 11 ½ game “lead” on the Washington Nationals, so they probably won’t finish with the majors’ worst record.

In fact, San Diego would have to go a paltry 35-65 over its final 100 games to “match” last year’s record of 63-99.

But without Peavy (or even with him), don’t for a minute think that the team is certain finish with a better mark than last year.

In Peavy’s absence, the only legitimate major-league starter in the rotation is Chris Young. And he’s not exactly having a great year with a 4-6 record and 5.21 ERA.

Outside of closer Heath Bell, can you even name three other pitchers in the bullpen?

As for the offense, it begins and ends with Adrian Gonzalez. And now that other teams have figured out it’s best to walk Gonzalez, it further lessens the Padres’ chances of having many major rallies.

Oh, sure, Tony Gwynn Jr. has shown some spark as a leadoff batter and Kevin Kouzmanoff went through a recent hot streak of driving in runs. But neither player has enough of a major-league pedigree to say he will succeed over the long haul.

Speaking of the long haul, it looks like a long summer for the Padres.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wisconsin football puts San Diego to shame

Remember the temperature at kickoff for the New York Giants at Green Bay Packers 2007 NFC Championship Game?

The wind chill was about 20 degrees below zero and it only got colder from there as the night (and an overtime game) progressed.

People were sitting on metal bleachers – if they were sitting at all – and most were wearing half a dozen layers of clothing.

Now take a trip a couple hours south to Madison, Wisc. where numerous football games have been playing in well-below-freezing temperatures.

Like the people in Green Bay, they are more than willing to sit on metal bleachers … if indeed they are sitting at all … come rain, hail, sleet, snow, you name it.

There’s no doubt that these are tough people; real football fans.

Now we go to San Diego where people were complaining about a wet stadium and 60-degree temperatures when the Chargers hosted the New York Jets in the 2004 AFC playoffs.

No metal bleachers; no freezing temperatures. But from the cry of how “miserable” it was inside Qualcomm Stadium, you would have thought Green Bay’s Lambeau Field would be a January luxury in comparison.

Lambeau Field opened in 1957 and has 72,298 seats; it’s been sold out since 1960; and the stadium underwent a $295 million renovation in 2003.

Qualcomm Stadium was built in 1967 and has 70,000 seats; it was 15,000 seats short of a sellout for the Chargers’ first home game in their 1994 Super Bowl season; and it has had renovations in 1984 and 1997.

What’s the difference between Wisconsin and San Diego?


The University of Wisconsin has the “Jump Around” before the fourth quarter and mascot Bucky Badger. San Diego State has 50,000 empty seats per game and a historically (politically?) correct Aztec Warrior mascot.

The Packers sell out if it’s 30 below zero. The Chargers struggle to sell out when it’s 80 degrees.

Wisconsin vs. San Diego. One has tradition; the other has the sun. Seems like tradition always wins out when it comes to football.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Favre needs to shut 'em up; hang 'em up

Let’s just hope all of this Brett Favre retirement/non-retirement talk ends soon.

Two years ago, he was a certain Pro Football Hall of Famer with a spotless reputation.

He’s still going to be in the Hall of Fame … but his reputation has gone from spotless to drama queen.

Who could blame the Green Bay Packers for moving on to Aaron Rodgers after Favre announced his “retirement” in the 2007-08 offseason?

Who could blame the New York Jets for being done with Favre after one year; especially after the reported dissension caused in the locker room via Favre living by a different set of rules than others?

As the “will he or won’t he” talk of Favre becoming a Minnesota Viking goes through its peaks and valleys, consider one letter to

Favre has backed himself in a corner over and over when it comes to his "retirement." If he wouldn't have kept retiring in the first place he may have still been a Packer. The Green Bay organization and GM Ted Thompson were tired of all the drama and wanted to move on. Brett couldn't handle it and now he wants revenge on Ted Thompson, but he's got to consider that in the process of getting revenge on Thompson he would also be spitting in the face of all the Green Bay fans who supported him all those years through all the good and bad times. The last thing any Packer fan wants to see is #4 in purple and gold. Is getting revenge on Thompson for getting rid of him really worth turning your back on the fans and the city that embraced you for all those years? Is it worth risking his god-like status in Green Bay?

Well said. Well said!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Did Union-Tribune story lead to Padres' Bush League selection?

Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State will certainly be the first San Diego product in five years to be taken first in this week’s MLB draft.

Everybody remember the last? More specifically, do you remember the following story that led to the San Diego Padres drafting Matt Bush on June 8, 2004?
Check it out in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

By Bill Center

Kevin Towers couldn’t hide his delight.

"This is a great story," the Padres general manager said yesterday after introducing Mission Bay High shortstop/pitcher Matt Bush as the No. 1 pick of baseball's 2004 draft.

And the story started with a report in this newspaper Friday.

At the time, Padres director of scouting Bill Gayton was assessing the three collegiate frontrunners for the Padres' No. 1 pick in the draft – right-handed pitchers Jered Weaver of Long Beach State and Jeff Niemann of Rice and Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew. Gayton was asked about Matt Bush.

"We've talked about Bush," said Gayton. "We love him." When Bush read that quote Friday morning, a light went on. "I've always loved the Padres," said Bush. "If they love me . . . "

Bush put in a call to one of his advisers, Ken Felder. "I asked Ken that, off what I read in the newspaper, would it be OK if I called the Padres and told them I wanted to play for them," said Bush.

OK, so now we know why the Padres took Bush – instead of three players ranked way ahead of him – as the first pick in the 2004 Major League Baseball draft. It all comes back to the San Diego Union-Tribune, according to this story.

Does that mean they’re the culprits who started this whole mess with Bush? We all know how Bush has been released by the Padres and Toronto Blue Jays for poor performances on the field and off.

Who do we have to thank for this horrible failure? Sounds like "credit" is due to none other than a story that started in the Union-Tribune!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is the Manny Ramirez suspension really 50 games?

Interesting how these 50-game drug suspensions work in MLB.

Manny Ramirez won’t have his “50 games” end until July 3, but he’ll be playing before then.


Under the current MLB contract, the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder can begin a minor-league rehab some 10 games before his 50-game suspension is over.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero also was able to participate in a rehab before his 50-game suspension ended.

But Romero, who returns this week, had his return date pushed back a bit. Since the Phillies suffered three rainouts, he had to wait an extra three originally schedule games before returning.

The ultimate question is whether these players should be able to begin playing (even in the minors) before their 50-game suspension is up.

Is it really 50 games if they can begin playing after 40 games on the shelf?

You decide.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Adrian Gonzalez: Best player in MLB this season?

Is Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres the best player in MLB this season?

You could certainly make an argument for it.

Gonzalez leads the majors with 20 home runs; three more than anybody else.

A few items make his feat all the more impressive:

Gonzalez plays in a pitcher’s stadium at Petco Park.

Three-quarters (15) of his homers have come on the road. Nobody else in MLB is in double figures in such a category.

He’s in a weak line-up, so opposing teams certainly have the viable option of pitching around him.

Playing on the West Coast in a city than many consider a suburb of Los Angeles, Gonzalez tends to get very little attention nationally.

However, Hall of Famer Peter Gammons of ESPN calls Gonzalez and Arizona’s Justin Upton the two most overlooked players on the MLB All-Star ballot.

The left-handed hitting Gonzalez certainly isn’t going to start the All-Star game over Albert Pujols, especially with the game in St. Louis.

But it would be nice if Gonzalez, also a great fielder, was higher than his current fifth place among vote-getters at first base.

And it’d be appropriate if he was among the 10 National League players on the All-Star ballot for the Home Run Derby, but he’s not.

Gonzalez still may have a way to go in popularity polls; but he’s certainly a leader when it comes to the most feared players in the NL.