July 2005

Giants hope to win with Winn

How bad is the NL West?

So bad, that the Giants — who have one less win than the woeful Reds — are just 5 1/2 games out, even though they are 13 games below .500. And since 5 1/2 games back on July 31 isn’t that big of a margin, the Giants are buyers — not sellers — at the deadline.

Instead of dealing Jason Schmidt or any of their other veterans, the Giants went out and got themselves Randy Winn from the Mariners for backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba and right-handed pitcher Jesse Foppert.  This deal came way out of left field since the Giants were never mentioned as one of the teams interested in Winn. The Yankees and Cardinals had been hot and heavy in their pursuit of the outfielder.

Meanwhile, the Mariners have the same exact record as the Giants. But the AL West isn’t a joke like its NL brethren.

As  my colleague John Schlegel points out in his well-written column on the Mariners-Giants deal, "These two teams are in the same place in one sense, but it’s a heck of a lot better to be where the Giants are with that record."

Is Winn a difference-maker? I don’t think so. The Giants desperately need Barry Bonds back in the lineup if they intend to overtake the free-falling Padres. Bonds continues to rehab his right knee in Los Angeles, and hasn’t ruled out returning this year.

If Bonds comes back healthy, the Giants may have a shot. But I still think it’s the Padres’ division to lose.

And they sure are doing a good job of letting it slip away.

Men with bad hats

200x200

Why do NFL coaches were those hideous hats during training camp? You know what I am talking about. If you don’t here’s Dolphins coach Nick Saban in that awful headgear.

You are not in Cabo sipping tequila on the beach. You are conducting a football practice. Wear a baseball cap if you want to protect your scalp — and ditch the beach bum look.

Chacon and Embree: A tale of two debuts

When I woke up this afternoon and learned that the Yankees had signed Alan Embree, I was going to write a post extolling the move. Good thing I didn’t. OK, I still like the move. Embree is a lefty, and when he’s on, he’s on. But he was so off on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx.

Embree served up a single to Adam Kennedy, then made an errant throw to first on Chone Figgins’ sacrifice bunt, allowing one run to score and runners to advance to second and third with no outs.

That was all for Embree, who was replaced by Tom Gordon — who wasn’t so good on Saturday either.

Now, Shawn Chacon was pretty good on Saturday. I was a bit cautious when the Yankees made the deal. But if Chacon keeps pitching like he did on Saturday, Brian Cashman may have made another sharp move. Chacon allowed one run on four hits in six solid innings against a pretty potent Angels lineup.

It was a huge win for the Yankees. Jason Giambi continues to rebound nicely, and Hideki Matsui continues to show people he is the clutchest hitter on the team. The Angels have had the Yankees’ number this year, but not on this day.

By the way, Francisco Rodriguez has blown two of his last three save opportunities. He didn’t look good against Toronto in Thursday’s marathon, and he was awful against the Yankees on Saturday. Maybe Mike Scioscia should give K-Rod a couple of days off so he can recharge the batteries.

Sox owe me a finder’s fee

Like I wrote yesterday, I thought Jose Cruz Jr. would be the perfect fit for the Red Sox. And Sox GM Theo Epstein agreed. Boston acquired Cruz and cash considerations from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Minor League infielder Kenny Perez and Minor League right-hander Kyle Bono on Saturday night.

A Gold Glove winner in 2003, Cruz gives the Sox another outfielder with Trot Nixon on the DL. And Cruz gives the Sox another Yankee killer.

Yankee-killer available

With Trot Nixon on the disabled list (strained oblique on his left side) and Kevin Motormouth Millar reportedly on the trading block, the Red Sox could use another outfielder.

And look who’s available: Jose Cruz Jr., who was just designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks.

A career .248 hitter, Cruz has hit 20 homers, knocked in 51 runs and scored 47 runs in his career against the Yankees. Seems like every time I seem him play against the Yanks, Cruz comes through with a big hit.

The Sox already have a bunch of bona fide Yankee killers — Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Bill Mueller and Johnny Damon — plus Edgar Renteria is looking like he may join that crew.

Rumor has it that the Yankees are interested in him, and for good reason: Cruz has played 577 career games in center, a position New York is trying to upgrade defensively.

So once again, the Sox and Yanks could be interested in the same player. Last time that happened? Yeah, the guy’s name was Jose Contreras, and we know how that worked out.

By the way, Cruz’s dad, Jose, spent his final season with the Yankees, in 1988.

Desperately Seeking Pitching II

Wow, the Yanks are really reaching now with the acquisition of Shawn Chacon. Granted, this guy has spent his career in Coors Field and at 27, becomes the youngest member of a long-in-the-tooth rotation. But everytime I have seen this guy pitch, he gets smacked around. And he’s 0-7 with a 4.37 ERA in his last 10 starts.

Sure, the change of scenery might help. But can he handle the bright lights and big media of New York?

Walk-off mania is running wild

Is it just me, or are walk-off wins more prevalent this season? Five games ended in walk-off fashion on Wednesday, and it was a phenomenon that started during the day in the Midwest and ended late on the Pacific coast. Heck, even Canada got in on the action.

I missed the Cubs, Royals and A’s wins because I wasn’t in the office yet. The Jays’ finish was something else. It’s not every day you see a game end on a wild pitch. And it was tossed by Jose Guillen’s best buddy, Brendan Donnelly.

Toronto, by the way, is still hanging around in the Wild Card race. Entering play on Thursday night, the Jays had the same record as the Orioles (51-49).

The last walk-off win on Wednesday night occurred in San Diego. The Padres finally ended their eight-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the mighty Cardinals. Tony La Russa — the, ahem, mastermind — really blew this game. Jason Marquis entered the ninth having thrown 111 pitches. That should have been it for Marquis.

Padres

Instead, Marquis trots out to start the ninth. He gets Brian Giles to pop out, but Ryan Klesko doubles on a 3-2 pitch. Pinch runner Damian Jackson replaces Klesko, and Marquis intentionally walks new Padre Joe Randa.

On Marquis’ 21st pitch of the ninth — and the  132nd pitch of his night — Robert Fick hit a smash into right field for the game-winning hit.

Marquis should have never been out there. The Padres could have had a similar situation, but Jake Peavy was pulled after eight innings and 115 pitches. Trevor Hoffman pitched a scoreless ninth, and the Padres got a win they really needed.

And how bad is the NL West? So bad, that 15 other clubs in the Majors have a beter record than the first-place Padres (51-51). This group includes Cleveland (52-50), which is 14 games back in the AL Central, and Philadelphia (52-50), which is last in the NL East.

Desperately Seeking Pitching

Coming soon to the YES Network: A high-priced team needs help in the worst way. Beset by injuries to its starting rotation, the team dips into the scrap-heap market and pulls out Al Leiter and … Hideo Nomo.

The New York Yankees are … Desperately Seeking Pitching. Only on YES.

Joking aside, the Yankees are really reaching now. They can’t count on Kevin Brown anymore, and there isn’t much starting pitching available on the trade market.

I don’t think Nomo has much left in the tank, so we shall see what happens.

Rogers gets roasted

Real long night in the bullpen — that’s what we call the MLB.com editorial space. Everything that could happen went down on Tuesday night: A no-hitter (Randy Johnson) watch; a player (Matt Clement) got hurt badly; some walk-offs (Aster and Braves); a milestone (Greg Maddux’s 3,000th strikeout); a long win streak (A’s) snapped and extra baseball (Braves, Giants and Red Sox win in extra innings). It was definitely a great night for baseball.

By the way, that Giants-Cubs game was supposed to start at 8:05 p.m. ET, but was delayed by rain for two hours and 43 minutes. The game finally ended in the 11th, and it lasted three hours and 28 minutes. It was the last game to end on Tuesday night.

The big news today as I wake up is that Commissioner Bud Selig has upheld Kenny Rogers’ 20-game suspension. I applaud the move. Rogers shouldn’t be allowed to bully around members of the media just because he is in a bad mood. The suspension is warranted. I feel bad for the Rangers, who are in the middle of a pennant race and now have to go on with their best pitcher.

Rogers needs to calm down and take some anger management courses. I don’t know how he survived his two tours of duty in New York City with the Yankees and Mets. There are cameras everywhere in those clubhouses.

Scary moment in St. Pete

I have seen some hideous injuries on the field in my life, but the injury to Matt Clement on Tuesday night was pretty frightening.

200

In case you have not seen it, you can see the video here.

The Red Sox right-hander was struck with a line drive by Carl Crawford with one out in the bottom of the third in the Red Sox-Devil Rays game at Tropicana Field. Clement remained on the ground, without moving, for about five minutes before being lifted onto a stretcher. It was quite a scary sight.

I hope Clement can come back strong. He had finally put together a quality season, and it’s a shame to see someone’s year end like that.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox again showed why they are the best "team" in baseball. They have so much heart, and they never quit. After Clement left the game, the Sox bullpen immediately blew it. But the Sox clawed back, and Johnny Damon came up big with his glove and bat.

Damon made an incredible catch to end the ninth — preventing the Rays from scoring the winning run — and he led off the 10th with a go-ahead home run.

By the way, I called the Damon homer once he came up to bat. I have witnesses.

Curt Schilling ran into some trouble in the bottom half of the 10th, but got the save as the Red Sox stayed in first.

A CAT scan on Clement was negative, but he remained hospitalized overnight to be re-evaluated Wednesday morning. With his status in limbo, I wonder about two things:

1. Will Schilling return to the rotation?

2. Will the Sox turn up the heat on A.J. Burnett talks with the Marlins?

Only time will tell.