Friday, June 20, 2008

Blue Jays Gang-Bang Benson in Rehab Start... Not Anna... Damn!

CLEARWATER, FL -- While Josh Johnson was cutting loose 95 MPH fastballs to the Palm Beach Cardinals for 5.1 innings at Roger Dean Stadium, on the Gulf Coast, former No. 1 draft pick (1996) Kris Benson was making a rehab start for the Clearwater Threshers, the Philadelphia Phillies Florida State League club.


Would you like to know how Benson did?

Let's just put it this way, the Blue Jays hit Benson as hard as they'd like to hit his wife, Anna.

(Time for the gang bang!)

Three home runs sailed out of Bright House Networks Field on Thursday night.

Cory Patton belted his seventh home run, a two-run shot, first. Then player-coach Brian Dopirak, former Cubs standout prospect, went yard next for his ninth of the season. Lastly, backup catcher David Corrente went yard for his second home run of the season (he'd hit another one two innings later, not off Benson). Catcher J.P. Arencibia was probably wishing the Blue Jays hadn't promoted him for another week.

I'm guessing Anna Benson told the Blue Jays the same thing she told Kris if he ever cheated on her in New York. Something to the effect of, "If you ever cheat on me, I'll screw the entire Mets team and the front office staff."

The proposal must have sounded something like, "If you guys can knock Kris out of the game so we can make our 7:30 dinner reservation, I'll screw the entire single-A Blue Jays squad."

(Hit this, boys!)

Well, not quite. Let's put it this way, three home runs in the first inning off Benson to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead was more than enough. Yet Benson lasted into the second inning and left with this line (Benson... 2.0 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, 3 HR).


(If Anna was pitching, chances are the guys would have been too distracted to hit... Batter up!)

Unfortunately, for us over on the East Coast and every other team who would like to see Kris rear back and try to throw 94 MPH (only to see it come in at a BP fastball of 86 MPH), we'll have to wait and be envious.

In the meantime, we can only hope Kris gets released, ends up on our favorite team and is unfaithful to Anna.

That's just too much to take in.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Let's Go Rocco!


TORREY PINES, CA -- It's a modern day David vs. Goliath. When Tiger Woods made the shot of the century on the 18th yesterday and made it look easy, all he did was force a playoff with Rocco Mediate at the U.S. Open.

Get this, Tiger Woods forced a playoff and is currently a heavy favorite.

I think Tiger is an appropriate name for Woods considering he's like a tiger on the prowl. Sleek, vicious, accurate and a heavy favorite in the jungle. The man has won 64 majors and is the best golfer in the World, maybe all-time. I think he is.

Then there's Rocco Mediate. First off, what a great name! Secondly, he's a local of sorts for me, growing up in Greensburg, Pa. Greensburg is where my cousins grew up, and where I visit my aunt and uncle for holidays. It's not a country club kind of place.

Mediate went to college at Florida Southern, a strong Division II golf program, not even D-1 like Stanford. He currently resides in Naples, like Woods resides in Windemere, right outside Orlando.

He's 45 and taking interview questions like a champion. He doesn't answer them seriously, he's having fun. Mediate is enjoying the moment.

The No. 1 player player in the world versus the 158th ranked player, and a shot for the oldest player ever to win the Open.

Odd stats for this event, Mediate is 2-0 in overtime matches. Woods is 10-1.

I like Woods. I think Woods is a great symbol of athletic prowess in America and I'll root for him all the time. However, I think in this case, and you can tell by the crowd, people are pulling for Mediate.

Everyone loves an underdog! Make us proud Rocco! Show us how America was built, on the little guy toughing it out.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cardinals Pounded in Every Way

ST. LOUIS, MO -- You can't understand it unless you've been to one. It's a Friday night, the weekend has started, you're going to the Cardinals-Phillies game at Busch in front of a sell out crown and then...


It started with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell with consecutive home runs in the first inning. Seventeen runs later... It just hurts thinking about it. "Seventeen runs later?"


It wasn't a good night for Todd Wellemeyer. In fact, if you were basing your weekend on how Friday night's game was going to go, it would be like getting stood up for a date by answering the door with a pie to the face and a hit in the lower abdomen.

To add insult to injury, Tony LaRussa and Russ Springer got tossed by an overzealous home plate umpire Larry Vanover after Springer sent some chin music toward Howard in the eighth. Howard had hit two home runs in the game, but it was way too late for that.


But it got better...

In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies retaliated by returning fire via Rudy Seanez (remember this guy, who used to throw 100 MPH with John Rocker in the Braves bullpen years back?) who threw one behind Brendan Ryan.

Does Seanez get tossed? Hell no! But Jose Oquendo did while arguing. I don't get it. I thought when you started tossing guys it wasn't arbitrary? It kept the game safe. Evidently, Vanover has issues with the Cardinals. Springer was throwing intentionally and Seanez just lost control when the pitch went BEHIND Ryan?


That's pretty shallow Vanover. And to think, umpires are on the field to keep the game 'fair'.

If we're complaining and it's 20-2, there's only one thing left to do... start throwing your second basemen.


Aaron Miles threw a scoreless ninth retiring Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Eric Bruntlett. Shockingly, Vanover didn't toss Miles, although I'm sure there were some evil squints relayed at each other.

About the only good thing about this game is this: It was only ONE loss. Despite giving up 20 runs and having everything go wrong, it was only one loss. Today, if the Cardinals win, it really doesn't matter.

Oh, by the way, Chicago lost to Toronto last night 3-2, so even more it didn't matter. Thank you, A.J. Burnett!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Karma Hits Cubs, Soriano Injured in 7-2 Win; Cardinals Continue to Roll

CHICAGO, IL -- I'm not going to say I was glad to see Alfonso Soriano get injured last night, but I kind of felt a sly grin cross my face when the Cubs slugger bite the dust only a day after Cubs fans were cocking off about Albert Pujols going down for three weeks with a strained calf.
(Karma's a b!tch, isn't it Cubs?)

So while the Cubs fans were shaking their hineys in the general direction of I-55 South, karma was flying into town on an express train from Atlanta.

Yes, the Cubs won their 10-in-a-row at the Friendly Confines and hold the best record in baseball, but something happened just a bit south that couldn't have made them feel comfortable at all.



Looking like he did as an undergrad at Wichita State, Braden Looper fired a three-hit shutout, his first of his Major League career, as the St. Louis Cardinals had the cannons thundering at Great American Ballpark for a 10-0 rout of the Cincinnati Reds.


4TH IN N.L. IN RBI (52)
T-6TH IN N.L. IN HR (16)


This ship coming off the banks of the Mississippi isn't running out of steam!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Marlins-Tigers Trade: Who Really Got the Worst of it?

LAKELAND, FL -- The question popped up really fast, "Do you think he'll still be here in a month?" It was from someone who thought Dontrelle Willis would still be in Lakeland when the Flying Tigers came to play the Palm Beach Cardinals on July 11-14 at Roger Dean Stadium.

For the D-Train's sake, he had better hope not. For those who didn't hear, Willis was sent down to class-A Lakeland last night. Not because he was injured, but because the nine million dollar left-hander was demoted.

Remember the Winter Meetings of 2007? There was a blockbuster trade that went down. The Florida Marlins traded Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera for Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Burke Badenhop, Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De la Cruz and Mike Rabelo.

At the time, the Motor City was about to paint 2008 World Champions on Comerica Park and people criticized the low market Marlins for trading their franchise away in Cabrera and the left-handed Willis, a former 20-game winner.

Well, here was the part people didn't realize. One, Willis finished the 2007 3-12 in his last 15 decisions. That's not good. Two, Cabrera was gaining weight, and although moving to the American League would allow him to DH, this isn't beer league softball, he's going to get pitched to and it's not going to be soft-tossed to see if he can hit .340 again.

The problem with players getting enormous salaries is that they don't have to try anymore. They are in a comfort zone because they get the money no matter how bad they play.

For example, Barry Zito. Zito signed for $18 million a year for seven years. The Giants just assumed he would pitch like a Cy Young Winner for the next seven years. The money is guaranteed, the effort or results are not. So far, Zito has made Giants GM Brian Sabean look like the biggest sucker in the game. Zito was hideous last season and started out this year 0-9 before breaking his losing streak to Scott Olsen and the Florida Marlins on May 23 in Miami.

Here are the blockbuster players:



Certainly, Cabrera would be the one player who would come through, because after all, he was tagged as one of the best hitters in the game and almost certainly would be in Cooperstown after watching him hit over .300 for four seasons.

Through June 11th, Cabrera is "crushing" .278 with 8 home runs and 38 RBI. He's tied with Curtis Granderson for second in home runs on the Tigers. However, Granderson is a lead-off hitter who was injured for parts of this season. His .278 average is currently 32nd in the American League. This is a guy who rarely fell out of the Top 10 in the National League, a pitching heavy league. By these standards, Cabrera is projected to hit 20 homers and knock home 97. And they paid him what?!!!



Willis is currently one of the toughest pitchers to hit against in the American League. In 11.1 innings pitched this year, he's only allowed seven hits and opponents are hitting a mere .189 against him. Of course, it's kind of hard to hit a guy who can't find the plate. Why are opponents only hitting .189 and have seven hits? It's because he's walking the entire ballpark. Willis is 0-1 with a 10.32 ERA and has issued 21 free passes as opposed to five strikeouts. He's thrown 265 pitches, 127 for strikes (48%).




The prize of the class so far and that's not saying much. The highly-touted all-American out of North Carolina is 4-5 with a 5.65 ERA in 63.2 innings this season. Opponents are smacking a .310 average when he puts the ball in the vicinity of the plate. On the other hand, he did beat Greg Maddux keeping the future Hall of Famer from his 350th win on May 4th. He also threw seven scoreless innings against Washington (2 H, 7 K) May 10th and against Arizona (2 H, 9 K) on May 22nd.



This guy couldn't make it out of Spring Training on the roster, but was supposed to cover everything from Miami to Naples in the outfield. In fact, thank god Maybin wasn't a Rule V or the Marlins would have had to send him back for half price. So far in Carolina (AA), Maybin is hitting .264 with 12 HR and 29 RBI. He does have five triples and is 13 of 16 in stolen bases, but he's struck out 79 times already. Lead-off hitters on pace for 170 strikeouts in a season rarely provide the results MLB teams are looking for.



Rabelo was the added switch-hitter to lend some support behind the plate to go with Matt Treanor. I can't say Rabelo hasn't come through with some big hits... he has. Just not a ton, as he's tallied a .214 average with three homers and 10 knocked in.



Badenhop was supposed to have a killer sinker. After getting rapped in one outing, the Palm Beach Post headline was, "Rookie's Sinker is a Stinker." Not the kind of press he was hoping for. Badenhop is 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in 12 starts covering 45 innings.



Dallas, seen wearing a Lakeland Tigers jersey here, would probably be better suited for Class-A ball. In Albuquerque (AAA), Trahern is 1-5 with a 7.23 ERA in eight games started. Opponents are batting .302 against him in 42.1 innings.



I remember when the hard-throwing De La Cruz was called on to start Game 5 of the Florida State League Championship (seen above). He was solid for four innings, one more inning than he lasted in the Major Leagues this season (3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 1 K). In Albuquerque, De La Cruz wasn't bad (7-3, 3.92 ERA, 12 GS, 66.2 IP, 51 K) but, as you can see, the promotion was about a half a shot of cappuccino without the caffeine... instead of a full cup of coffee.


People may wonder who got the worst of this trade, or if there even was a team who got screwed over worse than the other. Maybe even "BOTH". Bright spots are hard to come by.

Yes, Cabrera is healthy and on pace for 97 RBI, but for his contract, they were expecting a Pujols-like .330-30-100 every year, no questions asked. Most likely more.

Miller and Maybin were supposed to start in Florida and play a full season. Miller, more on the side of 10-11 wins; Maybin on the roster all season. The southpaw can probably still make it, and is a fan favorite of the Fish Tank, providing them with several opportunities for souvenirs this season.

I can sum it up in these facts on who got the better end of the deal:
-The Marlins unloaded two guys demanding big contracts and were able to sign their future star Hanley Ramirez (.304, 15 HR, 32 RBI, 16 SB) to a multi-year deal. The deal was signed May 18th. In June thus far, Ramirez is hitting .324 with 5 HR and 8 RBI
-The Marlins are in second place in the N.L. East, three games behind first place Philadelphia and six games over .500
-The Tigers are fourth in the A.L. Central, 10 games behind Chicago and 10 games below .500
-The Marlins are three games behind St. Louis for the N.L. Wildcard
-The Tigers are 10.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the A.L. Wildcard

Cubs Keep Winning at Home; Pujols Goes Down; Rookie Boggs Comes Up Big

CHICAGO, IL -- I can't explain it. It being a nine-game home winning streak by the Chicago Cubs beginning with a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh on May 18th and has continued through last night's 10-5 win over Atlanta.

I was there for the second win of that streak when the Dodgers lost to the Cubs 3-1 on Memorial Day. Then somewhere in between, the Cubs pulled off a miracle win by rallying from a 9-1 deficit against Colorado, the biggest underachievers in the history of baseball, following a World Series appearance. Just say it out loud and think how ridiculous it sounds, "The Colorado Rockies were in the World Series last year." Looking back now, no one can question how the Red Sox swept them.

In fact, it's borderline disgusting every time I watch the Cubs on TV playing at Wrigley Field. I know I'm going to be serenaded by 39,000 a$$ ho!e$ busting out Steve Goodman's "Go Cubs Go!"

Last night was no different. Geovany Soto's three-run home run in the bottom of the eight off Manny Acosta gave the Cubs a 10-5 lead. Although Jon Lieber attempted to prove why he's gone bust in the ninth, a twin killing ended the game and let the music begin...


"Go Cubs Go! Go Cubs Gooooooooooo! Hey Chicago whaddaya say, the Cubs are going to win today!"

Now, because of that win and the Red Sox getting cold-cocked at home by the Orioles after failing to hold a 6-4 lead at Fenway Park (stick that in your Okajima and smoke it!), the Cubs have the best record in baseball... again!


Chicago's .771 home winning percentage (27-8) is second only to the Red Sox .787 (26-7). Can it get any worse?

Glad you asked, because it did! In the sixth inning of last night's Cardinals-Reds game, Albert Pujols went down with a strained calf. But how many strained calf injuries call for your best pal Yadi and Ron Villone to help carry you off the field?


As it was, rookie Mitchell Boggs, a two-way star at the University of Georgia before focusing on baseball (thank god!), won his first Major League start in place Todd Wellemeyer.


Pujols did manage to homer in the game and Ryan Ludwick also put on a pyrotechnic display with a longball of his own in the Cardinals 7-2 win over Cincinnati.

St. Louis trails the bastard Cubs by 2 1/2 games in the Central, salivating for that Fourth of July weekend series when the North Siders come to Busch Stadium.

Other good news involves the fact the Reds are the opponent for the next two days and Edison Volquez will not pitch either of them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Baseball in September

JUPITER, FL -- There's always going to be baseball in September, because the Major League season last until the last week of September, but in the minor leagues, that usually means your team made the playoffs.

In the ass-roasting hot Florida State League, where 90 degree temperatures translate into hurricane season 100 degree heat indexes and afternoon thunderstorms threatening every day, you'd think people would not care about baseball come September. Oh, but they do... just not at Dolphin Stadium, and especially if the Marlins are way out of contention.

Attendance figures are lower in the FSL than any other league, mostly because living in vacation paradise, there are plenty of other things to do besides watch minor league baseball. The Daytona Cubs, open season to Georgia rednecks on vacation in Daytona Beach, sets the benchmark as fans tend to watch more baseball at the worst park in the FSL, Jackie Robinson Ballpark, than anywhere else... like say 10,000 seat Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

However, baseball is baseball and it's a lot more fun when you win. Case in point, the Palm Beach Cardinals. A team which has found more ways to win in the first half, with more players moving up to Springfield-AA like high rollers in Vegas penthouses, than I've ever seen. They just win. Guys who aren't supposed to come through do. They don't have the power crunchers like last season with Allen Craig and Mark Hamilton, therefore teams can't concentrate on just one player.

Last night, after three straight losses to Tampa, the Cardinals were on the verge of clinching September baseball if they could beat the last place in the West, Clearwater Threshers.

The out of town scoreboard read: Brevard County 4, Lakeland 1. Thanks a lot Tigers! Still reeling from that 2005 Championship the Cardinals won on your field? It was going to have to be won at the Dean.

No problem, the Cardinals had Jason Isringhausen on the mound as a rehab start and Chris Carpenter and Josh Kinney sipping draft cold ones of the "Home Team" behind home plate.


Isringhausen only needed 21 pitches to cut through two innings of the Threshers meager lineup. Brandon Dickson came on in relief and tossed six scoreless innings as the Cardinals led 2-0 heading into the ninth. FSL all-star and local hero Tony Cruz did the damage with two RBI on the night. Palm Beach looked poised to throw a few more runs on the board in the bottom of the eighth, but wonderboy Daryl Jones and Luke Gorsett went down with RISP.

Coming in to close out the game was Francisco Samuel. Isringhausen didn't stick around to watch this kid, and it's probably a good thing he didn't. Even though Chris Perez is the up-and-coming closer, the 21-year old Samuel has the kind of stuff that can make guys like GM John Mozeliak change their mind in a hurry.

Samuel is out of the Dominican Republic and warms up at 92 to 93 MPH. Known to light up your local scout's Stalker at 98 MPH, he usually relies on a fastball that cruises, cuts and jets all over the place at 94 to 96. Which is one reason batboys are warned not to turn their back while chasing wild pitches at the screen when Samuel is warming up.

The Cardinals' young gun had 10 saves in 12 opportunities. He also struck out 36 batters in 22.1 innings entering the game.

Walking slowly out of the bullpen to Linkin Park's "Bleed it Out", Samuel usually takes about two-and-a-half minutes to loosen up, despite unloading the velocity he does.

This is a guy who made his Palm Beach debut with a three-run lead, walked two batters, gave up an infield single, balked in a run, then struck out the side in order. He's been known to occasionally gun a 94 MPH missile in the rib cage of an opposing batter on an 0-2 count. Recently, he's gotten much better.

Despite his wildness, he surrendered a lead-off double, struck out the next batter, got a pop out, then gave up an RBI single.

There are two outs, one out from the first half title, and Francisco is making it interesting. However, he gets the next batter to pop up. Bryan Cartie races in from third, calls off the catcher Cruz and... drops it.


Fortunately, Samuel doesn't really give a damn, so he fires the next one right down Broadway and the hitter comes up late, popping the ball to right field. Gorsett was under it, but Antone DeJesus, outfielder by trade-rocket by lifestyle, is there to observe in case he misses. He doesn't.

That's a winner! And so are the Palm Beach Cardinals!

There will be baseball in Septmeber. Now we can relax for three months! Thank god!