September 30, 2005
Struck a Chord?
I seem to have struck a chord regarding my choice for NL MVP. I have received quite a few comments for those making arguments for both Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and Derrick Lee of the Cubs. I thought I'd use this column to again state my case as to why Andruw Jones of the Braves should win the award. I'll begin by defining the award, which is given to the player who has been most valuable to his team and, more importantly, where would his team have finished without him in the line-up.
You Make The Call
Imagine that you are Ozzie Guillen. Your Chicago White Sox have withstood the late-season surge by the Cleveland Indians to win the American League Central Division, and not even a 3-game sweep by the Tribe in Cleveland this weekend can change that fact. Your team needs one more win to secure home field advantage for the duration of its stay in the AL playoffs. You are 2 games up on the Yankees for the best record in the league, and in the event of a tie with New York for the best record, the tiebreakers would work in your favor.
Only a New York sweep of the final 3 games in Boston, and a complete meltdown against the Indians could keep you from that best record, and a Yankee sweep in Boston doesn't seem likely. Now, a Red Sox sweep of the Yankees coupled with a sweep at the hands of Cleveland could be troublesome-- the tiebreaker would give Boston the best record in the AL. However, the likelihood of a Boston sweep of the Yankees also seems remote. Yes, it happened last year, but this isn't the same Red Sox team as last year.
September 28, 2005
Stoneman Rock Solid
He gets little attention compared to GM’s with most other teams, but Angel general manager Bill Stoneman has now crafted his third playoff team in four years … a better job than more celebrated colleagues in LA, San Francisco, San Diego and Oakland.
And Stoneman has used just about every tool a GM has to acquire talent.
Team owner Arte Moreno supplied the money, but Stoneman chose to spend it on Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon. He and Moreno were repaid with an MVP for one and possible Cy Young Award for the other … plus two divisional titles. Stoneman brought in Orlando Cabrera and Paul Byrd, less expensive but still important free agents who made key contributions in the September stretch run.
The Steve Finley and Esteban Yan signings didn’t work out as well (like earlier signings of Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele). But Stoneman has shown some skill over the years in turning errors into opportunities.
When free agent Jose Guillen, who was having the best season of his career, turned surly at the end of last season, Stoneman was able to trade him to Washington for Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis. Both have been solid players for the Angels this season.
Stoneman's trade of Jim Edmonds to St. Louis looked like a disaster when the pitcher the Angels got in return – Kent Bottenfield – flamed out in 2000. But the minor leaguer who also came over in the deal – Adam Kennedy – has turned in six fine years as the Angels’ second baseman. Stoneman also was saved when his 2001 trade of Darin Erstad to the White Sox for Chris Singleton and jon Garland was vetoed by then-team boss Tony Tavares.
And Stoneman has found talent in unlikely places. Chone Figgins, perhaps the MVP of the Angels this year, came over in a minor league trade in 2001. David Eckstein – who’s now in St. Louis – was the Angels’ sparkplug in 2002 and 2004. He was picked up for pennies when Boston released him in 2000. Backup catcher Jose Molina became an Angel in 2001 after the Cubs cut him loose.
As for home-grown players … : Most of the stars from the Angels’ farm system – Garrett Anderson, Bengie Molina, Darin Erstad, Jarrod Washburn, Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, John Lackey and Robb Quinlan – were signed years ago when Bill Bavasi was either the farm system director or the GM, and Bob Fontaine was in charge of scouting. Fontaine was also the guy who brought in Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon, Troy Percival and Troy Glaus.
Stoneman’s own collection of farm system talent is just arriving in the big leagues now … with pitcher Ervin Santana the pick of a crop that includes 1B Casey Kotchman and 3B Dallas McPherson. Santana has 11 wins as a rookie starter, including the pennant-clinching victory on Tuesday. Kotchman’s stats in limited play this season might open the way for Darin Erstad to return to the outfield next season. McPherson was hurt for most of this year, but he’s the reason the Angels didn’t re-sign Troy Glaus. And there’s more talent on the way, topped by catcher Jeff Mathis.
What Stoneman has NOT done is the one thing most fans wanted him to do. He hasn’t tried to make big mid-season deals to bolster his team … even if the team is struggling. In 2002, 2004 and 2005, he willingness to stand pat ended with a plaoff appearance.
Maybe it’s patience … or reluctance … or confidence. Whatever it is, it’s working for Bill Stoneman.
September 27, 2005
Your Chance to Put DePodesta On the Spot
Oh, sure. It's all Angels all the time. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles are the heroes of the fall, looking forward to the playoffs. But if the Angels are the heroes, who's the goat?
How about Paul DePodesta?
On Wednesday's "Talk of the City" the Dodger General Manager joins me in studio to take YOUR phone calls. Please tune in at 2 and call in at 866-893-5722.
September 20, 2005
The Elusive Magic Number
Even the St. Louis Cardinals have a magic number. All they have to do is win three more games sometime in the next two weeks and they are assured of home field throughout the National League playoffs. And with a nine-and-a-half-game lead on the team with the next best record, they might not even need three wins. While no team wants to develop bad habits before the playoffs, the prescription for the Cards is rest the weary, mend the broken, and stay as sharp as you can until October. For the rest of the contenders, there's still work to be done.
September 18, 2005
Every now and then, Mother Nature likes to play a prank called a “false spring” … a few late winter days of warmer-than-usual temperatures that fool the trees and the flowers and us into thinking spring has arrived blessedly early. Then comes a blizzard.
The baseball gods like that trick, too … only they play it not in February or March but in the autumn days of September. They’ll send a losing team a late-season call-up who plays like an All Star over the final days of a bad season. A game-winning hit here, a 4-for-4 night there … and you start dreaming of how this kid will be the team’s savior next season.
Then next season arrives, and the kid’s ticket to the Hall of Fame turns into a ticket back to Triple A.
In his first month in the big leagues, young Willy Aybar is hitting .400 for the Dodgers. He has an eight-game hitting streak … he’s scored seven runs in those eight games … and he looks like the answer to the season-long “Who’ll play third now that Adrian Beltre’s gone?” question.
Sometimes, a rookie’s hot September is not a “false spring.” Boston’s Fred Lynn hit .419 over the last two weeks of the 1974 season. All he did in 1975 was win the AL MVP and lead the Red Sox to the World Series. In September 1980, a chubby Fernando Valenzuela came out of the Dodger bullpen in ten games during the final month … and didn’t give up a run. And a year later? A World Series title for LA and a Cy Young Award for Fernando.
But I also remember September 1968 … and Bill Sudakis. That month, Sudakis – a switch-hitting slugger - was penciled in as the new third baseman for a bad Dodger team. He hit a home run in his debut game, then a grand slam a week later. The Dodgers won 17 of their final 24 games … and we all thought 1969 would be a Rookie of the Year season for Sudakis.
It wasn’t. He hit .234 in 1969 … got converted to catcher in 1970 … got hurt in 1971 … got traded in 1972.
There are other Dodger prospects more highly prized than Aybar. There’s a chance that the team will try to sign or trade for a proven slugger to play third base next season.
But for now, Willy Aybar is playing and hitting … and enjoying springtime in September.
September 15, 2005
Limping Home/Hitting the Road
What a staggeringly abysmal three days. The Angels getting swept by the Seattle Mariners, the final two games in the last at bat, is torture enough. Then to witness the Dodgers blowing a 5-0 lead to the Colorado Rockies on their way to a 8-7 loss that drops them six games behind the San Diego Padres in the They Shoot Horses Don't They division. I live for this?
But other than the St. Louis Cardinals, who are a week away from setting up their playoff rotation and giving their regulars as much rest as they want while not letting the rust set in, the other seven playoff spots are still up for grabs. The next ten games on the schedule for all of the contending teams could clarify a lot of things before the final week of the season arrives. Today, I'll focus on the American League.
September 13, 2005
Baseball The Way It Used To Be
September 12, 2005
Baseball The Way It Used To Be
Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to witness a marvelous baseball game -- baseball the way it was played at the time of the Civil War.
It was a game between the Essex Base Ball Club of Danvers, Massachusetts vs. a group of Civil War re-enactors from Maine. The Essex team (no nickname because they didn't have nicknames in those days) wore knee length pants and white wool tops with a shield of sorts on the front with a giant "E" emblem stitched on it. The ball was larger than what we recognize as a baseball, but smaller than a softball, and a bit squishy. Bats were heavy and looked homemade.
The rules were different -- no balls and strikes (a batter could stand at the plate as long as he wanted) and fly ball outs were recorded even after a hit ball had bounced once. And none of the fielders wore gloves. Even with a softer ball, I winced every time someone threw over to first.
The game was played in a mowed hay field in rural Maine on a bright, clear, crisp September afternoon.
It was a marvelous game!
Unfortunately, the closest vintage baseball team is up in the bay area. Unless someone here in southern California wants to start one up...
Here's a link to the Essex Base Ball website:
National League MVP
What was once a three-man race has now come down to two exceptional players having incredible years; Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves and Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a Braves long-time Braves fan I know that I would vote for Jones if I had a vote. However, let's look at the statistics of both players and you, fellow fans and readers, can help me decide. Unlike FOX News, I will try to be Fair and Balanced.
September 10, 2005
From The What Were They Thinking Dept.
I have always found it compelling whenever I catch Vladimir Guerrero's act at the ballpark or on television. He will swing at anything because only he believes that a pitcher's pitch is his for the hitting. Over the course of a season, he will make a number of ill-advised throws from the outfield because he has a great arm and he thinks he can throw anybody out. And then there are those moments on the basepaths, like last night, that are the baseball equivalent of the backup shooting guard hoisting up a 30-foot shot with plenty of time left on the 24-second clock, one of those "No, no, no! What's he doing?!" moments that rarely work out for the better.
September 7, 2005
Starved And Then Stomped Upon
There it is...so tantalizing. Sitting in a cabin on a lake in Maine, listening to the loons, watching a beaver repair his dam. But there is a television with a dish and certain channels that promise a Dodger/Giant game. But not included with whatever package this cabin comes with. Then Monday night, ESPN carries the game. And what heartbreak. Errors that are too embarrassing to explain to my husband who is out on the porch and doesn't quite understand my Dodger addiction.
Too many games out...I've got to let this season go.
Maybe we'll head down to Portland for the Seadogs playoffs.
September 6, 2005
It has been 15 seasons since the last 20-game winner was seen in these parts. At age 22, Ramon Martinez reached 20 wins for the Dodgers in 1990. With his 18th victory on Sunday, the Angels' Bartolo Colon edged closer to becoming the first LA/CA/Anaheim pitcher to achieve the magic number since Bill Singer did the trick way back in 1973. With a possible 5 starts remaining, Colon needs one victory to join Nolan Ryan, Frank Tanana and Mark Langston as the only Angel pitchers to win as many as 19 games in a season, Langston being the last to hit the mark in 1991. And Colon's back-to-back 18-win seasons add up to the best two-year win total for an Angels starter since Chuck Finley won 18 games in both 1990 and 1991.
Since last season's all-star break, Colon has amassed a record of 30 wins against 10 losses. After a 12-4 post-all-star break record in 2004, Colon has gone 7 and 1 following the 2005 midseason classic, and he has established himself as the man to beat in the race for the American League Cy Young Award. The legendary Dean Chance is the only Angels pitcher to have ever won the Cy Young Award, a feat he accomplished in 1964 when only one award was given to the man voted best pitcher in both leagues.
September 2, 2005
Nice Report Card
My brother, Richard, who is a big Angels fan, sent me this link today. And Brandon Wood was recently named MVP of the Class A California League. The farm systems of both the Angels and Dodgers have been receiving favorable notices this season, and with other younger players like D.J. Houlton, Dioner Navarro, Ervin Santana, Casey Kotchman, Edwin Jackson, Jason Repko and Dallas McPherson having contributed to their respective big clubs in 2005, some of the building blocks of a winning tradition appear to be in place.
September 1, 2005
Callin' Yer Shot Too Early
Kevin, Kevin, Kevin...
If this season has taught us anything, it's that we have to wait a bit for the full story to pan out. Before the season began, the Twins were a very popular pick to take it all. The Yankees were loaded to retake what the Red Sox took from them. Then the Dodgers started out 12 and 2, and Milton Bradley was ready to assume a leadership role on his hometown team. The Nationals were the feel-good story at the all-star break. Rafael Palmeiro had never used steroids. Yeah, and the Angels were supposed to walk away with the AL West. But if you think it's over with 30 games to play, well, I think you must have been smokin' some wacky tobacky with ol' Chief Knock-A-Homa out behind the woodshed.