September 29, 2006


For Teams Still In the Hunt, It's Been Unsettling (Dave Sheinin, September 29, 2006, Washington Post)

With one weekend left in baseball's regular season, almost nothing about the playoffs is certain except for this: Next week, two of the four first-round series will open in New York, with the Yankees and Mets hosting and with the Statue of Liberty beckoning to all who harbor World Series dreams: "Bring me your flawed, your sputtering, your huddled, injured masses who yearn to spew champagne all over one another."

Indeed, scanning the lists of teams who, entering yesterday's play, had already clinched playoff spots (the Yankees, Mets, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins) and the list of those still in contention with three games to play (St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies), one would be hard-pressed to identify a single team without serious flaws and serious questions.

As much fun as the Yankees nearly being no-hit was, it's their pitching that's the problem, raising the question: if your Big Unit is collapsing, can you count on your Wang coming up big?

Mets get thrown for colossal loss (Mike Lupica, 9/29/06, NY Daily News)

Bringing his right arm to Shea Stadium was the start of everything. Now Pedro Martinez limps away from the Mets because his leg gives out on him. The Mets signed him for four seasons and figured they'd take three years of him being even close to what he was with Boston, where he was once one of the great righthanded pitchers of all time, a pitcher who didn't give up two runs a game sometimes, in an era in which all these sluggers with their steroid-aided muscles were hitting balls out of sight. Now, halfway into that contract, the Mets don't have him for the most important season they have had in a long time, the one that starts next week.

Feeling the heat? Slay the messenger
(Bernie Miklasz, 9/29/06, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH)
Memo to Terrell Owens: If you have any of that extra-strength pain medication
left over, please ship it to St. Louis.

In mass quantities.

The heat is really on, and so is the hurt. By the time the first 19 Milwaukee
hitters had stepped in at Busch Stadium Thursday to tee off on Jason Marquis,
the Cardinals already were down 8-0 and crashing to a 9-4 loss.

The Brewers needed only 19 hitters to douse Albert Pujols' home-run
pyrotechnics from Wednesday.

En fuego (Bill Plaschke, 9/29/06, Los Angeles Times)
How hot are the Dodgers?

They are so hot that, on Wednesday night, one of their best players was on fire.

``Literally,'' Derek Lowe said.

``Craziest thing I've ever seen,'' Manager Grady Little said.

In the top of the fifth inning, Lowe was standing in the corner of the dugout preparing to step into the on-deck circle.

Next to his right leg was a large space heater.

Lowe was so intent on watching the game that he didn't feel the heat or smell the smoke.

Then teammate Matt Kemp saw his polyester pants leg burning and cried out.

``He said, `Dude, you're on fire,' '' Lowe recalled.

Even better was when a young John Smoltz burned his chest because he used to iron his shirts while wearing them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2006 8:29 AM

It's good to see the Blue Jays in second place, too.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 29, 2006 9:19 AM

Hoyt Wilhelm's legacy lives on for the Baltimore Orioles.

I was driving into New York the day after the six Astro pitchers no-hit the Yanks two years ago, and it sounded like John Sterling wanted to jump out of the broadcast booth or hang himself from the giant bat behind the home plate entrance. He was a lot more sanguine about last night's near-no hitter with the lineup the Yanks had on the field, but would probably be a little touchier about Johnson's status (though even with his struggles of late, I still think he's in the same boat as Mussina or Wang in the playoffs -- he could throw a gem like his near no-hitter against Detroit in the midst of his early-season struggles, or he could get hammered in 1 2/3 innings, and the same thing holds for the other Yanks' starters).

Posted by: John at September 29, 2006 9:47 AM

Blue Jays are where they were supposed to end up. It is the Red Sox who are 10 games below where they should have been.

I noticed that too about the local sports pundits and Pedro. The Red Sox management didn't do a good job this year but is being vindicated regarding Pedro. One local even suggested that they would be vindicated regarding Johnny Damon in the next year or so.

Posted by: AWW at September 29, 2006 9:48 AM

Beckett looked great in his last start of the season. Who knew the Rays had such a powerful lineup?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 29, 2006 9:52 AM


Well, we already knew Varitek couldn't catch him.


They're actually ten games better than they should have been. Recall that they pretty much swept the NL.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2006 9:58 AM

I love the St. Louis collapse. It is truly amazing.

Baseball is superior to other sports in that we are in the final week (of a 6 month season) and we still have a race for: NL Central, AL Central-Wildcard, NL West-Wildcard.

It is too bad the NL stinks so much. I think the A's and the Twins are really to teams to beat.

Posted by: pchuck at September 29, 2006 10:52 AM

The Red Sox management had a difficult challenge, because (1) they had an aging team and had to replace older guys with young ones; (2) years of non-investment in the minors and the use of prospects to put them over the top for 2004 left them without an ability to stock the team from within; (3) they wanted to invest $10m per year to re-stock the minor league system, but had to stay within the owners' budget who had to service the debt on the $700 mn team purchase, meaning they had to cut the budget of the major league team; yet (4) they had to try to stay competitive as World Series contenders to please the fans and keep up the team revenue.

It's impossible to meet all four. That's why the offseason was so contentious, with Theo resigning. I'd say in the end they did a pretty good job finding an optimal compromise within those constraints. Had this team been healthy it could have contended. The low-minors have been re-stocked. And about half the team got younger.

Looking toward the future, they still have a lot of retooling to do and it will be 2-3 years before the prospects start to reach the majors. I'd say it's still a challenge, but they're on a good path. They aren't as desperate this year as last, except in the pitching department, where they desperately need a few free agent signings. And Aramis Ramirez would look nice ...

Posted by: pj at September 29, 2006 12:16 PM

What's with this "How hot are the Dodgers" nonsense? You'd think the West Coast would be showing the San Diego Padres a little more love. Out here we don't care what the Yankees or the Sox are doing. And last I looked, the 'Pads were in front of the Dodgers.

Dodger Dogs are okay, but Friar Franks are better (and Italian sausage beats both).

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at September 29, 2006 3:02 PM

OJ: Who caught Beckett's September 21 start against the hottest team in the AL, the Twins, where his line was:

J Beckett 8.0 6 0 0 0 5 0 103-69

Hint. It was the same guy as against the Devil Rays.

Posted by: Bob at September 29, 2006 3:05 PM

He was undefeated with Mirabelli catching him.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2006 3:38 PM

Agree with pchuck about the Cardinal collapse. Don't much like LaRussa. Plus, it would shut up all the Cardinal fans about the '69 Cubs. Small mercies for us loser Cubs fans.

Posted by: jdkelly at September 29, 2006 6:41 PM