October 5, 2007


TBS Tries to Cover the Bases, but It Has Holes in the Lineup (RICHARD SANDOMIR, 10/05/07, NY Times)

Someone at Turner Sports must have forgotten the reasons for the success of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” when it cast Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken Jr. as the analysts for TBS’s postseason baseball show. Turner’s problem is not entirely rooted in failing to find a dominant personality with any two of Charles Barkley’s principal assets — animation, quotability, energy and unpredictability — but in failing to hire compelling talent.

Ripken is so iconic that criticizing him seems undignified, but he is not magnetic on the air. He is methodical, dignified, subdued, subtle and a smidgen humorous. He played in 2,632 consecutive games, so it’s great corporate imagery for TBS to associate itself with someone now equated with iron and Chevy trucks. But if Ripken were cast as the only sane man in the studio — in the mold of Fox’s Howie Long — then he needs an ally or two who can loosen him up and raise his decibel level.

Thomas is not that guy. Very few are, which is why many studio shows struggle until they find a Shannon Sharpe.

Anyone else notice that sometimes when they substitute their own ads on the panel behind home plate it makes it look like they're superimposing the pitcher on the screen?

Meanwhile, on the radio last night, the Tribe announcers were giddy as schoolgirls and Ron Santo sounded almost suicidal.

Yanks already in fight for playoff lives (Ken Rosenthal, 10/05/07, FOXSports.com)

It feels almost like checkmate.

Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang again pitched poorly on the road Thursday night in Game 1 of the AL Divisional Series, losing to the Indians 12-3.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte faces a difficult matchup in Game 2 against a Cleveland lineup that mashed lefties all season.

And heaven knows what the Yankees can expect from righty Roger Clemens when the series returns to Yankee Stadium for Game 3.

If Clemens' health had been certain, the Yankees perhaps could have saved Wang for Game 3 at home, where his ERA this season was more than two runs per game lower than it was on the road.

The downside of that plan, which the Yankees kicked around before knowing their opponent, was that Pettitte would have opened against the Indians, who are 32-17 in games started by lefties.

Too bad the Yankees couldn't add Bobby Fischer to their post-season roster.

Owner George Steinbrenner and his minions won't want to hear it, but as the wild-card entry, the Yankees might simply be overmatched in this baseball version of chess.

While the Red Sox have the deepest rotation--with a top three of two World Series MVPs and a WBC MVP--and overall staff, you could make a plausible argument that Sabathia/Carmona is the best one-two punch in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Yankees have no one who would break that 5.
Tired Bullpen Wasn't Mets' Cause of Death (TIM MARCHMAN, October 5, 2007, NY Sun)
General manager Omar Minaya is going to be under tremendous pressure to acquire at least one workhorse veteran starter, two if Tom Glavine declines his player option. Workhorse veteran starters are inherently good to have around so long as they come at a reasonable price; the danger is that when a team fixates on something it supposedly has to have, it ends up paying an unreasonable one. That's doubly bad when it doesn't really need the object of its fixation at all.

Johan Santana made 33 starts this year and pitched 219 innings. Jorge Sosa's final nine starts and all those made by Chan Ho Park, Dave Williams, Phil Humber, Mike Pelfrey, Brian Lawrence, and Jason Vargas add up to 33 starts in total, during which the Mets got 170.2 innings from their starters. If Santana had replaced all those crummy starts, the Mets' innings averaged per start would have risen all the way to 6.1. That amounts to an inning every three days. The reason they would have been better off with Santana isn't that he rests the bullpen, it's that he's about eleventy-bajillion times better than Brian Lawrence.

Despite popular opinion, the Mets don't need to go out and lay hands on an iron man starter; this is good, because there likely isn't one to be had. They do need to build a better bullpen. That's fine; it's much easier to find some good relievers than land a perennial Cy Young candidate in his prime. The Mets may not even have to go too far outside their own organization. They could, for instance, just work Heilman or Humber into the rotation and back them with a bullpen bolstered by Pelfrey and Orlando Hernandez.

I'm skeptical about Heilman or Humber being strong major league starters, but they're viable candidates for a no. 5 role, and work cheap. I'm not skeptical about the odds of Hernandez and especially Pelfrey, who could easily pitch 200 innings between them, being devastatingly effective in relief. Add one 200-inning veteran and the odd live arm or crafty specialist for the pen, and the staff looks to be in good shape given Pedro Martinez's health.

Even the nuns can’t believe this odyssey (Mike Littwin, October 4, 2007, Rocky Mountain News)
The following account, I swear, is true. Two nuns — wearing Phillies’ jerseys over their regulation gear — were stalking out of Citizens Bank Park as the eighth inning ended Thursday.

"Can you believe this?" one of them said.

And what’s strange about this scene — given the unhappy state of Phillie fandom, given the unhappy state of the Phillies themselves, given the, uh, unmistakably, unhappily odd decisions of the Phillies manager — was that the nuns may have been the only people here who weren’t saying as they walked out, "Can you bleepin’ believe this?"

Young, D'backs top Cubs, nearing sweep (Bob Baum, 10/05/07, AP)
These Arizona Diamondbacks are no desert mirage, and the Chicago Cubs are one loss from another season of despair. Rookie Chris Young hit a three-run homer and Stephen Drew tripled in two more in an 8-4 victory Thursday night that put the Diamondbacks ahead 2-0 in the best-of-five NL division series.

Unless they turn it around at Wrigley Field, the Cubs will make it 99 years and counting without a World Series title. The Billy Goat Curse would still reign.

The frustration is showing, too. After giving up the go-ahead homer to Young in the second inning, Chicago starter Ted Lilly spun around, wound up with his pitching arm and slammed his mitt to the ground.

"I've never seen a pitcher throw the glove like that on the mound," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said with a bemused smile. "He threw a high fastball and the kid put a good swing on it."

Lilly, though, was not amused.

Did Soriano, Lee & Ramirez miss their wake-up calls?

Ramirez is the man for Red Sox
: He is not only a run-producing, unorthodox outfielder, he's also a great teammate who prepares for a game like no one else (Kevin Baxter, October 5, 2007, Los Angeles Times)
He once took a bathroom break inside Fenway Park's left field scoreboard during a pitching change. Another time he inexplicably dived across the grass to cut off a throw from another outfielder who stood only a few feet away.

And he reportedly has sought more trades than a stockbroker working on commission.

Manny Ramirez has done so many bizarre, goofy things, the citizens of Red Sox Nation have adopted a slogan to define, if not explain, his behavior: It's just Manny being Manny.

Ramirez's teammates have a different meaning for that saying, however. To them, Manny being Manny describes how Ramirez arrives at the stadium more than nine hours before night games for the first of three daily workouts. It means performing two sets of daily vision-training exercises so difficult, no one else on the Red Sox will even try them. And it includes taking young players under his wing and inviting them to the batting cage to talk hitting for hours on end.

"Everybody thinks he's this weird guy that is on his own program," teammate Eric Hinske said. "But really he just comes in and works. That's it. He's a normal guy to me."

Well, that might be stretching it a bit.

Young socks it to 'em (Phil Rogers, October 5, 2007, Chicago Sports)
Ken Williams is an equal-opportunity heartbreaker.

His heavy-handed management of the White Sox, post-World Series, is having consequences on both sides of Chicago. His deals contributed to the Sox going backward, instead of back to the postseason, and now one of them is threatening to stop the Cubs too.

Imagine if the Cubs' Ted Lilly had been pitching to Brian Anderson, he of the .216 career batting average and stunted development, instead of Chris Young in the second inning Thursday night.

Young turned around a 3-2 pitch on the outside part of the plate, driving it deep into the left-field seats at Chase Field for a three-run homer, his 33rd homer since Opening Day. The blast helped propel the Arizona Diamondbacks to an 8-4 victory and put the Cubs on the verge of elimination.

Anderson, then coming off a strong season in Triple A, was whom the Diamondbacks initially wanted when the Sox general manager called to talk about pitcher Javier Vazquez, who had asked for a trade. Williams, told Arizona he was keeping Anderson, a first-round draft pick, and that led the parties to discuss Young, a 16th-round pick in Double A.

Williams knew Young's combination of speed and power made him a diamond in the rough. He didn't expect that he would be an emerging star at age 24.

Lilly didn't think Young could catch up to a high fastball, either. He was wrong, just as Williams was to trade Young.

Rockies remember coach killed by line drive with full playoff share (AP, 10/04/07)
The Colorado Rockies voted a full playoff share for the widow of minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, killed by a line drive this season while coaching first base.

Some of the veteran players decided to award a full share to Amanda Coolbaugh. Their two sons, five-year-old Joseph and three-year-old Jacob, will throw out the first pitch in Game 3 at Colorado.

Coolbaugh was a first base coach for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers. The former major leaguer was killed July 22, when a line drive struck him in the head.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said awarding the family a share was the right thing to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 5, 2007 7:01 AM

Wang didn't have it last night, but by any measure he's a better pitcher than 38cheeseburgers or Dice-baseonballs.

Referring to 38cheeseburgers as Worldseries mvp is ridiculous of course since he's not even remotely that guy. He used to throw 95, now he maybe gets to 90 in a few key spots in the game, and sits 86-7. He's a fatter version of Mussina, who might not even get a start for the Yanks, which says something about the depth of the 2 teams rotations.

Meanwhile, Dice? What can you say? Maybe he comes up trumps in the playoffs, but he was awful down the stretch.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 5, 2007 8:38 AM

Six games with five perfect outcomes. Too bad LosAnaheim couldn't make it 6-for-6. (The three most obnoxious fanbases have their teams still playing, but hopefully not for long. At least Damnyankee fans don't whine or try to imitate other team's fans' excesses.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 5, 2007 8:48 AM

I'm actually enjoying Ripken very much...but, the writer is correct: Frank Thomas is not the right guy to pair him with. They either should have pried the voluble Al Leiter away from Fox (which would also add the pitcher's perspective to the dialogue) or just gone for entertainment value and brought in Charles Barkeley. I would have loved to hear Chuck riff on Shelley Duncan's appearance (not a handsome kid)....

Posted by: Foos at October 5, 2007 9:05 AM

I've never seen a pitcher as mad as Lilly was after Young hit his home run.

Posted by: Brandon at October 5, 2007 10:28 AM

I think TBS is doing a decent job. I have to say that I am gettting pretty annoyed with sports announcers and the color guys (especially that train-wreck grease-fire called Monday Night Football on the so-called worldwide leader in sports). I just want to watch a football game or a baseball game and I really don't want to hear other crap. A few weeks ago MNF had Charles Barkeley on for an entire quarter, it was so distracting.

In any event, I guess I am old-fashioned because I want to concentrate on the game. I also hate how NBC covers the Olympics because there are actually more background stories with soft piano music playing in the background rather than the actual sporting events.

On the radio, that is a different story. I really like Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. I also like the Twins announcers.

Posted by: pchuck at October 5, 2007 11:49 AM

Mussina certainly won't get a start if they plan on using him in Game 4.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2007 3:01 PM