If you are tired of hearing about steroids, drugs, cheating, and everything else wrong in sports, you should know that there are plenty of feel good stories out there - they just get buried. For an uplifting story, check out this link from MLB.com. With no fanfare, Roy Oswalt decided to take his bulldozer (a gift from 2005, explained in the story) and start groundbreaking on a restaurant in his tiny town so that people have a place closer than 30 miles to go out for dinner on the weekends. Knowing it's a breakeven venture at best, Oswalt just wants to make life a little better in his hometown. That's one cool dude. Read the story and feel better about mankind.
Loyal readers of TCO may remember the Hot Corner in July of '08 that spoke of the most dominating performances in MLB history and that Odalis Perez was denied his chance in 2002 because the performance isn't referred to as something stat-specific, like a no-hitter, a cycle, etc. Perez pitched 8 scoreless innings and accounted for his team's only run (via a solo home run), meaning he basically took care of his team's production almost entirely by himself. The same thing happened the Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo today. Gallardo won a 1-0 ballgame by hitting a solo home run, striking out 11 batters, and only allowing 4 baserunners (2 hits, 1 walk, and J.J. Hardy's error). Unfortunately for history's sake, he was lifted after 8 innings and didn't have a chance to complete what would have been one of the most dominant performances ever. Check out the box score and marvel at the effect one player can have in a game where you only get to bat once every nine times.
Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier didn't need any help to prove their talents, but hitting in a lineup where Manny Ramirez is anchored in the number 3 spot certainly hasn't hurt. Whether it's a result of getting better pitches to hit or simply capitalizing on pitcher's mistakes, Kemp and Ethier are as much a part of LA's successful 10-4 start as Manny. To date, the duo has a combined 30 RBIs, taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. If the young talent continues to develop, the Dodgers might make the NL West a one team race by August.
With Jason Kubel hitting for the cycle, that makes THREE cycles in one week in Major League Baseball. What used to occur slightly less frequent than no-hitters is turning into a regularity in baseball thanks to multi-dimensional players.
The days of leadoff-hitting middle infielders who can steal a base but have no "pop" are over. Now, the guy capable of sprinting 270 feet for a triple is just as capable as jogging 360 feet courtesy of an upper deck moon shot. A little bit ballpark, a little bit ballplayer, changes have occurred and cycles are showing that.
The latest Sports Weekly magazine with flat-brimmed George Sherrill on the cover provides a salary breakdown of all MLB players for 2009 by team. Some notable paychecks:
-Jose Contreras ($10 million - 37 years old with only one good year to his name - 2005)
-Todd Helton ($16.6 million - hit free agency at the right time)
-Gary Matthews Jr. ($10.4 million - for hitters, 1 year in Texas always adds 50% to one's future paychecks)
-Francisco Liriano ($430,000 - arm injury or not, that's a bargain)
-Jack Wilson ($7.4 million - a middle infielder with little power, a horrid career OBP [.312] , and on the wrong side of 30, he's everything that's wrong with the Pirates)
-Adrian Gonzalez ($3.125 million - he'd be a superstar away from San Diego)
-Vicente Padilla ($12 million - hasn't done much since he turned 26 back in 2004)
-B.J. Upton ($435,000 - poised for great things at a minimum price)
It's been a crazy start to the season, with a handful of near no-hitters and two players hitting for the cycle already. After Orlando Hudson's cycle the other day, Ian Kinsler of the Rangers one-upped Hudson last night, completing the cycle but topping it off with a couple extra hits to finish the day with a snazzy 6 for 6 in the box score and 13 total bases.
One surprise so far is Florida's start. With yet another win (and sweep) over Atlanta earlier this afternoon, the Marlins find themselves at 8-1 and with room to improve. It's still way too early to start changing opinions on ballclubs, but San Diego has to be happy with its 6-3 start, the Mariners are sitting on a 7-2 record in a winnable weak division, and Cleveland and Boston are starting to feel the crunch a little as they struggle to exit their early season slumps.
After making several attempts at righting the top of the lineup, it seems that White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen finally got it right, going with Chris Getz to lead off followed by Josh Fields. The facts are that Chicago, like many teams, doesn't possess a prototypical leadoff hitter with experience, nor do they have a solid #2 guy. The Sox do supply plenty of lumber in the middle of the lineup, however.
After today's game, the middle of the lineup boasts three players with at least 300 home runs, not including Carlos Quentin, who just might be the most dangerous hitter for the Sox in 2009. Rather than rotate a group of lesser hitters at the top which would only lead to more outs and less opportunities for the thumpers, Guillen finally decided to move Fields to the #2 slot (Alexei Ramirez would have been a natural for the spot if he wasn't such a free swinger) which basically starts the thunder a little earlier, moving Dewayne Wise to the bottom of the lineup.
It only makes sense to give your best hitters the greatest chance for success, both through the AMOUNT of plate appearances and maximizing the number of runners on base when the best hitters are at bat. Fields, capable of home run power (23 HR in 373 SB in '07), should eliminate the need for a guy who can move a runner over.
Guillen seems to have recognized that his team will succeed on the feast or famine approach of the longball, so why not start the feast early?
Tampa pitcher Matt Garza started the season strong with a decent 7-inning performance over the Boston Red Sox today. At age 25, Garza has a good chance to put it all together this season. Garza was fortunate to have a comfortable increase in innings each year without getting overloaded, and he has been able to reduce his WHIP, which shows he is getting better along the way.
Expect 200+ IP, a sub-4.00 ERA, and a WHIP around 1.26. On a solid Rays team, that should net Garza his first 15-win season with many more to follow if he stays healthy and gets a little luck on his side (and by luck, I mean a dominant bullpen to back him up throughout his career and preserve leads).
It's just a gut feeling and one I hope to be wrong about, but I get the feeling that Joba Chamberlain is slowly becoming one of those high exposure athletes expected to do great things who never accomplishes much, thanks to insane pressures, a bad attitude, and an unwillingness to recognize the need for hard work, regardless of the talent level. Chamberlain's latest escapades involve making fun of Yogi Berra and New York drivers. Harmless, sure, but when it's delivered in the middle of a DUI arrest, well... not exactly the best forum for opening one's mouth.
The season is officially underway, and with it comes TCO's Season Preview. After picking Seattle to win it all last year, The Commish has a lot to make up for in 2009. Will he return to form? Check out the latest Hot Corner for The Commish's predictions now!
Stay tuned for TCO's Season Preview, complete with The Commish's fearless predictions, coming soon!
If you haven't had your fantasy draft yet, note that Ichiro will be starting the season on the DL courtesy of a bleeding ulcer. Ouch.