3,000. 600. 500. 350. 300. 756? 2007 is a year of milestones and records. Biggio was the latest to surpass a rare milestone (3,000 hits), but with Sosa, Thomas, Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and of course Barry Bonds passing or closing in on record achievements, do the fans care anymore? Should they care? The Commish's latest Hot Corner examines this fiery topic about steroids, cheating, and today's players' impact on the record books.
If Los Angeles (the Dodgers, not the fake LA team from Anaheim) makes the playoffs in 2007, a big part of the reason will be catcher Russell Martin. At 24, Martin has become the unlikely leader in a clubhouse of veterans including Garciaparra, Pierre, Luis Gonzalez, Penny, Schmidt, and others. ESPN.com ran a nice story on Martin the other day, and it's worth a read.
The West is really where it's at in the National League, with three teams playing well enough to win any NL division, while the East is starting to catch up to the Central in terms of mediocrity. The Braves, just 1 1/2 games behind the Mets about a week ago, have scored exactly ONE run over the past FIVE games. Needless to say, Atlanta has been leapfrogged by Philadelphia and will send to an APB in search of their offense this week.
Michael Barrett ("Slugger" as I like to call him) has been traded to the Padres for catcher Rob Bowen and a minor league player. Of all the teams to land Barrett, I'm a little surprised it's the one who just mixed it up with first baseman Derrek Lee and company last week. Chris Young and Jake Peavy will have an interesting second half with Barrett as their receiver...
Accoring to reports swirling around the internet, the Baltimore Orioles are expected to announce the firing of manager Sam Perlozzo. I'm not sure what that means for pitching coach Rockin' Leo Mazzone, best friend to Perlozzo, especially since it was generally the pitching that was Baltimore's undoing the past couple years.
Maybe it's the early summer heat, but it seems that players just can't keep their hands off their own teammates anymore, the latest shoving match occurring between Houston's Dan Wheeler and Chris Sampson. In reality, these stupid little tiffs likely always existed and the players, like boys on a playground, forgot about them by the time the first drink was poured that night. The only thing that has changed is the never-ending access to the players, thanks to the dozens of camera in use now, not to mention everyone's cell phones and camcorders always at the ready. In this particular case with Wheeler, it really sounds like a non-event, akin to getting a "C" on a test and having the guy who got an "A" on it pat you on the back and tell you it's "gonna be alright." I always hated that guy. So too, apparently, does Wheeler.
Wondering where Harold Reynolds, former baseball player and Baseball Tonight staple would end up after his abrupt departure thanks to a "hug" on ESPN grounds? Wonder no more - he will be going unseen as a recent hire for MLB.com. He might be in front of a camera, but does anyone really watch any of those video clips on MLB.com? Me neither.
Curt Schilling's no-hit bid got broken up with two outs in the 9th inning by Shannon Stewart (my new favorite player). I can't say I'm disappointed...
Who are these Arizona Diamondbacks, the ones currently tied for first place with a 35-24 record? Can they keep it up? Are they for real?
Well, most people couldn't name more than 2 hitters in that lineup, but much like San Diego, Arizona is getting it done on the mound. Ranked 10th in the NL in OBP, 8th in SLG, and 12th in BA, the D-Backs (shedding the purple for a just-as-ugly red clay color) have depended on the solid rotation consisting of Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson, Livan Hernandez, and Doug Davis. Micah Owings has been a pleasant surprise on the hill as well, and the bullpen appears built for the long haul. Even closer Jose Valverde seems to have it all figured out this year.
As for the lineup, when Eric Byrnes is leading most of your offensive categories and you are in first place, it's a good bet that the pitching is doing quite well. Nothing against Byrnes, but he isn't exactly Arod or Pujols or even Manny or Teixeira. Nobody has reached double figures in home runs yet, but Arizona is proving that good pitching and a balanced lineup are a recipe for success in the regular season. Unfortunately, as the Braves teams of the last 2 decades can tell you, it's also a recipe for failure in the playoffs, but for Arizona's sake, we won't tell them the glass is half empty until at least late September.
With June upon us, any city with a team not currently in first has its sports talk hosts buzzing with negativity, using such terms as "underachieving" or "sleep walking through the season." Luckily, the talking heads on the airwaves don't run your favorite ballclub, or there would never be something called a "comeback." Every year, there are 1 or 2 teams who start off poorly and, thanks to 6 divisions and 2 wild card spots, end up making the playoffs.
The Astros put together a huge 2nd half more than once in recent memory, and even last year several teams emerged from the shadows of June 4th to win a division. Minnesota, 11.5 games behind (25-31) and in 4th place at this time last year, played .670 ball the rest of the way and won the AL Central. In the AL West, Oakland was 3 games under .500 and trailing Texas but finished 24 games over .500 to win their division. San Diego and the Dodgers made similar strides to overtake Arizona in the NL West.
Only 2 of the 6 division leaders at the time last year ended up winning their divisions, and only 3 of the 6 even made the playoffs. In other words, it's early, and Milwaukee fans shouldn't get overly excited, just as Colorado fans shouldn't abandon all hope.
As if it couldn't get worse for the Chicago Cubs, in the midst of the Braves pounding the Cubs for 20 hits on Carlos Zambrano's 26th birthday, "Big Z" and fellow knucklehead Michael Barrett felt the need to scuffle with each other in the dugout after poor showings by both players on the field. Unless Zambrano turns it around in a hurry, that huge free agent contract offer is getting smaller by the day - kind of like Chicago's playoff hopes.
On the other side of town, the White Sox aren't faring much better, dropping 5 in a row to fall under .500 on the year, while outfielders continue to get hurt on a seemingly daily basis, the latest being Darin Erstad. Chicago is in one of those funks where every positive move (ex. Buehrle's complete game 2-hitter) is offset by something more negative (getting shutout in Buehrle's game).