According to ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago, Frank Thomas is out for the year as a result of a recurring ankle injury that kept him shelved for much of last year and the early part of this year. To borrow a catchphrase from Sox announcer "Hawk" Harrelson, "He Gone!"
With the Braves knocking off the Nationals last night, my predictions are right in line for the National League, with the White Sox being the only surprise in the American League. If only I were that accurate with my fantasy picks...
It's hard to believe, but the Oakland A's, Mulder-less and Hudson free, and suddenly tied for the wild card lead and might be headed toward another playoff stint, this time with youngsters Haren and Harden backing up Barry Zito, who hasn't given up more than two earned runs in a game since mid-June. Like Atlanta in the 90's, Oakland will still have to find a way to make up for the absence of sluggers once October rolls around.
The #1 reason why games are just as important in April and May: last night the White Sox blew a game after Joe Crede dropped an easy foul popup, leading to a mammoth HR from Manny Ramirez and an eventual Red Sox victory. The White Sox announcers were complaining, the White Sox hitters were complaining about strikes that appeared to be over the plate anyway, and this third loss in four games was giving off the feeling of impending doom. HOWEVER, because Chicago won more than its share of games in April and May, the White Sox have established enough of a lead in the A.L. Central (currently 10 games over the Twins) that they can endure the occasional losing streak, get their heads back on straight, and go back to winning.
Ask the teams fighting for the wild card spot in late September if they wished they had won an extra game in April and another in May and you will realize how important the first half becomes. Besides gaining an early lead in the division, winning early gives a team more confidence (even if it is false in some cases) and promotes future winning. These are the teams less likely to throw in the towel, not because they are better but because they are accustomed to winning. They expect it, the fans expect it, and I will be in attendance tonight to see if the fans still believe it. One win from Jon Garland tonight and the tide quickly turns, ensuring at least a 10 game lead in the division and a chance to get a lead in a four game series against a potential playoff rival. All thanks to April and May.
After giving up 3 ER in 5 IP this afternoon, Greg Maddux once again finds his career ERA at the 3.00 mark (actually 2.9965 rounded). If Maddux wants to enter the baseball books with a sub 3.00 ERA and still pitch another season, he will have to summon the mid 90's Maddux next year. Assuming Maddux has 300 more innings left in his body, he can only afford to give up 99 more earned runs over the next year and a half. 99 ER in 300 more innings would yield a career ERA of 2.99479, conveniently rounded to 2.99. At his current pace, however (4.51 ERA), Maddux would finish his career with an ERA of 3.09 - still not too shabby for a first ballot Hall of Famer.
July 18th, 8:20 pm: the moment I finally gave up on my fantasy team. Picking up and starting a hot Brandon Claussen backfired, Victor Santos is incapable of getting wins, and I am officially waiving the white fantasy flag and focusing on rooting the the Braves and their quest for a 14th straight division title (and hopefully a World Series ring as well).
Baseball is back (the kind that REALLY counts, anyway) and the White Sox haven't lost a beat, this time winning a pitching duel 1-0 over Kevin Millwood and the Indians. Chicago fans will remember that the Sox were leading the division at the break last year, however, and there weren't any playoff games played at U.S. Cellular Field in '04. It's still a long season, but the White Sox and Cardinals are looking like they are headed for some October baseball.
Bobby Abreu put my prediction to shame, blasting a combined 41 home runs in what was an absolutely unwatchable event. Lasting just short of 3 1/2 hours, not even Bobby Abreu's family could have stayed tuned in without flipping channels during the middle hours. Here's hoping that tonight's game is played with a better pace than last night's drag-a-thon.
Fearless predictions for the All-Star Festivities:
Home Run Derby Winner: Carlos Lee
All-Star Game: AL 5, NL 3
Instead of focusing on the negative in baseball (Sheffield, Kenny Rogers, etc.), let's shift gears and give some props to the positive things in baseball during the first half: the incredible run of the White Sox; the upstart Nationals in first place and with a solid fanbase for once; the Braves AGAIN continuing to win, this time with players even Braves' fans haven't heard of; Brian Roberts playing out of his mind; Derrek Lee making a serious run at the triple crown; Carlos Lee AND Scott Podsednik (traded for each other in the offseason) being named All-Stars; the emergence of pitchers Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland; etc. etc. The list goes on and on, so despite what the media may focus on, there are plenty of things to like about baseball and sports in general.
I hope you enjoy the small adjustments and cleaner look at TCO. We will be rolling out these small changes throughout July. In the meantime, Gary Sheffield is making $11.5 million this year but is "warning" teams that he likely won't give 100% if he is traded. I was never of fan of "Sheff," but now you can count me as one who will root against him.
Last night Houston and Cincinnati played to a 7-inning tie when rain ended the game, to be replayed in its entirety Saturday in a doubleheader. The strange thing? The stats in the 7-inning affair count. No win, no loss, but Felipe Lopez can keep his 3 for 3 day, while Willie Tavarez is stuck with an "O-fer" in a game that doesn't count. This oddity seems to happen about once a year, and I never understand why they don't CONTINUE the game at later date, or throw out the stats if they are going to start over.