The Windup (cont.)
My play of the week: Evan Longoria, chest in the dirt and knees on the wrong side of the foul line making a strong throw after a sick backhanded stab to steal a hit from Boston's Alex Cora -- a lefty swinger, no less -- last Monday. Wonder why the Rays are so high on their rookie third baseman? Check that out.
My (weak) play of the week: The Sox for not doing anything, as near as we can tell, about Manny Ramirez's assault on the team's traveling secretary. All this garbage about keeping it in-house is nonsense. It's a private business, sure, but the business is very public -- it's the national pastime, for crying out loud -- and the team owes it to its public to show, very clearly, that their employees can't get away with that type of behavior. 'Cause, right now, it sure seems as if Manny skated. Again.
With C.C. Sabathia now off the trade table after his weekend shipping to Milwaukee, we should probably turn our attention to the big slugger on the block, Mark Teixeira. Will someone be able to pry the switch-hitting first baseman away from the Braves for a pennant run? My guess: No. The Braves face the Dodgers and Padres before the All-Star Game, which means they'll probably hit the break closer to the NL East lead than they are now (six games at the start of the week). With Teixeira, they have a chance at stealing the lackluster East. Without him, they have none.
Does any offseason trade look more lopsided than the one that brought closer Brad Lidge to Philadelphia? The All-Star -- 19 for 19 in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA -- signed a three-year, $37.5 million extension Sunday. The Astros, meanwhile, are dealing with the biggest part they got out of the trade, center fielder Michael Bourn (.223, .280 on-base percentage). Eeek.
Do the Yankees really want to keep running Sidney Ponson out there? Wednesday, the vagabond righty, last with the Rangers, went against his old Texas teammates and gave up nine hits and seven runs in five innings. The Yanks bailed him out with an 18-run explosion. But that won't happen every time Ponson takes the ball.
Four more strikeouts for Ryan Howard on Sunday. Already 123 on the year. He doesn't want anyone touching his K record.
Tony La Russa seems to get on everyone's nerves at one time or another, doesn't he? His spit-spat with former player Jim Edmonds, who returned to St. Louis last week as a member of the hated Cubs, was ridiculous, and totally beneath such a high-profile manager. Any manager, really.
Keith Hernandez, ex-Mets star, and Jose Reyes, a current one, got into a little argument over comments Hernandez made about Reyes on TV. This after the Mets shortstop threw his glove down in frustration after another error. I will say this: Hernandez was right for calling out the young Reyes. But Reyes -- .316, .377 on-base, 25 steals since the beginning of May -- is playing much better. Well, except on defense.
Speaking of childish, Troy Tulowitzki ... come on. Temper tantrum leads to bat shattering on concrete, 16 stitches in the hand and another stint on the disabled list. This guy clearly flunked Professionalism 101.
The Orioles have lost their last 13 Sunday games. Weird. That's all.
Only three American League teams average fewer runs a game than the Angels, who still lead the AL West by six games. So hitting coach Mickey Hatcher called a hitters-only meeting before Monday's game to see why his guys, according to the Los Angeles Times, "are trying to get me fired." They averaged 5.5 runs a game in a 4-2 week. Hatcher, so far, is still employed.
From the Mailbag
The players' union is filing a grievance against the Astros for terminating Shawn Chacon's contract? The guy beat up his boss, for crying out loud!! I'll bet if a player goes on a killing spree, the union would have issues with the police for arresting him. Tell me I'm not alone in my outrage here. You know, in the real world, people do sometimes get fired. Choking your boss would probably qualify as a firable offense, don't you think?
Scott, you are definitely not alone on this. The union is taking up this cause because that's what the union is there for; to take up causes, sometimes hopelessly lost ones, in protecting the interests of its members. But I have to think that the lawyers there know they have no chance of winning this. And I'd bet that if you took a vote of the membership -- Chacon's fellow players -- they'd all condemn him. Stupid, procedural move, yes. But utterly predictable.
Gotta give credit where credit is due to the Rays for their record at the midway point, but let's see them handle adversity after tasting success. Let's see the Rays actually win a game in Boston. Let's see how they handle the pressure of a pennant race. In short, the Rays are a great story now, but it really doesn't tell us much about August and September.
Know who agrees with you, Mike? The Rays. They know they have a lot to prove yet. They're 0-6 in Fenway. And although they were flying pretty high in their sweep of the Sox last week -- you really can't blame them -- they know that they have to do better than that on the road. It makes that next series at Fenway -- Sept. 8-10 -- all the more intriguing. If they keep this up, that is.
Are the Rays the latest version of the 1969 Mets? They came from nowhere, have great young pitching and are playing incredible baseball. They just go out and win. They don't really know that they aren't supposed to be this good.
Yeah, Doug, I had someone else try out that comparison on me, too. And I can see where you're coming from. The good pitching. A pretty decent defense. A bunch of good, young pitchers and position players. (The Mets didn't have a regular position player over 26, and only one starting pitcher -- Don Cardwell -- over that age.) You can bet the people in the Tampa Bay area are loving that comparison. The Amazin' Rays?
Barry Zito is putting up numbers that will have him unemployed sooner rather than later. Is this the worst dropoff from a former Cy in history, and perhaps the worst free-agent signing in history?
The contract -- $126 million for seven years, is definitely up there, isn't it, Steve? Absurd the second he signed it before the start of the '07 season, almost regardless of how he ended up pitching. I do want to point out, though, that Zito's decline has been more gradual than people realize. He never has duplicated that '02 level, but he had a couple of passable years right after that Cy. Not great years, but passable. And then he kept falling. The dropoff has to be among the worst for a pitcher who is still young and, by all accounts, healthy. Bartolo Colon dropped off after his '05 Cy, but that was injury related. Eric Gagne has fallen pretty badly, too.
How could you give a list of four managers for manager of the year and not mention Tony La Russa? People all over baseball expected a 90-loss season from the Cards and La Russa has been the only consistent factor on a team that is second best in the NL. He'll prove it to you skeptics in the second half as they overtake the media's blessed Cubs.
Good argument, Kyle. I was one of those people who expected the Cards to collapse. La Russa has done a tremendous job. But he's not the winner of our fictional manager of the half-year award. And he's not one of the four guys I mentioned, either. Read on.
Dave Trembley, Ron Gardenhire, Fredi Gonzalez and Bob Geren as midseason nominees for Manager of the Year? What about Joe Maddon of the Rays? Went from a joke to the best team in baseball.
I had a plane ticket to St. Petersburg in my hand when I tapped out my nominations for the MoH-Y award for the mailbag portion of last week's Windup and I still -- still! -- forgot about Joe. And then, when I got down to Florida, I promptly was rung up for my brain-cramp by a Tampa Bay front-office guy. Deserved it, too. How can you not pick Maddon? Superb job all along, and it's paying off right now. The way he handled Troy Percival in that second game against the Red Sox last week, when the closer started yelling at him on the mound? Perfect. Made what could have been a real scandalous episode -- a closer challenging his manager on the mound! -- into nothing. Absolutely brilliant. Maddon is the man.