Watch SportsCenter this time of year, or read the Sunday baseball page–that’s the one with the long list of players sorted by their batting averages–and you’re sure to see plenty of stories about what a wonderful, surprising baseball season this has been. Why, who would have thought that Dontrelle Willis would have been drawing Mark Fidrych comparisons, that the Royals would be 10 games over sea level at the Break, that Melvin Mora would be an MVP candidate, that Esteban Loaiza would be the best arm in the American League? Perhaps there’s some Joe Namath among you, some Nostradamus, some Miss Cleo, but we certainly didn’t.
Rickey’s back. The Dodgers are 49-44, three and a half games out of the Wild Card, but if their pitching were as bad as their offense they’d be the worst team in the majors. Paul Lo Duca (.307/.374/.438, .285 EqA) is having a good year, but when the All-Star catcher looks out at the rest of his team, he sees an offensive wasteland. At first base, Fred McGriff (.249/.318/.430, .261 EqA) was unimpressive before going on the DL. Up the middle, Alex Cora (.240/.281/.319, .213 EqA) and Cesar Izturis (.255/.290/.302, .210 EqA), who have gotten most of the playing time, are a combined black hole. Third baseman Adrian Beltre (.225/.286/.356, .227 EqA) has seen his star come crashing to earth after having once been one of the hottest prospects in the game. In the outfield, Shawn Green (.255/.317/.429, .262 EqA) is underachieving, and none of the combination of Mike Kinkade, Dave Roberts, Jolbert Cabrera, Chad Hermansen and Wilkin Ruan has been exceptional. Brian Jordan (.299/.372/.420, .282 EqA) had been the bets of the bunch, but a severe injury means his season and Dodger career are over. Faced with the option of buying or selling for the stretch run, the Dodgers made their move, trading for Jeromy Burnitz and plucking Rickey Henderson from Newark.
As Fox added about three mph to every pitch in last night’s game, I’m glad that the radar readings don’t count. I’m also glad that the “automatic” closer types are anything but automatic, and that the shiny closer tag really doesn’t make someone any better a pitcher when it counts. I thought that using Keith Foulke as the AL closer just had to burn Kenny Williams’ butt.
I’m most happy, however, that my instincts were wrong and that no one managed to injure themselves. The last thing anyone wants to see in an All-Star Game is one of their heroes leave the game on a stretcher. Despite the best efforts of Bud’s Boys, the All-Star Game was a great exhibition.
Just to reiterate: “This Time it Counts” is a fraudulent notion being shoved down our throats by an administration known for disinformation and a cowed media without the courage to call a spade a spade. I’m not surprised to see Kevin Kennedy sell the idea; after all, he works for Fox, and this is Fox’s baby. I am disappointed to see the ESPN staff climb aboard so willingly. I just wish I’d see one person on television with the temerity to suggest that tying World Series home-field advantage to the All-Star Game is a worthless gimmick, and moreover, point out that the real problem with the All-Star Game is interleague play, a worthless gimmick in and of itself.
The Orioles would do well to sell high on their first-half performers. Charles Johnson and Juan Uribe have been disappointments for the Rockies. The Mets remain in shopping mode after dealing Alomar and Burnitz.