Barry Bonds’ prolific mashing has pushed him in to a shot at the major league lead in career home runs. All this attention has neglected some other possible feats in career achievement. There are two historic baseball records under assault, and no one seems to care. When players threaten to break the single-season strikeout record, they get benched. We’ve seen it happen even if they’re having productive seasons, like with Jose Hernandez when he was with the Brewers. Andres Galarraga passed Jose Canseco on the career strikeout list this year, taking over position two on the list. Galarraga’s not a full-time whiffer, though, and we have to look further down on our list to find our next great hope: Sammy Sosa. Sluggin’ Sammy had 1,834 Ks going into this season, and he reels off 150 a year. Plus, he’s only 34, and should have a few more fine years left in him. He and Galarraga could be two-three after this season, and after that you’re looking at Jim Thome (who stands about 30th all-time right now) as the only non-Sosa candidate to challenge the long-standing reign of K King Reggie Jackson. Jackson’s 2,597 strikeouts are the Mt. McKinley of career marks to the Everest and Kilimanjaro of home runs and hits.
Among contenders this season, it was the Dodgers who most resembled Sisqo. That is, they were fleeting, not possessed of the skills necessary to persist, and ultimately inconsequential. And no hit single to make the ladies squeal and shake it either. Not so long ago, Joe Sheehan did a crackin’ good job of deconstructing the Dodgers’ flaccid offense, so I won’t belabor the point. But I will add that the Dodgers’ run-scoring problems aren’t a recent phenomenon. In fact, for much of their history, they’ve been less offensive than a Billy Graham knock-knock joke. The Dodgers haven’t finished in the top five in the NL in runs scored since 1991, and they’ve led the senior circuit in runs scored exactly twice since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1958 season. Additionally, they’ve been one of the worst organizations in baseball in terms of identifying and developing hitters. The lineage of highly productive, homegrown Dodger hitters runs from Mike Piazza (himself a nepotistic afterthought when tapped in the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft) to…Pedro Guerrero? If I’m in a charitable mood I’ll throw in the merely decent Raul Mondesi and the so-far-so-good Paul Lo Duca, but you get the idea. So why is that?
The A’s usually don’t have to deal with injuries to their pitchers and as we all know, never have to deal with arm problems. In Tuesday’s game, Mark Mulder left the game with a strained right hip. It’s too early to tell yet how serious the injury will be and if he might miss a start or more. As I reported yesterday, I still think that Tim Hudson will be pushed back, despite signals from the A’s that he’ll be ready. I say this in the most respectful way, but we can’t trust the A’s completely when it comes to injuries. No one is better at keeping things close to the vest, but unlike most things the A’s try to do, this one gives them no advantage. In Tuesday’s game with the A’s, Derek Lowe was forced out just after Mulder. Lowe had a recurrence of blistering on his pitching thumb. Reports conflict on the location of the blister and whether it is the same area where Lowe had blisters in June. Again, I’ll point out that even a small injury such as this could be the difference between the Sox making the playoffs or not. I’ll be following this one closely.
I discounted it at the time when Bartolo Colon bent over late in a start just a few weeks back, but that could have been the sign of things to come. Colon has been rocked lately, leaving pitches up, lacking velocity and command, and ceding the team ace status to Mark Buehrle. As with Derek Lowe, even the slightest injury could be the tipping point for the tight AL Central, and Colon’s next start will be pivotal.
I truly hope that Bobby Bonds got to see last night’s Giants game.
If any other player was doing the kinds of things Barry Bonds is doing this year, they’d start a cable channel in his honor: ESPN 25. “651! Every Homer, Every Angle” “World’s Scariest 3-1 Pitches” “Keen Eye of the Big Guy” “Thigh-High Fastball: My Short and Painful Life”
Forget the raw stats, the RBI Baseball numbers he’s putting up for the third straight season. Forget how opposing managers handle him the way Arnold Schwarzenegger handles an issue question. Forget how he’s about the only left-handed hitter in the world who hits homers at Pac Bell Park.
Just think about last night. The Giants were tied in the 10th inning with their likely NLCS opponent, carrying a five-game losing streak. The Diamondbacks had already won, drawing to within eight games of a team that had been two laps ahead just a minute ago. Injuries had forced almost the entire starting infield to the bench.
The Braves’ front office claims the team is losing money; the Twins offense has been decidedly mediocre, and it showed last Thursday; and the Devil Rays just aren’t a patient bunch. All this and much more news from Atlanta, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay in your Wednesday Edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
The Angels grant Benji Gil his freedom, while the Orioles do the same for Rick Helling. The Cubs continue their quest to field one of the worst infields on a pennant contender in decades. The Royals make the best of a cloudy rotation situation. The Rangers’ pitching buffet’s not looking too appetizing. These and other news, notes, and Kahrlisms in this edition of Transaction Analysis.