Remember when Fridays were always going to be notes columns? I should get back to that.
- Two of the best teams in baseball since the All-Star break are the Devil Rays and Reds, the latter of which have actually moved out of last place. Looking at the schedules down the stretch, though, it appears that the team with the best chance to play spoiler in September is the Rockies. As of this morning, every one of their games the rest of the way is against a team that harbors at least marginal playoff hopes. The Giants are the worst of the bunch, and they’re eight games out in the West.
The Dodgers became the Rockies’ first victim this week, losing two of three to them at home. There is simply no excuse for that; the Rockies–14-42 on the road as of Tuesday morning–coming to town is an opportunity to make up ground, one the Blue Crew squandered badly.
Just like that, the Padres are 6 ½ up on the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Maybe this won’t be much of a September out West after all…
- Joe Torre may have finally gotten there this week, moving Hideki Matsui into the #2 slot behind Derek Jeter. After almost an entire year of .300 and below OBPs in the second spot, the Yankees may finally have a lineup that works. It’s no longer a one-through-nine threat, but aligning the good hitters at least gives them a better chance to sustain something through the top six slots.
By the way, is Robinson Cano still some kind of hotshot? .275/.303/.411 with 14 walks in 389 at-bats tells me otherwise.
- I love managers. I especially love managers when they do utterly ridiculous things with their pitching staff.
On Wednesday night in Phoenix, Bob Melvin brought his best reliever, Jose Valverde, in to pitch the ninth inning of a 17-4 game. It wasn’t that bad an idea, as Valverde hadn’t pitched since Saturday night in Cincinnati, but the risk in using a good pitcher in a blowout is that you never know what the next couple of days will bring.
Sure enough, last night’s game against the Mets was a tight one, with the D’backs down 2-1 in the ninth. Instead of using Valverde to keep it close, though–the difference between being down one run and being down two runs is huge–Melvin went with Brandon Medders, who surrendered an insurance run that was the final tally in the 3-1 loss.
There’s no guarantee that Valverde wouldn’t have allowed a run, of course, and that the Diamondbacks didn’t score in the ninth allows for the argument that it didn’t matter, anyway. Nevertheless, there’s something wrong with a thought process that allows for using your best reliever down 17-4, but using someone else 2-1. It’s just another problem with the “closer” approach; when teams realize that there’s value in using a Valverde at home in the top of the ninth even down a run, it will be progress.
- The timing of this is suspect, but those of you in the Syracuse area may have heard me say this Tuesday, so I’ll go with it: Curt Schilling isn’t ready. Whether the ankle, or changes he’s made to allow for problems with the ankle, I don’t think he’s capable of being more than a back-end starter at this point. He has to choose between command and velocity, and he’s not getting enough of the two to get people out.
The best thing the Red Sox can do is shut him down for a month in the hopes that he can be close to ready by the Division Series. If they continue running Schilling out there, they’ll lose games and he won’t get any better.
- The Orioles have slipped to 11th in the AL in runs scored. That shocked me.
- Does it bother anyone else that Sir Mix-a-Lot and BLACKSheep are being used to market Target to people? I guess I can live with “Baby Got Back”–a gimmicky song to begin with–being usurped, but “The Choice Is Yours”? That’s disappointing…one of the better songs from a very productive period in New York music.
“Do, dah, dippity…”
- I got a note from a reader asking me why I haven’t written about David Wright, who’s moving along with his Scott Rolen career, albeit with all the parts still under warranty. Believe me, my silence on Wright doesn’t reflect my opinion of him; I think he’s going to be a superstar, a Hall of Fame-caliber third baseman who does just about everything you could ask a player to do.
Consider this: I don’t play Strat-O-Matic any longer, but I do still run one team in one league. That team had the first pick in last year’s draft, and I passed over B.J. Upton and Joe Mauer to take Wright. I really think he’s that good, and I don’t know that there are five players in baseball I’d trade him for straight up, all things considered.
- The White Sox got the two biggest wins of their season this week, beating up on Joe Mays to snap a losing streak, then squeaking out a 2-1 win in extra innings yesterday. There was a very serious chance that they were going to make September interesting, and while the six games they have with the Indians leave the door open slightly, pushing their lead back to eight games (10 in the loss column) gives them some breathing room.
Their offensive problems are real, and they’re not going away. Even after Scott Podsednik returns, they’ll just be back to a below-average offense. There’s a pretty good chance that the ’05 White Sox’ trip to the postseason is going to look a lot like that of the ’00 White Sox.
- Told you so: the Nationals are in last place, just like I said they’d be.
OK, they’re also 66-61 and would be leading the NL West by 2 ½ games.
The NL East is just ridiculous. The Mets went into Phoenix and swept the Diamondbacks, and are now in third place, five games behind the Braves and 1 ½ behind the Phillies in the wild-card race. As much as people have been conceding the division to the Braves, I’m not convinced they’re in the clear. They still have major problems in the rotation, a shaky bullpen, and are heavily reliant on position players who will be playing into September for the first time in their careers. The Phillies and Mets are serious threats, especially with all the head-to-head play that will take place over the season’s last four weeks. Really, any of the five teams in this division could win it with a hot month. I can’t even tell you how excited this makes me.
Now, if only the Astros would go nuts so that the NL East runner-up would have no chance at the wild card…
I have to go chat now…