So, what was today’s biggest baseball event? Lastings Milledge hitting his first home run? His personal victory march into right field, giving and taking high fives from the fans? Chris Young entering the sixth with a no-no, after throwing 7 hitless innings in his last start? The Yankee Captain leaving with a bruised thumb? Ranger Rheinecker throwing two run, eight inning ball against the ChiSox? Pujols goes on the DL? Whoa. Wait a second…did you say Pujols and DL in the same sentence? Yahoo! even ran that headline and I never see sports headlines in Yahoo!’s generic, just plain ol’ news box. This must be big.
I’m crushed. It’s unfathomable. How will we cope with Albert Pujols-less baseball? The absence, however, is not enough to make St. Louis an underdog. I think St. Louis has a good enough roster and a good enough manager in Laser Eye La Russa to maintain their perch on the division peak, but I wanted to see Pujols hit 60-80 home runs and collect 200 RBIs. If he only misses two weeks, I think his chances for 60 home runs and 200 RBIs are still intact. If he’s DL bound for a month or more, a monster season is sure to be had, but the chase for any records will have to wait. Nevertheless, the baseball gift is so sublimely ingrained in his bones that I’m not giving up on him quite yet. Putting up the aforementioned numbers after a DL stint would reaffirm him as a great, great and much loved baseball player.
So, the Yankees lost. I don’t care about the loss or the ever changing 1/2 game advantage, but I am scared now whenever a Yankee is hit and then removed. That’s all we need. Given the Yankees’ current state, a bean ball at A-Rod or Giambi could be the end of us. We aren’t far away from fielding a roster of triple-A call-ups and pinch-players. Lucky for us Lopez just got Jeter’s hand and he probably won’t miss a significant amount of time.
Why is David Ortiz listed on the All-Star ballot as a first baseman? Youkilis is a better first baseman, meaning that Youkilis actually plays defense at an All-Star caliber level and hits All-Star worthy, too. I assume Jim Thome would be listed at first base were it for another All-Star already at that position. Regardless of how good a hitter Ortiz is, he shouldn’t be taking that spot from Youkilis. Ortiz belongs as a write-in. Just like Thome.
I also hope people start voting for other players. I don’t want all the vote leaders to be either Yankees or Red Sox. In fact, the only ones deserving of the most votes at their position are Jeter and Manny. The other Yankees and Red Sox players are good, too, but I don’t think they should be voted as starters.
Hoffman saved his 12th game. Weathers blew his 5th in 14 chances. Isringhausen saved his 18th game. Gordon saved his 17th. And Frankie Rodriguez is lucky his Angels had a 14 run lead because he allowed 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth to raise his ERA to 4.07.
Randy’s Not Back
Don’t get over excited. Randy’s still dormant. Regardless of Randy Johnson’s great pitching today, I don’t think we can expect that the ace of our rotation is back. Fans are happy that he’s finally shown up for the ’06 season at the end of May by shocking everyone with the incredible no-hit dominace that made Randy the Intimidator in his heyday. People are announcing, Randy is back! But I wonder, which Randy is back? Don’t get me wrong, I think what he did today was great: 6 shut out, two-hit innings against the AL’s best team no less. I’m glad we won and that Randy might revive himself as a winning pitcher. But today he was more than just a winning pitcher, he was a dominant pitcher, sweeping aside the Tigers like he would’ve a few years ago, cool under pressure, chugging along with a no-no startling an unassuming team of young but dangerous hitters. Don’t forget he’s still 42. Today’s win doesn’t change that. Maybe today’s win marks a turning point for him, but I don’t expect anything this good for the rest of the year. 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs is too good to be true. 6 or maybe 7 innings, 6 hits and 3 or 4 runs will probably be the Randy we’ll see most often from now on. I’m excited he pitched this spectacular against a dangerous Detroit offense, the AL’s 7th best in runs scored, and that we won the game, but come on, do you really think he could duplicate an outing this good? I don’t want to get my hopes up so I say no. However, I could definitely be proven wrong. What do I know? He somehow managed 8 innings of 1 run ball in an April start against Baltimore, so maybe he really is capable of better things. Maybe he has just enough left to toss a perfect game. I have no clue, but I’m waiting until after the All-Star break to believe that a 42 year old Big Unit can revitalize his stuff from Seattle and Arizona. The stuff that got him 372 Ks in ’01. That would warrant excitement, but that’s not happening. At best he’ll be the Randy of last year, but I’m still waiting to know for sure.
Best Player in the Game
So, Pujols is already the NL MVP, right? Do we all agree? I can’t think of anyone who makes it a contest. Unless Pujols gets injured or has some slump, which he won’t, no one can catch him. He has 25 of the Cards’ 53 home runs and 64 RBIs. Without his 3 run homer today the Cards’ lose 1-0. I’m currently reading Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger and Tony La Russa, without actually saying it, implies that yes, Pujols is the greatest player he’s ever managed. He doesn’t want to single out anyone or disrespect his players by labeling one as the best. Tony says Pujols has that rare inner-teamwork of talent and heart that continually pushes him to greater and greater places in the game, something that Tony says he’s only seen in a handful of players. So, I’m collecting as many of his baseball cards as possible because 30 or 40 years from now he’ll be legendary.
In his 2nd major league start John Rheinecker of the Rangers pitched 8 1/3 innings against the Mariners, struck out 6, allowed 4 hits (none to Ichiro) and a walk, and ended up with the W and a standing O at home. He put two men on base in the 9th so Buck brought in Bauer to finish it off. Rheinecker’s first start in the bigs was in April against Tampa and less than noteworthy: 4 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, a no decision. But what he did tonight was fantastic news for the Rangers who probably need a more consistent rotation to keep up with Oakland in the second half. They might cycle Rheinecker around for another start in five days. Seattle’s very own "phenom" King Felix hasn’t graced the team with a game that good yet in the young stages of what’s supposed to be a Hall of Fame career. I wonder if Felix Hernandez will ever pitch as good as scouts suspected. Anyway, Rheinecker’s counterpart on the Seattle side was Washburn who gave up 2 runs in 7 innings and got awarded his 6th L. He made just one mistake, a pitch that Teixeira took over the fence for only his 6th HR and 25th RBI.