Monday, July 27, 2009

Baseball Bits For A Monday Morning Afternoon

There's no day baseball to fill the afternoon, but we're drawn to the game nonetheless. The trade deadline is in four days, the extra-special super-secret Roy Halladay Deadline is tomorrow, and a few swaps have already been consummated. Some big important series, vital homestands and gruelling road trips kick off tonight. And, on top of all that, we inducted a new class into the Baseball Hall Of Fame yesterday, a class that did not include either Pete Rose or any infamous steroid users. Yet all anyone in Cooperstown could talk about were Pete Rose and infamous steroid users.

Back in the day, they used to schedule the Hall Of Fame Game on this very Monday afternoon, at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. That would have meant the A's and the Red Sox, the clubs most associated with newly minted inductees Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, would have been forced to travel to a sleepy hamlet in upstate New York for a pseudo-exhibition in the middle of a pennant race. That was a hassle, I agree. But the A's and the Red Sox are already playing tonight, as luck would have it, at Fenway. We couldn't have played that game in daylight? Pricks.

Join us, you nocturnal baseball vampires, after the jump...

If you haven't seen Rickey's speech, please watch, it's timeless. I knew Rick was a kook and took some, um, serious liberties with the English language. Until yesterday, however, I had no ideas that he was physically incapable of pronouncing words that end in the letter S. "I was called up to the major, to play for the Oakland A." At first, I wondered if this is some kind of a condition, like Tourette's or bedwetting. But Rickey's presentation was so thoughtful, so funny and so...Rickey that I am now convinced he has created his own dialect on purpose. If Cormac McCarthy can write entire novels without using punctuation and be considered a literary genius, Rickey should be applauded for creating a world all his own.

The staff of the House of Georges conducted a series of online drafts this weekend, selecting topics for an upcoming series where we'll list our Top 25 of the last 25 years in a variety of categories. The details are unimportant, trust me, if you read this blog you will hear A LOT about this draft in the coming weeks. Let me just say that I had the pleasure of taking Rickey among my Top 25 hitters, and his numbers are just insane. Even my wife, who's not exactly the hugest stat freak you've ever met, did a double-take when she heard that Rickey stole 130 bases in 1982. "That's almost one a game!" she exclaimed.

Speaking of baseball conversations with the wives, this one at Shysterball made me LOL my ass off.

Hank Aaron is one of the most respected figures in the game, and his opinion carries a lot of weight. Unfortunately, a lot of people jerk Hank Aaron around and cash in on his credibility. Bud Selig went on Mike and Mike a few weeks back and defended his moronic scheme to tie winning the All-Star Game with home field in the World Series, and he said that because Aaron and Ron Santo told him the ASG had lost intensity from their day, he had to make the move in order to restore the game's spark. Bud Selig blamed his crackpot idea on Hank Aaron, only one of the ten best baseball players of all time. God I hate Bud Selig.

But back to Hank--he gave an interview over the weekend that raised a few eyebrows. he said that Rose should get in, and he said that juicers should too, with an asterisk on their plaques. I applaud Aaron for this on many levels. One is that he's right--Rose, Bonds, Manny and Rocket are among the greatest to ever play the game and deserve enshrinement. Two, just because you grant someone entry into the Hall of Fame doesn't mean you're calling them perfect people. Everyone knows that Reggie Jackson struck out more than anyone else in history, that Nolan Ryan issued more walks, hit more batters and permitted more stolen bases than any other pitcher, and that Ty Cobb left a trail of murdered people across the American South. Still Hall of Famers.

But mostly, I applaud Hank Aaron for speaking rationally on the subject, because if Bud Selig and the baseball writers follow his advice Hank Aaron will lose a significant amount of money. Keep that in mind whenever you hear Joe Morgan, Goose Gossage or any other sanctimonious douchebag HoFer opine on the Hall-worthiness of modern players--the more guys they keep out the more cash they keep from merchandising and card shows. It ain't all about the purity of the game or of the shrine in Cooperstown.

On the actual field of play, the Red Sox are dropping in the standings like a stone while the Yankees never lose. Luckily for Boston, they get four games at home against the sad-sack A's while new York heads to Tampa for a three-game set. The Yanks currently lead the AL East by 2 1/2 over the Sox and 6 1/2 over the Bay-Rays, while Boston leads the wild card by 2 1/2 over the Rangers.

So much for Mark Buehrle's perfect game getting the White Sox back into it--the day after the gem Chicago showed up in Detroit for four and promptly dropped the first three games. This took them from a divisional tie to three games out, and although the Pale Hose won last night to draw within two of the Tigers, we're all reminded of the fact that the White Sox aren't very good. Detroit's not either, but they will win this division barring a major collapse or unconscious run by someone else (hello, Minnesota).

I'm still saying that the NL East and West are decided, and that Philly and LA can start booking hotels for October. Stuck in the middle is St. Louis, who saw their Central lead evaporate over the weekend. The Cards dropped two of three to the Phils and today welcome the Dodgers to Busch for four more. Getting Matt Holliday was a major coup for St. Louis, and if they can keep Chris Carpenter healthy they have a major leg up should they make the playoffs. The one-two punch of Carpenter-Adam Wainwright is unmatched in the NL, unless Philadelphia or LA ends up with Roy Halladay.

In the NL wild card, Colorado dispatched the Giants yesterday to win their series and open up a two-game lead over the G-Men. After ceding first place in the Central to the red-hot Cubs, the Cardinals sit 2 1/2 back. The Rockies embark on their toughest and most crucial stretch of the season tonight as they start a four-game set with the Mets in Queens. Then they head to Cincinnati and Philly before coming home to battle the Cubs. Can Colorado's remarkable starting pitching hold up? Can their bullpen continue to get key outs with no-namers and minor-leaguers? Will Carlos Gonzales figure out how to hit, thus making the lineup completely unstoppable? I don't have these answers, folks, if I did I'd have a job writing for a seldom-read sports blog whose rough focus was the rivalry between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. Enjoy your week.

UPDATE: Our Smart Guy of the Day award goes to this dude at Wrigley. Thanks to Neyer for the link.