Sports Outside the Beltway

Braves Cut Closer Wickman Over Bad Attitude

Bob Wickman was having a good year as the Atlanta Braves’ closer but he was cut by the team after displaying a poor attitude.

In a surprising move in the heat of a pennant race, the Braves cut ties with closer Bob Wickman on Friday, designating the 38-year-old for assignment.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he made the decision following Thursday night’s game in Cincinnati when Wickman gave up a two-run, walk-off homer to Adam Dunn in a 9-7 loss in 12 innings. The loss put the Braves three games back in the wild-card race with 34 games to play.

“I just want to try something else, try something new,” Cox said.

But players said what Cox couldn’t or didn’t want to say, that in addition to being less effective from the mound as the year progressed, Wickman also alienated himself from his Braves teammates for reasons such as showing displeasure at pitching in non-save situations.

Thursday was such a situation, and came after he had to warm up a couple of times before he pitched.
“If it’s not a save situation, he was not happy about it,” Andruw Jones said. “It’s not fair to the team. It’s not fair for the manager. The way he was going about his business, separate from everybody. We’re a team. Everybody has their own attitude. Everybody’s got their own feeling about each other. Everybody’s got their own way of going about their business. But when we put a uniform on and we’re all together, we’re all as one. And we need guys who want to go out there and perform.”

Cox called Wickman in his hotel room in St. Louis on Friday morning to tell him. “He didn’t seem real shocked; I don’t know,” Cox said. “He just said, ‘Sorry I let you down.’ ”

Wickman converted 20 of 26 save opportunities this year, going 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA. Since the All-Star break he had blown two saves and taken a loss, but his ERA was 1.98. Last season, he made 28 appearances after the trade and was 0-2 with a 1.04 ERA and 18 saves in 19 chances.

He has 10 days to be traded or claimed by another team off waivers, but his days with the Braves are officially over a little more than a year after he was traded to Atlanta from Cleveland. The Braves have attempted to trade him but have found no takers.

The Braves called up Joey Devine and Jose Ascanio from the minors, optioning Martin Prado back to Richmond in favor of more pitching.

The move came without another obvious option at closer. Cox said he would go with Rafael Soriano on Friday and after that he would see.

Wow. Certainly, one doesn’t want a clubhouse cancer on a young team trying to make the playoffs. But simply cutting an effective closer when there is no replacement in sight? That just seems dumb.

Additionally, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see one of the Braves’ rivals grab him off waivers.


Greg Maddux Gets 10 Wins for 20th Year

Greg Maddux won his 10th game last night, making it 20 straight seasons that he’s reached that total. Big deal, right? Ten wins is nothing! Well, nobody in the long history of Major League Baseball has ever done it before.


  • Greg Maddux became the first pitcher in history to record at least 10 wins in 20 consecutive seasons in the Padres’ 14-3 pasting of the Phillies.
  • In his 700th career start, Maddux (10-9) threw seven innings, allowing seven hits and three runs en route to his third consecutive win.

The story:

Maddux became the first pitcher to win 10 games in 20 consecutive seasons, tossing seven solid innings in the San Diego Padres’ 14-3 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.


Cy Young had 19 straight seasons with double-digit wins from 1891-1909. Maddux is tied with Nolan Ryan for second behind Don Sutton for most seasons with 10 wins. Sutton had 21.

“I didn’t know that. That’s cool,” Maddux said, shrugging off his latest accomplishment.

Truly phenomenal. Bonus: The win helped his old team, the Braves, who are locked in a tight division race that nobody seems to want to win.


Yankee News – August 24 edition

- Andy saved the Yanks hide Wednesday night, providing seven innings of one run ball to prevent the sweep. He’s been doing that his whole career. Joba pitched the eighth and struck out the side on 15 pitches (including a three pitch K of Vlad Guerrero). He hit 99 mph on the gun and hitters have yet to make contact with his slider – unreal.

- A 16-year-old Dominican shortstop named Edward Salcedo, represented by none other than Scott Boras, is expected to sign with the Yanks for $4.5 million (a record for an international free agent). I really have no idea if he’s worth it, but the scouting report is high on him, and I’d be fine with the deal as long as it’s not a major league deal.

- Mark Melancon, one of the Yanks top relief prospects, is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery throwing bullpen sessions down in Tampa. He has nasty stuff and could be a major factor in the Yanks pen next year, ala Joba Chamberlain (although not quite to that extent).


2007 Dallas Cowboys Taking Shape

There are still two more preseason games and some tough decisions ahead. Still, the coaching staff — and the fans — have a pretty good idea of what the 2007 edition Dallas Cowboys will look like.

AP’s Stephen Hawkins notes that, although the 2007 defense looks like the 2006 version, first impressions can be quite deceiving.

Nothing really looks different when Dallas Cowboys defenders get set for a play. Basically, the same players from a year ago are lining up in the same spots. Then the ball is snapped and it becomes very clear – this isn’t Bill Parcells’ 3-4 defense anymore.

“Nah, it’s totally, totally different,” linebacker Bradie James said. “You see the smiles. I think you can see from our body language, we’re actually having fun.”

While the base formation hasn’t changed, new coach Wade Phillips brings an attacking philosophy with his 3-4 defense. Phillips adjusts the scheme to fit the players, freeing them to make plays instead of forcing them into set roles that can shackle them. “You’ve got an opportunity to move around and run places and not have to worry about technique all the time,” Marcus Spears said. “You’re just trying to get in gaps, stunt and make plays.”

In their two preseason victories, the defensive starters didn’t allow a touchdown against Denver or Super Bowl champion Indianapolis. Denver’s first-team offense went 0-for-5 on third-down conversions. Some Broncos even grumbled afterward that Dallas blitzed too much for a preseason game. After the Cowboys’ first practice this week since beating Denver, the good-natured Phillips wasn’t even prompted when he cracked that the team “decided to put in a blitz this week since we hadn’t had any.”


When asked Wednesday what differed about the “Phillips 3-4″ from other three-man fronts, the grinning coach responded, “Beside being better?” “It’s not really the scheme itself,” he said. “It’s always the players.” Phillips said so many 3-4 defenses “play it only one way … and you have to plug in a player that can play that way. … Ours, we have the players and then we plug in saying this is what we’re going to do with the 3-4 because you can stunt, or you’re stronger, or you’re quicker or you can rush the passer.”


Phillips isn’t so sure of the characterization that it’s a blitz-blitz-blitz scheme. Aggressive and attacking doesn’t only mean blitzing – even if that’s what Dan Reeves used to think when Phillips was his defensive coordinator in Denver and Atlanta. “You only have three down linemen. Always with us, there’s going to be a fourth rusher,” Phillips said. “Some people call that a blitz. Dan Reeves used to call anytime you brought a linebacker, that was a blitz. … If you call that a blitz, then we blitz coming out of the dressing room.”

Heh. Rob Phillips (no relation) notes that Wade Phillips takes the customization down to the level of backup nose tackle.

As [Jason] Ferguson enters his 11th season, the Cowboys need a capable backup to emerge as a potential injury replacement and simply to spell the 32-year-old starter, who looked effective as ever last Saturday with two tackles, a sack and a pass deflection.

Phillips was pleased with [Remi] Ayodele’s performance against the Broncos and likes the first-year tackle’s quickness and savvy. [Jay] Ratliff’s switch to nose tackle Saturday doesn’t eliminate Ayodele, [Ola] Dagunduro and [Montavious] Stanley as backup candidates.

But the aforementioned trio has played a combined three regular-season games – all by Stanley, the Cowboys’ sixth-round draft pick last year who was released at final cuts and played part of the season in Jacksonville before getting signed back to the Cowboys’ active roster.

Ratliff (6-4, 305) is smaller than Ferguson but has great athleticism for his size, having converted from tight end after his freshman year at Auburn. Phillips said he plans to take advantage of Ratliff’s quickness by using more stunts when he’s in the game. “A few more blocks and everything is happening a little bit faster, that’s all,” Ratliff said of the differences when moving inside. “I just want to play. Wherever they need me, I’m willing to go.”

And, indeed, the major controversies on this team seem to be finding a backup nose tackle; deciding whether to retain veteran kicker Martin Gramatica, rookie Nick Folk, or both; and how many tight ends, wide receivers, linebackers and fullbacks to keep given the bevy of talent at those spots.


What would it have been like if Teixeira was still in Texas?

Before tonight, the Orioles have been on the receiving end of some blowouts.

On June 26, 1978, the Orioles, on their way to a 90 win season (but 4th place finish,) faced the lowly second year Toronto Blue Jays at old Exhibition stadium. Earl Weaver was facing a difficult situation.

But desperate circumstances required desperate measures. At Exhibition Stadium on June 26, 1978, the Blue Jays, in their second big-league season, scored 24 runs, the most ever scored against the Orioles in one game.

The Orioles were down 19-6 in the fifth inning when Weaver, who was trying to conserve pitchers for a doubleheader the following day, sent for Harlow, an outfielder who had pitched one inning in the minors in 1971. Weaver later said Harlow claimed ownership of a slider, and was “throwing the ball at 92 miles an hour on our gun.”

Perhaps, but Harlow only lasted two-thirds of an inning, yielding five earned runs, two hits and four walks and striking out one Blue Jay.

The score stood at 24-6 and Weaver needed someone to put an end to the fifth inning. He called the bullpen and got Hendricks, the former catcher who was on the roster as player-coach that season. Hendricks had thrown batting practice that year, but that was the extent of his pitching experience.

The game might have ended badly, 24 – 10, for the Orioles, but it ended well for Hendricks.

Former ace Jim Palmer watched it from the dugout. Asked to account for Hendricks’ effectiveness, Palmer says, “Either Elrod had his good stuff that night or they just got tired.”

Hendricks suggests the latter.

“They got themselves out,” he says.

Palmer recalls that Hendricks used a little neck jerk motion reminiscent of changeup artist Stu Miller. “They swung at the neck twitch,” Palmer says. “It seemed like they could have swung twice” by the time the ball crossed the plate.

When Hendricks’ pitching debut was over, his ERA a tidy 0.00 and right-hander Don Stanhouse on the mound to finish the game, Weaver approached Hendricks and “he said, ‘Nice job.’ I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, but don’t think about it again.’ . . . I’d like to say it was fun but it really wasn’t.”

He says he would rather forget. But that’s not Palmer’s version.

“Heck, no,” Palmer says. “The next day we went down to get the papers and there were none left. Elrod had bought them all.”

(For a happier memory of an Oriole-Blue Jay game, see here for the famous John Lowenstein playing third-Lenn Sakata catching game from 1983.)

In another good season, 1996 – when the Orioles were headed to the playoffs – the Orioles suffered another lopsided defeat at the hands of tonight’s opponent, the Texas Rangers, allowing 16 runs in the 8th inning losing 26 – 7. Here’s a description of what happened

But it was not a good day for the Baltimore staff. They were already down 10-7 when Armando Benitez came on to start the eighth. Benitez promptly gave up a single, a stolen base, a walk, a wild pitch, and another walk. Thinking they might still have a remote chance, the Orioles pulled Benitez and gave the ball to Jesse Orosco. He managed to retire one of the nine batters he faced. At this point, infielder Manny Alexander was summoned to finish up, and he walked the first three hitters. After a sacrifice fly and another walk, Kevin Elster capped it off with a grand slam before Darryl Hamilton recorded the final out on a (sympathy?) ground ball to second. Texas residents would have been forgiven if they thought the final score of 26-7 was really from a Cowboys game.

In that inglorious effort, the Orioles issued eight walks. Five were given up by a shortstop, however, so it doesn’t really qualify as one of the worst control failures of this period. That honor goes to the Oakland A’s of 1979, who walked 8 Angels in one inning on the fourth of July and managed to do so without using any non-pitchers.

(Hmm. There were an awful lot of one-time Mets in that game, including the bullpen – Orosco, McDowell and Myers – from the 1985 World Champions.)

Tonight all the damage was done against Orioles pitchers as the Texas Rangers scored 30 runs.

The Texas Rangers became the first team in 110 years to score 30 runs in a game, setting an American League record Wednesday in a 30-3 rout of the Orioles.

Trailing 3-0 in the opener of a doubleheader, the Rangers scored five runs in the fourth, nine in the sixth, 10 in the eighth and six in the ninth.

It was the ninth time a major league team scored 30 runs, the first since Chicago set the major league scoring record in a 36-7 rout of Louisville in a National League game on June 28, 1897, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

I guess the silver lining is that it’s nice to make history. But most would rather it be for something positive.

Headlines in the Baltimore Sun.
# Box score: Rangers 30, O’s 3
# Maese: Will hiring Trembley look good in Oct.?

I think that acting decisively towards Trembley was a good idea. (I don’t share Maese’s hesitation.) However I’m glad they did it yesterday. If they’d been planning an announcement tomorrow, it would have been pretty difficult to pull off in the face of such an embarrassing defeat.

(Tonight’s game featured two grand slams for Texas. The Orioles and Rangers have another interesting game between them. August 6, 1986 the two teams set a major league record by hitting 3 grand slams between them. The Orioles hit two of them. But they still lost 13 – 11. At the time the Orioles had been respectable and were only 2 1/2 games out of first place. That game started a tailspin that saw the Orioles fall to last place for the first time in franchise history and their first losing season since 1967.)

Roch Kubato has second thoughts.

Baseball Musings writes about Texas Tees Off. (via BallBug)

A quick hit from Inside Charm City.

Some thoughts from Oriole Post.

Sigh, in the nightcap the Orioles are losing by a rather pedestrian 6 – 4.

UPDATE: Baseball Tonight notes the many crazy things that have happened this week in baseball.

Texas sets a double header record, scoring 39 combined runs.

Texas kept right on hitting in the second game, too, although at a decidedly tamer pace. Travis Metcalf drove in four runs and the Rangers used a three-run eighth for a 9-7 victory and a sweep.

Texas set an AL record for runs in a doubleheader, surpassing the 36 scored by Detroit in 1937.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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In defense of the Joba Laws

by Pete Abraham -

There are a pack of folks who want the “Joba Rules” suspended and for Joba Chamberlain to become the Native American Jeff Nelson and pitch whenever needed.

Two words for you: Cole Hamels. Philadelphia’s prized rookie is headed to the MRI tube tomorrow because of a sore elbow. The Phillies are praying it’s not a torn ligament.

The Phillies deserve no breaks, however. Hamels threw 35 innings in 2005 because of a hand and back injuries. Yet he was allowed to throw 181.1 innings in 2006 and 167.1 this season. Oh, by the way, he’s 23.

Two more words for you: Kerry Wood. Do I need to go on? Research has shown that young pitchers who add more than 30 or 40 innings from one season to the next tend to suffer more arm injuries.

Chamberlain had arm trouble at Nebraska in 2006 that limited him to 89.1 innings. He then signed late and didn’t pitch pro ball until going to the winter league in Hawaii in October, four months after he had last pitched in college. He picked up 37 innings there.

So far this season he has thrown 95.1 innings. The Yankees want to cap him around 130 before the playoffs. This is also the first time in his life that he has been worked as a reliever, so they are making sure he gets enough rest between appearances.

I understand that as fans you want the Yankees to win as many games as they can. But do you want them to have a 22-year-old starter who can win 15 games next season? Because that’s what Chamberlain could well be.

Or you can be waiting for news of his MRI.

Look at Chamberlain this way: any innings he pitches are a bonus. This is a kid who was on the disabled list for Class A Tampa when the season started with a sore hamstring. It’s a great story that he’s blowing away big-league hitters. But it’ll be a better story if he’s starting the third game of the season next April, not chilling in the Legends Field trainers room with Carl Pavano.

He’s dead on. That Joba is even helping the Yanks this year is a bonus and therefore should not be abused.



At least Joba wasn’t used.

The ugliness began with Mike Mussina and spread through the Yankees pitching staff in a debacle of a loss.

Angels leftfielder Garret Anderson feasted on Yankee pitching by putting up 10 RBIs in an 18-9 Angels win over the Yankees in front of 44,264 fans in Anaheim. The loss looked even more lopsided before the Yankees scored four runs in the top of the ninth.

“It was just, it was awful; that’s simply what it was,” Mussina said.

Mussina had his worst outing all season. In fact, he rated it among the worst games of his entire career. The right-hander gave up seven earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings, his shortest start since lasting 1 2/3 innings on Sept. 27, 2005 against the Orioles.

“It’s tough to take,” Mussina said. “That goes in the top five worst games of my career right there.”

The problems began with Mussina. But Ron Villone, Edwar Ramirez and Sean Henn all failed to stem the tide. Anderson had a phenomenal week’s worth of stats in a single night. He knocked in an Angels franchise record 10 runs, earning him a giddy curtain call from the Angel Stadium crowd. He belted a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, and also hit two doubles.

All those gaudy statistics came at the Yankees’ expense. The loss dropped them six games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, the biggest gap since Aug. 9th, and 2 1/2 games behind the Mariners in the wild-card chase.

“I’d be very shoocked if these two games would leave us feeling we’re not a good club,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Continued here.


Eli Manning Better Than You Think?

Rick Gosselin argues that Eli Manning is a whole lot better than most fans think.

Eli just doesn’t stack up with Peyton.

At least not the 2007 Peyton.

But let me take you back to Peyton’s first three seasons. He won only 21 of his first 39 career starts with 50 interceptions and an 0-1 record in the playoffs. Eli has won 20 of his first 39 starts with 44 interceptions to go with his 0-2 playoff record.

“I hope it doesn’t take Eli six years to win his first playoff game like it took me,” Peyton said.

Heh. But, by this point in his third season, Peyton was a superstar playing on a team with an awful defense. Eli shows flashes of brilliance and then has huge mental breakdowns.

Goose breaks down some stats, noting that only three QBs led his team to more wins over the last two seasons:

Quarterback Team Starts Wins
Peyton Manning Indianapolis 32 26
Tom Brady New England 32 22
Matt Hasselbeck Seattle 28 20
Drew Brees San Diego/New Orleans 32 19
Eli Manning NY Giants 32 19
Carson Palmer Cincinnati 32 19
Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh 27 18

Eli’s TD pass numbers compare favorably, too:

Quarterback Team TDs ’06 ’05
Carson Palmer Cincinnati 60 28 32
Peyton Manning Indianapolis 59 31 28
Tom Brady New England 50 24 26
Drew Brees New Orleans/San Diego 50 26 24
Eli Manning NY Giants 48 24 24
Matt Hasselbeck Seattle 42 18 24
Jake Delhomme Carolina 41 17 24

Are our perceptions of these two QBs that far off? Or are those statistics telling a lie?

Certainly, “wins” is an even more over-rated stat for a QB than for a starting pitcher in baseball. A defense can win a lot of games for you if the quarterback is even halfway decent. Just ask Rex Grossman.

Touchdown passes can be a misleading stat if a team is playing from behind a lot or lacks a running game. Neither of those things were true of the Giants, though.

There’s no reason to declare Eli a bust at this point, by any means, but he’s not yet an elite quarterback. Any GM in that game would likely take Phillip Rivers, for whom he was traded in a very lopsided deal, over him. Some might even take Tony Romo.


Alaskan Adventure

This is not the typical sports story for all you fantasy loving baseball and football junkies. This is a little bit of a personal story of a recent trip my wife and I ventured on to the great Last Frontier, the 49th State, Alaska. 22 hours of light in the summer, about 600,000 folks in a state the size of almost 1/3 of the “lower 48″, as the Alaskans like to say, and wildlife like you couldn’t imagine, even in an Animal Planet special.

If you ever get the opportunity, please go and just take in the serenity of the place and realize why Teddy Roosevelt and former Secretary of State to Abraham Lincoln William Seward just fell in love with this place. Better to be a part of the USA, than a bridge to Siberia. At any rate, the sports angle.

If you love to fish, they have the best salmon, trout and halibut fishing in the world. Great guides, clean waters, a multitude of fish and just you and the streams they spawn on. If hiking or sightseeing is your bag, Denali National Forest with Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, almost 4 miles high from it’s base, gives some breathtaking views. Always covered with snow, even in July.

Local sports are interesting in the great north as well. High School football season starts first week of August, ends in October because it gets too darn cold and dark. Summer baseball leagues are huge in Alaska, many major leaguers and wannabees play there, much like the Cape Cod leagues. Another big sport is the dogsled races or Iditarod, which takes place in January and goes over 2,000 miles from Anchorage to Nome. Not for the feint of heart. And of course, there is the Great Alaskan Shootout that takes place prior to the NCAA basketball season, with teams from the “lower 48″, taking on Alaskan colleges.

All in all, a pretty terrific place, they have ESPN on everywhere, love the Seattle teams and even have a daily newspaper that reports on all scores from around the country. 4 hour difference in time between the east and the north. So again, if you have the druthers, take a trip that you won’t regret and you’ll get your sports fix too!


Is Michael Vick’s Career Over?

Michael Vick is going to plead guilty to dog fighting charges and faces a minimum of 14 months in prison plus a likely additional suspension from the NFL. What are the odds that his NFL career is over?

I take a look at that question at OTB. Feel free to weigh in on it yourselves in the comments there or below.

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