Sports Outside the Beltway

Ken Griffey, Jr. Retires After 22 Years In Baseball

ken_griffey_jrUnfortunately overshadowed by Armando Gallaraga’s blown perfect game was the announcement that one of the best baseball player’s of the last two decades was retiring:

SEATTLE (AP) — In his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. was considered the best player in baseball, on pace to rewrite the record books.

Injuries derailed his chance to become the home run king. His spot as one of the game’s all-time greats is without question.

Now relegated to part-time duty and with little pop left in that perfect swing, Griffey unexpectedly decided Wednesday night to retire after 22 mostly brilliant seasons.

The Kid that once saved baseball in the Pacific Northwest with his backward hat, giddy teenage smile and unrivaled talent, had become a shell of the player who dominated the 1990s.


A star from the time he was the overall No. 1 pick in the 1987 draft, Griffey also played with his hometown Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. He hit .284 with 1,836 RBIs.

But his greatest seasons, by far, came in Seattle.

Griffey played in 1,685 games with the Mariners and hit .292 with 417 homers, most coming in the homer-friendly Kingdome, and 1,216 RBIs. He won the AL MVP in 1997 and practically saved a franchise that was in danger of relocating when he first came up.

Griffey returned to the Mariners in 2009 and almost single-handedly transformed what had been a fractured, bickering clubhouse with his leadership, energy and constant pranks.

Griffey signed a one-year deal last November for one more season in Seattle after he was carried off the field by his teammates after the final game of 2009. He hit .214 last season with 19 homers as a part-time DH. He was limited by a swollen left knee that required an operation in the offseason.

But the bat never came alive in 2010. Griffey was hitting only .184 with no homers and seven RBIs and recently went a week without playing. There was a report earlier this season — which Griffey denied — that he’d fallen asleep in the clubhouse during a game.

The swing that hit as many as 56 homers in a season had lost its punch and Griffey seemed to understand his time was coming to a close.

Griffey ended his career with 630 home runs, placing him 5th on the all-time list behind Willie Mays, with only Alex Rodriguez (590) within range of surpassing him anytime soon. But for his injuries, though, it’s conceivable that Griffey would have ended his career challenging, if not surpassing, Barry Bonds’ record of 762 home runs.


Blown Call Robs Armando Galarraga Of Perfect Game

109864396-c183cd75cbba06cd3668195fce82d273.4c0713a8-scaledIt may well go down as one of the most infamous calls in the history of Major League Baseball:

DETROIT – Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers lost his bid for a perfect game Wednesday night with two outs in the ninth inning on a call that first base umpire Jim Joyce later admitted he blew.

First baseman Miguel Cabrera cleanly fielded Jason Donald’s grounder to his right and made an accurate throw to Galarraga covering the bag. The ball was there in time, and all of Comerica Park was ready to celebrate the 3-0 win over Cleveland, until Joyce emphatically signaled safe.

The veteran ump regretted it.’

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

“It was the biggest call of my career,” said Joyce, who became a full-time major league umpire in 1989.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately argued the call and was joined by several of his players after the final out. Galarraga was trying to pitch the third perfect game in the majors this season.

Something that professional baseball had never seen before. Instead, we’re left with a controversy that is likely to increase pressure for expansion of instant reply in Major League Baseball.

All I can say is that I watched that final out live on ESPN, watched it again several times thanks to TiVo, and then yet again from even more angles during the post-game show. It’s pretty clear that it was an out, and Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game.’

But don’t take my word for it, watch the video and decide for yourself:

Unfortunately, the rules of Major League Baseball do not seem to provide an opportunity for the call at First Base to be reversed.

Photo obtained via Twitter from @baseballcrank


LeBron James: Cleveland “Has The Edge” In Deciding Which Team Will Get Me

we-are-all-witnesses-lebron-james-546522_1024_768Take it for what it’s worth, but LeBron James says that Cleveland is leading the pack of all his potential suitors:

CLEVELAND (AP) — One month before the start of the N.B.A.’s free agency period, LeBron James has handicapped his field of suitors: The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the pack.

In his first interview since the Cavaliers’ season ended with a second-round loss to the Boston Celtics, James told CNN’s Larry King that Cleveland had “an edge” to re-sign him when free agency begins July 1.

King, who interviewed James at his home near Akron on Tuesday, asked him if Cleveland had “an edge going in.”

“Absolutely,” he said in a portion of the interview released by CNN. “Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it’s comfortable. So I’ve got a lot of memories here. And so it does have an edge.”

The interview will be shown Friday on “Larry King Live.” Other than his postgame interview, James has not talked to the news media since the Cavaliers were eliminated by the Celtics.

The cynical view will be that LeBron will go where the money is, but he’s also shown a fairly strong connection to his hometown over the past seven years, so the possibility of staying in Cleveland is not out of the question at all.

Here’s an except from the interview that CNN has made available:


Cleveland Pitcher David Huff Hit In Head During Freak Play

A scary moment during yesterday’s Yankees-Indians game:

NEW YORK — It is the worst nightmare of both the pitcher and the hitter, the ball that is hit so hard there is simply no time to duck, no time to react, no chance for the elemental reflex of self-preservation.

It happened in the third inning of Saturday’s Yankees-Indians game, and for several heart-stopping, breath-holding minutes, it was easy to imagine that the worst thing that could happen on a baseball field had just happened, in full view of 46,000 spectators.

Cleveland right-hander David Huff threw a pitch to Alex Rodriguez, and before either of them could possibly have known what was happening, the ball was back in the pitcher’s face, smacking with a THWACK! off Huff’s left temple that must have been audible in the remotest sections of the ballpark.

Huff, a 25-year-old in his second big-league season, fell face down and motionless on the pitcher’s mound. Rodriguez, reacting with a hitter’s instinct, barreled around first base and into second. Nick Swisher, on second base, came around to score. The baseball, ricocheting as sharply as if it had hit concrete, wound up in right field.

And the hearts of 46,000 people leaped into 46,000 throats as a crowd of teammates, trainers and paramedics rushed to the mound and the fallen pitcher.

Rarely has Yankee Stadium been as quiet as it was at that moment and rarely has a ballgame there suddenly seemed so unimportant. As the medical staff worked over Huff, who did not move for what seemed like hours, Rodriguez and Swisher dropped to their knees, their eyes focused on the ground.


Huff was taken to an ambulance waiting by the service gate beyond the left-center field fence and rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where a CT scan revealed no neurological damage. The pitcher was kept briefly for observation and then sent back to Yankee Stadium.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who was visibly affected by the incident, left the ballpark immediately after the game and called a Yankees publicist from his car for the location of the hospital, hoping to visit Huff before he was released.

Learning that Huff was on his way back to the ballpark, Rodriguez was given the player’s cellphone number and was trying to reach him Saturday night.

“Your heart stops. You want so badly to take it back,” Rodriguez said in a statement relayed through Jason Zillo, a Yankees publicist. “You’re scared. You think of him, you think of his family. You think of a million other places that the ball could have gone, other than where it did. Why there?

“I mean, we’re playing a game. A game. I know it’s a business, too, but to all of us, playing it should always be a game first, and when something like that happens right in front of your eyes it makes you think long and hard about things much bigger than throwing or hitting a baseball or running around the bases for a few hours a day. I’m so thankful that he’s going to be OK.”

It really is just a freak accident of physics. A move to the left or the right, a little more or less force on the ball, and things would’ve turned out differently. Fortunately, Huff is okay.

Here’s video of the incident, which is still cringe-inducing even when you know that the injury wasn’t bad:


Roy Halladay Pitches 20th Perfect Game In MLB History

052910_halladay_400Only twenty days after Dallas Braden had pitched a perfect game in Oakand, the Philadelphia Phillies Roy Halladay accomplished the same feat this evening:

MIAMI (AP) — Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in major league history, delivering the marquee performance of his All-Star career in a 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins on Saturday night.

It was the second perfect game in the majors this month alone, Dallas Braden doing it for Oakland against Tampa Bay on May 9. It’s the first time in the modern era that there were a pair of perfectos in the same season — Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez threw a no-hitter, too, in April.

Halladay struck out 11, then got pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to ground out to end it, and was cheered by a crowd of 25,086 throughout much of the night. While there were a couple of good plays behind him, Halladay didn’t need any great defensive work in this gem.

The 33-year-old righty was a veritable one-man show.

Always stoic on the mound, Halladay (7-3) broke into a big smile as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him.

This is the first perfect game pitched for Philadelphia since Jim Bunning, now a Senator from Kentucky, did it on June 21, 1964. It is also the first time in the modern baseball era that there have been two perfect games pitched in the same season. This did happen once during the 19th Century baseball era; in 1880 when Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs pitched a perfect game on June 12th, and John Montgomery Ward did it for the Providence Grays five days later on June 17th.

Congratulations Roy.


2014 Super Bowl Awarded To New York/New Jersey

APTOPIX Super Bowl FootballIn four years, we will have the first-ever Super Bowl in an open-air stadium in the North:

IRVING, Tex. — National Football League owners, lured by playing the sport’s biggest game on the largest stage, combined with the promise that snow would not grind the event to a halt, awarded the 2014 Super Bowl to New York on Tuesday afternoon, making the New Meadowlands Stadium the host of what will be the first cold-weather Super Bowl.

The New York-New Jersey bid beat out proposals from Tampa, Fla., and South Florida — two traditional hosts — in part to reward the Giants and the Jets for building a new billion-dollar stadium together, a tactic the N.F.L. has used when they have placed the game in Detroit, Dallas and Indianapolis.

But the vote also represented an embrace of New York’s abundant entertainment, promotional and financial opportunities. The proposal called for everything from a Super Bowl float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to a party at Liberty State Park. Of more interest to a league bent on building revenue and an international audience is that the weeklong extravaganza would play out in the global media and business capital, and in an area where 36 percent of the 20 million people who live in the region were born outside the United States.

Those considerations outweighed concerns by some owners opposed to a cold-weather game that snow could wreak havoc on a week’s worth of parties and planning and that the outcome of the championship game could be affected by foul weather. In bid materials obtained by The New York Times, the organizers promised everything from hand-warmers to fire pits in the parking lots to keep fans comfortable and snowplows to clear the streets.

“Elements can be a common factor in how a season unfolds, so why can’t it be a factor in how the ultimate championship is determined,” Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ owner and a proponent of the New York Super Bowl, said before the vote was taken.

February in the Northeast. What could possibly go wrong ?


Former MLB Pitcher Jose Lima Dies At 37

088293_dodgers_RCGJose Lima, a former pitcher for four different National League teams over his career, died today at the age of 37:

LOS ANGELES – Jose Lima, a right-hand pitcher who was a 20-game winner and an All-Star during a 13-year major league career, died Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers said. He was 37.

Lima, who won 13 games with the Dodgers in 2004, died of an apparent heart attack, according to the Aguilas Cibaenas, a winter ball team that Lima had played for in the Dominican Republic.

“Lima was an exceptional man. This is a great loss for Dominican baseball and the country,” Llenas said.

Referring to his often colorful outings as “Lima Time,” Lima posted his best season in 1999 when he was selected to the All-Star game as a Houston Astro. He went 21-10 in 35 starts with a 3.58 ERA for the NL Central champion Astros.

In 13 major league seasons, the native of the Dominican Republic was 89-102 with a 5.26 ERA. He hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since a four-game stop with the New York Mets in 2006.

“He was a man full of life, without apparent physical problems and with many plans and projects on the agenda,” Astacio said.

Lima went 46-42 with the Astros between 1997-2001, and he was a 20-game winner and an All-Star with the Houston team.

Lima’s last Major League appearance was on July 7, 2006 when he pitched the second of two games for the New York Mets before being reassigned to the Minor Leagues.


Mets’ Angel Pagan Hits Inside The Park HR, Turns Triple Play, In The Same Game

mets nationals baseball--2145404669.hmediumInside-the-park Home Runs are a rare occurrence in baseball, and so are triple plays. What’s even rarer is for a player to be involved in both in the same game, but that’s what happened tonight to the Mets’ Angel Pagan:

WASHINGTON – Angel Pagan hit an inside-the-park home run and started a triple play Wednesday night, but that wasn’t enough for the New York Mets in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Pagan became the first player in 55 years to take part in both feats in the same game. Despite his achievements, the Mets lost for the ninth time in 11 games.

Pagan hit the first inside-the-park home run in Nationals Park history in the fourth inning. An inning later, the center fielder’s shoestring catch led to the Mets’ first triple play since 2002.

Phillies shortstop Ted Kazanski was the last player to do both, on Sept. 25, 1955, for Philadelphia against the New York Giants, the Elias Sports Bureau said. That was also the last time a team pulled a triple play and hit an inside-the-parker in the same game, Elias said.

A thrilling sight, not doubt.

Although I’m sure Mets fans would have appreciated it if their team had won the game as well. Instead, they lost to the Nationals 5-3.

Incidentally, this is Pagan’s second inside-the-part home run. His last came in September of last year against the Phillies.


Lookin At Lucky Wins Preakness, Triple Crown To Remain Vacant For Another Year

16preakness04-articleLargeIt was a perfect day for horse racing in Baltimore yesterday, and a great day to be Lookin At Lucky:

BALTIMORE — He is a kid. Martin Garcia has been in this country for less than seven years and looks at the United States with a sense of wonder, whether from behind the counter of a Northern California delicatessen or now, through his racing goggles atop a thundering racehorse. On Saturday, as he led Lookin at Lucky onto the track for the Preakness Stakes, Garcia let loose a smile that would have been blinding atop a lighthouse.

Garcia drank in the pretty hats and the sports coats that dotted the grandstand at historic Pimlico. He took in the raucous infield, with its bleary-eyed revelers lifting their plastic mugs.

Behind him, Calvin Borel was stone-faced, crouched over Super Saver, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, and looking as if the weight of his Triple Crown aspirations had caved him in.

Not Garcia, 25. He was as happy as he was the night last week when the trainer Bob Baffert told him he would replace Garrett Gomez on Lookin at Lucky for this race. Garcia stayed up all night tickled by the possibilities.

Garcia had loved Lookin at Lucky ever since the first time he sat on the colt’s back for a workout last year.

For months, he worked Lookin at Lucky, last year’s 2-year-old champion, in the mornings only to hand him over to Gomez in the afternoons. Unfortunately for Baffert, Gomez had anything but luck with the colt in one troubled trip after another.

After Gomez and the colt were bounced around in the Derby and staggered in a hard-used sixth place, Baffert decided to make a change for the Preakness. Lookin at Lucky became Garcia’s mount.

When Garcia showed up in the paddock before the race and rattled off one “thank you” after another, Baffert wondered if his rider was perhaps unfocused and not ready to race.

“I think he’s so young, he doesn’t understand the magnitude of this race,” said Baffert, a Hall of Famer.

As Garcia loped Lookin at Lucky down the backstretch, however, Baffert’s doubts began to ease. His young jockey had listened to his instructions.

“I told him once you make the turn, you can’t be more than three paths off the rail,” Baffert said.

Garcia did as he was told. Now, he had the colt rolling like a riverboat, and Baffert was starting to feel pretty smart.

“I could see he had the horse in a nice rhythm,” Baffert said

Borel and Super Saver, on the other hand, were working hard and not looking all that comfortable chasing the long shot, First Dude, through a fast half-mile of 46.47 seconds, and a withering six furlongs of 1 minute 11.22 seconds.

And yes, First Dude was, at least in part,  named after Todd Palin. First Dude’s mother ? Run Sarah Run.

On a more serious note, yesterday’s result means that, once again, there will be no Triple Crown winner this year. The last time it happened was in 1978 when Affirmed completed the task only a year after Seattle Slew had done it. This is already the longest gap between Triple Crown winners in history, the previous record being the twenty-five years between Citation and Secretariat.

It’s not surprising, really, winning three of the toughest races in horse racing is a difficult enough task in itself, and it’s become even harder as horse breeding has become a more exact science. There are a lot of good, fast horses out there, and it’s harder for just one of them to dominate the sport the way that others did in the past. There will probably be a Triple Crown winner someday, but its going to have to be one heck of a horse that accomplishes the task.

Bill Jempty Update- Lookin at Lucky’s Trainer Bob Baffert has announced that Lucky won’t race in the Belmont Stakes. Baffert said if Lucky was going for the Triple Crown, he’d enter the horse. Instead he will give a colt a rest. Last year’s Preakness winner, Rachel Alexandra, didn’t race in the Belmont either.

I understand the decision made by Baffert. Lookin at Lucky has little to gain from running in the Belmont(The endurance race of the Triple Crown. It is a mile and a half in length) and there is always the element of risk. Race horses are very fragile animals. Case in point, 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. One bad step can lead to them needing to be destroyed. Maybe these races should be more spread out to encourage horses to race in all three. The Harness and Trotting Triple Crowns aren’t raced in just five weeks.


Walking The Batter Before A-Rod, Not Always A Good Idea

15yankees_CA0-popupLast night, the Minnesota Twins took a gamble, and lost:

NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez waited on deck, with runners at second and third and the Yankees trailing by a run in the seventh inning. Boy, did Ron Gardenhire have a tough decision to make.

Pitch to Mark Teixeira or intentionally walk him and bring in right-handed sinkerballer Matt Guerrier to replace Brian Duensing? Even though A-Rod was 4 for 6 against Guerrier with three home runs?

Yup, Guerrier came in.

And the ball went out.

Rodriguez hit his 19th career grand slam, moving past Frank Robinson into sole possession of seventh place with his 587th home run and powering the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 8-4 Friday night.

“That’s why I hit fourth,” A-Rod said. “My team is expecting me to get big hits in those type of situations.”

He was so excited as the ball went over the left-field wall that he nearly carried his bat all the way to first base. He then raised a fist in triumph after the drive gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead.

Part of the problem that the Twins faced, of course, is that the Yankee lineup is simply too strong to assume anyone is an easy out. Teixeira has had a hot bat all month, so walking him and bringing in the righthander to get Rodriguez isn’t necessarily a dumb call.

Except in retrospect as you’re watching that ball go over the wall and the bases clear.


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