Sports Outside the Beltway

Bucky Showalter named new Manager of the Baltimore Orioles

He replaces Interim Manager Juan Samuel. From ESPN-

Buck Showalter was hired to manage the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, his latest rebuilding project in a major league career full of them.

Showalter’s first game will be Tuesday night at Camden Yards against the Los Angeles Angels.

Baltimore had the worst record in the majors at 31-70 going into Thursday night against the Kansas City Royals and is headed toward its 13th straight losing season. The Orioles fired manager Dave Trembley on June 4 and replaced him on an interim basis with Juan Samuel.

“Buck Showalter’s proven track record makes him the right choice for manager of the Orioles,” president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said in a statement. “We believe Buck’s extensive experience and expertise will be a major benefit to us as we look towards a more successful future.”

Samuel will return to his job as the team’s third-base coach. Baltimore went 16-31 with him in charge.

While I’ve always liked Showalter since his days as Skipper of the Fort Lauderdale Yankees, it will take a lot more than a good manager to reverse Baltimore’s fortunes.


Arizona Diamondbacks fire Manager A.J. Hinch

He is the fourth manager to get the axe this MLB season. From AP-

The Arizona Diamondbacks fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Josh Byrnes on Thursday night in a shakeup at the top of a team cemented in last place in the NL West for the second year in a row.

Diamondbacks bench coach and ex-major league slugger Kirk Gibson will take over as interim manager for a ballclub that was 31-48, 15 games back of San Diego.

Team president Derrick Hall called the dismissals “a first and major step in the re-evaluation of our team.”

This franchise has enjoyed tremendous success over the years and we want to get back to our winning ways. The loyal staff of this organization, as well as all of our fans, hopes for and deserves better results on the field.
” — Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick

The 35-year-old Hinch was promoted May 7, 2009. Despite having no managerial experience at any level, he was moved from the front office to manager following the firing of Bob Melvin. Hinch has two years remaining on his contract after this season.

Hinch is the fourth manager to lose his job this season. Florida’s Fredi Gonzalez, Baltimore’s Dave Trembley and Kansas City’s Trey Hillman have also been fired.

Byrnes, once considered a rising star among young baseball executives, has a whopping 5� years left on a deal that runs through 2015.

Former major league pitcher Jerry DiPoto, vice president for player development, will take over the GM duties on an interim basis.

Arizona has stumbled badly since having the best record record in the NL for the 2007 season. The hiring of Hinch, who reminded me of former Florida Marlins manager, was a mistake but his replacement Kirk Gibson isn’t going to change the Diamondbacks fortunes for at least a year if not longer.


Arizona Diamondback P Edwin Jackson throws a no-hitter

Jackson pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays as recently as two years ago. From AP-

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Edwin Jackson had a chance to finish the ugliest of the no-hitters in this the Year of the Pitcher, and nothing was going to stop of him.APTOPIX Diamondbacks Rays Baseball

Not Arizona manager A.J. Hinch. Certainly not the Tampa Bay Rays.

Barreling ahead despite a soaring pitch count, Jackson tossed the fourth no-hitter of the season Friday night, beating his former team 1-0 despite walking eight, hitting a batter and watching another reach base on an error.

It took an astounding 149 pitches — most in the majors in five years — to complete the second no-hitter in Arizona history.

“We talked every inning after about the sixth because I was checking on him. It’s such a complicated situation with the game in the balance and him chasing a no-hitter,” Hinch said.

“He kept saying he was fine and, `I’m not coming out, I’m not coming out, I’m not coming out.’ As the momentum built and the situation grew, it was pretty evident he had an extra gear. It’s something to celebrate.”

All but one of Jackson’s walks came in the first three innings, but the Rays still were no-hit for the third time in less than a year, including perfect games by Dallas Braden at Oakland on May 9 and Mark Buehrle at Chicago last July 23.

Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez no-hit Atlanta on April 17 and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay tossed a perfect game at Florida on May 29. Detroit’s Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game with two outs in the ninth on a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce.

Jackson’s no-hitter was only the 2nd in Diamondback history and was the first ever thrown at Tropicana Field.

Three no-hitters in a year is hardly unprecedented. In 1969, six no-hitters were thrown. I don’t know if that is a record, it is just the only year with more than five that I could come up with glancing quickly.


Pitcher Randy Johnson announces his retirement

I consider Johnson the best lefty that I personally saw pitch. My baseball viewing began in 1967, so I just missed both Sandy Koufax and Warren Spahn. The only lefty since 67 that was in Johnson’s class, was Steve Carlton. Johnson was a more dominating pitcher. Enjoy your retirement Randy.

Randy Johnson is retiring after 22 major league seasons.

The Big Unit, an overpowering lefty who last June became the 24th pitcher to win 300 games, made the expected announcement Tuesday on a conference call.

“I really wanted to go out on my terms,” Johnson said. “I just feel like there’s not a lot more for me to do in this game. I just think it’s a natural progression when you play this long. Eventually you have to say it’s time.”

A Storied Career

A five-time Cy Young Award winner, the 46-year-old Johnson accomplished just about everything in his remarkable career that a player hopes for in baseball.

He owns a World Series ring and co-MVP honors, and was a 10-time All-Star. He threw two no-hitters, including a perfect game, and ranks second on the career strikeout list.

The 6-foot-10 Johnson finishes with a career record of 303-166 and 4,875 strikeouts in 4,135 1/3 innings for Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, the New York Yankees and San Francisco. His strikeouts are the most by a left-hander and second to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714.

Johnson overcame several injuries to keep pitching at a high level into his mid-40s. He said before last season ended that he looked forward to going home to Arizona and spending time with his family before making a decision about his future.

“It’s taken this long into January because I definitely wanted to just kind of relax from the season being over and make sure I had a clear head when I made this decision, and that I would be making it wholeheartedly and would be sticking to it,” he said.

Johnson went 8-6 with a 4.88 ERA in 17 starts and five relief appearances for San Francisco last season despite missing more than two months with a strained left shoulder that also had a tear in the rotator cuff. He returned in late September as a reliever, a role he couldn’t see himself embracing in order to keep pitching.


Arizona Diamondbacks sign P Bobby Howry

The right-handed reliever spent the 2009 season with the San Francisco Giants. From AP-

Reliever Bobby Howry signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The D-backs have a club option for 2011, but terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Howry, 36, pitched for the San Francisco Giants last season, going 2-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 63 games. He has pitched in 731 games during his 12-year career, with 66 career saves.

The Diamondbacks have reshaped their pitching staff in the offseason, trading for pitchers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in a three-team deal with the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers earlier this month. They also expect Brandon Webb to be ready for the start of the season, following his shoulder surgery last summer.

While I am not optimistic about Arizona’s pitching bouncing back in 2010, I do think the acquisition of Howry, who has never started a Major League game, is a good move. He has been a more than solid setup man for over 10 years. Howry limited opposing batters to a .214 batting average in 2009 and was almost equally difficult on both righty and lefty batters. Any MLB team can make use of a pitcher with those skills and numbers.


Whiff King- Mark Reynolds sets new MLB strikeout record

He broke the previous mark of 204 set by…..himself in 2008. From ESPN-

Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds broke his major league strikeout record by fanning for the 205th time this season in the fourth inning of the Diamondbacks’ game against San Francisco.

Reynolds struck out for the second time Tuesday night to break the record he established last season. After doubling in a run for his career-high 100th RBI in the first, he struck out against Matt Cain in the third and rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner in the fourth.

Reynolds added another strikeout in the sixth to up his total to 206.

“So what?” Reynolds said when asked about the strikeouts. “So what?”

Reynolds is the only player in major league history to strike out at least 200 times in a season.

Striking out excessively isn’t necessarily a liability. It prevents a player from hitting into a double play, and many right handed sluggers are slow to say the least. Just like with all baseball statistics, you have to look at the big picture to properly evaluate a player’s worth.

Reynolds is hitting .266 with 43 homers, second to St. Louis’ Albert Pujols, who has 47.

He also has a .359 On Base Percentage this year. Reynolds is a significant offensive force, in spite of his high strikeout rate. He isn’t exactly Rob Deer.


No margin for error- Arizona beats the Dodgers 4-3

Last night’s NL west game is a prime example of why I am not a fan of the intentional walk.

Joe Torre chose to look on the bright side after the Los Angeles Dodgers walked in the winning run in a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.


Diamondbacks’ winning rally began when Ramon Troncoso (4-3) threw away Gerardo Parra’s roller to the mound, allowing him to reach second on the error.


As it turned out, that was the only ball that left the infield in the bottom of the ninth.

Trent Oeltjen ran for Parra and took third on Ryan Roberts’ sacrifice. After intentional walks to Stephen Drew and Justin Upton, Troncoso missed with a 3-2 fastball to Mark Reynolds, who had fouled off a pair of pitches with two strikes.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Reynolds said. “I just fouled off some tough pitches and was able to work a good AB.”

Torre said he walked Drew and Upton to set up a force at home. He also hoped Troncoso could strike out Reynolds, who leads the majors with 190 strikeouts.

Not one ball put into play outside the infield and the Dodgers lose. Isn’t that ridiculous? I know what Torre was trying to do, to set up a double play or force play. By loading the bases he takes away his pitcher’s margin of error. Do you know batting averages are higher when the sacks are full. The simple reason why- A pitcher has to try being perfect with the batter up there, and we humans are error prone.

Don Zimmer while managing the Chicago Cubs intentionally walked his team out of a World Series appearance in 1990. Mr. Potato Head ordered his pitcher to IW one batter which filled the bases with one out. The pitcher got the first out, then Will Clark hit a grand slam. That worked real well, eh? The list of managers who hated issuing intentional walks is long. Billy Martin, Dick Howser, Walter Alston in his last years managing the Dodgers. Yes there are times it is a good strategy but to fill the bases just so you can get a force at all bags isn’t one of them.


Tampa Bay Rays acquire Reliever Russ Springer

There must be a ‘I need another ancient relief pitcher’ virus going around the offices of MLB teams at this moment. From the St. Petersburg Times-

The Rays had interest in adding veteran Russ Springer to their bullpen anyway. After going through two extra-inning games in four days, they believed it was even more important to make a move.

The 40-year-old right-hander was claimed on waivers from Oakland, with the Rays assuming the nearly $1 million remaining on his $3.3 million contract.


Springer was 0-4 with a 4.10 ERA in 48 games with Oakland but had a 1.61 ERA over 25 games since early June.

The addition of Springer required Tampa to make another personnel move.

The Rays’ decision to designate IF Joe Dillon for assignment to make room for Springer wasn’t cut-and-dried. Ultimately, the Rays decided to go with eight relievers and three bench players in large part because they had played two extra-inning games this week.

Though Dillon rarely got off the bench, Maddon said he didn’t like having to cut him loose. In addition to being a fan of Dillon’s approach to the game, Maddon will have to be especially creative with the way he uses his bench.

That’s an understatement. Only three bench players severely limits a manager’s options. One of those backups has to be a catcher, the most likely player to get injured in any given game. Managers are a cautious lot, and will be cautious in using their only backup catcher. That limits a team’s strategy moves with only three bench players even more.

Springer, like the recently traded David Weathers, has been all over the major leagues for fifteen plus years. He is a decent reliever, but for the reasons I already stated, I don’t understand why Tampa needed this guy.


Texas Rangers release pitcher Orlando Hernandez

Is El Duque’s MLB over with? From AP-

El Duque’s comeback attempt with the Texas Rangers has ended.

Texas released Orlando Hernandez from his minor league contract Friday, making the right-hander a free agent just more than a month after he signed.

Hernandez was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in eight relief appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City since being activated three weeks ago. He had 12 strikeouts and four walks in 11 innings.

General Manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers had no plans to add Hernandez to their major league roster by Monday, when the pitcher would have been able to opt out of the contract.

“The reports that we got were about what you would expect, stuff-wise. … The velocity was not an issue or anything like that, just rust,” Daniels said. “With more time and innings, he may very well be ready, but he had the out in his contract and he was going to take it.”

Hernandez last pitched in the majors for the New York Mets in 2007 before toe surgery. Hernandez’s numbers with the Mets in 2007, suggest he should still be able to pitch in the majors. The toe injury could have adversely affected his ability to pitch. Hernandez’s age may also factor into how strong his arm is.

The Cuban pitcher’s age has been questioned at times, and is listed as high as 43 by some accounts. The Rangers said he was 39 when they signed him last month, though Daniels sounded less certain about that Friday.

“Ask the Census bureau,” he said.

No need to. The smoking Gun has a copy of El Duque’s Cuban divorce decree. It clearly says he was born in 1965.


Colorado Reliever Alan Embree’s right leg broken by line drive

The injury has to be considered career threatening. From AP-

Colorado Rockies left-hander Alan Embree is out for the season after a line drive fractured his right tibia on Friday night.

Embree will have surgery Saturday.

“There will be some type of compression screw put in there,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Atlanta’s Martin Prado hit a 3-2 fastball from Embree back up the middle in the seventh inning Friday night. The ball ricocheted off Embree’s right shin to third baseman Ian Stewart.

“It sounded awful,” Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta said. “I couldn’t even track the ball it was hit so hard. It sounded really bad.”


Embree, who signed as a free agent with the Rockies this past offseason, was 2-2 with a 5.84 ERA in 36 appearances.

Embree is 37-43 lifetime in a career that started in 1992. Other than 4 games he started in 92 for the Cleveland Indians, he’s been exclusively a left handed relief specialist for 10 MLB teams. I have always liked Embree, he was a key part of a winning Star tournament team of mine, but his career looked to be in decline before this injury. If he reestablishes himself as a quality pitcher in 2010, I’ll be greatly surprised.


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