Sports Outside the Beltway

St. Louis Manager Tony LaRussa gets to 2,500 career wins

A Cardinal victory over Kansas City got him to that career milestone.

Albert Pujols comes through Kansas City once a season. The Royals wouldn’t be too disappointed if he never came back.

Pujols finished off a three-day romp in Kansas City with two homers and six RBIs, helping the St. Louis Cardinals rout the Royals 12-5 Sunday in win No. 2,500 for manager Tony La Russa.

Only Connie Mack and John McGraw have won more games as a Manager. Mack’s record is out of reach but LaRussa could surpass McGraw(2762 career wins) in as little as three years. Before taking over the Cardinals, LaRussa managed the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox.

Albert Pujols also equaled some St. Louis Cardinals records.

Pujols tied Stan Musial’s team record of nine career grand slams and matched the season mark of three shared by Jim Bottomley (1925), Keith Hernandez (1977) and Fernando Tatis (1999).

So far as Grand slams go, Pujols is a slacker. I mean Richie Sexson has hit sixteen in his career.


Fowl ball- Cleveland Indians beat Kansas City 4-3 in 10 innings

How gullible can a baseball fan be? From AP-

Coco Crisp thought he still had a chance to get to Shin-Soo Choo’s bouncing base hit. A bird beat him to it.

The ball flattened a low-flying gull in the 10th inning and rolled past Kansas City’s center fielder and Mark DeRosa scored from second base without a throw to give the Cleveland Indians a 4-3 win over the Royals on Thursday night.

“Crazy things happen in this game,” Crisp said after Shin-Soo Choo’s line single over the second-base bag clipped the wing of one of hundreds of birds that buzz the ballpark. “It was hit so sharply, I felt like I had a chance,” Crisp said. “You never know what the heck is going to happen.”

The stunned bird flopped around for a few seconds before finally flying off.

Just another wild win at Progressive Field.

“I didn’t see it, but I’ll take it,” Choo said.

Two years ago, a swarm of bugs rattled New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain in the AL division series, helping the Indians rally.

The ballpark which has hosted the Cleveland Indians for over 15 years, is close to Lake Erie and regularly has problems with birds through the stadium. I’m surprised it too so long before one of them interfered with a game being played.

Feel free to add your own jokes about what happened last night.


Arizona Diamondbacks fire Manager Bob Melvin

He is the first to get fired in 2009. From AP-

The Arizona Diamondbacks fired Bob Melvin on Thursday, hoping a new manager will be able to get the most out of their talented core of young players.

The Diamondbacks will make A.J. Hinch, their vice president for player development, Melvin’s replacement on Friday, according to a person familiar with the move who requested anonymity because the announcement had not been made.

The 34-year-old Hinch is a former major league catcher with no professional managerial experience. His promotion was first reported by radio station KTAR.

[+] EnlargeBob Melvin
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireBob Melvin has been fired by the Diamondbacks.

The 47-year-old Melvin’s firing comes after a disappointing start by the Diamondbacks, who entered Thursday 8½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Melvin, who went 337-340 in four-plus seasons, had one year left on a contract he received after being the 2007 NL Manager of the Year.


“This is a difficult decision, but I feel that our organization needs to move forward with a new voice,” general manager Josh Byrnes said in a statement.

Hitting coach Rick Schu also was fired, and pitching coach Bryan Price resigned.

Melvin’s stock rose when he guided a youthful but talented group to the NL West title two years ago. He was dismissed because many of the same players have failed to live up to expectations based on that season, when the Diamondbacks posted an NL-best 90-72 record despite being outscored by 20 runs across the season.


This is the second time in their 12-year history that the Diamondbacks have changed managers in midseason. In 2004, the Diamondbacks fired Bob Brenly after a 29-50 start and replaced him with Al Pedrique on their way to a franchise-worst 51-111 record.

That disaster paved the way to Melvin’s return to Arizona, where he had served as Brenly’s bench coach on the 2001 World Series champions.

Melvin’s hiring as the Diamondbacks’ manager came under bizarre circumstances. The club had selected Wally Backman as manager, but Backman was dismissed four days later following revelations he had been arrested twice and struggled with financial problems.

Arizona then turned to Melvin, who was out after two seasons in Seattle, where he went 156-168.

Melvin made an immediate impact in the desert. He led the 2005 Diamondbacks to a 77-85 record, a 26-win improvement.

Two years later, the Diamondbacks made a surprise run to the NL West title despite scoring 20 fewer runs than they allowed — a fact that led many to praise Melvin’s ability to squeeze the most out of his lineup.

Melvin was honored as the 2007 NL Manager of the Year, and soon after the club extended his contract through 2010.

How much of Arizona’s slow start if Melvin and his coaching staff’s fault is debatable. The team hasn’t been hitting, but on the other hand the Dodgers started great this year and Diamondback staff ace Brandon Webb is on the disabled list. To me the blame for the 12-17(I had to look it up. Associated Press didn’t report it in the above article) start Arizona had this year is more complicated than whether the team had or hadn’t good direction from their manager and coaches. As usual in sports the manager or head coach is the fall guy deservingly or not. Melvin, who was a journeyman catcher and coach before becoming a big league manager, won’t be unemployed for long.

Do note that Arizona hasn’t named Melvin’s replacement yet. Will they name for his coaching staff to the job or look elsewhere? I am betting the former.


Joe Gordon elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

The former Yankee and Indian 2nd baseman will be inducted into Cooperstown next summer. From AP-

NEW YORK — Former second baseman Joe Gordon has been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

The late Gordon was a nine-time All-Star with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. He played on five World Series championship teams and retired in 1950.

Gordon was the only person elected Monday on a ballot of players who began their careers before 1943.

Ron Santo, Gil Hodges and Joe Torre fell well short of the 75 percent needed for election to Cooperstown.

Gordon is a good choice. Torre will be elected one day, Santo maybe. Hodges, and this coming from a NY Met fan, I don’t think will make it and am not even sure if he is worthy of induction. It is debatable.

In addition to playing for Cleveland and New York, Gordon served as Manager of the Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Athletics, and Kansas City Royals.


Former MLB Pitcher Bruce Dal Canton dead at 66

He was mostly a relief pitcher in the 60′s and 70′s who then had a long career as a pitching coach. Dal Canton was the a rarity on a couple of fronts,- He was discovered at a tryout camp by the Pirates and Bruce was a Knuckleball pitcher. I certainly saw Dal Canton pitch during his career but remember little except his throwing the knuckler. RIP


Boston Lefty Jon Lester throws a no-hitter

He was the first Red Sox southpaw to do so in 52 years.

Now he can add a no-hitter to his already amazing list of accomplishments.

The 24-year-old lefty shut down Kansas City 7-0 Monday night for the first no-hitter in the majors since Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz threw one last September.


Jon Lester (3-2) allowed just two baserunners, walking Billy Butler in the second inning and Esteban German to open the ninth; he also had an error when he threw away a pickoff attempt.

Lester struck out nine, fanning Alberto Callaspo to end the game before pumping both fists in the air.

Catcher Jason Varitek, who has been behind the plate for a record four no-hitters, lifted his pitcher into the air. Manager Terry Francona gave a long, hard embrace to Lester, who missed the end of the 2006 season after he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I’ve been through a lot the last couple of years. He’s been like a second dad to me,” Lester said. “It was just a special moment right there.”

Centre-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a diving catch of Jose Guillen’s line drive to end the fourth – the best defensive play of the night. Lester also got help from first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who made a nice scoop on shortstop Julio Lugo’s throw after David DeJesus hit a grounder in the third.

The fans at sold-out Fenway Park held their enthusiasm until the final out of the seventh, rising to their feet when Lester fanned Guillen on a 93 mph fastball. They remained standing for the entire ninth inning, even as German walked and moved around to third base when Tony Pena and DeJesus grounded out.

With cameras flashing and the fans screaming at full throat, Callaspo fell behind 0-2. He took a ball and fouled one off before reaching for a high and outside 1-2 fastball to end the game.


Lester and Jonathan Papelbon combined to one-hit the Royals on July 18, 2006.

Buchholz no-hit the Baltimore Orioles last Sept. 1 in just his second major league start.

Mel Parnell was the last Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter, beating the Chicago White Sox on July 14, 1956. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is the only other person in history to no-hit the Royals.


Varitek also caught Buchholz’s no-hitter, along with gems by Hideo Nomo and Derek Lowe.

An impressive game by an impressive person. Lester’s pitch count was high 130, and this was his first ML complete game. I hope last night doesn’t cause any arm woes. Steve Busby pitched two career no-hitters and was a hell of a pitcher for a short time, but Kansas City management(Jack McKeon) helped to blow the pitcher’s arm out by having him pitch 150 pitch games.


Royals 2008 Season Preview – Who are These Guys?

As the 2008 season begins, much has already been written about the Kansas City Royals. As such, I’m going to do an abbreviated “Who are these guys?” preview, focusing on the players who are most-likely to contribute to the team on a daily basis, with a little love given to those who made the opening-day roster (sans catcher Matt Tupman, who we know is getting replaced by Miguel Olivo four games into the season when his suspension is done).

Each player will be followed by three sets of numbers – Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Average for their career, the 2007 season and the Marcel projection for the 2008 season.

More info about the Marcel projections can be found here. Stats are from and projections are from

Here we go.

John Buck
Car: 237/297/408 OPS+ 82
’07: 222/308/429 OPS+ 90
’08: 244/311/411

John’s career OPS by month:

Apr  732
May  715
Jun  794
Jul  579
Aug  635
Sep  803

If Buck can keep from stepping in that hole he seems to find every July and August, the Royals may have a legitimate big-league backstop this season.

Miguel Olivo
Car: 239/275/405 OPS+ 76
’07: 237/262/405 OPS+ 72
’08: 247/280/408

Miggy may get some time in the outfield this year, most likely against lefties, whom he hits to the tune of 291/319/524.

Billy Butler – 1B
Car: 292/347/447 OPS+ 105
’07: 292/347/447 OPS+ 105
’08: 298/361/465

Calling Butler an infielder is a bit of a stretch, but Buddy Bell (a six-time Gold Glover who should know) did say Billy had soft hands. The slugger from Florida will play a little first, but will most-likely end up as a full-time DH by the end of the season.

Mark Grudzielanek – 2B
Car: 289/331/395 OPS+ 90
’07: 302/346/426 OPS+ 100
’08: 285/327/403

Grudz returns for another season league-average performance. A solid second baseman, Grudzielanek won a gold glove in ’06 with the Royals. He should anchor a solid infield defense once again (at least on the days that Butler isn’t playing first) and will keep the position warm for prospect Alberto Callaspo.

Tony Pena Jr. – SS
Car: 264/282/354 OPS+ 65
’07: 267/284/356 OPS+ 66
’08: 270/303/379

The former manager’s son was a revelation at short after what I like to call “the Berroa years.” While hardly adequate at the plate in the age of A-Rods and Jeters, TPJ manages to put the ball in play often enough to make his spectacular play in the field enough to keep him right at replacement level value.

Alex Gordon – 3B
Car: 247/314/411 OPS+ 87
’07: 247/314/411 OPS+ 87
’08: 262/331/427

Considered the future at third base since he was drafted, Gordon overcame a difficult start to his big league career to post solid numbers in the second half last year.

A lot has been written about his current skills and potential, so I’ll just add this from my experiences seeing Gordon come to the plate in Anaheim and at spring training in Surprise: the dude looks severely stoned in his press photo. I mean it. The red eyes, shaggy hair and “are you taking my pictures for real” smile. Baked to the bone, I’m telling you.

Look, I’ve been to Nebraska. There’s not a lot to do there. I don’t blame him if he’s growing a little something in his apartment on the Plaza. Man, does he have a pretty swing, though.

Alberto Callaspo
Esteban German
Ross Gload

German has been the uber-utility man for a few years now and has a career on-base percentage of 373. Callaspo had some personal issues in Arizona, but hit like mad in the minors and is looking for a fresh start in KC. Gload is steady with the bat like Grudz, and will probably spend some time at first, outfield and designated hitter. Let’s just hope he stays out of the four hole this year.

David DeJesus
Car: 282/358/415 OPS+ 102
’07: 260/351/372 OPS+ 89
’08: 276/353/414

A lot of people (myself included) pegged DeJesus for a breakout season in ’07. Didn’t happen. He lost a little something, but did manage to play in 157 games, a career high. Let’s see if the center fielder can bring his production up and stay on the field this year.

Jose Guillen
Car: 274/325/447 OPS+ 101
’07: 290/353/460 OPS+ 116
’08: 272/333/448

The Mets go Carlos Santana. The Tigers got Miguel Cabrera. The Yankees re-signed Alex Rodriguez. Kansas City picked up Jose Guillen and quickly made Mike Sweeney only the third highest paid Royal ever.

Guillen is not a bad player, but he alone is not likely to be a savior for the team’s offensive woes any more than Emil Brown was. However, if Butler and Gordon continue to impress, Guillen should be a solid bat along with them in the line up.

Mark Teahen
Car: 274/340/429 OPS+ 100
’07: 285/353/410 OPS+ 98
’08: 282/350/439

Teahen’s numbers took a step back last season as he learned how to play a few outfield positions and a little first base. Considered one of the better base runners in baseball, Marky Mark also showed off a canon arm in right.

The canon has been moved to left, but Teahen will likely be jerked around from left to right to first to DH in order to keep his head spinning whilst he also attempts to pull the ball more at the plate.

Joey Gathright
Car: 266/333/314 OPS+ 71
’07: 307/371/342 OPS+ 88
’08: 273/342/352

Joey Gathright is fast and he can jump over cars and the occasional Japanese pitcher. His skills at getting on-base have been quite good for a while, and his goal this season is to steal 60 bases. A quick look at his minor league numbers shows that he was a much better thief there than in the majors.

Let’s see if new manager Trey Hillman gives him the green light more often that Buddy Bell did.

Starting Pitchers
Gil Meche
Zack Greinke
Brian Bannister
John Bale
Brett Tomko

Pitchers always seem to have more questions than answers going into the season.

Can Meche keep up his solid stuff? Can Grienke stay sane? Will Bannister stave off regression to the mean? Who is John Bale? Why is Brett Tomko being given $3 million to make my stomach churn every fifth day?

Relief Pitchers
Joakim Soria – Closer
Jimmy Gobble
Ron Mahay
Leo Nunez
Ramon Ramirez
Yasuhiko Yabuta

A few new faces in the bullpen this season. A few familiar culprits.

Soria looks like another Mariano Rivera in the making. Gobble should be a solid LOOGY again. Ron Mahay will be… let’s just say interesting. Nunez and Ramirez both bring the heat, and Yabuta is a Japanese import likely to fall somewhere between Dice-K and the crappy version of Hideo Nomo (who we happen to have on “the DL” right now… wink, wink-nudge, nudge).


I’ve seen 76 wins thrown about most often as the realistic best-case scenario for this year’s Royals squad. A definite improvement over last year. Still not quite ready to compete with the big boys in the division.

As I am an eternal optimist, I think I’ll push my predicted finish to 86 wins. In contention for a large part of the year, but falling just short of the postseason in a very competitive American League Central.

It’s easy to forget that the Royals played very competitive baseball for a long stretch last season. Using Poznanski-like math skills, I showed at the halfway point of the season how the team had a chance to win as many as 79 games.

Of course, the team faltered late in the year and finished five games off of their Pythagorean record of 74 wins. I say that if the team’s true talent level last year was that of a 74 win team, and the core players are back and almost all are expected to show improvement, then a .500 record is no great stretch of the imagination.

Let’s play ball!


Kansas City Royals Sign Jose Guillen

If published reports are to be believed, the Kansas City Royals have decided to continue the fine pharmaceutical heritage that began with Ewing Kauffman by signing outfielder Jose Guillen to a 3-year, $36 million deal on Tuesday.

The potential steroid suspension aside, are the Royals spending David Glass’s new found money wisely? How about some charts!

Below are two charts showing Guillen’s On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Average (SLG) by age. The difference between the top chart and the bottom chart is that Guillen’s partial years have been removed (in ’99, ’01, ’02 and ’06, Jose appeared in fewer than 100 games for the season).

By removing the partial seasons, we can see that the Dominican fellow has followed a pretty standard career path, peaking at age 27-28 in the power department while maintaining some positive growth in the ability to get on base.

Walks as a percentage of plate appearances:

Again, Guillen has shown an improved eye at the plate over the course of his career.

Extra base hits as a percentage of hits and plate appearances:

Here is where it gets sketchy for the Royals. At first glance, Guillen appears to have a somewhat erratic ability to hit the ball hard when he makes contact, but overall looks like he is trending upward.

However, when you remove the years most likely to be affected by small sample size blips, he begins to look like any typical player. In terms of full-season ability, Guillen’s power potential seems to have peaked when he was 27.

The Royals have just “fixed” their middle order power problem with a guy who looks to be on the decline in terms of hurting the baseball over the next three years.

The good news is that while Guillen now becomes the highest-paid player in team history, his contract is not exorbitant in the current market. Three years is a short enough time frame that Kansas City can cut their losses if Guillen fails to find rejuvenation in the fountains at Kauffman stadium.

That said, I’d still rather see them go after Miguel Cabrera.


Braves GM John Schuerholz Retiring

An era is ending for the Braves. John Schuerholz is stepping down. The team’s venerable general manager will announce this afternoon that he’s resigning after 17 seasons with the Braves, and handing over the reins to top assistant Frank Wren, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Manager Bobby Cox is returning for at least one more season, but his longtime boss is not.

Schuerholz, 67, has been a baseball GM for 26 seasons with Kansas City and Atlanta, and had the longest tenure among major league GMs. He presided over the Braves’ run of 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005, an unprecedented run in North American major professional sports. The only disappointment of the era was that the Braves won just a single World Series title (1995) in those 14 postseason trips. He also won a World Series ring with Kansas City in 1985. The Braves missed the playoffs in 2006 and again this year, finishing in third place in the National League East division standings both of those seasons.

Cox, 66, has said he intends to return at least for the 2008 season, which would his 27th as a major league manager and 23rd with the Braves. He indicated this month that he might also manage beyond next season.

Wren, 49, has been a Braves assistant GM for seven seasons, after serving as Baltimore Orioles GM in 1999 and as Florida Marlins assistant GM for eight seasons through 1998.

Jeff Quinton notes (via IM) that Scheurholz is from Baltimore and that there’s an opening there. But I can’t imagine he’d want to start over with a much less promising team at this stage of his career.


Umpires vs. technology

As I’ve said before, umpires need help. And I refer you to a piece I wrote over a year ago on this very same subject. Baseball (and sports in general) is far behind the times in utilizing modern technology where it can, specifically to improve officiating.

I’ve thought about this topic for a long time. I think Questec is a good thing. (For those who dont know, it’s a computerized system that measures ball & strikes, and compares it to what the umpire actually called.)

One of the biggest and most frustrating problems in pro sports are bad calls by umps/refs. What I’d like to see is the steady removal of the so-called ‘human error’ from sports; I’ll talk specifically about baseball:

When umps are unsure when a ball is fair or foul down the line, why can’t a system be installed like they use in tennis? They could use technology to determine whether balls are just that, fair or foul.

Also, on disputed HRs, they must use instant replay. There’s no other fair way. An ump should be stationed in the park somewhere near a TV, like in the NHL. He should have the final word, since he’ll have access to the replay.

On balls and strikes, why not use Questec or ESPN’s ‘K-Zone’ (for example) to actually call the strikes? The only problem is that strike zone height is different for every hitter, but width is exactly the same, 17 inches (the width of homeplate). Rickey Henderson had a smaller up/down zone because he was short and crouched, and Richie Sexson’s up/down zone is bigger because he’s 6’8″. But their side-to-side zone is exactly the same. Therefore, computers/technology should be used to tell an umpire when a ball hits the plate or just misses. For the time being, umps will still need to call the up/down pitches (because every hitter is different), but will know for sure when a pitch crosses the corner or not. Or an ump could be assigned to determine the upper limit of each hitter’s strike zone dependent on his stance.

It also sucks when a pitcher throws a strike, but it’s not where he meant to throw it, the catcher has to reach for it, so the ump automatically calls it a ball. It doesn’t matter where the pitcher MEANT to throw the ball, it only matters whether it’s a strike or a ball.

For out/safe calls, when the closest ump feels the play is too close to call, he could send it to the ‘booth ump.’ TV technology is such today that it could be done in 30-60 seconds. Or (ala the NFL) managers should have two replays to use per game.

These steps would help legitimize the officiating and would make for fewer arguments from players and managers. You can’t argue with Questec strikes – it’s 100% consistent and 0% prejudiced (for veterans, or against rookies). Instant replay would also ensure the right call, and isn’t that worth waiting (at most) 60 seconds for – especially in close and/or playoff games?


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