Sports Outside the Beltway

Catcher Mike Piazza announces his retirement

He was one of the best hitting catchers of all-time. From AP-

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Mike Piazza is retiring from baseball following a 16-season career in which he became one of the top-hitting catchers in history.

“After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it was time to start a new chapter in my life,” he said in a statement released Tuesday by his agent, Dan Lozano. “It has been an amazing journey … So today, I walk away with no regrets.

“I knew this day was coming and over the last two years. I started to make my peace with it. I gave it my all and left everything on the field.”

The 39-year-old Piazza batted .275 with eight homers and 44 RBIs as a designated hitter for Oakland last season, became a free agent and did not re-sign. He was not available to discuss his decision, according to Josh Goldberg, a spokesman for Lozano.

Taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft, Piazza became a 12-time All-Star, making the NL team 10 consecutive times starting in 1993.

“He was one of those hitters who could change the game with one swing. He was certainly the greatest-hitting catcher of our time, and arguably of all time,” said Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, Piazza’s former teammate on the New York Mets.

Piazza finished with a .308 career average, 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs for the Dodgers (1992-98), Florida (1998), Mets (1998-05), San Diego (2006) and Oakland (2007).

Mike Piazza was one of the all-time steals in the amateur draft. In a time when the Dodgers kept wasting first round picks on pitchers who kept not making the ML roster(Anyone remember Bill Bene, Dennis Livingston, or Dan Opperman? Didn’t think so?), the Dodgers made up with it partially with their selection of Piazza.

Piazza is a certain Hall of Famer. If his glove work had been better, he’d be one of the top five catchers all-time. Still he makes the top ten. Good luck in retirement Mike.


Chan Ho Park on the comeback trail

The South Korean baseball star is trying to re-establish himself with the Los Angeles Dodgers. From the Chosun Ilbo-

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Park Chan-ho hurled three perfect innings for a personal no-hitter during a spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

Overall, the 35-year-old Park has maintained an immaculate ERA while allowing only two hits and two walks over seven innings in three spring appearances.


Park flies to China on Thursday, where he will start in a friendly game against the San Diego Padres this weekend.

GI at ROK Drop writes-

For the love of God can some one please tell the Chosun Ilbo that pitching three scoreless innings in a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles of all teams is not considered a no hitter.

Yes three innings is not a no-hitter. What’s this friendly game nonsense may I add? I lived in So. California for two years in the 1980′s. There was little that was friendly about the Padres-Dodgers rivalry.

I wish Park well. He is a favorite player of mine. Mostly because he was the ace of one of my two Star Tournament(Strat-o-Matic Baseball) Championship teams. My March Orlando 2001 squad romping to victory with a 23-8 record after starting the tournament 0-2. Of the 65 homeruns hit by my team, Chan Ho contributed two.(He has hit two homeruns as a MLB player) Park was a double threat for my team. Note in Strat only pitchers who hit a homerun in real-life can homer unless you get the EXTREMELY RARE roll die of a inside the park homer)


Florida Marlins sign Luis Gonzalez to a one-year deal

Lugo is veteran, and I’ve liked him in the past, but what will the Marlins do with him? From the Miami Herald-

The Marlins and Gonzalez, a 40-year-old outfielder, have agreed on a one-year contract that will pay Gonzalez $2 million. The contract contains incentive bonuses, ones based on plate appearances, that could raise the total to as much as $3 million.

What is uncertain is how the Marlins intend to use Gonzalez, who has spent most of his 18 seasons in the major leagues playing left field, a position that belongs to Josh Willingham.

But Willingham has been bothered by lower-back problems, which caused him to spend the end of last season on the bench, and the Marlins could be looking at Gonzalez as backup insurance.

Gonzalez’s agent, Gregg Clifton, said the Marlins told him their plans are to use Gonzalez in the outfield and at first base, but did not guarantee a starting job. Gonzalez has played just five of his 2,455 games in the majors at first base, where Mike Jacobs appears set to return.

”He’s happy to do whatever it is to help the team,” Clifton said.

That has to be seen yet. Many veterans can’t handle a smaller role on a team. Especially one that looks not to be very good. Maybe Gonzalez will be different, but I see his acquisition as being of little help to the 2008 Marlins.


MLB Catcher Mike Lieberthal retires

The Dodgers recently declined to pick up the option they had on the long-time catcher. From AP-

LOS ANGELES — Catcher Mike Lieberthal has decided to retire after a 14-year big league career with the Phillies and Dodgers.

“I’m done,” Lieberthal said on Saturday. “I decided a couple weeks after the season ended. If [the Dodgers] had picked up my option, I probably would have played one more year. But I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

The 36-year-old Lieberthal, who grew up in nearby Westlake Village, played his first 13 seasons with Philadelphia before signing with the Dodgers last winter. He hit .274 with 150 homers and played in two All-Star games.

The Dodgers declined the option they had on Lieberthal for the upcoming season. Lieberthal played in 38 games last season as a backup to Russell Martin, hitting .234 in 77 at-bats.

Mike was a good ML catcher for over 10 years. My best memory of him isn’t related to the real game, but to the Strat-O-Matic tournaments I used to play in. His home run for me at the 2002 Worlds in a must win game allowed me to make it to that year’s Quarter-finals. Thanks for getting me there Mike, and good luck in retirement.


Former Brooklyn Dodger Johnny Podres dead at 75

He was the winning pitcher in game 7 of the 1955 World Series. That was the year the Bums finally won it all after 5 postseason losses to the Yankees in the previous 14 years. Afterwards Podres stayed around MLB for almost another 14 years as a player, and more as a pitching coach. RIP.

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – Johnny Podres, who pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only World Series title in 1955, died Sunday at the age of 75.

A spokesman for Glens Falls Hospital confirmed Podres’ death but said he didn’t know any details.

The left-hander was picked for four All-Star games and was the first Most Valuable Player in World Series history. He became a hero to every baseball fan in Brooklyn when the Dodgers ended decades of frustration by beating the Yankees to win the World Series.

It was the first time a team had won a best-of-seven World Series after losing the first two games, and it was Brooklyn’s only World Series victory. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

The Dodgers lost the first two games of at Yankee Stadium, then the Dodgers won the third 8-3 at Ebbets Field. Podres, going the distance on his 23rd birthday, scattered seven hits.

In the climactic seventh game, at Yankee Stadium, Podres shut out New York 2-0 on eight hits, relying on his fastball and a deceptive changeup.

As the story goes, Podres told his teammates to get him just one run and the Dodgers would win Game 7. They got him two, and the franchise celebrated its first and only championship while playing in Brooklyn.

Years later, Podres was uncertain he made such a brash statement.

“I don’t know if I said it or not. That’s what they said I said,” a grinning Podres recalled in 2005. “Probably young and dumb — something like that would haunt you your whole life. … You put on a big league uniform, you’ve got to think you’re pretty good.”

Tommy Byrne, the losing pitcher in that game, died Dec. 20.

Podres’ career spanned 15 years with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. He retired in 1969 at age 36 with a lifetime record of 148-116.


Former MLB player Jim Leyritz charged with DUI manslaughter

He is charged with killing a woman in Broward County Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE – Jim Leyritz, the former Major League Baseball player known as “The King,” was arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter Friday morning following an accident that killed another driver, police said.

Leyritz, 44, was traveling north-bound on Southwest Seventh Avenue when he passed a red light and crashed with another car around 3:30 a.m., said Fort Lauderdale police spokeswoman Kathy Collins.

The accident happened at the intersection of Southwest Second Street and Seventh Avenue. A 30-year-old woman traveling west-bound on Second Street was ejected from her car, Collins said.

She was pronounced dead at Broward General Medical Center.

Leyritz was charged with manslaughter and DUI property damage after an investigation, Collins said.

Leyritz played with the New York Yankees in the ’90s, earning his nickname after hitting the last home run in Game 4 of the 1999 World Series.

If found guilty and sent to jail, it will be a shame will Leyritz’s famous homer gets blotted out by one foolish night of excess.


Torre Takes Mattingly, Bowa to Dodgers

Joe Torre was officially announced as the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers today and he’s bringing Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa over with him from the New York Yankees.

Paying tribute to one of baseball’s most successful franchises, Joe Torre was front and center for his introduction as the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His news conference Monday was held in center field at Dodger Stadium to accommodate the overload of media, a first according to team spokesman Josh Rawitch. Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully began the news conference attended by team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti.

“Wow! This has been wild here. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for my wife Ali and me,” Torre said. “You say goodbye to one prestigious organization and you say hello to another prestigious organization.”

Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa are joining Torre, he announced in his introductory remarks. Mattingly may be the team’s hitting coach, according to a source cited by 1050 ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand. Mattingly was the Yankees’ bench coach under Torre last season. He was the hitting coach for three seasons before that.

Bowa told Marchand that he’ll be with the Dodgers, either as Torre’s bench coach or third base coach. He was the Yankees’ third-base coach last season. Bowa had been rumored to be ticketed for a coaching position with the Seattle Mariners.

It’s a good crew. Then again, Torre has been an average manager in recent years despite the richest payroll in American team sports. We’ll see if he can win World Series rings without an incredible array of young pitching and hitting talent like he had in his Yankees heyday.


Los Angeles Dodgers hire Joe Torre to be Manager

It took the former Yankee, Met, Brave and Cardinal manager two weeks to find work again.

LOS ANGELES – Joe Torre grew up in Brooklyn rooting against the Dodgers. Now, a half-century after they moved west, he’s their manager. Torre was hired by Los Angeles to succeed Grady Little on Thursday, taking the job two weeks after walking away from the New York Yankees.

The winningest manager in postseason history, Torre moved from one storied franchise to another, agreeing to a three-year, $13 million contract. He becomes the Dodgers’ eighth manager since they left his hometown, where he rooted for the rival New York Giants.

The 67-year-old Torre will be introduced at a news conference Monday at Dodger Stadium. Little resigned Tuesday after completing two seasons of a three-year deal.

Torre joins the Dodgers for their 50th anniversary season in Los Angeles, hoping to spur October success.

Favored to win the NL West this year, the Dodgers finished fourth. They have only one playoff victory since winning the 1988 World Series under Tom Lasorda.

Torre guided the Yankees to four World Series championships from 1996-2000, and they made the playoffs in all 12 years he managed them. New York lost to Cleveland last month, eliminated in the first round for the third straight year.

The Dodgers are hoping Torre can bring success to Los Angeles. Contrary to popular opinion, managers aren’t miracle workers. Some teams and managers have gotten lucky, the team I grew up a fan of did almost 40 years ago. That’s the exception not the rule.

The Dodgers don’t have the talent IMHO to be a serious contender. Torre will retire before the Dodgers win another World Series.

I also suspect the Yankees are due for a correction. Joe Girardi(Don’t get me wrong, I liked Girardi when he managed the Marlins) isn’t likely to meet the same fate as the Yankees of the mid 60′s and Johnny Keane met, but when all is said and done Don Mattingly may not regret being passed over say three years.

Update- Post updated to add the Braves to teams Torre managed in the past.


Who is your NL MVP?

We still have just under 3 weeks of regular season baseball left to play, it’s not quite football season yet! The National League is totally up for grabs. The Central can be won by any of three teams. The East by the Mets or Phillies. The West by any of four teams. What a race! With all the competition, who is the National League’s MVP? I will list the top candidates and give you my pick for the NL MVP.

David Wright (3B Mets) – Here is the pick that you will most commonly see. Wright is a great option for the NL MVP. He is hitting .316/.411/.544 with a career high 28 homers, 35 doubles, 96 RBI, 98 runs, 31 stolen bases, and a 86/108 BB/K rate. Wright could, and should, win the gold glove at 3B. Wright kept the offense going while Carlos Beltran was out of the lineup due to injury and he has tore it up in the 2nd half (.355/.470/.609 and a 45/35 BB/K rate) with Jose Reyes struggling and hitting .258 since the break. Wright has carried the team on his shoulders but I tend to remember the team carrying him when he struggled at the beginning of the season.

Chase Utley (2B Phillies) – Utley has missed some time due to injury and if not for that missed time I think we would be looking at the NL MVP. He is hitting .338/.417/.565 with 18 homers, 43 doubles, 92 RBI, 86 runs, 9 stolen bases, and a 46/75 BB/K rate. He leads the league in AVG and is second in OBP. He plays a physically demanding postion up the middle and holds his own. The knocks on Utley are that he has a lineup around him and that he his home stats carry his total stats (.384/.458/.643 with 12 of his 18 homers). But imagine where teh Phillies would be if he never got hurt.

Matt Holliday (LF Rockies) – If the Rockies squeek their way into the playoffs this guy could easily win the award. Holliday is hitting .335/.396/.586 with 29 homers, 46 doubles, 5 triples, a league leading 191 hits, a league leading 116 RBI, 100 runs, 11 stolen bases, but a not-to-great BB/K rate of 52/111. Holliday also has improved his defense in left. The knock on Holliday will always be that he plays in Coors but he has hit .306 with 51 RBI on the road this season. If the Rockies miss the playoffs expect Holliday to finish in the 5-8 range in the MVP voting.

Prince Fielder (1B Brewers) – You want power numbers for your MVP? Fielder is your man. He has hit to the tune of .290/.387/.616 with a league leading 44 bombs. He has also driven in 105, scored 96, hit 33 doubles, and has a good BB/K rate for a power hitter at 72/105. The Brew Crew have had a hard time keeping the lead in the Central and Fielder could lose votes for that. He could also lose votes due to the surrounding cast he has in rookie Ryan Braun (tied for 5th in homer with 30 in only 388 at-bats), Corey Hart (hitting .297/.355/.536 and is a 20/20 guy), and J.J. Hardy having a career year at SS with 24 homers. But let’s not forget that Bill Hall is having a down year with only 13 homers and a .258 AVG. And Rickie Weeks has been injured and been sent down to AAA. Fielder is a good option for MVP.

Jimmy Rollins (SS Phillies) – If I had a vote it would go to Rollins. He has been the one constant in the Phillies lineup. While Ryan Howard was out he hit. While Utley was out he hit. While Pat Burrell sucked he hit. While the bullpen was blowing saves. While the bullpen and rotation were injured. While… wait, I think you get my point by now. Overall Rollins is hitting .295/.346/.532 while leading the league in runs scored at 125, triples at 17, at-bats with 633, tied for the lead in extra-base hits at 80, and third in hits with 187. He is second amongst shortstops in homers with 27, tied for the lead in RBI with 82, third in doubles with 35, and third in stolen bases with 30. Like Wright, Rollins should also win a gold-glove if there is any justice in this world. In my opinion defense is way overlooked when it comes to MVP voting and it should factor in. Now, imagine where the Phillies would be without Rollins.

Other notable options:

Albert Pujols (1B Cardinals) – .321/.424/.562 with 30 homers, 31 doubles, 89 RBI, 88 runs, and a ridiculous 90/56 BB/K rate.

Russ Martin (C Dodgers) – .297/.378/.475 with 17 homers, 30 doubles, 21 stolen bases, 81 RBI, 80 runs, and 60/79 BB/K rate.

Chipper Jones (3B Braves) – .330/.416/.598 with 25 homers, 39 doubles, 87 RBI, 93 runs, and a 70/70 BB/K rate.

Eric Byrnes (OF Diamondbacks) – .297/.367/.487 with 21 homers, 28 doubles, 8 triples, 81 RBI, 94 runs, 45 stolen bases, and a 56/89 BB/K rate.


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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