Sports Outside the Beltway

Washington Nationals Nate Willingham hits 2 Grand Slams in one game

He became the first major leaguer since 2003 to accomplish this feat. From AP-

Josh Willingham put the ball from his second grand slam, inscribed with all the details, into an acrylic cube. His bat was staying in circulation for now, even if the Hall of Fame asked for the lumber.

Life was grand for Josh Willingham on Monday. That’s because Willingham hit two grand slams, becoming just the 13th player in MLB history to do so and the first since 2003.

“No, no way,” he said. “Well, when I break it, I’ll give it to them.”

Willingham hit two grand slams and tied a franchise record with eight RBIs, powering the Washington Nationals to a 14-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.

“That’s the beautiful thing about baseball,” he said. “You come into the game before the game and you never know what could happen.”

Willingham became the 13th player to hit two grand slams in a game and first since Boston’s Bill Mueller hit one from each side of the plate on July 29, 2003, against Texas. Willingham’s eight RBIs were the most in Nationals history and tied the franchise mark, accomplished last by Tim Wallach for Montreal against San Diego in 1990.

Hitting two Grand Slams in one game has only been done 13 times in MLB history. Incredibly, up till 1999 the only National League player to do it was pitcher Tony Cloninger. Fernando Tatis became the first NL non-pitcher.

The Washington Nationals have won only 32 of 99 games this year. Will they win 50 or more games for the season? I think they will but barely.


Milwaukee Brewers release reliever Jorge Julio

This takes place the day after the Florida Marlins shell the veteran righty. From AP-

The Milwaukee Brewers made big changes to their thin bullpen on Tuesday.

One day after reliever Jorge Julio allowed five runs while facing six batters in the sixth inning of Milwaukee’s 7-4 loss to the Florida Marlins, the Brewers released the right-hander.

Julio entered Monday night’s game in Miami with Milwaukee leading 4-2. He gave up two hits, hit two batters, walked one and another reached on an error. Signed to a one-year, $950,000 deal in the offseason, Julio was let go Tuesday after going 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA in 15 appearances.

The Brewers called up right-hander Mike Burns from Triple-A Nashville. Burns was 6-2 with a 2.98 ERA for the Sounds.

Milwaukee’s manager says the bullpen is thin. Which it is, particularly after David Riske was lost for the season after elbow surgery.

Julio, who has played for eight ML teams since 2001, throws very hard. Something baseball managers like. I expect a ninth team to take a chance on him before the 2009 season is over. Perhaps even by the 4th of July.


NY Met Gary Sheffield hits 500th homer of his career

He became the 25th player in baseball history to reach that milestone. From AP-

Gary Sheffield crossed home plate and thrust his arms in the air after unleashing his 500th homer with another vicious swing, and then the surly slugger was humbled by the site of his new Mets teammates pouring out of the dugout.

Sheffield was greeted with hugs and high fives after becoming the 25th player to reach the milestone with a tying homer in the seventh inning Friday. The party switched focus in the bottom of the ninth when Luis Castillo hit a two-out, run-scoring single to give the Mets a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I was so excited that, you know, when I looked over to the dugout, those were the guys,” said Sheffield, who signed with New York on April 4 after being released by Detroit four days earlier. “I appreciate every one of those guys. They’ve been very special to me.”

Last night’s homer came against the franchise Sheffield started his career with. He was drafted by Milwaukee in 1986.

Should Sheffield be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame one day? Besides his home runs, he has a career .292 batting average but more impressively a .394 career on base percentage. There is no question, Sheffield has been an offensive machine for two decades. The case against his induction is fairly strong. Sheffield has been a defensive liability his entire career, has had behavioral and discipline problems on and off the field, and as a result traveled extensively. Not too many HOFers have played for eight teams in their career.

Tim Kurkjian of ESPN writes-

Sheffield was not named in the Mitchell report, but in his testimony before a grand jury in the BALCO case in 2003, he acknowledged using “the cream” and “the clear,” but said he didn’t know they were steroids at the time. Still, that admission raises questions about steroid use even though he has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. From 1988-98, he had two 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons. From 1999-on, which appears to be the height of the steroid era, he had seven straight years of 25 homers, and six of his eight 100-RBI seasons.

Sheffield’s case is a tricky one. He has always played hard, he has often helped his team win, and he has been a middle-of-the-order hitter in the postseason with three different organizations, including a world championship team (the 1997 Marlins). He is not DiMaggio, obviously. He is not Schmidt, Griffey or Yastrzemski. Despite having similar numbers, he is not even close to being Frank Robinson, all things considered.

The marks against him are noticeable and troublesome, but his numbers — especially 500 home runs — are very impressive. His case is debatable, but I believe he’s a Hall of Famer.

His drug use is another factor to weigh for Sheffield. Should all players caught up in that scandal be excluded from the HOF? I don’t have a vote on who goes to Cooperstown, if I did, I don’t know if I would vote for Sheffield.


Detroit Tigers release Designated Hitter Gary Sheffield

Has the veteran of over twenty major league baseball seasons hit the end of the road? From AP-

The Detroit Tigers have released nine-time All-Star Gary Sheffield, who is one home run away from 500 for his career.

Detroit parted ways with the designated hitter Tuesday after a disappointing stay with the Tigers. The team was hopeful Sheffield would be a powerful presence at the plate in the final season of the $28 million, two-year contract extension it gave him after acquiring him from the Yankees for prospects.

But he failed to deliver in large part because he often was injured.

The move comes a day after the Tigers acquired outfielder Josh Anderson from Atlanta, forcing the team to make some tough decisions about its roster a week ahead of opening the season in Toronto.

Sheffield hit .178 in 18 games this spring.

The move was almost certainly made because of Sheffield’s salary. He hit only .225 last year and he’s forty-years-old. An age where most players are out of the game and whose who still remain are in decline. I still think Sheffield will play some more ML baseball and hit over 500 homeruns but I’m skeptical if he’ll be any legitimate help to any team at this stage in his career.


Veteran reliever Salomon Torres announces his retirement

He saved 28 games last year and was still pitching well. From AP-

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Salomon Torres retired Tuesday after 12 major league seasons.

The 36-year-old reliever issued a statement through the team saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and faith.

Torres also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Brewers GM Doug Melvin was very understanding of his decision.

“I had a wonderful experience in Milwaukee but he knows I am serious about it,” Torres told the newspaper.

Torres was 7-5 with a 3.49 ERA and a career-high 28 saves in 71 relief appearances last season. He had a 44-58 career record with a 4.31 ERA and 57 saves for San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.

Torres remains on the roster of the Brewers, who have until Saturday to exercise a $3.75 million option with a $300,000 buyout.

Torres took a pass on a great deal of money, there has to be a good reason. The ‘I want to spend more time with my family’ explanation probably shouldn’t be applied to athletes like it to politicians and coaches. Maybe Torres has some family issues. Good luck in retirement Salomon Torres.


Ken Macha hired to manage Milwaukee Brewers

He will replace interim manager Dale Sveum who took over from Ned Yost barely a month ago.

MILWAUKEE – Ken Macha was hired Thursday as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, taking over from Dale Sveum following the team’s first postseason appearance since 1982.

The 58-year-old Macha, who managed Oakland to a pair of AL West titles, agreed to a two-year contract. He replaces Sveum, who became interim manager when Ned Yost was fired with 12 games left in the regular season.

“It means a tremendous amount to me,” Macha said. “The players are the guys that go out there and win or lose the games for you, and I think the job of a manager and a coach is to get these players as prepared as you possibly can.”

Macha immediately tried to dispel the notion that he lost touch with his players in Oakland, including Jason Kendall, now the Brewers catcher.

“I’ve got a couple things to say about that. No. 1, the job of the manager is really not to be buddies with all the players. You have to make very difficult decisions over the course of the year,” he said. “Sometimes players get a little personal and think it’s personal. It really isn’t.”

Macha led Oakland to a 368-260 record. He was fired two days after the Athletics were swept by Detroit in the 2006 AL championship series, a result that frustrated players.

I don’t think Macha got a fair shake in Oakland. Will he keep the Brew crew in contention? I think we have to wait one more year to see if the team is for real.


Milwaukee Brewers fire Manager Ned Yost

3rd base coach Dale Sveum will take off as Manager. From AP-

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Brewers have fired manager Ned Yost in the midst of a late-season slump that has jeopardized the team’s chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

Third-base coach Dale Sveum will become interim manager for the remainder of the season.

The Brewers have lost seven of their last 10, and share the NL wild-card lead with Philadelphia.

This is a really almost unheard of move for a team with postseason possibilities. It is usually teams playing badly or underpeforming that have their managers fired in September.

Since Sveum has never managed in the majors before, who’s to say he’ll be an improvement on Yost.


Milwaukee Brewers want call overturned and no-hitter given to CC Sabathia

This after a controversial official scorer’s call in Sunday’s game between Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. From AP-

The Milwaukee Brewers want CC Sabathia to be awarded the first retroactive no-hitter in major league history. After Sabathia tossed a 1-hitter on Sunday in which the only hit was an infield single that could have been called an error, the Brewers vowed to send a DVD of the play to Major League Baseball, asking that the call be overturned.

“He accomplished a no-hitter and wasn’t given what he deserved. That should have been a no-hitter,” manager Ned Yost said after the Brewers’ 7-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. “That’s a stinking no-hitter we all got cheated from. I feel horrible for CC.”

There’s nothing the league can do about it officially. According to baseball’s rulebook, only the official scorer may change a judgment scoring call.

If official scorer Bob Webb were to decide to change the call, it would be the first time in major league history a no-hitter was awarded retroactively.

There have been no-hitters taken away retroactively years afterwards. This when MLB redefined what qualifies as a no-hitter. Rain shortened games, and combination no-hit games shouldn’t really count. That’s just my opinion.

What does CC think of what happened

Sabathia accepted the scoring call calmly, blaming himself for LaRoche getting on.

“The ball was still rolling and I probably should have picked it up with my glove. We probably wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Sabathia said. “I think if I pick it up with my glove, I get him.”

I saw the play in question on ESPN. My personal opinion- The call is marginal either way. I don’t think Sabathia would have thrown out the runner if he had gloved the ball.


Yankees sign Sexson

To address their .732 OPS against southpaws, the Yanks signed former Mariner slugger (and I use that word loosely) Richie Sexson to a league minimum contract. At this point, he can’t be worse than Wilson Betemit and will only play against lefties, so it’s a low risk move. And he does hit lefties well: 1.045 OPS this year (albeit in 71 plate appearances) – his career totals aren’t quite so hot: just an .879 OPS vs. southpaws. This presents a frightening scenario, what if Sexson regresses to his career norm? Then the situation is no better off and probably even worse than a righty Wilson Betemit. If that happens, Sexson can always be released, but the damage done will be irreversible.

- The 15 inning All-Star Game received great TV ratings, which will only further empower FOX and MLB that the 8 p.m. start time is perfectly suited. What kid watching on a Tuesday night stays up to 2 a.m.? I understand that 15 innings is an aberration, but even the normal All-Star game lasts until near midnight because of the frequent pitching changes and longer commercial breaks. Not a good formula for future fandom (how’s that for alliteration?).


MLB pitcher Scott Baker strikes out 4 in one inning

The last time this rare pitching feat occured was in 2006. From AP-

MILWAUKEE — Minnesota starter Scott Baker struck out four in the third inning of Sunday’s game with the Milwaukee Brewers, becoming the first Twins pitcher to accomplish the feat.

Baker started the inning by striking out Ryan Braun swinging, then got Prince Fielder to strike out, but the ball bounced far away from catcher Mike Redmond.

That allowed Fielder to easily reach first on the wild pitch. Baker then struck out Russell Branyan and Mike Cameron looking on three pitches apiece to end the inning.

The last pitcher to accomplish four Ks in an inning was Brad Penny on Sept. 23, 2006, for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks.

The famous case of a pitch getting away from a catcher on a strikeout happened in the 1941 World Series. In game 4 a dropped strike three by catcher Mickey Owen on a pitch from Hugh Casey sparked a winning rally for the New York Yankees.

No such infamy for Baker and Redmond. In a year they may be the only living people who remember what they combined to do today.


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