Sports Outside the Beltway

Randy Johnson wins his 300th game

The Big Unit is headed to Cooperstown. From AP-

Randy Johnson had to wait a while for his shot at 300 wins. The crowd was small, and the weather was wet. His performance, however, was more than worthy of the occasion.

The Big Unit hit the big number on Thursday, becoming the 24th pitcher to reach one of baseball’s most revered milestones. Johnson tossed two-hit ball over six innings, leading the San Francisco Giants to a 5-1 victory over the Washington Nationals in the first game of a doubleheader.

Johnson allowed only an unearned run and threw 50 of his 78 pitches for strikes. He faced four batters above the minimum and got spotless relief from his bullpen.

He left leading 2-1 and nearly wound up with a no-decision. The Nationals loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but Adam Dunn was called out on strikes with a full count on a knee-high fastball from reliever Brian Wilson.

Some of the few thousand fans who witnessed Johnson’s victory — the Nationals have trouble drawing a crowd for anything these days — chanted “Randy! Randy!” in the bottom of the ninth. When the game was over, he gave hugs to teenage son Tanner, who served as a Giants batboy, as well as all of his teammates. Johnson then tipped his hat to the cheering crowd before entering the dugout.

Johnson is one of six lefthanders to notch 300 wins. Another member of that exclusive company, Tom Glavine, was just released yesterday. For pure dominance, Johnson is the greatest lefty of all time. For consistency, Warren Spahn gets the nod.

Without a 300th win, there was little doubt Johnson would make the Hall of Fame eventually. He is arguably the best pitcher of his era, and that should have been good enough in baseball writer’s eyes.


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.


Cleveland Indians score 14 runs in one inning

It was in a game this afternoon against the New York Yankees. From AP-

NEW YORK — The Cleveland Indians set the bar for Yankee Stadium’s new record book Saturday, scoring 14 runs in the second inning of a 22-4 victory.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit a grand slam and an RBI single in the second as the Indians chased struggling starter Chien-Ming Wang and set several marks that could stand for a while at New York’s swanky new home.

Mark DeRosa and Shin Soo-Choo each hit three-run homers, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez had solo shots and manager Eric Wedge earned his 500th victory. Jhonny Peralta had three hits and two RBIs after missing Friday’s 6-5 loss with a strained left elbow.


It was the most runs for the Indians since they beat New York 22-0 on Aug. 31, 2004, at the old Yankee Stadium. The 22 runs also tied the Yankees’ record for most allowed in a home game.

The 14 runs and 13 hits by the Indians in the second were the most allowed by the Yankees in an inning.

I can’t recall watching a professional baseball game where 10 runs scored in a inning.


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.


Former NY Yankee catcher Johnny Blanchard dead at 76

He was not much of a defensive player but because of his good hitting did a good job filling in for the Yankees at catcher, first base, left fielder, and as a pinch hitter. RIP.

Johnny Blanchard, who played in five consecutive World Series for the New York Yankees in the early 1960s, died Wednesday of a heart attack in Minnesota. He was 76.

A key player off the bench when the Yankees won five AL pennants from 1960-64, Blanchard batted .345 (10-for-29) in the World Series overall and hit a pair of home runs as New York defeated Cincinnati in the 1961 Series.

“This is a sad day,” Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said. “Johnny was a good friend and a great teammate. He was proud of being a Yankee and always fun to be around. We’ll miss him.”

Blanchard was among the fan favorites at the Yankees’ fantasy camps, held twice a year at the team’s spring training complex.

“Johnny was a funny guy and a great storyteller,” former Yankees pitcher Bob Turley said. “He was always happy. Everybody loved him and loved being around him.”

Blanchard was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and made his major league debut four years later at 22. He is one of four players in Yankees history to homer in four consecutive at-bats, accomplishing the feat over three games from July 21-26, 1961.

“He would do anything it took to help win a ballgame,” said Ralph Houk, who managed the Yankees from 1961-63. “Johnny was a true Yankee, there’s no doubt about that.”


Former MLB Dock Ellis dead at 63

I remember Ellis from his days pitching with the Pirates. He was a good pitcher, an excellent one in 1971. The story of his pitching a no-hitter while on LSD just doesn’t sound credible. The effect of that drug on people can make even simple activities impossible. RIP.


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.


MLB Pitcher Mike Mussina retires

He finished with 270 career wins. From Espn-

New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina announced his retirement Thursday, becoming the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1967 to win 20 games or more in the final season of his career.

Mussina, who turns 40 next month, spent the last eight seasons with the Yankees after pitching for the Baltimore Orioles for the first 10 years of his career.

His 270 wins rank second among all active right-handers, behind only Greg Maddux.

In the final start of his career, he pitched six shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox to finish off the first 20-win season of his career.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s just the fifth pitcher since 1900 to win 20 games or more in the final season of his career — and the first since Koufax. He’s the only pitcher in that group to win his 20th game in his final start.

Will Mussina get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame one day? He falls into a gray area, pitchers with similar win totals- Ferguson Jenkins, Robin Roberts, Red Ruffing, Burleigh Grimes are in the Hall. Jim Kaat, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, are not.I am betting Mussina won’t make it. He did however go out on a high note. How many HOF pitchers have held on far past their glory days? Quite a few. Here is one example.


Former NY Yankees shortstop, outfielder Tommy Tresh dead at 71

He was the 1962 Rookie of the Year and the son of a former Major leaguer. Tresh might have been more of a household name if the bottom didn’t fall out of the New York Yankees in the mid-sixties. RIP.


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