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.


Philadelphia Phillie Lefty Jamie Moyer wins his 250th game

He keeps going at the age of 46. From AP-

Jamie Moyer reached a rare mark for a pitcher, becoming the 44th to win 250 games. The veteran Phillies left-hander would have been just as happy if it was his first.

Moyer went six strong innings to lead the Phillies to their third straight victory, 4-2 over the bumbling Washington Nationals on Sunday.

The 46-year-old Moyer is only the 11th left-hander to join the exclusive 250-win list. And despite his teammates’ postgame champagne toast, Moyer’s words lacked the excitement one might expect after such a rare achievement.

“It’s not about the personal things, I’m more excited about us winning,” Moyer said. “I really haven’t thought about [winning 250]. It takes so much effort to prepare and play. I was taught to play the game as a team, not as an individual. When you play 20-some years, some of these things can happen.”

Moyer has been in the majors for twenty-three seasons and has played for seven different teams. He has owned the Florida Marlins. He is 10-1 against them lifetime.

I doubt Moyer will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after his career is over. Left handers Jim Kaat and Tommy John have more wins and haven’t made it to Cooperstown.


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.


Ken Griffey Jr. signs with Seattle Mariners

He returns to the organization that he started his professional baseball career with. From AP-

Ken Griffey Jr. has decided to return to the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners announced the move Wednesday night. The 39-year-old star’s contract is for one year and believed to be worth $2 million in base salary, plus incentives.

Earlier in the day, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press that an apparent agreement with the Atlanta Braves had fallen through. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Mariners had yet to announce the deal.

Griffey is fifth on baseball’s career home run list with 611.

Atlanta appeared to be Griffey’s choice on Tuesday for the same reason the former Mariners star left Seattle in 2000: geography. The Braves’ spring training camp is about a 20-minute drive from the Griffey family home in Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta is about an hour away by plane.

Griffey asked for a trade from the Mariners in 1999 to be closer to home. He eventually got one just before the 2000 season, to Cincinnati.

Griffey has been increasingly injury prone, but his batting stats remain good. He can draw a walk and hits for power. His batting averages have slipped but the other two compensate. Overall he can help a team, but Seattle is so rotten right now, that Griffey isn’t likely to turn things around He will probably bring some fans to the ballpark though.


Former MLB pitcher Dave Roberts dead at 64

I remember Roberts. He and Clay Kirby were the 1-2 pitching combo for the Padres in their infant years. His 14-17 2.10 ERA year with the 71 Padres was truly outstanding. For the Padres went 61-100 that year.

Roberts was a journeyman but one able to win over 100 ML games. Which according to wikipedia, makes him the 4th winningest Jewish pitcher in baseball history. He also swung a mean bat for a pitcher as seen in .194 career batting average, 7 career homeruns, and .500 Slugging Pct in 1977 for the Chicago Cubs. RIP.


Seattle Mariners name Don Wakamatsu as manager

He beat out seven other candidates for the job. From AP-

SEATTLE – Don Wakamatsu became the first Asian-American manager in major league baseball history when he was hired Wednesday by the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners’ 14th manager, Wakamatsu was bench coach for the Oakland Athletics last season. Before that he spent five years with the Texas Rangers.

“When I started this process, there were some key attributes we were looking for,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. “We wanted energy, a passion and the skills to translate that passion to the players. We wanted leadership, a presence that could help us as we define the ‘Mariners Way’ to win. We wanted someone that both the community and the players could embrace. We wanted someone who sees the big picture and cares about the players and wants to win. Don embodies all of those traits.”

The 45-year-old was among a field of seven candidates interviewed by Zduriencik. None of the seven had previous major league managerial experience. The overwhelming fan favorite was former Seattle second baseman and current Chicago White Sox bench coach Joey Cora.

Will Wakamatsu, who played only 18 games on the ML level as ballplayer back in 1991(And I remember him from Strat-O-Matic baseball) fare any better than the other recent Mariner managers? Seattle lost 101 games last year. I see Wakamatsu as having a lot of work to do.


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.


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?).


Toronto Blue Jays fire Manager John Gibbons, bring back Cito Gaston

Another day, another MLB manager fired. This time a pink slip was issued north of the border.

PITTSBURGH — John Gibbons was fired Friday by the last-place Toronto Blue Jays and replaced by Cito Gaston, who led the team to World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

The Blue Jays began the day 35-39, having lost five straight and 13 of their last 17 games to fall 10½ games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

He is the third major league manager to be fired this week, following Willie Randolph of the New York Mets and John McLaren of the Seattle Mariners.

“The team just wasn’t doing what was expected of it, and maybe changes were needed,” Gibbons said in a conference call. “There was a lot expected this year, we came in riding high and speaking high. And that’s not the results we’re getting now.”

Gibbons, who became manager midway through the 2004 season, had a record of 305-305 with the Blue Jays. His best season was in 2006, when the Blue Jays went 87-75 to finish second in the AL East.

But that 2006 season was also when Gibbons challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight after the infielder wrote on a clubhouse bulletin board “play for yourselves” and the “ship is sinking,” and a month later had a physical altercation with pitcher Ted Lilly in a dugout tunnel following an argument on the mound.

The Jays, who were in Pittsburgh to open a weekend series against the Pirates, also fired three of Gibbons’ coaches — Marty Pevey, Ernie Whitt and Gary Denbo.

The 64-year-old Gaston becomes the Blue Jays’ first two-time manager. He previously managed the team from 1989 to 1997.

As Soccer Dad reminded me this morning, Gaston was very successful as Blue Jay manager after taking over the team in May 1989. Gaston taking Toronto to 4 division titles and two world series appearances. The Blue Jays were World Champs in both 1992 and 1993.

After 1993, the Blue Jays have been generally mediocre. Cito Gaston worked magic in his first takeover of the Blue Jays, I doubt it will happen this time.


Seattle Mariners fire Manager John McLaren

The team has the worst record in baseball at present. From AP-

SEATTLE — John McLaren is the latest member of the Seattle Mariners to get cut loose. He probably won’t be the last.

On the day McLaren was fired as manager, Seattle executives said they agree with franchise cornerstone Ichiro Suzuki that players should also be jettisoned from the team with the worst record in the majors.

After beginning the year with playoff expectations, the Mariners are now in the midst of what appears to be a lost season. They fired general manager Bill Bavasi this week and followed by dismissing McLaren on Thursday.

Bench coach Jim Riggleman was promoted to run the team, starting Friday night in Atlanta. He became Seattle’s fifth manager in six seasons.

It is too early to tell, but the Mariners may have regressed to the franchise’s early days when they were the laughingstock of the American League. Among the Mariner’s worst misadventures in that period, was the hiring of Maury Wills as manager. Despite the disappointment this season, McLaren’s time as manager wasn’t the worst in Mariner history.

Jim Riggleman has managed twice before in the majors, with the Cubs and Padres. Rob Neyer blogged ‘Riggleman probably will be gone after this season unless the Mariners play .600 ball the rest of the way’. And even that might not be enough to save his job. Firing managers in mid-seasons, with the exception of Jack McKeon taking over the Florida Marlins in 2003 as one example, rarely turn things around for a team. Seattle fans are at least a year away from the team being respectable again. If not longer.

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