Sports Outside the Beltway

Cleveland Indians name Manny Acta to be manager

He replaces Eric Wedge who was let go at the end of the 2009 season. From AP-

The Cleveland Indians have hired Manny Acta as their manager.

Acta signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2013, team spokesman Bart Swain said Sunday. Additional terms were not disclosed.

Acta was fired by the Washington Nationals in July.

The Indians chose him after a second round of interviews over former New York Mets manager and ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine and Indians Triple-A manager Torey Lovullo.

Acta had a .385 winning percentage while leading Washington. That is pretty awful, but the Nationals are a woeful team. So I think it is safe to say Acta will do better in Cleveland.


Washington Nationals P Jordan Zimmermann out for the year

The bad news keeps piling up for the worst team in the major leagues.

Jordan Zimmermann will have reconstructive elbow surgery next week, leaving the Washington Nationals without their top pitching prospect for at least a year.

Manager Jim Riggleman said the normal recovery period is 12 to 18 months, a timetable that could keep the 23-year-old Zimmermann out until the 2011 season.

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Zimmermann is “as upbeat as you can be” about the surgery, which will be performed on his right elbow by Tommy John expert Dr. Lewis Yocum next Wednesday in California.


Rizzo said the loss of Zimmermann is only a temporary setback to a promising career.

“We foresee a long, successful career for him,” Rizzo said.

Zimmermann was 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts for Washington in his first season above Double-A. He was considered a cornerstone of the team’s long-term rotation.

You have to expect Nats management to spin this as just a temporary setback. In all honesty, this is most likely a disaster for both Zimmerman and the Nationals. Yes pitchers have come back from ‘Tommy John’ surgery but most don’t.

Did the Nationals in an effort to improve their fortunes move Zimmermann along too quickly. We will never know for sure, but I will the statement Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver once made. “The best place for a young pitcher is long relief.”


Aaron Boone back playing minor league baseball 5 months after having heart surgery

He hopes to be back playing in the major leagues before the 2009 season is completed. From AP-

Aaron Boone is back playing baseball, appearing in a minor league game in Texas less than five months after open-heart surgery.

Boone batted second Monday night for the Corpus Christi Hooks, a Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. He swung at the first pitch and popped up to the first baseman in foul territory. Boone played third base against Midland and was hitless in two at-bats before leaving the game.

“It felt good to get out there and play in a real game,” Boone told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I felt good physically. I always have nerves whether it’s a spring training game or my first game in Corpus.

“I was excited tonight. I think it went really well. I had a couple of balls come my way and got to face pitching for the first time in a long, long time. A little overwhelming, but a necessary step on the way back.”

The 36-year-old Boone had an operation in late March because of a congenital defect in his aortic valve.

Boone is perhaps best remembered for his game 7 winning homerun in the 2003 ALCS. He was a favorite player of mine during the 2001 Star Tournament season. I platooned him with Eric Chavez at both the Fort Lauderdale and Fall Orlando tournaments where I each finished 2nd.

It sounds as if Boone was born with a bicuspid heart valve and had AVR(Aortic Valve replacement) surgery. Something I have more than a passing familiarity with. I had AVR performed on me one year ago this week. Boone is stronger than me, I don’t know if I would be swinging a baseball bat so soon. I wish him well in his recovery and comeback.


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.


Washington Nationals fire Manager Manny Acta

Former Chicago Cub, Seattle Mariner, and San Diego Padre Manager Jim Riggleman has been named interim manager. From AP-

Manny Acta is out, and Jim Riggleman is in as the Washington Nationals manager.

The Nationals made the announcement Monday morning, confirming what took place Sunday night after the team returned from a road trip. Acta was fired with a 26-61 record, the worst in the baseball, and bench coach Riggleman was chosen the interim replacement.

Riggleman has managed the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, compiling a 522-652 record over nine seasons.

Acta joins Colorado’s Clint Hurdle and Arizona’s Bob Melvin as major league managers who have been fired this season.

“We feel that the team has underacheived,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said during a news conference. “We feel we have a better ballclub that has been shown on the field.”

LOL, underacheived? I think Mike Rizzo will be the next National employee to be looking for a new job. This team is team is horrible and other than 3B Ryan Zimmerman, has few quality ballplayers. Acta had the fourth worst winning percentage of any manager who was at the helm for at least 350 games. Considering the talent he had to deal with, Acta could have done a whole lot worse.


Error- Tampa Bay Rays beat Washington 4-3

The Nationals keep finding ways to lose. From AP-

Even though he’s batting less than .200, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to show faith in Gabe Kapler.

That loyalty paid Friday night.

One pitch after an error prolonged his at-bat, the slumping Kapler hit a pinch-hit home run that snapped an eighth-inning tie and gave the AL champions a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Stuck in a 3-for-31 slide that dropped his batting average to .173, Kapler went deep against Ron Villone (3-2) after first baseman Nick Johnson dropped a pop foul that would have been the third out.

“I was screaming at the ball and I think it heard me and skipped off Nick’s glove,” Kapler said. “I guess I really wanted that opportunity.”

Kapler primarily plays against left-handed pitchers and said he’s extremely appreciative that manager Joe Maddon continues to pencil him into the lineup and bring him off the bench against lefties.

“One of the things I’m most impressed with this season is the fact I’ve struggled fairly significantly, and every time there’s a lefty out there, I get the chance to start,” Kapler said. “It tells me he believes I can get the job done.”

Villone was on his way to an easy one-two-three eighth when Johnson settled under Kapler’s pop foul. He made a slight adjustment at the last moment, but couldn’t hold onto the ball.

“I just missed it. Plain and simple,” Johnson said. “Saw it the whole way, just didn’t catch it.”

With the win the Rays are now .500 barely. Unless Tampa gets it into gear soon, they won’t defend as American League champions.


Washington Nationals make Stephen Strasburg first pick in Baseball’s amateur draft

The worst team in major league baseball is expected to shell out big bucks to the fireballing righthander out of San Diego State. From AP-

The Washington Nationals selected pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first pick in baseball’s amateur draft Tuesday night.

Considered one of the most talented prospects in the event’s 45-year history, Strasburg went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA this season for San Diego State, leading the Aztecs to their first postseason berth since 1991.

Featuring a fastball that has been clocked at 102 mph, Strasburg leads Division I pitchers with 195 strikeouts in 109 innings. He was the only amateur on the U.S. Olympic baseball team that won a bronze medal in Beijing last summer.

“We are thrilled to select someone with the special talents that Stephen possesses,” Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “Those talents have long been on our radar, and Stephen’s domination at San Diego State and vast experiences gained with Team USA last summer have done nothing to change our thoughts about his abilities.”

Signing the right-hander could be a challenge for the Nationals, however, because agent Scott Boras is sure to seek a record contract.

With the second pick, the Seattle Mariners chose North Carolina slugger Dustin Ackley, who has batted at least .400 for three consecutive seasons.

So what can we expect from Strasburg. Based on history, number #1 picks

Have about a 40% chance of being a All-Star during their major league careers
None have ever made it to the baseball Hall of Fame. Though two still active number one picks, Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez have the credentials to make it.
Only two were ever named rookie of the year.(Darryl Strawberry and Bob Horner)

There have been good to very good players picked first overall, Strawberry and Horner(when he was healthy), BJ Surhoff, Shawn Dunston, Rick Monday, Jeff Burroughs, Andy Benes, and Floyd Bannister to name a few. There have been marginal major leaguers(Mike Ivie, Danny Goodwin, Paul Wilsonetc.) and others who didn’t pan out at all.(Steve Chilcott, Al Chambers, Brien Taylor etc) How will Strasberg fit in? I think he could be another David Clyde. Rushed to the major leagues by a bad team seeking to keep fans coming to the ballpark. The pitcher does all right to good for a short time, then his arm falls off. It will be at least a few years before we know if I’m right or not.


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.


Ryan Zimmerman hits successfully for the 27th straight game

The hitting streak by the Washington National 3rd baseman marks the longest by a player at that position since a 28 game streak by Wade Boggs in 1985. From AP-

Ryan Zimmerman homered to extended his hitting streak to 27 games. Adam Dunn hit one out of the park for the second night in a row.

And the Arizona Diamondbacks squandered one opportunity after another.

The play that everyone was talking about after Washington’s 2-1 victory over Arizona Saturday night, though, was made by Nationals right fielder Austin Kearns and catcher Jesus Flores.

“Unbelievable,” Washington starter John Lannan said. “I’ve never seen that happen before.”

With the Nationals leading 1-0 and the bases loaded with one out in the seventh inning, Arizona’s Josh Whitesell lined what looked like a base hit just in front of Kearns. Felipe Lopez, the runner at third, had to hold close to the base in case the ball was caught, and Kearns rifled a throw home.

Flores stretched out like a first baseman to make the grab for the force out.

“That was the play of the game, actually,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “It was just a tremendous play.”

I have seen a similar play in high school ball but can’t remember one at the MLB level.

Zimmerman remains one of the few assets the Nationals have. He is hitting .338 for the year and has 6 homeruns for the season so far. Washington in spite of winning 5 of their last six, are 10-18 for the season so far. I expect the Nationals to lose 95 or more games this year.

Yesterday’s game marked the 2nd time AJ Hinch was the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was appointed to replace the fired Bob Melvin.

After firing Bob Melvin, the Arizona Diamondbacks have turned their fortunes over to a 34-year-old former catcher with no experience as a manager.

A.J. Hinch was introduced as Melvin’s replacement as manager Friday at a news conference, where general manager Josh Byrnes acknowledged the hiring was “unconventional.”

“He brings unique leadership and perspective to the job,” Byrnes said. “We’re not here to reinvent the wheel, but to change the nature of the job a little bit? OK, we’ll do that. A.J.’s a leader. He connects with people. He gets things done.”

Hinch, who has a degree in psychology from Stanford, was in his fourth season as the Diamondbacks’ director of player development. He becomes the youngest manager in the majors since Eric Wedge was hired by Cleveland in October of 2002.

So how is the unconventional hiree doing? Arizona is 0-2 since giving Melvin. So much for fast turnarounds. I only expect Arizona to be moderately more successful this year than Washington is.


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