Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Schmidt Happens! But Can It Happen Again?

After a two-year medical ordeal and a blooper-reel first inning that prolonged the agony, Jason Schmidt pitched the Dodgers to victory Monday night.
And who thought that would ever happen again? Surely not I. I figured Schmidt was finished a long time ago, but evidently there’s still a little something left in the tank. He will undoubtedly never be the dominant hurler he once was, but if he can win a few games down the stretch for the Dodgers as their fifth starter, we’ll take it!
If Schmidt can step up, it means the Dodgers may not have to trade for another starting pitcher prior to the trade deadline. Which, in my opinion is a good thing—why should they have to give away the farm for Ray Hallady, when he can then demand a trade after this season? Toronto is trying to rape some poor contender for Hallady, and it’s a joke, I believe. Hasn’t anyone learned from the Barry Zito debacle that pitchers’ are like milk—they can go sour in a millisecond!
Schmidt's first Major League start since June 16, 2007, turned into a 7-5 Dodgers comeback win over the Reds, matching his previous total of Dodgers victories. This one included Manny Ramirez's 537th career home run, moving him past Mickey Mantle and into sole possession of 15th place on the all-time list, and a solo shot by Andre Ethier, his club-high 19th.
In five innings, Schmidt struck out two but was wild enough to walk three and hit one. All three runs were scored in the first inning and he allowed only one batter as far as second base after that.
Manager Joe Torre reiterated after the game what he said before the game, that Schmidt figures to remain in the rotation at least for another start.
"The consideration is to send him back out there again," said Torre.
Schmidt made 91 pitches against the Reds, none faster than 89 mph, most of his fastballs hovering around 87 according to MLB.com's pitch tracker (the readings on the Dodger Stadium radar gun were erratic all night).
Yet, Schmidt said the decreased velocity is only partly the result of two operations on a 36-year-old shoulder, but also his intentional adjustment to the mysterious workings of his body.
"If I aired it out from pitch one to 100, I could get to 91 or 92, but when I try to throw harder even a little bit, I can't control it," Schmidt said. "So, I have to pitch like it's an easy bullpen [session]. I don't like doing it that way, but it's the only way that works and I've been getting people out during the rehab like that and I'm living with it.
"Winning tonight is very exciting. But it's still a little frustrating knowing what I used to be able to do. I feel like I'm kind of handicapped. I want to challenge hitters with every pitch. That was my intimidation before, that I could blow it by anybody, and it doesn't work that way anymore. I was a bull in a china shop. Now I have to be cool and collected, throwing breaking balls with two strikes when I used to throw fastballs. It's like night and day."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yo, Meathead!

Some musings at the All-Star break.…

(Sorry, Ed, but I was too upset at the Mets' freefall to pick my own set of All-Stars!)

Let’s start with the All-Star Game itself. I almost never watch the All-Star Game. I think the last time I saw the game from start to finish must have been at least ten years ago. But this year, I was curious to see what our dear president, Barack Obama, would add to the spectacle on Tuesday night.

I was a little excited, and a little disappointed.

It was fun to see Obama throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Albert Pujols, though I’m not sure why Pujols was backstopping. I get the idea that the game was in St. Louis, but Yadier Molina, a Cardinals catcher, was also on the roster, so why not have him receive the pitch? Well, no big deal—Pujols certainly is deserving of the honor. I think it’s pretty silly that people are being critical that Obama floated the pitch—at least he made it to the plate! And though this is a sports blog, not political commentary, I find it interesting that our previous president, who used to own the Texas Rangers, never was asked to throw out the first pitch at an All-Star Game. There’s a lesson there, but I’ll let you figure out what it is.…

Obama made it the broadcast booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver for the bottom of the second. He kept the banter light, discussing his ceremonial pitch, the White Sox jacket he was wearing (was there, perhaps, a bit of Kevlar underneath?), and the season in general. I was definitely entertained but was hoping that Barack would stick around for more than just a half-inning.

Being something of a National League baby myself, since the NL plays the purest form of the game, I was a little bummed that the American League won yet again, but what can you do? It only rubs salt in the wound that the game now decides home-field advantage for the World Series. I always hated that rule—home-field for the championship should go to the team with the better record, plain and simple.

But it was a good game, for what it’s worth. It was close, and the pitching and defense were mostly worthy of an All-Star Game. The AL won fair and square, and Tampa’s Carl Crawford got the MVP, mainly due to an outstanding catch that robbed Brad Hawpe of Colorado of an almost-certain home run. It was the first time that the MVP went to a player who did not score a run or have an RBI.

A few other notes:

Everyone knows by now that my allegiance is with the Mets in the NL and the A’s in the Al. However, now that I live outside Seattle, it’s much harder to keep up with the A’s this year because they’re so bad. (As of this writing, the A’s were the third-worst team in all of baseball. Yeesh!) If I still lived down in Oakland, I’d be going to the games, and I’d be on top of the nitty-gritty details of the team. Here is Washington, I know the A’s stink, and so it’s more difficult to pay attention. Imagine my chagrin when I heard that the lone A’s All-Star was Andrew Bailey. My first thought when I heard this was, “Who?” Now I know he’s their new closer, but it was quite a jolt to realize that the team who I’ve seen live perhaps five to ten times more than any other team was sending a complete stranger to me to the Midsummer Classic.

How about Pedro Martinez going to the Phillies? As a Mets fan, how could I possibly hope to find anything positive in that development? As much as I like Pedro and wish him the best on a personal level, I can’t help hoping that Pedro crashes and burns as a Phillie, perhaps allowing the Mets to climb back into contention in the second half after all their injuries left them struggling as they went into the break.

The biggest surprise so far must be the Texas Rangers, who, after years of awful baseball, are only a game and a half out of first behind Anaheim in the AL West. Kudos to the Angels for being able to focus so well after the death of one of their starting pitchers, Nick Adenhart, in April.

So here we go into the second half. Everyone buckle up!

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's All-Star Game Time Once More

Of all the all-star games, I love the MLB's the best. It's a fun two days of home run derbys, skills contests, great pre-game festivities and then the game itself that all add up to a great event.

Here are my all-star picks and some selections for the first half:

Ed’s All-Star Squad
First Base: Mark Texeira, New York Yankees
Second Base: Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Rays
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Outfield: Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox
Outfield: Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels
Oufield: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
MVP: Mark Texeira, New York Yankees
Manager: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals
Best Rookie: Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Surprise Team: Texas Rangers
Top Executive: Theo Epstein, Boston Red Sox
Disappointment Team: Minnesota Twins

First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets
Catcher: Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants
Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Outfield: Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
Pitcher: Jason Marquis, Colorado Rockies
MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodgers
Cy Young: Jason Marquis, Colorado Rockies
Best Rookie: Andrew McCutcheon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Top Executive: Ned Colletti, Los Angeles Dodgers
Surprise Team: Colorado Rockies
Disappointment Team: Arizona Diamondbacks/Chicago Cubs (tie)