It was an eventful weekend in the National League Central.
The St. Louis Cardinals made a big splash when they traded for Matt Holliday, and then promptly fell out of first place for the first time since July 1. The Chicago Cubs placed Ted Lilly on the DL, and promptly moved into first place for the first time since April 21. The Cincinnati Reds, this blogger’s preseason “Sleeper Team,” extended their losing streak to 6 straight, spiraling down the standings and proving the old baseball adage:
It doesn’t matter how good your young players are if they’re being managed by Dusty Baker.
To be fair, since July 6, the Reds have had a tough schedule. At the Phillies, at the Mets (who are much better than their record may indicate), home against Milwaukee, then back on the road to face the Dodgers and Cubs. Their 4-13 record over this stretch, including a split in the only homestand on the schedule, isn’t really all that awful.
The Astros, on the other hand, dropped 2 of 3 to those same Mets. The back end of the rotation, Russ Ortiz and Brian Moehler, took the losses.
Does anyone remember what the consensus was coming into the season? We needed a #2 pitcher. Wandy Rodriguez has stepped up remarkably, which is great, but now we need a #3 pitcher. We have three #4-5 pitchers in Ortiz, Moehler, and Mike Hampton, but we are still one starter shy of a good enough rotation to compete.
Yesterday, Chris Sampson was taken off of the DL, and Chad Paronto was designated for assignment. What this means, essentially, is that the club now has 10 days to assign the contract to another Major or Minor League roster.
To quote Bart Given:
Although you have 10 days to assign the contract, it takes two business
days for a player to clear waivers – so Clubs think of it as eight days
to make a decision on a assignment to the Minors or trade. Either way,
what the team does with a DFA’d player typically depends on his
The good news is that Chad Paronto has essentially no value, so it’s likely he’ll get quietly assigned to the minors.
Pedro and Pedro and Pray For Rain
Facing a Hall of Fame pitcher on one of his minor league rehab assignments has got to come with a variety of mixed emotions. On the one hand, getting a hit against him would be the highlight of most players’ careers. On the other hand, he’s really good and why in the world would anyone – much less some nineteen-year-old kid – want to face him?
So while the hitters on the St. Lucie Mets surely talked a big game about being excited to test their mettle against Pedro Martinez, who had one of the best primes of any pitcher in history, I’m guessing that secretly, deep down inside, they were actually praying for exactly this scenario:
Interestingly, 4 of his last 5 minor league appearances were rehab starts for the St. Lucie Mets.
I mentioned some time ago that I was working on a documentary, which will begin shooting in April 2010. The subject matter, which I have not previously revealed, is old U.S. Hwy 66. It’s actually incorrect to say it starts shooting in April, as we’re already shooting – but we fly to Chicago to begin the 2,400-mile trip in April. Chicago to Los Angeles in about 3 weeks.
In doing my research, I’m searching far and wide. And it just so happens that this very season, a reality show popped up called Great American Road Trip. Though they say that they’re traveling Route 66, I prefer to say they’re doing a trip based on the old Highway. For instance, they’ve already stopped at Branson, MO; Independence, KS; and Sedan, KS – none of which are Route 66 towns. They will be going to the Grand Canyon and to Las Vegas, neither of which is on the Route.
But the spirit is the same, even if they spent more time in Kansas (which only has 13.2 miles on the actual Highway) than they did in Oklahoma (which is the true “home” of Route 66, which was created by a Tulsan named Cy Avery). And in the latter, all they did was eat at an Applebee’s – a decidedly un-Route 66 establishment.
And this week, the very attractive Rico family failed the King of the Road and End of the Road challenges, and was removed from the show. I have a man crush on Mr. Rico, and Mrs. Rico has serious toe-curling abilities. Now we’re left with a bunch of annoying New Yorkers and whiny Southerners.
to watch television. Ever.
What Happened Was…
Round Rock Express (AAA) – The Express may have lost a tough one to the Omaha Royals (KCR), 5-3, but several good things happened to help ease the pain. One: 3B Chris Johnson is starting to see the ball better. He’s had an off year, owing largely to an injury he sustained when his hand was hit by a pitch. He’s been tentative, and has looked scared in the batter’s box. But he actually looked very comfortable last night, going 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk. Two: Geoff Geary is pitching better than his numbers indicate. In an inning and two thirds, he stifled an Omaha rally, allowing just one hit and two walks (one intentional) and striking out one. No runs allowed, lowering his ERA to a still-ghastly 4.79.
Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – I don’t care how well your offense performs. Giving up 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning is going to kill you just about 100% of the time. And it did kill the Jethawks, who lost 9-8 to the High Desert Mavericks (SEA). Leandro Cespedes was cruising. He’d struck out 9 Mavericks in 8.0 innings, and walked just three. But he hit the end of his roap, and neither he nor Fernando Abad – who earned the official loss – could stem the tide of runs crossing the plate in the 8th inning. OF Jack Shuck gave it his all from the offensive end, going 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI at the top of the order, but it simply wasn’t enough.
Lexington Legends (A) – Then, sometimes, the opposite happens. Sometimes you’re down, 3-0, coming into the bottom of the ninth. It’s like a storybook. Every young boy dreams of it. The other team’s best reliever is on the mound for the save (in reality, Chris Rivera – who is not terribly good – was on the mound, but play along). Your team has been stymied all day by an amazing starter (Paul Demny playing the part in this one; he struck out 12 batters in 6.0 innings). You fight back. You score three runs to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. You stride to the plate… a bench player (in this case backup catcher Reinaldo Pestana, who is batting .156/.229/.281 this season) that no one knows; no one cares about. You dig in. Runners on base… you get your pitch… you smack it over the wall for a walkoff home run. Legends win. Legends win. A 6-3 final against the Hagerstown Suns (WSN). Michael Guerrero had two home runs in the losing effort. Another good start in the no-decision for Brad Dydalewicz. But it was Pestana’s first home run of the season that provided the fireworks.
Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – Starter Douglas Arguello threw just one inning before leaving the game. It was a perfect inning, with a strikeout, before he was replaced by Dallas Keuchel, who did not have a perfect anything. Least perfect was his offense, which mustered just three hits in seven innings, dropping the decision to the Oneonta Tigers (DET), 4-0. Of the ValleyCats’ three hits, just one – a double by OF J.D. Martinez – was for extra bases.
Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – There were two key differences between Game 1 and Game 2 of this double-header. One: The Tri-City offense showed up to the second game. Two: So did the Tri-City pitching. In fact, the Oneonta Tigers (DET) would manage just two hits and two walks the whole game as they fell, 9-1. The combination of Max Fearnow and Antonio Noguera proved too much for the Tigers’
hitters, allowing just one unearned run between them, striking out 5 in 7 innings. Several multi-hit games, highlighted by OF Sean Barksdale, who was 2-for-3 with his first professional home run. Congratulations, Sean. A three-run shot, joined later by a fourth RBI, a walk, two runs scored, and even a stolen base.
Greeneville Astros (R) – The Burlington Royals (KCR) fought hard in this one, but in the end, the Astros’ pitching proved too much to overcome. The Astros’ 4-3 win came on the heels of excellent pitching performances by starter Jose Cisnero (3-1, 3.95 ERA), who allowed just 2 hits over 5 innings; and closer Nathan Pettus, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his sixth save. 2B Jose Altuve and SS Jiovanni Mier each swiped two bags, and DH/1B Aaron Bray had the only multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.
GCL Astros (R) – The Astros started hot with two runs in the top of the first inning, but couldn’t finish as they fell to the GCL Marlins (FLA) 4-3. 2B Enrique Hernandez was 3-for-4 at the plate, with a double and an RBI.
DSL Astros (R) – I don’t know what happened in the game, if there even was one, because MiLB.com seems to care as much about the Dominican Summer League as I do. What I do know is that – unsurprisingly – the DSL has suspended 13 players over the last week for positive steroid tests. Michael Munoz, of the DSL Rangers (TEX), was suspended 100 games for his second violation. Astros pitcher Felix Ramirez was among the six players popped yesterday. Keep ’em coming, Dominican Republic. Your land is a dirty one, and I will not care about baseball there until you at least make an effort to look like you’re cleaning it up.