Seven teams completed series sweeps today.
- The Blue Jays leap-frogged the Red Sox pushing them to the cellar in the AL East Division by one game in the loss column.
- The Orioles dropped the Indians, a Wild Card rival, a game below .500 and improved to 9-8 since the June 30th trade for Jim Thome. However, the Orioles deficit in run differential also increased from minus-26 to minus-44 during that same time.
- Similarly, the Mets are now a game below .500 after being swept by the Dodgers, who now trail the Giants by 1.5 games for the NL West Division crown, and the Braves by one game for the second and final NL Wild Card.
- The Reds and Pirates kept pace with one another by sweeping their respective opponents, the Brewers and Marlins. The Reds maintain a slim half game lead over the Bucs.
- The Tigers seized the AL Central Division lead away from the White Sox, who are now also a game behind for the AL Wild Cards.
- Probably the unlikeliest sweep of the weekend though was the Athletics over the visiting Yankees. The A’s edged the Yankees by one-run in each of the four games in their series. The opening game of the series was decided in the bottom of the ninth, and today’s finale was decided in the bottom of twelfth.
I’m not yet sold on the A’s as a playoff contender this season. Their offense is ranked last in the AL in batting average, and next to last in the AL in OPS. Conversely, their pitchers have given up the fewest hits in the AL, and also lead the AL in ERA and WHIP. It will be interesting to see A’s GM Billy Beane’s approach as the July 31 trade deadline draws closer.
I’m also not ready to pronounce the Red Sox dead either. Their lineup is simply too potent and still getting healthy. Eventually Beckett and Lester will start to pitch like aces again too, right? The Red Sox need their aces to be aces, or they need to trade for an ace. The only real true ace who may or may not be available on the trade market is Cole Hamels. The Phillies though are working on a contract extension to retain Hamels. If the Phillies are successful in doing so, they might consider making pitcher Cliff Lee available in a trade. Another difference maker is the Mariners ace Felix Hernandez but GM Jack Zduriencik has steadfastly maintained that he will not even consider trading King Felix. Prying Hernandez from the M’s though is exactly the type of bold move the Red Sox need to make to salvage this season.
Coco Crisp, by Eric Risberg, AP
Brett Lawrie, by David Butler II, US PRESSWIRE
Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera, by Mike Stobe, Getty Images
Brandon Phillips, by Frank Victores, US PRESSWIRE
Andrew McCutchen, by Charles LeClaire, US PRESSWIRE
Jacob Turner, by Rick Osentoski, US PRESSWIRE
JJ Hardy and Jim Thome, by David Richard, US PRESSWIRE
A long, long time ago
in a galaxy far, far away…
August 16, 1969 - Pirates versus the Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Jim Merritt is on the mound, Johnny Bench is catching, Pete Rose is in right field and Tony Perez is poised for a bunt down the third base line. The centerfielder Bobby Tolan is playing so far into left field that he is not even visible in this photograph. The NL West division-leading Reds would go on to win 5-2. Jim Merritt went the distance to improve his record to 13-5. Dock Ellis took the loss for the Pirates to fall to 8-13 on the season.
Aside from Perez and Bench, two other eventual Hall-of-Famers played in this game. The Pirates Roberto Clemente had two hits including his 12th double of the season in his four trips to the plate. Willie “Pops” Stargell hit his 21st home run to centerfield to leadoff the top of the 2nd inning. Pete Rose may someday become the fifth player from this game to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but for now he is still banned.
10,000 Wins and Counting
The first professional baseball franchise, the Cincinnati Reds, became the sixth franchise to reach the 10,000 wins plateau with today’s 9-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Giants, Cubs, Braves, and Dodgers have also surpassed 10,000 franchise wins. Entering today’s action, the next two teams approaching the 10,000 win milestone are the Pittsburgh Pirates (9,887 wins) and the New York Yankees (9,774 wins).
Which team do you think will get there first?
Photo of Scott Rolen by Brian Kersey, Getty Images
Signed and Delivered
Yesterday the Reds announced that they had reached agreement on a six-year, $72.5M contract extension with their All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips. Today, the Rangers put the finishing touches on a five-year, $75M contract extension with their All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler. Phillips’ and Kinsler’s new deals will take them both through the 2017 season.
Ian Kinsler, by Charlie Riedel/AP
30 Clubs in 30 Days, Day 16 - Cincinnati Reds
The jerseys were relatively easy to find on eBay. Finding the undershirts though was sheer luck. I happened upon them at a generic sports outlet. The salesperson thought they were just t-shirts with patches, but I knew what they were as soon as I saw them. I bought them for $5 apiece.
I was forced to follow the Reds from 1977-1982 when my favorite childhood player, Tom Seaver, was traded to Cincinnati. ESPN and the World Wide Web didn’t exist yet, so every morning I would wait for my father to finish with the paper so that I could check the box scores to see if Seaver was scheduled to pitch or had pitched and how he did. Back then we also received an afternoon edition of the local paper. If the Reds played a late game the night before and the box score wasn’t ready for the morning edition, I then had to wait until I came home from school to check the sports section.
Damn, I’m getting old.
Happy Birthday Sparky
Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson would have turned 72 today.
Other notable baseball figures celebrating birthdays today include Casey Kotchman (29), Daniel Nava (29), Kelly Johnson (30), JJ Putz (35), Kazuhiro Sasaki (44) and Don Wakamatsu (49).
Photo by Howard Smith, US PRESSWIRE
It appears that Ryan Madson has finally found a home for the upcoming season. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) is reporting that the Reds have agreed to terms on a one year contract with the former Phillies closer. Madson represents a significant upgrade over the Reds former closer Francisco Cordero. I expect that Madson will be even more motivated to perform at his best after an offseason that saw a four-year deal for $44 million fall through with his former team. Madson will settle for one-year contract in excess of $10 million, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale), and then next winter re-enter a free agency market that should be more of a sellers market for closers.
I’ll break down the division at the end of Spring Training, but right now I would say the Reds and Cardinals are the favorites to win the NL Central Division. I expect the Brewers to suffer from the still expected loss of Prince Fielder and the expected-to-be-upheld 50-game suspension of Ryan Braun, but their pitching will keep them in contention. If the Pirates can add a few more pieces from the free agent market (Roy Oswalt? Derrek Lee? Carlos Pena?) and if they can build upon last season’s progress, they may be able to push the Brewers for third place. Meanwhile the Cubs are in complete rebuilding mode and the Astros are barely a AAA team in the middle of an ownership transfer and a league transfer.
Reaction to Mat Latos Trade
This past Saturday, the Reds made a bold move sending four players to the Padres for pitcher Mat Latos, who turned 24 earlier this month. Latos has been the Padres ace the past two seasons and he is not arbitration eligible until after the 2012 season. He should also form a potent 1-2 combination with Johnny Cueto at the top of the Reds starting rotation. However to acquire Latos, the Reds gave up four premium pieces, power-hitting first baseman Yonder Alonso, pitcher Edinson Volquez, catcher Yasmani Grandal and reliever Brad Boxberger.
Volquez should benefit greatly moving from the band box that is Great American Ballpark to Yosemi… I mean Petco Park. Power arms like the one Boxberger possesses (13.9K/9IP) don’t just grow on trees. I expect that he will have a chance to win the closer’s job, though he may need a little more seasoning to reduce his walk rate (4.1BB/9IP). Grandal was the Reds 4th ranked prospect according to Baseball America. I would not be surprised to see him challenge incumbent Nick Hundley for the starting catcher’s job within the next two seasons.
The centerpiece of the deal though from the Padres’ perspective is Yonder Alonso. Some have already suggested that Alonso will move back to first base for the Padres rather than left field, which has many speculating about the future of the Padres’ top minor league prospect, first baseman Anthony Rizzo. I think the Cubs will flip Rizzo for another premium set of players, though the Padres could also keep Rizzo at first and Alonso in left.
Earlier Hot Stove rumors had the Reds very interested in Braves starter Jair Jurrjens. However, the pieces aren’t necessarily ones that the Braves would have wanted for Jurrjens. The Braves already have Rookie of the Year runner up Freddie Freeman at first, perennial All-Star Brian McCann at catcher (with stud 20-year old prospect Christian Bethancourt on the way), and pitching depth that is the envy of every other Major League franchise. Now if the Reds offered Alonso, Boxberger and either shortstop Billy Hamilton or Zack Cozart instead of Volquez and Grandal, then I think the Braves would have jumped at that.