Bellinger's play will probably have some bearing on whether the rumors about the Yanks deal for the Mets' Robin Ventura come to fruition. With Scott Brosius out another two to four weeks and a free agent at the end of the season, Ventura would provide a more credible alternative than Bellinger, both for the remainder of this season and next. Since Brosius is a free agent who could probably draw a two- or three-year contract elsewhere, and highly touted Drew Henson is still at least a year away from the show, the Yanks will need a stopgap solution. They could do worse than Ventura, provided he's healthy.
But he probably isn't--Ventura's mired in a slump (36-201, .179 since June 1) that's likely injury-related. That, the fact that the Mets would have to pick up a significant portion of his salary, the fact that the two teams haven't made a deal since 1993, and Bellinger's recent success make a trade somewhat less than likely.
Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was fired yesterday after shocking evidence of his heinous crimes against the Red Sox was made public. It was Williams, brandishing a sledgehammer, who injured Nomar Garciaparra's wrist so badly that Nomar required surgery and missed four months of the season. It was Williams, with the stealth of a cat burglar, who snuck into Pedro Martinez's hotel room while the World's Greatest Pitcher was asleep and bent Pedro's right arm at such an unnatural angle that he strained the rotator cuff. It was Williams who broke Jason Varitek's elbow when Varitek dove for a pop foul--watch the footage in super-slo-mo and you can see a middle-aged man dart out of the dugout, kick Varitek in the elbow, then make it back to the bench before Varitek starts writhing in agony!
It was Williams who, with malice aforethought, spiked Brian Daubach in the shin and then spilled a petri dish full of bacteria into the wound, causing Daubach to take a 15-day powder with a staph infection. It was Williams who, for no damn good reason at all, tore the callus off of Hipolito Pichardo's thumb. It was Williams who lined Carl Everett's jockstrap with thistles, then left a book in his locker entitled "When Dinosaurs Walked The Earth (Which is Round, by the Way, You Petulant Dumbass Child-Abusing Malingerer)". It was Williams who dragged Shea Hillenbrand's strike-zone judgement out into the middle of the Massachusetts Turnpike, where it was hit by an oncoming car. It was Williams, on the grassy knoll of I-95, who shot Derek Lowe's fastball to death.
It was Williams who, at gunpoint, forced Rolando Arrojo and Brett Saberhagen to alternately dangle each other off of the hotel balcony, straining a couple more of his starters' shoulders. It was Williams who forced Frank Castillo to throw his back out when he made Castillo carry Jimy's own player piano up seven flights of stairs. John Valentin's plantar fasciitis? That was Jimy's doing as well--yesterday it was revealed that kept a Black and Decker vise in the manager's office, where he often broke bones and pried muscles, ligaments, and tendons apart using only the crudest of instruments--fungo bats, scorer's pencils, whatever he could get his hands on. Blood everywhere! MEAT FALLING OFF THE BONE!
Digging even deeper into the past, it was Williams who committed a series of murders of single women in Boston in the early sixties, thus earning the moniker "The Boston Strangler." It was Williams who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 to finance a Broadway musical, thus triggering the Curse of the Bambino.
And then, to cover it all up, that madman Jimy Williams kept a team populated with the likes of Mike Lansing, Darren Lewis, Lou Merloni, Craig Grebek, Jose Offerman, and Rod Beck on the fringes of a pennant race, at times even leading the American League East Division with that motley assortment. My God--the evil lurking in the heart of this psychopath would make a Third World dictator blush.
But the Red Sox and their fans can now relax and rejoice. Jimy Williams has been fired for his terrible crimes, and the Red Sox are free from the evil clutches of history's greatest monster.
Bill Simmons, formerly known as Boston's Sports Guy, has been writing some hilarious stuff for ESPN's irreverent Page 2 lately. His piece on Tom Seaver's aborted comeback was funny and poignant at the same time, one of the best articles I've read all year.
In the wake of the Jeff Weaver-Mike Sweeney steel cage match, this piece is a celebration of baseball's bench-clearing brawls. Among his reasons for loving them, my favorites are number two, "Relievers charging in from the bullpen," and the taxonomy of the various approaches the wronged hitter can take (among them "the Izzy," previously discussed here).
Simmons mentions two of my favorite vintage brawl moments. One is Yankees reliever Graeme Lloyd, a.k.a "The Big Dingo," charging in from the bullpen during the Yanks-Orioles brawl triggered when Armando Benitez plunked Tino Martinez (Simmons gets the year wrong; it was 1998, not 1996, but oh well). The other is the famous Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura showdown, a one-sided affair where the 46-year old Ryan hit the 26-year old Ventura (then with the White Sox) with a pitch in 1993. Ventura took offense and charged the mound, but Ryan grabbed him in a headlock and broke out a can of Lone Star-brand Whupp Ass. The photo pretty much says it all:
Tino Martinez and I have reached an agreement: I'll keep lambasting him so long as he keeps hitting those game-winning home runs. We're both dialed in, so to change this successful formula would be a mistake.
I was at the game last night, and I was just as surprised when Tino hit it as I was when Jason Giambi homered on Sunday--which is to say, not very suprised at all. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it immensely; I'm not THAT jaded. It was a textbook Yankee moment, seemingly provided for the benefit of my guests, who were unfamiliar with the team, not to mention the sport (two of them are British). After scoring two runs early, they fell behind, then waited out the Devil Rays' starting pitcher, Joe Kennedy. As soon he got tired, it was single, single, homer, ballgame.
That's the Yankees in a nutshell: just when you think you're safe, the nice orange kitty-cat with the black stripes will rip your throat out.
Yesterday's game-winning home run by Jason Giambi felt like the most foregone conclusion I've seen all season. As Giambi strode to the plate, I sat there solemnly, rooting for the Yankees, yet knowing that it wasn't going to make a damn bit of difference. Not because the fix was in, not because the A's were stealing signs, but because Giambi is that hot and that good.
For those of you who didn't see the game: two outs, bottom of the ninth, tie ballgame, Johnny Damon on first, Mike Stanton pitching. Stanton starts off pitching Giambi high and tight, getting a strike on the first pitch, followed by three balls in a similar location. Giambi fouls off the next pitch to run the count full. To this point, Stanton has thrown nothing but fastballs, and nothing Giambi can extend his arms to hit. But Stanton decides to throw him a curve ball, Giambi guesses correctly, and for all we know that ball may still be rolling.
Friends, Jason Giambi can HIT. He leads the American League in On Base Percentage (.462), is second in Slugging Percentage (.647), fourth in Batting Average (.330), and sixth in Home Runs (29) and RBI (91). All of this while playing in a pitchers' park. By sabermetric measures he's even better. He's tied for first in the A.L. in OPS (1109), he ranks first via Baseball Prospectus's Equivalent Average and Equivalent Runs measures by a solid margin, and he's first in Offensive Winning Percentage as well.
Check out his splits--the man simply doesn't have a weakness when it comes to hitting. He's left-handed, but he's tattooing lefty pitching (.329, 1043 OPS, address all further questions regarding this matter to Mike Stanton). He plays in a pitchers' park (Oakland's team OPS is 47 points lower at home, while their team ERA is 0.58 runs lower there), but his home OPS is actually 14 points higher and he has almost twice as many HRs there. With runners on base? .392, 1243 OPS. Close and late? .338, 1051 OPS. Bases loaded? 6 for 9, with 17 RBI. He hasn't had an off month all season--his worst month would still be good enough for the top 10 in OPS. As they say on SportsCenter, you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.
Giambi was the hottest commodity at the trading deadline because he's a free agent at the end of this season. Oakland's decision to keep him and play for the Wild Card was a bold move that had a ripple effect throughout both leagues with regards. But Oakland's gamble looks to be paying off in the short-term, as the A's have been tearing it up--winners of 11 straight and 33 of their last 43 ballgames.
The question is whether that short-term success will translate into an ability to sign Giambi to a long-term contract at the end of the year. Giambi turned down a six-year, $91 million deal when the A's refused to include a no-trade clause, and another MVP on the mantelpiece isn't going to lower that cost.
Which, inevitably, brings George Steinbrenner into the equation. The footsie has already begun; Giambi sang Steinbrenner's praises this weekend. "The man wants to win. When he thinks highly of you, you take it as a compliment," he told reporters.
While it is tempting [drool] to imagine Giambi taking over first base [slobber] for the subpar Tino Martinez and teeing off [slurp] on that short left-field porch [belch], I find myself hoping Giambi stays put. Not because I wouldn't want him in pinstripes, but because I have too much respect for the way Oakland has built itself into a contender, especially given their small-market constraints. The A's are a fun team to watch, with a potent offense and a trio of young pitchers who are already among the game's best. Their run for the AL West title last year was impressive, and they almost knocked off the Yankees in the Division Series. They figure to do some damage this season and for the forseeable future if they can hold onto Giambi. He's 30 years old, extremely durable, immensely popular, and he can hit the ball a long, long way. I have a hard time believing Oakland GM Billy Beane will let the man walk just because of a no-trade clause.