I've seen some of you guys say 2003, 2005, and other years, but if it were up to me, I'd have to say that this season's final month has a chance to possibly be the most exciting final month of a baseball season since 1993, which is oft-referred as the last great pennant race (Braves overtook the Giants, won the NL West 104 games to 103, for you kids). Sure, 2010 wouldn't come close to 1993, but it's been so long since there's been such an exciting race to me, that it warrants a reminder. And it's not just in the NL East either, what with the AL East looking like a logjam between the Yankees and Rays, the White Sox and Twins duking it out in the AL Central, and the Cardinals and Giants are still technically within striking distance if their current superiors hit a rough patch at any point.
Anyway, I was thinking, while watching the Braves over the last few days, of how good things kind of are right now. Watching Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson, and Tim Hudson take the mound with a calm, collected manner, as they repeatedly lobbed in first-pitch strikes after first-pitch strikes was such a beautiful thing. I thought back to years like 2006 and 2007, when dregs like Kyle Davies, Mark Redman, John Thomson, Lance Cormier, and Jorge Sosa would take the hill (Not to mention the abysmal bullpens), and would suck the life out of fans like me with their futility and inability. Whether it was fear, or sheer incompetance, none of those guys really seemed able to throw a first-pitch strike. Sure, I don't expect a first-pitch strike every single batter, but it really is disheartening when you go to three-straight games, and the starting pitchers are all invalids. The Tomahawk Team would fire shirts into the crowd, I'd silently be judging whomever was singing the National Anthem, the starting lineups would be announced to all this hokey music with canned cheers, loudest for Chipper, Andruw, then Francoeur, and McCann, and then they'd show this highlight package as the players took the field, and the atmosphere was fresh, anticipating, and energetic . . . and then Jo-Jo Reyes or Buddy Carlyle trots out to the mound and promptly walks the lead-off batter, and it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
But we don't really have that issue anymore; or at least not nearly as bad as it was. Huddy, Jurrjens, Minor, and Hanson are more than capable of delivering the first-pitch strike, with confidence, and enough deception/break/velocity to get them to swing and miss, or sit on a called strike. Lowe and Kawakami are gradually losing my favor these days, but they're still way more capable than some of the garbage we've trotted out in prior years.
I don't think there's going to be a single .asp, .php, or .html file on the entire internet that is going to have the words "Nyjer Morgan" in it, more than this week's column does. Welcome back to another week of Things Read in Other Moms' Basements.
Nyjer Morgan is having a really rough week - WaPo
Just when it seemed like things couldn't get for Nyjer Morgan what with the Philadelphia incident, the St. Louis incident, and a Florida incident, he caps it off by charging the mound and attacking Chris Volstad, sparking a gigantic brawl. I've always seen him as a pretty low-key nice guy, so this sudden rash of aggression is certainly skeptical. My first hypothesis is that there's something going on in his personal life which is frustrating him, but drugs could also be a culprit. And Nyjer Morgan has no regrets over his recent actions. And he's shocked and upset by his eight-game suspension, which doesn't include the appealed seven-game suspension for the Philly incident he'll likely be absolved of; but he's giong to appeal that one too, and still be allowed to play until the hearing.
Nyjer Morgan being "unprofessional," according to manager Jim Riggleman - NDN
Once again Nyjer Morgan is in the news this week, but this time, it kind of is his fault. During a rally against the Cardinals, Nyjer Morgan is batted home, but actually fails to touch home plate, and is subsequently tagged out, but in the process he more or less elbow-checked Cards backup catcher, Bryan Anderson, sparking a lot of heat off the benches. Riggleman calls out his centerfielder, citing him being frustrated from being the lead-off guy to the 8th place hitter, and that was his reasoning for lashing out.
Rob Dibble fired for comments about Stephen Strasburg - WaPo
Wow. Don Imus can call black female basketball players "nappy-headed hos" and get a slap on the wrist and a paper suspension, the NAACP once praised Donovan McNabb for "not being black enough," once admonished Donovan McNabb for "being too black," John Smoltz can make really bad jokes, and glory hog airtime, on-air, but Rob Dibble speaks out against Stephen Strasburg, and he gets fired.
Livan Hernandez extended through 2011 - WaPo
In the wake of the Stephen Strasburg injury, the Nationals take the initiative to bolster their starting rotation, by extending their most reliable pitcher all through 2010 - Livan Hernandez. He's not going to win a glut of games, or have a sparking sub-3.00 ERA, but he's good to not miss any starts, and take the ball every five days, with minimal consequence. This also means, another year of racquetball jokes.
Nationals essentially giving away season tickets - Nationals News Network (h/t David Huzzard)
Wow, the Stephen Strasburg TJS fallout seems to have hit pretty hard. In short: in selection sections of Nationals Park, buy two season ticket plans, and get two FOR FREE. I'm seriously egging my best friend to attempt this, so that whenever I make trips up to Virginia, there's almost always going to be a guaranteed seat for me to go to ball games up there.
In light of pitcher injuries, ask the expert: Mark Prior - WaPo
I love how he's actually curious to why people think of him when people think of pitchers with injuries. Other than Mike Hampton, I can't think of another pitcher who was seemingly always getting injured, but even Hampton wasn't getting injured in the freakish ways that Prior was.
Stephen Strasburg has a lot of people to consult about his injury - Federal Baseball
Like the guy that the surgery was named after, Tommy John, and one very familiar source to us, John Smoltz. Hopefully Kris Medlen will not be among the many pro-athletes that start blogs, but then give up on them, and will actually update his blog, and tell us when John Smoltz spoke to him as well.
Ryan Zimmerman does his best impression of Roy Hobbs - MLB
Despite a three-hour rain delay, the Marlins realized that there was no merit to delaying the game until another day; it's not like fans would come out then, either, so the Nationals and Fish went to war starting at 10pm on Monday night. In the process of a rare Nats win over the Fish, was this gem - Ryan Zimmerman destroying out a moon shot that smashed into the electronic ad board, killing a section of lights.
And for you WARG pundits, if you weren't already aware: - WaPo
Ryan Zimmerman is really, really good at this baseball thing.
Oh yeah, I forgot about Chien-Ming Wang - MASN
If there was ever a Tanyon Sturtze award for signing with a team for a year and not actually playing in a single game at any level, it would have to go to Chien-Ming Wang or Kelvim Escobar of the Mets. But Escobar actually suited up and did some stuff during ST, so it would have to go to Wang.
Baby steps - NDN
On August 29th this year, the Nationals registered win #56. They didn't register win #56 until October 1st, last year. They might not be capable of looking forward to post-season baseball, but they can look forward to not losing 100 games again. Their magic number stands at six, at the time of this.
Potomac's Tyler Moore named Carolina League MVP - WaPo
I just saw this guy two weeks ago when I went to Potomac to see the Pelicans play, and yep, he homered then too. In fact, he led the Carolina League in homers (29), doubles (43), XBH (75), RBI (113), and had been OPSing 1.400 since July 15th.
Nationals name prospects headed to AFL; Bryce Harper not among them - MLB
Some think that Harper didn't earn the chance to shine at the AFL yet, but there were some that felt a trip to the AFL, against the creme of the crop of baseball products was just what the cocky Bryce Harper might have needed to get a reality check, but regardless, he's not headed to Arizona this fall.
Gaby Sanchez claims Nyjer Morgan violated yet another unwritten rule - WaPo
Okay, may as well start funneling some of this Nyjer Morgan stuff to the Marlins side of things here. "The Unwritten Rules" of baseball seems to have an addendum every year, and this is one that I don't genuinely agree with. I understand the logic behind damage control, professional courtesy, and not wanting to run up the score too much, but as we Braves fans very well know, sometimes, there is no such thing as a lead big enough. Gaby Sanchez's beef with Nyjer Morgan which led to the Clothesline From Hell was the fact that Morgan stole second and third base, despite being down 72 runs, because the defense wasn't holding him. Sure, it's a little apparent that Morgan was being a little retaliatory, but at the same time, why shouldn't he steal bags if they're not being defended? The losing end of a blowout game shouldn't be lying down and taking it, and the worst thing is that happens is that a guy is padding his stats, and in some rare cases, some monumental comebacks can actually occur. Stand down, rook.
And of course, there's a whole rash of suspensions - MLB
Volstad for six, Sanabia for five, Sanchez for three (which is real light considering the Clothesline From Hell and the holding of Morgan during the beatdown), and manager E-Rod for a single game. Unfortunately for us, the three players are all appealing their suspensions, and will be active against us all weekend.
And of course, many of them have mean things to say about Nyjer Morgan - Miami Herald
I have to admit, it's nice to see two division rivals not the Phillies and Mets having some serious beef with one another, and not necessarily with the Braves for a change.
Dan Uggla strains groin - MLB
This comes as no surprise to me, considering the gigantic leaps that Uggla is known to take when stretching out for the safe call.
On top of that, the injuries mount - MLB
With Ronny Paulino suspended for PEDs, Brett Hayes' shoulder located by Nyjer Morgan, now John Baker, who was on the DL, now goes on the even-longer DL, as he'll undergo Tommy John Surgery, and likely won't be back until 2012. So the Marlins basically have no ML-experienced catchers, and on top of that Ricky Nolasco is undergoing season-ending knee surgery, and Donnie Murphy has a dislocated wrist.
Let's ask the readers - Miami Herald
The Herald asks the people for other epic Marlin meltdowns, but instead, the comments section is reminiscent to that of the AJC's or AOL Fanhouse's comment section following the loss of a fan's favorite team.
Jeff Francoeur traded to the Texas Rangers - MetsBlog
It's hard to say if Frenchy really got his wish of getting traded to a place where he could get more playing time, considering the pseudo-logjam of corner outfielders in Texas with Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Vlad Guerrero, but at least he got moved to a team more or less already guaranteed to get into the playoffs, and he'll probably feel good the hitter-friendly park, and about his chances at "fixing his swing," with Rudy Jaramillo. The Mets get back a 25-year old more or less utility infielder in Joaquin Arias, who has no power, and a game discipline issue, but brings good defense and speed. Amazin' Avenue gets the scoop on the revision to the new Delta campaign. But he was apparently a good clubhouse guy, which nobody is really surprised by. I saw Arias in the lineup during the Mets game on Thursday. He looks a lot like a latino version of Waluigi.
And of course the post-era rippings begin - Baseball Think Factory
I love these cause-and-effect oracle charts.
Brian Cole's family awarded $131 million in lawsuit - MLB
I bet you thought it was the Mets that was going to lose essentially a year's payroll on this; but no, this is actually positive news. Some of you might remember the story of Brian Cole, the supposed can't-miss prospect who was unfortunately killed in a car accident in 2001 after Spring Training. His family sued the Ford Motor Corporation with claims of faulty seatbelts, during the brief time of concerns over SUV flips in Explorers, and after ten years, finally came to a settlement with the automotive giant.
Johan Santana tears pectoral muscle, now day-to-day - MetsBlog
Of course, this happens after he's done putting on a clinic against us, on a night where we can't come back on Elmer Dessens, Bobby Parnell, Pedro Feliciano, and Hisanori Takahashi.
Mets considering extending R.A. Dickey - NY Daily News
Considering the instability of the Mets rotation, it couldn't be the worst idea in the world to float over a deal to Dickey, who has been kind of a surprise Livan Hernandez-like rock in their rotation this year, but slightly better.
A story of strife, heartache, and adversity - Baseball-Reference
Once, he was young and promising. With a lively fastball that sizzled around 94mph, he dazzled in Pittsburgh, and once shined in New York. Fearlessly, he took the hill in a pivotal NLCS game 7, and did his job, keeping the St. Louis Cardinals lineup to minimal damage. And then he got the contract; and the rest as we know it, is living history. It's hard for me to say who would be worse between Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez; both have abysmal contracts, but Perez has a hard time affecting any games, since he's hardly allowed in any, anymore. But anyway, take a gander at Perez's game log for 2010 - at the time of writing this, since Ollie's been moved to the pen, he has allowed more walks and earned runs, than innings pitched. He's also being shelled to the tune of a .357 average and 1.182 OPS, while essentially getting paid an average of $800,000 per appearance, $341,000 per inning, and $113,000 per out, and roughly $4,333 per pitch..
Why the Phillies WILL make the playoffs again - Big League Stew
Of course the Phillies will make the playoffs again. If they really wanted to brag, it should've been a story of why the Phillies WILL win the Wild Card.
Charlie Manuel's best season ever - Philly.com
This is kind of like Mad Libs - off the top of my head, I can replace every single named Phillies player with a corresponding Braves player who has drawn identical ire from the rest of Braves Country. And replace Charlie Manuel with Bobby Cox, and it's the same recipe of why both managers are great managers.
Utley and Howard broken up in lineup - MLB
Still scratching my head at this one; I get the L-R-L dynamic they're trying to go for by moving Utley to the second spot in the batting order, but straight swapping him with Placido Polanco? I know Polly will almost always put the ball in play and all, but I guess I just don't get this move to sandwich him in between Utley and Howard, and how that's supposed to help them.
Phillies announce AFL-bound prospects - Philly.com
Interestingly enough, most of them are relievers. I wonder what that says about what their biggest concern is going to be next season, and how they plan on addressing it from within?
Tyson Gilles pleads not-guilty to posession of a hell of a drug - MLB
It was uh . . . Sweet 'N Low, I mean . . . snoooowww...from the North Pole!
Alvaro Bacil suspended 50 games for PED use - Philly.com
How much does it have to suck for Bacil? Right at the tail end of the MiLB season, he's caught, and the suspension won't go in effect until next year. It's like knowing dad's going to beat your ass when he gets home at 7pm, but it's only 11am, and you have a long time to think about it.
Even in rookie-ball, the Rays can't beat the Phillies - MLB
The GCL Phillies take the GCL crown for the year, as they topped the GCL Rays 2-1 in a best of three. Capped off from by a cool-as-ice performance from Tim Brown, who delievered a 7.2 IP, 2H, 1R gem to topple the rookie Rays.
And a link that has nothing to do with the Braves or the NL East that caught my attention:
San Francisco Giants extend relationship with AA-Richmond for two more years - Times Dispatch
This news makes me happy; considering that I couldn't actually make it out to Richmond, the former home of the AAA-Richmond Braves, once to catch a Squirrels game, the Giants renew their deal with the minor league club to stay in Richmond for two more years.