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Tag:Nationals
Posted on: July 18, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2010 8:45 pm
 

3 to watch: The Do we care? edition

Yankee fans cared very much about George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. Baseball fans everywhere have cared very much about Stephen Strasburg.

Now Alex Rodriguez is approaching 600 home runs.

Do you care?

There's been amazingly little A-Rod buzz, and from what I was told, there wasn't much reaction from the Yankee Stadium fans when Rodriguez hit his 598th home run Sunday against the Rays.

You'd think it would be a meaningful milestone. Only six players have hit 600 home runs, and A-Rod (who turns 35 on July 27) will be the youngest ever to get there -- unless it takes him more than a year to hit two more home runs.

So why is there no buzz?

Is it that Rodriguez admitted using steroids earlier in his career? Is it that the steroid era has made 600 home runs seem that much less significant? Are we waiting for him to approach Willie Mays (660 home runs), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), the numbers that earn A-Rod $6 million bonuses in his most recent contract? Do we just not like A-Rod?

Or maybe the buzz is suddenly going to appear Tuesday night, when A-Rod gets his first legitimate chance at reaching 600. He needs two more home runs, and he has hit two or more in a game 55 times in his career.

Not only that, but he has hit 67 career home runs against the Angels, by far the most he has hit against any opponent.

For the record, none of the six guys with 600 home runs hit Nos. 599 and 600 in the same game. Ruth came closest, hitting them on back-to-back days in St. Louis, in 1931.

A-Rod took nearly two weeks between 498 and 500, and also between 398 and 400.

So this countdown could take a while. But unless the buzz builds, this may be the only time it appears in 3 to watch:

1. Two years ago, when Ken Griffey Jr. reached 600 before a sparse crowd in Miami -- maybe there wasn't that much buzz then, either -- Rodriguez told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that it's always better to reach big milestones at home. Rodriguez has six chances to get to 600 on this homestand, starting with Angels at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium . At least Rodriguez won't be facing Scott Kazmir, who has held him to four hits -- and no home runs -- in 29 career at-bats. Kazmir went on the disabled list Sunday, and the Angels told reporters that they plan to call up a starter from the minor leagues to pitch Tuesday. A-Rod is also homerless in 35 plate appearances against Wednesday starter Joel Pineiro. He has four homers in 19 at-bats against Jered Weaver, who won't pitch in this series.

2. The fans want to see Strasburg. The scouts, most likely, will instead head for Chicago, to watch potential trade targets Brett Myers and Ted Lilly face off, in Astros at Cubs, Wednesday afternoon (2:20 EDT) at Wrigley Field . In a pitching market that no longer includes Cliff Lee, Myers and Lilly could be two of the more attractive properties.

3. Nothing against Bronson Arroyo, who will be Strasburg's opponent in Nationals at Reds, Wednesday night (7:10 EDT) at Great American Ball Park , but wouldn't it have been more compelling if Strasburg was starting a day earlier, against fellow rookie Mike Leake, or a day later, against Edinson Volquez? Apparently ESPN didn't care, as yet another Strasburg start has been scheduled for national television. Can't say I blame them.



Posted on: July 16, 2010 10:33 am
 

3 to watch: The Boss and the Rays edition

This time, the schedule-maker got it right.

On the night the Yankees honor George Steinbrenner, baseball gives us Yankees vs. Rays. In the first game the Yankees will play since Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday morning, the Yankees will play the team that Steinbrenner always insisted they beat.

Yes, of course, he insisted they beat every team. Yes, of course, the series with the Red Sox and the series with the Mets always held special relevance to him.

But so did the series with the Rays, even back when they were the awful Devil Rays. Even when it was a solitary meaningless game in spring training.

Tampa was Steinbrenner's adopted hometown. Tampa was where he spent most of his time. He was not going to have his Yankees lose to any team from Tampa (or even St. Petersburg).

Yankees-Rays games are no longer meaningless. The teams enter the second half of the season separated by just two games in the American League East standings, with the Red Sox and the AL Central contenders close enough behind so that a wild-card berth isn't guaranteed to the team that fails to finish first.

The Yankees and Rays will meet 13 times during the second half. And the first meeting kicks off this first post-All-Star edition of 3 to watch:

1. In other places, you can argue about Steinbrenner's legacy. In the Bronx, especially in the moments leading up to Rays at Yankees, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , you can be sure the focus will be on the championships won and the successes celebrated. The Yankees will have a double-tribute, honoring both Steinbrenner and longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard, but they've pushed the video tribute to Sheppard to Saturday (which is also Old-Timer's Day). Friday's ceremony will concentrate on Steinbrenner -- who, if he were still here, would be concentrating intensely on Friday's game.

2. Sometime just after Stephen Strasburg's stunning debut, I vowed to include every Strasburg start in 3 to watch, until further notice. It doesn't feel right to end it just yet, not so soon after an All-Star Game that judging by the low ratings could have used Strasburg's star power. Instead, Strasburg will try to awaken a little baseball interest in South Florida, in Nationals at Marlins, Friday night (7:10 EDT) at Sun Life Stadium .

3. When Justin Morneau went on the disabled list last September, it was supposed to mean the end of the Twins. Instead, they went 17-4 in the 21 games he missed, including the memorable Game 163 win over the Tigers that sent them into the playoffs. Now Morneau is out again, on the DL while recovering from a concussion suffered on July 7 in Toronto. The Twins fell into third place the day Morneau was hurt. They're 1-4 since then, more because of poor pitching than because of the Morneau-less offense. The one win came from Carl Pavano, who starts again, in White Sox at Twins, Saturday night (7:10 EDT) at Target Field .
Posted on: July 9, 2010 12:55 am
Edited on: July 9, 2010 6:20 pm
 

3 to watch: The It takes (more than) 2 edition

So maybe the Mariners did just fine.

Maybe Justin Smoak and the prospects they got from the Rangers are better than the three players they gave the Phillies for Cliff Lee.

But let's remember, that was never the idea. The idea was that by teaming Lee with Felix Hernandez, the M's would have an unbeatable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

That idea didn't work.

For five weeks now, the M's started Lee and Hernandez in back-to-back games. For five weeks now, Lee and Hernandez were nearly unbeatable, with a combined 10-2 record and 1.98 ERA -- with five complete games.

And for those five weeks, the Mariners have still been well below .500.

They won most of the games that Lee and Hernandez started (11 of 16). They lost almost every game with anyone else on the mound (18 of 23).

And they went from 7 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West to 16 games out of first place.

It didn't work, which is exactly why Lee is on the way out of town. He could still win the AL West, but it would be for the Rangers, not the Mariners.

As for the Yankees, the team that thought it was winning the Lee trade sweepstakes (and remains the favorite in this winter's Lee free-agent sweepstakes), all they get is the pleasure of not facing the Lee-Hernandez duo this weekend at Safeco Field. They could face Lee in August in Texas, and maybe in September in Texas, too.

Oh, and they could face Lee in October.

On to this final pre-All-Star edition of 3 to watch:

1. If the All-Star Game is about rewarding players who have performed the best in the first half of the season, then Stephen Strasburg doesn't belong. If it's about putting on the best show for the fans, it's hard to see how Strasburg doesn't belong. Think of it this way: When I tell you that Strasburg will be the starting pitcher in Giants at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park , does that make you want to tune in and watch? Thought so.

2. Instead of facing the first-place Yankees Friday night in Seattle, Lee will get last-place Baltimore, probably in Orioles at Rangers, Saturday night (8:05 EDT) at Rangers Ballpark . Lucky Orioles. They've never beaten Lee in five tries, and already lost to him once this year. Of course, Lee has beaten the Yankees five of the last six times he has faced them, including twice in the World Series and once last month in New York. Meanwhile, the Yankees get Seattle's David Pauley, who lost both his starts against them when he pitched for the Red Sox.

3. So the way we understand this, the American League isn't going to replace CC Sabathia on the American League All-Star team until he actually starts Sunday's game in Seattle. Then, according to what AL manager Joe Girardi told reporters this week, he'll pick Jered Weaver to replace Sabathia on the roster. Which is nice, except that Weaver will then himself need to be replaced on the roster, because he's scheduled to start in Angels at A's, Sunday (4:05 EDT) at the Coliseum . Oh, and Trevor Cahill, the A's representative on the All-Star team, will need to be replaced, too, because he's pitching Sunday, too. Maybe Girardi can pick Zack Greinke (no, he's pitching Sunday!) or Carl Pavano (no, he's pitching Sunday!). Or maybe he'll find someone who actually will be eligible to pitch for him on Tuesday.





Posted on: July 2, 2010 10:28 am
 

3 to watch: The What are the chances? edition

The folks at Cool Standings put the numbers in their computer and gave the Brewers a 4.1 percent chance of making the playoffs this year. The computers at Baseball Prospectus said no, that's not true; by their reckoning, it's actually a 2.4 percent chance.

Sometime soon, very soon, the computers -- and the humans -- at Miller Park will need to decide whether they believe those numbers. They'll need to decide whether the Brewers have any realistic chance to get back into the race, and what it means if they don't.

And if not, they need to decide whether this month is the time to trade Prince Fielder.

Two things seem clear about Fielder and the Brewers: First, that the team has very little chance of signing him long-term (probably less than 4.1 or 2.4 percent), which means he's headed for free agency after the 2011 season. Second, that while trading Fielder might be the best long-term decision, it's unlikely (less than 4.1 or 2.4 percent) to make the Brewers better this year.

So that brings us to the Brewers series this weekend in St. Louis, which might just have greater impact than any early-July series should. Brewers decision-makers are scheduled to meet next week in Milwaukee, and a few wins (or a few losses) in the Cardinals series could easily influence their thoughts.

Yes, it's true, the Reds are actually in first place in the National League Central. But the Cardinals remain the division powerhouse (Cool Standings and Baseball Prospectus both still give them the best chance at winning the Central, and so do we).

The Brewers are still seven games back of the Cardinals, even after Thursday's 4-1 win in the series opener. But they don't need to catch them this weekend. They do need to give their front office and ulta-competitive owner a sense that this season can still be saved.

Fielder seems to be doing his part, with nine home runs in the last 19 games (including one Thursday night).

It may be that the Brewers don't trade Fielder even if they're out of it. General manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week that he believes the winter is a better time to trade a position player. The Brewers, who have drawn big crowds ever since their 2008 trip to the playoffs, can't afford to be seen by their fans as giving up too early on 2010 (and perhaps on 2011, as well).

Still, a few wins (or a few losses) now could tip the balance. Especially this weekend.

On to 3 to watch:

1. After Stephen Strasburg lost to the Braves on Monday night, winning pitcher Tim Hudson said that opposing hitters and pitchers naturally gear up for games against the phenom. "Everybody he pitches against is going to come up with their best at-bats, and every pitcher is going to try to throw a shutout," Hudson said. So what should we expect from R.A. Dickey, in Mets at Nationals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Nationals Park ?

2. The Mariners, like the Brewers, keep wondering whether they have any chance to get back in the race (Cool Standings says 0.2 percent for them). But Cliff Lee, unlike Fielder, is going to be a free agent at the end of this year. But where, and when? Perhaps we'll know more after Lee's next scheduled start, in Mariners at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Comerica Park .

3. One reason the Brewers might have a chance is that their starting rotation is miles better than what it was last year. The starters have a combined 3.73 ERA since May 25, and they've been even better (3.07 ERA) over the last 16 games. And 24-year-old Yovani Gallardo (8-1, 2.04 ERA since the middle of April) is emerging as the ace they always believed he could be. Gallardo gets a big assignment, in Brewers at Cardinals, Sunday afternoon (2:15 EDT) at Busch Stadium , with Adam Wainwright starting for St. Louis.
Posted on: June 27, 2010 9:21 pm
 

3 to watch: The Non-dome-field advantage edition

So maybe it wasn't the blowers.

And maybe it wasn't the bouncy turf, or the goofy roof. Maybe it wasn't the Metrodome at all.

Check the record: Last year, at the Metrodome, the Twins started off 23-13 at home. This year, at Target Field, the Twins have started off 23-13 at home.

"I think they're just a great home team," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird suggested.

"You look at all good teams," longtime Twin Michael Cuddyer said. "They all win at home."

He's right, of course. But for years, when the Twins won so much at the Metrodome, we always wanted to give the building half the credit. Or half the blame, as opposing players did when they accused the Twins of manipulating the air blowers to create a jet stream when the Twins were hitting.

"You can't do that outdoors," Cuddyer said with a smile.

There is something they can do outdoors. They can put nearly 40,000 Minnesotans in the stands, creating what general manager Bill Smith describes as "a high-energy experience."

It'll be high-energy again this week, when the Twins return from a typical 3-6 road trip for an important series against the Tigers. The Twins hold a half-game lead over the Tigers (and a 1 1/2-game lead over the White Sox) in the American League Central.

The Tigers, who went winless in their first Target Field visit last month, know what to expect.

"Everyone wanted to say before that it was because of the Dome, or whatever," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "You know, they just have a good ballclub. What kind of [unusual] advantage can they get now? It's a normal ballpark, a great ballpark."

Or, as Laird said, "I don't think there's any excuses anymore."

And there would be no excuse for leaving Tigers-Twins off this week's edition of 3 to watch:

1. Jason Heyward is getting his sore left thumb examined Monday afternoon, so there's a good chance that the first-ever Heyward-Stephen Strasburg matchup will wait for another day. But Strasburg's start, in Nationals at Braves, Monday night (7:10 EDT) at Turner Field , is notable anyway, and not just because we promised to highlight every Strasburg start. For one thing, it's still his first-ever start against a first-place team. For another, his opponent is Tim Hudson, who has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this year.

2. Since the start of last year, the Tigers are 2-11 in the state of Minnesota (indoors and outdoors), but five of the losses were by one run, and in five of the losses the Tigers led in the seventh inning or later. So if any Strasburg start is can't-miss, so is Tigers-Twins, at the Metrodome or Target Field. That the teams are separated by just half a game in the standings only makes Tigers at Twins, Monday night (8:10 EDT) at Target Field , that much more interesting.

3. Remember, the Rays were supposed to have had the easy interleague schedule (no games vs. 2009 playoff teams). They went 7-11, had a no-hitter thrown against them and fought among themselves. The Red Sox were supposed to have the tough interleague schedule (four series vs. 2009 playoff teams). They went 13-5, good enough to move into second place (ahead of the Rays) in the AL East. So now the Rays arrive in Boston, for a two-game series that begins with Rays at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 EDT) at Fenway Park . The Red Sox already have Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list, and by gametime Tuesday Victor Martinez could be there, too. Is that good for the Rays? Sorry, we're done making predictions.
Posted on: June 21, 2010 12:44 am
Edited on: June 21, 2010 11:22 am
 

3 to watch: The Good to see you? edition

When Manny Ramirez went back to Boston, we at CBSSports.com went there with him.

This week, Garret Anderson goes back to Anaheim, Chris Carpenter goes back to Toronto and Carlos Silva goes back to Seattle.

Sorry, we can't be everywhere.

For all the problems with interleague play, it does provide us with homecomings and get-togethers that we might never see otherwise. Like Joe Torre and the Yankees, who will meet up this weekend at Dodger Stadium but will no doubt talk about it all week.

"Those kids, they made me famous," Torre said, while overseeing the Manny-in-Boston circus over the past weekend. "It'll be a little tough. I've never pulled against them before. I've always pulled for them, even when I was watching the World Series [last fall]."

The Torre vs. Yankees story would have been more compelling if the games were at Yankee Stadium, because the people Torre clashed with in his final days in New York (and most of the people he complained about in his book) likely won't be at Dodger Stadium.

But it will still be Joe Torre, and it will still be the Yankees, and it will still make us tolerate interleague play, at least for a few more days.

With that, here's the next-to-last interleague edition of 3 to watch:

1. Stephen Strasburg's fourth start isn't a coming-home story, but we promised to highlight every Strasburg start, and the way he's going, we're not going to stop now. Besides, Herb Score struck out 16 in his fourth career start, so Strasburg has something to shoot for, in Royals at Nationals, Wednesday (4:35 EDT) at Nationals Park . Already, he has two double-digit strikeout games in his first three starts. But according to research through the baseball-reference.com play index , there are two other guys who had two double-digit strikeout games in their first three starts (Karl Spooner and Daisuke Matsuzaka). There's no one that baseball reference shows as having three double-digit strikeout games in their first four starts.

2. Carpenter was 49-50 in his six years with the Blue Jays. He's 76-25 in his six-plus years with the Cardinals. So maybe the fans in Toronto, where he'll pitch in Cardinals at Blue Jays, Wednesday night (7:07 EDT) at Rogers Centre , don't remember him as fondly as they remember his good friend Roy Halladay. Halladay will also face the Jays this week, but the G20 summit that forced this weekend's series to be moved from Toronto to Philadelphia denied the Doc his homecoming.

3. At least the Toronto fans don't dislike Carpenter. Not sure you can say the same about the Mariner fans and Silva, who they'll see again, in Cubs at Mariners, Thursday afternoon (3:40 EDT) at Safeco Field . Silva went 5-18 in his two seasons with the M's, after signing a ridiculous four-year, $48 million contract. He's 8-2 in two-plus months with the Cubs, which would make the contract look a lot less ridiculous, even if he hadn't helped the Cubs dispose of Milton Bradley (who will also face his old mates this week).

Posted on: June 18, 2010 9:30 am
 

3 to watch: The Is it over yet? edition

Lakers-Celtics is a rivalry.

Dodgers-Red Sox? Not exactly, but at least the presence of Manny Ramirez at Fenway Park makes you think that interleague play is worthwhile.

For three more days.

Do you realize that we've got another full week of interleague play coming? Another full week of Royals-Nationals, Rangers-Pirates and Mariners-Brewers.

It's not going away, not for another week and not for another few decades. Bud Selig is convinced that fans love every minute of it, and he'll cook up the numbers to prove it.

So what that at least three teams felt the need to stage bobblehead nights this weekend to boost interleague attendance?

Part of the problem is that the interleague schedule no longer makes any sense. When baseball began interleague play in 1997, the idea was that it would be division vs. division, with each team in a division playing basically the same schedule, and with opponents rotating year-to-year. Every six years, the theory went, you'd get to see each team from the other league twice, once at home and once away.

That system didn't last, and now teams seem to be drawn together at random. The Phillies went to Yankee Stadium for an interleague series last year, and went right back there this week. The Tigers and Diamondbacks seem to play every year.

This year, the Red Sox play four of their six interleague series against teams that were in the 2009 playoffs. The Rays play none of their six against playoff teams.

The system is broken.

To fix it, I'd build off a suggestion Ken Davidoff made this week in Newsday . Ken wants interleague play shortened to one week, with an NFL style schedule that would have first-place teams play first-place teams, second-place teams play second-place teams, and so on.

Good idea, but it's not realistic to eliminate the traditional-rivalry games (Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Twins-Brewers, etc.), as Ken would do. These games still draw fans, they still draw interest, and they're still worth it.

So work out a plan that preserves those matchups (one series a season), and still gives us one week of interleague games under a system that makes sense.

And while you're working it out, here's this weekend's 3 to watch:

1. No, we haven't gone back on last week's vow to feature every Stephen Strasburg start. Not at all. In fact, when I got to Penn Station this morning, I almost got on the southbound Acela, headed towards White Sox at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park . But even Strasburg III couldn't keep me away from Mannymania.

2. How do you know interleague play lasts too long? When both Fox TV and ESPN pass on a Subway Series, that's how. The funny thing is that this weekend's series in the Bronx feels worthwhile, now that the Mets are winning again (thanks in part to a kind interleague schedule that sent them to Baltimore and Cleveland, while their rivals were stuck playing powerhouse teams). And Mets at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , features a pair of young nine-game winners, in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes.

3. For all the talk about how Manny is hated in Boston, when he left town on July 31, 2008, after the trade to the Dodgers, people came up to hug him at Logan Airport on his way out of town. They hate him, and they love him, and they'll likely do both again, in Dodgers at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Fenway Park . Manny is 6-for-26 with eight strikeouts in his career against Tim Wakefield, but the last of those at-bats came 10 years ago.
Posted on: June 11, 2010 10:29 am
Edited on: June 11, 2010 12:10 pm
 

3 to watch: The 2 days till Strasburg II edition

Until further notice, every Stephen Strasburg start is going to be worth watching. Thus, until further notice, every Stephen Strasburg start will be part of 3 to watch.

Strasburg II will be Sunday, and while there may have been a more-anticipated debut-plus-one, we can't remember one.

So who made the best second start ever?

A few candidates, with the help of baseball-reference.com's play finder :

-- Clay Buchholz, Sept. 1, 2007, for the Red Sox, against the Orioles. He threw a no-hitter. We really don't need any more candidates, do we?

-- Wilson Alvarez, Aug. 11, 1991, for the White Sox, against the Orioles. He threw a no-hitter, too. So there can be a debate, after all. Or maybe this just means we need to make plans for Strasburg's first start against the Orioles.
 
-- Burt Hooton, Sept. 15, 1971, for the Cubs, against the Mets. He was knocked out of the game by the Cardinals in the fourth inning of his debut, but Hooton rebounded with a complete game three-hitter, with 15 strikeouts.

-- Dick Selma, Sept. 12, 1965, for the Mets, against the Braves. A four-hit, 10-inning shutout for a 1-0 win, with 13 strikeouts. But only 13,500 turned up at Shea Stadium to see it, so it must not have been the most-anticipated Game 2 (and only 5,981 turned up at Wrigley Field for his next start, so the 10-inning shutout must not have been big news nationwide).

-- Tim Fortugno, July 25, 1992, for the Angels, against the Tigers. I must have been at this game, and yet I have no memory of it. A three-hit shutout, with 12 strikeouts.

-- Randy Johnson, Sept. 20, 1988, for the Expos, against the Cubs. The first of his 212 double-digit strikeout games, a 9-1 complete-game win.

-- Jack Morris, July 31, 1977, for the Tigers, against the Rangers. Morris, who belongs in the Hall of Fame, pitched nine innings and allowed two runs. Bert Blyleven, who many believe belongs in the Hall of Fame, pitched nine innings and allowed two runs. Maybe if one or the other had gotten the win, it would be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Remember when Jake Peavy was supposed to be a Cub? Remember when the White Sox were supposed to be good? The White Sox aren't good, but at least Peavy gets a trip to the North Side, for White Sox at Cubs, Friday afternoon (2:20 EDT) at Wrigley Field .

2. Remember when Daisuke Matsuzaka last faced the Phillies? (Hint: It was only three weeks ago.) He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The Phillies believed they were terribly unlucky that day, because they hit so many balls hard. We'll see, because they get another chance at Dice-K, in Phillies at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Fenway Park .

3. Remember when nobody would have cared about a Nationals-Indians game? Now, it's big enough that TBS changed the schedule to show Nationals at Indians, Sunday afternoon (1:07 EDT) at Progressive Field . Any idea why? Must have something to do with the guy starting for the Nationals. Strasburg is one reason to watch this game. Catcher Carlos Santana, the Indians super-prospect who was called up Friday, is another.

 
 
 
 
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