July 2009

Gordon could Flash back soon

Tom Gordon’s next opportunity to salvage something from a frustrating season may be only a few days away.
The 41-year-old reliever, a veteran in his 22nd Major League season who had 97 wins before the Diamondbacks even played their first game, had a sharp rehab outing Friday night in Reno.
As relayed by Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, Gordon threw 13 pitches in a scoreless inning, eight of them for strikes.
Gordon is scheduled to pitch again Sunday. Depending on how his stuff looks that day, and how he feels afterwards, Gordon’s next appearance could be with the D-backs.
According to Hinch, the right-hander would need two down days following the Sunday outing, making him available by Wednesday.
Signed as a free agent a week before the start of Spring Training, Gordon completed his comeback from offseason elbow surgery by the end of April. But after three appearances totaling 1 2/3 innings, he returned to the disabled list on May 4 with a strained left hamstring.
That put him on another long comeback trail, the end of which is in sight.
Gordon has amassed 138 wins and 159 saves in his career.
Of the 59 pitchers in history with 159-plus saves, only three had more wins: ’60s guys Lindy McDaniel (141) and Hoyt Wilhelm (143), and Dennis Eckersley (197).
Wilhelm and Eckersley are both in the Hall of Fame.

(American) Idle Conversation

Let me throw a couple of pitching lines at you:

  • A: 8-7, with 77 strikeouts versus 20 walks in 107 innings.
  • B: 8-6, with 95 strikeouts versus 38 walks in 128 innings.
Pretty comparable, no?
Not at the pay window: B is CC Sabathia, whom the Yankees bagged for $161 million in the offseason’ biggest free-agent pitcher signing.
A is the guy Sabathia technically replaced in the New York rotation, the guy they already had. Carl Pavano.
Throw in the fact Sabathia is pitching with the powerful Yankees behind him, while Pavano works for the AL’s poorest team, the Indians.
I don’t have a point. Draw your own conclusion. I’m just throwing it out there, for Idle conversation (get it?).

No fan of Howard’s price

Congratulations to Ryan Howard, who accomplished something really rare Thursday night. He didn’t strike out. Honest!

For me, the applause for reaching 200 home runs faster — in terms of games played — than anyone in history is muted by the noise-pollution of his strikeouts.

I’m not a big fan of the modern all-or-nothing style. It’s not baseball; it’s over-the-line, a game we used to play on the beach, in flip-flops.
Howard smacked his 200th on Thursday in his 658th game, 48 fewer than Ralph Kiner, the previous record-holder, had taken to get there.
But what about the toll of the power journey? Howard has been rung up 795 times. At the time he hit his 200th, Kiner had fanned about 450 times.
And he was ashamed about the strikeouts, most of which came earlier in his career. Then he learned the strike zone. By 1949, the season before he reached No. 200, Kiner hit 54 home runs — and struck out 61 times.
That’s a slow month for Howard, with his 795 strikeouts, already more than Kiner had in his entire career. Kiner was punched out a total of 749 times.

Now THIS is deja vu

Fell out of bed this morning and for some reason wanted to raid the closet for bell-bottoms and a leisure suit. Oh, yes — the Angels beat the Orioles on Saturday and Sunday after trailing 4-0 in both games.

The Halos had not won consecutive games they’d trailed by four runs in 30 years — since doing it against the Yankees in July 1979. That was the coming-of-age weekend for a downtrodden franchise, and how well I remember it.

On July 13-15, the California Angels tamed the traveling Bronx Zoo

The Friday game was a simple 6-1 victory — except for one thing: a Nolan Ryan no-hit bid turned into a fiasco which led to the end of a baseball tradition, of reporters doing double-duty as official scorers.

With Ryan five outs from the no-hitter, Jim Spencer hit a sinking liner to center field. Angels center fielder Rick Miller — who’d won a Gold Glove the year before — made a desperate bid for a diving catch that came up a few inches short.

Dick (no relation) Miller, the Angels beat writer for the old Los Angeles Herald Examiner acting as official scorer, ruled “Error.” Miller, see, was also working on a Ryan biography and thinking of the advance.

The entire Yankees dugout spilled out and gestured up to the press box in protest. Buzzie Bavasi, the late GM of the Angels, flew into the press box and down to Miller’s seat, screaming, “That’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Flash forward to the ninth, one out: Reggie Jackson drills a clean single up the middle and runs down the first-base line BACKWARDS, gesturing up to the press box and to Dick Miller. Ryan finishes off his one-hitter. Just another Friday the 13th.

Flash forward to Saturday: Down 6-0 after five, the Angels rally and eventually tie it on Don Baylor’s three-run homer off Goose Gossage with two outs in the ninth and win 8-7 in the 12th on Merv Rettenmund’s RBI single.

Sunday: Down 4-0 early, the Angels keep stirring up the already-frenzied fans with another surge culminated by Bobby Grich’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth off Ron Guidry for a 5-4 win.

Oh … that series took the Angels into the All-Star Game break with a two-game AL West lead over the Texas Rangers, and they would finish the job with the franchise’s first division title before losing the ALCS … to the Orioles.

Getting weird, isn’t it? As the old saying goes, “Well, I’ll be a Rally Monkey’s uncle!”