- Nolan Ryan’s last five strikeouts.
Came in seven four-hit innings against the Angels on Sept. 17, 1993 — five days before he tore an elbow ligament and walked off the Kingdome mound without having retired any Mariners, never to return. This was four years after the end of my newspaper career and into my decade as a magazine freelancer, but I was covering the game for The Associated Press.
- Hank Aaron’s last home run.
Came on July 20, 1976 in Milwaukee’s County Stadium, in the seventh inning off Dick Drago. I just happened to be there, making a trip in relief of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner’s Angels beat writer, Dick Miller. Then Aaron just happened to play his next, and last, 24 games without again going deep, leaving the new magic number at 755.
- Aaron’s 715th home run.
- Barry Bonds’ 756th homer.
- Roy Halladay versus the Yankees: 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA.
- John Lackey versus the Yankees: 3-7 with a 5.25 ERA.
Riffing on some free agents …
Hideki Matsui: The report, out of Japan, that the Red Sox are considering tendering him a multiyear offer is the craziest yet of this offseason. Maybe the seed of it is the idea that in Fenway Park’s left field he’d have less ground to cover, so his damaged knees would be up for it. But Matsui is the antithesis of the Theo Epstein’s type of player — average on-base percentage, non-versatile. Maybe if David Ortiz gets moved … until then, get real.
Billy Wagner: Agent Brian Stringfellow now says he just might accept an arbitration offer from the Red Sox. Sounds like a warning from this fellow for the Red Sox to not make the arbitration offer. Wagner still wants to close, and Boston still has Jonathan Papelbon. An arbitration offer would be the only way the club could receive compensation if someone signs away Wagner, a Type A free agent — but that price tag would shrink his market.
Bengie Molina: His stock might be higher if there weren’t so many ex-catchers managing around the Majors. His prowess behind the plate doesn’t rate very highly with them. Bruce Bochy, one of those ex-catchers, didn’t think much of his synergy with pitchers.
John Lackey: The Mets are gun-shy about a guy who began the last two seasons on the DL; given their recent hospital tab, understandable. But they shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the Texan as damaged goods. Only one of their own (Mike Pelfrey, 184) worked more innings than John’s 176.
Rafael Betancourt: Could be the best of the setup relievers flooding the market. The union’s official list of free agents lists more relievers (42) than any other position. Setup guys are the sport’s foot soldiers, the infantry. As a group, they’re the lowest-paid players and seem expendable by comparison. But when your starter is gassed and your closer is several outs away, you’d swap your soul for a reliable seventh- or eighth-inning arm.
I keep hearing more and more about an Adrian Gonzalez move. Momentum — and the East Coast drumbeat — keeps building for a trade. The feeling around Boston is that the Red Sox absolutely have to bag him, as a year-after counterpunch to losing out to the Yankees on Mark Teixeira.
If the Sox do land Gonzalez, it of course will have been an inside job. The mole being Jed Hoyer, the former Theo Epstein aide who recently took over as the Padres general manager.
In all seriousness: Hoyer’s involvement will actually make a San Diego-Boston swap harder to pull off.
Why? Because the specifics would have to be cynics-proof. Weighted even more in the Padres’ favor than under normal circumstances. Anything less, and suspicious Friars fans will raise a stink specifically about the Hoyer-Red Sox connection. …
My feeling is the Red Sox need to be more concerned with keeping up with the Yankees rotation. Roy Halladay should be atop Epstein’s list, even if Doc didn’t have a personal 18-6 record against the Bombers. …
If Hideki Matsui is the loser in his private game of musical chairs with Johnny Damon — the Yankees will bring back only one of them — the popular expectation is that the Mariners would emerge as his logical landing place. It makes sense — the M’s history with Japanese players, Japanese majority ownership — but ignores one factor: Ichiro and Matsui aren’t extremely fond of each other, and may not co-exist. …
This was a headline part of preseason outlooks, but hasn’t been revisited after-the-fact: No team with a starting shortstop 35-or-older had ever won the World Series — until Derek Jeter’s Yankees pushed that envelope. …