Tagged: Padres

The Sunday Scuttlebutt

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With Carlos Delgado out of commission for at least two
months and possibly longer, the Mets need to face facts and acquire a first
baseman who can hit with some power. Even with Delgado for most of this season,
the Mets have hit the third fewest home runs among the 30 major league teams;
only the Giants and A’s from the power-starved Bay Area have lower totals. Of
the available first basemen, Nick “The Stick” Johnson appears to be the best
player. According to the estimable Peter Gammons, the Nationals have asked for
right-hander Bobby Parnell in return. As much as Johnson could help, I don’t
see the Mets making that deal. Parnell, who was just clocked at 100 miles per
hour at a weekend game in Fenway
Park, has a full arsenal
of four pitches and could contribute long-term as a No. 3 starter. Given
Johnson’s injury history, the Mets would be wise to hold onto Parnell and
substitute another pitcher or two (Brian Stokes? Sean Green?) in his place…

 

The Mets have also expressed interest in Mark DeRosa, the super-utilityman
who could become the first victim of Cleveland’s
dreadful start. DeRosa’s versatility would be wasted as a first baseman, but he
could always move to left field or second base once Delgado returns in July.
The Mets have received virtually no home run production from their second
basemen or corner outfielders, which points out the lack of depth within their
top-heavy lineup…

 

Is it just me or is anyone else getting sick of Jake Peavy’s
pickiness when it comes to finding a new place to pitch? First, Peavy didn’t
want to go to Atlanta,
and now he’s given the heave-ho to the White Sox, who had agreed to send two
prospects to the Padres. Peavy wants a contract extension to accompany any
trade, and has also indicated that he prefers to play in the National League,
and not the American League. Does Peavy have such little confidence in his
ability that he feels he can’t be successful in the tougher league? If that’s
the case, I’d be awfully hesitant to trade a large package for Peavy,
ostensibly one of the top five or ten starting pitchers in the game. Peavy’s
reticence, along with his inability to get into the seventh or eighth innings,
should serve as red flags to opposing general managers…

 

While the Padres failed in their latest attempt to trade
Peavy, they did execute a minor deal on Friday, sending Jody Gerut to the
Brewers for Tony Gwynn, Jr. Let’s chalk this one up as strictly a public
relations move, as the Padres acquired the son of their first full-fledged Hall
of Famer. At best, the younger Gwynn looks like fourth outfielder material,
hardly a fair return for Gerut, who has some power and can handle all three
outfield positions. If Gerut can stay healthy, he’ll help the surprising
Brewers in the jumbled NL Central…

 

How much longer do the Orioles wait before summoning No. 1
prospect Matt Wieters from Triple-A? The O’s, who are going nowhere in a
stacked AL East, have been playing an aging Gregg Zaun as their first-string
catcher when he’s clearly a backup at this stage of his career. Orioles fan need
some reasons to hope; let that hope begin with the promotion of Wieters…

 

Is it any wonder that the A’s aren’t scoring runs? Not only
have they suffered a huge power outage at McAfee Coliseum, but now they’re
batting Orlando Cabera in the leadoff spot. I actually like Cabrera as a
player, but if he’s a leadoff man, then Perez Hilton is a great journalist…

 

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels might be an early
favorite for American League executive of the year honors. Daniels took a great
deal of heat for some of his offseason moves, like moving Michael Young to
third base, but most of Daniels’ plans seem to be working. The Rangers are much
better defensively with Young at third base and rookie Elvis Andrus at
shortstop, allowing Hank Blalock to concentrate on his hitting skills as a DH.
The signing and revival of Andruw Jones has also paid dividends, giving the
Rangers depth in the outfield and a potential trade chip should they fall out
of contention…

 

The Hall of Fame staged a nice event on Saturday, when it
debuted its new exhibit, “Viva Baseball,” which chronicles the history of Latin
American participation in the sport. Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda and Juan
Marichal attended the opening, with both speaking eloquently about their pride
in the achievements of such fellow Latino standouts as Felipe Alou, Roberto
Clemente, and Minnie Minoso. A full house of media, including a number of
prominent Latino broadcasters and writers, made for standing room only in the
VIP seating area bordering the exhibit. With its array of vivid colors, selection
of multi-media interviews with Latino Hall of Famers, the impressive
large-screen video board, and the bilingual approach to storytelling, the
exhibit is brilliantly presented…

 

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, two new names have been added
to the roster for the first ever Hall of Fame Classic, scheduled for June 21 in
Cooperstown. Jeff Kent and Mike Timlin, both
retired after finishing their careers in 2008, have committed to play in the
old-timers game scheduled for Doubleday Field. (I could see Kent hitting three or four home
runs while taking shots at the short left-field porch at Doubleday.) Aside from
Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, and
Brooks Robinson, the Hall can now boast the following headliners for the game: Kent,
Bobby Grich, George Foster, Jim Kaat and Lee Smith. Of those latter five, I’d
vote Kent and Grich for Hall of Fame induction, with tough “no” votes for Kaat
and Smith. And here’s perhaps the best news about the Hall of Fame Classic.
Tickets are only $12.50, a far cry from the small fortune being asked by the
Yankees to attend games at their new stadium.

Card Corner: Billy Almon

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Almon79.jpg

Photography on baseball cards sometimes shows players in
delightfully awkward poses or clumsy moments. Card No. 616 of the 1979 Topps
set provides an example of that; it features journeyman infielder Billy Almon,
the No. 1 choice in the 1974 draft who never reached expectations of stardom in
the major leagues. The card’s photo, which was snapped during a game at Shea
Stadium, shows Almon dressed in the Padres’ highly unattractive uniforms of the
day. As baseball researcher Maxwell Kates points out, those yellow-and-brown
beauties are believed to be the last uniforms featuring both the team name and
the city name on the front of the jersey.

 

Beyond the ghastly colors of the Padres’ uniforms, there is
something intriguing in the odd way that Almon is holding the bat, which he is
gripping by the wrong end Perhaps after being called out on strikes yet again?
Or perhaps he is getting ready to crack the bat over his thigh, ala new Hall of
Famer Jim Rice? And then, as Kates suggests, there’s the dazed expression on
Almon’s face, as if to say, “What should I be doing with this piece of wood? I
am after all in the major leagues.” In 1979, Almon would bat only .227 with an
on-base percentage of .301 and a total of one home run. For his career, the
shortstop-third baseman performed only a bit better, batting .254 with 36 home
runs in 15 seasons with the Padres, Expos, Mets, White Sox, A’s, Pirates, and
Phillies. He was, however, an excellent bunter, leading the National League
with 20 sacrifices in 1977.

 

The Padres expected far more than good bunting from Mr.
Almon. Just how highly was Almon regarded as an amateur? When Almon graduated
high school in 1971, several teams wanted to draft the lanky shortstop in the
first round, but he wrote to each club informing them of his decision to attend
an Ivy League school (Brown University). The Padres drafted him anyway, taking
him with a 10th round selection in the ’71 draft. Three years later,
the Padres once again targeted Almon, selecting him with the first overall pick
in the draft after he set a school record by hitting ten home runs in a short
season. The Padres even gave Almon a $90,000 bonus–a huge amount at the
time–but he struggled to hit in both the minors and the majors, making him just
one of many No. 1 picks to turn into big league disappointments.

 

Unlike the NBA, there’s little certainty that comes with being
the first man taken in the major league draft.


Bunts and Boots: Milledge, Bell, and Mr. Sheppard

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With a winless record after seven games, the Washington
Nationals will have a hard time gaining public favor whenever they make a radical
move like demoting Lastings Milledge to Triple-A Syracuse. To some observers,
the move smells of panic, a rush to judgment only one week into the season.
To that sentiment, let me respond by quoting Sherman T. Potter. “Horsehockey!”
I say.

 

Formerly Washington’s starting center fielder, Milledge is an enormously talented player who has been
brutal during a horrendous week of play for the Nationals. He has looked lost at the
plate, has taken some strangely circuitous routes on fly balls, and has shown a
lack of discipline by arriving late for a team meeting called by manager Manny
Acta. Given his history of upsetting both managers and teammates–not all of his
fellow Mets were fair to him in New York, but Milledge wasn’t blameless either–he
doesn’t deserve the same benefit of the doubt as players with spotless background checks.
A short stay in Syracuse,
where the weather is starting to turn lovely this time of year, could give his
attitude and level of concentration a boost. Milledge will be back in the major
leagues soon enough–and he’ll play a lot better the next time around…

 

 

Speaking of ex-Mets, Padres closer Heath Bell gave ESPN’s
baseball coverage several thumbs down in a recent media interview. In his most caustic complaint,
Bell charged
ESPN with skewing its coverage toward the “Big Three” of the Mets, Yankees, and
Red Sox, while short-sheeting coverage of other teams, including the
Padres. Bell
was particularly upset that ESPN barely mentioned the Padres in previewing the
first game ever played at the new Citi Field. Regarding his primary argument, I
agree with Bell; ESPN does make the New York and Boston teams the center of
the baseball universe, while treating many of the other clubs like Triple-A franchises.
Bell and I
certainly aren’t alone in this sentiment; such complaints have been leveled by
scores of fans for several years now. In reference to his second point, Bell needs to understand
that the opponent is usually a secondary consideration when a new ballpark is
opened. The focus will always be on the home team and the new field.

 

I’m sure that Bell,
a talented closer on the verge of stardom, is frustrated that the Padres’ 6-2
start has received little national play, but most objective observers expect
that trend will subside shortly. Let’s not forget that most prognosticators had
the Padres pegged as the worst team in the National League this spring. If the
Padres can keep up their laudatory level of play for a full month or more, they’ll
receive their due, if not from ESPN, then from other cable and Internet sources…

 

 

No one seems to know whether Bob Sheppard will return as the
Yankees’ public address announcer, or even make a cameo appearance at the new
Yankee Stadium this year, but what I do know is this: This incredible man has
introduced Yankee players for nearly 60 years, dating back to the 1951 season.
So we thought we’d compile an “all-Bob Sheppard team,” consisting of some of
the best and most unusual Yankee names in history. (The more syllables, the
better.) Some of the monikers are lyrical, others are odd and clunky, but all
have been delivered with a grace and precision unlike any other public address
announcer in baseball history. Here’s to you, Mr. Sheppard.

 

Catcher:           Thurman
Munson (the only big leaguer with the given name of Thurman)

First Base:        Duke
Carmel (true identity: Leon James Carmel)

Second Base:   Robinson
Cano (the only current Yankee to make the squad)

Shortstop:        Alvaro Espinoza (not much of a hitter,
but Bob loved saying the name)

Third Base:      Celerino
Sanchez (makes me think of celery stalks)

Outfield:           Ross
Moschitto (hit like a mosquito, too)

Outfield:           Roger
Repoz (if only he had played so lyrically)

Outfield:           Claudell
Washington (the first and only Claudell, and a personal favorite)

Pinch-Hitter:     Oscar
Azocar (not much of a hitter, but what a name!)

SP:                   Ed
Figueroa (Mr. Sheppard would never call him “Figgy”)

SP:                   John
Montefusco (did Bob ever call him “The Count?”)

SP:                   Eli
Grba (still not sure what happened to all of the vowels)

SP:                   Hideki
Irabu (never referred to as “The Toad” by Mr. Sheppard)

RP:                   Hipolito
Pena (an obscure left-hander, but a memorable moniker)

RP:                   Cecilio
Guante (translates to “Cecilio Glove”)

RP:                   Ron
Klimkowski (went from pitching to selling Cadillacs)

RP:                   Dooley
Womack (one of the breakout stars of Ball
Four
)

Opponent:        Jose
Valdivielso (shortstop with the Senators and Twins)