…but in the end it’s all the same anyway. Or is it?
By the time I came in from O’Hare on Monday April 2, the anticipation of Opening Day had ended, with the Northsiders’ loss to the Reds in Cincinnati with Zambrano falling to Harang and the Southsiders’ self-defeating home opener in which Contreras finally left the mound with a 63.00 ERA, leaving Cleveland’s starter Sabathia to win handily if shakily. (Yankee fan that I am, I have always said with goodwill, God bless the White Sox if you can get Contreras to pitch for you. And, you did. Once in awhile, in moments like this, deja vu floods all over again, and I have to remind myself that he’s not mine any more. Don’t worry. He always seems to come out of it for you. Sigh. I was so glad to get Loaiza in return. Wish we still had him.)
Sports radio was mourning the joint losses and that’s about all it was doing. I got no serious recaps, and even heard nothing about Sabathia — who had given his team an injury scare in the last game of spring training, leaving everyone wondering if like last season he like Loaiza (Oakland) would be spending an early portion of the season on the DL. (Right- Photo of Loaiza by Jeff Chiu/AP)
In fact, I would have heard little about either game without settling in for the late night with The Score, WSCR, and even they were covering college football — while acting cute — when I tuned in.
I avoid contrasting cities because it smacks of measuring siblings against each other and I hear that’s bad. Not having any, I wouldn’t know, but I do not want to step on toes, so I will say no more than this:
In NYC, even left-leaning news & talk radio AIR AMERICA (1600 AM) gives better baseball detail about important games (Opening Day, games against Boston, post-season games) than I heard about the Cubs or the Right Sox on sports talk radio here. I’m sure there were the usual postgame shows, but really!
Thank goodness for MLB.com Radio and TV! I subscribe to the premium package and I recommend it. Years ago, I started with the audio alone, and stayed with that for a couple years. It’s a terrific deal, and when I had access only to my home dial-up connection, it was the wisest deal, too. Can you believe that we can watch or listen to Vin Scully any time we want? If it’s just on audio, it’s $14.95 for the whole season!! No, I’m not being paid by MLB.com! I was just so glad to have it when I couldn’t find any late night baseball talk radio!
|Johan Santana, LHP (11-5, 3.00) Twins (57-41)||@||Jose Contreras, RHP (9-2, 3.43) White Sox (59-39)|
HO-HUM. American League Central numbers 2 and 3, rivals of a sort. Oh. Huh? What was that? Last year? Wild Card? Slipping? Streaking? Start again. Game of the Night.
|Aaron Harang, RHP (10-6, 3.72) Reds (52-47)||@||Roger Clemens, RHP (2-3, 2.43) Astros (47-52)|
Maybe this will be as good as it could be. Look at the teams’ records, by the way. Last year at this time, would you have had trouble envisioning the NL Pennant Winners-To-Be on the low end of that flip side?
Update: I do not buy that they do not hit for him because they do not like him. Clemens, I mean. Glad for Harang, though. Have followed him for awhile, through some hard times.
|Mike Mussina, RHP (11-3, 3.39) Yankees (57-40)||@||Adam Eaton, RHP (0-0, -.–) Rangers (51-49)|
Mussina leads us to expect steadiness, and Eaton is making his first start since acquiring that weird injury that only rock climbers get.
Update: Both pitched great, although Mussina did not have his best at hand. Eaton was positively dominating until he seemed to tire in the 4th, letting in 3. He especially impressive for a first time off sick leave, Miguel Cairo did it again. Go, Micky! Aaron the Guiless smacked another one, too.
|Anibal Sanchez, RHP (3-0, 3.41) Marlins (45-52)||@||Chuck James, LHP (4-0, 3.72) Braves (47-51)|
2 newbies, trying to hold onto their records, on teams trying to improve theirs.
|Carlos Zambrano, RHP (10-3, 3.11) Cubs (38-60)||@||Tom Glavine, LHP (11-3, 3.52) Mets (59-40)|
- Pregame: LHP Chris Capuano (4-2, 2.63) is holding-on to his miniscule ERA. Chan Ho Park, RHP, has earned little but praise and no-decisions, as you can see from his stats (1-1, 4.12), which are not as exciting. But which one would you rather be? At least Park is a Padre, right? Capuano is a Brewer, after all. Wait a minute. Their teams have identical records (17-16)? Well, not anymore:
- Pregame: Any time Aaron Harang, RHP, pitches, you have a good chance at a real game, especially this year. Against Livan Hernandez, however, he and his Reds could be forgiven for falling to the Nationals, if they needed your pity, that is. Cincinnati’s record is better than it should be, some say, and Washington has been underperforming. Last year, Hernandez was more than an anchor — you might even call him the Nationals’ ace, with a 15-10 record and a 3.98 ERA. Today, however, he started the game with a 1-4 record and a 6.29 ERA. Unlike the Brewers and Padres, the Nationals and Reds’ records so far have been, not identical, but rather, inverse records: Washington: 12-21 21-12, Cincinnati. Harang walked into the game with a 5-1 record and a trim 3.78 ERA, and indeed had a good shot at the win, until David Weathers took it from him after first blowing his second save this season, allowing the score to tie up at 6-6 when he let Brian Schneider to score from 2nd on a Matthew LeCroy single after doubling off Kent Mercker earlier in the 8th. Mike Stanton deserves better than to red-carpet his own loss, inviting-in three runs with 3 walks, 2 of them intentional. Back to Harang and Hernandez, for a minute. I think their respective ERA’s with runners in scoring position summarize the differences between their own performances and their teams’ as well, though I would like to look more deeply into that before asserting it as a flat fact. Coming into the game, Harang had a .227 over 44 at-bats with RISP. Rodriguez: .327 over 49.
- “The Red Sox are down to their last strike.” Mr. Sterling, how nice it is to hear you say so. Indeed,
The Red Legs have been coming along for a couple years now, especially in pitching. Take a look at RHP Aaron Harang,a starter who has been lowering his ERA with the Reds for 2 years.
Last year, over a career-high 211 innings, it was 3.83 despite a W-L
record of 11-13 — the latter a product of the young line-up, no
doubt. In his 2 innings yesterday, he outpitched Boston’s Bronson
Arroyo with 0 ER’s to Arroyo’s 5 over 3 innings, all of which were
scored in the first. Among the 7 batters Harang faced were historical
over-achievers Coco Crisp, Tony Graffanino, Trot Nixon, and Manny
Ramirez, and he held them to a single hit. To be fair, Arroyo (0-2 in
3 starts, 17.55) seems to be having a rough spring. On paper, his 2nd
and 3rd innings look more characteristic of him, with no runs scored,
but Arroyo uncritically attributes the difference only to "luck,"
saying that his pitches just happened to get popped up after the 1st.
I share his manager Tony Francona’s reluctance to get worked up about
Arroyo’s pitching so early in the spring. On the other hand, I would
be concerned about his somewhat lackadaisical appraisal of the
distinction between his first inning pitches and those that followed.
That is, I would be concerned if I were not basking in mild
complacency about the threat that this Yankee nemisis seems to be
posing, for the moment.
Consider another young ace, the bait for a much-bemoaned 2003 trade
for the Yankees’ post-season lucky charm-to-be, third-baseman Aaron
Boone: lefty Brandon Claussen,
who was then setting the air afire at AAA-Columbus (1.36 in 6 starts,
following 1.64 in 4 A-Tampa, the latter following a rapid-fire 10-month
recovery from Tommy John surgery). He had already set Yankee hearts
aflame when he came up for his MLB debut to pitch 6.1 winning innings in the second game of a subway-style doubleheader against the Mets at Shea.
Two weeks later, after Claussen had gone back down to Columbus, George
Steinbrenner set the stage for a future acquisition (care to guess, anyone?!) that would leave
Yankee fans speechless (not a frequent occurence). Oh, the dampening of those fiery Yankee
hearts! Not only did we lose Claussen (and soon after, another lefty, fan favorite David Wells, who would be insulted into leaving his second tour with New York for hometown San Diego after being offered a minor league contract — yes, a story goes with it — this is not that story) — but also the first half of our switch-hitting third baseman "Robin Zeile." who was sent to Los Angeles for Scott Proctor and Bubba Crosby in another part of this contortionist multi-team deal. Rumor had it that the whole tangle was really about blocking Boston from acquiring a certain Expos pitcher…any ideas?! I longed for company, for historical context, for character, for, yes, Mike and the Mad Dog. Indeed, the Yes Network reliably kept the camera on Mike Franscesa as he poured his baseball soul dourly into the microphone on the WFAN radio talkshow…. —to be continued later on today.
Keep an eye on these guys, if you like:
A’s: Loaiza, Street Reds: Claussen, Harang, Womack Diamondbacks: Clark Boston: R. Seanez, Mota (+ Foulke no less!) (Wells says he commits) Beckett, Lowell Padres: Peavy, Estes, Greene Tigers: Rogers, Maroth, Robertson, Bonderman, Seay, Inge, Leyland Cleveland: Sabathia Rockies: Fogg Orioles: Benson (Bottalico, Yates), Duquette, Mazzone Mets: Trachsel, Heilman (+obvious Billy Wagner), Keppinger Angels: Figgins Cardinals: David Eckstein Cubs: Eyre, Jacque Jones Brewers: Capuano Tampa Bay: Marlins: Girardi Pirates: Zach Duke, Ty Wigginton Phillies: Rowand (great fielder, does not hit under pressure, though) Dodgers: Sele White Sox: McCarthy Rangers: Benoit, Eaton, Dellucci, Durazo Royals: Runelvys Hernandez, McEwing Astros: Taveras Yankees: Chacon, Small, Wang, Proctor (as a starter), Sturtze, Mendoza, Ron Guidry (Hughes, Cox)