And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

58 Comments

Phillies 3, Braves 1: If, before last night, you said “on Monday the Braves are going to start a minor league swingman who has never thrown a pitch in the bigs against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park and Philly will only score three runs,” I would have been fairly shocked and ultimately pleased, as far as it goes. But it could have been Greg Maddux v.1995 and it wouldn’t have made a difference because the Braves bats were just terrible. Not to take anything away from Cole Hamels, who was excellent, but Atlanta had its chances, but just hit into double plays and stranded guys and made bad errors and that’s pretty much the story of the last month.

By the way, I was amused at all of the “LoL! Braves suck!” sentiment from Philly fans on Twitter last night. Yes, my friends; the two-time defending National League Champions hung three whole runs on something called “Brandon Beachy” and the second string of the Braves bullpen. Clearly, your rooting interest was fearsome in its triumph. But hey, at least you Philly people have your own version of The Gimp.

Yankees 8, Rays 6: Curtis Granderson hit two homers, but each time the ball was devoured by the giant, insatiable head of the horrible, mammoth Steinbrenner Monument, which — due to its sheer mass — violated multiple laws of thermodynamics, came to life and sought something on which to feed. Just looking at it I can hear that “Xanadu: the costliest monument a man has built to himself!” voice-over running though my head over and over.

Marlins 4, Cardinals 0: Chris Volstad with the five-hit shutout. All the scoring came on a Brad Davis grand slam in the second. This one only lasted one hour and fifty-two minutes, allowing those in attendance to catch the whole game and still make it to the early bird special to steal Sweet N Low packets or whatever it is people who like to eat dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon to save a couple of bucks do in Florida.

Orioles 4, Red Sox 2: When Daisuke Matsuzaka dies, they’ll reprint a box score like this one instead of writing an actual obituary, because it pretty much captures his entire essence as a pitcher (6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 4K, 109 pitches). I got simultaneously bored and annoyed just reading that which, again, captures the essence of Dice-K.

Tigers 7, Royals 5: Yuniesky Betancourt was 4 for 4 with a homer and three RBI in a losing cause, blah, blah, blah . . . I’m more interested in the game story notes: “Brandon Inge’s two strikeouts gave him 1,094 in his career, leaving him five short of Lou Whitaker’s franchise record.”  Lou Whitaker? Really? I know he had longevity on his side but I would have guessed Willie Horton first and then maybe Norm Cash. Seems that they’re fifth and third, respectively, with Al Kaline coming in fourth. Never would have guessed Inge to even be top ten. Then again, if you had asked me before I looked, I never would have said that he’s played for the Tigers since 2001. Someone, please: where in the hell did the last decade go?

Astros 8, Nationals 2: The smallest crowd in the Nats brief history paid to watch the hometown nine throw/drop the ball all over the field, allowing four unearned runs to score in the fifth.

Twins 9, Indians 3: Danny Valencia hit his third homer in the last four games, this one an upper deck shot. But by far the coolest thing going for the Twins last night was that people were sending around this link to this week’s Sports Illustrated cover. I’m not a Twins fan by damn sight and it got me goin’. I’m guessing Aaron will have to take the day off to recover.

Reds 5, Brewers 2: Back-to-back homers by Votto and Rolen break a 2-2 tie and put the Reds back up by seven games. Zee magic number, she is six.

Athletics 3, White Sox 0: That’s seven straight losses for Chicago who, if I let my imagination run wild, I envision all working together to get their manager that job down in Miami that he seems to want. And hey: Boof Bonser sighting: he pitched the seventh and picked up the win, his first in over two years.

Angels 7, Rangers 4: David Murphy went 5 for 5, but it wasn’t enough as the Angels finally gave Jered Weaver some run support. The Rangers can’t clinch in this series, but they can when they move on to Oakland next.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
Leave a comment

Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks
Leave a comment

Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.

J.R. Graham is in The Best Shape of his Life

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher J.R. Graham celebrates after the final out as the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-2 in  a baseball game, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 12-2. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
2 Comments

Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.

That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.

The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.

In the meantime:

“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”

It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.

The time my family invited itself to Gaylord Perry’s house for lunch

Gaylord Perry
6 Comments

I mentioned my Gaylord Perry story in the last post. I feel like I’ve written this up before, but I couldn’t find it in our archives. Couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I’ve just told it to friends and radio hosts and people so many times that it feels like I’ve written it before. Oh well, I’ll tell it again because I like telling this story.

In 1984 I was on vacation with my family in the big RV, driving through North Carolina. As we always did on those long family road trips, my brother and I spent all of our highway time sorting through boxes of baseball cards we brought along with us. As we passed through a little podunk town, my dad suddenly pulled over and stopped to make a call at a pay phone. He got back into the RV and said “we’re stopping for lunch.” As we pulled away from the phone booth, I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Williamston, North Carolina, Home of Gaylord and Jim Perry.” Maybe Jim got first billing since he’s older. I don’t remember. But that was the upshot.

Five minutes later we are pulling up to a house next to a large farm. A woman came out of the house and said, “You’re the fella who just called? Come on in!” She welcomed us inside. “Gaylord will be here in a minute,” she said. My brother and I freaked out as we looked around the living room. There were photos of Gaylord Perry in action. Trophies and awards. Jerseys in frames. All kinds of other stuff. The thing I remember most was a giant leather chair shaped like a baseball glove that, to this day, I wish I had (maybe the 1984 version of this?). Five minutes later Gaylord freaking Perry walked in. He was wearing dirty jeans, work boots, a dirty white t-shirt and a Kansas City Royals cap. It was his first summer not playing baseball since he was a kid and he was spending it farming. Still had the cap on, though.

Gaylord and his wife, Blanche, were warm and welcoming. They said that not too many baseball fans just up and stopped by, but that they were happy someone did. Blanche made us sandwiches. Gaylord signed autographs (we had a few Perry cards in the RV stash). Even at that age I knew Perry’s reputation as a ball-doctorer. He told us a bunch of spitball jokes and stories which he had no doubt honed on the banquet circuit over the years, but they were mostly new to me. My parents, who were not baseball fans and didn’t know much about Perry apart from the fact that he was a famous baseball player, were delighted when Perry asked me to explain to them what I thought a spitball was. You could tell Perry thought that it was absolutely adorable that I thought the best way to doctor a ball was to, you know, spit on it. He talked about Vaseline and all sorts of other stuff, adding “or so I’m told” or “some people say” every now and again with a wink.

After lunch, Gaylord took us back to his office, in a separate building. He opened a file cabinet containing autographed baseballs from his former teammates and his friends in the game. I got a George Brett ball, which Perry said he gave me because Brett was the best player whose autograph he had sitting around handy. My brother said he was a Tigers fan so Perry gave him a Lance Parrish ball Perry had gotten somewhere along the way. He had a bunch of others too, but we weren’t greedy. He gave my mom a T-shirt he had which commemorated the Pine Tar Incident, in which he played no small part. He autographed the shirt for her, apologized for it being so big and said that maybe she could use it as a night shirt. My dad took Polaroids of my brother and me with Perry which I still have around here someplace. Then off we went, with Gaylord and Blanche Perry waving from the porch.

I was saddened to hear a couple years later that Perry’s life took an unfortunate turn not long after we met him. Two years later he lost his farm to bankruptcy. A year later Blanche died in an automobile accident. Perry went on to coach college baseball for a while. I remember seeing an interview with him around that time and he seemed like a much sadder guy than the smiling fellow we met that day in 1984. It makes sense given all that had happened.

In 2012, while in Scottsdale to cover spring training, I walked into the Giants clubhouse one morning and sitting at a table were Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Gaylord Perry. They were there for some sort of pregame ceremony and were just shooting the breeze and telling old baseball stories. Perry was laughing and animated and at times was practically breathless due to all of the cackling. He had Mays in stitches too. It was fantastic to see him smiling.

When the conversation ended Perry got up and walked from the table. I thought about saying something to him about the time in 1984 when my dad impulsively took his kids to Gaylord Perry’s house and to thank him for the kindness he and his wife showed my family that day. I didn’t, though. He was soon in another conversation and, on some level, it seemed awkward for me to have brought that up there, in the clubhouse, wearing a press credential when people were working and preparing and things. In hindsight I wish I had.

I’m going back to Scottsdale to cover spring training again in March. I hope he’s there again. If so, this time I will.