Giving Thanks: The National League Central

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We’re getting dangerously low on liquor in the Calcaterra house. And my family won’t even be over here for several hours yet.  This could be a problem.

More of what each team has to be thankful for:

Cincinnati Reds: Whatever spirits came to Dusty Baker in the middle of the night last Christmas Eve and convinced him to change his ways. Which must have happened, because neither Mike Leake, Travis Wood nor Aroldis Chapman were abused by Baker. Then, the next morning, he sprung to his window and called for an Intelligent Fine Lad to go straight to the Poulterer’s on the corner and buy the prize turkey hanging in the window.

St. Louis Cardinals: That the star power — Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright — and the youngins’ — Garcia and Rasmus — form the basis of a team that should have no problem contending in 2011. And that whatever freakish stuff caused them to lose tons of games to really bad teams in August and September — while performing admirably against good teams — is likely a rare occurrence. Like Halley’s comment or something.

Milwaukee Brewers: That Doug Melvin admitted during his introductory press conference for new manager Ron Roenicke that the pitching is the problem. You can’t cure yourself until you know what ails you.

Houston Astros: Brad Mills. I don’t know how much credit to give him — maybe he truly has unlocked mysterious secrets and has become the Brett Myers Whisperer — but there certainly is a sense that he’s running a tighter ship.  I still think there are bleak days ahead, but Mills seems better equipped to deal with them than, say, Cecil Cooper was.

Chicago Cubs: The utter shamelessness of their owners. It has already gotten them a new spring training facility. It will likely end up getting them taxpayer-funded renovations to Wrigley Field too. Hey, you never get anything you want unless you ask.

Pittsburgh Pirates: That there is a practical limit to how many games a team can lose. Sure, it’s possible that a club could go 39-123, but the competitive ebb and flow of Major League Baseball caps it, roughly speaking, at 120 losses.

John Lackey stole the first base of his career

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Cubs starter John Lackey stole the first base of his 15-year career on Wednesday against the Reds. Of course, he spent the first 11 and a half years of his career in the American League, where opportunities to bat, let alone attempt to steal a base, were rare. Lackey entered Wednesday having taken 250 plate appearances, reaching base just 31 times on 17 singles, seven doubles, and seven walks for a .134 on-base percentage. One can imagine the 38-year-old is not exactly the swiftest base runner.

Still, Lackey managed to swipe a bag in the fourth inning. He singled with two outs against Homer Bailey. Then, with an 0-1 count on Ben Zobrist, Lackey broke for second even before Bailey began his windup. Tucker Barnhart stood up to alert Bailey that Lackey was running, so Bailey wheeled around and threw to second base, but Lackey slid into the bag easily safe. It wasn’t a pretty slide, but it did the job.

Lackey, however, was picked off of second base by Barnhart later that inning. Bailey threw a 3-2 fastball wide of the strike zone, walking Zobrist. Lackey had wandered too far off of second base, so Barnhart threw behind Lackey and the tag was applied by Zack Cozart. Lackey was called safe initially. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the field was overturned, ending the fourth inning.

Base Ba’al giveth and Base Ba’al taketh away.

Video: Aaron Judge sends a baseball into the upper deck at Citi Field

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit another jaw-dropping home run, victimizing Mets starter Robert Gsellman in the top of the fourth game of Wednesday night’s game at Citi Field. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes didn’t even move. The ball traveled 457 feet and was hit 117 MPH off the bat, according to Katie Sharp of River Ave Blues.

The home run moved Judge’s AL-best total to 37, putting him two ahead of the Royals’ Mike Moustakas. Along with the prodigious dinger total, he has 80 RBI, 90 runs scored, and a .291/.421/.616 triple-slash line in 499 plate appearances. Judge is on pace for 50 dingers. If it holds, that would give him the rookie record for home runs in a season. Mark McGwire currently holds the record, having hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.