Mike Sweeney retires

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Mike Sweeney is announcing his retirement today.  Given that this word is coming via Royals writers and the announcement is happening in Surprise, Arizona, he is apparently retiring as a Royal, if not in a formal contractual sense, then at least in a cosmic sense.

Which is appropriate, as Mike Sweeney was the Kansas City Royals for many, many years. He played thirteen of his sixteen major league seasons in Kansas City, excelling in a Royals uniform. His career line in Kansas City was .299/.369/.492.  He played 1,282 games and smacked 197 homers there.

He was also one of the few bright spots during his tenure on that team. He became a full time player in 1999. Between then and 2007 the Royals lost 100 games four times, 97 games twice and 93 games once. The only bright spot from a team perspective came in 2003, when the Royals surprised everyone, holding on to first place in the AL Central for a long, long time before fading but, ultimately, finishing above .500.  It was that year, however, when Sweeney began to suffer an increasing number of injuries, playing in only 108 games.  After 2005 he never played in 100 games again.

Upon leaving the Royals, Sweeney bounced from Oakland to Seattle to Philadelphia where he played some first base, did some designated hitting and served as a pinch hitter/hugging/inspirational guy.  That inspirational part was always a bit complicated, however, as it is with most players.  When things were going well — like they did during his time with the Phillies — Mike Sweeney was a living, breathing, hugging pep-squad.  When things turned sour — like his time in Seattle last year — things got ugly.

The ups and downs of life in a major league clubhouse aside, Sweeney has long been a good baseball citizen. He’s extremely active in the community. He’s a man of faith and family. With the exception of Jeff Weaver, he’s generally been a well-liked fellow.

Nice career. Too bad he never got to be part of a winning team when he was in his prime. Good travels, Mike Sweeney.

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.