(updated 8.19.2012 at 12:52 PM CDT)
Did Eva Marie Saint die? It's all Eva Marie Saint on TCM.
Michele Smith will make history on Sunday afternoon when she sits beside play-by-play man Ernie Johnson and analyst John Smoltz in the TBS booth for the Dodgers-Braves game at Turner Field, becoming the first female analyst for a nationally televised Major League Baseball game.
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Sunday, Aug 19, 2012, 3:10 PM EDT
Sunny. Winds blowing in from right field at 5-10 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 80.
The Miami Marlins are going for the series win this afternoon against the Colorado Rockies, and there is not a better man on the hill for that to happen other than Josh Johnson. JJ will take the hill for the Fish opposite prized pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz, the top name coming back from the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. The Marlins will look to hold back a Rockies offense that has been resilient throughout the series while taking advantage of an outmatched Rockies rotation in the thin air of Coors Field.Pitching Matchup
Josh Johnson has been closer to the Josh Johnson of old for a while now, though it has been tough to notice with that inflated BABIP. Still, since the start of May, his rate of hits allowed on balls in play is right around the league average, so regression to the mean has certainly returned Johnson back to form. In his last start, he was stellar as usual, striking out seven and walking just one in eight innings pitched. Unfortunately, he allowed a Jimmy Rollins home run on the first PA of the game and that turned out to stick, as the offense couldn't pick up his excellent game. But the offense has been less of an issue against the Rockies.
Drew Pomeranz, unlike many of the other starters we have seen from the Rockies this series, has actually been a decent pitcher despite his 5.04 ERA. He has a passable strikeout rate (19.3 percent), and while he needs to cut down on walks, there is certainly room for growth here, given his talent. Here's hoping the Marlins are not the starting point for that growth, however.
The lineup this afternoon welcomes back Emilio Bonifacio, Justin Ruggiano, and Donnie Murphy. Ruggiano left in the last game of the Philadelphia Phillies series, as he has been suffering from back spasms. Meanwhile, Bonifacio and Murphy are returning from the DL.
Bold Prediction: Marlins def. Rockies 6-4
At a press conference this morning, the Houston Astros introduced the manager that will take them through the rest of this 2012 season. Oklahoma City manager Tony DeFrancesco was promoted to helm the big league club for the rest of the season, while Ty Van Burkleo will be the interim hitting coach and Dan Radison will be the interim first base coach.
" As we've discussed, we're not happy with the results on the field, " Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We want to move forward, be as positive as possible and really have a successful 2013 and take the next step as an organization. We feel like we've made strides towards that with bringing these guys in."
The Astros will begin to select the permanent manager, in addition to filling the other positions immediately, but there is no timetable on the move. Interestingly, Luhnow also said that all three interim players will be back with the organization next season and that DeFrancesco will be part of the process to name a new manager.
DeFrancesco, for his part, has been with the Astros organization for the past two seasons after managing for Oakland's Triple-A franchise in Sacramento. It is the first managerial job in the majors for DeFrancesco.
"I'm really excited to be here, " DeFrancesco said. "I've waited a long time to get to this level and to lead a major league staff as the manager. We've got a great staff. They understand the philosophy and they know it's hard on the fans with the process we're going through."
Luhnow said during the press conference that he tried to lure DeFrancesco into the Cardinals organization for years when he was with St. Louis, but never could get it done. DeFrancesco also had plenty of good, Moneyball-esque things to say about his philosophy he learned while in the Oakland organization.
" Teams have success with pitching and defense, " DeFrancesco said. "I grew up in the Oakland era. It was very on-base, selective hitters that manufacture getting on base. Then, there's the potential to hit home runs. It worked for years. I believe that a young hitter at the minor league level that can figure out the strike zone and be selective, by the time they get here, they can be selective, get their pitch and hopefully hit it hard somewhere."
Van Burkleo was a minor league roving hitting instructor and comes highly regarded by Luhnow, as does Dan Radison, who has a ton of minor league managerial experience as well.
"(Van Burkleo) a tremendous hitting guy and we're very excited to have him here, " Luhnow said. "Dan Radison has been all over our system, so there's a lot of familiarity with this staff on what's here, what's down below. What we want to accomplish this year win as many games as possible and to put ourselves in position where in 2013 we have the best staff and best group of players we possibly can."
We know we have a very young team. We have quite a few players here who will play a part on next year's team, but we're not sure what role they're going to play.
The decision was made with knowledge and conversation with owner Jim Crane and the front office decided a week ago to not renew Brad Mills' contract past this season. Thus, the firing was expected; the timing was not.
"A week ago, we made a decision not to renew Brad for next year, " Luhnow said. "Once that decision was made, it made sense to make some changes and bring in some new blood before the end of the year. We wanted to change the mix a little and find some chemistry here. It's a complicated formula. On winning teams, you have the right mix and on losing teams, you don't. It's not one thing, it's a mix. That's why it wasn't just one change. It was three, to change up the mix."
Jayson Aquino (2009, DR) has already walked more batters in four starts with Grand Junction than he did in nine starts in the DSL, evidence of more selective hitters in the Pioneer League. That has been the biggest adjustment for Aquino, who otherwise has not missed a beat in Grand Junction. The lefty went seven innings, allowing just three hits and an unearned run at Suplizio Field. Pioneer League hitters are hitting just .198 against the 19-year-old, who is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his stateside career
Aquino wasn't the only story for the Rockies last night, as the offense pummeled the Great Falls Voyagers from the start. David Dahl (2012, 1st round), who is an easy #1 PuRP over Arenado and Story in my opinion, fell a home run shy of the cycle. He doubed home a run in the first, tripling home two in the eighth and drawing a walk. Dahl is leading the Pioneer League in batting average, slugging percentage, triples, runs and has a monstrous lead in hits (82 to 69) and total bases (133 to 112). As the eighth youngest hitter in the Pioneer League with tools to spare, Dahl is the obvious favorite for Baseball America's top prospect in the Pioneer League after the season. Nolan Arenado was the #8 ranked prospect in the Pioneer League, and while Trevor Story also earned the #1 position, he didn't dominate the Pioneer League nearly as much as Dahl has. Neither Arenado nor Story are the complete toolshed that Dahl is either.
Julian Yan (2008, DR) hit his league-leading 15th home run and Wilfredo Rodriguez (2012, 7th round), one of seven Pioneer League hitters younger than Dahl, had two hits. The win was the Rockies' sixth in seven games as they charge towards a playoff spot.
The Sky Sox brought the sticks to Salt Lake, rapping out 16 hits in a narrow victory over the Bees. Omir Santos (2012, MiLB FA) had four of them, including a home run, and Andrew Brown (2012, waivers) had a home run and double. Chad Tracy (2012, trade) and #9 PuRP Tim Wheeler (2009, 1st round) each had three hits, including a couble. Eric Junge (2012, MiLB FA) got hit around for eight runs in five innings, but Austin Biebens-Dirkx (2012, MiLB FA), Ricky Brooks (2012, MiLB FA) and HM PuRP Coty Woods (2009, 33rd round) shut down Salt Lake with four hitless, shutout innings in relief.
Dan Houston (2008, 7th round) pitched brilliantly, striking out seven and allowing just five hits over seven innings with one free pass. One of those five hits was the 22nd home run for Miles Head, sent from Boston to Oakland in the Josh Reddick-Andrew Bailey trade. The Dickerson-less offense didn't support Houston, scoring just one unearned run on five hits. #1 PuRP Nolan Arenado (2009, 2nd round), Ben Paulsen (2009, 3rd round) and Kiel Roling (2008, 6th round) went a combined 0-for-12 in the middle of the order. Tim Sexton (2012, MiLB FA) struggled in the eighth, using 42 pitches to record just two outs. Five of the seven men he faced reached, with four of them scoring. The Drillers have scored just five runs on their winless four game road trip.
The Rockies' Latin pipeline is usually filled with pitchers, but it was the Latin hitters that led the charge against Anthony Meo, ranked the #9 prospect in a deep Diamondbacks system by Kevin Goldstein before the year. #12 PuRP Rafael Ortega (2008, VZ) hit his eighth home run (a 3-run shot), walked and scored three times. Juan Crousset (2007, DR) doubled and singled twice and #20 PuRP Cristhian Adames (2007, VZ) had three hits as well. Kennil Gomez walked a tightrope to allow just one run in six innings, allowing six hits (two doubles) and a walk while striking out just one. #10 PuRP Kyle Parker (2010, 1st round) had a rough game, striking out twice and grounding into a double play. He did reach base twice...on an error and walk.
#13 PuRP Will Swanner (2010, 15th round) returned to action last night from his ankle injury and had two singles. Each member of the Tourists lineup recorded a hit as Asheville bludgeoned the Red Sox affiliate. #3 PuRP Trevor Story (2011, sandwich pick) had two doubles and a single and is 6-for-11 with four extra base hits in his last two games. Taylor Featherston (2011, 5th round) had two doubles, and Joe Mikulik got multi-hit evenings from Ryan Casteel (2010, 17th round), Jordan Ribera (2011, 21st round) and Jared Simon (2010, 6th round). Alex Gillingham (2011, 11th round) was the beneficiary of the onslaught, but he performed well in his own right, allowing two runs in six strong innings, inducing 11 ground outs, increasing his ground ball rate to 61% for the year.
The Tourists have won 10 of 14 and are making a charge to catch the Rome Braves for first in the Southern Division, but Rome isn't cooperating, running with a six game win streak. Asheville won the first half crown though, so their spot in the playoffs is already assured.
Yafistel Roja (2008, DR) singled in the third, and that was the only hit the Dust Devils had in the game...until the ninth. Tom Murphy (2012, 3rd round), who deserves top-10 PuRP consideration, followed an error with a two-run home run to erase the shutout, but Tri City got outscored 22-10 in getting swept at home by first-place Boise. #28 PuRP Dillon Thomas (2011, 4th round) returned to action for the first time since June 27 and played five innings. Thomas grounded out twice, but he did gun down a runner trying to advance to third base from left field.
Peter Tago's (2010, sandwich pick) wildness continued, as the right-hander walked three and hit a batter in five innings. All four of those free passes came around to score, and Tago also threw a wild pitch and committed an error on a pickoff. The big blow was a grand slam by Rock Shoulders, which cashed in two walks. Tago did manage to retire Cubs top draft choice Albert Almora all three times, but Tago's continued regression is very frustrating from a player selected two picks ahead of Mike Olt.
Four consecutive losses dropped the Rockies out of the division lead, but a win last night pulled them back within a half game. Henry Garcia doubled twice, while Raimel Tapia and Wilson Soriano each had two hits. Angel Lezama was very good over seven innings, striking out eight, inducing 11 ground ball outs, walking one and allowing two runs (one earned). He did throw two wild pitches and allow seven hits
Have you had a chance to play Ichthyomancy, the Fish Stripes prediction game for the Miami Marlins? If not, there is still a chance to jump in for the second half and join in on the fun! Check out the full rules of the game here and join us everyday as we predict the attendance, player of the game, and an extra Above and Beyond pick and pick up points. At the end of the year, we will be awarding prizes for second half and overall season winners! Start playing today!
Another week of Ichthyomancy is in the books, and the heavyweights of the game continue to duke it out one on one for the crown of top Ichthyomancer on Fish Stripes. The two leaders are beginning to pull away from the rest of the pack, but our challengers at third place in the overall season and second half games are still within striking distance.
Top Ten Leaderboard
The big movement this week was at the top of the leaderboard. Jigokusabre maintains the Ichthyomancy lead, but by the slimmest of margins over a surging Jeremy Hulme. But don't count first half leader SuperRadz out of the picture just yet; he had a second nice week in a row and is still 14 points back of the leaders. A good week at the plate and he'll muscle his way back into the conversation.
We have a change in order at the top five as well, with whambam surpassing oladipo_for_mayor for the fifth spot. With dgriot slowing in the second half, whambam may be able to catch him yet as well.
Weekly Top Ten Leaderboard
Jeremy Hulme was hitting on all cylinders this week, nailing almost every pick en route to a 15-point week! He needed all of those points, as second half leader pulled out a 10-point week as well. SuperRadz and whambam were also hitting on their picks this week, leading to a good week for the top four in the second half leaderboard.
Congratulations Jeremy Hulme, you are this week's Weekly Ichthyomancy Champion! This is Jeremy's second championship week in a row and his third overall; he is the only player with three championship weeks!
Second Half Top Ten Leaderboard
Jeremy Hulme takes over the second half leadership with his championship week, but Jigokusabre is still very close. One has to wonder what would have happened had Jigo not missed the Thursday game thinking it was an off day. Whambam is making his presence known, while SuperRadz has pulled even with Andrew Townes for a tie for fourth place in the second half standings. A few more consistently good weeks from SuperRadz and he could pull himself back into major contention for the overall leaderboard.
Moses Fleetwood Walker played his last major league game late in July of the 1884 baseball season as a member of the Toledo Blue Stockings. His season ended in injury, and injuries were not an uncommon occurrence for the young black catcher. His pitchers, often disgusted at having to pitch to him, would intentionally throw pitches other than what he had called and was expecting. He returned to the minors and attempted to work his way back to the big leagues. Instead, both of the major leagues of the time, the National League and the American Association, banned black players.
Progress is never inevitable. It happens only after people sweat and bleed and fight for what is right. Someone has to be first, and the longer it takes for that first person to step forward, the longer it takes for those first few other individuals to step up and stand beside them. The longer it takes for that first person to step forward, the longer it takes for the masses to accept the new reality. The longer it takes for that first person to step forward, the longer it takes before an entire movement becomes so obvious that those ignorant of history claim the whole thing was inevitable and seek to minimize the sacrifice of those that did stand first.
All those that sacrificed for those others are heroes, and we know many of their stories. We know the story of the preacher from Atlanta who led the movement, stood up for countless others, and paid with his life. We know about the forty-two year old woman who, tired of giving in to every humiliation inflicted upon people of color in Montgomery, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Before Dr. King had even graduated from Morehouse and before Rosa Parks said her dignified "no" to that bus driver, Jackie Robinson wore the uniform of the Dodgers and integrated big league baseball. He endured the vitriol of the fans and the hatred of many of his fellow players. It was a shot across the bow of the establishment and it started a tidal wave of progress that could not be turned back.
He wasn’t the movement’s first hero of course. There have always been those who fought for justice. Still, Jackie Robinson, as the first black player in Major League Baseball during the modern era, was a legitimate hero of the civil rights movement. He was, in fact, vitally important. In the words of Dr. King, "He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides." His ascension to the big leagues was a strikingly important moment in the battle for civil rights. He was, for a long time, the single most public face of the movement as a whole.
His rise was not inevitable. It was the result of his own hard work and a few other people who were determined to do what was right. His success paved the way for Larry Doby and Hank Thompson, who would follow that same year. He would be joined in the majors by teammates Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella. Others would follow like Sam Jethroe of the Braves and the great Monte Irvin of the Giants. It’s impossible to know exactly what would happen had Robinson not taken those first steps in 1947. Maybe if he had played poorly it would have set back the entire movement. Maybe the Indians would have still given Doby his shot that July. On the other hand, it’s not impossible to believe that it would have been years before integration began. After all, it was over a decade after Robinson’s debut before the Phillies, Tigers and Red Sox integrated.
So, it is noble that Major League Baseball celebrates both the civil rights movement and their own role in the movement every year. Don’t forget, however, that victories in these fights is ultimately bittersweet. Jackie Robinson’s rise does nothing to erase the hideous times that came before. Nothing can make up for the fact that men like Cool Papa Bell or Josh Gibson, among countless others, never had a chance to play a game of major league baseball. (Likewise, no act of government will ever make up for slavery or the many indignities visited upon people of color in all these years after.) That is also why honoring the progress in both society and the game is so important. We should not be allowed to forget what came before. As they say, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The game of baseball has come too far to allow that and so has the country that calls it the national pastime.
I just don’t find myself in agreement with Bud Selig very often, but the addition of the Civil Rights Game to the baseball schedule has to be applauded. The game was introduced as the unofficial end of spring training game in 2007 played at AutoZone Park in Memphis, TN. In addition to the game, MLB holds an awards luncheon on the day of the game where they award their Beacon Awards recognizing those that were pioneers in the civil rights movement. The game was again played an an exhibition in Memphis following the 2008 season, but starting in 2009, it was moved to the regular season.
After the 2009 and 2010 games were held in Cincinnati, MLB announced that the game was moving to Atlanta for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. It was a spectacular weekend in Atlanta. On the Saturday before the civil rights game, the team honored as many living Negro League legends as they could find and get to the stadium. At the game that evening, the Braves wore the uniform of the Atlanta Black Crackers and the Phillies wore the uniform of the Philadelphia Stars, both former Negro League teams. The day of the game itself, the Phillies and the Braves wore their 1974 throwback uniforms. That was the year that Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
At a luncheon yesterday afternoon, MLB awarded their Beacon Awards to Rep. John Lewis, one of the few politicians capable of making you proud to be a human being, to Earth, Wind and Fire, and to all-time Dodger great Don Newcombe. Newcombe is the first, and so far, the only player to have won the Rookie of the Year, the MVP and the Cy Young Award. Newcombe has spent recent years helping former players beat their addictions to drugs and alcohol only adding to his legacy. Lewis and Newcombe are men truly fit to be considered heroes.
Many believe that the so-called modern age of card collecting began with the release of the iconic 1952 Topps set, but it was, in reality, the 1948 Bowman set that began the golden age. It was a small set of only 48 cards, but it led to the creation of the 1949 set, in which, baseball cards would serve as documentation for the integration of major league baseball. (Thanks to Talking Chop user dale murphy for cooperstown for reminding me of this with a comment last week.) The 1949 set would feature the first mass produced baseball cards of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby and the great Satchel Page. As more and more black players were allowed into the game, the hobby documented their arrival.
That’s the thing, the game as we know it today, pretty much began when Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond at Ebbets Field for the first time. The integrated game was different than all that came before it, even acknowledging that true integration wouldn’t take place for years and years. Allowing black players to play alongside white players changed the game immeasurably. It is a remarkable coincidence that rise of modern card collecting began with the same period. Robinson had to wait a year for his first card, but Bowman showed up the debut of the great Willie Mays in 1951 and Topps gave us our first Hank Aaron in 1954. As Braves fans, we saw Sam Jethroe in each of the Bowman sets from 1950 to 1953. Topps would later bring us the first cards of the Wes Covington.
I’ve long argued here that the most compelling aspect of collecting baseball cards, especially the main set released each year, is that the cards serve as a sort of history of the game. Nowhere is that more true then in those sets of the late 1940s through the 1950s. As MLB took those tentative first steps towards integration, Bowman and Topps were there to document every step of the way. Those early sets remain an invaluable window into this important age. This is why the hobby is as vital and as important as the game it celebrates.
That's quite the dichotomy, I know, so let's deal with each half individually.
MIlls did not do anything to get fired except lose games. This team, as presently assembled, was also not meant to win games. Since Mills has been the skipper here, he's lost and lost and lost players. The games have been lost, too, but it's not like a tactical genius could have done much better.
No, Mills just did what anyone in an impossible situation would do. He kept his head up, kept his integrity up and took care of his players. When you hear about a players' manager, it's a guy like Mills. He may not have always played the guys like we might have liked, burying young guys in slumps, etc. But, he always had their backs and cared a lot about how they played. The losses the past few seasons were rough on him.
If you want an example of his character, look at his quotes from last night. The losing stung, every single time he got a question about it. And yet, at this point in his abject professional failure, what does he do? He brings up how bad he feels about the other two guys on his staff who got fired. He wasn't throwing a pity party, he just felt bad for letting those guys down.
This also doesn't mean Mills won't be a good manager someday. Being a great manager is about experience, yes, but its's also about the situation. Would Larry Dierker have been as good without those late '90s teams? Even Joe Torre, who was brilliant when in charge of the Yankees, struggled with the Cardinals before that and with the Dodgers afterwards.
Maybe it just takes some time to figure out how to be a winning manager, but maybe it takes a little luck too. When reflecting back on Mills' tenure here, I wonder if he'll have a second job as successful as Phil Garner did here in Houston. Garner lost a bunch in Detroit, but he was the right guy for the job in 2005 and Houston would not have gotten to the World Series without him. Mills could do that some day, given the right team and the right circumstance.
Then again, maybe he doesn't get that shot. In a job with only 30 vacancies and a ton of guys clamoring for those jobs, failure is a pretty big black mark on the old resume. Mills couldn't control the players brought into Houston, nor could he control the teardown he saw in his three years here. He just had to go out, keep putting lineups out the best he could and hope for the best.
On the other hand, the Astros were absolutely justified in firing him.
The wins weren't here, even after a hot start. More damning, though, is that the young players weren't progressing. Yes, Jose Altuve has established himself as the next Placido Polanco, but J.D. Martinez failed. Jordan Lyles hasn't grown. Jordan Schafer is a part-time player. Brett Wallace can't get solid playing time. In this season, the most important thing was seeing which young guys would be here, and too many of them failed. Maybe that's about their talent, but the manager has to be held responsible there too.
That's because the front office will surely be held responsible for that won-loss record starting very soon. Jim Crane may turn a blind eye on this season, because he knew rebuilding was hard. But, pile up more 100-loss seasons and Jeff Luhnow and Co. risk coming under considerable (and justified) criticism themselves.
You wonder why Luhnow has suddenly been making all those staff changes we figured he'd make last winter? Now's the time to make them. Starting very soon, this will be his team completely. There won't be the excuse for when he was hired. He's got a very important offseason coming up and needs to have his infrastructure in place to succeed.
Maybe he will, maybe he won't, but in a business defined by a very distinct bottom line, we'll have a great gauge for his success. The fact is, Brad Mills never had that kind of success. As decent as he is and as bad as this roster is, there still needs to be accountability. Here's hoping he lands on his feet.
Jim Abbott 1992 Score In my opinion, Score gave us some great looking baseball cards in the early years of their existence. Their 1988 and 1989 issues are some of my favorite from the decade. This card of Jim Abbott … Continue reading →
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