Weekly Pepper - Week 23
by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
September 8, 2008
Other Weekly Peppers:
Gregory Pratt is doing very well, but he hopes that the Patriots bring someone competent in to Quarterback in Tom Brady's stead, even if he is
Slap-Happy -- Carlos Quentin, the American League's leading Most Valuable Player candidate and homerun leader, is likely out for the season after fracturing his wrist while slapping his baseball bat in anger. Some, like Ichiro Suzuki, might suggest that his fracture is karmic retribution for the manner in which he treats his bats. (For more information on that, I direct you to
this Jim Caple article from July 2002 about how Ichiro treats his bats and, tangentially, how other
major leaguers do. My favorite portion: "Ichiro admits -- gasp! -- that he threw his bat during a game in 1995 and felt such regret that he brought it to his room that night to keep it with him. He cannot believe the way many major leaguers treat their bats -- flinging them in disgust, smashing them against a wall in frustration, snapping them in half and not storing them in a hermetically-sealed chamber under 24-hour escort." I've been meaning to bring this article up for months now and thought this situation was apropos of the subject. I am of course being facetious. The real point is that the White Sox have lost their best offensive player to a fluke injury that rivals Sammy Sosa's
throwing out his back while sneezing,
so the division race against the Minnesota Twins is likely to get interesting. For my money, Justin Morneau is the league's Most Valuable Player now, assuming the Twins win the division, because his ability to hit with runners in scoring position for the Twins (see his fantastic splits) has carried them through the season. If the White Sox manage to play through September and make the playoffs, then I am not opposed to giving the MVP to Josh Hamilton in a feel-good tribute of sorts (also an attempt to inflame Asher), assuming he has a good month, but the award is up in the air now.
Falling Star -- Speaking of Josh Hamilton, he has been mediocre since the All-Star Break, something I attribute to two things: fatigue (he is, due to his past drug use and the shortness of every season he's had before this one, ill-conditioned for a full season at this time, especially playing in Texas heat) and the collapse of the lineup around him. Since the break, Milton Bradley has been in and out of the lineup, Michael Young has been off (not to mention the fact that this is an off-season for him in general, as he is 35 hits away from 200 and might therefore fail in his bid to become the first right-handed hitter to have a six-year streak of 200 hits), and most importantly, the dynamic Ian Kinsler is out for the season. It happens, though he's been hot the
past week and is showing signs of going on another tear like the one on which he started the season.
Incredible, Rising, Declining First Basemen -- Carlos Delgado started this year terribly (carried a sub-.700 OPS into June!) but has been tearing the ball apart since then, including a
two-homerun performance against Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night. As much as I prefer to root for the Phillies over the Mets, I must say I am happy for Delgado, who has always seemed to me a decent, hardworking,
and talented guy. Another incredible, rising, aging first baseman is Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox, who has raised his OPS from .691 on August 13th to .775
through September 7th. Neither is having an exceptional season, but both have gone from appearing to be dead men walking earlier in the year to becoming valuable contributors for their teams in playoff races, and that counts for much in the real world.
First Time for Everything -- In his first major league start, Brandon Morrow, whose name is one of my favorites in baseball, threw 7.2 innings of one-run and, until Wilson Betemit doubled in the eighth, no-hit ball
to beat the Yankees. Morrow's been a highly-touted prospect for years now and is still considered by many to be a fixture on MLB's leaderboards in the years to come. Scott McClain, on the other hand, has never been a highly-touted anything and is, in fact,
a 36-year old journeyman who has played baseball all over the world, in just
about every league you can think of, but had never hit a homerun in the major leagues until he went deep on September third for the San Francisco Giants. His story makes me happy. Now I'd like to also mention Alberto Castillo, who is a 33-year old rookie relief pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. He's been good for them, though it's important to consider that he's pitching for a last-place team and his numbers ought to be taken with some grain of salt as a result, but that doesn't matter in the end: he's made it.
Instant Material -- As Alex Rodriguez is not already on enough MLB record pages, he decided to hit a questionable homerun against the Tampa Bay Rays on September third, off of the catwalk at Tropicana Field, to check and see if the umpires would uphold it. They did, and Rodriguez is now the first MLB player to have a homerun replayed by the umpires. I'm pleased to report that it didn't destroy the game of baseball, although I am disappointed in its introduction all the same.
Not to Get Political or Anything -- My fellow Democrats have a reputation amongst people who follow politics as a party which can lose "winnable" elections better than any political party in history (see: 1988, 2004, 2000 for just a few examples) and that is the first thing I thought of when I read
this: "[Sean] Rodriguez strikes out on 4-2 pitch."
Mussina -- After losing to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, I think it's safe to expect Mike Mussina to fail to win 20 games again this season. I just don't think he's going to do it, as he is only scheduled to pitch three more games, although the Yankees could bump him up for the final game of the season as well.
He still needs to win three more, and I don't think he has enough left in the tank to do it.
Oswalt That Ends Walt! Oswalt That Ends Walt! -- I'd hate to be a broken record (that's what Michael Phelps is for, right? I guess I might be misunderstanding the Olympics...) but Roy Oswalt had a phenomenal start Saturday night against the Colorado Rockies, throwing a one-hit complete game shutout at Coors Field, and I wanted to express my delight. Since topping out at 5.61 in ERA on May 22nd, Oswalt has come down to 3.72 and is working on a 23 1/3rd scoreless
innings streak. Also, I like writing "Oswalt That Ends Walt!" I think it has charm.
History of the Week -- When I
read the book Cobb a few weeks ago, I came across the story of Cobb's battle for the batting crown with Nap Lajoie in 1910. It is a remarkable and disgusting story that I thought I'd share with you. But first: what do you suppose would happen if, in the midst of the Albert Pujols-Chipper Jones batting crown race, the Mets allowed Pujols to get on base 8
of 9 times just to keep Jones from winning it? Can you believe it's
In early July, Lajoie had almost a .030 lead on Cobb, but by the beginning of September, Cobb had cut the deficit to .008. Then just before a series in Cleveland, Cobb came down with an inflamed optic nerve and missed the entire series. Many people felt that he was afraid to go head to head with Lajoie. Once the inflammation subsided, he went 5 for 6 in a doubleheader with New York and 4 for 7 over two days in Chicago. Then, with a virtually insurmountable lead, he sat out Detroit's last two games. Cobb claims, of course, that he wasn't just sitting out to preserve his lead; it seems that a recurring eye problem began to flare up worse than ever forcing him to sit out those last two games of the season.
Lajoie needed to have a perfect last few games to beat Cobb. With the Naps in St. Louis to wrap up the season, the Browns' manager, Jack O'Connor, decided to go the extra mile to help Lajoie win the batting title. He had his rookie third baseman, Red Corriden, play near the outfield grass so that Lajoie could lay down bunts all day and beat them out. O'Connor told Corriden that he didn't want him to get hurt by a sharp line drive. Lajoie's first time up, he tripled. But in seven other times at bat, he laid down bunts to Corriden,
beating them out for 6 hits and a fielder's choice. He also bunted
successfully to shortstop, for an 8 for 9 performance. He supposedly later
received a telegram congratulating him on his accomplishments from several
Eventually -- and this isn't mentioned in the article, unfortunately -- the record-keepers of MLB from that time got together and gave Cobb a couple of hits from earlier games that had been called errors, thus taking the win from Lajoie. Both players were playing for a car, awarded to the batting champion by the Chalmers company, and the company decided after it all settled down to give them both a car. Eventually statisticians revised that season's BA race and gave it back to Lajoie, but as far as I'm concerned Cobb is the rightful 1910 batting champion. This whole incident is just more proof that baseball was not a gentleman's game when it first started.
Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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