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Weekly Pepper - Week 25

by Gregory Pratt,
September 22, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

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Gregory Pratt is overworked and delirious. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford's commentary on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball probably helped to soothe his madness.

Midnight Sliders -- Congratulations to Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo for writing the most obnoxious article I read this week. The offending piece was titled "Is the Clock Striking Midnight in Tampa?" and appeared in the Globe last Tuesday after the Boston Red Sox took game one of a three game set against the Rays. Here is the portion of his article that irritated me:

Attaboy, Scott Kazmir. Great way to set the tone for your team. First pitch, in the immortal words of Bob Uecker, was "just a little bit outside." Nine straight balls later, there were two men on, setting up a three-run jack by David Ortiz. Then came a one-out solo shot by Mike Lowell. In one inning at Tropicana Field, where the Red Sox had lost six straight games, they sent an emphatic message to the Tampa Bay Rays and Kazmir last night: We can beat you, and we can beat you in your home ballpark. Kazmir, who still hasn't taken that turn toward elite status that Jon Lester has, is still throwing far too many pitches. And when the Rays got a run on Akinori Iwamura's solo homer in the third off Daisuke Matsuzaka, what did Kazmir do? He immediately gave up a solo shot to Jason Bay in the fourth to make it a 5-1 game. And then came insult to injury when Jason Varitek struck for a two-run blast.

Beyond the fact that the article is unprofessional for a journalist and needlessly antagonistic for anyone not drunk in a bleachers section, he's wrong as hell that Kazmir is not an "elite" pitcher like Lester. Neither is "elite." They're both very good pitchers and one is quite clearly better than the other. Kazmir strikes out far more batters, allows far fewer hits, and is better at preventing runs than Lester, except for the fact that his ERA was inflated by that game. It's true that Kazmir throws far too many pitches and too few innings, but he is a much better individual-game pitcher who has also had a much better career than Lester has up until now. For all anyone knows, Lester might be having his career year this season, while Kazmir has put up excellent numbers for four years now. Cafardo's piece is a total hack job, and for those of you who wonder what happened to Kazmir after that game against Boston, well, he-who-predicted-on-the-first-day-of-Spring Training-that-the-Rays-would-make-the-playoffs would only go on to pitch six shutout innings in the Rays' clinching game on Saturday, ensuring that they would. Shows what he knows!

Clinchers -- The Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Tampa Bay Rays have all clinched playoff berths this season. All have done it with good bullpens, good offenses, good pitching staffs, and good coaching staffs, and I'm happy to write out my congratulations to teams who have done it "the right way."

Playoffs? Playoffs?! -- Though the season is not yet over, it feels as if it is.  As I reflect on the year that was, I look at the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks and feel particular pity for them. Arizona's offense is so strikeout-heavy and young that their collapse is not a major surprise, but considering that they have Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and a resurgent Randy Johnson in their rotation, their failure to make the postseason is baseball's worst division is a shame, because that's the sort of rotation that can shut down any team in a series. And Milwaukee -- oh my God -- they've got CC Sabathia and mostly-healthy-until-September-seventeen-Ben Sheets, and they blow it? Not only do they have a monstrous front two, but also Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, suddenly-young-again Ray Durham, and J.J. Hardy and they choke it all away? I'd mention the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians, but the Tigers were clearly an aging team with a bad pitching staff and the Indians, while surprising on the surface, are unsurprising upon further review when you realize that a lot of their players are aging and, as I guess, adjusting, to a new "era," although that's just my personal speculation for how a powerful lineup dies over the course of an offseason. At least Travis Hafner was around to lead the Indians' AA team to playoff success this year, right?

The Continuing Demise of Dontrelle Willis -- Dontrelle Willis was sent to the minors by the Tigers on June 9th and was recalled on September 15th, at which point he went five innings, allowing five walks, three earned runs, two hits, and nothing more. Sunday, he made his second start in his second stint with the big-league team and went 2.1 innings while walking six, giving up five hits, and surrendering six runs. Watching Dontrelle Willis pitch is a live tragedy, as this man once had all the potential in the National League and now looks even better-cooked than Barry Zito.

Guts -- Freddy Garcia made his first start of the season last week in Arlington for the Detroit Tigers and got a win while pitching five innings and allowing one unearned one, striking out three, and giving up two hits. This is a man who grows almost every day into my favorite-non-Maddux-or-Martinez-pitcher of all time.

Dave Bush-Types -- Asher and I discussed our favorite pitchers, and he told me how much he loves Dave Bush. I think he told me that Bush is his favorite player in the major leagues right now, but suffice it to say that he is one of Asher's favorites. Now, I make no bones about it -- I love watching the very best players in baseball, and I root for them more often than not. I justify this in two ways: 1. It's real baseball, and not you-wouldn't-be-in-baseball-if-it-weren't-for-expansion baseball. 2. Why wouldn't I prefer to watch John Danks over Clayton Richard? But I must admit that Brad Ausmus is one of my favorite players, and I have previously expressed my love for Darin Erstad and Adam Everett, too (something about scrappy Gold Glove-types, I guess). I bring this up because I read today that Brad Ausmus is done with the Astros because he wants to move closer to home and will therefore either play for one of the southern California teams or for Boston, where he has a home.  I am unsure whether or not he'll ever play again, because I don't think I'd sign him if I were one of those teams. The Padres, for instance, have enough black holes in their lineup, and the other teams, except for Boston, can't really afford to give up some pop, either, but he is so good with the glove that he might be worth it. Who knows where he'll end up, but wherever it is, he'll deserve every praise he gets.

"Into the Babe Ruth Homerun Porch" -- That's how Jon Miller called a Johnny Damon homerun. That's one of my pet peeves. Babe Ruth did not hit cheapie homeruns, okay? The only "Babe Ruth porch" at Yankee Stadium is 380+ feet from home plate at any angle.

"Nobody Can Hit Johan Santana" -- Don't know if you've seen it before, dear Reader, but last season, two Atlanta Braves fans wrote a song called "Mark Teixeira" in honor of his acquisition. Tex did his part for the Braves, but they fizzled out, and nothing is left of that trade for Atlanta except the catchy little song and Casey Kotchman. Last February, two Mets fans wrote a parody of that song called Johan Santana, and it is also a catchy number with a line I particularly like: "Striking out hitters from Philly to Atlanta / Nobody can hit Johan Santana." This is all an obvious if long-winded attempt to explain that I think my Cy Young Award ballot for the National League would look like this: 1. Tim Lincecum 2. Johan Santana. 3. Cole Hamels 4. Brandon Webb 5. Brad Lidge. Why? Santana and Hamels' raw statistics are far more impressive than Webb's (better ERAs, Ks) and so it is with their ERA+. Lidge is on there because he means so much to his team this season, as the Phillies have been plagued by a poor bullpen for years now and now finally have a strong closer to stabilize that team, and because I think he's a better option for fifth place than Ryan Dempster and Dan Haren. But really, that's fifth place, so keep the controversy on that to a minimum. Rip me because I think Brandon Webb is overrated as hell.

MVPs -- I think that Evan Longoria would win the American League MVP Award this year if I were allowed to vote. I can see an argument for numerous players in the AL this season, and would prefer Justin Morneau as I've written before for his ability to hit in the clutch, but only if the Twins make the playoffs.  Otherwise, Longoria's excellent defense, productive bat, and clubhouse leadership would make him my choice, followed by Dustin Pedroia. In the National League, I think it's rather clear that Albert Pujols deserves it for being far and away the very best player in baseball, but if we only consider players from playoff teams, then I'd take David Wright, who has been a rock for the Mets. That said, I think it's clear that Pujols deserves it.

"Second to None" -- Sports Illustrated ran this article in mid-August and I've been meaning to share it here, but haven't gotten around to it before today. The intro reads as follows: "He has been overshadowed this season by teammate Josh Hamilton; in fact, he has been overshadowed at almost every stop in his career since high school. But in this golden season of the second baseman, nobody has been more productive—almost historically so—at the position than the Rangers' Ian Kinsler[.]" It's a strong article about the great season second-basemen had this year (Kinsler, Pedroia, Chase Utley, Dan Uggla, and even Alexei Ramirez). I'd also recommend this article on Dustin Pedroia, "170 Pounds of Mouth," just because it's a fun look at the inside of a major league clubhouse, which I'm sure everyone reading this has at one point wished to be a member of.

History of the Week -- This week's History of the Week is a brief one; I direct you to this article.

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

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