Weekly Pepper - Week 13

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
June 30, 2008

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On Tuesday, July first, Gregory Pratt will begin a two-week trip through the west coast. He will arrive in Los Angeles by plane and hit the road from there, with arrival in Vancouver being the goal. If you have any restaurants to recommend, any sights to see along the way, email them. The last week has been quite satisfying professionally and personally, and here's to more of the similar!

Return of the Loony Toonies -- JP Ricciardi claimed last week that his feud with Adam Dunn was over after Dunn called him to talk about Ricciardi's comments, but when reporters told Dunn what the beleaguered Toronto GM said, Dunn replied: "What? Not true. One million percent." Ricciardi now believes that he was the victim of a prank phone call.

The Reds' team physician defended Adam Dunn from the charge that he is not passionate about the game of baseball: "FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports Cincinnati Reds team physician Timothy Kremchek disagreed with Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi's comments about Reds OF Adam Dunn. In 2005, he played with a broken right hand for a substantial portion of the season. The injury was not revealed until the following January when Jerry Narron, then the Reds' manager, said that Dunn, 'broke his hand twice last year and wouldn't let us X-ray it because he wanted to play.' 'I could feel the bone moving in his hand,' Kremchek said. 'It wasn't something that was going to cause permanent damage, but it hurt like hell. When I pushed on it, you could tell. There is no player in this game that I've ever treated who had the things that he had and continued to play.'"

"Watching Grunge Leg-drop New-Jack Through a Press-table......" -- Last Tuesday's Mets game saw a strange series of events unfold, as Carlos Beltran made a comment to the home plate umpire about the strike zone and the umpire went out in front of the plate to pick a fight with the star Met. Jerry Manuel came out to protect his player from Brian Runge, the umpire, and Runge, in turn, bumped Manuel aggressively and then threw him out of the game. Despite Manuel's recent "gangster moment" with Jose Reyes ("I told him next time he does that I'm going to get my blade out and cut him. I'm a gangster. You go gangster on me, I'm going to have to get you. You do that again, I'm going to cut you right on the field."), he is not the kind of man who goes around causing violence. Manuel is a soft-spoken Christian man who prepared for his interview with the White Sox when he became a manager by fasting and praying. If Brian Runge needs to prove that he is a tough guy, then he ought to pick a fight with someone who is more willing and able to fight him, like Delmon Young or Lou Piniella.

Mets side note: It's a shame that Rick Peterson lost his job as Mets pitching coach because a) he is a great pitching coach b) they could make a lot of money teaming him with Manuel in the off-season for a reality TV show. I'd watch their bull sessions, as Peterson is a real trip.

Houston Heat -- Shawn Chacon was demoted from the starting rotation to the bullpen by the Astros, and he was already unhappy about it when the General Manager, Ed Wade, approached him in the clubhouse to discuss the matter. No one but Chacon is willing to go on the record, but he claims that he was having dinner when Wade approached and started to scream and curse at him. Chacon told him to knock it off, and then shoved him to the ground and choked him before they were separated ("word coming out of Houston's clubhouse is that Chacon told the truth to the Houston Chronicle"). Obviously, Chacon is in the wrong, but so is Wade, whatever Jeff Pearlman has to say about nerd liberation. But does this incident honestly mean that Chacon should never pitch in the big leagues again? The Denver Post writes convincingly that Chacon is "not a monster" but that he needs to take responsibility for his actions, and I agree with that. I also believe that Wade is not an innocent victim here. General Managers in several organizations these days insist that their players keep themselves trim, wear suits and act as if they were representing Goldman Sachs. I think that if you expect professionalism, you should provide professionalism, and screaming at someone like they were a dog (as a friend of mine put it) is not professionalism. If Chacon never pitches for a major league team again, it should not be over this.

Pitchers and Beanestalks -- Brett Myers has given up 24 homeruns in seventeen starts, and he has a 5.84 ERA with a 1.56 WHIP. I wonder if he'll ever be as good as he used to be, or as good as he was often projected to be? I can't say I'm rooting for him, but I was stunned by how bad he's been this season. Speaking of unexpected success, how about the AL ERA leader, Justin Duchscherer? And Dana Eveland has been good for Oakland, too. If it weren't for the fact that Gio Gonzalez' performance has made it appear as if he were a man whom the White Sox know how to make look good in the minors but no one else has mastered the smoke-and-mirror trick yet, while Fausto De Los Santos got injured quite seriously, Beane would be the monumental winner of last offseason. As it stands, he should be very proud of his moves.

An Observation -- For half of their careers, Rich Harden and Ben Sheets have missed half of their careers. I'm really happy that they've been able to pitch this deep into the season, and I hope that Sheets, especially, can make it to the finish line in one piece. I am really happy to see Chan Ho Park's career "revitalized" because I love the comeback, as life is about pushing and fighting and scratching and working to your goals, so it's good to see someone have a few bad years and come back.

Best Injury Ever -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was ejected in a game against the Dodgers and he threw his balls-strikes clicker against the dugout-wall in a fit of rage. As he did this, he pulled his hamstring and then tried to walk it off like nothing happened, but everybody saw it. You can see it here.

Best Injury Ever That Could've Been Much More Serious -- Felix Hernandez hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana at Shea Stadium, then had his ankle twisted when he covered the plate on a play at home. He might be back by Tuesday or Wednesday, but it was still scary to see the King go down.

That's That, Mattress Man -- I had a wide grin on my face watching Bobby Jenks close out Saturday's game against the Cubs by getting Jim Edmonds to ground out to the second baseman. Last week, Guillen said that Edmonds is over the hill and that he would choose pitching to him over someone else because he's hitting ".238" and that's that. When Guillen had Jenks pitch to Edmonds, I felt as if he was doing the wise and prudent thing, but I am sure he was laughing at the Cubs, too, and proving his point that Edmonds is not good anymore, which I also approve of. Last week, I made the remark that the White Sox can't win baseball games in the pressbox and ought to come out strong before they rip another organization, and they did that this weekend against the Cubs. It was a good series to watch, even with Kerry Wood sending his love to Sox fans.

Fireworks -- ESPN ran an article this week about how Frankie Rodriguez is "chasing" Bobby Thigpen's single-season mark for saves, and I just wonder what his celebration would be like if he were to break the record? I'm a big fan of K-Rod -- so big a fan, in fact, that I'm willing to call him "K-Rod" when I refuse to give Alex Rodriguez the similar nickname -- but I don't like his celebrations. I remember him getting a strikeout against the Sox earlier this season to end a ballgame and leaning his head back to scream at the sky for ten minutes.

Worth Every Cent -- Barry Zito had a good outing against the Cleveland Indians this week, and the Giants are thrilled, according to Bruce Bochy: "That's the Zito we know. He has unbelievable talent. We've said all along it's a matter of time before he gets back on track." I doubt that even Zito agrees.

History of the Week -- I have a few subjects that I'd like to draw attention to. The first is this page, where you can see footage of old-time great players from Babe Ruth to Joe Medwick. It is well-worth a look. The second is this book, which I highly recommend. The third is top secret but I promise you, it's really, really good.

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 gregory@baseballevolution.com.